Tanitoluwa Adewumi, newly 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.

Prior to becoming the champion, he won seven trophies which stay by his bed. 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.

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Fleeing Nigeria to becoming a New York chess champion
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.

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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.

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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.


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