Tanitoluwa Adewumi, an 8-year old boy who is a refugee from Nigeria, recently won the New York State chess championship for his age group. While celebrating his big win, his family were able to move out of the homeless shelter and move into a new apartment. His next goal: to be the youngest grandmaster in the world!
Tani, who is now in third grade, has defeated 73 of the best chess players from kindergarten to third grade in the New York State Scholastic Championships last week.
He learned to play chess at Manhattan’s P.S. 116. Since last year, he has been honing his skills by attending free weekly three-hour practice sessions, playing on his father’s laptop, or even on the floor of the shelter they were living in.
Shawn Martinez, Tani’s chess coach at school, took notice of the boy’s excellence and said he “could just tell this game was for him.”
“He smiled every time he did anything on the board or learned something new,” Martinez told NBC New York. He encouraged him to join the tournament.
Tani’s family, who moved to New York City from Nigeria as refugees two years ago over fears of attacks by a terror group, initially thought they couldn’t afford fees for the tournament and chess camp admissions. But with the help of the club who waived his fees, he was able to join.
Meanwhile, chess coach Russell Makofsky, who oversees P.S. 116’s chess program, launched a GoFundMe page to help Tani’s family raise money and get out of the shelter after his win. It has so far raised over $190,000.
With that, they were able to move into a new apartment in Manhattan. They also plan to establish Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation to give back and “share the generosity of others to those in need.”
Now with seven chess trophies under his belt and being one of the top players for his age group nationwide, Martinez believes that Tani could reach the status of grandmaster within the next two years. Tani also confidently told CBS News that he wants to “beat the world champion’s record.”
“Anything is possible. God can — he can do anything for me. He can do anything for my family,” Adewumi said.