Levitan chess prodigies blaze trail in Serbia
When chess twins Judah and Caleb Levitan stepped into a restaurant in Serbia last month, the 13-year-olds were startled by the smoke. “There’s no such thing as a smoking or non-smoking section in that country,” their dad, Shaun, says, reflecting on the adventures of these chess stars, who have travelled the world before starting high school.
Nevertheless, Judah blazed his way past 2000 FIDE Elo rating points at a chess tournament in the country. As a result, he was awarded his Candidate Master title by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) on 30 November. The 51st Candidate Master in South Africa, Judah is the third person to earn the title by achieving a rating of 2000. Historically, no minimum rating was required.
“It has been a great year for him,” says Shaun. “He started the year about 1700 as a rating, and he finished above 2050. It was just a slow and steady progression.”
Taking his rating to 2000 has been Judah’s quest since he received a provisional title for placing joint-first with Caleb at the 2018 African Junior Chess Championships in Kenya.
Having improved his rating by more than 350 points this year, Judah is now ranked as the 20th-best chess player in South Africa, and is only 338 points behind the top South African, Henry Steel.
Caleb also had a successful year. He received his first International Master Norm, following wins against two international masters and drawing against as many grandmasters. He was also named Amayanga-Yanga Junior Athlete of the Year, and bagged his FIDE Master title. He’s one of the top five chess players in South Africa as measured by his Elo rating.
Shaun says there’s no magic formula to the twins’ achievements, who continue to be ranked first and second in their respective age groups in South Africa. “Judah and Caleb spend hours playing and analysing games. They travel to tournaments in remote parts of the world, and have to catch up on their school work.
“It’s their passion, it’s not just work. They love the game and the adventures it brings. Perhaps the greatest part is that they have each other. They play chess every day, sometimes for up to 10 hours. They’re like professional sportsmen.”
The Levitans’ globetrotting continued this year. They played in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Serbia. “There’s a huge chess culture in all these countries,” Shaun says.
Judah’s next target is to follow in Caleb’s footsteps by receiving a FIDE Master title due to having a rating of 2300. Caleb’s rating of 2317 means he’s the fourth-best player in South Africa.