He became Dutch chess champion in 1921 and remained so until 1935. He became amateur chess champion in 1928. On December 15, 1935 after 30 games played in 13 different cities over a period of 80 days, he defeated reigning world champion Alexander Alekhine. His title gave a huge boost to chess in The Netherlands.
He lost the title to Alekhine in 1937. After Alekhine's death in 1946, Euwe was considered by some to have a moral right to position of world champion, but he gracefully consented to participate in the five contestant tournament to select the new world champion held in 1948 in which he finished last.
He also wrote many books on chess, of which the most famous are Oordeel en Plan (Evaluate and plan) and a series about the opening.
In Amsterdam there is a Max Euwe Plein (square) (near the Leidseplein), where the 'Max Euwe Stichting' is located in an old jailhouse. It has a Max Euwe museum and a large collection of chess books.
His granddaughter, Esmee Lammers, has written a children's book called Lang Leve de Koningin (Long live the Queen), which is popular among the youth.