it all began...
Unable to concentrate for lengths of time and focus on his
classes, Eric dropped out of high school with a GPA of 1.67
and began studying chess, a game he learned to play at the
age of 5. He began playing in chess tournaments and quickly
became one of the top 100 players in the US for his age category.
This success gave Eric the confidence and motivation to enroll
in junior college and later be accepted into UC Berkeley,
where he graduated with honors.
While Eric was at Berkeley, he wanted to give the community
what chess had given to him. He began teaching chess rules
to inner-city elementary school students, taking special interest
in the most problematic students in each classroom.
Hicks turned his life around with chess.
During this time, he developed a "cool" teaching
method, which employed the use of flamboyant stories, fun
rap songs, and creative rhymes to capture the interest of
his students and keep them from dismissing chess as a game
for "nerds". Not only did these kids learn to enjoy
the game of chess, but to everyone's amazement, they excelled
at it. After just six months of chess instruction, one of
the schools in which Eric taught won second place in the state
championships against teams who had studied chess for many
Upon graduating from Berkeley, Eric began working at a software
design company, but soon missed working with kids and teaching
them a game of substance.
In his spare time, he began teaching chess in local school
again, this time teaching entire student bodies. Eric learned
that chess had enormous benefits to students of all ages,
and not just students with difficulties learning. As more
and more schools heard about the program through word of mouth
and press coverage, Eric became committed to teaching chess
in as many schools as possible.
Eric began interviewing, selecting, and training a core group
of professional chess instructors who shared a commitment
to enriching the lives of children with the game of chess.
In 1994, he founded Academic Chess and the after-school program
that funded the work going on in the classrooms. Since its
inception, Academic Chess has spread in schools throughout
California, Nevada, and Utah, and has taught 100,000 elementary
students in over 200 schools the game of chess. Academic Chess
is a growing organization of individuals committed to promoting
chess among children.
Bringing chess to a level that kids can understand is the
motivation for Academic Chess' unique style of teaching this
beautifully complex and ancient game. The original stories
and songs developed by Eric are still being used our teachers
because they are so effective in teaching. Academic Chess
continues to grow, but the basic premise for its success will
continue to be Eric's dedication to helping kids understand
chess, and more importantly, sparking their imagination while