Fried Liver Attack

The Fried Liver Attack is a highly tactical and bold variation that can arise from the Two Knights Defense in the Italian Game with the following moves: 1.e4 (King’s Pawn Opening) e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7.

Fried Liver Attack

In this aggressive chess opening, white sacrifices a knight in the early stages of the game to set up a deadly mating attack. The earliest recorded instance of this line dates back to the 17th century, and its name is inspired by the Italian dish “Fegatelli”, which means ‘Fried Liver’ in English:”Fegatelli” is pork liver sliced up, wrapped in fat netting and cooked over a fire; likewise Black’s king is wrapped in White’s mating net.”

Winning percentages on both sides

Results Rate
Win for white 53%
Draw 18%
Win for black 29%

Main Ideas of the Fried Liver Attack

As the winning percentages for white imply, the Fried Liver Attack is an aggressive choice of opening, which gives white a realistic edge with high practical chances. It is also usually easier to be on the attacking side than to be on the defensive, so if black were to allow the knight sacrifice, most of the players would be happy to go into this line with white pieces.

In the Fried Liver Attack, white step by step aims to build up a strong and quick attack on the light-squared color-complex using tactical motifs such as pin, discovered attack, and fork after drawing the black king into the center with a knight sacrifice on the f7-square. White’s main idea is to keep adding pressure on the a1-g8 diagonal. So, white will either try to recover the material or sometimes sacrifice even more material in order to exploit the vulnerability of black’s centralized king. The nature of battle is highly dynamic, often involving forced, concrete variations rather than positional plans and maneuvering. Black has no choice but to tenaciously defend the position with precise calculation in order to not lose on the stop.

Fried Liver Attack Theory

The position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 (Italian Game) Nf6 (Two Knights Defense) 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Qf3+ can be considered the main starting position of the Fried Liver Attack, where black has a couple of defensive moves to choose from. The only way for black to stay in the game is to defend the knight on d5 with 7…Ke6. Other options, such as blocking the check with 7…Qf6+ or moving out of the check with 7…Ke7 give white a significant advantage, but white still has to show good technique to convert it in those cases. Alternatively, after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 black can try to deal with the pressure on f7 with the so-called Traxler Counter-Attack: 4…Bc5. The idea is to sacrifice the bishop on f2, in case white captures the f7-pawn with the knight, after which the e4 pawn will be undefended. Therefore, after 5.Nxf7 Bxf2 6.Kxf2 Nxe4+ black’s queen gets out of white’s knight attack easily with Qh4+ or Qf6+ and even plays for a win.

It is important to note that Black is not forced to go into the variation with Nxd5 that allows the Nxf7 knight sacrifice. In fact, black’s best reply is to make an exchange sacrifice by going into the line with 5…Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Qf3 cxb5 9.Qxa8 Qc7, black has good compensation for the material. Another alternative would be to play 5…Nd4 6.c3 b5 7.Bf1 Nxd5 8.cxd4 Qg5, which is called the Fritz Variation and has its own complicated theory.


Fried-Liver Opening - 7...Ke6 line

The early attack with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 becomes only possible due to the fact that the knight on f6 is blocking the way of black’s queen to g5 square, which would not have been the case with 4…Bc5. After 4.Ng5, black’s only way to defend the f7-pawn is to block white’s bishop with 4…d5. After 5.exd5 Nxd5 white can sacrifice the knight on f7, 6.Nxf7 Kxf7, by relying on the move 7.Qf3+ which attacks the knight on d5 with a check. Since Nf6 is not possible due to the pin, 7…Ke6 is black’s best way to defend the knight. White then keeps attacking the pinned knight with 8.Nc3, which basically forces black to play 8….Ncb4 to defend the knight while also attacking the pawn on c2 at the same time.

White can either castle, 9.0-0, in order to bring the rook into the game as well, or defend the c2 pawn with 9.Bb3 first. The third option, 9.a3, with the idea to dislodge the knight from defending, is objectively rather unsound, as black can surprisingly defend with 9…Nxc2+ 10.Kd1 Nxa1 11.Nxd5 Qh4 12.Nxc7 (12.Nb6 Ke7 13.Nxa8 Bg4, pins, and wins the queen) Kd7 13.Qf7+ Qe7 14. Qxe7+ Bxe7 15. Nxa8 Kd6 and white’s knight are trapped in the corner.

9. 0-0

Fried-Liver Opening - 9. 0-0 line

The idea behind 9.0-0 is not only to prevent black from capturing c2 with a check but also to bring the rook to e1, putting pressure on black’s king, which is stuck in the center. 9…c6 10.d4, white tries to quickly open up the e-file. With 10…Qf6 (10…exd4? 11.Re1+ Kd7 12.Bxd5 and white is crushing), black wants to exchange queens as they are up a material, but white would of course like to keep as many pieces as possible on the board, so 11.Qe2, pinning the e5 pawn as well. 11…Ke7, with the idea to bring the king to a safer square like d8. After 12.Ne4 Qg6 13.dxe5 Kd8, black has managed to find a relatively safer square for the king, but white still has practical compensation.


Fried-Liver Opening - 9. Bb3 line

White does not have to hurry with the attack, so protecting c2 with 9.Bb3 is another sensible option for white to eliminate any counterattacking chances for black. Now white is also threatening a3 to chase away black’s knight on b4. So, 9…c6 10.a3 Na6 11.Nxd5 cxd5 12.d4, to open up the center as quickly as possible, and c4 is also on the agenda. At this point, black should give up one more pawn to develop their pieces and consolidate their position with move like 12…Be7.


Fried Liver Opening - 7...Qf6 line

After 7.Qf3+, Black may try to block the check with 7…Qf6 instead of defending the knight with 7….Ke6. But the knight on d5 is not defended by any piece, so white can simply capture it with either a bishop or queen. While in both cases, white is simply pawn up at the very least, capturing with 8.Bxd5 gives white much clearer advantage because after 8…Ke7 or 8…Ke8, white can simply ruin the pawn structure for black with 9.Bxc6 bxc6. White should still keep the queen on the board, as black’s king is still stuck in the center: 10.Qe2

Now white has not only a material advantage but also a better pawn structure for the endgame, as their attack continues. Black should therefore avoid 7….Qf6? altogether.


Fried Liver Opening - 7…Ke7 line

7…Ke7 is not any better than 7…Qf6. White can simply capture the knight with 8.Bxd5, hitting c6 as well as threatening Qf7+, so after 8…Nd4 9.Qf7 Kd6 10.Na3, defending the c2 pawn as well as threatening Nc4+, black’s king will be in lots of trouble.

Traxler Countergambit: 4…Bc5

Fried Liver Attack - Traxler Countergambit

Black can seek counterplay with 4…Bc5 instead of trying to defend with 4…d5. The idea behind 4…Bc5 is that after 5.Nxf7, white’s pawn on e4 will be undefended, which enables the tactical sequence starting with the bishop sacrifice on f2: 5…Bxf2+. Example lines that show how things can go easily wrong for white would be: 6. Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7.Kf3 Qf6+ 8.Kxe4 Qf4+ 9.Kd5 Qd4# and 6.Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7.Kf1 Qh4 (7…Qf6+ 8.Qf3), threatening …Qf2#, 8.Qe1 Ng3 9. Qxg3 Qxc4+ 10. Ke1 Qxf7 and and Black has a material advantage as a pawn.

Pros and Cons of playing the Fried Liver Attack

Pros Cons
Objectively and statistically better for white. White should theoretically know how to follow up on the knight sacrifice.
It’s easier to attack than to defend, so black has a relatively tougher task. Precise calculation and tactical affinity are required.


In conclusion, the Fried Liver Attack is a highly tactical and exciting opening that can be both rewarding and risky for white. In order to be successful with the attack, white should demonstrate good conversion technique. Black should be cautious and avoid allowing this attack, as it can give white a clear advantage. However, if black can navigate the tricky lines and find the right defenses, they can not only thwart white’s attack but also gain an advantage of their own.

Written by
Deniz Tasdelen, National Master
National Master with over 20 years of experience. He has participated in many prestigious tournaments, including the European and World Youth Chess Championships.
Ask Question


Why do they call it Fried Liver Attack?

The Fried Liver Attack, a provocative name in chess, originates from the Italian term “Fegatello Attack,” where “fegatello” means “small liver.” The name likely derives from the notion of the attacked king being akin to a piece of liver being cooked or fried by the aggressive tactics of the attacker.

Is Fried Liver Attack a good opening?

The Fried Liver Attack is considered a sharp and aggressive opening, well-suited for players who enjoy tactical battles and direct attacks. However, it’s often less favored at higher levels due to its risky nature and the well-prepared defenses that black can employ. Its effectiveness largely depends on the element of surprise and the opponent’s familiarity with the defense strategies.

Is Fried Liver Italian Game?

Yes, the Fried Liver Attack is a variation of the Italian Game. It arises after a sequence of specific moves that begin with the Italian Game’s opening moves. The Fried Liver is characterized by an early knight sacrifice by white, aiming to exploit weaknesses in black’s position, specifically targeting the f7-square.

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