It’s hard to think of a better match in chess between author and subject than GM Jan Timman’s new anthology, “Max Euwe’s Best Games.”
Timman, the best Dutch player of his generation and a prolific author, offers up a deep analysis of 80 games from his compatriot, the fifth world champion and still the greatest player his chess-mad country has ever produced. Often underrated because his time as champion lasted just two short years in the mid-1930s, the courtly Euwe fashioned a remarkable career over the course of six decades. He might rank even higher in the pantheon had he not sportingly agreed to a return match against dethroned former champ Alexander Alekhine in 1937, at a time when the titleholder still could pick where and when he would defend his crown.
Still, as Timman’s carefully curated list of games demonstrates, Euwe was universally acknowledged to be one of the strongest players of the pre-World War II generation, and remained an elite player well into his seventies, all while holding down a day job as a mathematics professor and serving for nearly a decade as head of international chess federation FIDE. As with many players of his generation, World War II disrupted what could have been Euwe’s prime playing years.
He won a record 12 Dutch national titles (Timman is second on the list at nine), played top board for seven Dutch Olympiad teams, authored several instructional classics such as “The Middlegame in Chess,” and even beat a 14-year-old Bobby Fischer in an informal match 1½-½ in New York in 1957 shortly before the young Brooklynite’s meteoric rise to greatness.
Garry Kasparov, in his survey “My Great Predecessors,” noted with some surprise that in addition to his strong opening and endgame technique and acknowledged positional flair, Euwe was also a “full-blooded attacking player. Whenever the position lent itself to attacking, he would direct his pieces toward the enemy king.”
We present here two prime examples of Euwe the attacker, taken from the very beginning and the later part of his career. The notes here rely heavily on Timman’s deep-dive analysis.
The young Euwe had a long and close relationship with the great Hungarian player Geza Maroczy, who fled to Holland after World War I, served as a mentor to the rising Dutch star and was still at his side as a second in the triumphant 1935 match with Alekhine. Today’s sharp first game comes from a drawn 12-game match between the teacher and the pupil in 1921. Euwe as White sets off the fireworks in this tricky French McCutcheon line with 13. Bxg6! Qc7?! (Timman says 13 … dxc3+ is better here) 14. Rf3 Rg8 15. Rxf7 Qxc3+ 16. Ke2!, with both kings seemingly in mortal danger.
White tips the balance with a fantastic resource: 18. Kf3! Rf8 (understandably missing the point; Timman says best now was 18 … Nc6 19. g3 Rxg6; e.g. 20. Qxg6 Ne7 21. Rxe7+ Kxe7 22. Rc1 Qf6+ 23. Qxf6+ Kxf6 24. Ne2 e5 25. d4 Bh3!, with good drawing chances) 19. Rf5+!! — picking his way through the pins, counterpins and discovered attacks to find the win: 19 … Kd7 (Ke7 20. Qb4+ wins) 20. Rxf8 Qxa1 21. Rf7+ Kd8 22. Qb4 Nd7 23. Qd6 Qh8 23. Ne2 e5 25. Nf4 exf4 26. Bf5, and Black can’t handle the pressure on his king. After 26 … Qe8 27. Bxd7 Bxd7 28. Rf8, the Black queen is pinned and lost and Maroczy resigned.
Jan Hein Donner in 1959 became the Netherlands’s second grandmaster after Euwe, but despite a stellar career and multiple Dutch national championships, he never managed to beat Euwe over the board. The two played a match for national supremacy in 1956, which Euwe won by a decisive 7-3 score, including another sharp attacking game that caught his younger opponent out in just 22 moves.
It’s a sharp King’s Indian line in which Donner as White goes wrong on 11 … b5!? 12. c5?! (Timman prefers the simple 12. cxb5 cxb5 13. Qe2, maintaining an edge) dxc5 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Qxe5 Qxe5 15. f4? (going down a dangerous path with his queenside still undeveloped; stronger was 15. Bf4) Qh5 16. e5 (see diagram; Timman writes here: “If Black had to move his knight now, White’s strategy would have triumphed, but [Euwe] has something better …”) Bxh3!!, the start of a crushing attack.
Now, after 17. exf6 (Bxc6 b4! 18. Bxa8 bxc3 19. Re1 Rxa8 20. exf6 Bxf6 21. bxc3 Bf4 and the attack rages on) Bxf6 18. Ne4 Rxe4! 19. Bxe4 Re8 20. Be3 Bf5!, Donner’s entire position is under siege. White’s resistance collapses on 21. Qxc5? (the only chance was 21. Bxf5 Rxe3 22. Qf2, but 22 … Rf3! 23. g4 Qh3 wins as well) Rxe4 22. Rd2 Qf3, and White resigns as 23. Bf2 Bh3 24. Be1 Bd4+! is winning.
In a cheating controversy that generated global headlines, a federal judge last week dismissed the $100 million defamation lawsuit filed by U.S. GM Hans Moke Niemann against former world champion Magnus Carlsen, U.S. GM Hikaru Nakamura, Chess.com, the Play Magnus Group, and IM Daniel Rensch, a top official with Chess.com.
Carlsen famously withdrew halfway through the 2002 Sinquefield Cup after a loss to Niemann, broadly insinuating that his opponent was getting illegal help during the game. Niemann hotly denied the charges but Chess.com said its own analysis found other examples of likely cheating in his online games.
The judge threw out some of the charges and said others in the defamation suit did not belong in federal court. Mr. Niemann’s lawyers said they may try to revive the case in state court.
On a more positive note, another world title will be on the line this month as women’s world champion GM Jun Wenjun and challenger and Chinese compatriot GM Lei Tingjie square off in a 12-game match at classical time controls starting Wednesday. The first half of the match will be played in Shanghai and the second half in Chongqing.
The players will not be allowed to offer a draw before Move 41, and in case of a tie, a rapid and blitz playoff will be held July 23.
China already claims the world absolute chess title after GM Ding Liren defeated Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi to succeed Carlsen in an epic match earlier this year. We’ll have full coverage of the Jun-Lei match in upcoming columns.
(Click on the image above for a larger view of the chessboard.)
Euwe-Maroczy, Match, Game 6, Bad Aussee, Austria, August 1921
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Bb4 5. e5 h6 6. Bd2 Bxc3 7. bxc3 Ne4 8. Qg4 g6 9. h4 c5 10. Bd3 Nxd2 11. Kxd2 Qa5 12. Rh3 cxd4 13. Bxg6 Qc7 14. Rf3 Rg8 15. Rxf7 Qxc3+ 16. Ke2 d3+ 17. cxd3 Qxe5+ 18. Kf3 Rf8 19. Rf5+ Kd7 20. Rxf8 Qxa1 21. Rf7+ Kd8 22. Qb4 Nd7 23. Qd6 Qh8 24. Ne2 e5 25. Nf4 exf4 26. Bf5 Qe8 27. Bxd7 Bxd7 28. Rf8 Black resigns.
Donner-Euwe, Dutch Championship Match, Game 6, The Hague, Netherlands, January 1956
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. d4 d6 6. O-O Nbd7 7. Qc2 e5 8. Rd1 Re8 9. Nc3 c6 10. e4 Qc7 11. h3 b5 12. c5 dxc5 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Qxe5 15. f4 Qh5 16. e5 Bxh3 17. exf6 Bxf6 18. Ne4 Rxe4 19. Bxe4 Re8 20. Be3 Bf5 21. Qxc5 Rxe4 22. Rd2 Qf3 White resigns.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at email@example.com.