Written by Staff Writer
Tani Adewumi’s life has so far been dominated by chess. In 2010, he became the youngest winner of the Japan Grand Chess Tournament, and a year later he won a tournament in South Korea when he was 10 years old.
Adewumi is one of the youngest male grand masters in history, and has competed and won tournaments with players as old as 45. In the past 10 years, he has played in professional tournaments including the Moscow Olympiad, the United States Chess Grand Prix, Asia’s Chess Olympiad and the World Youth Championships in Buenos Aires.
While it is almost impossible to know how many tournaments he has won, his story is noteworthy given that his success has been possible without funding.
Adewumi and his family, and all eight of his siblings, are very small. It is also difficult to believe that his parents’ husband is Adelina Engratė, whom he had four years before.
An Afghan refugee in the 1970s, Engratė now lives in a Manila apartment with his 10 children.
He told CNN how he came to join the family.
“I came into this world. When my husband heard it would be better if we merged our families, it was never a hard choice for him,” he said.
It is a story with incredible depth. Here’s what we know:
He received help from Australian woman
Adewumi’s parents taught him to play chess. At the age of five, he entered the Kazakhstan World Chess Tournament and won, going on to win five gold medals.
His parents taught him to play chess. At the age of five, he entered the Kazakhstan World Chess Tournament and won, going on to win five gold medals. Credit: courtesy of iota capital base building company
Four years later, Engratė lost everything in a landslide and took Adewumi and his siblings into his Manila apartment, getting no job, no money or special things.
“We had no place to go, and I couldn’t find any place with child care and living expenses,” he said.
“We were all living under a huge space that was destroyed — that has become the family gym and kitchen. We were all very worried about not having a place to live.”
What I realized while living under those conditions was that I had to rely on help from some very special people.”
During this time, he was already acting differently, meeting strangers, picking up gym weights to cook himself, and even committing crimes like stealing.
When he met Shakilla Bennetta, a young Filipino woman living in Tarlac, he spoke to her about her own experiences of losing everything during the Philippines’ devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan.
“I shared about my experiences and how I felt trapped. I had nowhere to go, it was an ordeal for me, and I felt like I could connect with her, it was like we could understand each other and speak the same language,” he said.
Shakilla Bennetta, an Afghan refugee living in Tarlac. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/L’Oreal Paris/CNN
A translator translated his story. Adewumi said: “We have a good connection. Our hearts are the same.”
At the time, Bennetta had never seen a chess board in her life, but she told CNN that she was “super excited” by his story and helped him in a big way.
“I made sure he had the go-ahead with the university for university study and then I introduced him to the social services in Tarlac to speak to about the possibility to get a job,” Bennetta said.
“I had a vet or a local market director who was working there and introduced him. I also contacted administrators in area schools and helped to get permission from the school with my friend and consultant, an American expat.”
She later helped Adewumi with a scholarship to Manila’s Regent University, where he went on to study a bachelor’s degree in sports management.
And, looking back at the formative years, he says that the support from Bennetta has been a “great help” for him.
“What I realized while living under those conditions was that I had to rely on help from some very special people,” he said.
It is an extraordinary story.