After years of uncertainty, 12-year-old FM Tanitolua 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 the 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 so far faced the risk of being returned to dangerous situations in Nigeria. He is immensely grateful that the long process has a happy ending. The father wrote to Chess.com and shared: “We are very good and thank God for having mercy on us. Thank you to our lawyers and the Americans, they are wonderful people.”
Even after moving to another city in Nigeria, the family decided to relocate after several aggressive visits from members of Boko Haram. When the family first came to New York, they lived in a homeless shelter in Manhattan. During this time, Adewumi learned to play chess from NM Shawn Martinez, the head coach at his school PS 116. Adewumi soon joined an after-school chess club, getting more opportunities to practice and compete after the fee was waived by Chess. Coach Russell Makofsky considered the family’s financial situation.
Within weeks of joining, Adewumi began studying more on his own, solving 500 puzzles in a week. Adewumi shared his experiences and the importance of chess in his autobiographical book, My name is Tani… and I believe in miracles: “The weeks after I get my (first) rating, I decide I’m going to spend as much time as possible using Mom’s phone and completing puzzles. Some weeks I complete four or five hundred puzzles . . . puzzles and games and chess club all 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 tournament. Adewumi’s rapid success in the game brought attention to his family’s circumstances and many others offered support, allowing the family to move out of a homeless shelter and into their own apartment.
At the age of 10, Adewumi became a National Master and a few months later he received the title of FIDE Master. He currently has three International Masters titles after finishing third at the 2022 New York Fall Invitational in November, although he needs to earn a fourth from the Swiss tournament. Adevumi’s desire to become a Grand Master.
FM @Tani Adewumi A must-win with black pieces, earning a third IM norm on Sunday after defeating GM Marc Paraguay in the last round match!
The star move was 18…Rxb2, a rook sacrifice to open up the white king. pic.twitter.com/6mg4CnIAho
– ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) November 14, 2022
The young master hosts his own show, Tanny Time, on ChessKid.com and has played against the best on Chess.com.
Having recourse to Adewumi’s ambitious goals in chess is significant, as he can now travel internationally to many GM Norm tournaments.