A Nigerian chess champion is trying to break the world record for the longest chess marathon


NEW YORK (AP) — A Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate is attempting to play chess nonstop for 58 hours in New York City’s Times Square to break the global record for the longest chess marathon.

Tunde Onakoya, 29, hopes to raise $1 million for children’s education across Africa. He is playing against Shawn Martinez, an American chess champion, 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.

Onakoya had played chess for 42 hours by 10:00 a.m. GMT on Friday. Support is growing online and at the scene, where a blend of African music is keeping onlookers and supporters entertained amid cheers and applause.

The current chess marathon record is 56 hours, 9 minutes and 37 seconds, achieved in 2018 by Hallvard Haug Flatebø and Sjur Ferkingstad, both from Norway.

The record attempt is “for the dreams of millions of children across Africa without access to education,” said Onakoya, who founded Chess in Slums Africa in 2018. The organization wants to support education of at least 1 million children in slums across the continent.

“My energy is at 100% right now because my people are here supporting me with music,” Onakoya said Thursday evening after the players crossed the 24-hour mark.

On Onakoya’s menu: Lots of water and jollof rice, one of West Africa’s best known dishes.

For every hour of game played, Onakoya and his opponent get only five minutes’ break. The breaks are sometimes grouped together, and Onakoya uses them to catch up with Nigerians and New Yorkers cheering him on. He even joins in with their dancing sometimes.

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 U.S., global leaders, celebrities and hundreds of passersby,” he said.

Onakoya’s attempt is closely followed in Nigeria where he regularly organizes chess competitions for young people living on the streets to boost his cause. More than 10 million children are out of school in the West African country — one of the world’s highest rates.

Among those who have publicly supported him are celebrities and public office holders, including Nigeria’s Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who wrote to Onakoya on X, formerly Twitter: “Remember your own powerful words: ‘It is possible to do great things from a small place.’”

The Guinness World Record organization has yet to publicly comment about Onakoya’s attempt, which could reach 58 hours by midnight on Friday. It sometimes takes weeks for the organization to confirm any new record.


Asadu reported from Abuja, Nigeria.

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