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Nigerian chess champion Tunde Onakoya plays for 60 hours in Times Square, breaking marathon record

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Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate Tunde Onakoya has broken the record for the longest chess marathon after playing for an extraordinary 60 hours nonstop under the bright lights of New York City’s Times Square.

The Guinness World Record organization has not yet confirmed Onakoya’s attempt, which can sometimes take weeks, but for many Nigerians, the 29-year-old is already considered something of a national hero.

Onakoya is attempting to raise $1 million for a charity to support education for children across Africa.

He had aimed to play for 58 hours but continued until hitting the 60-hour mark in the early hours of Saturday morning, surpassing the previous record of 56 hours, 9 minutes and 37 seconds set in 2018 by Hallvard Haug Flatebø and Sjur Ferkingstad of Norway.

Onakoya took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to announce his intention to play for longer, saying, “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.”

Chess in Slums Africa, the charity Onakoya founded in 2018, aims to help educate 1 million children in slum communities across the continent.

Onakoya played against Shawn Martinez, a US chess champion, in accordance with the Guinness World Record guidelines that any attempt to break the record must be made by two players who play continuously for the duration.

Fueled by Nigerian jollof rice, Afrobeats music and messages of support from across the globe, Onakoya won every game against Martinez. Among those who came out to cheer him on in Manhattan were Nigerian Afrobeats superstar Davido and singer Adekunle Gold.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu was among those who congratulated Onakoya online, praising him 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 a statement shared by his aide Ajuri Ngelale.

“I celebrate this Nigerian Chess Champion and founder of Chess in Slums Africa for his rare feat, but especially for the reason driving this compelling demonstration of character, which is raising funds for African children to learn and find opportunity through chess,” Tinubu added.

The match drew significant attention in Nigeria and was broadcast across multiple locations in Lagos, the country’s largest city, featuring watch parties and digital billboards.

Onakoya founded Chess in Slums Africa, which seeks to empower children in underprivileged communities by using chess to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills, in Lagos.

In February this year, the chess master captivated the global chess community with his viral performance at the Digital–Life – Design conference in Berlin. After overcoming visa challenges, he showcased his skills by playing (and winning) simultaneous matches against 10 players, including distinguished Bulgarian scientist and politician Solomon Passy.

Onakoya also sits on the board at The Gift of Chess, founded by US chess coach Russell Makofsky, which hopes to distribute one million chess sets to communities worldwide by 2030.

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