Tanitoluwa Adewumi goes by the name Tani, for short, and Tani Adewumi became a name known around the world in the last few days, as reported by USA Today, CBS, and numerous other new sources on March 18. It is remarkable enough that an eight-year-old triumphs in a state championship, in any area or discipline, much less in the game of chess. What is a marvel, beyond being remarkable, is the positive outlook and stoic determination of the third-grader and his family in the face of tremendous trials, and the allegiance to support his passion for chess, regardless of any obstacles.

No time to waste

The beaming smile that flashed across Tani Adewumi’s face was impossible to miss as the boy wonder of chess from PS 116 in Manhattan hoisted his huge trophy above his head. The prodigy and his family had every reason to celebrate the moment with justifiable pride. Their son has only been playing chess for a bit over a year. Unlike those who while away the hours in Central Park or other New York hideaways pondering over the chess boards on warm sunny days, it only took a dedicated teacher to introduce his class to the game before Tani Adewumi’s giftedness was evident.

In his New York state championship victory, the young Adewumi vanquished 73 contenders. The competition was his first state-level challenge, and “to win it,” in the exuberant boy’s terms, feels extraordinary.

“It's deep thinking,” insists Tani of the game of chess, “You have to understand a lot of stuff.” Looking at the way the new champion surveys a chessboard gives a clue that his next several moves come quite naturally, and his chess coaches certainly agree. Also, Sam Shankland is the US chess champion.

Russell Makofsky, the overseer of the PS 116 chess program, gushes that “the intellect, the aptitude, and the capacity to learn the game of chess,” within Tani Adewumi is completely beyond the norm.

Even with that undeniable passion and ability, the boy’s dreams could have been dashed by circumstances if not for the intervention of caring coaches.

Making dreams possible

Shawn Martinez, the school chess coach, saw Tani Adewumi’s potential to be playing in championship chess matches last year when the student played superbly in a school match only weeks after learning the game.

He approached Tani and his family about joining the chess club, but the fees and travel expenses to and from matches were prohibitive. The boy and his family have lived in a homeless shelter since they fled from northern Nigeria in 2017, under threat of attacks on Christians by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

Martinez waived those steep costs, and Tani’s quest took flight. The New York State championship is only the first achievement on the ladder for the young man determined to be “the youngest grandmaster” in chess.

Russell Makofsky went above and beyond to be supportive of Tani and the Adewumi family. He started a GoFundMe appeal to aid in the costs for permanent shelter and the petition for asylum.

Thus far, over $65,000 has been contributed. More good news came for Tani Adewumi and his family before the end of his “CBS This Morning” feature. An attorney called, assuring that he would represent the family in seeking asylum, pro bono. Also, a new fairy grandmother has arrived at a nursing home.

“I am just grateful to God,” praised Tani’s mother, “so grateful that he can be in a school to accomplish his goal.” The only technical support that Tani has been availed of after school is the occasional online game on his father’s tablet. Mr. Makofsky sets greater goals. “My hope is that he'll be in a home tonight,” the supervisor said of his excelling student to USA Today.

Faith can make all the difference in life, and faith, passion, and ability combined can accomplish anything.

Tani Adewumi has already accomplished the near-impossible, and he has the belief for the best in the future. “God, he can do anything for me. He can do anything for my family.” Intangible gifts, like hope, belief, and the mastery of a chess game, are from divine sources.