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Chess prodigy named Amayanga-Yanga athlete of the year



Twelve-year-old chess prodigy Caleb Levitan won the award for the most promising sportsperson of the year in Gauteng at the 11th annual Gauteng Sports Awards on 18 February, beating other top sportspeople from the more physical sporting codes.

He’s also one of youngest to win this award, known as the Amayanga-Yanga Athlete of the Year Award, which recognises young athletes who have displayed exceptional performance in their respective sport and show great promise for the future. The Gauteng Sports Awards is hosted by the Gauteng department of sport, arts, culture, and recreation to honour the province’s sports stars for their efforts in local and international sports events.

In the run-up to this award ceremony, all the sporting codes put forward their most promising contenders, and Levitan made the top three and then unanimously won because of his achievements.

Levitan surpassed the 2 000 rating by gaining 123 points playing in the grandmaster section of the Czech Open in Pardubice, Czech Republic, in July, and was awarded the Candidate Master Title. He has also achieved the provisional title of FIDE Master, and is the youngest player in South Africa to obtain this accolade.

He won gold medals at the Gauteng Inter-region Chess Championship in October 2021, and at the SA Junior Chess Championship in April 2022. He was the joint gold medal winner at the African Chess Championship in Zambia in July 2022. He also came fourth in the World Schools Chess Championship in June 2022 in Panama, which is the highest placing any South African has achieved in any world chess championship. He was also board 1 for the under-16 Olympiad team when he represented South Africa in Azerbaijan.

Speaking at the ceremony, Levitan said, “I hope to inspire more young people to play their respected sports.” He said his aim was to become a “grandmaster and travel the world and play tournaments”.

Late last year, Levitan, who is a pupil at King David Sandton, was the first South African chess player to achieve the title of Candidate Master by recording a FIDE rating of 2000.

“I’m 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 told South Africa Today. The training and competitive schedules are in line with any competitive athlete. I’m proud to represent the sport, and I am really grateful to my parents, coaches, school, and the chess federation for helping me reach this point.”

Levitan is part of a chess power twin. His brother, Judah, also aims to become a grandmaster one day. Both Levitan and Judah played board 1 for the South African A and B teams respectively at the recent Youth Olympiad held in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan, during October, according to a previous article in the SA Jewish Report.

Judah and Caleb are the current Under-12 and Under-16 South African Chess Champions. They have played against American grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, and Levon Aronian – honours for any chess player.

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