The Top Chess Players in the World

GM Max Euwe

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

Bio

Max Euwe was the fifth world chess champion, holding the title from 1935-37. The first grandmaster from the Netherlands, he won a total of 12 Dutch championships in his lifetime, a record that still stands today.  

Early Career

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: Alexander Alekhine, Jose Capablanca, Efim Bogoljubov, Rudolf Spielmann, and Salo Flohr.

By 1933, 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 (seated left) playing in 1935. Photo: Wikipedia

World Championships

In 1935, Euwe played Alekhine for the world championship. Although Euwe was considered a world class player, Alekhine was viewed as virtually unbeatable in match play at the time. But Euwe stunned the world by upsetting Alekhine by the narrowest of margins, 15.5-14.5 (+9 -8 =13).  

Euwe reigned as world champion for two years, during which time he won multiple strong international tournaments and defeated many notable players including future world champion GM Mikhail Botvinnik. Here is an example of Euwe crushing Alekhine in the world championship match, a game for the ages:

Euwe immediately gave Alekhine a rematch in 1937. Alekhine was thought to be better prepared this time, and Euwe lost the return match 15.5-9.5 (+4 -10 =11).  

Still, Euwe continued playing at the highest level in chess for another couple of decades. He participated in seven Chess Olympiads from 1927-62, always on the Netherlands' first board. In his chess career, Euwe won 102 tournaments, an impressive number considering that he was never a full-time chess player. In 1957, Euwe defeated the 14-year-old GM 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

Post-Playing Career

After his retirement from top-level chess, Euwe was a professor of computer programming before becoming FIDE President in 1970. Euwe held that position from 1970-1978, overseeing two of the most famous world championship matches of all time (Fischer vs GM Boris Spassky in 1972 and GM Anatoly Karpov vs GM Viktor Korchnoi in 1978).

Euwe is considered one of the best presidents FIDE has ever had, and he is the only person in history to hold both esteemed titles of world champion and FIDE President.

Style and Legacy

Euwe 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:

Max Euwe is 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. 

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

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