Tanitoluwa Adewumi overcomes homelessness to become chess master

His family has gotten young Adewumi a coach to help him reach his goal of becoming youngest chess grandmaster ever.

Tanitoluwa Adewumi, at 10 years old, has become America’s newest national chess master, the 28th youngest person to achieve the status, according to the U.S. Chess Federation. 

However, one of the most inspirational aspects of Adewumi’s story is that he once lived in a homeless shelter. His family left northern Nigeria in 2017 and, upon moving to New York, lived in the Manhattan-based shelter, and the boy learned to play chess at school. 

National Chess Master Tanitoluwa Adewumi, 10, is shown on the cover of his April 2020 book, “My Name Is Tani … and I Believe in Miracles.”

The chess champion, who goes by the nickname Tani, won his category the New York State chess competition while still living in the shelter. 

The New York TimesNicholas Kristof noted that Adewumi went undefeated, “outwitting children from elite private schools with private chess tutors.” 

According to Kristof’s 2019 opinion piece, titled “This 8-Year-Old Chess Champion Will Make You Smile,” the boy has an “aggressive style of play” and practices for hours a day with players and on a computer. Jane Hsu, his principal at P.S. 116, called him “an inspiring example of how life’s challenges do not define a person.” 

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A GoFundMe for the family began weeks after Kristof’s article ran raised more than $250,000 for them.

In an update posted Monday, the child’s father, fundraiser organizer Kayode Adewumi, stated, “We Adewumis really appreciate all you have done for us since my son, Tanitoluwa Adewumi (TANI), won the 2019 New York Scholastic Chess Championship. Our lives have really improved and things have changed tremendously. Thanks to your generosity. We are forever grateful to everyone who has donated to our Gofundme and helped us also in one way or the other.” Mr. Adewumi added that the family’s older son, Austin, is also excelling in school.

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But that one challenge the chess champion still faces is travel, his dad writes: “Tani is sometimes invited to tournaments abroad, but can’t go while his immigration case is pending for fear he might not be allowed back into the United States.”

The family has gotten young Tani a coach to help him reach his goal of becoming the youngest chess grandmaster ever. The title is currently held by Sergei Karjakin, who achieved the distinction at just over 12-1/2 years old. 

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