From Amateur to World Champion

  • GM Julio_Becerra
  • | Jun 1, 2011

Early Years

Max Euwe was born on the 20th of May 1901 in the town of Watergraafsmeer near Amsterdam. He was the second of six children and learned the game at the age of 4 from his parents.

At 15 years old he qualified for the Championship Group B of the Netherlands where he won the first prize of his career: 25 Fl. At that time there lived in Holland famous masters: Reti, Tartakokower, Tarrasch, and Maroczy who was always a teacher and friend.

In 1918 he joined the faculty of mathematics at the University of Amsterdam; he graduated with honors in 1923. He earned his PhD in mathematics in 1926. In 1921 he won the national championship of the Netherlands; he would win it eleven more times in his career, a record.


A Flurry of Chess

Despite his math career, from 1926 to 1934, Max Euwe played a large number of serious events, with excellent results. In 1926 he played a training match with Alexander Alekhine and narrowly lost with 2 wins, 5 draws and 3 losses. In 1928 defeated Edgar Colle in a match with 5 wins and 1 draw. A few days later he played with Efim Bogoljubov in a match and lost, scoring 2 wins, 5 draws, and 3 losses, In August, 1928 he won the world amateur championship, played at The Hague. In 1930 he took first place at Hastings, ahead of Capablanca, with 6 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss. He then played with Capablanca in a match, but lost with 8 draws and 2 losses, took 2nd at Bern 1932 with 8 wins and 7 draws. He then drew a match with Salo Flohr with 3 wins, 10 draws, and 3 losses. He won a training match with Rudolf Spielmann in 1932, with 2 wins and 2 draws, took 2nd place in Zurich 1934, tied for first place with Flohr and Thomas at Hastings 1934.


World Champion!

In October-December, 1935 Euwe played with Alexander Alekhine for the world championship and, to the surprise of everyone, won. The match was held in Amsterdam, The Hague, Delft, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Gouda, Groningen, Baarn, Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, Zeist, Ermelo, and Zandvoort. There were 13 different locations for this world championship match! Euwe won 9 games, drew 13, and lost 8 to become the 5th official world chess champion.


At Zandvoort 1936, world champion Euwe came in second place, behind Reuben Fine, with 5 wins, 5 draws, and 1 loss. He took 3rd place at Nottingham 1936, behind Capablanca and Botvinnik and tied for first at Amsterdam 1936 with Fine; in 1937 he took first place at Bad Nauheim-Stuttgart-Garmisch, ahead of Alekhine, winning 3, drawing 2, and losing 1 game. From 1935 until their rematch in 1937, Max Euwe scored two wins and one draw against Alekhine; however, he lost the title to Alekhine in a rematch in 1937, also played in The Netherlands.

He played for The Netherlands in a total of seven Chess Olympiads, from 1927 to 1962, a 35-year-span, always on first board. He scored 10½/15 at London 1927, 9½/13 at Stockholm 1937 for a bronze medal, 8/12 at Dubrovnik 1950, 7½/13 at Amsterdam 1954, 8½/11 at Munich 1958 for a silver medal at age of 57, 6½/16 at Leipzig 1960, and finally 4/7 at Varna 1962. His aggregate was 54½/87 for 62.6 per cent.

FIDE President

From 1970 (when he was 69 years old) until 1978, he was president of the FIDE. As president Euwe usually did what he considered morally right rather than what was politically expedient. On several occasions this brought him into conflict with the Soviet Chess Federation, which thought it had the right to call the shots because it contributed a very large share of FIDE's budget and Soviet players dominated the world rankings.


Euwe wrote a lot of chess books, far more than any other World Champion; some of the best-known are The Road to Chess Mastery, Judgment and Planning in Chess, The Logical Approach to Chess, and Strategy and Tactics in Chess Play. Former Soviet grandmaster Gennady Sosonko used Euwe's Practical Chess Lessons as a textbook when teaching in the Leningrad House of Pioneers, and considers it "one of the best chess books ever."

Euwe died in Amsterdam on November 26, 1981.

"The fact that, even without being a professional he beat Alekhine can be regarded as a feat both creative and competitive." (Spassky)




  • 5 years ago


    @ indurain

    Lasker also had some achievement as a scientist, there's even a mathematical theorem named after him:–Noether_theorem

  • 5 years ago


    Yup, he's a thousand times better than the FIDE president we now have!
  • 5 years ago


    As  Spektrowski pointed out, Euwe was a very high academic achiever as well as being a great chess player.

    Only Morphy matches Euwe in that regard.

    I think all chess players owe Dr.Euwe a sense of gratitude for this service to the game we love in his role as FIDE President


  • 5 years ago


    for dutch members a great document about dr. Max Euwe  for international members between min.21 and 29 there is  spasky, flohr and botwinnik talking in english>>> botwinnik 27-29

    kind greets, pax

  • 5 years ago


    gr8 puzzles 

  • 5 years ago


    Great article about Max Euwe! I sometimes play chess at the max euwe plein in Amsterdam where there is a big board, where you can play chess outside with some audience around you :). In the summer you can feel a little bit like a world champion then ;)

  • 5 years ago


    Spektrowsky, your ability to research is impressive to me. If I had a literary agent like you, I would be published long ago and more than I have been.

  • 5 years ago


    Did you know?

    Max Euwe once won in an amateur heavyweight boxing championship .

  • 5 years ago


    He was lucky to become WC. Rubinstein,Flohr & Keres did not make it to the top but anyway he produced beautiful games thanx 4 ds article!

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    @Draconis: Couldn't agree more, beautifully stated! @ishamael13: It is true that mathematicians have got a feeling for logic, so that's the advantage, but you know; something one should think outside the box :)
  • 5 years ago


    For me, Euwe (pronounced something like "Ehr-veh" would be pronounced in English, not "Yuwey" to rhyme with Huey, for those who are wondering) was the model of the perfect chess player. Not a chess professional, but a mathematician (like Lasker), he pursued a productive career outside of chess and was in all of his dealings a perfect gentleman. He beat Alekhine in a world championship match, which even Capablanca could not do. (Admittedly, Alekhine was suffering from alcoholism during the Euwe match, and was nowhere near the top of his form. Still, as Spassky pointed out, a tremendous feat, as Alekhine was one of the strongest champions ever.) And as we see here, he played some marvelous games. Still, he never stirred the imagination of the chess masses, and is therefore not one of the more popular champions (like Capa and Alekhine). He spent his elder years in service of chess. By all accounts, he was a courteous person at all times, and a great sport. In short, he was a man more chess players should emulate.

  • 5 years ago


    Max Euwe always seemed a little straight laced to me and I never really studied his games. I was pleasantly surprised with his combinational vision. I thought he was a boring positional player. I really enjoyed his combinations. Thank you for the trouble you have taken to put this together.

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    i am very good enough at solving chess puzzle, however, i played badly in real games.

  • 5 years ago


    @ hassanbahaa

    Spassky probably meant that Euwe didn't fully dedicate himself to chess and wasn't a "chess professional" in that sense. He worked full-time as a professor in a Dutch university.

  • 5 years ago


    "The fact that, even without being a professional he beat Alekhine can be regarded as a feat both creative and competitive." (Spassky)

    How could he win the World Championship without being a professional??

    Is Spassky right?

  • 5 years ago


    @ ishamael13

    I don't know much about the general statistics, but that's what the world champions studied:

    Steinitz, Lasker and Euwe were mathematicians.

    Capablanca studied chemical engineering, but soon quit and later worked in a diplomatic capacity.

    Alekhine was a lawyer (though he never practiced), earning his degrees first in St. Petersburg, then in Sorbonne.

    Botvinnik was an electrical engineer and worked actively, holding several patents. In his later years, he tried to develop a chess AI.

    I couldn't quickly find the information about Smyslov, but, apart from chess, he was an opera vocalist and even auditioned for the Bolshoi Theatre.

    Mikhail Tal was a philologist (and then worked as a teacher of Russian language and literature).

    Petrosian earned his Master's degree in philosophical sciences.

    Boris Spassky was a journalist

    Bobby Fischer dropped out of high school and had no degrees.

    Anatoly Karpov was an economist.

    Garry Kasparov was a foreign language teacher (obviously never practiced).

  • 5 years ago


    nice read....

  • 5 years ago



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