Max Euwe

Fifth World Chess Champion

Isaak Linder, Vladimir Linder

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Russel Enterprises (World Chess Champion Series)
208 pages

Books on openings, especially those promising quick victories, may dominate the market, but there is always room for works devoted to famous players. Ideally part biography and part game collection, these books don’t have a built in expiration date like opening treatises and can have a long shelf life — witness Alekhine’s two volumes devoted to his best games which have been studied for almost a hundred years.

Two new books by Russell Enterprises will add to the rich literature of the royal game. Najdorf X Najdorf by Liliana Najdorf covers the life and games of her father, one of the strongest and most colorful players of the 20th century.

The person in question was born Moishe Mendel (Mieczysław) but answered to Miguel Najdorf most of his life. He was, after Reshevsky, the second best player in the West in the late 1940s and the first half of the 1950s and played at the Grandmaster level into his seventies.

This book, ably translated from the Spanish by Taylor Kingston, is the story of Najdorf’s life as told by his daughter Liliana, but it also offers material not offered in the original work. This includes eleven annotated games by Jan Timman who believes Najdorf should have been included in the 1948 The Hague/Moscow World Championship tournament.

This volume also benefits from the skilled hand of Mr. Kingston who goes beyond the normal duties of a translator to address with sensitivity the question of Najdorf’s “inconsistent relationship with factual truth.” Simply put Don Miguel, as he was known to his many friends and admirers, loved telling stories but was not always careful with the facts. Sometimes the errors were minor but in other cases had no factual basis (i.e. he didn’t play two tournament games with Alekhine nor was he ever Polish champion).

Najdorf X Najdorf is a delightful book that belongs in every chess player’s library.

While Najdorf was among the dozen players in the world, the subject of the other offering by Russell Enterprises, Max Euwe, was not only World Champion, but arguably the strongest amateur player of all time. Max Euwe, 5th World Champion by Isaak and Vladimir Lindner is a translation of the original Russian but also features new material in the many annotated games by Karsten Muller and the forward by Andy Soltis, who points out that while Euwe might pale as a player when being compared with other World Champions like Fischer, Kasparov and Karpov, his overall contributions to the game as a player, author, FIDE President, arbiter and analyst compare with the very best. Euwe deserves to be better remembered and this book will help to do that.