Tani Adewumi began taking chess lessons at age 5, motivated by a fascination with the game. As a parent trying to help his son, Karina Adewumi recognized something special in Tani, whose male counterpart in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan country, has also played competitively.
Before the game, Karina was a sports personality, winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1993. But she recently realized she had an ideal role model in an unlikely place: mom. Karina saw herself in Tani and worked with chess coaches from Columbia University to convince the prodigy to move to New York, according to a report in The New York Times.
“It was like having a daughter,” Karina said. “The only difference is that I never had a daughter.”
Karina’s newfound devotion to the game was rewarded. Tani was the USA’s youngest-ever chess grandmaster and the youngest-ever Junior Grandmaster. But Tani’s journey to chess glory was long and torturous, from hard-to-please chess teachers at first to a childhood dominated by nothing but chess.
Karina, who has two brothers and a sister, knew immediately that she’d make an excellent chess mom. Her own father, a former U.S. National Chess Champion, and two uncles shared an intense fascination with the game that Karina says she bonded with as a young girl.
The Adewus are from Azerbaijan. Karina was once a jet-setting, supermodel type, but life slowed down as she became a mother. While she always loved traveling, everything became reordered, and her focus on the family focused on learning how to bond with her girls and daughters-in-law.
Tani began playing chess at age 5, but parents could not convince Karina to let him continue. Instead of having a loving family or dating, Karina spent so much time making chess videos to motivate Tani to practice.
Karina was having a hard time coming to terms with not being able to continue her career, even as a chess mom. Eventually, the young Karina walked away from the game after several rounds of U.S. Chess Championships, opting instead to focus on parenting and home life.
Eventually, Karina’s trip to school one day helped Tani discover that he had mastered games. Tani became a chess prodigy overnight, bringing his life into another direction. He now lives in New York City with his family, happy to be training chess players of all ages.
To learn more about the superwoman mom behind this chess prodigy, watch the full interview below:
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