NINE-YEAR-OLD HOMELESS REFUGEE BECOMES YOUNGEST CHESS GRANDMASTER

Tanitoluwa Adewumi, aka Tani, has taken hold of the American Dream, proving that hard work and dedication pas off as he has become the world’s youngest chess grandmaster after taking home the top prize in a New York tournament.

Tani only took up chess about a year ago, at Manhattan’s P.S. 116, overcoming incredible odds to secure this history-making moment as he placed first in the kindergarten through third-grade division at the New York State Scholastic Championship. 

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“Most chess players hit a halt in their rankings when they get to that point, and they have to train more intensely to get over that peak,” Shawn Martinez said in an interview with ESPN about his student prodigy. “But Tani kept progressing steadily from the beginning. Tani used chess as a teddy bear when he first started, you know? He found it, and he held on tight.”

Tani and his family fled northern Nigeria in 2017, fearing the attacks of the Boko Haram on Christians, ending up in a New York City homeless shelter. “It’s an inspiring example of how life’s challenges do not define a person,” Jane Hsu, principal of P.S. 116 told the New York Times in a recent interview. She attributes the boys success to his extremely supportive parents who make sure that he makes his three-hour free practice sessions in Harlem every Sunday in addition to making sure that he makes it to all of his tournaments.

Photo Credit: ESPN/Harper Collins

Russell Makofsky, who oversees the chess program at P.S. 116, after learning of the families situation, waved all of Tani’s participation fees in addition to helping set up a GoFundMe page to help the family “secure a home where he can continue his journey.” The page has received over $200,000 in donations thus far. 

Congratulations are definitely in order for this amazingly talented young man. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for him. It will unquestionably be amazing. 

Tiffany Silva

Tiffany Silva

Writer and Editor

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