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Coach and chronicler, Aaron still busy after all these years

other Updated: Nov 20, 2013 01:46 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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So rooted is he in the present that thoughts of going back in time need to be reined in soon after the autorickshaw splutters to a halt. At the door of a house that looks well-lived in Shastri Nagar, Adayar, is Manuel Aaron, the first poster boy of Indian chess.

Aaron, India's first International Master, doesn't agree with that.

"No, that would be (Malik Mir) Sultan Khan. I wrote to Fide (chess' world body) earlier this year to give him a Grandmaster title. Fide had done that once in 1950. They replied saying there have been others who haven't been similarly acknowledged but I have found out that those they mentioned had died by 1950. Khan died in 1966," said Aaron. Aaron plans to write to Fide again.

The chronicler
Getting Fide to award chess' highest title to a man who was born in India but died in Pakistan and took the chess world by storm in a five-year career (1929-33) is one of the things keeping Aaron, 77, busy.

Co-authoring a book on the history of Indian chess is another. "It should be out next month and will have a lot of games from the 19th century. It's taken five years because getting information is a challenge.

I have got more information from England about chess in India in the 19th century. It was from there that I knew India's first major tournament was held in Kolkata in 1878 where English and Indian players took part."

Fischer connection
For four days a week, he is also a coach at the Aaron Chess Academy, set up in 1993 on his return from a coaching assignment in Sharjah.

"During my time in the UAE, Bobby Fischer called from Pasadena, USA, asking for a match with Anand. That was 1991. Fischer even sent a draft of the contract. Of course, he had his conditions such as no Communist would be involved. A major soft drinks company was keen but backed out saying there's no point spending so much money on an Indian."

Aaron played Fischer once, in 1962. "I found him to be a perfect gentleman. He was a terror for the organisers but everything he demanded was right."

Aaron found comparisons between Fischer and Magnus Carlsen difficult to fathom. "Fischer spent a life dedicated to chess; he was an expert in openings and he tried to win every game. Carlsen's got some way to go."