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Tunde Onakoya Shatters Guinness World Record With Chess Marathon In Times Square
Tunde Onakoya in Times Square, New York City. Photo: Anthony Levin/Chess.com.

Tunde Onakoya Shatters Guinness World Record With Chess Marathon In Times Square

TarjeiJS
| 29 | Chess.com News

Intense vomiting, stomach pain, and extreme tiredness. That's just some of what Nigerian chess master Tunde Onakoya had to suffer through to break the Guinness World Record for the longest ever chess marathon. All for a noble cause.

At the iconic Times Square in New York, Onakoya overcame physical discomfort and fatigue to hit the extraordinary 60-hour mark of non-stop chess against NM Shawn Martinez on Saturday morning.

The previous Guinness World Record of 56 hours and 9 minutes was set by FM Sjur Ferkingstad and Hallvard Haug Flatebø in Haugesund, Norway in 2018.

Year Player Player Place
2024 60 hours Tunde Onakoya Shawn Martinez New York, U.S.A.
2018 56 hours, 9 minutes Sjur Ferkingstad Hallvard Haug Flatebø Haugesund, Norway
2015 40 hours, 40 minutes Magne Sagafos Joachim Berg-Jensen Stavanger, Norway
2010 40 hours, 20 minutes Daniel Häussler Philipp Bergner Ostfildern, Germany

Guinness is yet to comment publicly or confirm the record, a process that is said to take weeks, but the chess marathon was streamed live and drew considerable attention from major media outlets such as CNN, the New York Times, the BBC, and AP.

Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, Onakoya is the founder of Chess in Slums Africa, a non-profit organization whose goal is to use chess as a tool to help poor children read and write.

That has made the 29-year-old a role model for millions in Africa as he chases the target of raising $1 million for children's education across the continent. With hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, his noble cause has also drawn global attention.

As of Saturday, the charity had raised another $110,000 thanks to the chess marathon. "60 hours of chess played to fulfill the dreams of millions of children," Onakoya wrote on social media.

60 hours of chess played to fulfill the dreams of millions of children.

—Tunde Onakoya

Onakoya thanked Martinez, his opponent for most of the nearly three-day-long event. Other challengers also signed up and got the chance to play.

The historic feat was observed by hundreds of Nigerians and fans watching along, dancing, and entertaining with music on-site since the first move on Wednesday. They provided him with water and jollof rice, one of West Africa’s best-known dishes, according to AP.

“The support has been overwhelming from Nigerians in the U.S., global leaders, celebrities, and hundreds of passersby,” Taiwo Adeyemi, Onakoya’s manager, told AP.

According to the official rules of Guinness, Onakoya and his opponent could take five-minute breaks every hour, or choose to group them together for a longer 30-minute break every six hours.

Tunde Onakoya and Shawn Martinez with an extraordinary feat. Photo: Anthony Levin/Chess.com
Tunde Onakoya and Shawn Martinez with an extraordinary feat. Photo: Anthony Levin/Chess.com.

The attempt did face some obstacles along the way. The New York Post reported on Friday that Onakoya accidentally drank coffee with milk, despite him being lactose intolerant, which made him sick, in addition to the extreme tiredness.

The record attempt was organized by the charitable organization The Gift of Chess, which seeks to transform lives through chess and aims to donate one million chess sets globally by 2030. In March, Chess.com reported on the organization raising over $11,000 through a charity walk in New York. Onakoya sits as a board member of the organization that is run by Russell Makofsky.

In Nigeria's most populated city Lagos, the attempt was closely followed and broadcast across several locations, according to CNN. Onakoya was also congratulated by Nigeria's president.

The nation's Vice-President Kashim Shettisima posted on X/Twitter:

But will the record stand for long? The Norwegian chess podcast duo Askild Bryn and Odin Blikra Vea announced earlier this year that they intend to go for the 60-hour mark.

The event will take place in June during Norway Chess in Stavanger, Norway and will be covered live by Chess.com.

TarjeiJS
Tarjei J. Svensen

I am a chess journalist on Chess.com, the site you are playing on. Hope you enjoy my stories. Let me know if you have any tips on what I should write about!

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