Is there such thing as a chess playing signature? Meaning within x-amount of games the identity of a player is known based on the skill and game play of the player.

3 Answers 3


Unlikely. The first several moves of any game by notable players are all book. Thereafter, people who play notable games are able to play superb offensive and defensive moves.

Now, if you see some crazy sacrifice, you might think Anderssen or Tal is playing this game. Similarly, if you see some superb positional move, you might think Petrosian or Karpov is playing.

But to see a game played by any of the top 20 players of all time and pick out who was moving the pieces based upon their styles, I can't imagine it. There simply isn't the 'bandwidth' for such an individual signature in chess beyond someone playing more positionally or more tactically; that's pretty broad-brush stuff.

  • +1 @Tony Ennis: Agree about the sparsity of data points. Is it correct that time between move is not recorded in historical records, just the position played?
    – blunders
    May 19, 2012 at 13:36
  • @blunders Generally, yes. The olde games do not include the time taken. Most new ones don't, either.
    – Tony Ennis
    May 19, 2012 at 13:45

I like to add, that recently Magnus Carlsen visited Bill Gates and Mark Zukerberg and I think it came into the discussion to formalize the interconnect of a heart pulse sensor (they used wristband) during a chess match. Indeed, they had an actual simultaneous match with Magnus and many participants where all the players including Magnus wore a heart pulse sensor wrist band.

I believe that the inclusion of a "time in-between moves" and a heart pulse sensor data can signature a player by by then. The DGT Corporation are the official manufacturers of DGT boards + clock thru USB interconnect and in the best position to integrate all these needed sensory peripherals.


Yes, probably.

Of course a single game isn't going to be enough. But if you have several dozen serious tournament games by a top player (for example top 30) the identification should be relatively straightforward.

The opening repertoire will provide the strongest clue. If you allow players from different eras, specific variations will allow you to place games in time. Not only because fashion changes, but also because variations drop in and out of usage if certain discoveries are made.

Several dozen games might also give you are pretty accurate intrinsic performance rating. Or at least a guideline which strength is most realistic to assume.

Middle- and endgame play will only provide moderate information. Players who play those very differently probably have very different repertoires as well.

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