Remembering Dr. Max Euwe

Remembering Dr. Max Euwe

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Dr. Machgielis "Max" Euwe (Dutch: [ˈøːʋə I've heard it pronounced er-vor as rhyming with fervor; and er-vay as rhyming with survey] May 20, 1901 – November 26, 1981). He was a Dutch chess grandmaster, mathematician, author, and chess administrator. He was the fifth player to become World Chess Champion (1935–37). Euwe served as President of FIDE, the World Chess Federation, from 1970 to 1978. He is one of seven Grandmasters who were born on this day, May 20th, in Chess History. The others are:

  1. Magaram Magomedov, born 1966, GM 1998.
  2. Marko Tratarof Slovenia, born 1974, GM 2006.
  3. Hristos Banikas of Greece, born 1978, GM 2001.
  4. Merani Venkatesh of India, born 1985, GM 2012.
  5. Dmitry Frolyanov of Russia, born 1986, GM 2007.
  6. Gao Rui of China, born 1992, GM 2013.

Chess was a game that was loved by Elisabeth Euwe, who often played it with her husband, Cornelius. By the time Max was five years old his parents had taught him to play and soon he was able to beat them. Max attended school in Amsterdam where he excelled in mathematics, and he began to play chess at ever more advanced levels. In 1911, when he was ten years old, Max entered his first chess tournament, a one day Christmas congress, and won every game. He became a member of the Amsterdam chess club when he was twelve years old and by the time he was fourteen he was playing in the Dutch Chess Federation tournaments. He won the Dutch Championship (held roughly every third year in those days) 13 times from 1921 to 1955.

He graduated from Amsterdam University with honors in 1923, he vecame a teacher of mathematics and mechanics in 1924, and he earned his doctorate in 1926. He also married in 1926, and chess took second place to his family and his profession. He remained an amateur throughout his playing career. Amazingly enough, he won 102 chess tournaments during that career, squeezing them into the little spare time he had.


From 1970-1978, Euwe was a peripatetic President of FIDE, visiting more than 100 countries at his own expense, promoting chess world wide and helping add over 30 new member countries to 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 USSR Chess Federation, which thought it had the right to dominate matters because it contributed a very large share of FIDE's budget and Soviet players dominated the world rankings – in effect they treated chess as an extension of the Cold War.