Chess Teacher- woman of the year

Aug 18, 2012, 2:04 PM |

9th August is National Woman's Day in South Africa. This year, for the Woman of the Year-award, in the Education category - Marisa has been the winner. Read more about her in this entry - and the source link, which is at the bottom of this entry. I was lucky to meet Marisa - years ago. She started with Gr1-Gr3 teaching the children chess the last hour of the day - that's normally 'home time' for Gr1-Gr3, whilst the rest of the school still have their lessons. Marisa used my class for the group of children and sometimes I joined in, helping - when I had a spare minute. She's a great person and had tons of energy, which I believe she still has, by just looking at her in this pic. It's great to know she got the award, it will also highlight chess even more in South Africa!

On Saturday 21 July 2012, Marisa van der Merwe, co-founder of the South African Moves for Life program and developer of MiniChess, an education-through-chess program, was chosen as the winner in the Education category - for her work and contribution to South African communities through these programs.

This is a significant achievement for both Marisa and Moves for Life and Chess, especially when the following are taken into consideration:

  • There were more than 1400 entrants for this category.

  • The judging panel consisted of highly acclaimed educationalists with little to no interest in chess. The judging took place from an educationalists point of view and the criteria were totally unrelated to chess as a sport.

  • Education in South Africa is a much debated topic as the investment made by the government has one of the lowest ratios of return in the world. The academic performance of children, or rather the lack thereof, is a much written and reported topic. Educationalists, politicians and business leaders are all searching for viable solutions to the problem. As a result all potential solutions are put through rigorous scrutiny.


Marisa is an accomplished chess coach and teacher. She manages the Chess Academy at Waterkloof High School, one of the best academic public schools in South Africa. During the 1990's she started teaching individual and small groups of young children how to play chess. It was not long before she was approached by schools to teach classes how to play. She soon realised that teaching large classes of 25 and more children is a totally different challenge than teaching individual children and small groups. The seed for the development of a unique program, where chess is used primarily as an educational tool, was sown.

MiniChess was developed in South African classrooms in collaboration with teachers from many different schools. MiniChess focusses foremost on the development of the fundamental cognitive aspects of a child’s capacity to understand basic maths, science and life skill concepts. Lessons and exercises are structured to establish essential pre-knowledge and to develop the child's capacity to use his memory, imagination and ability to visualise. Educationalists agree that memory, imagination and visualization are essential building blocks for the young child's ability to learn. Emphasis is placed on making the learning experience fun and enjoyable for the child.

Source - Chessbase -