Skip to content

Is the Fried Liver Attack Good?

Is the Fried Liver Attack Good?

Is the Fried Liver Attack Good?

The Fried Liver Attack is a chess opening that involves a daring knight sacrifice by White in order to launch a direct attack on Black’s king. It is a variation of the Italian Game, which begins with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4. The Fried Liver Attack is one of the most exciting and challenging openings in chess, but is it good?

The History and Name of the Fried Liver Attack

The Fried Liver Attack has been known for centuries, dating back to the 16th century. The earliest recorded game in this opening was played by Giulio Cesare Polerio, an Italian chess master and writer, before 1606. 1 Many famous chess players have used this opening, such as Paul Morphy, Adolf Anderssen, Alexey Shirov, and Hikaru Nakamura.

The name of the opening comes from an Italian dish called “Fegatelli”, which means “little livers”. It is a dish of pork liver wrapped in fat netting and cooked over a fire. The analogy is that Black’s king is wrapped in White’s mating net and cooked alive. 2

The Moves and Ideas of the Fried Liver Attack

The Fried Liver Attack begins with the moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Nf6
  4. Ng5 d5
  5. exd5 Nxd5?!

This is the Two Knights Defense, where White has chosen the aggressive move 4.Ng5, threatening to capture Black’s weak f7-pawn. Black’s last move 5…Nxd5 is risky and invites White to sacrifice a knight with 6.Nxf7! This is the starting position of the Fried Liver Attack.

The idea behind the sacrifice is that White will gain a lot of time and initiative by attacking Black’s king with the queen and the other knight. Black has to accept the sacrifice with 6…Kxf7, otherwise White will have a strong attack with 7.Qf3+ or 7.d4.

After 6…Kxf7, White continues with 7.Qf3+ Ke6 8.Nc3, bringing another piece into the attack and threatening to win Black’s knight on d5.

Black usually plays 8…Nb4 here, trying to counterattack White’s center and defend the d5-knight. White can then choose between several options, such as 9.a3, 9.Qe4, or 9.O-O.

The Pros and Cons of the Fried Liver Attack

The Fried Liver Attack is a fun and challenging opening for both players. Here are some of the pros and cons of playing this opening:


  • White gets to play an adventurous knight sacrifice and launch a direct attack on Black’s king.
  • White has a lot of initiative and pressure on Black’s position.
  • White can create many tactical threats and traps for Black.
  • White can enjoy playing an exciting and historical opening.


  • White sacrifices a knight for an unclear compensation.
  • White has to play very accurately and energetically to maintain the attack.
  • White risks losing if Black defends well or counterattacks successfully.
  • White has to know a lot of theory and variations to play this opening well.

How to Defend Against the Fried Liver Attack?

The Fried Liver Attack is not easy to defend against, especially for inexperienced players. However, it is not proven to be decisive either, and Black can hope to survive if he plays accurately and calmly.

One way to avoid the Fried Liver Attack altogether is to play a different move instead of 5…Nxd5 in the Two Knights Defense. Some of the alternatives are:

  • 5…Na5: The Polerio Defense, where Black protects his bishop on c4 and prepares to play …c6.
  • 5…b5: The Ulvestad Variation, where Black counterattacks White’s bishop on c4 with a pawn sacrifice.
  • 5…Nd4: The Fritz Variation, where Black sacrifices a pawn for rapid development and central control.

Another way to defend against the Fried Liver Attack is to play very precisely after accepting the knight sacrifice. Some of the key points are:

  • Move the king to safety as soon as possible, either by castling queenside or by playing …Kd6.
  • Use all your pieces to defend your king, especially your queen and bishops.
  • Trade off some of White’s attacking pieces if you can do so without losing material or weakening your position.
  • Use your extra knight to create counterplay in the center or on the queenside.

Conclusion on Is the Fried Liver Attack Good?

The Fried Liver Attack is a fascinating chess opening that offers both players a thrilling and complex battle. White sacrifices a knight for a strong attack on Black’s king, while Black tries to defend and use his extra material. The Fried Liver Attack is not only fun to play, but also instructive and historical. If you want to spice up your chess games, you might want to give it a try.