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12-year-old Nigerian chess champion granted asylum in US



Tanitoluwa Adewunmi chess champion
Tanitoluwa Adewunmi

Nigerian Twelve years old chess champion, Tanitoluwa Adewumi, and his family have been granted asylum by the government of the United States of America.

Adewumi, who rose to sudden stardom at age 8, he beat 73 opponents and clinched the New York state chess championship for his division in 2019, was living with his family in a homeless shelter.

The Adewumis, comprising Tanitoluwa, his parents, and his older brother, arrived in New York after fleeing Nigeria in 2017 due to fear of terror attacks from Boko Haram.

They had sought religious asylum after the family arrived in the country.


WashingtonPost reported on Wednesday that the US officially granted the family asylum.

Asylum refers to protection or safety given by a government to people who have been forced to leave their home countries for their safety or because of war.

“We feel so relieved. Everybody is so happy,” said Tani’s father, Kayode Adewumi.

Tani’s chess career had been somewhat stalled because of his pending asylum application, as he hadn’t been able to travel to tournaments abroad, impeding his ability to reach his ultimate goal of becoming a Chess Grandmaster.

“It feels amazing, because it’s been such a long journey,” said Tani, whose older brother showed him a game similar to chess, and he quickly mastered chess when he learned how to play in elementary school. “I’m just grateful that we’ve gotten this opportunity.”


Matthew Ingber, part of the legal team that worked pro bono on the Adewumi family’s asylum case, said he first learned about Tani’s situation in the summer of 2021.

“It was such a compelling story,” said Ingber, a managing partner at Mayer Brown’s New York office.

Ingber assembled a team from Mayer Brown to work on the case, including lawyers Justin Perkins and Christopher Mikesh.

Despite Tani’s unexpected fame, life has been far from easy for his family — including his parents, Kayode and Oluwatoyin Adewumi, and his brother, Adesina Austin, 19.

The asylum process, the Adewumis learned, can be long and arduous — and sometimes frightening.


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