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Tanitoluwa Adewumi is New York newly crowned chess champion

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Tanitoluwa Adewumi

Eight-year-old Nigerian boy, Tanitoluwa Adewumi, has emerged winner of the statewide New York’s chess championship in the third-grade category.

Adewumi, who lives in a Manhattan homeless shelter with his family, won the competition with a brilliant performance, reported The Hill.

Tani started learning chess last year alongside his classmates. He went on to join his school’s chess club. The club’s organiser waived the fees for him because of his family’s financial situation.

Despite only learning chess just about a year ago, he was able to win his category (kindergarten through third grade) at the New York State chess championship last weekend. Though he started out as the lowest-rated member of the club, he quickly improved and is now bringing his school statewide recognition.

Prior to becoming the champion, he won seven trophies, which stand by his bedside. Now, he says he wants to be the youngest grandmaster. This title is currently held by Sergey Karjakin Ukraine, a chess prodigy who qualified for the title at the age of 12 years and 7 months.

Adewumi and his family left northern Nigeria in 2017 for New York. His father, Kayode Adewumi, explained that they had to leave their home country because he was afraid they would be targeted by Boko Haram terrorists, since they are devout Christians. “I don’t want to lose any loved one,” he said.

While living in a homeless shelter and waiting on their asylum request to be accepted, the eight-year-old started attending the local elementary school, P.S. 116. There, he met a part-time chess teacher, Shawn Martinez, who taught his class how to play the game. Adewumi enjoyed the game so much he asked his mom, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, if he could join the chess club, and she agreed.

She emailed the club to tell them about her son, explaining that they could not afford to pay the fees. Russell Makofsky, the head of the P.S. 116 chess programme, decided to waive the fees.

Since joining the club, Tanitoluwa attends a free, three-hour practice session in Harlem every Saturday and uses his father’s laptop to practise at night. His parents also let him miss church, if he has a tournament to attend.

During his first tournament, he had the lowest rating of 105. One year later, his rating has gone up to 1587. This is a huge feat, considering the fact that the world’s best player, Magnus Carlsen, stands at 2845.

The person running his chess club said he is very impressed by his progress. “I’ve never seen this. One year to get to this level, to climb a mountain and be the best of the best, without family resources,” he said.

Tani’s dad has two jobs: He rents a car that he uses to drive for Uber. He has also become a licensed real estate salesman. Tani’s mom has passed a course to become a home health aide. Meeting them, it’s easy to see where Tani’s diligence came from.

It is sometimes tough for Tani. His parents say he once came home from school crying after classmates teased him for being homeless. And at an immigration hearing last fall, he burst into tears when he misunderstood the judge to say that the family would be deported.

But Tani tries to put all that out of his mind. He lies on the floor of the shelter and practises chess for hours each evening — now preparing for the elementary national championship in May.

His chess teacher said: “He is so driven. He does 10 times more chess puzzles than the average kid. He just wants to be better.”

This boy is a Nigerian refugee with an uncertain future, but he is beaming with a lot of hope and enthusiasm. He can’t stop grinning because the awkward load is a huge trophy, almost as big as he is. This homeless third grader has just won his category at the New York State chess championship.

Kids entrepreneur is advising that no matter the condition you are in now, you can do more than you can ever imagine. You have all it takes to be successful, as age is not a barrier, just as financial capabilities. The best is yet to come and the sky is not your limit.

At this rate, Adewumi is well on his way to achieving his dream of becoming the youngest grandmaster ‘ever.’


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