Tunde Onakoya, chess, Times Square, record

Nigerian Chess Champion Tunde Onakoya Sets (Unofficial) Record With 60-Hour Chess Marathon in Times Square

Onakoya played against Shawn Martinez, a U.S. chess champion.

Tunde Onakoya, a Nigerian chess champion and advocate for children’s education, broke a record for the longest chess marathon when he played in Times Square for 60 hours on April 19.

The Guinness Book of World Records still needs to verify his feat, as that process can sometimes take more than two weeks. 

As CNN reports, Onakoya initially set his goal at 58 hours, which would have surpassed the previous mark of 56 hours, nine minutes, and 37 seconds set in 2018 by Norwegians Hallvard Haug Flatebø and Sjur Ferkingstad. On Twitter/X, Onakoya announced his intention to push for 60 hours and shared what inspired his marathon chess session. 

Onakoya’s matches against U.S. chess champion Shawn Martinez drew celebrities Adekunle Gold and Davido, Nigerian superstar musicians, and praise from Nigerian political figures like President Bola Tinubu. Tinubu congratulated Onakoya on his feat via social media.

Tinubu also 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.” In Nigeria, the match commanded significant attention, it was broadcast in several locations in Lagos, the capital city, and featured watch parties as well as digital billboards. 

In 2018, Onakoya founded Chess in Slums Africa in Lagos, Nigeria. His organization is dedicated to empowering children in underserved communities through chess, focusing on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Onayoka’s organization used its marathon chess session to drive donations to many posts on its Twitter/X account. 

According to Taiwo Adeyemi, Onakoya’s manager, the chess match raised $22,000 in the first 22 hours. Onakoya had hoped to raise over $1 million for his organization through the game. Regardless of the amount raised, Adeyemi told Al-Jazeera that the support for Onakoya had been well-received. “The support has been overwhelming from Nigerians in the US, global leaders, celebrities and hundreds of passersby.”

As Al-Jazeera reports, Onakoya was overcome with emotion following his and Martinez’s accomplishment.

“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.” Onayoka told AFP. “[At] 3am last night, that was the moment I was ready to just give it all up… but Nigerians traveled from all over the world. And they were with me overnight. We were singing together and they were dancing together and I couldn’t just give up on them.”

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