By Emily Drooby
Ten-year-old Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi is a national chess master and the 28th youngest person to hold the title.
“Every single day, I always play chess,” Tani said. “If I don’t play chess on that day, that’s not a normal day.”
While in the two years that he’s been playing, the game has remained the same, but where he played it is, has changed over time.
The family are refugees from Nigeria. In 2016, Boko Haram wanted Tani’s father, Kayode, to help them spread anti-Christian propaganda. The devout Christian refused and so the Islamist terrorist group started threatening the family.
It wasn’t the first time his family faced terror threats. According to the charity Open Doors USA, more Christians are murdered for their faith in Nigeria than any other country.
“The persecution, the killing, the kidnapping, is going on rapidly in Nigeria,” Kayode said.
The family fled for their lives, which was a difficult but necessary decision.
“It’s not easy to leave your people behind,” explained Kayode.
The family made their way to the U.S. and eventually to New York City.
“When we got to America,’ Tani recalled, “we were more safe.”
In America, at his public school, was where Tani was first exposed to the game of chess. His family was living in a homeless shelter. So he worked very hard, practicing for hours a day.
“I focused on the game a lot, and I didn’t really have anything to do, so I had to put my heart into chess,” Tani said.
The tenacity paid off and the world began to notice. He became a national sensation. There’s even a book about his life.
With the help of his fans and the game, the family now has a home of their own. It’s a place where they can practice chess and their faith safe from persecution.
“We are happy and we are very grateful to God and the people,” explained Kayode. “The whole world rallied around us.”
Tani’s next goal is to become the youngest grandmaster ever. The current person to hold that title got it at 12 years and seven months old.
You can read more about Tani’s incredible life story in his book: “My Name Is Tani… And I Believe in Miracles”