Chess champion plays for marathon 60 hours in Times Square to break world record

Tunde Onakoya plays chess for more than 60 hours (AP)
Tunde Onakoya plays chess for more than 60 hours (AP)

A Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate played chess non-stop for 60 hours in New York City's Times Square to break the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous play.

Tunde Onakoya, 29, hopes to raise $1million (£800,000) for children's education across Africa with his effort that began on Wednesday. He played continuosly against Shawn Martinez, an American chess champion.

He aimed to play for 58 hours but extended to 60, reaching the mark at 12.40am on Saturday. This surpassed the previous chess marathon record of 56 hours, nine minutes, and 37 seconds set by Norwegians Hallvard Haug Flatebo and Sjur Ferkingstad in 2018.

The Guinness World Record is yet to publicly comment on Mr Onakoya's attempt. The organisation often takes weeks to confirm new records.

Tunde Onakoya, centre, Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate, plays a chess game in Times Square (AP)
Tunde Onakoya, centre, Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate, plays a chess game in Times Square (AP)

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 Mr Onakoya on at the scene was Nigerian music star Davido.

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

"My energy is at 100 per cent right now because my people are here supporting me with music," Mr Onakoya said on Thursday evening after the players crossed the 24-hour mark.

On Mr Onakoya's menu is water and jollof rice, one of West Africa's best-known dishes.

For every hour of game played, Mr Onakoya and his opponent got only five minutes' break. The breaks were sometimes grouped together, and Mr Onakoya used them to catch up with Nigerians and New Yorkers cheering him on. He even joined in with their dancing.

A total of $22,000 (£17,800) was raised within the first 20 hours of the attempt, said Taiwo Adeyemi, Mr Onakoya's manager.

"The support has been overwhelming from Nigerians in the US, global leaders, celebrities and hundreds of passersby," he said.

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

More than 10 million school-age children are not in 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 former vice president Yemi Osinbajo, who wrote to Mr Onakoya on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter:

"Remember your own powerful words: 'It is possible to do great things from a small place'."