Tani, who turned 11 in September, is taking the same approach with his chess career. Having become a national master earlier this year — the 28th youngest person to achieve that title — he now wants to become the game’s youngest ever grandmaster.
“That’s the one that really boosted us up to become where we are today, and also me and my chess,” says Tani.
In June 2017, nearly two years before he won the state championship title, Tani and his family fled northern Nigeria, worried about attacks by extremist group Boko Haram.
They lived in a homeless shelter in Manhattan after moving to the United States, and shortly afterward Tani joined the chess club at his school, P.S. 116 in New York, on the agreement that the registration fee could be waived.
When word spread of Tani’s state championship title, an outpouring of financial support for his family followed.
“A lot of people really helped us, a lot of people gave us financial (support) and money … they donated money for us to get out from the shelter.”
“We need to give back to the needy, because we know what it takes — we’ve tasted everything,” adds Mr Adewumi.
“When we were in the shelter, some people are still there. We need to help the needy, especially the chess community and the people that need help. That’s why we put the money into the foundation, to help people.”
The family feels indebted to the sport of chess — so much so that, through the foundation, they have contributed money to a chess organization in Africa encouraging more people to take up the game.
“Chess is everything to me, it’s my life,” says Tani. “That’s how we came to where we are today.”
But his early competitive experiences weren’t easy; when he played his first chess tournament, Tani lost all of his games.
“It did take me time, of course,” he says. “I believe it takes everybody time.”
According to Carlsen, there are few secrets to how he became the world’s best player.
“It’s been about putting in the time,” he tells CNN Sport. “For me, I don’t think I could have ever gotten far in chess without a great love of the game, that’s what’s been driving it for me all of these years.
“What I do remember from my childhood is that I would go to school; after school I would play soccer with my friends, and when I got home, I would sit down at my own little board where had my chessboard and chess books.
“I would usually eat there. If I didn’t have to, I preferred not to eat with my family because then I could not study chess … it must have been a lot of hours, but it was always because I loved it.”
To follow in Carlsen’s footsteps and reach the status of grandmaster — the highest title in chess — Tani will have to achieve three grandmaster norms — an award given for a high level of performance in a chess tournament — as well as earning an FIDE (Federation Internationale des Echecs) rating of 2,500.
Wherever his chess career takes him, Tani can be sure that his family’s support will never be far away. His mother accompanies him to his tournaments, and more recently, his father has been able to attend when he can fit it in around his work schedule
As he watches his son emerge from his games, Mr Adewumi waits for a signal: thumbs up for a win, a horizontal thumb for a draw, and thumbs down for defeat. But whatever the result, his father’s reaction is always the same.
“When I’m watching him playing, it’s just like your chest wants to burst out until it can be free,” says Mr Adewumi. “When he comes out … we just grab him and are celebrating with him … when he’s lost the game, I embrace him, I encourage him.
“He has a philosophy that when you lose, you try again to work out what made you lose and encourage yourself to get better.”
That philosophy has reaped rewards so far, and it might yet help Tani Adewumi achieve the status of chess grandmaster.
CNN’s Alvin Whitney contributed to this report.