Community Issues

This'll Make You Smile: Homeless Refugee Becomes Chess Champ

In less than 2 years he comes to America, learns to play, and wins state trophy!


(Image:Just-Tani GoFundMe Page)

Tanitoluwa "Tani" Adewumi may be the most unlikely chess whiz you'll ever meet. The 8-year old immigrant from Nigeria, living with his family in a New York City homeless shelter, is the state chess champion of New York in his age group. And if that's not amazing enough, he only started playing a year ago!

According to the New York Times , Tani and his family moved from Nigeria two years ago to escape violent attacks on Christians. Even though they were living in a homeless shelter, Tani was able to enroll in elementary school, where one of his teachers taught him to play and he joined the chess club. In his first tournament Tani had the lowest score, but one year later he beat 73 of New York state's best players to become K-3 champion. He's the first ever to win a state championship on his first try. His teacher calls him a prodigy.

"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." Russell Makofsky, Tani's chess teacher

Tani told the Times he wants to be the world's youngest grandmaster. For now he'll settle for being the hero of his family. After hearing his story, people set up a GoFundMe page, and of this writing it's raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars, enough for the family to move out of the homeless shelter. In a subsequent story, The Times reported that immigration lawyers have now volunteered to help the family get asylum, and three film companies want to make a movie about Tani.

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