Euwe was born in Watergraafsmeer close to Amsterdam, where his father was a teacher. His parents both could play chess and learned the little Max chess on the age of 4. On the highschool his results were innitially no good. Not because he was playing chess but soccer. In the 4th grade (age 16) chess became his prime hobby. In 1918 Euwe passed his exams and went to the University to study mathematics. In the following years his chess strength grew. Especcialy because he could play against the famous Hungarians Maroczy and Réti the Russian Tartakover.
Euwe also played a lot of tournaments abroad. In 1921 he became dutch champion for the first time. Until the fifties he totally dominated the dutch chess scene and became 13 times dutch champion.
In the twenties he slowly broke through and earned a place between the worlds elite. In 1923 he won the strong tournament in Hastings ahead of Maroczy. In 1926 - 1927 he played a match against the soon to be world champion Aljechin which he barely lost with 4½-5½. In the meantime he was promoted in mathematics in 1926, and he started as a teacher at the Girls Lyceum in Amsterdam.
Euwe was one of the few amateurs between the world elite and in 1928 Euwe became in the world champion for amateurs. He also played matches against "FIDE world champion Efim Bogoljoebov, which he lost with 4½-5½:
In two large tournaments in 1928, in Bad Kissingen and Carlsbad, Euwe proved to be among the world elite. In 1930 and 1934 Euwe again won Hastings. In 1931 he played a match against former world champion the cuban Capablanca and lost with 4 - 6.
In 1933 Euwe was surpised to receive an invitation to play a match against Aljechin for the worldchampionship. Euwe did not believe to make a chance, but the Austrian Hans Kmoch convinced him he had a chance. Euwe who stopped chess playing at that time, accepted the invitation.
Euwe played for the honour, the price money of 10.000 guilders (about 5000 Euros or Dollars) was completely for Aljechin. Aljechin had to live from price money and would not put his world title at stake for less. At that time the world title was still a personal possession. Euwes preparation was a few weeks of leave from his work. Euwe did prepare himself well, not only with chess preparation, but also doing work outs like tennis, boxing and starting the day with a cold shower.
Aljechin never did work outs, instead he was a heavy drinker and a big smoker. Showing his character Aljechin later used his drinking habit as an excuse for loosing the match.
The match drew large media attention and was played over 80 days in 13 cities touring the Netherlands. The match started with an advantage of 6-3 for Aljechin and appeared to become a walk-over. Euwe recovered and went to play beautiful chess. The final breaktrough was game 26 "The Pearl of Zandvoort", were Euwe did 19 out of 47 moves with the same knight. The Pearl seen from above.
Close to the end of the match Euwe even had a lead of two points. A loss in the 27th game brought the exitement back. The last game was played in Amsterdam, the Bellevue was packed with 2000 spectators. A loss would mean 15 - 15, so Aljechin would maintain his title. Euwe came two pawns ahead and offered a draw close before the adjournment. Aljechin refused, but at the adjournment he asked: "Should we adjourn or can I gratulate you?". Silently they shaked hands and a loud applause arose. When the noise came down Aljechin shouted ingerman: “Es lebe Schachweltmeister Euwe, es lebe Schachliebend Holland” (Long live worldchampion Euwe, long live chess minded Holland).Euwe won on 15 december 1935 after 80 days, 30 games and 13 cities with 15½-14½.
The world title made the Netherlands enthousiastic for chess. Many dutch chess clubs started in the year 1935. Euwe played again for the world title against Aljechin in 1337 and lost the match with (9½-15½) .
In 1938 a super tournament was orginized, the AVRO-tournament. Euwe scored in this tournament 7 out of 14 games.
Following the death of Aljechin in 1946, there had been difficulties in deciding how another World Champion would be appointed. FIDE decided to take the matter into their own hands but had difficulty in arranging a suitable tournament particularly as the emergence of Soviet players in international tournaments had begun to muddy the waters and they were not members of FIDE. In many post-war international events, Euwe had been particularly successful and by 1947 the Soviets indicated that they could be persuaded to join the International Federation and throw their weight behind an arrangement to decide the World Championship competition. Accordingly, FIDE arranged a meeting in the Netherlands for 1947 that the Soviets agreed to attend. However, the meeting started without any of the Soviets present and there was no indication whether or not they were going to attend. After two days, the meeting declared Euwe the World Champion and then set about deciding how the title would be contested in the future. Eventually the Soviets did put in an appearance, declared their intention to join FIDE and then the whole matter of the World Championship went into the melting-pot and resulted in the Match Tournament held in 1948. Euwe who had been the World Champion for two days then resigned his title! This tournament was not a succes for Euwe and he became last with 4 out of 20 games.
In 1949 after a few years as professional player Euwe became a teacher again.
Euwe was known for his opening knowledge and has written many chess books and chess series. The classics he wrote were Oordeel en Plan (Judgement and Plan) and Oom Jan leert zijn neefje schaken (Uncle John learns his nephew chess). His books are translated in many languages all over the world.
Euwe did a lot of physical exercise and was an amateur boxer. After 1950 he concentrated more on Mathematics and Informatica. In 1964 he became Professor Doctor in Automisation of Information at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and he also became appointed at the University of Tilburg.
Euwe was FIDE president from 1970 until 1978. He had an important role in the organisation of the match of the century between Spassky and Fischer in Reykjavik in Iceland.
Euwe died on 26th November 1981, in Amsterdam at the age of 80 years. He was married with Carolina Elisabeth Bergman. They had 3 daughters.
In 1982 the Max Euwe Centrum was opened (NL - Max Euwe Centrum). The Max Euwe centrum contains a chess museum with some top pieces like the chess set given by Hitler or Himler to Mutsaers during the second world war. There is also a square named to him, the Max Euweplein.