The Lolli Attack is an aggressive alternative attempt to punish Black in the line reached from Italian Game, 1.e4 (King’s Pawn Opening) e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5?!, by playing Lolli Attack with 6.d4 instead of the bold Fried Liver Attack with 6.Nxf7, where white does not shy away from immediately sacrificing a knight for a quick kill.
The Godfather of this opening is the theoretical Giambattista Lolli, an Italian chess master and theoretician from the 18th century. The general consensus on the opening is that it offers a promising attack and dynamic compensation for white.
Winning percentages on both sides
|Win for white
|Win for black
Key ideas in Lolli Attack
The Lolli Attack is just as sound and fatal as the Fried Liver Attack and it is tactically justified. In the case of the Lolli Attack, white delays and prepares the thematic knight sacrifice on f7 by attempting to open the central files with 6.d4. The main point behind it is to expose black as much as possible when black’s king is stuck in the center after Nxf7, followed by Qf3+. This aggressive idea sets the board on fire, putting black in a tough spot to defend in a nerve-wracking position, because a slight inaccuracy from black’s side might already turn into a decisive mistake. The mere pressure of having to find the best defensive moves is likely to cause blunders and vision loss.
The position almost never appears in a game between two masters, because top players avoid these lines by not playing the dubious 5…Nxd5?!, but instead preferring 5…Na5. However, it is highly beneficial and significant for Italian Game players to know how to exploit black’s inaccuracy of 5…Nxd5?! in the Two Knights Defense.
How to play the Lolli Attack: theoretical lines
The Lolli Attack commences with a pawn sacrifice, 6.d4, which can be captured with either 6…Nxd4 or 6…exd4. Slow moves such as 6…Be7 allow white to go all in for a quick death with 7.Nxf7 Kxf7 8.Qf3+, after which the black king either has to move away from the check with 8…Ke8 or 8…Ke6 or block the check with 8…Bf6. All of these options give white a significant edge with accurate play. 6…exd4 blows open the e-file, which white may try to exploit by castling right away with 7.0-0 to bring the rook to e1, whereas the immediate check, 7.Qe2 is not as effective as castling.
6…Be7 (6.d4 Be7 7.Nxf7 Kxf7 8.Qf3+)
Provoking the sacrifice on f7 by playing a move like 6…Be7 is not a good idea for black, as it can backfire quite badly. After the sequence of 7.Nxf7 Kxf7 8.Qf3+, black is faced with a powerful check to deal with.
Two of the legal moves, like 8…Ke8 and 8…Bf6 return the extra material right away, leaving black in a highly unfavorable position out of this situation. 8…Ke6 puts some resistance into defending the d5 knight, but the king in the center is prone to be a constant target.
Retreating the king back to e8, allows white to capture on d5 with 9.Bd5, threatening Qf7+. At the moment, white is a pawn up, has a promising attack, and black has lost their right to the castle. In other words, black has nothing as compensation but instead has threats to deal with. 9…Rf8, a natural reaction to prevent Qf7+ is met by 10.Bxc6+ bxc6 11.Qh5+ g6 12.Qxh7, winning even more material.
9…Nxd4 is a more clever attempt, because it not only captures a pawn, but also threatens a fork with Nxc2+. White needs to defend the c2 pawn first with 10.Qf7+ Kd7 11.Be4.
Now black is likely to chase the intrusive queen on f7 away with 11…Qf8. But white can just retreat the queen, then chase the knight away and continue attacking. An example line would be: 11…Qf8, making extra luft on d8 for the king as well, 12.Qd5+ Bd6 13.c3 c6 14.Qc4 Ne6 15.0-0 and black will have hard time to coordinate their forces.
Psychologically, the most intuitive reaction is to put resistance by defending the knight on d5 with 8…Ke6. White is forced to continue with 9.Nc3, otherwise black will consolidate. 9…Nxd4 is no good for black due to 10.Bxd5+ Kd6 11.Qd3 and black remains in a troublesome position, while 9…Nb4 leads to a devastating attack for white. An example variation showing white’s attacking prospects would be 10.0-0 Rf8 11.Qe4 c6 12.a3, chasing the knight away from defending d5, 12…Na6 13.Qxe5+ Kf7 14.Qh5+ Kg8 15.Nxd5 cxd5 16.Bxd5+ Kh8 17.Be4 and black has to give up lot of material to deal with the simple mate threat on h7 with Qxh7#.
Blocking the check with 8…Bf6 is the most inferior option among the three because it returns the material back without putting any resistance. After 8…Bxf6 9.Bxd5+ black is forced to play 9…Be6, because 9….Ke7 runs into 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.dxe5 Bxe5 12.Bg5 Bf6 13.Bxf6+ gxf6 14.Nc3 and black king is too exposed with no adequate blocker.
So after 9…Be6, white just clears up the center with few trades, e.g. 10.Bxe6+ Kxe6 11.dxe5 Bxe5 (11…Nxe5 Qxb7) 12.Qh3+ Kf7 13.Qb3+ Kg6 14.0-0 and the black king is completely vulnerable.
6…exd4 is the inferior option among the two possible ways of capturing, because it opens up the e-file. White can exploit black’s development disadvantage by castling swiftly to seize control of the e-file with the rook.
After white castles, it is hard to suggest a good move for black, because a routine move like 7…Be7 is met by the thematic 8.Nxf7. Chess engines might suggest the crazy idea of closing the e-file with a knight sacrifice, e.g. 7…Ne5 8.Re1 Ne3, with the point being, if 9.fxe3, then 9…Nxc4, but it is very unlikely that human players will figure out such idea.
A more natural way that the game might proceed is 7…h6 8.Re1+ Nce7 9.Qh5 g6 10.Qf3, threatening Qxf7+ and hitting d5 at the same time, 10..hxg5 11.Bxd5 Qd6, freeing up the d8 square for the king, 12.Bxf7+ Kd8 13.g3, defending h2. The material may seem equal for the moment being, however, positionally white is just crushing because of the position of black’s king and the discoordination of black’s forces.
The reason why 7.Qe2 is ineffective is that black can now block the check with 7…Be7 this time, because the thematic sacrifice on f7 occurs with one tempo down for white compared to the line from earler. For example, 8.Nxf7 Kxf7 9.Qf3+ (white has spent tempo playing Qe2 then Qf3+) Ke8 10.Bxd5 Rf8 11.Bxc6+ bxc6 12.Qxc6+ Bd7. Now black is down material but has the initiative and coordinated pieces, while white’s only piece in the game is the queen.
The most prudent reaction for black would be to capture on d4 with the knight, without opening the e-file, but also not allowing Qf3+. Therefore, the Nxf7 idea does not work in this variation. White’s only move to maintain the advantage is 7.c3, dislodging the knight. Black cannot retreat the knight, e.g. 7….Ne6 8.Qxd5! Qxd5 9.Bxd5 and the knight on g5 is guarded, 9…Nxg5 10.Bxg5.
Therefore, black has to resort to an ugly looking move like 7…f6, which weakens black’s king position, to be able to play ..Ne6. E.g. 8.0-0 Ne6 (8.cxd4 Bb4+ 9.Bd2 Bxd2+ 10.Nxd2 fxg5 is also good for white) 9.Bxd5 fxg5 10.Qb3 and white keeps the pressure.
Pros and Cons of Lolli Attack
|With an accurate play, white has a crushing attack with active pieces.
|Requires calculation skills and technique to convert the attack to a full point.
|Even if black returns the material, oftentimes it is at the cost of a ruined structure, which white can strategically exploit.
|Black may capitalize on the material advantage in the long run, if they may manage to consolidate their position successfully
The Lolli Attack is a viable and thrilling alternative to Fried Liver Attack, and a tactically justified attack to attempt punishing black’s early inaccuracy. Because white makes a sacrifice, a precise follow-up is required to finish off the opponent. Therefore, it is highly recommended for Italian players, who are intending to go for the Lolli Attack, to analyze possible responses by black in-depth and up to positions, where substantial advantage for white is already achieved. This will ensure maximum confidence going into the game and add up to the opponents pressure, who will already be having a hard time defending white’s fearless attack.
Is the Lolli Attack a good opening?
The Lolli Attack can be effective in certain situations, particularly at club and amateur levels. Its strength lies in putting early pressure on Black’s position, especially if Black is unprepared. However, it’s less commonly seen at higher levels of play due to its predictable nature and Black’s ability to counter it with solid defense.
Is the Lolli Attack aggressive?
Yes, the Lolli Attack is considered an aggressive opening. It involves an early pawn sacrifice to gain rapid development and open lines for the pieces, especially the queen and bishops. This aggression aims to unsettle Black’s position and go for a quick attack, often targeting the f7-square.