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A USCF and C&O
sponsored web site.
Basic rules, piece
names and moves,
as well as other
basics for new, or
novice, players are
covered on this free,
inter-active site from
Chess Magnet School.

If you have trouble
connecting to the Java
applet try this alternate
address for help:
Help Site


"Chess Basics..."
"PDF" file (.pdf)

A 34 page introduction
to the rules, moves, and
basic strategies of chess.



U.S. Chess

The official sanctioning body for over the board tournament play in the US. With over 90,000 members, USCF offers something for every player, from beginner to Grandmaster! In addition to rating tournaments, the USCF supports and promotes chess activities throughout the US and publishes Chess Life, the monthly national magazine for members.  ...and much more.

MD Chess


The state affiliate of the USCF.  MCA sponsors Maryland chess tournaments (including the Maryland Open, the Maryland Junior and Senior Championships, the Maryland Scholastic and Team Championships, etc.).  It maintains a directory of Maryland chess clubs and teachers, and a calendar of upcoming tournaments and other events ...and more.


American Go

The national organization of go players in the US. Go is an ancient Asian board game which combines simple rules with the basic elements of line and circle, black and white, wood and stone, to create a game even older than chess.  Like chess, "go" (or "weiqui") has analogies with life which allow it to transcend being merely a game.







The C&O Family Chess Center

"When the student is ready... the teacher will appear!"

Coach Pancoast teaching at Peaberrys Coffee House                                                            October, 2000      by anon.

C&O Family Chess Center
Omar Pancoast III, Director
Certified USCF Chess Coach
Carolyn B. Pancoast, Program Director

217 West Diamond Avenue

Gaithersburg, MD 20877-2106
Phone 301-963-9122  

Who We Are!

The C&O
Family Chess Center
is a U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) Scholastic Affiliate. The USCF is the official sanctioning body for "over the board" tournament play in the U.S.  With over 80,000 members, the USCF offers something for every player, from beginner to Grandmaster!  In addition to rating tournaments, the USCF supports and promotes chess activities throughout the U.S. and publishes Chess Life, the monthly national magazine for members.  ...and much more.  For more details link to their official website (on the left).

The C&O Family Chess Center began in 1990 as part of the C&O Family Learning Center, a Gaithersburg based, family run business which provided early childhood and pre-school education, tutoring, and chess instruction to area families for nearly 30 years.  In addition to individual and group chess instruction for all ages, we currently offer scholastic and summer chess programs to public and private schools, as well as home-school families.  C&O Family Chess Center is also the principal sponsor of  The Chess Club at Lakeforest Mall (see the "LFM Club" page), which provides a meeting place for chess players seven-days-a-week.
   For a list of current scholastic programs  see our "Scholastic" page.

    Coach Omar                                                                                                                                                                                   C&O-FCC

Omar Pancoast, Director

Coach Pancoast  is a USCF Life Member, Certified USCF Chess Coach and full-time, professional, chess teacher with more than 40 years of experience.  He was formerly a vice-president of the Maryland Chess Association (MCA, web site link at left) where he was responsible for club development, and was the Chess Director and Co-Founder (with John Goon) of the Montgomery Chess & Go Assn. (MCGA) which promoted both chess and "go."  He specializes in teaching chess to beginners and intermediate players regardless of age.  He also coaches adults who "used to play" and want to get back into it ( "It's never too late to have a happy childhood!" ). He provides challenging and fun instruction to individuals and groups in schools, libraries and other locations, and by E-mail.  He also conducts chess camps every summer.

Currently he coaches scholastic chess clubs at a number of local schools, both public and private. Recently these have included Cedar Grove, Luxmanor, Beverly Farms, Diamond, Sherwood, William Gibbs, Beall, McNair, Thurgood Marshall and Goshen Elementary Schools, Kingsview Middle School, Mother of God in Gaithersburg, St. Jane De Chantel, St. Bartholomew and Sidwell Friends Schools in Bethesda,  St.Catherine Labouré  in Wheaton, Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, and Mary of Nazareth in Darnestown,  and many others both public and private.  He is also the principal developer and author of the Center's study materials and curriculum.  He has also organized a "C&O online" component for all our members on the Chess.com website.

In past years he organized or helped sponsor chess clubs at Seneca Valley and Damascus High Schools (1970s), Montgomery College and Peaberrys Coffee House in Rockville (1990s) . During the summers of  2000 and 2001 he took time from his own programs to assist National Master Noureddine Ziane's Chess Camp Tour, including the largest chess camp (at that time) ever held in the U.S. (at the Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas) and other chess camps (including one at the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C.). 


Carolyn Pancoast                                                                                                                                                                         C&O-FCC

Carolyn B. Pancoast, Program Director

Mrs. Pancoast
is a thirty year veteran of early childhood development and education.  She is the founder and director of C&O Family Learning Center and program director for the C&O Family Chess Center. In this capacity she coordinates scholastic and summer chess programs as well as scheduling lessons for individual students and occasionally teaching beginners. She also assists at center sponsored chess tournaments and other events.  She is often the first contact that new players have with the center.


Coach Ross                                                                                                                                                                                   C&O-FCC

Ross Pancoast, Chess Instructor 

Ross has had many years experience working with children. He has a degree in psychology and worked for the Montgomery Child Care Association for five years. He began playing chess in the 3rd grade. He is a USCF member and joined us in 2004 teaching beginners in our summer chess camps.  Since then he has been the chess coach in a number of schools, including Great Seneca Creek, Beverly Farms, Fields Road, Rachel Carson, St. Catherine Laboure, Ronald McNair, Sequoyah, Strathmore, and Stonegate Elementary Schools.  As a professional level Disc Golfer, and avid outdoorsman Ross also directs the afternoon (outdoor adventure) portion of  our summer programs.

Coach Drew                                                                                                                                              C&O-FCC

Andrew Duncan, Associate Instructor (Summer camps Only)

Coach "Drew" has been an assistant coach at Rachel Carson E.S. for several years and is active in our afternoon program for the summer sessions. During the school year he is a full time math teacher at Gaithersburg High School having graduated from Vassar College.  He learned chess as a child from his uncle, Coach Omar Pancoast.   He also assists in our tournaments and summer camp programs.  He is married to Coach Amy, another of our associates.

Coach Bruce                                      B.Till

Bruce Till, Associate Instructor

Welcome to our newest associate.  Bruce Till learned to play chess the same way Bobby Fischer did. His neighbor brought home a chess set one day and they read the directions and played...  He didn't play much after that until 1972 when, like many others, he got swept up in the "Fischer Boom" (that summer Bobby Fischer played and defeated Boris Spassky in Iceland for the world championship).  At the county fair that year, a local chess club set up a booth where you could play club members for 25 cents and get a back issue of Chess Life (then called Chess Life & Review) if you won (or if they felt sorry for you after losing a bunch of games-and you were only 13). There followed a typical spiral of increased activity: buying books, playing with a clock, speed chess, bughouse, joining the USCF, and playing in tournaments and leagues.

His earliest rating was 1619, his lowest was 1460. His highest rating was 2085 in 1991.  He has won the Maryland Amateur Championship 3 times, including his most recent back to back wins in 2002 and 2003. He tied for first (came in second on tie breaks) in the US Amateur Championship East, as well as coming in third and fourth twice.   His recent ratings have hovered in the high 1800s and low 1900s as work and other concerns have taken precedence. He has taught chess privately and in schools, and currently has a website, www.brucetill.com, and a blog (accessible by a link on his website). His blog contains games and commentary.  We hope Coach Bruce will make a useful addition to our chess "family," especially to those of you who have taken the step to regular tournament play and have progressed past level 10 (USCF 1000).

D. James Cox, Assistant Instructor

Coach James, a Gaithersburg native, has years of chess experience.  He has been Coach Ross's friend since Elementary School and was Coach Omar's student in the 1980's.  He assists our other staff in several of the center's clubs and other programs. He has also assisted at tournaments.

Dimitry L. Mirkin, Associate Instructor

Coach Dimitry, recently joined our scholastic programs and the Saturday Morning Chess Club. He has years of chess experience.

Tapiwa Gwaze, Associate Instructor

Coach Tapi,
recently joined our scholastic programs and the Saturday Morning Chess Club. He has years of chess experience.


Last Update 06/19/13


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