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12-Year-Old Master Tani Adewumi Granted Asylum in U.S.
Adewumi on his journey to the IM title in Charlotte. Photo: Maya Myers/Charlotte Chess Center.

12-Year-Old Master Tani Adewumi Granted Asylum in U.S.

NM_Vanessa
| 71 | Chess.com News

After years of uncertainty, 12-year-old FM Tanitoluwa Adewumi and his family have been officially granted political asylum in the United States. The family fled from Nigeria to the U.S. in 2017 after Adewumi's father became a target of a religious extremist group, Boko Haram, for refusing to print a poster with anti-Western and violent anti-Christian slogans at his print shop. 

The family first applied for asylum in 2019 and have faced the risk of being sent back to dangerous circumstances in Nigeria until now. They are immensely grateful that the long process has had a happy ending. The father shared in writing to Chess.com: "We felt so good and thank God for His mercy upon us. Thanks to our attorneys and the Americans, they are wonderful people."

The family decided to relocate after numerous aggressive visits from members of Boko Haram, even after moving to a different city in Nigeria. When the family first arrived in New York, they lived in a homeless shelter in Manhattan. During this time, Adewumi learned how to play chess from the head coach, NM Shawn Martinez, at his school P.S. 116. Adewumi soon joined the after-school chess club, gaining more opportunities to practice and compete, after the fee was waived by chess coach Russell Makofsky in consideration of the family's financial situation.

Just weeks into joining, Adewumi started studying heavily on his own, solving as many as 500 puzzles in a week. Adewumi shares his experiences and the significance of chess in his autobiographical book, My Name Is Tani ...And I Believe in Miracles: "In the weeks after I get my (first) rating, I decide that I'm going to spend as much time as I possibly can using Mom's phone and completing puzzles. Some weeks I complete four hundred or even five hundred puzzles ... The puzzles and the games and the chess club all make me super happy." 

My Name Is Tani ...And I Believe in Miracles by Tani Adewumi. Photo: Amazon.

Despite his challenging circumstances, Adewumi won the NY State Scholastic K-3 Championship just a year after competing in his first tournament. Adewumi’s rapid success in the game brought attention to his family’s circumstances, and many offered support, allowing the family to move out of the homeless shelter to their own apartment. 

At age 10, Adewumi became a national master and, a few months later, he earned the FIDE Master title. He currently has three International Master norms, after earning the third at the 2022 New York Fall Invitational in November, although he still needs to earn a fourth from a Swiss tournament. Adewumi aspires to become a grandmaster.

The young master hosts his own show, Tani Time, on ChessKid.com and has played against the very best on Chess.com. 

Gaining asylum has significance toward Adewumi's ambitious goals in chess too, as he can now travel internationally where many GM norm tournaments take place. 


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