Check-Mate Master at a Mere 10 Years Old

A 10-year-old homeless boy from Nigeria becomes chess champion in the United States.

Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewiumi, a 10 year old Nigerian refugee, has just been awarded the title “Chess Master.” While living in a homeless shelter in New York City in 2019, Tani won the New York state chess championship for his age group. In order to achieve master status, he had to defeat two experts, a master and an international master. When Tani was interviewed by NPR, he simply stated, “I was very happy that I won and that I got the title…I really love that I finally got it.”

While his family lived in a homeless shelter, Tani learned to play chess in school in New York City. He practices chess for 10 or 11 hours every day after school. Tani’s family left northern Nigeria in 2017 as refugees. His book, My Name is Tani…And I believe in Miracles: The Amazing True Story of One Boy’s Journey from Refugee to Chess Champion,” explains his extraordinary origin story. His family fled Boko Haram and came to the US, where his father became a dishwasher and Uber driver and his mother was a housekeeper.

Tani has received much kindness and help along the way. When his family could not afford to pay the membership costs for the school’s chess program, Russell Makofsky, the chess teacher, waived the fees. A stranger gifted him a chess clock. His mother would take him to free practice sessions in Harlem and his dad saved up to get Tani a laptop so he could play chess online. A GoFundMe page for Tani has raised $255,000 for housing, legal, and educational resources. The money also pays for Tani’s grandmaster coach, who teaches him two or three times a week. Further, his GoFundMe page attracts countless comments, people thanking him for being such an inspiration and encouraging him to keep working.

Tani’s love for chess is only growing. His next goal is to become the youngest grandmaster. Sergey Karjakin, the current record-holder, achieved this at age 12. With his intelligence, support system, and work ethic, it seems like he will achieve his dream.