Very Aggressive Openings

  • One of my favorite openings is the King's Gambit. It is extremely aggressive, and makes for a sharp tactical game without sacrificing too much material. It isn't played at the highest level at standard time controls, but even today it is occasionally used in blitz by top level players such as Hikaru Nakamura.

    What other openings for black or white would force these kind of very aggressive, tactical, sharp and open games? (Without putting yourself in too bad a position.)

    budapest gambit, schliemann defense, evan's gambit, two knights, rossolimo attack..

    In my answer I present the Sicilian Najdorf and the Semi-Slav Botvinnik variations. Cheers!

    The Sicilian Dragon is my personal favorite for the following reason: it is incredibly sharp and incredibly bookish. If they deviate in the first 9 moves from the book, you can crush them. I've been told (though I don't have a citation for this, so take it with a grain of salt) that at the grandmaster level among dragon practitioners the first 25 moves (50 ply) are considered "the book" and deviation doesn't occur until move 27 or so. Of course, it's semi-open, but I think might be sharp enough to suit the question.

    @EPN Please check the Double Muzio Gambit in King's Gambit, probably the most aggressive opening without putting yourself in unplayable position.

  • The most (overly-)aggressive openings I know of that aren't too bad would probably be the Danish Gambit (Accepted) and the Fried Liver Attack.

    Danish Gambit Accepted:

    [FEN ""]
    1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 cxb2 5.Bxb2 

    White gets three open files and both bishops on open diagonals facing black's king; black gets two pawns. Usually considered slightly better for black, but played occasionally even up to master level.

    Fried Liver Attack:

    [FEN ""]
    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6. Nxf7!? Kxf7 7. Qf3+ Ke6 8. Nc3  

    White sacrifices a knight to get Black's king out right away. Proper defense is extremely difficult over-the-board, but played correctly, black is thought to have a slight advantage. In most lines, white wins their material back.

    How did you make those animated gifs? Is there an easy way?

    Btw, that fried liver attack line doesn't happen much--most people play Na5 instead of Nxd5.

    I agree with Wes, most people play 5...Na5 (Morphy's move) or 5...b5(Ulvestad variation)

    @Wes: I just used the first hit on google for "chess diagram generator"

    another nice opportunity for black: 4. ... Bc5 5. Nxf7 Bxf2 6. Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7. Kf1 Qh4 and it's hard for white to avoid checkmate.

    The Danish Gambit is only "aggressive" if your opponent doesn't know the standard "deflating" line 5 ... d5 6 Bxd5 Nf6! 7 Bxf7+ Kxf7 8 Qxd8 Bb5+ and we're already in an even endgame with little tension or asymmetry to speak of. To me an aggressive opening is one that requires the enemy to accept a sharp challenge or make awkward positional compromises -- not one that merely *might* lead to a sharp game if the other guy patzes around.

    @Evan: Every opening requires two players, and there are ways for the opponent to avoid every sharp (or indeed, every) opening without putting himself at a disadvantage. But neither of the above openings sees black making a mistake and putting himself at a disadvantage... so I don't see the point of your comment.

    @EvanHarper As someone who frequently plays the Danish, d5 is indeed quite deflating. That said, people who do not know the line don't frequently stumble on to it. It's a counter-sacrifice; and up to that point, black has indicated a willingness to take material over tempo, so it's rarely an intuitive move for them.

    @DanielB It's true, it's not intuitive. You'd pretty much have to know it. I thought everyone knew it, though? I mean a lot of kids are taught to play the Danish.

    @EvanHarper sadly (for those that like the opening otherwise), yes, everyone seems to know it these days.

    Worth noting that the 5...Na5 line of the fried liver is still usually an interesting and exciting game, often continuing: 6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Qf3 Bd7 9. Bd3 and development seems relatively even, with black down a pawn in material and with poor pawn structure. In the 4...Bc5 line, white should continue 5. Nxf7 Bxf2 6. Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7. **Kg1** and white has a little easier time defending because after 7...Qh4, white can play g3. This is an extremely sharp game, and both sides have very narrow paths to walk to avoid falling apart.

  • Latvian Gambit (ECO: C40)

    [FEN ""]
    1. e4 e5
    2. Nf3 f5

    The Latvian is a fun opening to play, but arguably it is a bad opening for black. I can't think of _any_ top GM games that feature the Latvian.

    Spassky played it once

    Interestingly the Latvian can be transposed into via 1. Nf3 f5 2. e4?! f5?!

    @Andrew - I guess this is one reason why it isn't played much:

    I tested in real games and analyzed latvian a lot. Result: Don't play it. It's a crap gambit. What's a gambit afterall? In a proper gambit, you give up material for initiative and/or development advantage and hoping for an attack. In Latvian, you give up a pawn for FALLING INTO DEFENSE! There is really no point.

  • As there other answers cover only white's options, let me throw in some black thoughts...

    The Benko Gambit, a sharp, but sound and deep opening:

    [FEN ""]
    1. d4 Nf6
    2. c4 c5
    3. d5 b5 

    The aggressive, but not-so-sound Budapest Gambit. However, if the opponent doesn't know the theory, she can be soon in serious trouble:

    [FEN ""]
    1. d4 Nf6
    2. c4 e5
    3. dxe5 Ng4  

    Finally I like to play the Steinitz variation in the Scotch game, especially in blitz. If the opponent doesn't know the theory, it's quite unlikely he comes up with the only correct plan Nb1-c3-b5 by himself:

    [FEN ""]
    1. e4 e5
    2. Nf3 Nc6
    3. d4 exd4
    4. Nxd4 Qh4!?

    *"'s quite unlikely he comes up with the only correct plan Nb1-c3.."* what *else* would they play then? I don't see many other options than 5.Nc3 :o

    @Gennaro Tedesco Nc3 is the easy part, and no problem for black. Nb5 is the critical move to be found by white. It is not really a refutation of black's play, but all other lines are quite comfortable and natural to play for black.

    The Benko also has a sharp line if it is declined, as 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nf3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nbd5 d5 6. cxd5 Bc5 gives a pawn for an attack.

  • It is difficult to force an aggressive position in any opening. Even in the King's Gambit, Black can simply play 2...d6 to reach a more positional type of position.

    With that said, some popular openings traditionally thought to be more aggressive include the Sicilian Defence, the Dutch Defence, the Albin Counter-Gambit, the Benko Gambit, the King's Indian Defense, the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, and an array of gambits on 1. e4.

    Not to mention 2...d5! (on the King's Gambit) that actually give slight advantage to Black directly.

  • I've tried out the Goring gambit several times, and it has worked in ~1500 level tournament play. I don't think it's sound at the master level, but it's fun and open with lots of tactical options along the diagonals attacking the kingside.

    [FEN ""]
    [Title "Goring Gambit"]
    1. e4 e5
    2. Nf3 Nc6
    3. d4 exd4
    4. c3

    Also, the Evans gambit. Probably also not sound at the master level, but it's kind of similar, opening up the diagonals to attack the kingside after getting those pesky pawns out of the way for fast development.

    [FEN ""]
    [Title "Evans Gambit"]
    1. e4 e5
    2. Nf3 Nc6
    3. Bc4 Bc5
    4. b4

    The Evans has shown up in world championship matches (like Kasparov v Anand) so I wouldn't write it off so cavalierly.

    Cool, I didn't know that.

    re: "probably not sound..." Chess is a game between two people. At the amateur level, almost anything is playable. Just be more booked up than your opponent when taking chances. And by all means, have fun :-)

  • Probably the most aggressive opening without being unplayable in chess is Double Muzio Gambit in King's Gambit, which suicide-bombs two minor pieces at f7 for a wildest possible opening attack:

    [FEN ""]
    [Title "Double Muzio Gambit"]
    1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. Bc4 g4 5. O-O! {Strongest continuation, Muzio gambit! White sacrifices a piece for better development and attack(a very wild one)} gxf3 6. Qxf3 Qf6 7. e5 {after Qxe5, white can play d4 with tempo, increasing deveolpment advantage} Qxe5 8.Bxf7+!!? {Double Muzio Gambit, doubles the fun, now its kill or to be killed. White has two big pieces in f-file, and also black king is on the same file, white has a clear development advantage, shortly white has the wildest possible attack in 8 moves}

    I invite you to see this nice analysis about Double Muzio Gambit

    I played this variation succesfully in OTB games. If you think that this can't be playable, then check this master game:

    [Title "Kuznetsov, Sergei (2396) vs. Korjakin, Boris (2274) - 2007"]
    [FEN ""]
    1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. Bc4 g4 5. O-O gxf3 6. Qxf3 Qf6 7. e5 Qxe5
    8. Bxf7+ Kxf7 9. d4 Qxd4+ 10. Be3 Qf6 11. Nc3 fxe3 12. Qh5+ Kg7 13. Rxf6 Nxf6
    14. Qg5+ Kf7 15. Rf1 Bg7 16. Nd5 e2 17. Rxf6+  1-0

    Not satified? Another master game:

    [Title "Lanzani, Mario (2371) vs. Sheskin, Matan (2207) - 2010"]
    [FEN ""]
    1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. Bc4 g4 5. O-O gxf3 6. Qxf3 Qf6 7. e5 Qxe5
    8. Bxf7+ Kxf7 9. d4 Qxd4+ 10. Be3 Qf6 11. Bxf4 Ne7 12. Nc3 Qf5 13. Qe3 d6
    14. Bg5 Nbc6 15. g4 Bg7 16. Nb5 Qxf1+ 17. Rxf1+ Ke8 18. Bxe7 Nxe7
    19. Nxc7+ Kd7 20. Nxa8 b6 21. Rf7 Be5 22. Qg5 Re8 23. Nc7 h6 24. Qh4  1-0

    If you think that the line is unplayable and white is winning just because of being stronger about 130 Elo, then check this evaluation of Komodo-9.3. A GM-slayer chess engine can't find a winning advantage too:

    [Title "After 10...Qf6 | Komodo-9.3 Depth:31 -0.30"]
    [FEN "rnb2bnr/pppp1k1p/5q2/8/5p2/4BQ2/PPP3PP/RN3RK1 w - - 2 1"]
    1. Nc3 Nc6 2. Bxf4 d6 3. Nd5 Qf5 4. Be5 Qxf3 5. Rxf3+ Bf5 6. Bxh8 Nge7
    7. Nxc7 Rc8 8. Nb5 Ke6 9. g4 Bxg4 10. Rf6+ Kd7 11. Rxd6+ Ke8 12. h3 Be2
    13. Nc3 Bh5 14. Ne4 Nf5 15. Nf6+ Kf7 16. Rd7+ Kg6 17. Nxh5 Bc5+ 18. Kh1 Kxh5
    19. Bc3 h6 20. Re1 Bf2 21. Re6 Rf8 22. b3 Ncd4 23. Bxd4 Bxd4 24. Rxb7 Kh4
    25. Kh2 Rg8 26. Rb4 {-0.30}

    If it can't find, we can say that our opponents can't find over the board too. Therefore, we can say that this line is definitely not a cheap opening trap, and absolutely playable. Black seems to have only a little advantage in this very uncomfortable extremely sharp defensive position, while White is enjoying the attack.

  • Perhaps the most insanely aggressive opening that's remotely playable is the Halloween Gambit,

    [FEN ""]
    [Title "Halloween Gambit"]
    1. e4 e5
    2. Nf3 Nc6
    3. Nc3 Nf6
    4. Nxe5?!

    It seems to defy logic that White can sac a whole knight for merely a pawn and a speculative advantage in space and time, but sometimes aggression has a logic all its own. The White pawns roll up-board, attacking moves come naturally for White, while Black mis-steps can rapidly lead to catastrophe.

    Strangely enough, Black's best idea in practical play may be to calmly counter-sac his own knight and play for a slight but sure positional advantage.

    See also the Cochrane Gambit, a similar idea, but with a more distinguished pedigree.

    Yes, this one rather caught me off guard (as black) when I first met it. Of course the idea is that if accepted, d4 then e5 will hit both knights in sequence, and will be followed up by Bc4. I have since found that the "deflating line" for black is to sac back one pawn: Nxe5 d4 Ng6 e5 Ng8 Bc4 d5 Bxd5 N8e7. Probably Be4 is white's best, but not enough.

    Had soooo much fun with this one in blitz... :-)

  • Blackmar-Diemer Gambit:

    [FEN ""]
    [Title "Blackmar-Diemer Gambit"]
    1. d4 d5
    2. e4 dxe4
    3. Nc3

    What sorts of things happen from here?

    @ThomasAhle Usually 3.. Nf6 4. f3. If black accepts the second pawn, white can put his bishop of c4 and castle on the king side, eyeing the f7 square, and having great momentum in general. I personally usually respond with 4.. e6 in blitz.

    @moteutsch It isn't a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit _unless_ White plays f3, usually 4.f3. If he doesn't, and Black plays ..c6, the game transposes to a line of the Caro-Kann, for example, and if Black plays ...e6, it transposes to a line of the French.

  • I can't believe that no one mentioned the Lolli attack, very similar to the fried liver attack, but the Lolli attack is better!

    [FEN ""]
    [Title "Lolli Attack"]
    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.d4 exd4 7.O-O 

    From there, you actually have 4 main variations, watch this youtube video, it will tell you everything you need to know about the attack.

    The Lolli Attack has been shown to reach an equal, quiet position if black plays ...Nxd4

    I've always known this as the Pincus variation. Better than the Fried Liver attack for sure. 6...exd4 is a natural looking move, but leads to a pull for White after 7. 0-0. Alternatively 6...Nxd4 looks wrong, but leads to complex play with Black's king stuck in the center, for example, 7. c3 b5 8. Bd3 h6 (8...Nc6 9. Qf3 f5 10. Bxb5 +/=) 9. Nxf7 (Qh5!?) Kxf7 10. cxd4 exd4 11. 0-0

  • The Open Sicilian (1.e4 c5 followed by 2.Nf3 and 3.d4) counts, in my view. White immediately gets a lead in development and great attacking chances, in return for some positional sacrifice, most notably the 1vs2 pawns in the center.

    This opening is famous for its wild sacrificial attacks, in my opinion even more so than the king's gambit. Piece sacrifices on b5, d5 and e6, and black exchange sacrifices on c3 are the order of the day.

    And best of all: almost all top players play it. It's actually good.

    Another common sacrifice is of an exchange on h5 to open the h-file.

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM