By Krystn Shrieve, South County News
The king is an old man with arthritis and that is why he can only move
one small step at a time.
The bishop got cracked on the head by the queen and hasn't been able
to walk in a straight line since.
The knight can jump even higher than Michael Jordan and the pawn is
simply a wimp.
This is how first graders at Ole Hanson Elementary School have learned
to play chess.
"The pawn is the wimpiest guy and has been told that he can't turn
around and run home to mommy when the battle starts," said chess
teacher Eric Hicks.
Hicks, 26, a resident of San Clemente, said chess has changed his life.
He dropped out of high school when he was 17. But because of chess,
he said, he was able to go on and graduate from University of California,
Berkeley with honors.
"I dropped out of high school and started playing chess in the
beaches of Santa Monica," Hicks said. "I played against doctors
and lawyers, educated people who seemed far above me.
"But I was winning tournament after tournament and was being recognized
for my skills, " Hicks said. "My G.P.A. in high school was
1.4 and I was a far from special as they come. But chess made me special.
Chess gave me the push that I needed to go back to school."
Because of his success with chess, Hicks has vowed to teach every student
in the Capistrano Unified School District from kindergarten to high
school how to play.
He has started after school chess programs at most of the elementary
school in San Clemente as well as at Barcelona Hills and Carl Hankey
elementary school in Mission Viejo.
"I realized that chess was like a godsend and was so incredibly
fulfilling for me," Hicks said. "I wanted to share that with
"At the schools in San Clemente, chess is more popular than pogs,"
Hicks said. "The kids all talk about it and are constantly playing
it and it almost brings tears to my eyes to see the kids enjoying it."
Last week he was teaching a combination first-and second-grad class
at Ole Hanson in San Clemente. His next stop will be in elementary schools
in Dana Point.
"They are definitely the hardest classes to teach but it can be
done," Hicks said. "But they catch on quick."
Teacher Jill McDonald said chess teaches students valuable lessons
about sportsmanship and helps improve math, critical thinking and problem-solving
"Eric has really brought chess down to their level of understanding,"
McDonald said. "The kids love it and I have already seen that it
has made a difference with the students. In fact, one of my most challenged
students is the most enthusiastic about this new program."
Second-graders Megan Farley and Brittaney Wilcox sat cross-legged on
the carpet and stared at the board in front of them. Farley slowly picked
up a pawn and moved it forward. Wilcox squealed with delight as she
made her move and took her opponent's pawn.
"It's hard because the pawn can only move forward," Farley
said. "He can't move back so a lot of the time he gets bonked by
another piece and gets knocked of the board."
At a nearby table second-graders Blaine Sibby and David Dill were in
the middle of a game. Sibby claimed he was winning.
"I have your pawns, your knight, and your king." Sibby told
Dill. "And here comes my wimpy pawn to take your wimpy pawn and
then I'll have more than you do."
The boys made comic-book sound effects as their pieces bombarded each
other on the board.
Although they were still learning how to play, each was quick to remind
the other of the rules when one of them made a wrong move.