The Fried Liver Attack is a fun opening in which white sacrifices a knight to lead the black king into a mating net.
Let me show you how this chess opening works:
What’s the Fried Liver Attack?
The Fried Liver Attack occurs after the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5.
After 5. … Nxd5, white sacrifices its knight with 6. Nxf7 Kxf7 and goes for a mating attack!
The opening got its unusual name from its Italian name “Fegatello”, which roughly translates to “cooking a liver”. The name was probably chosen because the black king often ends up in a mating net and gets “fried” by the white pieces.
This old opening has seen play for centuries, and the earliest record of it is a game from the year 1606.
It should be noted that the Fried Liver isn’t achieved until black plays 5. … Nxd5. In fact, inaccurate play is required to reach the Fried Liver Attack. The better move for black is 5. … Na5.
If you’re looking to refute the Fried Liver as black, don’t play Nxd5 and play Na5 instead!
Main Line of the Fried Liver Attack
After 6. Nxf7 Kxf7, white follows up with the logical move 7. Qf3+.
As you can see, the queen attacks both the king and the knight on d5. Black has to further expose the king with 7. … Ke6, which is the only move that both protects the knight and gets the king out of the check.
The black king is on the 6th rank as early as move 7, which gives white great attacking chances. On the flip side, black is a piece up and if he manages to defend without any losses, he’ll win the game.
Practical speaking though: White has a much easier game and according to the lichess database, white wins 59% of the time after playing 7. Qf3+.
The next move for white is obvious, 8. Nc3, which develops a piece and attacks the pinned knight on d5.
Black has two moves that defend the knight: 8. … Ne7 or 8. … Nb4.
We’ll leave the introduction at this point as the opening branches out here. Go through this study to find out more about how to continue:
Is the Fried Liver Attack a Good Chess Opening?
The Fried Liver Attack doesn’t appear much in grandmaster games because both sides must play slightly inaccurate to reach it. Instead of 3. … Nf6, most masters opt for the Italian opening and go for 3. … Bc5 first.
5. … Nxd5 is an inaccurate move by black as well, and it can even be argued that 6. d4 is a safer reply than 6. Nxf7 for white.
However, if you do reach the Fried Liver, it actually turns out to be an interesting double-edged opening. Even though engines say that the position is objectively ok for black, white has the better winning chances in practice.
And while this opening might not be 100% accurate, it has high instructional value, especially for chess beginners.
White sacrifices the knight and doesn’t immediately win the game for it, but gains a dangerous attack instead.
This teaches chess students that material isn’t everything, and that you can win even if you’re down a piece — as long as you can keep up the initiative and put your opponent under pressure. Therefore, I recommend showing this opening to chess beginners.