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By Sports Reporter


Master player: Chess prodigy Caleb Levitan is on the rise

The 12-year-old prospect has already been awarded the ranking title of Candidate Master.

Breaking new ground as one of the country’s most promising young talents, chess prodigy Caleb Levitan hopes his achievements will help raise interest in the sport in South Africa and motivate other young players to chase their dreams.

Levitan and his twin brother Judah started playing chess at the age of six, after being taught by their father, and while Judah has gone on to achieve his own success, Caleb is making waves at international level.

Having attained a rating of more than 2,000 from global chess governing body FIDE, Levitan has already been awarded the ranking title of Candidate Master, placing him among the international elite in one of the world’s most popular and challenging strategic board games – and he’s not even a teenager yet.

Last year the 12-year-old prospect won the national junior title in Tshwane, as well as the African youth title in his age group in Zambia, which saw him receive the provisional title of FIDE Master (just two levels below the prestigious Grandmaster ranking). He also finished fourth at the 2022 World Schools Chess Championship in Panama.

Rising the local ranks

His skills and recent results have seen him rocket up the rankings, and he is currently rated 25th in South Africa, despite his young age. He is also ranked among the top 600 players in Africa in the open division.

Recognised for his achievements beyond the realms of his own sport, Levitan received the Amayanga-Yanga Athlete of the Year accolade at the Gauteng Sports Awards last week, which acknowledges young athletes who have displayed exceptional performances in their respective codes.

Caleb Levitan at the Gauteng Sports Awards
Caleb Levitan with the accolade he received at the Gauteng Sports Awards. Picture: Supplied

And after being recognised by the greater sporting community, the King David Sandton Primary School pupil took the opportunity to promote his chosen sport, dismissing the idea that chess is not as competitive as other more physical sporting disciplines.

“Ultimately I am really happy that chess is being valued and recognised as a sport. Not many people know the physical and mental stamina needed to play games of four or five hours at a time,” Levitan said.

“The training and competing schedules are in line with any athlete training competitively.”

Youth experience

Despite receiving recognition last week, however, Levitan was performing at an impressive level long before the 2022 season.

In 2018 he tied for first place with his brother in the U-8 age group at the African Youth Championship in Kisumu, Kenya. And at a tournament in Spain three months later he broke the South African record in a world chess competition when he achieved a score of 7.5/11 at the World Cadet Championships. He was later recognised as South Africa’s Junior Chess Player of the Year for this achievement.

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With Judah still making big strides alongside Caleb, the siblings are the current national champions in the U-12 and U-16 divisions.

They have also competed against multiple Grandmaster players from the United States, including Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So and Levon Aronian.

With the world at his feet, Caleb Levitan is hoping to inspire other young players in South Africa through his achievements.

And he is grateful for the support he has received from the people around him in the early stages of his career, as he looks to continue climbing the international ranks.

“I am proud to represent the sport,” he said, “and I am really grateful to my parents, coaches, school and the chess federation for helping me reach this point.”

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