Short Biography of Marisa van der Merwe, July 2021

Born on 28th March 1955 into a family of teachers, the purpose and joy of empowering others have guided her journey to many countries and cultures around the globe. She believes that the most powerful energy on earth is HUMAN talent – a gift planted into every child, so that they may grow and flourish.

Marisa’s chess journey started from birth – with parents Piet and Winda Robbertse were top chess players and chess administrators at provincial and national levels for decades. Piet Robbertse were competing at SA Closed level for years, won many tournaments, started the first SA Junior National Chess Championships, brought media & Corporate sponsorships to chess, and visited international chess players to participate in SA events. He had the renowned Piet Robbertse Open Chess Tournament named after him. Winda was the SA Ladies Champ for many years.

Apart from participating in schools’ chess, junior- & provincial chess events for years, her personal chess-coaching journey started with community chess classes in the garage of her house. This later developed into training programs all over South Africa as well as international.

    • As a coach, she produced 100’s of provincial chess players and 28 Jnr-National Chess Champions over her 2 decades of active chess coaching.
    • She organized and arbiter at 100’s of tournaments between the 1990’s and 2013, from beginner events to national and international tournaments.
    • She accompanied many different provincial age-group Teams, as a coach and/or Manager, to SAJCC-events – with her teams bringing home the gold 13 times!
    • She founded the Waterkloof Chess Centre of Excellence in 2007 – where chess became a full academic subject for Grades 8 & 9 at Hoerskool Waterkloof (which it still is). This Centre housed IM Watu Kobese and other top SA coaches, developed many SA Junior Champs, many Fide-titled players and dominated Provincial- and Schools events for years.
    • The Waterkloof Centre also started with chess-outreach training programs at disadvantaged schools in the region, which grew into academic outreach programs to these schools as well. These programs delivered many provincial chess players and even National chess players.
    • She implemented an international Chess-exchange program between the Waterkloof Chess Centre and GM Simon Agdestein’s NTG School in Oslo, Norway (the school Magnus Carlsen also attended), between 2006 and 2012.
    • She completed the FIDE trainer course and acquired IA accreditation.
    • She founded the SA Ladies Chess Federation and served as President for some years.
    • She also served on Provincial chess bodies for many years AND on CHESSA Executive for 3 years.
    • Was asked to represent CHESSA at various SASCOC events.
    • Her personal top achievements in chess include Provincial- and National colours for chess, representing SA at the World Chess Olympiad in 2002 in Bled, Slovenia, as captain of the SA Ladies Team. A personal highlight occurred in 2011, when she became the 1st South African to be invited to play an exhibition match against ex-world champion, Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, in Belgium. This was live-streamed globally.

She has a strong belief in business development for a sustainable future, and has strived to establish fairly remunerated chess-coaching programs in SA, and wider.

    • She is a proud WOS member (Women of Stature) and is nominated for their 2021 Awards.
    • She won the Business Woman of the Year award 2018 (Community Impact) from the SA Council for Business Women.
    • She is honoured to be an Ashoka Fellow (one of 3000 in 81 countries) for Global Social Enterprise development.
    • She is also a member of SA’s 1st Tendrel Forum, supporting “Business for Good”.
    • Marisa is currently featured as “Leading Woman of CSI” by the CSRNEWSSA for 2021 and will be featured in their August 2021 magazine.
    • Currently in the process is the establishment of MiniChess Global with American partners.
    • Marisa is the founder and CEO of 3 Companies (MiniChess (Pty) Ltd, MindCo (Pty) Ltd and MiniChess Franchise Holdings (Pty) Ltd) as well as the founder of The Entrust Foundation, an NPO (taking chess into disadvantaged communities around SA). As Franchisor, she currently hosts 22 local and 9 international MiniChess Franchises and 6 MindCo Franchises. When implementing sponsored chess-based programs in disadvantaged communities, it is done through local youth – for whom Micro-Franchises are established. There are currently 14 such Micro-Franchisees.

Her MiniChess StartSmart program (4-10 year-olds) won the Eduweek Award in 2018 for Early Childhood Development. The program does develop chess talent from the early ages – AND it also focuses on developing “THINK”-skills using chess-based, clever play innovations. This serves children from an early age to learn the game of chess AS WELL AS 21st Century skills, NOT taught inside the school-curriculum: higher-order thinking (problem-solving, forward planning, risk-taking, strategic thinking and critical thinking), a socio-emotional toolkit (grit, resilience, and emotional intelligence), an entrepreneurial mind-set and math-based STEM-skills for future-readiness. This program has impacted 250,000+ children, has been translated into 7 languages and is registered in 5 continents.

    • MiniChess and MindCo programs have received many accolades for chess-in-education innovation:
      Marisa won the Shoprite-Checkers Woman of the Year Award in 2012 (Category Education) and has been an invited speaker at various global events’
    • Speaker at Women in the World in New York 2013,
    • Speaker at WISE (World Innovation Summit on Education) in Qatar 2014, which was attended by 120+ counties – where MiniChess was nominated as one of the Top 5 Programs,
    • Co-presented in Vancouver at the Global Association for Childhood Education in 2014,
    • Speaker at The London Chess & Math Conference (2014, 2015 and 2016),
    • Co-presented at the 10th Visual Literacy Conference in Lisbon 2015 (included in an e-publication by Oxford University),
    • Speaker at Kasparov Chess Foundation Global Summit in St Louis USA 2015 (interviewed on national TV),
    • Keynote speaker at ECD Conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic in 2017 in Central Asia,
    • Presented at various education- and EduWeek Conferences in SA,
    • Recently presented both the MiniChess and MindCo-programs at the Online United Nations Event for Neurodivergent learning (2021), with the Danish group, Specialisterne.

Since the 2020 school lock-downs, she established the purpose-designed MC-Platform, launched MiniChess-Online and MindCo-Online programs with success. She implemented offline tablet-based training programs and a Portal to reach sponsored communities.

Global acknowledgement for chess-in-education: She presented the first online MindCo-Jnr program for Future Leaders this year, with Teens at Galileo – currently the leading distant-learning organization in the world, and was subsequently contracted into their Entrepreneurial-curriculum with high praise. Marisa developed the MindCo-program – using situation-simulation exercises to develop THINK-skills for Strategic Leaders in a fast-changing world.
She is invited as a member of the Panel of Specialists for Entrepreneurial training at the Global Online Learning Conference, mid-August 2021.
The MiniChess program has been included in studies at both the Universities of Pretoria and Johannesburg – delivering proven results for correcting early developmental backlogs. The program improved school readiness, mathematical- and number skills at the early ages. The MindCo-program was included in a WITS-study for the Development of Critical Thinking and Professional Development amongst medical professionals, with sustained measurable impact.

Into the Future: Excited about her passion, Marisa is focused on making power moves for chess inside a future-fit education system – empowering PEOPLE to thrive in this time of smart machines.  Garry Kasparov: “MiniChess is the most scientific program in the world, linking chess with education” -2012

Marisa acquired a B.Sc. degree from the University of Pretoria and married her high school sweetheart – today celebrating a family of 5 children and 1 grandson, making their own mark in a fast-changing world. Apart from adoring her family, she loves the ocean, African sunsets and long walks in nature.