Monday, 12 October 2015

Max Euwe- The Legend

Hello, Readers you might have heard about a proverb “Jack of all trades, but master of none” however, never about “master of all trades but jack of none” which will exactly suite the 5th World Chess Champion Machgielis Euwe popularly known as Max Euwe. 
Max Euwe- 5th World Champion

He was the very best in every activity under taken throughout his life. He was a fine mathematician (who invented theorems about the infinite sequence of 0 and 1’s with no 3 identical consecutive sub sequences of any length), an engineer, an astronomer, computer genius, world chess champion and by the end of his life became President of FIDE who has witnessed the realm Fischer and Karpov. 

The Dutch genius never been regarded as a professional chess player, but, he had an exceptional acumen for the Royal game and with all the knowledge he laid a solid foundation for the evaluation of computer chess during his time.

Max Euwe was born on 20 May 1901 in Watergraafsmeer, near Amsterdam, Netherlands. He learnt chess from his parents Elisabeth and Cornelius Euwe at the age of 5 and soon start winning against them. He excelled in mathematics when he was in school at Amsterdam. In 1911, when he was just 10 years old, he played 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. 

From 1921 to 1952 Euwe participated in many Dutch Chess Championship and won all the tournaments. His 12 titles in the Dutch Championship are the record still holds today. In 1928 at Hague he became World Ametuer Chess Championship.

After the end of World War I, Euwe made his first trip abroad to participate in the famous Hastings Chess Tournament in England where he secured fourth place. In 1930 he won the Hastings tournament ahead of Capablanca. However in a Euwe - Capablanca match which was played later Euwe lost 0 wins to 2 with 8 draws. The year 1932 was a very successful one beating Spielmann, drawing twice with Flohr and taking second place behind Alekhine in a tournament in Berne.

During 1933-34 he played very little chess while he concentrated on mathematics. Then, in the summer of 1935, he challenged Alekhine; the match began on 3 October. It was held at twenty-three different locations in Amsterdam, The Hague, Delft, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Gouda, Groningen, Baarn, Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, Zeist, Ermelo, and Zandvoort.

The dramatic result of his first match against Alekhine is old history. Three points down after seven games, he pulled up to equality, only to see his redoubtable opponent draw away again. Battling gamely, he was still two down at the two-thirds stage, but won the twentieth, twenty-first, twenty-fifth, and twenty-sixth games and retained his grip on a now desperate adversary to the end. On Dec. 15, 1935 Euwe defeated Alekhine and became 5th World Chess Champion. He was trained by Geza Maroczy for the world championship.

Euwe was the first player to study openings with scientific precision. His repertoire was designed to prevent Alekhine from unfolding his best chess qualities. He was the first to begin preparing professionally for world championship matches by giving more attention to physical, practical and theoretical preparation. His greatest strength is tactical and combinative play. He had written many chess columns and books which are very instructive in nature. If you add Euwe's talent for precise calculation, his sense of initiative plus his outstanding nervous constitution, you can see where Alekhine's problems came from. Forced to play without the initiative, the Russian made many mistakes, mainly due to psychological impatience.

Euwe is the essence of caution. To win the world's championship and to secure a place only half a point behind the winner on caution alone is impossible, there must be depth and imagination, but the outstanding impression to be gained from his games is caution and dogged perseverance.

Despite this overall impression of caution, it is worth noting that Euwe shared the prize for the most wins in his score during the tournament. While Euwe was World Champion he changed the way that players competed for the title. From that time on the rights to organise World Championship matches was given to FIDE (Fédération Internationale des échecs - the World Chess Federation). The one exception was the return match between Euwe and Alekhine which went ahead according to the conditions already arranged at the time of the first match.

In his return match with Alekhine things went badly for Euwe after winning the first game, and he lost the match by a margin of five points. Various reasons have been put forward as to why he was defeated so heavily, but the main reason was almost certainly the fact that his advisor, Reuben Fine, had taken ill with appendicitis and could not assist him.

After this Euwe went through a rather bad spell as regards his chess. His teaching duties made it difficult for him to concentrate on tournaments and in the Dutch championship which followed his defeat as World Champion he could only play matches in the evening as he had teaching commitments through the day. For other tournaments, although he did receive time off from his teaching duties to play, he had no time to prepare as he would teach up to the last moment.

During the war Euwe led work to provide food for people through an underground charity organisation. After the war he won the London Tournament in 1946 and it looked for a while as though he might challenge again for the World Championship. However after some impressive play in the couple of years following the war, he then began to look past his best. Euwe became interested in electronic data processing and was appointed as Professor of Cybernetics in 1954. In 1957 he visited the United States to study computer technology in that country. While in the United States he played two unofficial chess games in New York against Bobby Fischer, winning one and drawing the second.

He was appointed director of The Netherlands Automatic Data Processing Research Centre in 1959. He was chairman, from 1961 to 1963, of a committee set up by Euratom to examine the feasibility of programming computers to play chess. Then, in 1964, he was appointed to a chair in automatic information processing in Rotterdam University and, following that, at Tilburg University. He retired as professor at Tilburg in 1971.

In 1970 Euwe was elected the president of FIDE and held that position until 1978. His role as arbitrator of the Fischer - Spassky World Championship match in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1972 was a very difficult one which he carried out with great tact and skill. He was unfortunate that during his time as president negotiations for the World Championship match between Fischer and Karpov became extremely difficult. Euwe made huge efforts to ensure that the match was played but, unfortunately, despite every effort eventually the match had to be awarded to Karpov by default.

In 1981, Max Euwe died of heart attack at the age of 80, leaving the history as a chess player. Max Euwe is the only person to beat Alekhine in a world championship match.

In his view a world champion should love chess more than his own life and of course more than his own fame. He should love chess like Steinitz and process the endurance of Lasker, the tact of Capablanca, the intelligence of Chigorin, the fury of Alekhine, the educated thinking of Botvinnik, the discretion of Smyslov, the audacity of Tal, the imperturbability of Spassky, the ambition of Fischer and the calmness of Karpov.

We can see the greatness of Euwe in the words of elite chess players below:

In the words of Botvinnik, Euwe is an extremely impetuous, active player. Even when defending he is always aiming for counter play. He likes to play on the flanks. He likes positions without weaknesses, with some freedom, and he makes disconcerting long moves. He aims for development. With the positions advantage he does not avoid exchanges, but satisfies himself with a better endgame. He exploits mistakes excellently. With a material advantage (a pawn, the exchange), he plays with redoubled strength. He has a subtle, excellent technique, not without tricks. In general he is a very good tactician. He knows the openings very well.

In the words of Smyslov, Euwe was familiar with facets of versatile chess activity: His books showed that he was a splendid teacher, the novelties employed in his games and his analyses in chess magazines showed that he was an outstanding theoretician. His aggressive handling of the opening on a realistic positional base, and his unexpected manoeuvres, his amazing skill in finding a veiled way out of a difficult position demonstrated the Dutch grandmaster is a wonderful tactical gift. Later he was also able to appreciate fully the other fine qualities of the fifth world champion- Industriousness, stamina, self-control and his gentleman-like attitude to his opponents.

In the words of Tal, Max Euwe was world champion for only two years, but his services to chess were very great. Tal said that Euwe was a genius of organisation. Through preparation exceptional concentration, strength of will anybody can learn from Euwe.

In the words of Petrosian, “I was 13 or 14 when Euwe’s manuals, which have now become bibliographic rarities, fell into my hands, I still remember well that his course of chess lectures was my favourite book and I studied it very thoroughly.

In the words of Spassky “the fact the Euwe played better in the 1935 match is quite obvious. The fact that although not a professional, he nevertheless managed to defeat Alekhine must be regarded as a competitive and creative feat and in addition the quality of the games was pretty high. By winning against Alekhine he thereby joined the galaxy of chess stars.”

In the words of Karpov, “I have the warmest memories of Max Euwe. I will not forget that moment when, as FIDE president he laid the laurel wreath on me and wished me well, expressing his confidence that I would not become “king for a day”. His course of chess lectures is one of the first books from which I gained an impression of the ways that chess though develops, and about the contribution to chess of its first classics. The games of Euwe himself in which the logic for a mathematician is combined with keen combinative vision demonstrate that his surge in the mid-1930s and his ascent to the top of chess were quire logical. 
Euwe’s entire life is an example of selfless devotion to chess.

His Complete games can be downloaded here:

Max Euwe’s opening repertoire for white with 1.d4 in PGN format can be downloaded here:

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