Person of day - 20 MAY 2021
Max Euwe never considered himself a chess professional. As a doctor of mathematics, he taught maths, mechanics and astronomy in a lyceum in Amsterdam and this was his main occupation. Nonetheless, Dr Euwe achieved phenomenal success at the chess board.
His first achievements came in his 20s. He was part of a wave of new chess-players that wanted to challenge the giants- Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine. Euwe performed successfully in several tournaments, including large ones in Bad Kissingen in 1928 and Carlsbad in 1929. More importantly, he put up a fight against Alekhine in a friendly match in 1926-1927, which he lost by the minimal margin- 2,5:5,5. This result alone signified the Dutchman’s immense talent.
In 1933, Euwe decided to quit chess for several years to focus on mathematics. But Euwe’s friend, Hand Kmoch, persuaded him to challenge Alekhine. Euwe followed this advice and on the 3rdOctober 1935, the match began, with the Russian champion considered the definite favourite. The start of the contest seemingly supported this prognosis: after seven rounds, Alekhine led 5:2. But as soon as Euwe demonstrated determination and refusal to give up, Alekhine became unnerved and allowed the candidate to equalise the score before surging ahead. Before the final, 30thgame, he led 15:14 and was content with a draw. In a winning position, he accepted a draw and became the world champion. “Euwe’s superior performance in 1935 was obvious…after beating Alekhine, he became an apostle of chess”, wrote Boris Spassky.
As the world champion, Euwe competed in many tournaments, winning tournaments in Bad Nauheim and Amsterdam. After a wonderful start of 4 points out of 4 at a large tournament in Nottingham, he collapsed and split 3rd-5thplaces. Soon, 1937 came, and with it a revenge-match. This time, forecasts favoured Euwe, but Alekhine won confidently 15,5:9,5.
After the War, Euwe performed wonderfully in Groningen, where he came 2ndafter Botvinnik. But in a match-tournament for the world championship, the 47-year-old former champion could not hold up against his competitors and finished last, in 5thplace.
In 1953, Euwe made another attempt to fight for the world crown when he played in the candidates’ tournament. He started off with victories over Geller and Kotov, but he could not maintain this level for the whole marathon-tournament. He went on to play in several more tournaments and continued to lead Holland at Olympiads, but gradually he stopped participating in competitions.
Euwe was highly respected in the chess world and his contribution to promoting chess at home and abroad was immense after he was elected FIDE President. Nonetheless, the “Chess Pragmatist”- as Tartakower referred to him- still entered chess history primarily as a conqueror of Alekhine.
Max Euwe died in November 1981 in Amsterdam.