The fried liver attack was one of the deadliest opening traps I learned when I first started playing chess.
It violates principles. It’s not always 100% sound. It wins games.
You can use this opening to your advantage and really learn all about attacking chess.
I’m going to run through some of the main variations to give you some ideas to watch out for and how to win as white.
Let’s get started
- The Fried Liver Attack: Fried Liver Main Line
- The Fried Liver Attack: Na5: Polerio Defense
- The Fried Liver Attack: Traxler Attack
The Fried Liver Attack: Fried Liver Main Line
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4
The Fried Liver Attack begins in the Italian game. Black’s two most common replies are Bc5 and Nf6. After Bc5, you can initiate the Evan’s Gambit if you like attacking chess. However, more often you’ll encounter Nf6 as a way to counter attack in the center.
The whole point of the Fried Liver Attack and the Italian Game is to put pressure on f7. Because black has developed both knights first (three knights game) that means that black is unable to easily defend f7.
The Fried Liver Attack begins with white realizing this weakness, and defying an opening principle by moving a minor piece twice.
This move can certainly catch black off-guard. Normally, black would respond to pressure on f7 with e6, 0-0, or Nh6, all of which are not possible just yet.
The most accurate way to respond to the threat is to push d5, temporarily cutting the bishop off from its sight on f7.
4… d5 5. exd5
The best follow up is not to take the pawn with the knight, but to play na5. Let’s see what happens if black captures first.
5… Nxd5 6. Nxf7
The point of the opening is to play this sacrifice. Crazy enough, it doesn’t work by delivering a knockout right away.
The idea is that the knight on d5 is pinned if black captures the knight. If black doesn’t capture the knight, then white wins a piece as it is forking the queen and rook.
6… Kxf7 7. Qf3+
Here’s where you can catch most of your opponents off guard. The knight is attacked twice, and the king certainly doesn’t want to find it self in the center of the board.
In this opening, white has already violated a principle and moved the knight three times. Now its blacks turn to violate a principle and develop the king!.
This move defies everything we learn about in chess school. The king is in the center, and not many pieces are developed. White’s next logical move is to put another attacker on the pinned piece with nc3.
8. Nc3 Nb4
The most common reply and the one that makes the most sense. Black is threatening to fork the king and rook while simultaneously protecting the knight on d5. Now black can play c6 to further protect the knight. Strangely enough, black’s king is safe in the center for now.
White protects their king and gets ready to play Re1 followed by d4. The pawn on e5 is black’s kings only protection.
c6 protects the knight and gives the black king a safe place to hide when the time comes.
As long as white can keep up the pressure, they are in a good spot. White is still down a piece at this time, so it’s important to not let up at least until a piece is won back.
White had to castle the king before playing d4, or else both the c2 and d4 pawns would have been lost with tempo. Black cannot capture the pawn unless he has a death wish.
(10… exd4 11. Bxd5+ Nxd5 12. Re1+ Kd6 13. Bg5 Qd7
The bishop is immune thanks to Qxg5 ne4! winning the queen.
The queen also cannot move to c7 because of Nxd5 followed by Bf4, also winning the queen.
14. Qg3+ Kc5 15. b4+ Kxb4 16. Rab1+ Ka5 17. Nxd5 cxd5 18. Bd2+ Ka6 19. Qd3+ b5 20. Re6+
The rook is immune thanks to Qxb5#
20… Bd6 21. Rxd6+ Qxd6 22. Qxb5#
Protecting the pawn on c2 and simultaneously hitting the knight on d5 again with an X-ray attack after dxe5. The black queen can’t take the pawn on e5 either due to Re1, pinning the queen.
Unfortunately, white was unable to deliver a knock out here. However, there are still a lot of advantages. The knight is still pinned. The b4 knight doesn’t have a great square to stand on, and black is massively under developed.
That being said, white is still down a piece and hasn’t won yet. This game is playable for both sides. For the record, the engine puts white at just about +1 right now.
What this means for masters and above is that we have a playable game.
What this means for players under 2000 elo is that it’s anyone’s game.
12. Ne4 Qf5 13. a3 Kd7 14. Ng3 Qxc2 15. Qxd4 b5
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Na5
The na5 move is the main way to counter the threat we saw with Nxf7. White’s bishop can’t stay on the a3-g8 diagonal and must abandon its post.
6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3
If we stop and look at the board, both sides are equally developed. White is up a pawn, but has moved the bishop 3 times, and is not blocking the dark squared bishops development. Black’s knight have moved twice and is now on the edge of the board.
This variation is playable, but white has to be careful when capturing the rook.
8… cxb5 9. Qxa8 Be7 10. Qxa7 Nc6 11. Qe3 Nd4 12. Qc3 Nd5 13. Qg3 Nxc2+ 14. Kd1
If white plays the more logical move of Be2, he runs into the risk of development issues. Black can now chase the knight around with pawn thrusts.
8… h6 9. Nf3 e4 10. Ne5 Bc5 11. O-O Qd4
The knight is stuck in the middle of the board and white can create a strong passed pawn that is an annoying thorn for awhile.
12. Ng4 Bxg4 13. Bxg4 e3
Putting two attackers on the bishop in addition to a third on f2. Isn’t it crazy how much revolves around f2 and f7 in the Fried Liver.
14. Bf3 exf2+ 15. Kh1
The Traxler Attack. It’s quite deadly if you’re unsure what to do.
Black says that white doesn’t get to have all the fun in attacking the only square that is protected by only the king; I want to hit the f2 square on your end of the board!
White does still get in the attack first, but its tricky to pull off.
White has lost castling rights. Once the king moves, it’s still attacking the bishop. If white wants to protect the f2 square, he will have to give up a minor piece after …h6.
The very tempting nxf7 is tough to pull off after Bxf2.
2… Bxf2+ 3. Kxf2 Nxe4+
Now black is able to develop the queen with check and be able to save the rook. The fork was never going to work!
Woah woah woah, in the main line of the fried liver we had black’s king in the center. In the Traxler, white has decided to develop their king.
The rook looks tempting, but loses immediately to Qf4 with mate in 4.
(5. g3 Nxg3 6. hxg3 Qd4+ 7. Kf3 d5 8. Rh4 e4+ 9. Kg2 O-O
Amazingly in this line, black is able to castle, gain an open f file, and is up 2 pawns to a piece
(both of white’s developed pieces are en prise.
( 5… Qf4+ 6. Ke2 Qf2+ (or Nd4+ to mate in 6) 7. Kd3 Nb4+ 8. Kxe4 Qf4#
2… Ke7 3. Bc4 Rf8 4. O-O h6
This game gives a slight edge to white, but it’s still tricky. White can counter the threat of h6 with b4, sacrificing a pawn and attempting to trade the knight for bishop.
(5. b4 Bxb4 6. c3 hxg5
7. cxb4 Nxe4
Taking the e4 pawn is a big mistake as white can open up the e file now, where black’s king is.
8. Nc3 Nf6 9. d4 Nxd4 10. Re1 Ne6 11. Rxe5
5… Nxe4 6. d3 d5 7. Bb3