Chess Prodigy, 12, Is Granted Asylum

Nigerian Tani Adewumi, 12, can now travel globally for chess competitions
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2022 12:37 PM CST
Chess Prodigy Gets Early Holiday Gift From the US
In this photo taken March 10, 2019, in Saratoga, New York, 8-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewumi poses with his trophy after winning the New York State Scholastic Championships tournament for kindergarten through third grade.   (Russell Makofsky via AP)

In 2019, 8-year-old Tanitoluwa "Tani" Adewumi defeated 73 of the best players in his age group at a New York state chess championship, breaking a record by doing so. Now, three years later, he "just won his biggest match" ever, per NPR: The now-12-year-old Nigerian boy and his family have officially been granted asylum by the United States. "We thank God for his mercy and the people of America for their kindness," Tani's dad, Kayode Adewumi, tells CBS News of the decision, which has been years in the making.

The devoutly Christian Adewumis—Tani, his mom and dad, and his 19-year-old brother—fled Nigeria for the US in 2017 to escape brutal Boko Haram forces, setting up temporary roots in a New York homeless shelter while trying to help Tani become the chess grandmaster he hopes to be. "It was a little bit scary," Kayode Adewumi tells the Washington Post of their early days here, when he worked first as a dishwasher, then as an Uber driver. But Tani kept playing chess, becoming a national master at age 10. His current status is International Chess Federation master.

But to become a grandmaster, Tani has to travel to competitions around the globe, which he couldn't do while his asylum application was still pending. Now, that path has been cleared—the family received their official asylum cards late last month. "The future is bright. It's full of color and good things," Tani tells the Post, adding that he's confident he'll one day be a grandmaster. Tani's father, who currently works as a real estate salesperson, tells CBS that the family's next joint goal is to become US citizens. They live in an apartment in New York City. (More uplifting news stories.)

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