CPS students in chess program prepare for tournament in New York City

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The game of chess can be intimidating, but not for 14-year-old Marco Baldwin, who lives in Humboldt Park.

“I think what got me hooked on to it is just different playing styles people have when they’re playing chess,” said Baldwin.

He and a group of Chicago Public Schools students are heading to New York City next week for five days exploring the city and competing in a chess tournament at Bryant Park.

“I’m excited, mainly because you know I’m a huge fan of the game of chess and I’m excited to duel with a team,” he said.

Baldwin is part of a program called A Step Ahead Chess, where students get a chance to learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Some of its members are as young as 6 years old.

“I just love getting better and better because chess is my ultimate fun game and i love it because it’s ultimate fun,” Mecca Rallins told NBC Chicago.

Former students like Daniel Morales from Brighton Park has been coaching new players. He’s heading to Yale University this fall.

“It’s been really nice to see all these younger generations really enthusiastic about the game,” said Morales.

Their main coach is so proud of them and said this will be their first trip since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel really good,” said Shawn Sorsby. “These young people have been working so hard they really deserve this.”

Sorsby started the Chicago-based program in 2013 and said many of the students part of the program are from Black and Brown communities.

“Typically chess, you really don’t see that. When I started these tournaments, I saw a problem that you didn’t have a lot of young Black and Brown kids playing,” he said.

He’s trying to break that stigma teaching them life lessons on and off the board.

“Chess just taught me to look at stuff not as a win or loss or like you failed or you couldn’t complete,” said Baldwin. “More as what happened and how I can move on from it or move past it.”

The group will travel to New York City on Aug. 17.

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