The Newest Chess Master in the Country is a 10 Year Old Black Boy Who Was Once Homeless

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Tani Adewumi discovered his affinity for chess while living in a homeless shelter in Manhattan. Three years later, at 10 years of age, he now the country’s newest national chess master.

At the Fairfield County Chess Club Championship tournament in Connecticut on May 1, Tani won all four of his matches, bumping his chess rating up to 2223 and making him the 28th youngest person to become a chess master, according to US Chess.

“I was very happy that I won and that I got the title,” he says, “I really love that I finally got it.”

Now, Adewumi practices chess “every day” after school for “10, 11 hours” — and still manages to get some sleep.

His hours of practice have paid off. As a chess player, he describes himself as a bit of an every man, “aggressive” or “calm” when he needs to be, and always thinking ahead.

“On a normal position, I can do up to 20 moves [in advance]”, he says. Keeping all of the pieces straight in his head might seem like a challenge but Adewumi says it’s a skill that “when you master, it just keeps coming back.”

Adewumi competes against other chess players at all levels. His favorite match was against Hikaru Nakamura. Nakamura won that match. But Adewumi takes each loss in stride — and there’s always the possibility of a comeback.

“I say to myself that I never lose, that I only learn,” he says. “Because when you lose, you have to make a mistake to lose that game. So you learn from that mistake, and so you learn [overall]. So losing is the way of winning for yourself.”

Tani and his family have since moved out of the shelter and he’s written a book about his life called My Name Is Tani . . . and I Believe in Miracles. Three film companies have competed for the rights to his story and the book has been optioned for a Trevor Noah-produced film adaptation with a script by The Pursuit of Happyness screenwriter Steven Conrad.

Tony O. Lawson


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