Nigerian man breaks world chess marathon record

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Nigerian man breaks world chess marathon record

  • Tunde Onakoya, 29, from Nigeria played chess for 60 hours straight 
  • He made history this month when he smashed a world chess marathon record by playing for 60 hours straight, but Tunde Onakoya's story is even more extraordinary than people realise.

The 29-year-old Nigerian chess whizz has got tongues wagging in his home nation as well as around the world after he played the tactical board game for a whopping 60 hours in New York's Times Square. 

Fans and stars alike - including singers Davido and Adekunle Gold - turned out to cheer on the board game enthusiast, however there is much more to Tunde than meets the eye. 

The Guinness World Record holder has overcome several setbacks to eventually achieve worldwide acclaim after a botched vaccination when he was a baby caused serious health complications.

Tunde has previously opened up about the 'debilitating pain' he has endured for much of his life, for which he underwent an operation last year which left him on crutches.

Tunde is being celebrating across Nigeria and the world for his triumph (pictured: Tunde in Nigeria)© Provided by Daily Mail

Coming from humble beginnings himself, Tunde grew up in Ikorodu, a town in the north-east of Nigeria's largest city, Lagos.

As a young child Tunde learned to play chess at a local barber shop and although he had dreams of going to school, his parents struggled to afford it.

To remedy this his mother later worked as a cleaner at a local school in order to pay for his school fees. 

He soon earned a diploma in computer science at Yaba College of Technology before going on to win gold in a chess tournament at the Nigeria Polytechnic Games.

Taking to X last year, Tunde unearthed another childhood memory - one that would have serious repercussions for his health.

Tunde Onakoya, 29, broke a world chess marathon record by playing for 60 hours straight (pictured: Tunde attempts the record in New York's Time Square on April 17)© Provided by Daily Mail
Tunde is pictured in what appears to be deep thought during the strategic board game which lasted for nearly four days © Provided by Daily Mail
The chess whizz battled it out against American chess champion Shawn Martinez in New York's Time Square© Provided by Daily Mail
Tunde surpassed the current chess marathon record of 56 hours, nine minutes and 37 seconds, achieved in 2018 by Norwegians Hallvard Haug Flatebo and Sjur Ferkingstad© Provided by Daily Mail

He wrote: '[I have] a condition triggered by a bad measles injection from a quack nurse when I was just nine months old. 

'This costly error has left me in debilitating pain and a bad leg weakness for 28 years of my life. I wondered if she knew what she had done. Probably not...'

He announced that he had been diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis in his right hip joint - a disease which causes the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply.

To curtail the pain, Tunde said he had no choice but to undergo hip replacement surgery 'which entailed cutting out the damaged hip joint and replacing it with an artificial implant which had four components'.

He listed a metal socket, a plastic liner, ceramic ball and titanium stem in the femur as the required parts.

Tunde has been relentless in his pursuit to raise money for children's education in Africa and has founded charity organization Chess in Slums Africa© Provided by Daily Mail
In this Instagram throwback, he recalled the first time he saw a chess board - in a barber shop 19 years ago© Provided by Daily Mail

In the post - which he shared one month after the surgery - he revealed that the procedure had been 'successful' although recovery was still in progress and far from 'linear'. 


Avascular necrosis is the death of bone tissue due to poor blood supply.

It can lead to tiny breaks in the bone, which eventually collapses.

Causes can include a broken bone, dislocated joint, long-term steroid use or alcohol abuse, fatty deposits in blood vessels, or certain diseases, such as sickle cell anaemia.

Gradual pain is the main symptom, which may be worse when weight is put on a joint.

Treatment can include anti-inflammatory drugs, blood thinners or osteoporosis medication.

A bone transplant, reshaping or joint replacement may be required in extreme cases.

However good news came five months ago when Tunde declared via LinkedIn that he was finally able to move around without a walking stick.

The story of his remarkable triumph has been featured across world press, to the delight of the chess champion.

On his X page last week he wrote: 'We made front page on New York’s biggest newspaper. I’ll always remember this city fondly for many reasons, but it’s time to go home now'. 

He also updated his fans with the good news that his parents had been gifted a house by an anonymous donor, and dedicated his success to them.

He on the platform: 'Someone gifted my parents a new house today. It’s the single greatest thing anyone will ever do for me in this lifetime. Thank you.

'My mother worked as a cleaner in the same school I attended so I could get an education while my dad worked as a Danfo driver/bus conductor so we could feed and survive.

'My greatest joy in life is to be able to give them both the life they truly deserve'.

Tunde's attempt at the strategy board game on April 17 is set to break the Guinness World Record for the longest chess marathon ever played - however the organisation is yet to officially acknowledge his effort.

The child advocate battled it out for nearly four days against American chess champion Shawn Martinez to come out on top, and now hopes to raise $1 million (£800,000) for children’s education across Africa.

He called it a 'surreal experience': 'I want to say "thank you" from the bottom of my heart' he began.

'Thank you for the support - you know Nigerians, we always turn up! 

'My energy is 100 per cent right now because my people are here supporting me with music and it's just a very surreal experience'.

Last year Tunde announced that he had been diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis in his right hip joint (pictured: an x-ray of Tunde's hip joint)© Provided by Daily Mail
To curtail the pain, he said he had no choice but to undergo hip replacement surgery (pictured: Tunde in hospital)© Provided by Daily Mail

He also discussed his efforts to raise money through his Chess in Slums Africa foundation. 

Tunde founded Chess in Slums in 2018 as a way to lift local children out of poverty and onto the path of a promising education-filled future.

The organization states its goal is to train over 1 million people in the game of chess in the next five years.

Similarly, Tunde sits as a board member on New-York non profit The Gift of Chess. Their aim is to donate 1 million chess sets to children around the world by 2030. 

Hailed as the 'king of the street's by some, the champion chess player has shed a spotlight on the plight of uneducated children © Provided by Daily Mail

The philanthropist dedicated his success to his parents, while revealing an anonymous donor had gifted them a house© Provided by Daily Mail

According to its official Instagram page, the charity has so far this year distributed 50,000 chess sets across Africa, reaching nearly 30 countries. 

Sharing a post just a week before the event, he drummed up support for the record attempt.

He said: 'This is by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but one thing I know for sure I will not be alone through it all. 

'[I] need everyone’s support now more than ever to raise awareness and support for the incredible work we do @chessinslums and @thegiftofchess'.

Tunde raised a total of $22,000 (£17,800) within the first 20 hours of the tournament, said his manager. 

Over 10 million Nigerian children are not in school - one of the world’s highest rates. 

Tunde initially set out to play the game for 58 hours but continued until he reached 60 hours at about 12.40am on Saturday, April 20.

He played against Shawn Martinez - in line with Guinness World Record guidelines that any attempt to break the record must be made by two players who would play continuously for the entire duration.  

He surpassed the current chess marathon record of 56 hours, nine minutes and 37 seconds, achieved in 2018 by Norwegians Hallvard Haug Flatebo and Sjur Ferkingstad.    

For the occasion, Tunde dined on water and jollof rice, one of Nigeria's best-loved dishes. 

For every hour of game played, Tunde and his opponent received only a five-minute break. 

The breaks were sometimes grouped together, and Tunde used them to catch up with Nigerians and New Yorkers cheering him on. He even joined in with their dancing.

Tunde's attempt was closely followed in Nigeria, where he regularly organizes chess competitions for young people living on the streets. 

Support had been growing online and at the scene, where a blend of African music kept onlookers and supporters entertained amid cheers and applause. 

Among the dozens who cheered him on at the scene was Nigerian-cum-international music star Davido.         

Among those who have supported him are public office holders, including Nigeria’s former vice president Yemi Osinbajo, who wrote to Mr Onakoya on X: 'Remember your own powerful words: "It is possible to do great things from a small place"'.

Similarly Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu branded him a 'champion'.

Taking to Instagram, he wrote: 'Powerful visions birth movements that change lives. Today, we welcomed back @tunde_onakoya, our chess champion, to Lagos.

'His journey embodies the spirit of Lagos - resilient, ambitious, and driven to succeed. As we celebrate his achievements, we’re inspired by his vision for empowering our children and youth.

'Together with Tunde and the transformative power of chess, we’ll work towards a future where every child in Lagos has the opportunity to realize their full potential.

'The state proudly supports his mission, purposefully providing resources to fuel this noble cause now and in the future'.

The Guinness World Record has yet to publicly comment on Mr Onakoya’s attempt. It can sometimes takes weeks for the organization to confirm a new record.  

Story by Maria Okanrende For Mailonline 

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