As the immigration debate continues to remain a heated topic of controversy, one young New York City boy is a shining example of the new American dream- overcoming insurmountable obstacles and earning the title of New York statewide chess champion.

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And he’s not yet reached double-digit birthdays yet.

In 2017, Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi fled northern Nigeria along with his parents and older brother to escape the threat of violence from Boko Haram as a result of their family’s Christian beliefs.


Arriving in New York City with little more than their meager possessions, the family found refuge at a Manhattan homeless shelter and enrolled Tani in elementary school at P.S.116.

Tani first discovered his passion for chess after being introduced to the game by one of his teachers. Despite never having played the game before and still learning a new language and culture, Tani fell in love with chess and soon joined his school’s chess club. Through patience, perseverance, and support from his family, Tan quickly rose from being one of the lowest rated members of the chess club to earning multiple trophies within his first year of playing.

Tani’s hard work paid off as earlier this month, he won the New York statewide chess championship trophy in the kindergarten through third-grade category

In an interview with Because of Them We Can, Tani’s chess teacher, Russell Makofsky, credited Tani’s success to his hard work as well as the support of his parents. He told the Times reporter, “Tani is rich beyond measure,” in the strength, love, and support of his family.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times took an opportunity to share Tani’s story with his readers as well as point out the stark contrast between Tani and many of his other young competitors, stating:

“Much of the news of the last week has focused on wealthy families buying access to great universities, either illegally through bribes or legally through donations. There is no question that America is a tilted playing field that gives wealthy children huge advantages. So we should all grin along with Tanitoluwa Adewumi, the newly crowned chess champion for kindergarten through third grade. He went undefeated at the state tournament last weekend, outwitting children from elite private schools with private chess tutors.”

While Tani focuses on the upcoming elementary national championships in May, his chess ambitions are far greater than winning just New York.

“I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” he stated to The New York Times.

While Tani’s family remains at the homeless shelter, for the time being, a GoFundMe has been started to support the Adewumi family and can be found here: