When you think of a chess champion, you generally picture a serious gentleman in a suit and tie, stroking his beard while he stares at the board, contemplating his next move.

New York’s newest champ defies all those categories — he’s an 8-year-old smiling Nigerian refugee who lives in a Manhattan homeless shelter with his family.

Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi was crowned New York State’s chess champion in the kindergarten through third-grade age group last week.

Coaches at the tournament were dazzled by Tani’s aggressive style and stunned to find out that he’s been playing chess for about a year, learning the game at public school.

He and his family, including an older brother, fled Nigeria in 2017 to escape Boko Haram terror threats against Christians. 

Tani’s father works two jobs and his mother is hoping to find work as a home health aide so the family can move out of the homeless shelter into their own place.

Then Tani can have his own room to store his seven chess trophies, including one that is almost as big as he is.

His next goal is a national championship for elementary school students in May. He said his ultimate goal is to become the world’s youngest grandmaster.


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