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Micah Kandros

A Game Changed My Life

Tani's family came to America with nothing. A year later, he became a chess champ and everything changed.

As You Read: Think about how Tani might have felt when he arrived in the U.S. How did playing chess help him?

Jim McMahon/Mapman®

It would all come down to one move. Tani Adewumi took a deep breath and studied the game board. He was competing in the final round of a 2019 chess championship in New York. He had already beaten 72 opponents. Now he faced his last challenger— and made his final move.

Tani won! He was named the best in his age group. His life was about to change

It would all come down to one move. Tani Adewumi took a deep breath and studied the game board. He was competing in the last round of a 2019 chess championship in New York. He had already beaten 72 opponents. Now he faced his last challenger-—and made his final move.

Tani won! He was named the best in his age group. His life was about to change.

Escaping Danger

Less than two years earlier, Tani and his family had been living in Nigeria, a country in Africa. A violent group there was trying to take over the government. Deadly attacks were common. Tani’s family lived in fear. They knew they had to escape the danger. They fled Nigeria in 2017.

“We didn’t carry that much with us,” Tani says. “We just left for a new life.”

The family arrived in New York City in December 2017. Though Tani’s parents both got jobs, they couldn’t afford to rent a house or an apartment. So they moved into a homeless shelter. 

Tani and his brother, Austin, lived on a different floor than their parents. They didn’t have a TV or a fridge to store snacks.

“It was rough,” Tani says.

Less than two years earlier, Tani and his family had been living in Nigeria. It’s a country in Africa. A violent group there was trying to take over the government. Deadly attacks were common.

Tani’s family lived in fear. They knew they had to escape the danger. They left Nigeria in 2017.

“We didn’t carry that much with us,” Tani says. “We just left for a new life.”

The family arrived in New York City in December 2017. Tani’s parents both got jobs. But they couldn’t afford to rent a house or an apartment. They moved into a homeless shelter.

Tani and his brother lived on a different floor than their parents. They didn’t have a TV or a fridge to store snacks.

“It was rough,” Tani says.

Game Changer

Tani went to a new school. He didn’t know anyone, but he found a group to connect with: the chess club.

Tani met with the chess club on Thursdays. Every night, he would lie on the floor of the shelter and practice playing for hours.

At first, Tani had low scores. Still, he kept practicing. His hard work paid off. He took home the trophy at the championship last year.

“It was so big, I couldn’t carry it!” Tani remembers.

Tani went to a new school. He didn’t know anyone. But he found a group to connect with: the chess club.

Tani met with the chess club on Thursdays. Every night, he would lie on the floor of the shelter and practice.

Tani had low scores at first. Still, he kept practicing. His hard work paid off. He took home the trophy at the championship last year.

“It was so big, I couldn’t carry it!” Tani says.

A New Home

Tani wound up with more than just a trophy. When his story made the news, people around the world donated more than $200,000 to help the Adewumis.

But the family didn’t keep the money. Instead, they used it to help other refugees like them.

The family did keep one thing—a home. Someone paid for a year’s rent on an apartment. Tani finally had a new home to call his own!

Now Tani has a kitchen where his mom cooks his favorite meals and a laptop to practice chess on. He hopes to do well in this year’s championship. But last year’s win will be hard to top.

“It changed my life completely,” Tani says.

Tani wound up with more than just a trophy. His story made the news. Soon people donated more than $200,000 to help the Adewumis.

But the family didn’t keep the money. Instead, they used it to help other refugees like them.

The family did keep one thing—a home. Someone paid for a year’s rent on an apartment. Tani finally had a new home to call his own!

Now Tani has a kitchen where his mom cooks his favorite meals. He even has a laptop to practice chess on. He hopes to do well in this year’s championship. But last year’s win will be hard to top.

“It changed my life completely,” Tani says.

1. Why did Tani and his family leave Nigeria?

2. How did playing chess help Tani?

3. What is the difference between refugees and immigrants?

1. Why did Tani and his family leave Nigeria?

2. How did playing chess help Tani?

3. What is the difference between refugees and immigrants?

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