Homeless refugee child from Nigeria crowned New York chess champion

“It’s an inspiring example of how life’s challenges do not define a person.”

– Principal Jane Hsu, Manhattan Primary School 116, speaking of 8-year-old Nigerian refugee,
Tani Adewumi

An eight-year-old Nigerian refugee child has won the annual New York State chess tournament, which he only learned to play a year ago. 

Tanitoluwa (Tani) Adewumi, who resides in a New York homeless shelter with his family, defeated scores of competitors, many with their own private chess tutors, to win the title.

Tani now goes forward to compete in the US national championship in May. 

Following his victory the child spoke of his dreams. The first is to become the world’s “youngest grandmaster”, and the second is that the US Government will allow his family to to stay in the US.

Tani’s family are Christian refugees who fled northern Nigeria following attacks by the extremist Islamist group, Boko Haram. They include Tani’s father, Kayode Adewumi, his mother Oluwatoyin and his older brother.

It was in Manhatten’s Primary School 116 that the eight-year-old learned to play chess with his classmates. Staff agreed to enroll him in the school chess, club free of charge, given his refugee status. 

Speaking to the New York Times, his teacher, Shawn Martinez, described the boy as being very driven. “He does 10 times more chess puzzles than the average kid,” Ms. Martinez said. “He just wants to be better. One year to get to this level, to climb a mountain and be the best of the best, without family resources. I’ve never seen it.”

Principal of PS 116, Jane Hsu, added: “It’s an inspiring example of how life’s challenges do not define a person.”

Tani’s family are due an immigration hearing in August.

You can read the New York Times article – “THIS 8-YEAR-OLD CHESS CHAMPION WILL MAKE YOU SMILE – Overcoming life’s basic truth: Talent is universal, but opportunity is not” by clicking here.

A GoFundMe appeal for US $50,000 to support Tani and his family has already achieved way beyond that target. You may view the current status of the appeal by clicking here.