"Everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are ..."


So just what is 3Cs ? Yes, a phrase well-known within the chess community throughout Britain - and even further afield - but exactly what is it; what does it mean ... and why is it often spoken about in glowing terms when discussing factors that have been both influential to chess in this country over recent years as well as a beacon to which those aiming to take the game forward in the future could, and possibly should, look towards ?

3Cs is just the name of a chess club – and yes, possibly the name itself is one factor why it may be more well-known than many others ... no hint of a location, as well as the mystery of just what is meant by it.
Therefore let’s begin by explaining both, which can be done by revealing the club’s actual full name – “Children’s Chess Club of Oldham”. A chess club that was formed in 1978, originally to provide local schoolchildren in the Oldham area with an opportunity to learn the game but which has since evolved into one of the major production lines for young talent throughout the country and now sees many of those home-grown players regularly competing at the highest level, both nationally and internationally. How many clubs in the country could currently field a team of players who have all progressed through their own junior ranks to challenge a side containing GM Stephen Gordon; FM Adam Ashton; FM Alex Longson; FM Andy Horton; FM Stuart Clarke; FM Daniel Abbas; CM Alan Walton ?

It is also testament to the principles which the club has adhered to since its formation that the name of 3Cs, despite fielding teams mainly consisting of such genuine products from its own club ranks, is currently holding its own amongst the somewhat manufactured sides of titled players which portray to represent “local” clubs in the 4NCL and who in 2017 qualified to compete for the European Club Cup in Turkey – a feat described as like Oldham Athletic only using players from its own youth academy and yet progressing to take part against the financially superior heavyweights in the UEFA Champions League.

The 3Cs’ honours board is also currently filled with the names of 33 players who have gained International recognition along with a list of 22 club representatives who have won British Championships at various levels.
More locally, 3Cs have won the Manchester League Championship 15 times in the past 17 years – an indication to the strength of its continuing output of talent - whilst with their various teams (they have 5 operating in the league this season) they have lifted a record 70 trophies in total, which is even more impressive when considering they have all been accumulated within the 38 years of the club’s existence, as opposed to their nearest contender with 59 successes but who were members of the Manchester League at its inauguration in 1891.

Although there had been successful clubs in Oldham since that time, none of these were dedicated to encouraging children to play. Chess and children apparently did not mix. It was against this background that in 1979 two young teachers, Stephen Rigby of Christ Church and Roy Williams of Alexandra Park, knowing that children are the future of the game, founded the club specifically for interested juniors.
With help from Arthur Marsden of St.Mary’s in Failsworth, an Oldham under-11s chess team was formed although their first match against Manchester proved to be a disastrous 23-1 defeat. Disappointed but not discouraged, Stephen and Roy worked hard to improve the team’s performance level, but it took a friendly fixture against the “Wenlock Wizards”, coached by Ian Smith (then a young teacher but later to become Director of Education for Tameside) to find the key to 3Cs’ future. The Wizards, a primary school team based in Gorton, played against adults! That was the way to improve the children’s level of skill and was the blueprint for 3Cs then just as much as it still is today, with players as young as seven often being pitched against more experienced players in competitive fixtures.

The club draws its members mainly from schools competing in the Oldham Primary Schools’ League, although every child is welcomed to the club. The name “Children’s Chess Club” is a constant reminder of their priorities – to encourage greater youth participation in the game irrespective of skill level. The club’s members are representative of all Oldham’s diverse backgrounds and cultures with the children happily competing on equal terms, either as a team representing the club or individually in various tournaments.

Stephen Rigby is still among the main organisers of the club and the driving force behind its continued development and success, with his aim to introduce chess into all of Oldham’s primary schools, whilst Phil Adams – 3Cs’ chief coach – and Dale James head a group of dedicated club enthusiasts who all actively supervise chess coaching in various Oldham schools. Therein lies the crux of why 3Cs have succeeded where many other clubs have failed in both the recruitment and the success of junior players – the club members don’t just wait for youngsters to come to them; existing members go out and offer their services to the local schools by organising and supervising coaching sessions as an extra-curricular activity. Those children from the various schools are then invited to come along to the 3Cs’ weekly club nights so they can engage with others who have a similar interest for the game and then as the their skill improves they are given opportunities to play for the club in the local “adult” leagues.

Furthermore, club nights don’t simply consist of those in attendance playing a few games against each other, nor just the four or five separate coaching groups taking place into which those with varying levels of skill are organised so as to ensure they get the correct level of instruction. The club also believes that if these children know more about the history and traditions of the game then it will add even more to their enjoyment and understanding of it. Photographs of every World Champion are on the wall of the 3Cs’ club, with details of their personal lives and achievements often relayed to its younger members, whilst a vast library of chess literature is also available whenever required. Such items can be borrowed at will and just returned at any time in the future once any useful information has been gleaned. Yet again 3Cs are convinced that if the children are treated at the club in the same way as the adults then they are more likely to repay the trust and respect being given to them and thus want to continue their association with the club despite the many other attractions which the modern day world might offer.

3Cs have also been successful away from the board, with Stephen Rigby having been presented with the English Chess Federation’s “President’s Award” in 2009 for services to the game, whilst the club itself has twice been honoured with the ECF “Club of the Year” Award (2006 and 2014) – the only club throughout the country to have won the trophy on two occasions.

All the hard work involved in organising the various teams as well as the club’s day-to-day business is done voluntarily including by many of the parents who the club also actively encourage to assist in a variety of ways, hopefully giving them a feeling that they too are part of the club’s success and of whom Tony Ashton, John Walton, Dave Monaghan, Alan Burke, Tim Horton and Ahmed Abbas all had their first connection with 3Cs as parents just supporting their own children when joining the club but are now regulars “behind the scenes”. So, why do it ? For the children’s sake! Dedicated club members are convinced that playing chess brings great benefits to the children, both educationally and socially. They also feel strongly that Oldham youngsters deserve the same opportunities as others and are fully capable of competing, proudly, as Oldhamers, with the very best, whether that be locally, nationally or internationally.

And yes, club members can be rightly proud to look around their premises at the various trophies and honours that have come their way but that is not the ultimate aim of 3Cs ... a far greater satisfaction is gained by seeing youngsters coming through the door on club nights – regularly with an attendance exceeding 60 members of school age - and simply enjoying playing chess.

Yes, you can win something with kids ... but first they have to be encouraged to do so.

The photographs show some of the 3Cs' coaching groups in action during one of their weekly club nights.

Youngsters are placed into an appropriate group so they can receive the correct tuition in relation to their current level of play whilst they are also taught about the history and etiquette of the game. The more they understand; the more they enjoy.

Shown on the wall are photographs of every World Champion which are used in assisting our juniors to further understand the lifestyle and background which helped the players become such greats of the game and in the hope that the youngsters might also use that knowledge for their own progression, not only as a chess player but throughout their later life in general.

A library of chess material is also available for any of the 3Cs' members to borrow and to just return whenever its use may have been of benefit.

2017 Sep 14 (7)
2017 Sep 14 (12) - Copy
2017 Sep 14 (13) - Copy

3Cs' coaches - Dave Monaghan (top), Steve Rigby (bottom left), Phil Adams (bottom right)

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