All the right moves: SA's chess siblings on winning, Bollywood and Darth Vadar

South Africa's top four chess kids at this weekend's continental championships in Kenya.
South Africa's top four chess kids at this weekend's continental championships in Kenya.

This weekend, two sets of siblings grabbed the spotlight at the Africa Youth Chess Championships, held in Kenya. 

Twin brothers Judah and Caleb Levitan (8) and sisters Aarti (12) and Archana (9) Datharam represented South Africa in their age groups and claimed SA’s only 3 golds plus 1 silver!

Caleb Levinton at African Chess Championships   Judah Levinton at African Chess Championships

Caleb, left, and Judah, right, playing at the AYCC last weekend.


Judah and Caleb, who are now in Grade 2 at Kind David School in Sandton, Johannesburg, had their first chess lesson at the beginning of last year when they were just 6 years. They were undefeated in tournament after tournament and soon earned their Springbok Junior colours.

“On Saturday night, both boys finished with 8.5/9 points, drawing against each other – the first time twins have finished with 8.5/9 in a FIDE regional tournament,” says proud dad Shaun. “Together they won the U8 African chess champion title, which earned them the provisional FIDE title of Candidate Master and an invitation to the World Cadet Chess Championships to be held in China in 2019.”

The equally talented sisters Aarti and Archana Datharam hail from Stanger in KwaZulu-Natal. Aarti, now in Grade 6 at Umhlali Preparatory, finished first in the U12 girls category – for the third year in a row; she was previously the U8 and U10 champ too. In 2015 she was shortlisted for KZN Sports Woman of the Year, and she's been the SA champ for U10 and U12. She's played at the World Youth Championships in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

Younger sister Archana, who is in Grade 4, finished second in the U10 girls category, despite falling sick and having to miss one match! She came second at the U10 SA championships last year, and she's also played at the World Youth championships in 2016 and African Youth championships in the same year. She's had her KZN colours since 2014, when she was in Grade R.

This talented family includes 13-year-old sister Diya, who has won KZN colours every year since 2012, and 6-year-old brother Yadav, who got his KZN colours last year already. 

Aarti Datharam AYCC 18   Archana Datharam AYCC 18

Aarti (left) and Archana (right) at this year's AYCC.

We caught up with the two sets of siblings.

Do you have a child who achieved on national level in any field, from sport to culture? Please send your comments and stories to and we may publish them!

1. Congratulations! What made you decide to start playing chess?

The boys:

Judah: My dad taught me how to play chess. My first chess tournament was a small one, which I won. This made me want to play more chess and more tournaments.

Caleb: My dad taught me too. I used to play with my brother and then I started getting medals for playing in chess competitions.    

The girls:

Aarti: I started playing chess because my bigger sister Diya played chess at school and she inspired me. 

Archana: My sisters Diya and Aarti were playing chess and they were winning lots of trophies so I decided to start playing, and I really enjoy the game.

2. Do you work hard at chess, preparing and practising, or does it come easy to you?

The boys:

Judah: In my first chess lesson, one of the coaches said that if you work hard at chess you can play overseas. I wanted to practise a lot so that I could travel and play chess! 

Caleb: I practise a lot but now that I am good at chess it is easier.

The girls:

Aarti: I work hard at it, every day. I do chess tactics to keep my mind sharp and do opening work to keep my chess foundation strong.

Archana: I try and do my chess tactics every day. And before major tournaments I work extra hard to make my chess games stronger.

3. What was it like winning at the Championships?

The boys:

Judah: It was a good feeling – I was very excited. Now I can’t wait to get my rating up to 2000 to be a real Candidate Master. [He is currently at 1150.] I’m also looking forward to going to Spain in November to participate in the World Cadets competition, because I love travelling!

Caleb: It felt amazing to get my Junior Springbok Colours. When I won the Africa Youth Chess Championships, I was called on stage and they played the South African anthem. I knew that so many people were proud of me. I got lots of prizes like a Kenyan blanket, an elephant statue, a trophy and a medal. I’m also looking forward to Spain – it will be hard so I hope that I can finish in the top 10.

The girls:

Aarti: It was a very exciting and amazing experience. I felt honoured to represent SA and be called the new U12 African Youth Champion. I enjoyed the competitive games and it made me want to work harder to win each game. It also felt good that it made my parents and family prouder of me. This tournament also showed me as a player that I have the potential to achieve greater heights and my next goal is to make the SA Olympiad team. 

Archana: It was an exciting and a difficult tournament. It felt so nice to be called up on stage to receive my trophies and medal. I was determined to come out first but then I fell sick and I lost one game so I came second.

4. Do you do any other activities together?

The boys:

Judah: We do boxing together and we play club soccer and also cricket in our garden. 

Caleb: We play a lot of cricket and we do swimming, piano, tennis and we sometimes play chess together.

The girls:

Aarti: Yes, we dance to Bollywood songs almost every day.

Archana: Yes, Aarti and I enjoy dancing together.

5. What other hobbies do you each have?

The boys:

Judah: Reading, creating art, and playing Fortnite.

Caleb: We play Fortnite. I love Lego too.

The girls:

Aarti: I play netball and do Early Act at school, which is a program where we help our community.

Archana: I enjoy dancing, reading, art and craft.

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6. What do you love most about school?

The boys:

Judah: I love break, especially playing on the jungle gyms and being with my friends.

Caleb: Doing well and I love Maths.

The girls:

Aarti: I like Natural Science because we do experiments and my teacher is nice. I enjoy break because I get to be with my friends. 

Archana: I enjoy Maths, Science and Art. I also enjoy spending time with my friends during break.

Also read: This list of some of South Africa's oldest schools may surprise you

7. What are your favourite cartoon characters and why?

The boys:

Judah: Darth Vader. I like bad guys.

Caleb: We don’t really watch cartoons. But I like Master Yoda.

The girls:

Aarti: I like Elana of Avalor because she is always striving with all her might to do her best and believes that she can achieve anything.

Archana: My favourite cartoon Sofia the First. Because she is a princess and I like princesses. Sofia also inspires me to be helpful towards people in any way that I can. 

Do you have a child who achieved on national level in any field, from sport to culture? Please send your comments and stories to and we may publish them!

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