The Fried Liver's Identical Twin

  • IM Silman
  • | Aug 1, 2012

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, 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.

11.Qd2 Bd4

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.



* 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! 


If you want me to look over your game, send it to

I need your name (real or handle), your OPPONENT’S name (real or handle), both players’ ratings, where the game was played, and date. If you don’t give me this information, I won’t use your game! BTW: I’ve noticed that many people are reluctant to give me their opponent’s name. This is very strange! Showing the names of both players is the way chess games are presented in databases, books, magazines… everywhere! Permission from the opponent isn’t necessary. If permission was necessary, everyone who ever lost a game wouldn’t allow their name to be on it!

Want to learn more about the Fried Liver Attack? Click here for a detailed thoretical survey by GM Magesh and GM Arun!


  • 5 months ago


    hey so I have a question that was probably asked before... I've only just recently started using the fried liver attack and the person I'm playing with always goes for the bishop to c5 to sort of counter and stiffle it... My response is to draw the bishop away and isolate it with pawn to b4 and pawn to c3

    So how is my response? Is there a better one? I do want to continue the kind of aggressive nature but I can't seem to do that without finding myself in a position that can't win

  • 4 years ago


    good article

  • 4 years ago


    Whoa! Jeremy Silman is giving me the privilege to present my games to him? This is cool. I would so much love to do that.

    How about games I played on other websites like  redhotpawn and itsyourturn. And how about non Fried-Liver games?

  • 4 years ago

    FM wlrs

    Sorry if my tone was offensive in any way, you are doing a great job on all fronts. You still should consider tweaking the outlook of your new site though Smile To add some more related content - after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 Nf6 white is obviously not forced to play 4.Ng5 but can play 4.d3 instead with the standard slower Giuoco Piano/Lopez ideas. Black can try to use the fact that his knight is on c6 yet by playing a setup with Be7, 0-0, c6 and Nbd7

  • 4 years ago


    Great article!

  • 4 years ago

    IM Silman

    To Fm Wirs: The old site was impossible to maintain, and its very old technology made changes almost impossible. The new (chess) site ( allows me to do things I couldn't, and also allows me to tone things down to chess book reviews and just chess book reviews (which is a critical service since people always want to know if a particular book is worth buying). We look at most of the new books, and have a large chess book review archive.

    However, over time I might post the old articles (which were very nice) as a courtesy to fans and the writers, but at the moment I'm too busy to do so (one has to make a living!).

    The other site, about Asian film, is for my own pleasure ( I hope it becomes a favorite of other people who love Asian cinema, and also "pushes" people who know nothing about it to check it out.

    Finally, I think the new sites look very nice. As with all things, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • 4 years ago

    FM wlrs

    Jeremy what on earth happened to your website - it suddenly went from one of the best beginner instruction sites on the internet to eye-gougingly ugly and devoid of material. I seriously thought I was on a fake website and had to do a double take to make sure I typed the address correctly.Surprised

  • 4 years ago


    good article

  • 4 years ago


    güzel çalışma yapanın elerine sağlık

  • 4 years ago


    Nice, this is my favorite opening as white when black lets me (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5).  I play the Lolli instead of the fried liver when possible, but more often it continues (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Na5 6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxd6 8. Bd3!?)  Bd3 is my pet move in that line, blocking the d-pawn but giving my knight a safer place to retreat, and it usually makes my opponent think.  With luck I can develop the position and remain up a pawn.

  • 4 years ago


    @frank: the allgaier is AWESOME!

  • 4 years ago


    @grandmasterxpchesser: sounds like you didn't play it right.

  • 4 years ago


    i think that after pawn d5, and exd5, Na5, is the best moving.

  • 4 years ago


    any type of fried liver attack is a waste move and you have problems developing your pieces trust me, even though i didnt know what that move was and i tried it i actually lost a piece

  • 4 years ago


    great article...

    thanks a lot

  • 4 years ago


    Or just play the Lolli and get a quick win.

  • 4 years ago


    Thank you, Mr Silman.

  • 4 years ago


    Nice. Gonna try that in my own games. Hope for the best. Good job, Mr. Silman!

  • 4 years ago


    It is my understanding that the Algaier Gambit a variation of the King's Gambit is similar to the Fried Liver Attack, maybe you could write a column about that. Also I noticed you don't have any videos on altho you do have blogs and "mentor" lessons. Maybe it would be fun if you did some videos also.

  • 4 years ago


    Very nice, I'll surely try to implement this in my own games, great job!

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