An 8-year-old boy who fled Nigeria in 2017 after being targeted by terrorist groups for his Christian beliefs has been crowned the New York State chess champion. 

Tanitoluwa Adewumi, who goes by Tani, came in first place at the New York State Scholastic Championships tournament for kindergarten through third grade, according to The Hill. Tani is relatively new to chess, having played just one year before winning top honors. The rising star first learned chess at New York's P.S. 116, where he attends school. Thanks to the generosity of the club organizer, Tani's initiation fees to join the club were waived. 

"It's unheard for any kid, let alone one in a homeless shelter," Russell Makofsky, who chairs Manhattan's P.S. 116 chess program, said to USA Today. 


Tani has endured considerable trauma in his young life. Moving to New York after escaping Nigeria in 2017 for fear of being killed over their religion, Tani and his family have settled into a homeless shelter for the time being. However, adversity has not stopped the young boy from perfecting his craft. USA Today also notes he attends free three-hour chess sessions in Harlem. At the shelter, he uses his father's computer to play exhibition games online. 

Per The New York Times, Tani has accrued seven trophies since starting chess. He has his sights set on going professional in the sport.

"I want to be the youngest grandmaster," he told columnist Nicholas Kristof.

When Tani entered his first tournament, he had the lowest player rating of any participant. In a matter of months, he went from 105 to 1587.

News of Tani's success has now gone viral, which has inspired Makofsky to establish a GoFund Me page for the young boy and his family. Given they are in the process of applying for asylum, the page says the finances will go toward a permanent home for the Adewumi family. The fundraiser has raised nearly double of its original $50K goal.

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