Things to Know About the Chess Maestro in Nigeria

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Movies such as the 2016 film “Queen of Katwe,” depicts the true story of a young girl from rural Uganda whose life changed when she discovered chess, and the 2020 mini-drama series “The Queen’s Gambit,” have garnered worldwide acclaim. The former starred Lupita Nyong’o and Nigeria’s David Oyelowo, while the latter delves into the captivating world of chess.

Chess stands out among board games, eschewing luck in favor of rewarding strategic prowess. Its allure has attracted Hollywood’s attention like no other board game before.

With the game of chess, Tunde Onakoya’s name has become synonymous with brilliance in Nigeria and beyond. His recent conquest of the Guinness World Record for the longest chess marathon cemented his place as a global icon of the game. But Tunde Onakoya is more than just a master strategist on the 64-square battlefield. Here, we delve deeper, exploring 10 personal dimensions that paint a richer picture of this remarkable young man:

Education Fueling Passion:  Despite facing financial limitations early on, Tunde’s thirst for knowledge never dwindled.  He managed to complete his primary education and later obtained a diploma in computer science at Yaba College of Technology.  This educational background, coupled with his natural talent, equipped him with the tools to excel in both chess and his professional pursuits.

The Spark of Genius (Age 8):  Chess wasn’t just a game for Tunde; it was a captivating world he discovered at the tender age of eight. While other children chased after toys and cartoons, Tunde found himself mesmerized by the intricate dance of black and white squares.

A Father’s Reservations:  Interestingly, Tunde’s initial foray into chess wasn’t met with immediate support from his father.  His father, perhaps favoring a more traditional academic path, initially discouraged his son’s passion. However, Tunde’s unwavering dedication ultimately won him over, proving that following your passion can lead to unexpected victories.


A Natural Prodigy:  Tunde possessed an innate talent for chess that became evident early on.  He grasped complex strategies with remarkable ease and developed a keen eye for the board. This natural aptitude, coupled with his relentless dedication, propelled him to dominate local and national competitions.


Breaking Barriers, Inspiring Change:  Tunde transcends the role of a chess player; he’s a role model for young Nigerians, particularly those from underprivileged backgrounds. His story demonstrates that with hard work and self-belief, individuals can achieve excellence on a global stage, regardless of their socioeconomic background.


“Chess in Slums Africa”: A Mission Beyond the Board:  Tunde’s impact extends far beyond the confines of the chessboard. He is the founder of “Chess in Slums Africa,” an initiative that uses chess as a tool for social development and empowerment in underserved communities. This project showcases his deep commitment to giving back and using his skills to uplift others.


The Master of Many Moves:  Tunde’s prowess isn’t limited to single-opponent games. He excels in simultaneous exhibitions, where he takes on multiple opponents at once. This mastery showcases his exceptional memory, strategic thinking, and ability to manage pressure under intense situations.


Global Recognition: A Shining Star:  Tunde’s achievements haven’t gone unnoticed. He has featured in various media outlets, becoming a source of inspiration for aspiring chess players worldwide. His story highlights the power of dedication and the ability of a single individual to capture the world’s attention.


The 60-Hour Challenge: Pushing the Limits:  In April 2024, Tunde embarked on a historic journey – a grueling 60-hour chess marathon in the heart of New York City’s Times Square. His mission was twofold: to break the world record for the longest chess marathon and raise $1 million for children’s education in Africa.


Beyond Physical Limits:  The 60-hour marathon wasn’t just about breaking a record; it was a test of physical and mental endurance. Tunde pushed himself to his limits, battling fatigue and maintaining razor-sharp focus for an unimaginable length of time.


Moments of Doubt – The Human Side of the Champion:  During the marathon, Tunde wasn’t immune to moments of doubt and exhaustion. However, the unwavering support from his fans in Nigeria and around the world, including celebrities and prominent figures, fueled his determination to keep going. This experience highlights the importance of a strong support system in achieving one’s goals.

Tunde Onakoya’s story is far from over.  His journey continues to inspire, his initiatives continue to empower, and his impact on the world stage is only just beginning.  He is a true champion, both on the chessboard and in the fight for a better future for all.

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