Master administrator in chess

Manuel Aaron’s place in Indian chess history is unique, though he is only an International Master.
Master administrator in chess
Manuel Aaron


In terms of chess rating, an IM is not a big draw but only the grade before one achieves the Grandmaster title. But at a time when India did not have even one IM and the chess we played was more of an Indian variant ( Cha thuranga ), Manuel Aaron contributed to its growth in the country and Tamil Nadu forming different groups and popularising the European game, which is the universally accepted form. 
In fact, there are many who put him alongside Viswanathan Anand for his contribution to Indian chess. If Anand’s contribution is for bringing thousands of children into chess, Aaron’s was for administration as he was also the secretary of the All India Chess Federation and Tamil Nadu Chess Association for many years. 
Born in Burma in 1935 to Indian parents, Aaron grew up in Tamil Nadu where he did his schooling, finishing his BSc from Allahabad University. Aaron was the Indian National Champion nine times (out of 14 championships between 1959– 1981), including five consecutive titles between 1969 and 1973. He also won the Tamil Nadu Chess Championship eleven times (1957–1982); after him, Tamil Nadu emerged as the chess powerhouse of India. 
Aaron worked for Indian Bank and formed a team that had the likes of V Hariharan, the current AICF secretary and KV Shantharam, who regularly played in the National team Championship before the all the banks came under the Bank Sports Board umbrella. “He played on the top board and I was on the second board,” says 
Hariharan. “One of his qualities was he would never take draws and fight till the last.” 
As secretary of the federation, one could count on Aaron to reply to letters because that is one practice that he religiously followed. “He always carried post cards and inlands in his brief case. He would reply to letters without fail and that too quickly,” says Hariharan. 
Aaron won the West Asian Zonal Championship against Mongolia’s Sukien Momo and the Asian-Australian Zonal final against Cecil Purdy of Australia in 1961.The next year, he won the Arjuna Award for Indian sportsmen, the first-ever chess player to be so honoured. 
These wins at the Asian level qualified him for the Inter-zonals, and in 1962, he played in the Stockholm Interzonal and although finishing last (23rd place), his game was notable for the defeats he inflicted on grandmasters Lajos Portisch and Wolfgang Uhlmann, and his general aversion to draws. He also has a win against former World champion Max Euwe. 
Aaron also played thrice with the Indian team at the Chess Olympiads. He captained the Indian team at Leipzig in 1960 and at Varna in 1962. In 1964, he played on second board in Tel Aviv. He also led India to the second Asian Team Championship at Auckland in 1977 and to the fourth Asian Team championship in China in 1981. He finished fourth in the Commonwealth Championship at Hong Kong in 1984. 
Aaron also edited a chess monthly, Chess Mate. Aaron knew German and so he had easy access to chess literature at a time when theory was unknown in India. That helped him prepare strongly for his opponents in the nationals. By the time Anand came on the scene, Aaron had retired and taken up chess administration.

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