In Honor of Max Euwe

This year the general chess world commemorates Garry Kasparov becoming world champion thirty years ago, but for the Dutch, it is the jubilee year of Max Euwe, who, eighty years ago, became world champion by drawing the 30th game of his match against Alexander Alekhine.

As his biographer Alexander Münninghoff relates, hundreds of people who had not found a place in the Bellevue Theater in Amsterdam were standing outside in a freezing snowstorm, waiting for the wonderful news. Police on horses had to be present. This was on December 15. In the wake of Euwe’s success, the membership of the Dutch Chess Federation increased fourfold.

Commemorative festivities already started this year on November 12 with the Max Euwe matches, organized by the Max Euwe Centre, located at Max Euwe Square in the center of Amsterdam. 

Four young players were playing a short match against established Dutch grandmasters: Robby Kevlishvili (14) - Erik van den Doel (36); Lucas van Foreest (14) - Dimitri Reinderman (43); Hing Ting Lai (18)- Robin Swinkels (26); and Casper Schoppen (13) - Roeland Pruijssers (26).

Hing Ting Lai seems a bit old in this company, but he was a late replacement for Anna-Maja Kazarian (15) who had been called for higher duty by the Dutch women’s team at the European team championship in Reykjavik.

The matches were played in the building that in the past had housed a secondary school for girls where Euwe had been a mathematics teacher for many years. It is still a school nowadays, but of course not exclusively for girls. The ninth game of Euwe’s match against Alekhine had been played there, in what was then the school’s theater hall, later the gym and nowadays the canteen of the present school – a subject for a small cultural history perhaps.

Euwe lost that game, a disappointment for his pupils which may have been redressed a bit by the fact that during the game, with great exception, boys from other schools nearby were allowed entrance to this girls’ school.

As we know, all ended well for Dutch chess. At the Euwe matches I saw a nice photo from 1935 in which world champion Euwe, at the monumental entrance to his school, was cheered by his pupils. To be cheered by a crowd of young girls, that’s what you’re doing it for, becoming world champion.

The young talents of this year’s Euwe matches did much better than their ratings would have predicted, but that was no real surprise, as young, improving talents are always better than their ratings. Collectively the youngsters scored 6-10. Three of them lost their matches and the youngest, Casper Schoppen, held his to a 2-2 draw.

With some luck, it must be said. I was told that on the last day his opponent Roeland Pruijssers was beating his fist violently against the wall in anger about what he had done to himself in his last two games.

In a short chat at the opening ceremony, I had said that the young talents who were present there were probably stronger than Euwe at their age, though I warned them that this did not necessarily mean that in the future they also would be cheered by crowds of young girls. 

But was it right what I had said? Obviously the youngsters know more about modern openings and also about the middlegames which develop from these openings. They will probably have a better feeling for some stratagems such as, for instance, an exchange sacrifice. They will put more value on the initiative, perhaps too much. 

But had they been presented with a more or less random position, full of tactical possibilities, would they have had a sharper eye than young Max Euwe? Impossible to say, as we don’t know any games by Euwe when he was that young. 

Between 1985 and 1993, Viktor Kortchnoi, with the assistance of a medium who could communicate with the dead, played a correspondence game against the spirit of Géza Maróczy, who had lived from 1870 to 1951. I would like to see a game between Casper Schoppen and the spirit of a 13-year old Max Euwe, but preferably in FischerRandom, to make up for the immense general progress in chess knowledge. 

In the game viewer there is the first game of the mini-match between Roeland Prijssers and Casper Schoppen. 
Click to view:
2015 Max Euwe Matches