Remember the Homeless Chess Champion?

The Boy Is Now a Chess Master.

By Nicholas Kristof

May 8, 2021

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2021/05/10/opinion/sunday/10kristof-lead-inyt/merlin_152071254_9aa1e528-8d4a-4404-9318-e922394772ff-superJumbo.jpg?quality=90&auto=webp
Tanitoluwa Adewumi two years ago.Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

Once upon a time a 7-year-old refugee living in a homeless shelter sat down at a chess board in school and learned how to play. His school then agreed to his mom’s plea to waive fees for him to join the chess club.

The boy wasn’t any good at first. His initial chess rating was 105, barely above the lowest possible rating, 100.

But the boy, Tanitoluwa Adewumi — better known as Tani — enjoyed chess as an escape from the chaos of the homeless shelter, and his skills progressed in stunning fashion. After little more than a year, at age 8, he won the New York State chess championship for his age group, beating well-coached children from rich private schools.

I wrote a couple of columns about Tani at that time, and readers responded by donating more than $250,000 to a GoFundMe campaign for Tani’s family, along with a year of free housing. It was heartwarming to see Tani running around the family’s new apartment, but I wondered: Is this kid really that good?

It turns out he is. This month, as a fifth grader, Tani cruised through an in-person tournament in Connecticut open to advanced players of all ages and won every game. He emerged with a chess rating of 2223, making him a national master.

At 10 years 7 months and 28 days, Tani became the 28th-youngest person ever to become a chess master in the United States, according to John Hartmann of U.S. Chess. Tani had one of the fastest rises, for he began playing chess only at the relatively late age of 7. And he’s aiming higher.

“I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” he told me. “I want to have it when I’m 11 or 12.” The youngest person ever to become a grandmaster, Sergey Karjakin, achieved that honor at 12 years 7 months.

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2021/05/10/opinion/sunday/10kristof-second-inyt/08kristof-second-superJumbo.jpg?quality=90&auto=webp

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