IM Artiom Tsepotan, the man who founded 2700chess.com

by Sagar Shah
4/4/2020 – Statistics play a major role in any sport. More so in chess, where FIDE ratings have their weight in gold. FIDE does publish its rating list every month, but in between those 30 days a lot of action happens when some of the top tournaments are taking place. Where do we keep a track of all the live rating changes of top players? That's where the website 2700chess.com comes into the picture. It is the best resource to stay abreast of all the rating fluctuations of players above the rating of 2700. Who founded this website? What was the intention behind it? And how does he manage to keep it so well updated? Here's the interview with the founder of 2700chess.com — IM Artiom Tsepotan. | Photo: Artiom pictured with his wife Julia

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An interview

Artiom TsepotanAs a chess author and journalist, one of the websites I visit very often is 2700chess.com. It simply is the best resource when you want to track the rating fluctuations of all the players in the world of chess above the rating of 2700. Sometimes I would be watching a top level encounter and just minutes after it ended, the 2700chess website already shows you the real-time rating gain or loss of the player. How are they able to maintain all of this data so efficiently? Who is the person who came up with this idea? And what is the story behind this website?

I was curious and I wrote to the email address (info@2700chess.com) given at the bottom of the site asking for an interview with the founder. I received a reply from IM Artiom Tsepotan, who introduced himself as the man behind the ingenious website. A google search on Artiom was enough to convince me that he was a man of several talents. He has not only founded the 2700chess, but is also an IM, and was the main trainer of Anna Ushenina in 2000-02. Later Anna went on to become the Women's World Champion in 2012! I decided to interview him. While top players are definitely the reason why chess is a celebrated sport in the world, I would say people like Artiom Tsepotan have played a big role in popularizing chess by quietly working behind the scenes.


Sagar Shah (SS): How did the idea of 2700chess come to you? 

Artiom Tsepotan (AT): I can remember exactly where I was when this idea came to me! But like other ideas, it did not come from nothing. Back in 2010, I first visited the website at chess.liverating.org (Live Top List) that was created in April 2008 by the Norwegian Hans Arild Runde, for players who were rated over 2700. In those days, FIDE published official ratings every two months and it was a magical experience for me to check Hans' website to see changes in ratings and rankings occurring on the same day (sometimes during the same hour) as a tournament round was finished! On uncountable occasions, I would press the refresh F5 button to wait for the long awaited and amazing updates by Hans to his website. Just for fun, I had been visiting his site for months to follow the rating fights of my favourite players.

The situation started changing in the spring of 2011 when Hans started mentioning that, "I don't have too much time to spend for this project...", and sometimes ratings were not updated at the same time once a tournament round was finished, but only after a few hours. It was only after then that the idea that I could create my own website with live ratings came to mind. I was thinking that I could add some new columns and data with interesting statistics and details. I love not only beautiful chess moves and ideas but also the magic of figures. I also liked to solve hard math problems and had basic knowledge about websites and how they are put together.

I found an interview of Hans Arild Runde by IM John Watson in which he talked about some nuances and difficulties in finding results for chess leagues, especially the Chinese league. I had to react quickly as other live rating sites were starting to appear. On 4 April 2011, I sorted through many domains that were free and ended up choosing 2700chess.com. A month later, on 4 May 2011, 2700chess.com was launched. 

SS: Currently 2700chess.com has become a prime resource for anyone tracking the updates of players above the rating of 2700. Did you envision that your idea would become so popular?

AT: I could only imagine it. Every chess fan wants to know who is the current World #1 in real time. In 2008, when FIDE still published their rating lists bimonthly, there was an interesting situation that made live ratings even more popular. Over a period of three weeks, five players in turn occupied the honoured World #1 spot. Hans' live ratings website allowed the chess world to monitor those amazing changes. Anand (2798) was World #1 from the previous official rating list published on 1 August 2008 until 24 August 2008, when Morozevich won his round-six game at the Tal Memorial in Moscow and momentarily became the new World #1. On 5 September, Carlsen won his round four game at the Grand Slam Masters Final in Bilbao and for five days became the new World #1. Five days later on 10 September, Ivanchuk won his round-eight game in the same tournament and became the new World #1. After all this, on 13 September Topalov in turn became the new World #1 after winning the last round in Bilbao. This was confirmed on 1 October 2008 by FIDE when Topalov became the official World #1 with 2791.

Despite all this, during the first few months after launching 2700chess.com, we had to survive in order to find ways to maintain visitor interest in 2700chess. I sent emails and messages asking my friends and the chess community to visit 2700chess. I managed to find GM Ivanchuk's email and asked him to visit the website, to which he responded, "Good, I will visit it after my current tournament" (he had been playing at the 5th M-Tel Masters in Sofia). GM Baadur Jobava, who used to live and play in Kharkiv, was over 2700 at that time and answered, "Nice to hear from you again and thank you for the site!". Such responses were encouraging and motivated me to keep improving the site. It became a really busy time.

Besides Hans' website, there were a few others that were publishing live ratings daily. Around August 2011 Hans stopped updating his website, writing: "The Live Top List has become the Live Top List Archive... Meanwhile I recommend going to www.2700chess.com for daily rating updates — they're doing a great job!".  In the period from 2014 to 2016 there were a couple of other interesting websites with live chess ratings, including top40chess.com and 3000chess.com. Since 2011, I have counted at least 10 different sources for live chess ratings. 

Did I imagine that 2700chess would become popular? I had hoped so, since I personally found it very interesting to follow the results of my own work. After some period of time, 2700+ players (even 2800+), started emailing us to request checking or fixing their live ratings. It was, and still is, my pleasure to do so. As a small aside, I remember how a good friend told me right after 2700chess was launched that chess ratings were boring by themselves and that nobody apart from me and maybe a couple of my students would visit the site... We are still good friends [laughs]! 

SS: Who are the other people who helped you with this project?  

AT: During the preliminary preparations before launching, I received help from former International Arbiter, the late Dr. Christopher Wright from New Zealand, who had previously been my student. We had been learning all the nuances about rating calculations based on the Elo system, gathering information about chess tournaments all over the world, including chess leagues. Also, Chris helped to update live ratings for "Europe night" tournaments, since he was living in a completely different time zone. He passed away on October the 13th 2015 at only 41 years of age. Rest in peace, dear Chris.

Christopher Wright

Dr. Christopher Wright from New Zealand helped Artiom on the 2700chess project

A few months after the launch, James Satrapa from Australia became my senior advisor regarding maintaining 2700chess. He assisted with the format in the early days and has his own sheet for live ratings and monitors if I miss something important regarding live ratings, tournaments or tournament participants. Together, we calculated the highest live ratings for the top players, male and female. Amongst other things, James also suggested 2500 as the rating level to mark the top female players and provides considerable assistance with day-to-day documentation for the site.

Besides these two excellent guys from Oceania, I have received and continue to receive much help from many chess fans around the globe and locals from my hometown, Kharkiv, including my very first student, Andrey Ermolaev, who is awaiting his FM title. My brother Andrii designed the 2700chess layout and format and fixed many other things that took much of our attention. He also changed the standard Formula 1 flag at the top header to the chess flag that included chess pieces...with the a1-square being black. Thank you everyone, you are amazing! 

2700chess

The flag banner at the top was deigned by Tsepotan's brother Andrii Tsepotan

SS: Just minutes after the game is over of a 2700+ player, the results are shown in your portal. How do you manage to be so efficient?

AT: It was not always the case. For instance, in June 2011, when the 5th Kings Tournament was taking place in Bazna, Romania, in which Carlsen, Karjakin, Nakamura, Ivanchuk, Radjabov and Nisipeanu played their double round robin tournament, I had to update their live ratings manually. At the same time I had been travelling with my students, and during one of last rounds in Bazna, I was on the train in between cities (i.e. nowhere) experiencing poor mobile internet connection with my Nokia 6120 classic — before smartphones — and had to update all the rating changes quickly so that visitors would keep visiting 2700chess.

It was challenging! And it's only one of the many emergencies I had to deal with before I could automate some functions. Although some updates are now relatively automatic, there are still many things which must be done manually to enable quick rating updates, so maintaining 2700chess properly is not as easy a task as it might look. We’re working on upgrades to reduce the amount of manual work that needs doing. 

SS: Have you thought about increasing the scope of this service to players of 2600+ or 2500+ range? 

AT: We are always thinking about increasing the scope of our service. Initially there were only 2700+ players with classical ratings. Then we added women with a rating of 2500+, following up by increasing the scope to include Top-100 men (around 2650+) and Top-50 women (around 2420+). Later we added Top-100 rapid and blitz players for men and Top-50 rapid and blitz for women. We next added other features such as Top-10 dynamic banners for men and women, the game viewer, the live games page, the games database, records, charts, playing against a computer at different levels, highest live ratings for top players since Fischer, and for women since Chiburdanidze. For some tips on how to use 2700chess, guides are available at 2700chess.com/faq and 2700chess.com/tips. We are constantly evaluating different scenarios and upgrades for increasing the scope of our service, but we prefer not to announce prospective changes while such work is in progress.

SS: While this is a big service, we understand that it would take quite some investment to keep it going. How do you manage to survive financially?

AT: Indeed, it has required a significant investment from the beginning. Now we have a premium subscription for visitors who wish to support 2700chess as well as advertisements. For the moment, that is about enough for us to maintain the current level of service, but we will be pursuing further funding as the rollouts of improvements and upgrades occur.

SS: How many people visit the 2700chess website on a monthly basis? 

AT: There are approximately 400,000 unique visitors per month.

SS: You are an IM with a rating of 2400+. Tell us a bit about your chess career. What are some of your best achievements?

AT: I learned chess when I was seven from my father. In 1996, I became Kharkiv's U20 Champion, and in 1997 I finished third on Board 2 at the Ukrainian Team Championship behind GM Kuzmin and GM Savon.

In 1998, when I finally qualified to the Top-12 National U20, there were 6 future GMs and 5 IMs, including Kharkiv's future 2700+ players Eljanov, Moiseenko and Korobov. I scored 5½/11 in that round robin tournament. Later in 1998 I finished third in the Beirut Open. In 1999 I obtained my International Master title. During my chess career I have had the opportunity to meet a number of strong players over the board. The 1990s were a great time for me to learn and play chess in Kharkiv! I want to say thank you to my wonderful coaches Igor Shevchenko and IM Boris Khanukov, and also my close friend GM Alexander Goloshchapov for sharing with me their passion and knowledge of chess.

SS: You are also a chess trainer. You worked with World Champion Anna Ushenina. Tell us about your working experience with her and also about your other students. Do you still train players regularly? 

AT: I started teaching chess in 1998, when I was 20, at the Kharkiv sport school from which I graduated the year before. The chess department at this school was opened in 1993 thanks to Sergey Gusarov, the General of the Police, Honorary President of the Kharkiv Regional Chess Federation. Among my students, besides Anna Ushenina, were two future IMs and one WIM.

Kharkiv Sport School

Participants of the chess tournament "Glassy Stream" organized together with my friend Sergey Tugaj in the Kharkiv Sport School in 2004, dedicated to 350th Kharkiv's anniversary

I was Anna's personal coach in 2000-2002. I had just achieved my International Master title, graduated from Teaching University (2000), and was full of fresh ideas. Our routine was to analyze Anna's games, play a lot of training blitz games, share chess literature and discuss chess events.

Anna, at 15, was eager to learn chess and was very competitive. The honoured coach of Ukraine, Vladimir Kaluzhin, used to tell me that, "A female player with such a strong character is born in Kharkiv once in 100 years". One example: when she was not yet so strong and we played blitz games at her home, I kidded her with, "I forgot. What’s the score?", "I don't remember!", she answered. But when she won a game, she said "1:0 to my favor!". She was very competitive and never gave up. When she became the World Women's Champion in 2012 and was awarded the GM title, we put together the training course "Test your strength and improve your game with the 14th Women's World Chess Champion". 

Artiom Tsepotan, Anna Ushenina

With Anna Ushenina after her winning the Women's World Championship in 2012

I conducted regular online chess lessons throughout 2015-2016 with Liran Zhou from New York City. While it was not always easy finding mutually good times for lessons due to the time zone difference, I hopefully imparted to him some important basic knowledge. In 2017, Liran Zhou became at the age of 9 years, 3 months and 22 days, the youngest ever National Master of the U.S. Chess Federation. I am still training students regularly in my local chess club in Kharkiv as well as over the Internet. I like it very much. 

I would also like to mention the Kharkiv Regional Chess Federation, which is boosting children’s chess to a new level. It is a voluntary community organisation and I am one of its vice-presidents. 

On 1st of June, 2019, a national record was set when 600 children participated in a simul in Kharkiv given by local GMs and other masters. Additionally, there were recently a few beautiful and memorable events with valuable gifts for kids. In December 2019, the project "Municipal Chess House" was selected as one of Kharkiv's upcoming social projects and we hope one day to get a big chess club in the city centre. There is a remarkable chess talent in Kharkiv, CM and AGM Tihon Chernyaev, who has just turned 10, but he already has some big international wins and is 2020 Champion of Ukraine U20 in blitz. Also his bullet rating on lichess is over 2700. Hopefully, after more hard work with his coaches, Tihon will eventually show up as a 2700 player in the official ratings. 

Artiom Tsepotan

Artiom with students in the local chess club

SS: What are your future plans related to 2700chess and also otherwise.

AT: First of all, I wish good health and patience to everyone in the world in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, so that we can all return to our normal lives in safety. The last big upgrade of 2700chess was a while ago and a new one is on the way: we know exactly what features our users want us to add and to improve. Also, we have our own ideas on how to improve 2700chess that I believe will provide some pleasant surprises for our fans.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife Julia for her love and unswerving support in all matters concerning the 2700chess project. Without her, none of it would have been possible.  


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Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India website, the biggest chess news outlet in the country.

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