At 10 years old, Tanitoluwa Adewumi just became one of the youngest chess masters in the United States — and he's not done yet. He says he hopes to become the world's youngest grandmaster.



Our next move is to the game of chess and the youngest national chess master. Tani Adewumi is 10 years old. He lives in New York. He's only been playing chess for about three years. When he started, he and his family were living in a homeless shelter. They'd fled religious persecution in Nigeria. We first brought you Tani's story last year after he won the New York State Chess Championship. We spoke with the new national chess master again today and asked, how often does he practice?

TANITOLUWA ADEWUMI: I do probably every day for, like, around 10, 11 hours.

KELLY: Ten, 11 hours?

ADEWUMI: Like, nine, 10 - yes. Like, nine, eight - seven, eight, 10 - nine, 10, 11 hours.

KELLY: All right. Now I'm trying to count because you must be in school - how many hours a day? - like, six, seven hours.

ADEWUMI: 8:30 to 2 o'clock.

KELLY: And then when do you start practicing chess?

ADEWUMI: After that.

KELLY: And do you sleep (laughter)?


KELLY: It doesn't sound like there's much time. All right. Well, talk to me about becoming a national chess master. Talk about the day it actually happened. Just how did it unfold?

ADEWUMI: I was very happy that I won and that I got the title. I was very happy with myself. I really loved that I finally got it.

KELLY: How would you describe yourself as a player?

ADEWUMI: Probably aggressive. And I like to, like, sometimes be calm.

KELLY: Yeah.

ADEWUMI: I'll say myself as a every type kind of person.

KELLY: I know when I play chess, I'm always trying to think one move, maybe two moves ahead. How many moves ahead are you planning?

ADEWUMI: It depends on the position, but, like, on normal position, I could do up to 20 or 10 moves.

KELLY: Twenty moves in advance. And you're thinking about every piece...


KELLY: ...That many moves in advance. How do you keep that straight in your head?

ADEWUMI: I don't know. It's a thing that when you master, like, it just keeps coming back.

KELLY: Favorite person you've ever played?

ADEWUMI: I guess Hikaru Nakamura is my favorite person I've played.

KELLY: And I don't know who that is. Tell me.

ADEWUMI: He's a grandmaster, a very strong one. He's on the top of the rankings.

KELLY: What was that like to play him?

ADEWUMI: It felt really good, and it was a good experience for me.

KELLY: Who won?


KELLY: For now.


KELLY: (Laughter) Until your comeback match. When you lose, which I guess doesn't happen very often these days, but what is that like?

ADEWUMI: I say to myself that I never lose, that I only learn because when you lose, you have to make a mistake to lose that game. So you learn from that mistake, and so you learn. So losing is a way of winning for yourself.

KELLY: Aside from chess, I know the last time we had you on NPR, you had just won the New York State Championship. And your life was totally changing because when you started all this, your family had relatively recently arrived in America. Y'all were living in a shelter. What is life like now for you and your family?

ADEWUMI: It's better, I would say. But I thank God for everything that he's done for our family.

KELLY: Is there anybody your age who can remotely keep up with you on the chessboard, or are you mostly playing grown-ups at this point?

ADEWUMI: Mostly grown-ups at this point.

KELLY: It doesn't seem like it leaves a lot of time to be a kid, to run around on the playground.

ADEWUMI: No, it doesn't.

KELLY: Oh. But this is the life you've chosen, and you sound happy with it.


KELLY: Well, may I say - I'm sure I'm not the first, and it doesn't sound like I will be the last, but congratulations.

ADEWUMI: Thank you.

KELLY: That is Tani Adewumi - 10 years old, talking about just becoming the youngest national chess master.