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Meet Tani Adewumi the 9-year old chess prodigy

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

Tani Adewumi, a young Nigerian immigrant living in New York, against all odds became New York State Scholastic Champion in 2019 at age 8. This year the young champion was supposed to defend his title, but because of Covid-19 the tournament was cancelled. If you ask him he would probably say his opponents were lucky, as he destroyed the competition last year, while just learning the game that same year.

His story begins more than five years ago in Abuja, Nigeria, where his parents owned a print shop. One day in 2015 a group of men came to the shop and requested posters from his father, Kayode Adewumi. Upon inspecting the request later that evening, Kayode realized that the posters were a request from the terror network Boko Haram. Kayode tried to allude the men to the best of his abilities as he did not want to print the hateful posters. The men found their way to Kayode’s home and threatened his wife about the posters, and that was enough for Kayode to leave everything behind and move his family.

Eventually the family migrated to New York City where they were welcomed by Nigerian Pastor Phillip Falayi. They stayed in Pastor Phillip’s church basement until he was able to connect them with temporary housing at a New York Shelter. The boys, 7 year old Tani and his 14 year old brother Austin stayed on separate floors from their parents. Eventually the boys were enrolled in nearby public schools that had an active chess club. Tani was interested in chess and wanted to join the chess club, but his parents simply couldn’t afford the $300 fee for the chess club. The coaches realizing Tani’s situation decided to waive the fee, a decision they would not regret.

A year later, Tani became New York State Scholastic Chess Champion at age 8. His potential was clear from the outset his coach Shawn Martinez would say, he had incredible memory and tenacity to learn. After wining the title his coaches wanted to help Tani’s family by starting a GoFundMe page. The New York Times picked up the story and featured Tani in an article, days later donations came in from all over the world and the GoFundMe had raised over $250,000. With that the family were able to move out of the shelter and live together in an apartment. Tani eventually secured a book deal, and his story movie rights was bought by Trevor Noah, the Late Night show host from South Africa.

Tani is working his way through the chess rankings and hopes to one day be a Chess Grand Master, the highest rankings amongst chess players. Tani Adewumi through all the adversity he has faced at such a young age, is a rising star and making Africans all over the world very proud.

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