32 Years and 250,000 Children Later: Marisa van der Merwe as an Expert in THINK Skills Learning


Marisa van der Merwe, the founder of MiniChess, announces 32 years in the industry, celebrating improving 250,000 children’s critical and analytical thinking.

Tshwane, South Africa–(Newsfile Corp. – February 27, 2024) – Marisa van der Merwe’s 32-year-long experience as a mentor in THINK skills and critical and analytical thinking has been a fruitful journey of transcending boundaries in educating youth through fun activities. Although Marisa founded MiniChess, an organization elevating schools’ curricula through brain-stimulating games, in 2010, she’s been teaching critical thinking since 1992. During that time, her expertise positively affected a staggering 250,000 children living mostly in impoverished, underserved communities.

MiniChess’ strategies in supporting and stimulating THINK skills from the early stages of childhood have gained global recognition, many awards, and even endorsement from Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion and Russian Chess Grandmaster. Although Marisa’s business is now thriving worldwide, the roots of MiniChess are much more humble, and the venture started just like many groundbreaking ideas do—in the cozy setting of a garage.

Marisa has always been involved in local life, participating in school support, parent support, and community support programs. After becoming a stay-at-home mom, the founder of MiniChess developed a desire to enrich the district she lived in. Coming from a chess family, the idea to introduce local children to the art of the ancient game came to Marisa naturally. At first, the venture was created with a sole goal—to provide a fun activity and add value to the community.

After a while, Marisa learned how to differentiate between the children, assigning them to adequate beginner, intermediate, or advanced classes. “What surprised me the most is that, in that process, I actually became the student,” added Marisa. “I had to learn from children on a practical basis, seeing what methods work and don’t work, adjusting the lessons as both the kids and I grew.”

In her 32 years of experience, Marisa improved her ability to help children learn while her students honed in on the skills taught during the neuro-based MiniChess methodology. After the kids started doing extremely well in tests, improved their social skills, and became successful team leaders, Marisa realized that the all-rounded, all-embracing nature of chess affects so much more than just the 64 squares on the board.

Chess requires strategizing, intentional gameplay, and tactical thinking, presenting a richly beneficial opportunity for people, especially children in early development stages, to learn invaluable THINK skills. The purposefully designed mini-games developed by MiniChess teach much needed STEM skills, short and long-term thinking, situation analysis, forward-thinking, and problem-solving, nurturing vital skills often forgotten in school curricula. In addition, the MiniChess approach emphasizes the development of socio-emotional skills that students often lack, and which they struggle to learn from the traditional education pathways.

Through word of mouth, Marisa’s accomplishments became more and more recognized. The impact of her methodology became broader once schools from various cities started inviting her to teach her unique approach to chess learning to more individuals. What began as a passionate community project became a widely known program that enriches children’s development. After two decades of adding value to learning facilities, Marisa formalized her endeavor, creating over 30 franchises worldwide.

When it comes to current ventures, Marisa focuses on participating in teacher training programs, startup initiatives, and attending events, such as the International Mathematics Conference for Creativity and Giftedness. For short-term plans, MiniChess aspires to bring the benefits of chess to more rural areas in Southern Africa, and the world. Currently, MiniChess enters challenged communities through collaborations with various non-profit organisations.

To do this, the organization is looking for partners, globally, who would like to invest in human-capacity building, and critical thinking development in their own communities and schools.

“We’re not an events company, but a people empowerment business. We work with various franchises worldwide and implement our program in many language and culture-specific places,” expressed Marisa. “The beautiful thing about chess-based games is that it’s easy to move them seamlessly across borders, adjusting to the pressing needs of specific communities. I’ve taught a quarter of a million children, and I’m excited to keep empowering people from all over the world.”

Media Contact

Name: Marisa Van Der Merwe

Email: info@minichess.co.za