Fried Liver Attack
If you are an aggressive player, who likes tactics, sacrifices, and sharp positions you are on the right site. In this post we are going to analyze a very interesting and tricky line for White pieces: the famous Fried Liver Attack (FLA), also called Fegatello Attack. Actually, this variation is so good for White, that even if you are a solid and strategical player, and your opponent gives you the possibility to get into this line, you should accept, because in the worst case the first player is getting a very big compensation (in some positions there will be a decisive advantage).
The general idea in this line is that White is sacrificing a Knight on f7, but black King will have to go to the center of the board to avoid losing material. There will be an annoying pin; White pieces will be very active as Black ones are very passive. In the Elite they do not play it, because Black always avoids this variation. But, it is a very common line among beginners or club players.
Is it a good idea to play Fried Liver Attack as White?
Yes, it is a fantastic idea, I strongly recommend it. The problem is that Black is not forced to get into it. Actually we can say that getting into FLA is a mistake or at least a dubious choice for the second player.
Is this attack winning for White?
Among top-players, we could say it is almost winning for White. However, among beginners and club players the results are a little more balanced but still favorable for White.
Some theory and ideas
1e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5? (see the section “How can Black avoid Fried Liver Attack?”)
And now we are officially in the line we are studying in this post.
- … Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6
The King has to go up to protect the pinned Knight on d5. This is very risky because now the boss is going to be very exposed, and White pieces are very active, but that is the only move Black can play not to lose material.
Developing and increasing the pressure, and at this moment Black can defend the Knight on d5 with the other Knight in two different ways: Ncb4 or Nce7:
- … Ncb4
Black is threatening the pawn on c2, forking then the King and the Rook, so White needs to make a pause in the attack and make sure they do not lose more material than what they should.
9.Qe4 and 9.Kd1 have also been tried here, but I feel like the one I am suggesting (7.Bb3) is good enough. This Bishop was a little exposed on c4, so now it goes to b3 where it is safer, defending c2 and also keeping an important role in the attack.
- b) 8. … Nce7 9.d4!!
This move is much better than what is seems. At first sight, it is not threatening anything; however, it is actually improving a lot White’s position. Now the dark squares Bishop can be developed (probably to g5, creating another annoying pin), but also, White is threatening the only pawn that is protecting the enemy King, so, if this pawn disappears or moves away, the “e” file is going to be an open hall for the rook with direct access to the King. Besides, right now Black should not capture exd4, because then White can at least check on e4 with the Queen and get the Knight:
- … exd4? 10.Nxd5 Nxd5 11.Qe4+ Kf6 12.Qd4+ Kg6 13.Bxd5 +-
It is impossible to analyze and learn all the defensive moves Black can play in these lines, but we can say that White has more than enough compensation for the sacrificed piece. The next section about typical plans could help to understand and get ideas about how to play middlegames in this aggressive variation.
Typical Middlegame Plans
White needs to avoid trades, develop pieces, and keep the initiative creating significant and annoying threats. They should castle as soon as possible, so the King is safe, and the Rook can join the attack through the important “e” file. Developing the dark squares Bishop to g5 can also be an important move because is pinning a very good defender.
On the contrary, Black will try to trade as many pieces as they can. They need to develop quickly as well and if possible, take the King to better (and warm J) place.
How can Black avoid Fried Liver Attack?
It is not too difficult to avoid this attack, the problem is that many beginner players do not know the line and they unconsciously get into it.
- There is this variation, Anti-Fried Liver Defense, where Black plays 3. … h6 avoiding Ng5 forever. It is not too recommended, this move is not accomplishing the principles for the opening (it is not developing, not controlling the center, and also does not help to castle), so, it is like wasting a tempo. However, I would say it is still playable among beginners.
- Black plays 3. … Bc5, Giuco Piano (instead of 3. … Nf6, Two Knights Defense), White will not be able to play 4.Ng5 (the Knight is hanging now because as there is no Knight on f6, the black Queen is not blocked). This line is a much better choice and it is a safe and strong way to avoid FLA as Black.
- There is still another possibility to avoid the sacrifice in move 5. … Na5! (instead of Nxd5?). That is mainline, Black is fine here.
What should I play if my opponent avoids Fried Liver Attack?
- Versus 3. … h6
A good idea for White is just to continue developing and improving the position, always accomplishing the principles. Moves like 4.d4 or 4.0-0 are just perfect.
- Versus 3. … Bc5
The mainline here is with 4.c3 preparing d4 and getting a nice center of two pawns. Also, 0-0 is an important option.
- Versus 5. … Na5
White should play then 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 with a more or less balanced middlegame.