Meet The 8-Year-Old Chess Champion Who Is Putting Nigeria On The Map

It is no longer news that Nigerians always excel in whatever field they find themselves so long as they have access to the proper resources. This is the case of eight-year-old Nigerian, Tanitoluwa Adewumi who was recently crowned chess champion of New York.

Despite only learning chess about a year ago, he was able to win his category (kindergarten through third grade) at the New York State chess championship last weekend.

Tanitoluwa Adewumi and his family left northern Nigeria in 2017 for New York. His father, Kayode Adewumi, explains that they had to leave their home country because he was afraid they would be targeted by Boko Haram terrorists since they are devout Christians. “I don’t want to lose any loved ones,” he told The Times.

Prior to becoming the champion, Tani has won seven trophies. Now, he says he wants to be the youngest grandmaster. This title is currently held by Sergey Karjakin Ukraine, a chess prodigy who qualified for the title at the age of 12 years and 7 months.

While living in a homeless shelter and waiting on their asylum request to be accepted, the eight-year-old started attending the local elementary school, P.S. 116. There, he met a part-time chess teacher, teacher, Shawn Martinez, who taught his class how to play. Adewumi enjoyed the game so much he asked his mom, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, if he could join the chess club.

His mother agreed. She emailed the club to tell them about her son, adding that they could not afford to pay the fees. Russell Makofsky, the head of the P.S. 116 chess program, decided to waive the fees.

Since joining the club, he attends a free, three-hour practice session in Harlem every Saturday and uses his father’s laptop to practice at night. His parents also let him miss church if he has a tournament to attend.

During his first tournament, he had the lowest rating of any participant, 105. One year later, his rating has gone up to 1587. This is a huge feat considering the fact that the world’s best player, Magnus Carlsen, stands at 2845.

Makofsy, who runs his chess club, says he is very impressed by his progress. 

“One year to get to this level, to climb a mountain and be the best of the best, without family resources. I’ve never seen it,” he told The Times.

His chess teacher added,

He is so driven. He does 10 times more chess puzzles than the average kid. He just wants to be better.”

At this rate, Adewumi is well on his way to achieving his dream of becoming the youngest grandmaster ‘ever’.


Ebun Bello is a Content Writer by Day and Fashion Enthusiast every other time. She's passionate about Digital Media, Women's Fashion and Everything In Between!