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Manuel Aaron Profile

Manuel Aaron
Manuel Aaron pioneered the game of chess as a youngster and have played a pivotal role ever since in placing India, as an emerging force in world chess forum. He was the first Indian to earn the title of International Master. While Aaron made a significant contribution to Indian chess in his career as a competitive player, his efforts to increase chess awareness and make the game popular, is dominant till date. He formed many chess groups and convinced players to learn the openings and other formal chess literature, thus helping making the international variety popular in India.

Early Life & Introduction to Chess
Manuel Aaron was born to an Indian couple in colonial Burma on December 30, 1935. Aaron's introduction to chess was early, when he was barely eight years old. His parents and elder sister played a crucial role in teaching him the technicalities of the game of chess. While he did his schooling from Tamil Nadu in India, Aaron's higher education was completed from the prestigious Allahabad University with a bachelor degree in Science. It was during his years in college that Aaron played his first chess tournament at Allahabad, under Indian Chess rules. Thereafter, he shifted base to Madras to study engineering but soon gave up his studies and took up the job as an officer in Indian Bank. The bank provided Aaron all the facilities to play the game until his retirement in 1995.

National Chess
Aaron dominated the Indian chess scenario from the mid-fifties till the end of the seventies and won the national title nine times. In 1957, he played his first National Championship bagging a second position. The tournament also happened to be the second National Championship of India at Pune. During 1955 to 1971, the Nationals followed Swiss rules and as such they were held once in two years, with 14 rounds. In the following two Championships (i.e. in 1959 & 1961), Aaron successfully bagged the crown. Though he suffered a downfall in the successive years, year 1969 marked as a comeback for the ace player. From 1969 to 1973, Aaron clinched the title five times in a row. He also won the Tamil Nadu Chess Championship for a whopping 11 times (1957-1982), which made Tamil Nadu emerge as the chess powerhouse of India.

International Chess
Aaron became an 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 1961. During those early days of chess, it was indeed a big achievement for an Indian chess player. In the subsequent year, Aaron qualified for the Stockholm Inter-Zonal and although finishing last, he got the better of grandmasters Lajos Portisch and Wolfgang Uhlmann. Aaron's performance at Stockholm also earned him one of the highest prestigious sports award in India - the Arjuna Award, thus becoming the first ever chess player to be conferred with an award of such high value. His greatest moment was when he played against Bobby Fischer, a noted chess player. In his international career, he twice went to Russia and Iran. While he jointly won Masters Tournament at Singapore in 1975, he finished 4th in the Commonwealth Championship at Hong Kong, in 1984.

His Captaincy
Aaron captained the Indian teams to the Chess Olympiads at Leipzjg, Germany (1960) and Varna, Bulgaria (1962). He also participated in the 1964 Tel Aviv Chess Olympiad. In 19977, under Aaron's captaincy, the Indian team participated in the 2nd Asian Team Championship held at Auckland. Later, in 1981, he captained the team to the 4th Asian Team Championship at Hangzhow in China.

Contributions to Indian Chess Culture
As India had minimal chess culture during the earlier time, Manuel Aaron's made it a point to increase the chess awareness in the country. He served as the Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Chess Association from 1977 and 1997 and also as chairman of the All India Chess Federation. He also serves as the editor of a quarterly magazine named 'Chess Mate' and contributes regularly to The Hindu and Sport Star. Even today, Aaron remains active in the chess circle and has been given a rating of 2300+ by FIDE, Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation.

Awards & Honors
Manuel Aaron dominated the Indian chess forum for almost two decades, from 1960 to 1980. During 1959 to 1981, he earned the national champion of India nine times, out of the total 14 championships held. He successfully clinched the title five times in a row from 1969 to 1973. In his career spanning for almost two decades, he was declared India's first International Master, and was one of the imperative players to introduce international chess practices to India. His performance at the Stockholm Inter-Zonal, wherein he defeated the grandmasters, Lajos Portisch and Wolfgang Uhlmann, won him India's highest sports award - the Arjuna Award.