Tuesday, Aug 09, 2022
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64 Madras Light Infantry

With prodigies regularly coming off the assembly line, Chennai is still the chess capital of India

Furrowed Photograph by R.A. Chandroo

Aaron’s Ark has neither sails nor oars. Nevertheless, it’s a copper-bottomed conveyance if your goal is chess glory. The two-storey building in Shastri Nagar, Chennai, is home to Ind­ia’s first chess legend, Manuel Aaron, who in 1961 became the country’s first international master (IM), and is a nine-time national champion besides.

Aaron, now a sprightly 83, coaches dozens of youngsters at his house. His Aaron Chess Academy is a pioneer among the  chess institutes—100 at last count—that have cropped up in Chennai over the past three decades. “When I bec­ame an IM, there was increased interest, and many youngsters took up the game. When Viswanathan Anand became India’s first grandmaster (GM) in the ’80s, there was a flood. As we’re both from Chennai, the city became the hotspot for chess, even though TN has had a strong chess culture since the early ’60s, with tournaments held across the state,” rec­alls Aaron.

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