A 10-year-old who once lived in a New York City homeless shelter has earned an incredible title for someone as young as him: chess master.
Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi became America’s newest chess master on May 1 at just 10 years old. He is the 28th youngest person to earn the title, according to the U.S. Chess Federation.
“I was very happy that I won and that I got the title,” Tani, a Nigerian refugee, told NPR. “I really love that I finally got it.”
To achieve master status, Tani had to defeat two experts, a master, and an international master, the Chess Federation said.
He told NPR he practiced chess for 10 or 11 hours every day after school to get to that level.
Tani made national headlines in 2019 when he was living in a homeless shelter and won the New York state chess championship for his age group.
Tani’s family left northern Nigeria in 2017 as refugees and moved to New York City. While his family lived in a homeless shelter, Tani learned to play chess at school.
When his family was unable to pay membership costs for the school’s chess program, chess teacher Russell Makofsky waived the fees. Tani went on to win the state championship for kindergarten through third grade in 2019.
“It’s unheard of for any kid, let alone one in a homeless shelter,” Mafosky told USA TODAY at the time.
Other offered their help as well. One student gave Tani a chess clock. His mother took him to free practice sessions in Harlem, and his dad offered his laptop for Tani to play chess online.
Since then, a GoFundMe set up by his father, Kayode, has raised almost $255,000 for housing, legal and educational resources for Tani.
Now, a Grandmaster coach teaches Tani two or three times a week, according to a May 10 update on the GoFundMe page. However, travel costs are still a challenge, and when Tani is invited to tournaments abroad, he often can’t go “while his immigration case is pending for fear he might not be allowed back into the United States.”