Friday, October 28, 2011

Prospect Falls to Fremd (1): Revisiting the Fried Liver Attack

After winning the Mid-Suburban League conference tournament last year and finishing 18th at state, Prospect had high hopes for this season, but the competition is proving very tough. On Thursday, Prospect fell to Fremd 36.5 to 31.5. Robert Moskwa on 1st Board and Mike Monsen on 3rd Board continued their winning ways and Prospect got its first win on 8th Board from Brett Abraham. Unfortunately, Ekrem Genc's draw on 4th Board left Prospect short. Happily for me, there are many teachable moments to blog about:

Defending Against 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 2.Nc6 3.Bc4.

The most natural response to 1.e4 is 1...e5. After the equally natural moves 2.Nf3 Nc6, White has the choice of several systems. One of the sharpest is 3.Bc4 which immediately targets f7 which is Black's weakest square.

The Two Knights Defense 

Based on my experience the most popular response among high school players is 3...Nf6 which is known as the Two Knights Defense. The most popular move for White is then 4.Ng5.  This violates the basic opening principle (or maybe just rule of thumb) which says that no piece should be moved twice until every piece is moved once.  In this case however, the violation is justified by the fact that Black has no easy way to defend f7 against the dual threat of the knight and the bishop.

Black can if he wishes ignore the threat with 4...Bc5 which is known as the Traxler Gambit.  This is very exciting, but completely sound.  The recommended move is 4...d5, which blocks the bishop's attack on f7.  However, Black faces another choice after 5 exd5.  

Practice has shown that Black's best move here is the odd looking 5...Na5. This move also moves a piece twice when other pieces haven't moved once. On top of that, it places a knight on the edge of the board.

While the Two Knights with 5...Na5 is considered a perfectly sound approach, it is tough to play without a decent level of book knowledge  It seems to me that it is an openings where the common opening rules of thumb (like not placing a knight on the edge of the board) get violated more often than usual. One main continuation goes 7.Bb5+ c6 8.dxc6 bxc8 9.Qf3.

These are not the easiest moves to find over the board in a sixty minute game if you haven't seen them before.

The Fried Liver Attack.

After the more natural looking 5...Nxd5, White has the option of playing the Fried Liver Attack where White sacrifices a knight for a pawn with 6.Nxf7 in order to expose the Black king and draw it out to the middle of the board.  Apparently the name derives from the fact that Black frequently winds up as dead as a piece of liver.

The Fried Liver Attack is not necessarily winning for White but it is not easy for Black to defend after 6...Kxf7 7.Qf3+ when Black is forced to play 7...Ke6 in order to defend the knight on d5.

One possible continuation is 8. Nc3 Ncb4 9. Qe4 c6 10. a3 Na6 11. d4 Nac7.  However, 6.d4, delaying the knight sacrifice may actually be a better move for White.  This allows White to add his other bishop to the attack quickly and it turns out that Black doesn't have anything that particularly improves his defensive chances.  For example 6...Be7 7.Nxg7 Kxg7 8.Qf3+ gives White a revved up Fried Liver.

The Italian Game

In the ten years that I have been coaching at Prospect, I may have seen the Fried Liver a dozen times in matches.  To the best of my recollection, Black won most if not all of them.  So what is Black to do if he doesn't want to allow the Fried Liver and he doesn't want to have to find a lot of counter-intuitive moves after 5...Na5?  I've seen some players go for 3...h6 to prevent 4.Ng5, but neglecting development isn't a good idea.  My preference is simply 3...Bc5 leading to the Giuoco Piano aka the Italian Game.

Now 4.Ng5?? simply loses the knight to 4...Qxg5.  If White plays 4.0-0, after 4...Nf6, Black can meet 5.Ng5 with 5...0-0.

3...Bc5 doesn't eliminate the possibility that White may sacrifice material to get a nasty attack.  4.b4 is the Evans Gambit which can be very tricky to handle.  However, White often plays more quietly with 4.0-0 or 4.d3 and even if he chooses a more aggressive line, overall I think opening principles are violated much less frequently than in the Two Knights.

To sum up:   After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4
  • The Two Knights Defense  3...Nf6 is perfectly sound however after White's most common move, 4.Ng5, Black is likely to wind up in tricky positions that are hard to play without some prior study.

  • 3...Bc5 is also perfectly sound and the odds of Black reaching a position that requires less book knowledge is much greater.
Here's an example of a Fried Liver from the Prospect-Fremd match. In many ways, it is typical of the genre. The Black king is exposed and stuck in the middle and Black is forced to play defense the entire game. He manages to find some good defensive moves but he doesn't find enough of them.


  1. Post 4th board on here.
    It would be a good illustration of knowing the score and playing down a piece but up multiple pawns.

  2. There are several more games that I hope to get up. There are a lot of interesting points in that game.

  3. I would point out that the fault lies with the coaches for not informing him of the score. With under four minutes on his clock, we can't expect the player to get up to check the score sheet.

  4. He scould at least raise his hand to ask "Do I need to win for us to win" or "Do we win if I draw".

  5. That isn't actually what the rules allow. He has to raise his hand to get a Communication Card from the steward. After he fills it out, the steward gives it to the coach who responds. Then the card is passed back to the steward who gives it back to the player. Moreover, while this is going on, his clock is still running. It's one of those rules that we have never gone over because it's never come up in one of our matches.

  6. Prettty pathetic board 6 is ez

  7. i couldn't find winning position last time i played fried liver in a match as listed:1.e4-e5 2.bc4-Nc6 3.Nf3-Nf6 4.Ng5-d5 5.exd5-Nxd5 6.Nxf7-kxf7 7.Qf3+-ke6 8.Nc3-Nb4 9.a3-Nxc2+ 10.kd1-Nxa1 11.Nxd5-kd6 12.d4-c6 13.?????????