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Eight Year Old Homeless Refugee Becomes New York Chess Champion

Eight Year Old Homeless Refugee Becomes New York Chess Champion

At 8-years-old, he’s already a chess champion and an overcomer! Last weekend, Nigerian refugee, Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi, took home the New York statewide chess championship trophy in the kindergarten through third grade category. 

According to the New York Times, in 2017, Tani fled northern Nigeria along with his parents and older brother to escape the threat of violence from Boko Haram as a result of their family’s Christian beliefs. When they arrived in New York, they settled into a Manhattan homeless shelter and enrolled Tani in school at P.S.116. 

Tani joined the school’s chess club after one of the teachers introduced him and his classmates to the game. New school, new country, new game, no problem. Tani’s determination coupled with the support he receives from his parents, allowed him to quickly rise from being one of the lowest rated members of the club to a decorated champion with seven trophies.

Even though Tani’s trophies sit by his bedside in a homeless shelter, he hasn’t let that stop him from identifying his next goal. He told the Times, “I want to be the youngest grandmaster.” 

It’s hard to imagine what types of challenges Tani and his family have faced, but one thing is apparent — even without a home to call their own, they’ve worked to surround Tani with the love and support that he needs to thrive in any environment.

P.S.116’s chess teacher, Russell Makofsky, also accredited Tani’s success to his parents. He told the Times reporter, “Tani is rich beyond measure,” in the strength, love and support of his family.

Tani’s next major competition is set for May when he’ll compete in the elementary national championship. Send him all of the positive energy and if you’d like to do more, there has been a GoFundMe page set up to support the Adewumi family here: