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I am an amateur player and I play blitz games with players with ratings around 1500. My impression is, most of these players play very aggressively. I seldom see players who prefer a quiet, solid game, such as Karpov or Petrosian did. (Of course, I am only comparing playing style, not strength).

Is it correct to conclude that most amateur players like to play aggressively? I am not sure if this is only my impression, or it can be supported by statistics. If so, why?

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    Do you differentiate between the words aggressive and reckless? Feb 19, 2021 at 2:58
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    They probably don't play aggresively, but wrong
    – David
    Feb 19, 2021 at 9:24
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    Not enough for an answer but back when I was growing up in the 90s, nearly everyone I knew played some variant of Guicco Piano. Feb 19, 2021 at 15:55
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    Highly positional play isn't easy to immediately learn for beginning players. As pointed out in an answer, beginning players do not demonstrate reciprocal thinking as much where you consider your opponent's response to your move as much as you consider your own move options. Feb 19, 2021 at 15:58
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    I think that blitz is often played more aggressively. Feb 20, 2021 at 16:27

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Do most amateur players play aggressively?

That's a very broad and sweeping generalization because, for a start, the vast majority of chess players are amateurs. Very, very few are professionals. Very, very few can actually make a living from chess by playing, coaching or teaching. Not even all grandmasters can make a living from chess.

Then there is the biblical saying (from Ecclesiastes / Kohelet): "There is a time and place for everything under heaven." as immortalized by Mary Hopkins. On the chessboard too there is a time for aggression, a time for quiet development, a time for prophylaxis, etc., and a good player will be aggressive when the position calls for it.

So, I suspect the answer is "No", although it is probably true that most very weak players are over-aggressive. To understand why, it's worth looking at the major factors which separate very weak players from strong players:

  1. Strong players understand one of the core principles of opening development: "First develop your pieces (trying not to move any piece twice until all the pieces have been developed) and only then think about attacking." (Nimzowitsch: "My System")
  2. Probably the biggest difference between strong and weak players is not calculating ability but the ability to correctly evaluate a position. One of the saddest ways weaker players lose to stronger players is by doing some calculations and evaluating the resulting position as equal while the stronger players evaluate the position as materially equal but positionally crushing. That position is duly reached and the weaker player is crushed without ever knowing why (unless they ask the other player during the postmortem). Hint: when you lose to a stronger player in a serious game always ask for a postmortem if there is time.
  3. Strong players play prophylactically (again Nimzowitsch: "My System"). Once past their opening knowledge they continually ask after every opposition move "Why was that move played? What are the plans? How can I stop them?". The weak player rarely does this unless the opponent makes a very obvious move threatening a capture or mate.
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Do you know the German biologist Ernst Haeckel? "Ontogenesis recapitulates phylogenesis". I think this is as true in chess. History of chess, as well as development of an individual chess player, begins with tactics. Positional play only comes later (and would be rather pointless without some tactical knowledge). Exceptions are rare. (In my own club I have a kiddie who has an unbelievable talent for positional play, but he mostly gets clobbered tactically...)

That said, I think you choose an unprecise wording, as Andrew already suggested. Also judging from my club play (for reasons this and that, I'm hundreds of ELO points better than anyone else) those poor victims do only rarely play aggressive. Rather, they are the proverbial rabbit before the snake. Still, of course the games mostly look tactical. Do not confuse tactical and aggressive play, and also not amateurs on the receiving end with those dishing it out.

I'm a scientist for life - if in doubt, moar data. Mind to add a typical sample game of what you see as aggressive play? Also (my club situation naturally is untypical) I could suffer from a sample illusion as well.

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In my view, most club players don't play aggressively enough. There is a pattern where someone who is good against non-club players joins a chess club, plays their first matches, tries wild attacks, that are easily defended against. New player drops a couple of pawns, the club player exchanges off to an endgame and wins by promoting one of them. Many new club players then adapt, by a safety-first style that is designed to not drop pawns and wait for their chance to grab one, and they never become much stronger than 1500.

Whereas Karpov... He is a grandmaster, one of the best ever. Chess is a game that rewards aggression. If you give him the chance, he will blow you off the board just like Kasparov would.

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I think the under-looked consideration here is that you play blitz. Blitz (especially when no increment or delay is used) is much more conducive to aggressive playstyles than quiet ones.

If Alice makes an aggressive attack against Bob, one of two things happens. Either Alice's attack is successful and she generally wins on the spot, or the attack fails and Bob is left with a winning position. But even when the attack fails, Bob must convert his winning position. This may be difficult if he spent much of his limited time calculating his defense. Alice still has winning/drawing chances even when her attack fails. When time is limited, attacking is favorable to defending.

By their nature, quiet/passive/positional playstyles tend to require more moves for games to end than aggressive ones. If Alice wants to play positionally, will she have enough time on her clock to play through all these moves to victory? Maybe, but the focus on who has more time on the clock is amplified. Even if Alice outplays Bob strategically to get a winning position, she still has to convert with limited time left on the clock.

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I don't know of any statistics to prove either way, but I think this is not true. I've seen just as many new players plod along with a passive pawn march as I've seen be very aggressive. New players may seem aggressive since they often trade immediately rather than leave pieces in threat, and in taking these trades they leave themselves (unknowingly) in perhaps a more exposed position than a more experienced player would be comfortable with.

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