The MacEnulty Chess Foundation – a revelation in South Africa

by ChessBase
8/13/2012 – "To some, I may be a heavenly messenger," writes chess coach Jerald Times, "visiting the vortex of Dante’s Inferno with good news from the outside. The occupants know on an intuitive level that I have come as friend and ally to guide them on their path to escape the encircling Hell." Jerald works for a chess foundation that is doing important work in South Africa and elsewhere. You can help.

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A Revelation in South Africa

Jerald Times, Chess Coach in South Africa

Walking into the Vrygrond (Afrikaans for "Free Ground") School in Capricorn, one can feel a vortex of energy due to the harsh social conditions left over from the apartheid legacy. Vrygrond is a squatter camp, with a population around eleven thousand. The shacks have poor drinking water and many of them are without bathrooms. Healthcare is almost non-existent and the unemployment rate is over 60 percent. Young boys generally drop out of school by 7th grade and many young girls have had forcible sexual experiences by 9 or 10. Many of the learners I teach live in the nearby orphanage due to break-up of the nuclear family and child abuse.

I’m an American, a teacher, and a chess master. To some, I may be a heavenly messenger, visiting the vortex of Dante’s Inferno with good news from the outside. The occupants know on an intuitive level that I have come as friend and ally to guide them on their path to escape the encircling Hell. First grade teacher Tracey Lee Bester said to me that, “You’re the father they never had.” Many of the children of Capricorn greet me enthusiastically. It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that, to the young people of South Africa, I personify a symbol of hope.

Outside of the activities of the David MacEnulty Chess Foundation and the Durban Metro Chess Academy, the vast bulk of the population are barely serviced. Every year (in the student national tournament) almost 85 percent of the competitors are white, with only about 15 percent of the other participants coming from the majority population.

Generally, the colored and African youth I spoke to are part of the obvious chess divide in South Africa. They do not have access to early development, travel expenses, private training, books and computer software. Though I see their aspirations for the game I am hit by the stark reality that they are the embodiment of the dream deferred and not the dream realized. The analogy is similar to that of a chess game, where the black pieces are given the second move and they too must fight for equality. In that way, I view my success over the top competitors in Cape Town as a symbolic victory for the second player’s potential to equalize on the chessboard of life.

About Our Founder

David MacEnulty has been teaching chess to adults and children for more than twenty years. Teams he has coached have won numerous first place trophies in New York City, New York State and National Chess Championships.

David and his teams have been featured on CBS and CNN, and in many newspaper and magazine articles, both in United States and abroad. In the year 2000, Irish America Magazine honored him as one of the "Top 100 Irish Americans". He won the prestigious Chess Educator of the Year award from the University of Texas at Dallas, was honored with a career achievement award by the U.S. Chess Federation, and received the Lives That Make a Difference award from A & E Television.

The story of his work with children in the Bronx was made into a film, Knights of the South Bronx, starring Ted Danson.

The board of directors of the David MacEnulty Chess Foundation include Ted Danson, David MacEnulty (President, above), Kwadwo Acheampong (Secretary/Treasurer), Beatriz Marinello (FIDE Vice President) and Bruce Pandolfini (National Master).

Ted Danson with a student of chess

Our Mission

The mission of the Foundation is to utilize chess to promote critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and social development in children living in disadvantaged circumstances, both in the United States and internationally. We do this independently and in partnership with other foundations, institutions and organizations. Our primary goal is to help children and young adults grow into thinking, caring and productive adults.

The Foundation offers:

  • Training seminars for teachers
  • Instructional materials for students and teachers
  • Funding for school and community-based chess programs
  • Funding for promising individuals to receive private tutoring and to help with tournament participation.

Our Goals

South Africa

Encouraging success through chess in the poorest, most crime-ridden and dangerous areas of South Africa is one of the major goals of the Foundation.

At present, although there are many skilled and dedicated chess players teaching chess in South Africa, the fact is that the level of play and the level of expertise in coaching and teaching is spotty at best. Owing to the great distance between South Africa and Europe or America, the local players, coaches and teachers have not had the vast experience that comes with proximity to other strong players and coaches. Since South Africans cannot come to us, we have gone to them. Find out how we are making a difference! Don't miss the full reports on our website!


Several years ago a chess teacher from the United States moved to Belize and, discovering that there were few activities for the children living in the poorer areas (which is almost all of Belize), established her own chess community, spanning all six provinces of Belize.

Ella Baron Anderson has been working tirelessly, organizing chess camps, teaching in schools, holding tournaments and finding transportation for the children to come to special programs featuring Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, International Master Jennifer Shahade and others. Funding for her work is far below what is needed, but she and her colleagues continue in spite of working countless hours for no pay because they believe in the cause. To date, they have over eight hundred students in fifty chess clubs throughout Belize. They have held more than fifty chess camps for children and coaches, with over thirteen hundred participants, and given out more than a thousand chess sets to schools and individual children. The children living in cities, jungles, and villages in all six provinces have benefited from Ella’s strong commitment.

How you can help

It's easy to make a donation. Show us your support and spread the word! On this special page make a secure online Donation, or visit the David MacEnulty Chess Foundation website for more details, especiall on how your donation will help provide opportunities for young children.

With your contribution of $300 or more you will receive an autographed book written by our founder David MacEnulty or by best-selling chess author Bruce Pandolfini. With your contribution of $600 or more, you will receive both books and are entitled to one private chess lesson by renowned U.S. chess teachers, NM Bruce Pandolfini, David MacEnulty or WIM Beatriz Marinello. Show your support by sending your comments on Facebook, Twitter, and on our YouTube Channel!



David MacEnulty on CBS News

Ted Danson with the Knights of the South Bronx

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