10-year-old refugee, once homeless, becomes national chess master

Tanitoluwa Adewumi

A 10-year-old boy won the title of National Chess Master on May 1. Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi’s win makes him the the 28th youngest person in the country to achieve that high ranking, per the U.S Chess Federation.

Tani’s remarkable abilities as a chess player helped him and his family, refugees from Nigeria, move out of a New York City homeless shelter, according to the New York Times.

Of his latest accomplishment, the 10-year-old told NPR, “I was very happy that I won and that I got the title. I really love that I finally got it.”

Tanitoluwa Adewumi

Tani revealed he practices chess “every day” after school for 10 or 11 hours, his next goal is becoming the world’s youngest grandmaster, he shared with NPR. The Nigerian refugee will turn 11 this summer, meaning he has just under two years to take the title from Sergey Karjakin, the New York Times reported.

Tani became recognized in 2019 after he won the New York state chess championship for his age group, earning himself a profile in the New York Times. The accomplishment came just a year after he learned how to play chess at school while living in a homeless shelter. His family couldn’t afford to pay his school’s chess program membership at one point, but his chess teacher waived the fees, USA Today reported at the time. Other individuals also stepped in to support Tani’s talents.

His father set up a GoFundMe page that raised $254,448 and enabled their family to get housing and other necessities. “Tani’s life was changed in 24 hours. Generous donors and supporters came together outside of GoFundMe and provided us with the housing, legal, and educational resources we needed,” an update to the page in April 2019 said.

The now-10-year-old went on to write a book titled My Name Is Tani … And I Believe In Miracles. The book was later green-lit for a Paramount film adaption with Trevor Noah as a producer, Deadline reported in November 2019.

One thought on “10-year-old refugee, once homeless, becomes national chess master

  1. Chess is a fascinating game. I remember reading about Natan Shiransky, a Soviet Dissident, who beat this man, having spent years in the Gulag playing games in his head, but against other prisoners when the opportunity availed. Each person has different skill sets, and while I enjoyed playing, I don’t think I ever played higher than 1,600 level, more often around 1,400. Concentration, focus, determination, ability to envision strategies, seeing the opponents’ purposes, and more are all a part. It’s certainly something good for the youth, enjoyable to enthusiasts.


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