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  In the heart of New York’s iconic Times Square, a tale of triumph unfolded as Tunde Onakoya hailed as Nigeria’s latest sensation, embarked on a journey destined to etch his name in the annals of history. From the bustling streets of Lagos to the world stage, his odyssey was one of unwavering resilience and unyielding determination.
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With the fervour of a champion, Onakoya, founder of Chess in Slums Africa (CIS), set out to shatter the confines of possibility. His quest was to conquer the Guinness World Records for the longest chess marathon. Commencing on a crisp April morning, the 17th of the month marked the genesis of his epic endeavour. With the clock ticking, he pledged to endure 58 gruelling hours of non-stop play, a feat that would test his skill and spirit. As the hours melded into days, Onakoya’s resolve remained unbroken. Surpassing the 58-hour mark, he forged ahead, pushing the boundaries of his endurance. It was at 7:39 pm EST, amidst the luminous glow of Times Square, that he surpassed his initial goal, extending the marathon to an awe-inspiring 60 hours. Yet, his quest was not solely for personal glory. Beneath the surface of his remarkable achievement lay a deeper purpose – a pledge to uplift the lives of countless others. Through Chess in Slums Africa, Onakoya sought to ignite a spark of hope in the hearts of the marginalised youth of Lagos. With every move on the board, he envisioned a brighter future for the next generation, a future where barriers crumbled beneath the weight of possibility. As the final game drew to a close, Onakoya emerged victorious, not just in the realm of chess but in the realm of humanity. His efforts, coupled with the generosity of donors, promised to pave the way for a new era of opportunity. With $1 million pledged towards chess education, his legacy would transcend the confines of a mere record, leaving an indelible mark on the world for generations to come. Onakoya’s remarkable feat did not go unnoticed, capturing the gaze of millions far and wide. Among those drawn to his extraordinary achievement were luminaries of the Nigerian entertainment and political spheres, including music mogul Davido, celebrated singer Adekunle Gold, and presidential aspirant Omoyele Sowore, among others. The reverberations of Onakoya’s triumph echoed beyond the borders of Nigeria, resonating with global audiences. According to the BBC, the previous record, etched in the annals of Guinness World Records, stood at 56 hours, nine minutes, and 37 seconds, a milestone set by Norwegian duo Hallvard Haug Flatebø and Sjur Ferkingstad in 2018. Yet, in the bustling heart of Times Square, Onakoya had surpassed this mark, etching his name in the hallowed halls of history with an awe-inspiring 60-hour display of resilience and mastery.
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Early Life

Tunde Onakoya’s journey from the gritty streets of Isale Odo in Ikorodu, Lagos, to the dazzling lights of Times Square in New York City is a testament to the power of resilience and determination. Born on 6 October 1994 (age 29) in Ikorodu, Lagos, Tunde Onakoya was raised amid adversity. He discovered his passion for chess in a humble barber’s shop, where the intricacies of the game became his refuge from the harsh realities of his surroundings. Born to a father who drove buses for a living and a mother who toiled as a cleaner to secure his education, Onakoya’s path to success was paved with sacrifice and perseverance. Even his father’s willingness to sell his vehicle to fund his WAEC exams underscored the depths of their commitment to his future.

Founding and Building Chess in Slums Africa

In September 2018, a dedicated group of volunteers, led by Tunde Onakoya, established Chess in Slums Africa, a non-profit organization with a unique mission. They aim to empower underprivileged youth by teaching them the strategic game of chess. Recognizing chess’s potential as an educational tool, Chess in Slums Africa partnered with in September 2020. This collaboration brought chess instruction into classrooms, after-school clubs, and even homes, providing families with a fun and enriching activity. Their hard work has demonstrably improved the lives of young people. By June 2021, Chess in Slums Africa had not only trained over 200 children but also secured lifelong scholarships for 20 deserving students. This commitment to long-term success sets them apart. One particularly inspiring story is that of Ferdinand, a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. In May 2021, Ferdinand’s talent and determination shone through as he emerged victorious in a chess tournament held in Makoko. His exceptional achievement didn’t go unnoticed. Ferdinand was later invited to meet and even compete against Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos State. As Onakoya’s fame spread, so too did the impact of his work. Through Chess in Slums Africa, he transformed the lives of over a thousand disadvantaged children, offering them not just a chance to learn chess but also access to education and opportunities previously beyond their reach. From the bustling streets of Lagos to the serene waters of Makoko, his students defied the odds, triumphing in tournaments and exhibitions, their victories a testament to the transformative power of his vision. On the precipice of global acclaim, Onakoya’s legacy extended beyond the confines of Nigeria. His involvement with organizations like The Gift of Chess facilitated the exchange of knowledge and resources, bridging the gap between continents and cultures. And so, it was fitting that he chose the vibrant metropolis of New York City to make history, breaking records and barriers alike with his indomitable spirit.
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As the chess pieces fell into place in Times Square, Tunde Onakoya stood as a beacon of hope and inspiration, a reminder that greatness knows no bounds and that from the humblest of beginnings, extraordinary journeys can unfold.
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This article was first published on 20th April 2024


Nnaemeka is an academic scholar with a degree in History and International Studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is also a creative writer, content creator, storyteller, and social analyst.

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