After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 we get the exciting Two Knights Defense. In that case, white’s most combative move is 4.Ng5 when 4…d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7!? is the Fried Liver Attack (an amateur favorite… the name alone makes you want to do it!), 4…d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ (6.d3!?) 6…c6 (6…Bd7!?) 7.dxc6 bxc6 and now 8.Be2, 8.Qf3, and 8.Bd3 are all commonly seen and lead to sharp, unclear play. On top of all that, instead of 5…Na5, Black can also try 5…Nd4 and 5…b5, with both leading to truly insane complications.
Now let’s compare the position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5...
with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5:
In the Two Knights Defense, White’s pawn on d5 is attacking Black’s c6-Knight, forcing the Knight to move or Black to try some extreme alternative. But in this Philidor Defense version where the b8-Knight hasn’t budged, Black’s moved his d-pawn twice (…d7-d6 followed by …d6-d5), and one might think that he’s lost a whole tempo over the Two Knights Defense. However, Black can look at this position in another way. He can argue that he doesn’t have an attacked Knight on c6, and thus can pretty much do anything he wants in relative safety. Indeed, why not take advantage of this “peaceful” moment and start kicking White’s piece back by 5…h6! So has Black lost a tempo or gained a tempo? In a way, he’s done both!
All this is interesting stuff, but the similarity of the two positions can easily create a state of confusion. Take the game tjchessmaster (1329) vs. appliancetech (1234), Quick KO Tournament, Chess.com 2011 as an example:
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 h6!
tjchessmaster said: “I would have expected 5…Nxd5, allowing me to transpose into the Fried Liver Attack, my opening of choice.”
Of course, 5…Nxd5 6.Nxf7 isn’t a Fried Liver Attack (Black’s Knight stands on c6 in the Fried Liver), but the same sacrificial idea does lead to a fun attacking game after 6…Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6 when Black will solidify with 8…c6, and White will have to play with great verve to prove his sacrifice sound.
However, it turns out that 5…Nxd5 isn’t playable for mundane reasons: 6.Qf3 (6.Qh5!?) 6…Qxg5 7.Bxd5 and, due to the double threat of 8.Qxf7+ and 8.Bxb7, Black loses material.
All this was moot since Black didn’t play the bad 5…Nxd5, and instead used that tempo to kick White’s advanced Knight away.
And now we have a very sharp position that simply proves to be too much for players in the 1200 to 1300 range. Black responded poorly with…
This is simply too slow. Black has sacrificed a pawn and should be trying to make his mark on the position right away. 6…e4 screams to be played, when 7.Qe2 has scored well for White since Black mainly plays 7…Be7 and 7…Bd6, both of which have been proved to be unsatisfactory. A subtler move is called for, and it was played way back in 1975, and apparently more or less forgotten: 7…Bb4!, which pins the d2-pawn and gives Black enough time to castle and maintain his threats against f3. Check out the stunning rout below:
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 h6 6.Nf3 e4 7.Qe2 Bb4! 8.c3 0-0 9.Nd4 Bc5 10.0-0 Bg4 11.Qe1 Re8 12.h3 Bh5 13.Ne2 Qd6 14.b4 Bb6 15.Na3 Nbd7 16.Nb5 Qe5 17.Bb2 Qg5 18.Bc1 Bf3 19.g3 Qf5 20.g4 Nxg4 21.Ng3 Qg6 22.Nd4 Nde5 23.d3 exd3 24.Qd2 Nxc4 25.Qf4 Nge5 26.Kh2 Bxd5 27.f3 Bxd4, 0-1, R. T. Cardoso (2410) – M. Najdorf (2510) [C41], Netanya 1975.
After the non-combative 6…Bc5 White has a host of juicy choices: he can develop and defend his d-pawn by 7.Nc3 (though things might seem to be getting a bit out of hand after 7…e4 8.d4 exf3 9.dxc5 fxg2 10.Rg1), he can gobble another tasty treat with 7.Nxe5 (which he did in the game), or he can follow the always sane rule that, when things are about to get crazy in the center, castle as fast as possible so you can swing freely without worrying about your King (7.0-0 e4 8.d4 Bd6 9.Ne5)!
One should never underestimate the wonders of greed in chess, especially if the opponent doesn’t have a huge lead in development or direct play against your King to compensate.
Black was already worse, but now the “worse” is getting even worse. The problem is that if this move doesn’t really threaten to win the Knight, then all Black is doing is placing his Queen on a vulnerable file (if White’s allowed 0-0 followed by Re1).
This is hardly the punishment Black deserved! How about 8.d4, guarding the Knight and hitting the c5-Bishop? Even more in keeping with my “get castled!” rule is 8.0-0 Qxe5 9.Re1 Ne4 10.Qf3 f5 (10…Bxf2+? 11.Qxf2, 1-0) 11.d3 when White has the best of two worlds: 1) He’s going to win material once he chops on e4; 2) His King is castled while Black’s is still in the middle. Here’s one possibility of many: 11…0-0 12.dxe4 (Actually, 12.Nc3 is even stronger, but I’ll keep it simple and avoid leaping into those complications at this time) 12…fxe4 13.Rxe4 (13.d6+!?) 13…Rxf3 14.Rxe5 Bxf2+ 15.Kh1 Rf8 16.Nc3 and White’s a solid pawn up.
At this point White should feel a trickle of fear since his King is in the middle and Black’s is safe. Here moves like 9.Nd3 or 9.c3 followed by d4 (giving the e5-Knight some support) were indicated. But White was in his own world and didn’t feel the fingers of death reaching for him.
From much better to much worse in one lazy move.
In the actual game, Black played the unexplainable 9…Na6??, apparently oblivious to his plight, and White completely went berserk with 10.Be3 upon which Black retreated his Bishop via 10…Bd6?? (10…Qxe5, 0-1, was a “slight” improvement. Okay, White can try 11.Bxa6 but then Black has a dead win with 11...Qxb2, or 11...Bxe3, or 11...Bg4, or 11...Re8, etc.) and… well, the horror continued until White somehow won.
10.Bf4 Nbd7 11.d6 Bxd6 12.Bxf7+ Qxf7 13.Nxf7 Rxe2+ 14.Kxe2 Bxf4! 15.g3 Kxf7 16.gxf4 Nc5 and black’s Bishop and Knight are clearly stronger than white’s Rook and pawns due to white’s poor kingside structure.
Now Black overruns the White position, largely thanks to the uncastled King.
This not only hits e5, but also stops White from playing d3-d4.
12.h3 Nbd7 13.hxg4 Nxe5 14.fxe5 Qxe5+ 15.Kd1 Nxg4, 0-1.
LESSONS FROM THIS GAME
* Sometimes openings that look similar have subtle but very important differences.
* When a massive battle is about to begin in an open position, castling your King to safety takes on enormous importance.
* We’re taught that it’s important to develop, but one must have some inkling about the tempo of the game. If you’re in a life and death situation, then quiet development is often the worst thing you can do!
* I won't beat around the bush on this one: Amateurs often castle too late. Castling gets your King out of the central line of fire and brings a Rook into the battle. Do it!
HOW TO PRESENT A GAME FOR CONSIDERATION
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Want to learn more about the Fried Liver Attack? Click here for a detailed thoretical survey by GM Magesh and GM Arun!