Take the 2-minute tour ×
Chess Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for serious players and enthusiasts of chess. It's 100% free, no registration required.

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 doesn't see play at the highest level for long games, but even today it is occasionally used in blitz by top level players such as Hikaru Nakamura.

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

share|improve this question
3  
budapest gambit, schliemann defense, evan's gambit, two knights, rossolimo attack.. –  wim Jul 3 '12 at 10:22
    
In my answer I present the Sicilian Najdorf and the Semi-Slav Botvinnik variations. Cheers! –  Rauan Sagit Jan 25 at 12:30
    
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. –  Dennis Feb 27 at 6:12

17 Answers 17

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 his material back.

share|improve this answer
11  
How did you make those animated gifs? Is there an easy way? –  Wes Freeman May 11 '12 at 4:37
9  
Btw, that fried liver attack line doesn't happen much--most people play Na5 instead of Nxd5. –  Wes Freeman May 11 '12 at 4:49
3  
I agree with Wes, most people play 5...Na5 (Morphy's move) or 5...b5(Ulvestad variation) –  altvali May 11 '12 at 7:06
4  
@Wes: I just used the first hit on google for "chess diagram generator" –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 11 '12 at 7:10
4  
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 Harper Aug 21 '12 at 23:46

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.

share|improve this answer

Latvian Gambit (ECO: C40)

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 f5
share|improve this answer
10  
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. –  Andrew May 2 '12 at 17:52
1  
Spassky played it once –  Andrew Latham Sep 15 '12 at 0:47
    
Interestingly the Latvian can be transposed into via 1. Nf3 f5 2. e4?! f5?! –  user76 Jan 2 '13 at 18:14
1  
@Andrew - I guess this is one reason why it isn't played much: chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1211518 –  xaisoft Jan 4 '13 at 16:22

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!?
share|improve this answer

Blackmar-Diemer Gambit:

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d5 
2. e4 dxe4 
3. Nc3 ...
share|improve this answer
    
What sorts of things happen from here? –  Thomas Ahle Dec 5 '13 at 16:04
    
@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 Jan 21 at 23:19

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 ""]
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 ""]
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5
4. b4
share|improve this answer
1  
The Evans has shown up in world championship matches (like Kasparov v Anand) so I wouldn't write it off so cavalierly. –  Arlen Nov 2 '12 at 17:40
    
Cool, I didn't know that. –  Wes Freeman Nov 3 '12 at 6:17
    
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 :-) –  Tony Ennis Feb 2 '13 at 19:05

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

[FEN ""]
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.

share|improve this answer

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 ""]
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 video, it will tell you everything you need to know about the attack.

share|improve this answer

Two interesting gambit trees to be aware of are:

1) The Scotch/Goring/Italian/Danish gambit complex (there's a lot of opportunity to transpose among them. These start out with:

1. e4 e5 2. d4 ed 3. c3 (Danish)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 ed 4. c3 (Goring)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 ed 4. Bc4 (Scotch)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. d4 (Italian)

The transpositions among them (and into both the Two Knight's and the Max Lange) should be enough to gratify anyone.

2) The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. The basic line of this is:

1. d4 d5 2. e4 de 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f3

But the utility of this gambit lies in the great potential for transposition from semi-open e4 defenses:

1. e4 d5 2. d4 (from Center Counter)
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Be3 de (from French)
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. a3 Bxc3 5. bc de 6. f3 (also French)
1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 (from Alekhine's)
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 de 4. f3 (from Caro-Kann)

You can basically run any response to e4 except ...e5 and ...c5 and ...d6 into a BDG (and with the Sicilian or Pirc, you might find enough life in the f3 systems to keep you playing some sharp games even then).

share|improve this answer

Indirectly Benoni Defense is one of the best opening for modern chess player. (A66)

 [FEN ""]
 1.d4 Nf6 
 2.c4 c5 
 3.d5 e6 
 4.Nc3 exd5 
 5.cxd5 d6 
 6.e4 g6 
 7.f4
share|improve this answer
3  
You have diagrammed a particular variation of the Benoni; actually, the Benoni is a much larger family of openings characterized by an early Black c5 against White's pd4, to which White responds by pushing d4-d5. Furthermore, the move order you have given is largely obsolete, because 7 ... Bg7 8 Bb5+ is too much trouble for Black. Knowledgeable players will generally not allow this line, and so reserve the Modern Benoni for when White has already blocked his Pf2 by Ng8-f6. –  Evan Harper Feb 5 '13 at 2:05

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.

share|improve this answer

The Alekhine's defence (1.e4 Nf6) is also a great attacking weapon for black, as it is a highly aggressive and provocative opening that lures white into overextending its centre, which can then be targeted (generally) via the knights on c6 and b6, trading the knight on f3 for your light square bishop, and sometimes even castling on the queen side to really target white's d pawn. Take a look at the opening moves in the most common variations (Modern, Albert, Carlsen, 4 pawns, etc) and see if you like the resulting positions for black. It is a good practical weapon in tournament play, and white is frequently caught off-guard, as it is a rare opening (however, many world champions have played it (Fischer, Spassky, Tal, Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe etc. and it is still sometimes used at the highest level today by Carlsen, Shabalov, Kamsky etc.)

share|improve this answer

Sometimes, one way to get overtly aggressive in a reasonably sound way is to throw out an early g4 pawn thrust in an otherwise vanilla, mainline position. For instance, in the Anti-Meran 6.Qc2 variation of the Semi-Slav, the gambit move 7.g4!? was popularized by Shirov and Shabalov:

[fen ""]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4!?

Speaking of Shirov, he pioneered a similar idea with 5.g4!? against the Pirc move-order of the Philidor Defense, and one could also try it a move earlier:

[fen ""]

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.Nf3 (4.g4!?) e5 5.g4!?
share|improve this answer

The Smith-Morra Gambit is aggressive for white.

[fen ""]
1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 (4.Bc4 cxb2 5.Bxb2)

White has sacrificed a pawn (or two) to free up his development.

share|improve this answer

Ruy Lopez, Schliemann Defense

Very sharp response to the Ruy Lopez. In blitz it is playable at all levels. At slower time-controls, should be solid even for master play.

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5
share|improve this answer

Sicilian Defense, Dragon Variation, Yugoslav Attack

Another pretty sharp opening for both sides is The Sicialian Dragon, with the Yugoslav Attack being one of the sharpest variations. It differs from most of the openings listed here because it's not a gambit, but still a very sharp and dangerous opening with lots of threats for both White and Black.

9. Bc4 being the more aggressive move and 9. O-O-O goes for more tactical play.

[FEN ""]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 (9. O-O-O)
share|improve this answer

Let me recommend two sharp opening variations for the black pieces: the Sicilian Najdorf and Semi-Slav Botvinnik variation. They lead to dynamic and complicated positions with chances for both sides. They are excellent for playing for a win with the black pieces. To master one or both of these variations, I recommend getting at least one modern book per variation and study these in great detail. Also, check all grandmaster games you can find and explore the ideas for both sides in these positions.

The starting position of the Sicilian Najdorf is reached after

[FEN ""]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6

Let's try to understand this position. Black has a statically better position thanks to the semi-open c-file. This means that an exchange of queens in this position is beneficial for black. White will fight for the d5 square and try to plant a light piece there. Black will try to deliver the d6-d5 center blow, thematic for the Sicilian system. White castles queenside in the sharpest Najdorf variations. Black castles kingside, queenside or stays with the King in the center, depending on the situation. Black chooses between the setups e7-e6, e7-e5 and g7-g6. White chooses between f2-f3 and f2-f4.

When white castles queenside, black attacks with the b- and a-pawns as well as the thematic exchange sac Rc8xNc3 bxc3, ruining the queenside pawn structure. If this exchange sac can be followed by picking up the e4-pawn, then it can be done at virtually any moment. Another thematic plan for black is placing a knight on e5 (after white's f-pawn is either on f5 or exchanged off) or c4 (attacking the b2-pawn and undermining the c3-knight).

The starting position of the Semi-Slav Botvinnik is reached after

[FEN ""]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5

At first glance, black just grabbed the c4-pawn and is trying to hold on to it for dear life. Yet things are more subtle than this. Black has entered an assymetric position where white has to find dynamic plans to compensate for the material loss. It also looks like white is winning with e4-e5. Yet again, things are not so simple at all. A bit deeper we reach the following position

[FEN ""]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.exf6

White will try to win using the extra kingside pawns. White can also launch an attack on the black King. Black will try to win by launching an attack on the white King, after developing with Bc8-b7, Qd8-b6 and O-O-O. White will most probably castle kingside, since staying in the center or castling queenside looks spooky. Black will open the a8-h1 diagonal and attack the isolated d4-pawn. I have used both these variations with joy and success. They are simply awesome!

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.