Award Name : Arjuna Award
Year of Award : 1961
Award for : Sports and Games
Location : Taungoo, Bago, Myanmar
Manuel Aaron is the first Indian chess master in the second half of the 20th century. He was born on 30 December 1935 in Toungoo, Myanmar. 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.
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.