A homeless 8-year-old Nigerian chess prodigy who dreams of becoming the world’s youngest grandmaster recently took home a top prize at a New York chess tournament.
Tanitoluwa Adewumi, who goes by the name Tani, placed first in the kindergarten through third-grade division at the New York State Scholastic Championship last weekend.
Tani, who only took up chess about a year ago, overcame immense odds to land the impressive win, the New York Times reports.
The 8-year-old refugee, whose family fled northern Nigeria in 2017 in fears of Boko Haram’s attacks on Christians like themselves, first learned how to play chess at Manhattan’s P.S. 116, where he attends classes.
After a part-time chess instructor taught Tani’s class the basics of the game, the child swiftly took interest and begged his mother to let him join the school’s chess club.
Photo: credit GoFund Me
When Russell Makofsky, who oversees P.S. 116’s chess program, learned the boy’s family, who lives in a Manhattan homeless shelter, could not afford the opportunity, he decided to wave all of Tani’s fees, according to USA TODAY.
A year later, and Tani has already taken home seven trophies from various tournaments, an accomplishment Jane Hsu, the principal of P.S. 116, attributes in part to the boy’s wildly supportive parents.
The The New York Times reports that Tani’s mother takes him to a three-hour free practice session in Harlem every Sunday and attends all of his tournaments, while his father, who works as an Uber driver and recently became a licensed real estate salesman, lets his son use his laptop every night to practice.
“It’s an inspiring example of how life’s challenges do not define a person,” Hsu told the Times.
Russell Makofsky has set up a GoFundMe to help Tani’s family “secure a home where he can continue on his journey.” The page raised over $100,000 in just two days.