The Max Euwe Center in peril

by Frederic Friedel
8/13/2015 – He was the only amateur chess player to become World Champion – the fifth in chess history. After his death in 1981 the city of Amsterdam established a Center with a museum and a modest library containing Euwe’s chess inheritance and books. Now, after 24 years, the city is threatening to withdraw it subsidy. World class players are protesting. Can the Max Euwe Center be saved?

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The Max Euwe Center in Amsterdam

Machgielis ("Max") Euwe was a Dutch chess mathematician, grandmaster, and author, was born on May 20, 1901 in Watergraafsmeer, near Amsterdam. He studied mathematics at the University of Amsterdam, earning his doctorate in 1926.

Euwe taught mathematics, first in Rotterdam, and later at a girls' Lyceum in Amsterdam

He became the fifth World Chess Champion when he beat Alexander Alekhine in 1935, but lost his title to the same player two years later. He was noted for his logical approach to the game – his title matches with Alekhine were displays of tactical ferocity from both sides, since Euwe, according to Reuben Fine, "strode confidently into some extraordinarily complex variations if he thought logic was on his side; and he was extremely good at calculating these variations."

Euwe also served as President of FIDE, the World Chess Federation, from 1970 to 1978. In this role he tended to do what he considered morally right rather than what was politically expedient. On several occasions this brought him into conflict with the USSR Chess Federation, which thought it had the right to dominate matters.

Max Euwe died in 1981 at the age of 80 of a heart attack. In 1986 the Max Euwe Center was established in Amsterdam. Initially the Center directed its energies towards maintaining a small museum and a modest library, which contained part of Euwe’s chess inheritance and his books.

Special exposition in the Max Euwe Center

Since then, the museum (run by dedicated and friendly volunteers) has been expanded with chess sets from all over the world and a large collection of unique photographs related to chess tournaments and matches. In addition to the fixed museum, exhibitions succeed each other on a regular basis.

The library now contains well over 10,000 books on a wide range of chess subjects and a large number of journals, both domestic and foreign. They may deal with purely technical matters, but also with the history of chess and the interconnections between chess and numerous fields of science. Chess, after all, is more than just a game.

The famous sculpture of Euwe in front of the MEC...

... which overlooks a giant chessboard

... where people can enjoy informal games of chess [photo TripAdvisor]

Chess training sessions at the Max Euwe Center in Amsterdam

Every year the MEC organizes a big summer chess festival with top grandmasters giving simultaneous displays. As part of the MEC’s objective to promote chess, regular training sessions are being organized at the Center, newsletters appear a few times a year, schools frequently visit, an exchange market is held twice a year, and during important matches the Center provides a running commentary.

Lecture by chess legend Jan Timman in the Max Euwe Center

Last year the MEC had 2,250 visitors from sixty different countries. In 1991 the City decided to name the square in honor of Max Euwe – the "Max Euwe Plein" lies Leidseplein and the Rijksmuseum.

You can visit the Max Euwe Center from Tuesday to Friday (except for public holidays) at Max Euweplein 30-a, 1017 MB Amsterdam from 12.00 - 16.00 hours. Every first Saturday of the month the Center is open. Admission is free. Contact: or telephone +31 20 6257017.

Subsidy to be withdrawn?

The city of Amsterdam has provided a subsidy to the Max Euwe Center for some twenty-four years, but is now threatening to withdraw this fund. In a letter to the Members of the Amsterdam City Council a number of players have protested this "very shortsighted decision". Signatories of the letter are

  • Magnus Carlsen, Norway, World Champion
  • Viswanathan Anand, India, former World Champion
  • Veslin Topalov, Bulgaria, former World Champion
  • Fabiano Caruana, Italy
  • Hikaru Nakamura, USA
  • Alexander Grischuk, Russia
  • Anish Giri, the Netherlands
  • Levon Aronian, Armenia
  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, France
  • Jon Ludvig Hammer, Norway
  • Garry Kasparov, Russia, former World Champion
  • Vladimir Kramnik, Russia, former World Champion
  • Wesley So, Philippines/USA
  • Ho Yifan, China, Women's World Champion
  • Liviu Dieter Nisipeanu, Germany
  • Georg Maier, Germany
  • Akardij Naiditsch, Germany
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi, Russia

For its continued existence the Max Euwe Center also depends on contributions from the business community (sponsors and donating companies), private benefactors and the Amsterdam local authorities. The organized chess world, too, does its bit. Sponsors are the Koninklijke Nederlandse Schaakbond, Gemeente Amsterdam, and Klos Morel Vos en Schaap. In addition material support is provided by Holland Casino, New in Chess, and Schaak & Go winkel Het Paard.

Companies can support the MEC financially. In return the MEC can provide business chess tournaments, lectures or simultaneous exhibitions by top players. Of course, the sponsor will be invited to the biannual Euweborrel, our annual Town Square Festival and other sponsor meetings, for example the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Any company that may consider a sponsorship should contact Eddy Sibbing, manager of the MEC, or call at +31-20-625 7017.

In addition private chess friends can chip in by donating to IBAN: NL91 INGB 0005 4016 70 Stichting
Max Euwe Center in Amsterdam (giving "New donor MEC" plus name and address). Donors can write off the sum in their tax returns since the MEC is recognized as a charity organisation.

Topics: Holland

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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Max Euwe Centre Max Euwe Centre 9/10/2015 05:57
First of all , thanks for all your sympathetic reactions!

In the various comments we often notice reference to the " high costs of accommodation " of the Max Euwe Centre. The amounts mentioned here comprise a lot more than just rent : they include service costs, insurances,cleaning costs, costs of acquiring small inventory items ,etc.

The basic rent of the Centre in 2015 is euro 27,132 pa. For 240 m2 of prime office space in the centre of Amsterdam that's very reasonable. The reason for this is that it was decided as long ago as 1991 that part of the building would be rented out to non-profit organisations such as ours at rates 40% below market prices.

The Board of the Max Euwe Centre
genem genem 8/23/2015 08:12
Whatever happens to the chess boards, pieces, and clocks used in Match World Chess Championship (MWCChamp) duals?

One of the two clocks used during the Capablanca - Alekhine 1927 match sold for roughly $10,000 about a decade ago.

The board and pieces used in Spassky - Fischer 1972 were stashed in a closet for many years until eventually they were put on display. Now the exhibit is a must see for visitors to Reykjavik.

Today in 2015, how much would the board and pieces used in Anderssen - Morphy 1858 fetch were they offered at auction?

Where are all these historical chess sets?

In Anand - Carlsen 2013, maybe they could have bought 12 identical chess sets (from a high quality commercial vendor), and used a new set for each game. Each set would have been marked with its provenance (game number, date, outcome). Then most of the sets could have been publicly auctioned for profit and enjoyment.

Does the Max Euwe museum have on display any chess set that was actually used in Alekhine - Euwe 1935? If not, then where is the chess set they used?

In this museum article I see displays of photos, a bust of Euwe, and a novelty chess set. But those displays are not historical artifacts with provenance. I see some type-written correspondence that likely has provenance.
But where are all the MWCChamp chess boards and pieces??
KevinC KevinC 8/14/2015 03:50
@Frits Fritschy, Thank you.
Keesje Keesje 8/14/2015 12:02
If the Max Euwe Centre is the "most important chess centre in Western Europe", which I doubt, then it would be logical and sufficient to charge every chess player in Europe with something like €0.10 to pay the costs.
Rational Rational 8/13/2015 09:39
It's pathetic the lack of money in Chess : last week the tiny prizes in the British Chess championship and now we can,t raise just 30,000 Euro to keep the most important chess centre in Western Europe going.
MagicLieske MagicLieske 8/13/2015 07:27
30,000€ are Peanuts, if you compare that amount with the Berlin Airport, which is
- still not open
- uncertain when it does open
- one construction company (Imtech) just bancrupted
- the costs increasing about 1,000,000,000€ p.a. not opened.
Only 10 visitors/day? Fair deal, the Berlin airport has sero passengers.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/13/2015 06:05
About 30,000 euro a year.
KevinC KevinC 8/13/2015 03:54
It would be nice to know just how much the subsidy is. It is hard to solve a problem when you don't really know the scope of it.
jasgon jasgon 8/13/2015 02:12
Money spent on preserving the memory of great citizens is always well spent. It inspires the younger generation and reinforces the image of the city as a great city, which in turn attracts more money. Stopping to preserve its great history is the beginning of a long death, a shoot in one own foot.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/13/2015 01:44
It's not so unusual for administrations to use tax payer's money for things part of these tax payers are not interested in. Better said, that counts for nearly all the money they spend. Not just on art, music, sport or science, but also on roads some will never use.
The average renting price for offices in Amsterdam is about € 200/m2/year; the rate for other offices at the Max Euwe Plein is 225/year (I can't find it for the MEC). Very expensive? I would say just above average.

On the other hand, an average of 10 visitors a day sounds rather meagre to me, and maybe also to the city council of Amsterdam.

By the way (to Frederik Friedel), "Rueben Fein", is this his birth name or just a misspelling of Reuben Fine?
Otto ter Haar Otto ter Haar 8/13/2015 01:31
The city of Amsterdam has lot of duties of more social impact. If the Max Euwe Center depends on the cities subsidy it has no future.
jocaps jocaps 8/13/2015 11:20
In the end, I think that the taxpayers will still be interested in other things. So maybe it is even better if the collection went to someone who loved it and who will manage to preserve it and eventually maybe even exhibit it. I bet even if they had the money, they wouldn't really put their heart and passion into this.
Keesje Keesje 8/13/2015 10:48
This problem can be solved easily if the chess players mentioned above (Carlsen, Anand, Topalov, etc.) will pay the small amount of €30,000 each year.

Currently, the city of Amsterdam uses taxpayer's money from people that don't play chess and have no interest in chess at all. Most of the money is for hiring the very expensive appartment in the city of Amsterdam where the Max Euwe Centre is located.