For this guide, it is best to have a board of your own to follow along or a digital board (easily found on the internet). Try chess.com if you cannot find one, or download arena. Both are free.
In chess, there are two types of good players. The first type is slow and methodical with his attack. He develops his pieces, castles his king, positions his minor pieces in their best spots, adjusts his major pieces, then uses a superior position to demolish his opponent. The second type of player is far more aggressive. He takes whatever weakness his opponent offers and immediately (but not unintelligently) attacks in order to quickly cripple the opposing army. Such an aggressive form of play can be seen in the fried liver attack, first recorded in 1610 in Rome.
In Depth Plan
Play begins with the two knights defense: 1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Bc4 Nf6, 4. Ng5. White attacks the ever-weak f7 pawn with the immediate threat of forking the queen and rook. Black responds with 4. … d5 to block out the bishop. For this attack, white’s e5 pawn is useless, so he gladly gives it up with 5. exd5 Nxd5, 6. Nxf7?! White sacrifices his knight for a pawn with the threat of taking either the rook or the queen on his next move if black does not recapture with his king. 6. … Kxf7, 7. Qf7+. White checks the black king while simultaneously putting a second attacker on black’s knight.
From here, black has six possible moves. The first is 7. … Kg6, 8. Bxd5 With this move, white wins back the piece he sacrificed earlier, putting him a pawn up in material. 8. … Qf6, Black attempts to trade off the queens in hopes of getting rid of white’s most threatening piece. 9. Be4+ Kf7 the black queen also provided an escape route for the king so he would not get dragged all the way to the middle, 10. Qb3+ Ke8 White is using the numerous checks to get his queen and bishop in the most prime of spots. White’s queen eyes down the board right through and to black’s king while white’s bishop is in the center of the board. 11. O-O. White castles with a (roughly) 1.2 point advantage and a devastated enemy army. Though the advantage is only slight, the real effect of the fried liver attack is the psychological damage to black (assuming black is a person and not a computer). Black is given plenty of chances to make a mistake that can be easily exploited. Rarely will you be facing someone who will not be at least somewhat distracted by having his king walked across half the board in the first few moves by the enemy queen and bishop. Especially in the mainline fried liver attack (which I will cover later) in which black’s king spends a majority of the time right next to the four central squares.
Another potential for black is 7. … Qf6. However, this still allows the white bishop to capture on the next move with check! 8. Bxd5+ Ke8, 9. Bxc6+ Qxc6, 10. Qxc6+ bxc6, 11. d3. White has successfully won a pawn, forced black to forfeit his castling privileges, isolated and doubled black’s pawns, and probably gained a shock factor on black, assuming he is an inexperienced player or this was a blitz tournament. Given enough time, black certainly would have been able to defend better, but this is why the fried liver attack is considered speculative
The next option for black is his worst option. 7. … Kg8?? It can only be assumed that black thought the g7 and h7 pawns would provide protection for his king. However, black overlooked an obvious variation. From here, white has an easy mate in three. 8. Bxd5!+ Qxd5, 9. Qxd5, Be6, 10. Qxe6#. And black sits and wonders what just happened.
The next option for black is a little more common than the earlier variations. 7. … Ke8. Black may just want to run his king as far away from the center as possible. This is not a terrible idea, but white still jumps ahead in material and position with 8. Bxd5 Qf6, 9. Bxc6+ bxc6, 10. Qh5+ g6, 11. Qe2. Note that this is if white and black play best. Assuming black is not a computer and is capable of faults while playing chess, there are several mistakes that can be made here. Let’s look at a few possible variations that are good for white. Notice after Bxd5, white is threatening Mate in one. If Black chooses to make a waiting move such as moving a pawn or even a development move like putting the bishops anywhere along their diagonals (except e6), then white wins immediately. I have caught an unsuspecting opponent off guard in this very way where he played 8. … Bc5??, attempting to develop while I was somewhat down in my own development. Of course, 9. Qf7# ended the game for black. Another variation could be Qe7, where black attempts to stop the mate threat while not offering the trade of queens because he is down in material. Basic chess principles say you should never trade pieces when you are down in material. However, Black’s plan falters after 8. … Qe7? with 9. Bxb6+! winning the knight because if 9. … bxc6?, white plays 10. Qxc6+! forking the king and defenseless rook. Black’s best actually was 9. … Kd8 putting white at a (roughly) 7 point advantage (an easy win for white).
The next variation is 7. … Ke7. A modest move that shows a little bravery on black’s part. This is perhaps the second best move for black, but still loses the knight on d5 with 8. Bxd5 Nd4, 9. Qf7+ Kd6, 10. Na3 Qe7, 11. Nc4+ Kd7, 12. Qxe7+ Kxe7. From here, black has a centralized king, less development than white, an undefended, isolated pawn, and about a .9 disadvantage.
By this point, you should easily see the big problem here. Black’s knight and king are both targeted by the queen and bishop (Diagram 2), yet the king and knight are placed in such a way that black’s pieces cannot protect them both. So far, black has decided to accept the fate of the knight (and occasionally the king) and just let white take it. Let’s look at what would happen if black refused to give up so easily and picked up a “no man left behind” motto. Play continues as follows: 7. … Ke6! Black defends his knight with his own king making sure to hold on to the small advantage he has. Actually, this variation is black’s best, putting it at a very, very slight disadvantage of - 0.09 after depth 20 analysis. 8. Nc3 Black’s knight is pinned to the king because he never moved out of the way, so placing the knight here only adds pressure to the knight who cannot capture or even move until the pin is destroyed. 8. … Nc4. Black defends the knight a third time and attacks the c2 pawn (threatening to fork the king and rook) all in the same move. White has two possible responses to this.
Play can continue with the very aggressive 9. a3?! Against a computer, this would put white in a terrible position, but few people are going to see through this. 9. … Nxc2+, 10. Kd1 Nxa1, 11. Nxd5 Qh4 Look for a moment here at the black knight. It has been moved to a useless square where it is completely cut off. Also take note that though Qh4 is black’s best, someone who has not studied this attack in depth would not generally make it. Normally, this specific variation plays on the hopes that black will make a mistake because it is the optimal set of moves for someone who has never played this opening before to mess up. Essentially, black may feel like a child whose parents put a huge plate of fried liver in front of him for dinner: panic. And, in a chess game, panic in your opponent can make all of the difference in the world, even in a lost position. The rook and pawn that white gave away were never going to help with white’s attack, so why not get rid of them if it gets rid of one black’s only defenders. 12. Nb6+ Ke7, 13. Qf7+ Kd8, 14. Nxa8. Here, the material is even and both sides are threatening the other. As I said before, though, black often makes mistakes before this point because of his panic or discomfort, especially in blitz tournaments. This usually manifests itself in complete blunders. I played one opponent in a G/10 who completely dropped his queen just before resigning. Ironically, this was after sacrificing the knight, pawn, and rook, so the material was almost even. However, the enemy king was right in the middle of the board, and the knight was locked away in the corner by my king and bishop.
Instead of giving up the rook, though, white could consider this: 9. Bb3 Bc5 10. O-O Rf8. Here, white has an advantage of about .1 after an analysis of depth 20. Play continues with 11. Qg4+ Kf7. White forces the black king away from the knight’s defense. 12. Bxd5+ Nxd5 13. Qc4. Look familiar? White recreates the pin but with his queen instead of the bishop. 13. … b6, 14. Qxd5+ White now forces the trade of queens and goes up in material with a slight advantage. 14. … Qxd5, 15. Nxd5 Bb7 And from here, white can steal a pawn, run away, develop, and enjoy a material advantage, a castled king, a great pawn structure, and a terrorized opponent, especially if this is a timed game.
Personally, I believe this is just a very fun variation. I enjoy watching black’s response to all of the different types of sacrifices white makes and the positional oddities that his own king must endure. I also love the use of panic to get an advantage on the opponent which I sometimes find to be more reliable than other advantages. Though the Fried Liver Attack has several speculative moves, a well prepared attacker should be able to get the advantage over an unprepared defender.