Aggression is excellent against weaker players. But too much is bad. The higher the level of play, the more you need to dial it back to be safe.

What is the point in ratings in which one should look more to playing positionally and stop going all out for attack and tactics? This is in order to avoid losing with barely inferior moves that a weaker player could not find a good response to, but a high-rated player can refute.

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    Everything is very good against weaker players. Passive play is very good against weaker players, but it won't work well against stronger players.
    – bof
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 4:51
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    It should be noted that the fruit of aggressive play is different at different levels. At low level it usually ends in mate or material deficit due to failed attack. Higher players very often are able to defend into a slightly worse game, requiring the aggressor to display some technique, which often has big deficits due to their aggressive playstyle.
    – B.Swan
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 11:34

4 Answers 4


Whether aggresive or not, good chess works against all players. Bad chess does not "work" against anyone, but you can still beat a weak opponent in spite of it.

There are positions that require aggression, others that don't. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3, aggressive play is the only way you can beat a GM. After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5, you should expect to be in a quieter game.

There's also a trend towards aggressive play requiring more opening theory to rely on (as mistakes will pay a higher price)


You seem to equate being aggressive with being inaccurate. I would say it's the opposite. Most top level players tend to be aggressive because you have to get wins to reach the highest levels. Caruana is the perfect example. He's a very strong player but couldn't beat Magnus because he wasn't aggressive enough and could only draw.

The best players all tend to be aggressive- Fischer, Kasparov, Magnus, Tal, Anand, Topalov, Morphy etc. Capablanca is the only truly great player (in my opinion) who played a defensive style yet even he lost to Alekhine.

I'll add that most engines can be very aggressive too, Generally, the first clue I have that I'm playing an engine is that I can't get the initiative. I've played some very strong players (GMs, IMs, world and national champions etc) and even when I lose I'm still able to dictate the game to an extent. Engines though are always able to keep the initiative and put me on the defensive if I just play normally. Accurate play and aggressive play are frequently the same thing.

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    If your argument is "being defensive will 'only' allow you to reach the level of Caruana or Capablanca" that's not really the best argument against it.
    – D M
    Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 10:41

Rather than a point in ratings I think it is a difference in ratings. At a difference of 400 points you can mostly play how you like. I recall a game from 2-3 years ago where Aronian was playing a 2400. He made an unsound sac in a quiet position and his opponent never had any piece coordination after that. The computer didn't like this sac at all. I doubt he would have played that way against an equal in that position.

I would like to see more analysis of games between unequals. It is instructive to see lines play out that usually only end up in the analysis.


Actually it depends on playing style some high ranked international players also have reputation of being aggressive or positional. It also depends of time Variants. So I would say it would be after 1500 as opponent would be also tough and knowing all tactics.

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