Tanitoluwa Adewumi

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Tanitoluwa Adewumi
Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi receiving Tribeca Disruptive Innovation award.jpg
Adewumi (left), receiving 2019 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation award as his father applauds
Full nameTanitoluwa Emmanuel Adewumi
CountryUnited States
Born (2010-09-03) September 3, 2010 (age 12)[1]
TitleFIDE Master
FIDE rating2323 (March 2023)
Peak rating2323 (March 2023)

Tanitoluwa Emmanuel Adewumi (born September 3, 2010; nicknamed Tani) is a Nigerian-American chess player who currently holds the title of FIDE Master (FM). A chess prodigy,[2] he won the 2019 K-3 New York State chess championship at the age of 8 after playing the game for only a year while living with his refugee family in a homeless shelter in Manhattan.[3]

Early life[edit]

Tanitoluwa is the son of Kayode James Adewumi (born June 24, 1976, Ado Ekiti, Nigeria) and Oluwatoyin Kuburat Adewumi (born June 16, 1981, Ado Ekiti). He has a brother who is seven years older.[4] Kayode used to run a print shop in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, with 13 employees,[5] and Oluwatoyin used to work as an accountant.[4]

The family is devoutly Christian and said they were threatened with violence by the Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram.[5] In June 2017, they left Nigeria for the United States and sought religious asylum. Philip Falayi, a pastor in Queens, New York, gave them temporary accommodation, and connected them with the New York City Department of Homeless Services. They were given a place to stay in a homeless shelter in Manhattan.[5] Kayode took work as a dishwasher and as an Uber driver in a rented car and Oluwatoyin as a cleaner;[6][a] and Tanitoluwa enrolled in elementary school P.S. 116.[7]

In October 2022, Adewumi and his family were granted asylum in the US. Asylum status allows the family to remain in the US permanently, and allows Adewumi to travel internationally to compete in chess tournaments.[8]

Chess career[edit]

Shawn Martinez, the head chess coach at P.S. 116, introduced students to the game. Tanitoluwa immediately took to it and wanted to join a club run by 1700-rated coach Russell Makofsky. That would have been expensive; the $330 fee[5] included not only the cost of running the club, but also such things as entries to tournaments, travel, and accommodation. When Adewumi's mother told Makofsky of the family's financial situation, he waived the fee.[7][9] In early 2018, Adewumi, who had been assigned the lowest estimated rating of 105, played in his first tournament. A year later, he had accumulated seven trophies. His coaches were impressed by his dedication and hard work and by the progress he had made since starting as a novice.[7]

On March 9–10, 2019, he competed in the 52nd Annual New York State Scholastic Championships (kindergarten-3rd grade division) in Saratoga Springs, New York. He was seeded eighth in a field of 74 with an Elo rating of 1473, more than 200 behind the top rated players.[10] He won the event outright with a score of 5.5/6 (five wins, one draw, no losses).[10][11][12] His style of play is aggressive: in his fourth game he sacrificed a bishop for a pawn, which was the best move according to a chess engine.[7][13]

On May 1, 2021, at 10 years old, Adewumi crossed the 2200 Elo rating threshold needed to achieve the official USCF title of National Master, making him the 28th-youngest chess player in history ever to do so.[14] In August, he won the under-12 division of the North American Youth Chess Championship with a score of 8/9.[15] He became a FIDE Master, having surpassed a FIDE rating of 2300 in November 2021.

In April 2022, he scored 7.0/9 in the New York Spring Invitational Norm event, earning his first IM norm.[16] In July 2022, he scored 7.0/9 in the New York Summer Invitational, winning the IM C event and earning his second IM norm.[17] In November 2022 he earned a third IM norm, scoring 5.5/9 at the 2022 New York Fall Invitational in the GM B event. Due to a rule change from FIDE in early 2022, Adewumi still needs an additional norm from an individual Swiss tournament (as well as reaching 2400 Elo) to be granted the IM title.[18][19]

Reception and media[edit]

In 2019, the story of his winning the New York Scholastics was reported by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times,[7] and rapidly attracted national[13][20][21] and international[22][23][24] attention both inside and outside the chess world. agadmator, a leading YouTube chess streamer, published an analysis of Adewumi's only available game from the tournament.[25][10][b] Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion, praised this achievement by a refugee immigrant.[26] Bill Clinton, former U.S. president, invited him to visit him in his office in Harlem, New York,[27] and he did.[28] Abike Dabiri, Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora to Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, called him "a pride to the nation".[29][30]

On March 30, 2019, he visited the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri, where the U.S. Chess Championship was then in progress, and played several friendly blitz (5 minutes for each player) games, his opponents including Hikaru Nakamura (GM, five-time U.S. Chess Champion), Jennifer Yu (WGM, 2019 U.S. Women's Chess Champion), and Fabiano Caruana (GM, who had challenged the titleholder, Magnus Carlsen, for the World Chess Championship in November 2018), and was interviewed by Maurice Ashley, the world's first Black GM.[31]

His coaches set up a GoFundMe site shortly after the New York competition, with the target of raising $50,000 for the family by crowdfunding. It raised $254,000 in ten days.[5][32] Benefactors also offered non-monetary help; including accommodation, a car, academic scholarships, chess books, and pro bono (i.e., free) assistance by immigration lawyers with their asylum application. They accepted one of the more modest offers of accommodation, declined the scholarship offers out of loyalty to P.S. 116, gave one-tenth of the donated money as a tithe to the church which had helped them, and put the rest into a 501(c)(3) trust called the Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation to help other children in similar circumstances.[9]

He had expressed an ambition to become the youngest ever chess grandmaster, though as of February 2023 this is no longer possible.[18][7][c] Three film companies bid on the rights to his story;[9] Paramount Pictures won.[33] A biography, My Name Is Tani, was published on April 14, 2020.[34]


  1. ^ By March 2019, Kayode was working as an Uber driver and as a licensed real estate salesman, and Oluwatoyin as a qualified home health aide.[7]
  2. ^ Not the game with the bishop sacrifice.
  3. ^ As of July 2022, Abhimanyu Mishra is the youngest person to have achieved the title of Grandmaster (at 12 years 4 months).


  1. ^ "About Tanitoluwa Emmanuel Adewumi". Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation. August 9, 2019. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  2. ^ "USA and UK prodigies clash in online match". www.fide.com. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  3. ^ Kasparov, Garry. "Opinion | The heart-warming tale of the 8-year-old chess champion is quintessentially American". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Our Team". Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation. August 9, 2019. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e Blair, Elizabeth (March 12, 2020). "This Young Chess Champion Is 'Not Scared Of Anything On That Board'". NPR. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  6. ^ Adewumi, Tanitoluwa (April 14, 2020). My Name Is Tani . . . and I Believe in Miracles: The Amazing True Story of One Boy's Journey from Refugee to Chess Champion. Adewumi, Kayode; Adewumi, Oluwatoyin; Borlase, Craig (contributors). Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-0785232711.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Kristof, Nicholas (March 16, 2019). "This 8-Year-Old Chess Champion Will Make You Smile". New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  8. ^ Page, Sydney (December 14, 2022). "Nigerian chess prodigy, 12, granted asylum in the United States". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c Kristof, Nicholas (March 23, 2019). "Our Chess Champion Has a Home". New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c Hater, Colonel David A. (March 19, 2019). "Tani Wins at NYS Scholastic Championships". United States Chess Federation. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  11. ^ Peterson, Macauley (March 26, 2019). "Homeless immigrant family finds a home thanks to chess". ChessBase. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  12. ^ "NY State Scholastic Championships 2019 Standings – Primary Championship". chessevents.com. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Today, NBC (March 19, 2019). "8-Year-Old Chess Champ And Homeless Refugee Gets Fairytale Ending" (video). Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  14. ^ Hartmann, John (May 3, 2021). "Tani Adewumi, National Master At Age 10". www.uschess.org. US Chess Federation. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  15. ^ (ChessKid). "International Title Winners, the North American Bullet Championships, and More!". Chess.com. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  16. ^ "2022 New York Spring Invitational IM D". April 18, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  17. ^ Nikita (July 12, 2022). "11-year-old Tani Adewumi wins the 2022 New York IM Summer Invitational". Chessdom. Retrieved July 13, 2022.
  18. ^ a b Shabazz, Daaim (December 15, 2022). "Tani Adewumi earns another IM norm!". The Chess Drum. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  19. ^ Mick (November 17, 2022). "Young Prodigies FM Tani Adewumi, IM Yagiz Erdogmus Face Off". Chess.com. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  20. ^ "Homeless 3rd grader aims to become youngest chess grandmaster". CBS (video). March 18, 2019. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  21. ^ Lou, Michelle; Ahmed, Saeed (March 20, 2019). "A homeless 8-year-old, who learned to play a year ago, is now a New York chess champion". CNN. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  22. ^ "This Nigerian boy just became a chess champion in New York". BBC. London, UK. March 18, 2019. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  23. ^ Team Latestly (March 18, 2019). "Homeless 8-year-old Refugee Child Tanitoluwa Adewumi Becomes New York Chess Champion!". latestly.com. India. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  24. ^ Pozzi, Sandro (March 21, 2019). "El niño refugiado que aspira a gran maestro". El País (in Spanish). Madrid, Spain. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  25. ^ agadmator (March 19, 2019). 8-year-old Homeless Refugee Tani Wins New York State Championship. YouTube (video). Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  26. ^ Kasparov, Garry (March 22, 2019). "The heart-warming tale of the 8-year-old chess champion is quintessentially American". Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  27. ^ Bill Clinton [@billclinton] (March 19, 2019). "Refugees enrich our nation and talent is universal, even if opportunity is not" (Tweet). Retrieved February 28, 2020 – via Twitter.
  28. ^ Nicholas Kristof [@nickkristof] (March 26, 2019). "So cool!" (Tweet). Retrieved February 28, 2020 – via Twitter.
  29. ^ Mumuni, Mikail (March 25, 2019). "Dabiri-Erewa eulogises 8-year old Nigerian US Chess Champion". The State Online. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  30. ^ Olowolagba, Fikayo (March 25, 2019). "Tanitoluwa Adewunmi: Presidency speaks on 8-year-old Nigerian Chess Champion". Daily Post. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  31. ^ "2019 U.S. Chess Championships: Tanitoluwa "Tani" Adewumi Interview". Saint Louis Chess Club (video). March 30, 2019. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  32. ^ Akhalbey, Francis (April 17, 2019). "8-yr-old homeless Nigerian chess champ in NYC moves into new home after massive support". Face2Face Africa. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  33. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (November 1, 2019). "Homeless 8-Year Old Nigerian Chess Prodigy Who Won NY State Championship Checkmates Paramount Movie Deal With 'Daily Show's Trevor Noah Among Producers". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  34. ^ Adewumi, Tanitoluwa (April 14, 2020). My Name Is Tani . . . and I Believe in Miracles: The Amazing True Story of One Boy's Journey from Refugee to Chess Champion. Adewumi, Kayode; Adewumi, Oluwatoyin; Borlase, Craig (contributors). Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-0785232711.

External links[edit]