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Nigeria’s Tunde Onakoya sets global chess record with 60 hour nonstop game | Education News

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The 29-year-old chess player and child education advocate played in part to raise money for underprivileged children.

A Nigerian chess champion has broken the world record for the longest chess marathon after playing unbeaten for more than 58 hours in New York City’s Times Square to raise money for underprivileged children.

Tunde Onakoya, 29, embarked on his marathon session on Wednesday, hoping to raise $1 million for children’s education across Africa through the record attempt.

He had set out to play the royal game for 58 hours but continued until he reached 60 hours at about 12:40am (04:40GMT) on Saturday, surpassing the current chess marathon record of 56 hours, 9 minutes and 37 seconds, achieved in 2018 by Norwegians Hallvard Haug Flatebo and Sjur Ferkingstad.

“I can’t process a lot of the emotions I feel right now. I don’t have the right words for them. But I know we did something truly remarkable,” he told the AFP news agency.

“[At] 3am last night, that was the moment I was ready to just give it all up… but Nigerians travelled from all over the world. And they were with me overnight,” he continued.

“We were singing together and they were dancing together and I couldn’t just give up on them.”

The Guinness World Records organisation has yet to publicly comment about Onakoya’s attempt. It sometimes takes weeks for the organisation to confirm any new record.

Chess players
Onakoya played chess for 60 hours, from Wednesday, April 17 to Saturday, April 20, 2024 [Yuki Iwamura/AP]

‘The audacity to make good change happen’

Onakoya played against Shawn Martinez, an American chess champion, in line with Guinness World Records guidelines that any attempt to break the record must be made by two players who would play continuously for the entire duration.

For every hour of game played, Onakoya and his opponent got only five minutes’ break.

The breaks were sometimes grouped together, and Onakoya used them to catch up with the enthusiastic crowd of Nigerians and New Yorkers cheering him on.

Onakoya is well known in Nigeria, where he launched the Chess in Slums project in 2018 in Ikorodu, on the outskirts of Lagos.

The organisation offers often-marginalised young people, many of whom are not in school and work to help their families, a space to learn to play chess.

More than 10 million school-age children are not in school in the West African country – one of the highest numbers per country in the world.

A total of $22,000 was raised within the first 20 hours of the attempt, said Taiwo Adeyemi, Onakoya’s manager. “The support has been overwhelming from Nigerians in the US, global leaders, celebrities and hundreds of passersby,” he said.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu congratulated Onakoya in a statement for “setting a new world chess record and sounding the gong of Nigeria’s resilience, self-belief, and ingenuity”.

Onakoya, he added, had “shown a streak customary among Nigeria’s youth population, the audacity to make good change happen … even from corners of disadvantage.”

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