After years of uncertainty, 12-year-old FM Tanitoluwa Adewumi and his family have officially been granted political asylum in the United States. The family fled Nigeria to the US in 2017 after Adewumi’s father was targeted by a religious extremist group, Boko Haram, for refusing to print a poster with anti-Western and violent Christian slogans at his print shop.
The family first applied for asylum in 2019 and were at risk of being returned to dangerous conditions in Nigeria until now. They are extremely grateful that the long process had a happy ending. The father shared in writing to Chess.com: “We felt so good and thank God for his mercy on us. Thanks to our attorneys and the Americans, they are wonderful people.”
The family decided to relocate after numerous aggressive visits from Boko Haram members, even after moving to another city in Nigeria. When the family first came to 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 PS 116. Adewumi soon joined the after school chess club, getting more opportunities to practice and compete, after having waived the fee at chess. coach Russell Makofsky in consideration of the family’s financial situation.
Just weeks in, Adewumi began studying hard on his own, solving up to 500 puzzles a week. Adewumi shares his experiences and the importance of chess in his autobiographical book, My name is Tani …And I believe in Virtue: “In the weeks after I get my (first) rating, I decide I’m going to spend as much time as I 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 make me very happy.”
Despite his challenging circumstances, Adewumi won the NY State Scholastic K-3 Championship just one year after competing in his first competition. Adewumi’s rapid success in the game drew attention to his family’s circumstances, and many offered support, enabling the family to move out of the homeless shelter and into their own apartment.
At the age of 10, Adewumi became a national master and, a few months later, earned the title of FIDE Master. He currently has three International Masters norms, having earned his third at the 2022 New York Fall Invitational in November, although he still needs to earn a fourth from the Swiss tournament. Adewumi aspires to be a grandmaster.
FM @TaniAdewumi He earned the third IM norm on Sunday after defeating GM Mark Paraguay in a major victory, last round game with the black pieces!
The star move was 18…Rxb2, a rook sacrifice to open the white king. pic.twitter.com/6mg4CnIAho
— ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) November 14, 2022
The young master hosts his own show, Tani Time, on ChessKid.com and has played against Chess.com’s best breakouts.
Finding refuge is also important to Adewumi’s ambitious goals in chess, as he is now able to travel internationally where many regular GM tournaments take place.