TanitoluwaAdewunmi, aged 8, a Nigerian refugee, has just taken the first position in the scholastic championship tourney held by New York State. After winning the chess championship meant for his age bracket, he sets his eyes on further flory down that path. Speaking to The New York Times, he said that he would like to be the youngest grandmaster.
The Nigerian born eight-year-old chess wonder, who is commonly known as Tani came out top in the kindergarten to the third-grade division of the tournament which is quite an astonishing feat to accomplish for anymore. The overseer of the program, RusselMakofsky (Manhattan’s P.S. 166 chess) shared a similar sentiment with USA Today, he says, “It is unheard of for any kid, let alone one in a homeless shelter.”
Tani has had his own share of life struggles, with a tough upbringing, after his family fled the northern parts of Nigeria following the attacks on Christians in that region in 2017. Settling in the city of New York about a year ago, the child-wonder learned how to play the game and gone to attain glory for his age rank. His family still lives in a homeless shelter.
It was Shawn Martinez, the school chess coach, who spotted Tani’s potential after observing him perform well in a game shortly after learning its rudiments a year ago. He reached out to the child’s family to enroll him but they couldn’t afford to pay the membership fees which included travel and camp admissions. These fees ran into thousands and Makofsky waved them so Tani could be part of the team. Tani received a chess clock gift from a fellow student, his mom took him to Harlem for 3 hours of free practice sessions and his dad let him play online using his laptop. A GoFundMe for Tani has been set up by Makofsky after the child hit the national headlines after winning seven trophies.