Chess Playing Styles – Guide on Tactical and Positional Chess

Basically, there are two chess playing styles, tactical and positional. A tactical player is one who relies on tactics and tries to gain an advantage through tactical combinations, while a positional player is the one who is always looking to occupy important squares and gain a positional and space advantage.

However, a player’s chess style encompasses more than just these two aspects.

It involves elements such as psychology and perception, with some players excelling in defensive strategies while others possess a talent for simplification.

Yet, it is crucial to understand that a player’s style is not solely defined by defensive or attacking play, complexity creation, or simplification. You style of play is much more than that.

Playing Style of Top Chess Players

Modern Grand Masters and strong International Masters are good at both tactical and positional chess. They study their games using chess engines and those engines run on a computer.

A computer as we all know is an emotionless machine that gives results based on thousands of calculations in a particular position.

It works purely on finding the best move in any situation. And it repeats all those thousands of calculations after every move.

A human mind can never compete with such deep calculations and as the saying goes:

if you can’t beat them, join them“.

This is the prevailing philosophy among top chess players worldwide—they strive to memorize computer-generated moves to the best of their ability.

Consequently, these players have developed a hybrid style of play that transcends the boundaries of mere tactics or positioning. It encompasses a well-rounded approach, drawing inspiration from various elements.

Developing Your Chess Style: The Importance of Analysis

If you aspire to become a better chess player, regardless of your current rating, analyzing your games with chess engines is essential—especially the ones you have lost.

This practice allows you to cultivate a more dynamic, logical, and ultimately winning playing style.

Each analysis presents an opportunity to identify and rectify mistakes, ensuring that you don’t repeat similar blunders in future games.

Even if you are fixing 1 problem per analysis and taking that knowledge to the next game and not repeating a similar kind of blunder in the new game, your analysis was a success.

This development will make you a difficult opponent with each passing game.

Of course, there will be fluctuations in rating due to many things going on in life and a human mind can never give a similar amount of focus every day but at least your approach to improve will be the right one.

Types Of Chess Players:

There are 5 different types of chess players based on their approach towards the game of chess. They are:

  1. Aggressive Players
  2. Solid Positional Players
  3. Tactical Players
  4. Endgame Specialists
  5. Positionally Flexible Players

There is also a 4 players model that top chess players can be categorized into. Those models are:

  1. The activists
  2. The reflectors
  3. The pragmatics, &
  4. The theorists

You can read more about them in this detailed chessbase article.

It is important to note that these categories and models are not mutually exclusive, and many players may exhibit a combination of these traits in their playing style.

Ultimately, the classification of different types of chess players is subjective and dependent on the individual player’s strengths and weaknesses.

Details of The Difference between Tactical and Positional Chess:

In chess, there are two distinct styles of play: tactical and positional. Let’s delve into each style in more detail.

Positional Chess

Positional chess involves focusing on controlling important squares on the board. The main objective is to establish a positional advantage by dominating key areas of the board.

In classical chess, this style of play can become tedious if both players are solely seeking a positional advantage, with no significant movement, attacking threats, or advances from either side.

Consequently, viewers often find this type of chess unappealing.

However, in faster-paced games like blitz or bullet, positional play can be quite captivating. These games demand quick thinking and decisive moves, resulting in dynamic battles as both players strive to gain a positional edge.

If you prefer a calmer approach to chess, where you carefully consider which squares to occupy and control, then the positional style may suit you.

Focus on building a repertoire of solid chess openings, avoid gambits and aggressive openings, and develop into a reliable player.

Tactical Chess

A tactical player excels in counter-play. They rely on combinations, tactics, imbalances, and sacrifices to seek a significant advantage.

When discussing this style of play, one cannot help but think of Mikhail Tal.

However, it is worth noting that Tal was also adept at solid play. After all, one cannot become a World Champion without being proficient in all aspects of chess.

It is important to recognize that Tal belonged to a different era.

In contemporary top-level chess, sacrificing a pawn in the hopes of gaining a substantial advantage is a rarity.

The level of competition is exceptionally high, and players often strive to emulate and mimic computer-like play to succeed at the highest level.

While creativity still exists, as Vishy Anand suggests, even his own creative ideas encounter numerous flaws when tested against a computer.

This lack of creativity might be detrimental to the overall game, but in terms of standards, it sets a high bar, leaving no room for wishful thinking and only allowing for solid moves.

The pure tactical style of chess at the highest level has become a thing of the past.

If you’re interested, check out a gripping game between Tal and Botvinnik, where they engage in a solid English Opening.

In this game, there is a particular move that exemplifies one of the best tactical moves ever played.

Combination of Tactical and Positional Styled Chess

A thing about succeeding is that there are usually more than one ways to be successful in most fields of life. Chess is no different. It can be mastered in different styles.

But more recently we have seen that to really succeed at the top level, chess is becoming more and more tilted towards solid play and memorization. At least in the classical events.

But modern Chess players like Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniatchi are known to be OK with all styles of play. They are a combination of both. And they know exactly when to unleash which style of play.

How to Find your Chess Style?

To discover your playing style, review your recent games, specifically the last 10 or 20. Take note of the results and positions you feel comfortable with.

Analyzing your victories will provide valuable insight into your preferred style of play. Continue employing that approach while also examining your losses. Learn from your mistakes by conducting a quick analysis using an engine and make minor adjustments for improvement.

Avoid trying to memorize specific moves, as they are likely to fade from memory within 24 hours unless you are a highly rated player.

Focus on refining 3 to 4 moves per day in recurring positions that frequently arise in your games. Utilize engine analysis to solidify these moves and build your game strategy from there.

Try to understand the theme and plan behind engine’s suggested moves.

If you currently play 10 blitz games a day, consider reducing it to 5. Dedicate the remaining time to analysis and solving tactical puzzles.

However, if you are a complete beginner, it is advisable to concentrate solely on playing chess. Determining your playing style at this stage may not be suitable for you.


In this blog, we have discussed different chess playing styles.

A good thing about chess is that anyone can enjoy it, be it an under 800 rated online player or a super Grand Master, there is happiness in chess for everyone.

Like any other walk of life, if you want to get better at chess, you have to work on your skill.

In this blog, we have discussed different ways you can become a better chess player, by adopting a style of play that suits you the best.

Connect with me and let’s play an online game sometime… 😀