GM Max Euwe

© Dutch National Archive.
Full name
Max Euwe
May 20, 1901 - Nov 26, 1981 (age 80)‎
Place of birth
Amsterdam, Netherlands


Max Euwe was the 5th world chess champion (1935-1937). He won a total of 12 Dutch championships in his lifetime, a record that still stands today.  He was known for his extremely logical and methodical play.  Despite his solid reputation, he was never afraid to play wild and unbalanced positions.  Here is an example of his direct and powerful play:

Euwe studied mathematics at the University of Amsterdam, and earned a PhD by the time he graduated in 1926.  In 1928, Euwe became the world amateur chess champion.  Between 1927 and 1931, Euwe played in matches with some of the all time greats: Alekhine, Capablanca, Bogoljubov, Spielmann, and Flohr.

By 1933, both Euwe and Flohr were considered to be Alekhine's strongest contenders for the world championship.  In 1934, Euwe placed second at the Zurich international tournament, behind Alekhine (although Euwe defeated Alekhine in their game).

Max Euwe world champion
Max Euwe (left) playing in 1935. Photo: Wikipedia

In 1935, the Alekhine-Euwe world championship match occurred - Euwe stunned the world by upsetting Alekhine.  Although Euwe was considered a world class player, Alekhine was viewed as virtually unbeatable in matchplay at the time. Euwe reigned as world champion for two years, and was the strongest player on the planet during this time period.  He won multiple strong international tournaments, and defeated many notable players (including future World Champion, Mikhail Botvinnik).  Here is an example of Euwe crushing Alekhine in the world championship match, a game for the ages:

In 1937, Euwe lost the return match to Alekhine.  He continued playing at the highest level in chess for another couple of decades, participating in 7 Chess Olympiads from 1927-1962.  In his chess career, Euwe won 102 tournaments, a number that is impressive considering that Euwe was never a full-time chess player.  In 1957, Euwe defeated the 14-year-old Bobby Fischer in a short exhibition match.

Max Euwe and Anatoly Karpov
Euwe's wife, Max Euwe, and Anatoly Karpov in 1976. Photo: Bert Verhoeff/Dutch National Archive, CC

After his retirement from top level chess, Euwe was a professor of computer programming before becoming FIDE President in 1970.  Euwe was the FIDE president from 1970-1978, overseeing two of the most famous world championship matches of all time (Fischer vs Spassky in 1972, and Karpov vs Korchnoi in 1978).  Euwe is considered by many to be the best FIDE president of all time, and he is the only person in history to hold the two esteemed titles of world champion and FIDE President.

Max Euwe Sculpture
Max Euwe Sculpture in Amsterdam. Photo: J.M. Lujit, CC

Max Euwe is known as a national hero in the Netherlands.  In Amsterdam, there is an area of the city known as Max Euweplein which contains a sculpture to commemorate the former world champion.  You will still find a large chess set in Max Euweplein today.  His contributions to the game are legendary.  He shaped the game not only as a player, theoretician, and author - but also as a world champion and FIDE President. 

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