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Chess with Tani

A Christian family that fled Boko Haram and lives in a New York homeless shelter has captivated the city, thanks to a chess-playing 8-year-old

Chess with Tani

Tanitoluwa Adewumi poses with his trophy (Russell Makofsky via AP)

A New York moment: 

Please, steel yourself. An 8-year-old boy, the son of devout Christian parents who recently fled Boko Haram in Nigeria, just won the state chess championship in New York for his age group. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has the full, incredible story. 

Tanitoluwa Adewumi, or “Tani,” started playing chess just a year ago, and his rating is already a 1587. I’ve covered New York’s chess world a little and know some young elite players here, and that is a remarkable rating for someone without a private coach or much training to speak of. It gets more remarkable: He won the championship while living in a homeless shelter with his father (who works two jobs), mother (who is working to become a home health aide), and brother. 

His family is awaiting a ruling on a request for refugee status. The threats that the boy’s family escaped in Nigeria are real: We reported in Globe Trot how at least 120 people have been killed and homes destroyed over the last few weeks in Christian parts of northern Nigeria, where this boy is from.

Kristof promoted a GoFundMe page from the chess coach at Tani’s public school to raise $25,000 for the family’s housing needs. So far the page has raised over $185,000, and the coach said the family is considering how to use the outpouring for Tani’s education and for the family’s immigration costs. Kudos to Kristof for telling this story, and now I hope Tani can handle all the American attention on him!

Worth your time:

A good, challenging read from Esau McCaulley, an Anglican Church in North America priest and African-American, about the United Methodist Church’s vote on marriage.

“The Methodists eventually allowed African voices to have a full hearing while my own communion has managed, much to our shame, to stifle and distort the voices of black and brown Anglicans,” he wrote.

To conservative evangelicals, he adds: “The North American church needs to listen to the whole of the Black Church’s witness, not simply the parts that fit with their agenda. The same Scriptures and orthodoxy that compel us to denounce white supremacy also compel us to speak about the sanctity of those black and brown babies in the womb.”

This week I learned: 

The word “pettifogging” means placing an undue emphasis on petty details. I’ll have to see how I can work it into an article sometime. 

A court case you might not know about: 

A New Jersey couple has faced court summonses over their dogs’ excessive barking, and now the town where they live is considering an ordinance imposing fines on owners of dogs who bark for long periods of time. Maybe this sounds ridiculous, but especially in a city like New York where people all live in close proximity to each other, a dog barking without ceasing for hours is enough to make you crazy. I’ve lived it. 

Culture I am consuming: 

Apollo 11, a second time—it’s that good! This time I saw it with my parents, who lived through the moon landing, and it was special to hear their stories of watching it all. 

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at


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  • MamaC
    Posted: Thu, 03/28/2019 04:55 pm

    I am so thankful that WORLD has an email to the Web Editor for reporting of typos and grammatical or spelling errors. Whenever I was tempted to write a public comment to point out one of those blunders for correction, I always felt that I could be accused of pettifogging. Thank you for giving me a name for it!