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Friday, July 24, 2015

A Few Things You Probably Don't Know About Euwe

     Euwe spent his professional life as a professor of mathematics. What's not so well known is that he later became involved with Informatics, the forerunner of today’s Computer Science. 
     Here is Euwe's greeting at the foundation of the CSVN, the Dutch Computer Chess Federation:
   Who already thought about computer chess 50 years ago? Nobody of course, because the computer didn't yet exist. However, one already spoke about mechanized chess playing, and experienced positional players were compared to a playing chess machine, players stipulated on strictly logical grounds (that coincided with the nature of the proposition) and thereby no deep calculations or combinations was made. 
    However, the development in computer chess drove in a different direction! The computer appeared and from the first moment big interest on playing chess arose by this marvelous machines. The programs went however in that direction that the computer did not play as a playing chess machine, as we presented ourselves in that former days, but correctly as an ace in conducting deep calculations in all possible directions, a lot of millions per minute. 
    For the time of computer chess, much (too much) emphasis was steered on brutal force, brutal strength. Moreover, one tried as much as possible on well-known, attentive patterns in the programs. The combination of calculation and recognition in the long run will play chess, whether it yields to master strength is difficult to predict. It is certain, that raising interest on computer chess will bring us closer to a solution. The solution which the computer either crowns to world champion, recognizes as a strong, but unilaterally developed player. In this respect, the establishment of the computer chess association is very welcome. I wish all members success to study the possibilities of the computer and especially introducing methods which will lead to improvements and "humanization" of the programs. A letter published in the first issue of Computer Chess in February,1981. 

     During World War 2 Euwe served as the director of a chain store food company (Van Amerongen) which enabled him to organize the clandestine transport of food to the resistance movement in Amsterdam and for delivery to a hungry population. After the war he went back to his post as a mathematics professor. 

   During the World War 2 he did not take part in Nazi sponsored tournaments as a silent protest.. The Max Euwe Centrum is Amsterdam's chess museum. The museum features a permanent exhibition on the life of Euwe, a chess library, vast archives and chess computers. It is housed in the city's former House of Detention where Resistance leaders were held during World War II.

    In his delightful book, The Bobby Fischer I Knew, Denker gives some more insight about Euwe which he discovered during Euwe's visit to New York City in mid-1947. 
    First, Denker was surprised to find out that Euwe didn't drink beer. At the time, Denker's wife was in the hospital waiting to give birth to their son and Euwe showed up with flowers. Denker had never mentioned the fact that she was in the hospital and he never discovered how Euwe found out about it. 
    Euwe never discussed his heroism during the war, but Denker observed that Euwe had risked his life by his activities which included writing letters to Alekhine asking him to intercede on behalf of Salo Landau and Dr. Gerard Oskam. 
     Landau was a Polish Jew and when he was a boy, his family fled the Russians to Vienna and Landau was sent to friends in Rotterdam in the Netherlands; he remained there and for a number of years was second only to Euwe in The Netherlands. Then in September 1942, Landau tried to escape the Nazis by fleeing to Switzerland with his family, but they were caught on September 28 in Breda, near the border with Belgium and sent to Westerbork transit camp. He was sent to a concentration camp in Gräditz, Silesia in November 1943, where he died sometime between December 1943 and 31 March 1944 (probably March). His wife and young daughter, whose hiding place was betrayed, were sent to Auschwitz in September 1944, where they were gassed on October 12, 1944. 
     Gerard Cornelis Adrianus Oskam (12 April 1880, The Hague – 7 May 1952), a Dutch master, survived the war. Oskam was a lawyer by profession. He obtained his Master of Laws at the University of Amsterdam in 1906 and subsequently had a practice in Rotterdam.
     Denker also related how Hans Kmoch had told him his own story about Euwe. Kmoch's Jewish wife, Trudy, had constant nightmares about her interrogations and beatings from the Nazis during the war. Denker said that Kmoch had little money and his wife spent most of her time in bed and screaming. At the time, Denker's wife was working for the city's welfare system and as a result, was able to assist Kmoch in getting some part time assistance. It was at that time that Kmoch told Denker about how Euwe bribed officials and used his influence to keep Trudy out of the concentration camps during the war.

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