A 9-Year-Old Refugee Wins NY Chess Championship That Changed His Life

Tanitoluwa Adewumi learned Chess about one year ago in the homeless shelter, now he is living in an apartment given by others.

By Shiwen Rong

NEW YORK—In a nearly new apartment in Midtown Manhattan, in the corner of the full decored room, there is old fashioned chessboard.

About half a year ago, the 8-year-old Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi was known as the homeless chess boy.

Within 24 hours, his life changed after winning his first New York State Scholastic Championships Tournament for his age group.

Kayode, father of Tani, owned a printing press back in Nigeria with 13 employees and was living a good life.

However, he feared for his family’s safety when Christians got attacked by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Just over two years ago, Tani and his family escaped from Nigeria and fled to the United States searching for a new chance of life.

From a business owner to a refugee, starting a new life in a foreign country was not easy for this family of four.

While living in the shelter, Tani’s brother decided to teach him chess with a self-made chessboard.

“We have this chessboard, but not really a chessboard, its another type of game called Latter,” Tani said. “So he made Play-Dough pieces that he learned. We put it there and started playing.”

That was the moment when Tani discovered his love for chess and joined the school chess club where he began to take the game seriously.

Championships

One day Tani told his mom, Oluwatoyin K. Adewumi, that he would take home a trophy. But it wasn’t his time yet.

In 2018, after two months of training, he had his first competition. But the process of winning was not without failures.

“Physically I lost, but technically it’s just learning, because its a process of learning,” said Tani.

A year later, Tani won the first place K–3 Grade Section at the New York State Scholastic Championships Tournament in March 2019, and took home several trophies.

Tani’s next goal is becoming a Grandmaster at age 11 or 12, the youngest Grandmaster of Chess in the world.

He is a big dreamer who has changed the life of his whole family.

Since his big win, Tani has received nationwide attention.

“Honestly, what America did, I never have seen it,” said, Kayode J. Adewumi. “Because they show love to us, to the immigrants, it’s wonderful. I really thank God.”

A few months ago, Tani and his family received an apartment. It started out empty, but piece by piece, the apartment has been filled with love by kind-hearted strangers.

“I’m just going to thank God, that’s what I’m going to do,” said Tani.

For everything he and his family have received, they want to give back.

Kayode started a foundation in Tani’s name, to share with those who are in need just like they once were.