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Nigerian Chess Champion Tunde Onakoya Breaks World Record in 60-Hour Times Square Marathon

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Tunde Onakoya a Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate has made history by breaking the record for the longest chess marathon, playing continuously for an extraordinary 60 hours in the bustling heart of New York City’s Times Square.

Onakoya’s remarkable feat, which took place from Friday, April 19 to the early hours of Saturday morning, surpassed the previous record of 56 hours, 9 minutes, and 37 seconds set in 2018. While the Guinness World Record organization has yet to officially confirm Onakoya’s achievement, many Nigerians already consider the 29-year-old a national hero.

Onakoya’s marathon was not just about setting a new record; it was also about making a difference. He aimed to raise $1 million for his charity, Chess in Slums Africa, which he founded in 2018. The organization’s goal is to educate 1 million children in slum communities across Africa.

Playing against US chess champion Shawn Martinez, Onakoya’s marathon was fueled by Nigerian jollof rice, Afrobeats music, and messages of support from around the world. Despite the physical and mental challenges, Onakoya’s determination and commitment never wavered. He took to X, formerly known as Twitter, during his attempt, stating,

“We’re pushing to 60 hours, guys. We’re not stopping yet. Let’s keep going. We have a fundraising goal to meet for the education of African children around the world. This is our why – the reason we are doing this.”

Onakoya’s achievement drew widespread attention in Nigeria, with President Bola Tinubu and other prominent figures congratulating him for his remarkable accomplishment. Tinubu praised Onakoya for “setting a new world chess record and sounding the gong of Nigeria’s resilience, self-belief, and ingenuity at the square of global acclaim,” underscoring the significance of his efforts in promoting education and opportunity for African children.

This is not the first time Onakoya has captured the global chess community’s attention. In February, he impressed audiences at the Digital–Life – Design conference in Berlin by playing simultaneous matches against 10 players, including distinguished Bulgarian scientist and politician Solomon Passy.

Onakoya’s story is one of resilience and impact. Growing up in Lagos’s infamous floating slums, chess played a crucial role in his life, saving him from overwhelming poverty. His non-profit organization, Chess in Slums Africa, aims to provide similar opportunities to children from underprivileged communities, using chess to enhance their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Onakoya’s achievement in Times Square serves as a powerful testament to the potential for greatness that exists within every individual, regardless of their background. His story resonates deeply with Nigerians and Africans alike, showcasing the transformative power of education and determination.

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