Every sport in which blacks aren’t usually known to participate attracts a contingent of black folks. You may now add chess to the mix.
Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi, who is only 11 years old, is on track to become the world’s youngest chess grandmaster, the highest rank a player can achieve, after becoming a national master earlier this year. There are around 1,700 grandmasters in the world today. Adewumi, who turned 11 in September, has just over a year to beat 12-year-old grandmaster Abhimanyu Mishra’s record.
Adewumi must obtain three grandmaster norms in a chess tournament and a FIDE (Federation Internationale des Echecs) rating of 2,500 to earn the title of grandmaster.
“I’m aggressive, I like to attack,” Adewumi told CNN of his style of play. “It’s just the way I think in general: I want to checkmate my opponent as fast as I can.”
Adewumi’s fortunes have taken a sharp turn since he and his family fled northern Nigeria for New York City in 2017 because they were afraid of the extremist group Boko Haram. Adewumi joined a chess club at his local public school when they were living in a homeless shelter, something he wouldn’t have been able to afford if the registration cost hadn’t been waived.
He comes home from school and practices for seven hours. On his days off, he can spend up to ten hours studying chess. Temi’s parents do everything they can to help him improve his chess skills, including driving him to competitions and giving him whatever tools he needs.
Adewumi’s achievements are growing, but it was his victory in the New York State Scholastic Primary Championship at the age of eight in 2019 that prompted a New York Times column that drew notice to him and encouraged people to donate to his suffering family.
“One family, they paid for a year’s rent in Manhattan, one family gave us in 2019 a brand-new Honda, and the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri invited the family and the coaches to come and pay a visit,” Adewumi’s father, real estate agent Kayode Adewumi, told CNN Sport. “A lot of people really helped us, a lot of people gave us financial (support) and money … they donated money for us to get out from the shelter.”
Following his championship win in April 2019, Kayode created a GoFundMe campaign for his son to help the family get back on their feet. The page is still up, and donations are now being collected for the Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation, which helps poor children all around the world.
With donations still coming in, the page has raised more than $256K, thousands more than his original $50,000 goal.