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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dr. Max Euwe

For the correct pronunciation of Euwe click HERE.
I’d always heard Euwe was the weakest of all the world champions but wondered, how could that be?  He defeated Alekhine.  Of course Alekhine was said to be drunk for a lot of the games in the first match, but he still played some pretty good chess.  Is it true what they said about Euwe? 
Arnold Denker didn’t think so.  Writing in The Bobby Fischer I knew and Other Stories Denker wrote, “The can be no doubt Dr. Euwe was in Alekhine’s league.  But more important than their overall lifetime score and conduct of individual game is a crucial fact that has never, so far as I know, been remarked upon.  As late as game 56 in the lifetime competition between Alekhine and Euwe, the score was dead even..  Only when Alekhine won game seven of their second match did he go ahead for keeps.”
Writing in My Great Predecessors, Vol. 2, Kasparov wrote that Euwe had “a splendid grasp of the nuances of the ancient game.”  Kasparov went on to detail how Euwe did a great deal of fruitful work on chess, deeply studying the problems of the transition from opening to middlegame and working on endgame theory.  Kasparov said Euwe’s strongest point was his combinative vision, writing, “As Alekhine keenly observed, he was able to refute incorrect combinations by his opponents, since by origin his chess talent was purely tactical. Alekhine wrote, “He (Euwe) is a tactician who has decided at any cost to make himself a good strategist.
In his games against Alekhine he worked out an opening repertoire that enabled him to neutralize Alekhine’s greater talent and adding to that, Euwe’s precise calculation ability, feeling for initiative and psychological stability, it is easy to see why he was able to challenge Alekhine.
Vasily Smyslov also had an opinion on Euwe.  Smyslov wrote, “Nothing accidental happens in life: whatever form Alekhine was in then a match against him could only be won by a master of the highest class. Euwe played better and he rightly became world champion.”
Euwe was inferior to Alekhine in motivation.  According to Sosonko, “The main cause of Euwe’s defeat was his internal mood: the title has been won, I have justified the hopes of those who believed in me, the barrier has been overcome, life continues…The prospect of constantly trying to demonstrate his superiority in chess, relegating all other aspects of his life to the background, did not appeal to Euwe at all; he lacked the necessary qualities, but perhaps also the deficiencies, to remain world champion for long.”
So, there you have it.  Denker, Kasparov, Smyslov and Sosonko all think Euwe was a great player worthy of his championship title.  I used to have Euwe’s book, From My Games, but his style seemed “dry and uninspired” to use Denker’s description of his play.  That happens sometimes.  Not too many people enjoyed Petrosian’s games even though he had the reputation at the time of being the hardest player in the world to defeat. 


  1. I wonder if what Euwe needs is a sympathetic champion, someone to present his games with enthusiasm. I know that I began to look at Petrosian's games with much more interest after reading Kasparov's admiring notes in "My Great Predecessors." Somehow Kasparov made them come alive for me and it turns out Tigran was a pretty darn interesting player after all.

    Euwe was past him prime at Zurich in 1953, but both Bronstein and Najdorf found a lot to admire in his enterprising play

  2. Kasparov highly praised Euwe in My Great Predecessors. As a kid I met Euwe once…quite a thrill! http://tartajubow.blogspot.com/2010/05/autographs.html