An 8-year-old Nigerian refugee living in a homeless shelter won New York's state chess championship

NBC New YorkTanitoluwa Adewumi
  • Tanitoluwa Adewumi, an 8-year-old boy who goes by Tani, won New York state’s chess championship for kindergartners through third graders last week.
  • Tani learned to play chess at Manhattan’s P.S. 116, and goes to free practices in Harlem every Saturday.
  • His family fled Nigeria in 2017 over fears of attacks on Christians. They now live in New York City in a homeless shelter.

An 8-year-old who won New York state’s chess championship for his age bracket is a Nigerian refugee living in a homeless shelter.

Tanitoluwa Adewumi, who goes by Tani, won the New York State Scholastic Championships tournament for his age group, kindergarten through third grade, last week and is now celebrating his big win.

Tani learned to play chess at Manhattan’s P.S. 116, and hopes to one day be the “youngest grandmaster” in the game, according to a column in The New York Times.

His family fled northern Nigeria in 2017 over fears of attacks on Christians, and made their way to New York City, where they now live in a homeless shelter.

Tani learned the game early last year at school, and chess coach Shawn Martinez contacted his family to discuss the boy joining the school’s program.

“He smiled every time he did anything on the board or learned something new,” Martinez told NBC New York. “I could just tell this game was for him.”


Read more:
A teen who spent time homeless during his childhood was accepted into 17 colleges

When his mother, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, said they could not afford the fees – which can include travel to tournaments and chess camp admissions – the club waived the fees and allowed Tani to join.

His mother, who recently passed a course to become a home health aide, takes him to free three-hour practice sessions in Harlem every Saturday, and his father, who rents a car to drive for Uber and is a licensed real estate salesman, lets him practice on his laptop every evening.

The hard work has paid off – Tani has seven chess trophies and is considered one of the top players in the US for his age group.

Martinez said that in the next two years, Tani could reach the status of grandmaster, a title awarded to players by the world chess organisation, FIDE.

Russell Makofsky, who oversees the chess program at Manhattan’s P.S. 116, launched a GoFundMe to help raise money for Tani’s family last week. It has already raised more than $US160,000.

Tani’s family has applied for asylum, and according to NBC New York, they hope to move out of the homeless shelter soon.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.