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Editorials, Sports

Meet Tunde Onakoya, the Nigerian chess master who broke a world record

Nigerian chess master Tunde Onakoya breaks the 60-hour chess marathon record to raise funds and awareness for his foundation, Chess in Slums Africa.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 20th April 2024

Tunde Onakoya, a chess master from Nigeria, has become a beacon of hope for underprivileged children across Africa. Not only did he set a 60-hour chess marathon world record in New York’s Times Square, but he did so to raise awareness and funds for his foundation, Chess in Slums Africa.


Onakoya’s journey with chess began in the unlikeliest of places – a barber shop in the slums of Ikorodu, Lagos. Struggling to afford schooling, he dropped out at 10 years old. But chess became his saving grace. The game, as Onakoya himself said, “gave me an identity, an intellectual one,” propelling him to academic heights and scholarships.



Fueled by his own experience, Onakoya founded Chess in Slums Africa in 2018. The volunteer-driven organization uses chess as a tool to empower youngsters in impoverished communities. “The tragedy of poverty is not just not having money,” Onakoya explains, “but not having access, completely removed from the systems, education, the rule of law.”


Through Chess in Slums Africa, Onakoya has reached over a thousand children in 11 African countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. The impact is undeniable – 20 children have even secured lifelong scholarships.



Onakoya’s mission goes beyond his foundation. He is a board member of The Gift of Chess, a New York-based non-profit distributing chessboards to African schools. “Beyond the four walls of a classroom,” Onakoya believes, “education is the capacity for thoughts, for critical thoughts, for independent thinking and for problem-solving.”


Tunde Onakoya, the 30-year-old grandmaster, may be ranked 24th in Nigeria and 25,863rd globally. But his influence stretches far beyond the chessboard. He is an inspiration, proving that even from the most challenging beginnings, one can change the lives of many.


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