If you haven’t heard about Tanitoluwa Adewunmi, the new chess sensation, you should know now that there is a new kid in town and he’s a chess genius. It took just over a year of learning chess to become the New York State Primary Chess Champion. This is after he made his debut at the New York State championships just last month.
So here’s his story. He is fondly called Tani by his friends and family members and he’s just an 8-year-old. His family moved to the US in 2017 on asylum after escaping Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria. Since arriving in the US, they have shown resolve to thrive in their new found home even though they are still undergoing immigration hearings.
The story of the Adewunmi’s is just one of many stories of refugees from Africa. It was brought to limelight by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. This was after he had visited them at the homeless shelter where they lived in Manhattan.
Tani’s ambition is to become the youngest chess grandmaster and he is getting closer by the day. In just a few months of playing he has won quite a number of trophies. He gained interest after the game was introduced to him by a part-time teacher at his elementary school began teaching his class to play.
Tani’s mother, Oluwatoyin Adewunmi, was forced to enroll him in the chess club but not after she had met with the programme’s coordinator to explain her family’s financial woes. As a means of assistance, the programme coordinator, Russell Makofsky, waived the fees. The move was rewarded by Tani winning his first tournament shortly after with a rating of 105.
The young Nigerian’s ratings have drastically improved as he is currently 1587, very close to the world champion who has a rating of 2845. He is already billed to become a huge success at the game even though he just has a free three-hour practice session on Saturdays and does the rest of his practice every evening on his dad’s laptop.
Shawn Martinez, who introduced him to the game, said he is so driven as he does ten times what an average kid can. Makofsky says it is awe-striking that a kid with so little resources can turn out to become the best of the best. His father, Kayode Adewunmi, works two jobs, as a real estate salesman and also as an Uber driver.
The Adewunmi family has received quite an amount of attention in recent times from readers of the NY Times. A GoFundMe account was set up by the readers to support the family and it has already surpassed the $50,000 goal. The account in just two days raised $74,724 and it was set up by Russell Makofsky.