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Waukegan High chess player matched with the game

Erick Arroyo senior Waukegan High School studies game he just finished during chess match he played Waukegan High School against

Erick Arroyo a senior at Waukegan High School studies a game he just finished during a chess match he played at Waukegan High School against a player from the Mundelein team Owen McCarthy a senior. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 10, 2013 2:37AM



WAUKEGAN — Erick Arroyo was in sixth grade when he first learned the fundamentals of chess and has since learned important life skills from the centuries-old game.

“I find it interesting ... it makes you think ahead. It helps with life. When you’re having a problem, you have to think about the consequences,” Erick said.

A senior at Waukegan High School, he is a member of the school’s Chess Team. This weekend is the fourth year he will have competed at the state finals.

Erick, 17, learned to play chess at age 10 in Puerto Rico, but didn’t resume playing again until his freshman year at Waukegan High. He was in the English Language Learners program when he was introduced to Craig Leeper, the school’s chess team coach.

“Chess is a neat game because you don’t need any language to play. I was looking for players and was just starting to rebuild the team. Erick was one of the few players who understood the basic aspects of the game. He was also competitive,” Leeper said.

Arroyo has now gotten to the point where he can beat Leeper in some matches.

“His freshman year, he stopped in every day to see if I had time for a game. By junior year, he was our best player. We nicknamed him ‘The Beast’,” Leeper said.

In addition to understanding how to move the six different pieces across the board, Arroyo is also skilled at playing the timed competitive games in which he has a certain amount of time to move, Leeper said.

Arroyo said he was excited to go to the state finals again. He practices two days a week with the chess team and also plays online. He said his favorite chess piece is the queen because “it can move everywhere” on the board.

“I feel like this year I need to give my best and come back with a trophy,” Arroyo said.

He is the youngest of two children. His favorite subject is math. In addition to chess, he also enjoys dance in his free time. He started taking dance classes at Rhythm Academy of Dance in Waukegan last summer. He takes hip hop, tap, ballet and salsa.

“I love to dance. I want to be a dancer,” Arroyo said.

He has applied to University of Illinois-Chicago where he hopes to major in business and minor in dance. He was also accepted as a student at College of Lake County.



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