8 year old Nigerian Chess Champion in the US invited by ex-US president

By: Olaniyi Thevoice Abodedele
10th March, 2019

Column: Home & Abroad News

The news of 8 year old Nigerian refugee Tanitoluwa Adewunmi who won the New York State Chess Championship in early March 2019 in the United States went viral on almost all the major news outlets all over the world.

Just two years ago, at age six (6) now eight (8) year old Tanitoluwa Adewumi was living in Nigeria with his mother, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, father Kayode Adewumi, and an older brother. Fast forward to today, Tanitoluwa is living in the Big Apple, with a chess championship victory under his belt and has caught the attention of media outlets worldwide. Tani, as New Yorkers call him, has been dubbed a chess prodigy, who, amazingly, started learning the game just last year but went undefeated in the NY tournament which took place early March 2019. “I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” Tanitoluwa Adewumi said to the media.

When the story of his witty exploits was shared on Twitter, the 42nd US president Bill Clinton reacted to the fact Tani had defied all odds to win his category at the New York State chess championship stated africanews.com

Here is a youngster who was introduced to the game a little over a year ago the online news stated. “Refugees enrich our nation and talent is universal, even if opportunity is not,” the 42nd US president Bill Clinton wrote.

“This story made me smile. Tanitoluwa, you exemplify a winning spirit – in chess and in life. And kudos to your hardworking parents. You all should stop by my office in Harlem; I’d love to meet you,” former US president added.

Another online news website boredpanda wrote "Tanitoluwa won first place in the New York State Scholastic Championships tournament for kindergarten through third grade. With a huge grin and a trophy almost as big as he is, Tanitoluwa poses for a picture for his coach Russell Makofsky". 

"Tani has an aggressive style of play, and in the state tournament the coaches, watching from the sidelines, were shocked when he sacrificed a bishop for a lowly pawn. Alarmed, they fed the move into a computer and it agreed with Tani, recognizing that the gambit would improve his position several moves later". The New York Times wrote.

Starting from last year, a lot has changed for him, but the future seems bright for this young and enthusiastic chess master. Tanitoluwa didn’t have it easy stated the on-line website – his Christian family left Nigeria two years ago, out of fear from attacks on Christians by Boko Haram terrorists. “I don’t want to lose any loved ones,” his father, Kayode Adewumi, told the media. In 2017, the Adewumi family arrived in New York and has been living in a homeless shelter there ever since. In New York, Tani was admitted to the local elementary school, P.S. 116, where he took a chess class and learned how to play. He liked the game so much, he prodded his mom, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, to ask if he could join the chess club boredpanda wrote.

The article on boredpanda went further "Russell Makofsky, who oversees the P.S. 116 chess program, agreed to take in Taki without paying the fee. A year ago, the boy took part in his first tournament and had the lowest rating of any participant. Today, he won the tournament undefeated. Although the family is having a hard time making ends meet, Tani’s mom still takes him every Saturday to practices in Harlem and attends all his tournaments. His dad gives the boy his laptop every evening so that he can practice. And although the family are devout Christians, Tani is allowed to skip Sunday church service if he has a tournament to attend".

Another online news media nytimes.com wrote "Much of the news of the last week has focused on wealthy families buying access to great universities, either illegally through bribes or legally through donations. There is no question that America is a tilted playing field that gives wealthy children huge advantages".

"So we should all grin along with Tanitoluwa Adewumi, the newly crowned chess champion for kindergarten through third grade. He went undefeated at the state tournament last weekend, outwitting children from elite private schools with private chess tutors", nytimes.com stated.

“One year to get to this level, to climb a mountain and be the best of the best, without family resources,” Tani’s coach, Russell Makofsky, expressed his astonishment to the media. “I’ve never seen it.” The coach has also set up a Go Fund Me account for the Adewumi family – in just four days people have donated more than $180,000 and one benevolent person even offered the family an apartment they could live in. While giving an interview to the NBC News, the coach said that straight after the filming of the show, they are going to pack their stuff and move into their first New York home.

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