12-year-old Nigerian chess master granted asylum in U.S.

Mildred Europa Taylor December 16, 2022
Photo Credit: Nicholas Kristof/Twitter

12-year-old chess master Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi and his family, who fled Boko Haram in northern Nigeria in 2017, have officially been granted asylum in the United States.

Tani’s family first applied for asylum in 2019 and are elated that the long process has come to an end. “We felt so good and thank God for His mercy upon us. Thanks to our attorneys and the Americans, they are wonderful people,” his father Kayode Adewumi told Chess.com.

Tani made headlines at 8 years old, after defeating 73 of the best chess players in his age group in New York to win his division in the state championship. It took him a little over a year to learn to play chess and become the New York State Primary Chess Champion (Top Players K – 3rd Grade) after debuting at the New York State chess championship.

After arriving in the U.S. in 2017, Tani and his older brother and parents showed resilience in their new life as refugees and through their immigration hearings to stay in the country legally. Their story, which is one of the many experiences of African immigrants, was made known to the public by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who visited them in a homeless shelter in Manhattan where they lived.

Tani won over half a dozen trophies in the few months he started playing chess with the help of a part-time chess teacher at his local elementary school, P.S. 116, who taught his class how to play. Tami’s interest in joining the chess club forced his mother, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, to get him enrolled after explaining to the program’s patron, Russell Makofsky, about their financial woes.

Tami’s fees were waived by Makofsky and he won his first tournament in 2018 with the lowest rating of 105. The story of Tani and his family received a lot of attention from New York Times readers who set up a GoFundMe account to support the family. This enabled the family to move out of the homeless shelter to their own apartment. 

At 10 years old, Tani became the 28th-youngest chess player to become a national master in the U.S. Chess Federation. The chess genius has since become an International Chess Federation (FIDE) master, after winning the under-12 division of the North American Youth Chess Championship in 2021. 

Tani can now compete internationally after being granted asylum in the U.S. His family’s subsequent goal is to obtain U.S. citizenship.

Last Edited by:seo zimamedia Updated: December 19, 2022


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