Tanitoluwa Adewumi, better known by his nickname “Tani”, may be only 10 years old, but he has already become an official National Chess Master, with an impressive rating of 2223.
Tani, the 28th youngest person to achieve such a title in the United States, got her start playing the game of chess just a few years ago while living with her family in a homeless shelter.
In 2017, Tani, her parents and her brother became refugees after fleeing Nigeria to escape violent attacks against Christian families like hers. They began to reside in a shelter in Manhattan.
With the help from a local pastor, Tani began attending a local elementary school. It was there that one of his teachers, Russell Makofsky, taught his class to play chess, and Tani was immediately drawn to the game.
As it happened, the teacher also taught a chess club at the school. When Tani was unable to pay the program fees, Makofsky waived the costs and welcomed the young man to the club.
When he competed in his first chess tournament, he scored the lowest of all the students. But this week, just a year later, Tani took home the state championship trophy, after beating 73 of New York’s best players in grades K-3.
Tani is a prodigy, hands down – he’s the first competitor to win a state championship on his first try, scoring 1,587 and closing, which is roughly half the best player in the world.
Remember Tani Adewumi, the Nigerian refugee girl I wrote 2 years ago who won the New York State Chess Championship while in a homeless shelter? Now well hosted (thanks to you readers!), He just won a championship and is officially a National Chess Master as a 10 year old fifth grader! pic.twitter.com/mbDCAGiFHb
– Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) May 2, 2021
For a time, the 10-year-old spent every night on the floor of his homeless shelter, practicing for the national chess championship in May and dreaming of becoming the youngest Grandmaster in the world.
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