Before posting this question I went through a lot of Q&As on this list.


But I still have this question without solid answers.

Question: I know what a chess style is, and that different players can have their own styles. My question is on the "why" factor. Why do we have such styles defined? Are they defined just for the sake of analysis, or are they used for something? Are they useful for players? If yes how?

How can knowing your style or others' styles be important/useful to you? Can we use that to improve ourselves?

This is not a direct question. I just need some answers as per your opinion. Appreciate your ideas.

  • 6
    "Having preferences means having weaknesses." - Magnus Carlsen Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 15:11
  • Would you mind explaining this a bit further, please?
    – Bee
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 18:38
  • 1
    From an article in Psychology Today, they were explaining that men preferred blondes. If this were true, there would be more blondes than there are now. The inner workings of the mind is too complex for the professionals, I don't expect us laymen to understand. Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 6:47

7 Answers 7


Chess is not a game that solely exists in 64 squares. Much of chess exists in our minds, and the constructs we use to process those 64 squares into beautiful and powerful games. Naturally, some approaches work better than others. Kasparov's approach to chess in his mind is, needless to say, quite a bit better than my mental approach to chess.

So, as with any game, we try to learn how to grow. We study things like end game puzzles and openings to refine our conscious approach to the game. However, a tremendous amount of human processing goes on subconsciously. We need ways to refine those subconscious methods as well. This gets into the feel of the game, or the spirit of the game. For this, we study "styles."

The funny thing about the subconscious is that it's always working. If you teach your subconscious to think a particular way about a particular chess position, it doesn't file those neural circuits away as "for Chess purposes only." It finds ways to use them in your daily life. The dual of this is true as well. Your subconscious will draw on how you handle your daily life to play chess. If there was only one way to live life, there might be only one style of chess worth playing. However, there's more ways to live life than I can count, and each brings a different set of tools to the chessboard. The best learn how to bring their Chess life and their external life into harmony, so that they can use both in all circumstances.

So we study styles to see things that have worked for other people in their lives. Then, we adapts those styles to work within our own lives.


Well, I think that knowing what type of style suits you best would be helpful in winning. If you are good at tactics, playing an open game like the Giuoco Piano where the pieces come in contact sooner would be more desirable than playing a closed one like the Queen's Gambit where a lot of maneuvering would go on before the game opened up and became more tactical. Similarly, knowing your opponent's style would be helpful in deciding what type of opening to use against him. If he's a strong tactical player and begins with 1.e4, if tactics isn't your forte, you may want to consider something like the French or Caro-Kann rather than playing 1..., e5 and facing the Giuoco Piano, Ruy Lopez or some gambit like the King's or Scotch. Against 1.d4, a positional player would stick to the normal closed Queen's Gambit Declined defenses rather than something like the Budapest Gambit that opened up the game. I might add that playing open games is normally recommended for a novice to improve his tactical skills before moving on to closed games.

  • 1
    Excellent!!! Thank you... Let's see what others have to say...
    – Bee
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 18:40

The answer to why different players have different styles is already in the question: because they are different. As in all aspects of our lives, in a game of chess we have options, and in the same way that different people approach their life in different ways, so do the chess players.

For most of the casual and even some tournament players, knowing the style of their opponent is useless: they play the game in the same way against all of their opponents. In higher levels however, knowing the style of the opponent may benefit you since you can change the nature of the position in your opponent's detriment: one usually does not want to play sharp and tactical games against a younger player or a player famous for their attacking abilities, and similarly one would not want to enter dull and even positions against a strong positional player. In this regard, I would not say that they are defined for the sake of analysis, but on the converse, analyzing a player's games will give you an idea of their style (and hence grant you an advantage).

Hence, style can mostly be characterized by personal preference. Knowing one's style can help you when choosing new openings and lines, ideally you would want them to suit your style. It can also help during a game, in case one detects that the best moves lead towards a position that does not suit one's style, it would be desirable to muddy the waters (if one tends more towards tactical games) or to exchange pieces or fix the pawn structure (if one tends more towards positional games).

Using these advantages to improve one's game would be to know our limitations and weaknesses, and work on them (like most of the top players do). However, this is a somewhat subjective answer, since other players would simply choose to enter tactical variations when faced against a quiet opening, or in the converse to play solid against wild openings. Even if I prefer the first option, the second is a completely viable strategy (as evidenced by some of the best players having an extremely limited repertoire that they know in great depth).

Disclaimer: for illustrative purposes, only two styles have been mentioned above, and a short comparison has been made. There are obviously many different styles, and this is in no way an exhaustive list.


Because of two reasons I can think of:

  1. Chess isn't always about a single perfect move (especially in the opening!), there tends to be 1 or 2 or 3, even 10 other moves that are exactly the same level of strength. Specifically speaking of the opening, styles of the positions you reach can differentiate based off what you play.

  2. We do it because people naturally prefer or do favorable in one specific type of position over another. Some players are natural born attackers and very talented at it, so they will play openings that are more geared towards attacking; they will play into their strengths and have a better intuition of what to play. Other players are more positional and have a talent for identifying maneuvers and plans, so they will prefer 'slower' lines like the Closed Ruy Lopez.

Also, to the last question, yes, we can try to identify our styles and our talents in chess to improve our openings and get a better feel for what positions we should reach.


Personality, in any aspect of life, is a complicated thing. To speak of style is a way to reduce personality to a small number of options (romantic, classical, scientific, etc..) in order to simplify description/discussion, but it will often be an oversimplification, and therefore unreliable.

Perhaps I make a move that allows an unclear attack in response that I am really rather afraid of, but I tell myself that it would not be in my opponents style. If s/he is a good player, they will do their best to arrive at an objective judgement regardless of style, but style will probably influence what they actually play.


"Style" is just a very terse way to express a complex idea. By having a common language regarding chess "styles" you can quickly quantify and communicate an idea with other players.

It aids in analysis and communication between people who enjoy the game.

It is similar to "theory" in music. You don't have to know the language of musical theory, but if you do, you can communicate with other musicians and critics very quickly regarding what is otherwise a difficult thing to express.

  • That is an interesting thought.
    – Bee
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 18:11

The sole purpose of coining the term "chess style" is to categorize the way top players think. It is also used for adapting and making it so lower-level players can copy the way they feel like doing it.

Style is important even in chess because it is your natural thinking process and acts like a mirror. It helps you to improve more by making the style as a reflection to your own personality when you see the mirror. It acts like a rhythm to a music where you can determine the future moves when you act upon it.


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