Fried Liver Attack

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In the Italian Game, at move 3, Black usually either

  • brings out the bishop to play the ‘Quiet Game’ (Giuoco Piano) version of the Italian game, or
  • brings out their second knight in order to play the Two Knights Defence version.

When Black plays the Two Knights Defence, White may decide to try the Fried Liver Attack. With this, White attacks Black’s weak f7 square with the White knight that’s already out. White then sacrifices it to set off a vicious attack on the Black king.

[Note 1] The name ‘Fried Liver’ comes from an Italian word which translates literally as ‘dead as a piece of liver’, or as we might say, ‘stone dead’.  The Fried Liver has been played for at least 400 years, and expert players know how to deal with it when playing as Black.

[Note 2] To ‘sacrifice’ means to deliberately lose a piece in exchange for one of lower value so as to produce a good attacking position.)

The main line of play for the Fried Liver attack goes:

1.  e4         e5          - A very common first move
2.  Nf3      Nc6      - A very common second move
3.  Bc4      Nf6       - White goes for the Italian Game;
  Black plays the Two Knights Defence
4.  Ng5     d5          - White starts the Fried Liver Attack,
  threatening Black’s weak f7 pawn;
  Black blocks White bishop with d pawn.
5.  exd      Nxd      - Exchange pawns
6.  Nxf7    Kxf7   - White sacrifices the knight.
  The diagram shows the position just
  after White’s knight has taken the f7
   pawn and before Black’s king takes the
   knight                                               ─►
7.  Qf3+    Ke6     - White queen forks king & knight;
  Black king moves to protect knight.
8.  Nc3      Nd4     - White attacks d5 with a third piece;
  Black knight forks queen and c2.
9.  Bxd5+ Kd6      - White bishop takes knight and gives
  check. Black moves out of check.

The game might continue something like:

10. Q7, Kc5.   11. Na4, Kb5.   12. Nc3, Ka5.   13. b4, Kxb4.   14. Rb1, Kc5. 15. Ba3++

and Black is checkmated.

However, a skilful Black player can handle White’s Fried Liver Attack in such a way that both players have an even chance of winning.

(If Black wants to avoid the Fried Liver, they can play 5….Na5, attacking the dangerous White bishop on c4, instead of taking the White pawn exd on move 5.

If White does not yet want to launch into the Fried Liver, they can play 6.d4.)