(Last Updated on : 15/01/2014)
Manuel Aaron was the first Indian chess master to earn the title of International Master. From the 1960s to the 1980s, he played the predominant role in the field of chess in India. Between 1959 and 1981, Manuel Aaron was the national champion of India nine times. He was the mastermind behind the introduction of international chess practices to India. He is also regarded as the one of the key figures in Indian Chess
until the 1960s, which was known as chaturanga
or shatranj and often played applying many local traditional variants. The international variety was popularized with the hands of Aaron. He played also instrumental role in forming many chess groups and advocating players to study openings and other formal chess literature.
Early life of Manuel Aaron
On 30th December 1935, Manuel Aaron was born in Toungoo (Burma). From his parents and his elder sister, he learnt chess. At that time he was barely eight years old. He had his primary education in Tamil Nadu
. After that he moved to Allahabad University
to do his graduation in science.
Career of Manuel Aaron
In the year 1954, he played his first chess tournament at Allahabad under Indian Chess rules. He afterward shifted to Chennai
in order to study engineering. But he soon gives up his studies to join Indian Bank as an officer. The job of the Indian Bank ensures to provide him with all facilities to play the game till he retired from the Bank in 1995.
Manuel Aaron possesses the distinction of winning the Indian National Chess Championship nine times from 959 to 1981. In the year 1957, he played his first National Championship, which also happened to be the second National Championship of India at Pune. Aaron finished second at the tournament. Under the Swiss rules from 1955 to 1971, the Nationals were held once in two years with 14 rounds. In the next Championships held in Delhi
in the year 1959, Manuel won the crown and afterward continued in keeping it at Hyderabad
in the year 1961. The Championship held in the year 1969 at Bangalore saw him regain the title and thereafter till 1974 won successive years. The title was lost by him to Ravi Sekhar at Patna
but the very next year he got back the defeat at Calcutta. In all, the last being at Delhi
in the year 1980, he won the national title nine times. He also won the Tamil Nadu
State Championship 11 times besides. Tamil Nadu emerged as a chess power house of India after him.
Manuel Aaron became the International Master when he won the West Asian Zonal against Mongolia's Sukien Momo 3-1 and the Asian-Australian Zonal final C.J.S. Purdy of Australia 3-0 in the year 1961. In the Inter-Zonal the following year held at Stockholm, he defeated grandmasters Uhlmann and Portisch. Acknowledging this performance of Manuel Aaron, Indian Government conferred him the highest prestigious sports award the Arjuna Award
. He thus became the first-ever chess player to be so honoured.
Under Manuel Aaron's captaincy the Indian teams participated to the Chess Olympiads held at Leipzj in the year 1960 and at Varna in the year 1962. In the year 1977, he also led India to the Asian Team Championship held at Auckland. And in the year 1981 captained the Asian Team at Hangzhow in China. He took part in the 1960 Hastings International and the 1961 Wijkaan Zee tournament. At the tournament he beat the American grandmaster Bisguire. First in the 1962 Inter-Zonai and then 1962 Olympiad, he twice beat the Hungarian grandmaster Portisch. He twice went to Russia and Iran. In the year 1975, he jointly won Masters Tournament at Singapore.
Later years of Manuel Aaron
Aaron has served as the Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Chess Association from 1977 to 1997 as well as the All India Chess federation. He also edits a quarterly magazine named "Chess Mate" and contributes regularly to The Hindu and The sport star. Arvind and Ashok two of his three sons have also made a name for themselves in the game.
The emergence of Aaron in an environment where there exited a minimal chess culture, was not at all easy at that time. That is why Aaron was very responsive to the stimuli or the growth of chess awareness in India. He did much to further glorify chess as the Secretary of the TNCA and also as chairman of the All India Chess Federation
. He is a still active chess player in Indian circles, with a FIDE rating above 2300, and a national rank of 111 as of January 11th.