A Homeless Kid Wins the New York Chess Championship and Donates His New Wealth to Those in Need

year ago

A year ago, this third grader was a homeless refugee. Today he’s a chess champion, has scholarship offers from 3 elite private schools, has been invited to meet with former president Bill Clinton, and has been contacted by 3 film production companies wanting to make a movie about his story. Oh, and he’s no longer homeless! All of this was made possible because his family, his teacher, and himself believed in his talent for chess.

Bright Side is eager to share Tani’s story with you so that you can get inspired to make your talents shine.

He was only introduced to chess a bit more than a year ago, but today, Tanitoluwa Adewumi, or Tani as his friends call him, just became the winner of the New York’s State Chess Championship in his age group. No private coach, no intense chess summer camps — just him and his everyday practice on the floor of his homeless shelter.

After escaping the attacks on Christians and himself in Nigeria, Tani and his family flew to the US seeking asylum. They were provided with shelter and have been living in Manhattan for almost 2 years. But that didn’t stop Tani’s dad from looking for an education for his children. With his pastor’s help, the kids started attending a local school and that’s where it all began.

It was in his elementary school that his teacher, Russell Makofsky, taught his class how to play chess, and Tani became hooked on it. He was lucky to find out that Makofsky also managed a chess club at the school so Tani signed up. His teacher was glad to see him and even let him attend the sessions when he couldn’t pay the fees.

With only this preparation, he won the New York State Chess Championship a year later by defeating 73 of the state’s best players in grades K—3, including participants from elite private schools. “One year to get to this level, to climb a mountain and be the best of the best, without family resources,” Makofsky said, “I’ve never seen it.” Tani is gifted, no doubt he’s a prodigy. His success story has touched thousands of hearts, including former US president, Bill Clinton.

For months, this third grader spent every night on the floor of his shelter preparing for the chess championship and dreaming of one day becoming the world’s youngest grandmaster. Now he dreams about it on his own bed. After his victory, Makofsky set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for a home for Tani and his family. The cause raised over $250,000 which made it possible for Tani’s parents to afford a house, but they refused to spend it all on themselves.

After all the generosity they received from their church’s shelter, the Adewumi family decided to donate a portion of the money raised to build the newly founded Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation which aims to help African immigrants having a hard time in the United States as they once were. “Anybody who is coming from Africa who is in the position we were in, we will help them,” stated Mr. Adewumi. Their kindness is limitless.

Let this all remind us that our talents can take us places we could never have dreamed of, so take some time to assess your own. Do you think it takes more than just talent to succeed? Do you believe Tani is just lucky or a very hard worker? Share your theories in the comments!


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