The story of Tanitoluwa Adewunmi: 8 year old Nigerian refugee now Chess champion in New York


The 8 year old genius only started training on the brain-tasking game barely a year ago. Therefore had surprised a lot of professional players with his latest victory. Tani, before his newly secured apartment, had seven trophies by his bed in their homeless shelter. He tells New York Times that he wants to be the youngest grandmaster.

In 2017, little Tanitoluwa and his family left Northern Nigeria for New York. His father, Kayode Adewumi, recounts that they had to leave their home country because he was afraid they would be targeted by Boko Haram terrorists since they are devout Christians. “I don’t want to lose any loved ones,” he told The Times.

Tanitoluwa Adewunmi and family

Tani started a local experimental school in the in US where he met a part-time chess teacher, Shawn Martinez, who taught his class how to play. Adewumi enjoyed the game so much he asked his mom, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, if he could join the chess club.

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Tani’s family initially could not afford the fees required for the young Tani to join the club. Russell Makofsky, the head of the  chess program, decided to waive the fees.

Tani, upon enrolment, started attending a free, three-hour practice session in Harlem every Saturday and using his father’s laptop to practice at night.

President Bill Clinton with Tanitoluwa Adewunmi

According to his school chess teacher, Shawn Martinez “He is so driven. He does 10 times more chess puzzles than the average kid. He just wants to be better.”

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The eight-year-old Nigerian chess champion, Tanitoluwa Adewunmi, and his family moved into a new apartment, courtesy of goodwill donations after his success story went viral.

According to the New York Times, the young Tani, recently won the New York State Chess championship for his age bracket, got a GoFundMe drive which raised more than 200,000 dollars for him, his parents and brother.

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The young chess champion, whose family were taking asylum in a homeless shelter in Manhattan after they fled the Boko Haram insurgency, now won seven chess trophies, including the state tournament, where he outwitted other children, subsequently had a turn around in life.

Tani on Chess

Tani’s story is one of “grass to glory”, very inspirational and hope we all learn something from it. Please let me know your view and all comments about Tani’s inspirational story by commenting bellow.

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