Fried Liver Attack – How to Play This Aggressive Chess Opening

Fried Liver Attack - The Ultimate Guide

Every chess beginner should know the Fried Liver Attack. It’s not only one of the most fascinating and common chess openings frequently played in scholastic chess, but also a strong opening weapon used by grandmasters from time to time.

For this reason, this article is designed to provide you with all you need to know about the Fried Liver Attack in a nutshell.

If you’re a beginner (rated below 1300 Elo) and know the Fried Liver Attack, you’ll score countless quick and easy wins right out of the opening. Moreover, by playing the Fried Liver Attack, you’ll also get familiar with plenty of key concepts in chess which are essential for any aspiring club player, such as making dynamic sacrifices, knowing how to play with the initiative, the art of attack, defense and a lot more.

Before diving right into this opening here is GM Gregory Kaidanov to give you a detailed introduction to the Fried Liver Attack.

What Is the Fried Liver Attack? 

The Fried Liver Attack is an aggressive chess opening for White that starts out of the Italian Game. After the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4, Black has a choice. The two main moves are 3…Bc5 or 3…Nf6.

Fried Liver Attack - The Ultimate Guide

Most beginner players go for the move 3…Nf6 (The Two Knights Defense), which is a sound and solid move for Black.

Fried Liver Attack - The Ultimate Guide

However, Black has to be aware of the fact that the move 3…Nf6 allows White to play the move 4.Ng5! (diagram). Most beginner players don’t know what to do after this move. This knight move targets the vulnerable f7-square in Black’s camp.

White immediately threatens to capture on f7, either with the knight or the bishop, and to collect material.

The best move for Black in this position is the move 4…d5! (We’ll warn you of the Traxler Counter Attack, a devilish countergambit for Black which arises after the move 4…Bc5!? You can find other articles on our website where we explain what White has to do here).

Fried Liver Attack

Speaking from experience, it should also be noted that many beginner players don’t play the correct moves 4…d5 and 4…Bc5. Instead, they go for poor moves like 4…Qe7?, 4…h6? or 4…Rg8? All these moves immediately lead to a lost position for Black.

Black’s best move is 5…Na5 (although 5…b5!? and 5…Nd4!? are also playable). But beginners will almost always play 5…Nxd5?!, which allows the crushing Fried Liver Attack with 6.Nxf7! (diagram).

Fried Liver Attack - The Ultimate Guide

White’s idea is to answer 6…Kxf7 with 7.Qf3+. The queen joins the game with a double attack on the knight on d5 and Black’s king. This check more-or-less forces Black to play 7…Ke6 (the only way to defend the Nd5). Black’s king is in a horrible position now!

White has a great attack after 8.Nc3, followed by a later d2-d4!, as the Black king has no pawn-shelter.

So, the Fried Liver Attack can only be played if Black isn’t careful enough. But, again speaking from experience, that will be the case in 9 out of 10 games. It is one of the most aggressive chess openings from White as you will be sacrificing one of your minor pieces very early in the game. The Black king will be forced into the middle of the board and will be in great danger during the whole game.

Now, as we are familiar with the starting opening moves, we should dive a bit deeper. Despite all enthusiasm, we should not forget that White has sacrificed a whole piece and the position doesn’t win itself.

Unfortunately, we see plenty of beginner chess players who overconfidently go for the Fried Liver Attack, but have only learned the first few moves! When they have to make the first move on their own, they have no idea what to do and often come up with bad moves. In these cases, Black soon manages to consolidate his position and makes his extra piece count.

For this reason, it’s essential to be familiar with the key attacking ideas and typical patterns whenever you play an opening in which you voluntarily sacrifice material.

See the Fried Liver Attack in action! In this video, GM Larry Christiansen goes over a Fried Liver Attack game played between two GMs. GM Alexei Shirov is the one who chooses to play this hyper-aggressive opening (analysis of this game starts at 4:35):

A Beginner’s Move Played by Masters

The move 4.Ng5 breaks the opening principles of not moving a piece twice in the opening.

White is also launching an attack before he is fully developed. In fact, most of white’s pieces are undeveloped, and his king is still in the center.

For these reasons, 4.Ng5 is sometimes described as a beginner’s move.

4ng5 a beginners move plated by masters blog image

White is essentially placing a higher value on practicality than prudence. This move causes black to react to the threat against f7, so it’s hard to take advantage of white’s undeveloped pieces.

Of course, black isn’t much further ahead in development than white and usually moves his knight on c6 twice. He is likely to do this while playing a pawn sacrifice to boot.

White will usually end up a pawn ahead with no pawn weaknesses of his own. The white knight might be misplaced on g5, but the black knight on a5 is also out of the game.

The Fried Liver Attack – A Historical Game 

To start with, let’s go for a little journey through time and take a look at this inspirational game:

More than 150 years ago, in the Romantic Era of Chess, players like Lionel Kieseritzky, who most probably (and sadly) is best best-known nowadays for losing the “Immortal Game” to Adolf Anderssen in 1851, used the Fried Liver Attack to crush their opponents before the games really started:

Kieseritzky, Lionel – Loewenthal, Johann Jacob, London 1851

9.Nh3 – The Choice of Two World Champions

The move 9.Nh3 was the move of choice by the first world chess champion Wilhelm Steinitz. He played it in his match against Chigorin.

fried liver attack 9.nh3
Fried Liver Attack after 9.Nh3

Since then, Bobby Fischer has also played this move.

In fact, 9.Nh3 is played almost as often as 9.Nf3 and has a 6% higher win-rate! This certainly makes it a move to keep in mind.

Your opponent will most likely focus more on the mainline with 9.Nf3, which makes 9.Nh3 a dangerous surprise weapon.

Play might continue 9…Bd6 10.d3 O-O 11.Nc3

fried liver attack 9.nh3 and 11.nc3
Fried Liver Attack after 9.Nh3 and 11.Nc3

In this position, white has kept his extra pawn and managed to avoid creating any pawn weaknesses.

Black is both a pawn down and has isolated pawns on c6 and a7.

The move 9.Nh3 has been played with success by both Ivanchuk and Aronian. Here is Aronian showing how to play this position against the strong Chinese GM Ding Liren.

When this game was played, GM Ding Liren was rated 2801 and Aronian 2772.

Levon Aronian – Ding Liren, India 2019

If the Fried Liver Attack can be played at this high level, it is sure to prove a devastating weapon at the club level.

Why Play The Fried Liver Attack?

fried liver attack aggressive chess opening for white blog image
  • A Solid Opening Trap

Opening traps are the easiest way to win in a flashy and quick way. However, you shouldn’t play to only trick your opponent! If you are a one-trick chess player, then your opponent only needs to avoid the trap, and then you won’t know what to do!

That’s the reason why, if you want to trap your opponent, you need to study tricky openings with a solid background. The Fried Liver Attack is one of these aggressive chess openings. If you study the Fried Liver Attack in depth, you will have a lot of bait with which to confuse your opponent, and a good knowledge of typical ideas if your opponent evades them.

  • Defending Is Harder Than Attacking

As we’ve seen, Black has to play accurate defensive moves against the Fried Liver Attack in order to survive the first 15 moves. In chess, attacking is easier than defending. When you’re attacking, you can mostly focus on your own ideas and plans.

When you’re defending, you always have to react to your opponent’s moves and ideas. This is what makes defending a lot harder than attacking – you can’t really focus on your own ideas, but have to pay a lot more attention to your opponent’s intentions. It’s key to notice that the defensive skills of most club players are very weak. Therefore, it makes sense to play an attacking opening.

The Fried Liver Attack – Chess Opening Analysis For Beginners

In this section of the article, we provide you with deep analysis (backed up by the strongest cloud engines available) of all the key lines you need to know when you want to play the Fried Liver Attack with White.

Remember: It’s key to know how to convert your compensation into something concrete. Unless you’re Mikhail Tal, you can’t just sacrifice material without any concrete ideas and hope that your compensation might be enough.

Fried Liver Attack – Conclusion

The Fried Liver Attack is a chess opening that starts from the Italian Game and occurs after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5, allowing the powerful 6.Nxf7! After this theoretical sacrifice, White has a crushing attack as the Black King gets very exposed.

The Fried Liver Attack is played by thousands of beginner chess players around the globe. We hope that the deep analysis in this article will give you all the necessary weapons to sacrifice the knight with confidence. We assure you that you will have all the fun while Black will desperately try to find one defensive move after another.

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3 comments on “Fried Liver Attack – How to Play This Aggressive Chess Opening

  1. Lucas G. says:

    Thanks! I could use this against my opponents!

  2. giuseppe bencivenni says:


  3. Alex Skinner says:


    Thanks for the article. Sorry if this question is dim but in the Shirov game you linked, white seems to win without any apparent explanation as to why; they are not even in check. Could you please explain?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


3 comments on “Fried Liver Attack – How to Play This Aggressive Chess Opening

  1. Lucas G. says:

    Thanks! I could use this against my opponents!

  2. giuseppe bencivenni says:


  3. Alex Skinner says:


    Thanks for the article. Sorry if this question is dim but in the Shirov game you linked, white seems to win without any apparent explanation as to why; they are not even in check. Could you please explain?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *