In this particular line of the Italian Game, Black’s immediate of the recapture of the d5 pawn is generally considered to be ill-advised (as many beginners have found out the hard way!).
To initiate the Lolli Attack, white delays the well-known piece sacrifice (6. Nxf7 Kxf7 7. Qf3+) in favor of blowing open more lines in the center with 6. d4.
In my analysis of the resulting lines, I struggled to find a way for black to obtain a playable position! Let’s take a look at black’s various attempts to play against the Lolli Attack.
Lolli Attack with …Be7
After 6…Be7, black tries to immediately put the question to the stray knight on g5 while finishing up kingside development. Black can castle next turn if nothing changes, so white has to act now!
After 7. Nxf7 Kxf7 8. Qf3+:
The black king is forced to the e6 square with 8…Ke6 to defend the knight. Otherwise, white recoups the sacrificed piece and retains a nearly winning position due to the exposed black king. If black is going to suffer, they might as well grab an extra piece for all their troubles!
But after 9. Nc3, it’s difficult for black to find adequate defense for the knight. 9…Nb4 (what else?) 10. Qe4! really demonstrates the value of the white pawn on d4.
White defends the c2 pawn and places e5 under attack. The threat is to simply play a2-a3 and the black position crumbles, so 10…c6 is forced to defend the knight. Nonetheless, after 11. a3 Na6 12. Bf4!, black is pinned multiple different ways and has a difficult defense task ahead.
Black might consider trying to “improve” upon this line with 6…Bb4+ 7. c3 Be7
Provoking the pawn to c3 does prevent white’s knight from getting access to this square, but nonetheless white can still proceed with the Lolli Attack. 8. Nxf7 Kxf7 9. Qf3+ Ke6 10. 0-0!
White’s in no rush, simply bringing the king to safety. Black has great difficulty untangling their pieces – this would be a great training position to play with both colors!
Capturing the d4 pawn
After 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Nxd5?! 6. d4 exd4:
Black wins another pawn, but this is quite greedy! One idea might be to deprive the white knight from accessing the c3 square, however.
White has played here 7. Qf3 in one game, foregoing the usual piece sacrifice in favor of 7…Be6 8. Nxe6 fxe6 9. 0-0, when surely white has great compensation for the material deficit. This is one benefit of delaying the piece sacrifice on f7 – white keeps their options open in the Lolli Attack!
In the video above, we examine a beautiful mating attack white was able to launch in one game in this line starting with 7. Nxf7, sacrificing multiple pieces along the way.
Taking with the knight on d4 isn’t very effective due to 6…Nxd4?! 7. c3
Black has trouble avoiding material losses due to the pin. 7…b5 8. Bd3! doesn’t solve black’s problems, as now the b5 pawn is hanging after the d4 knight moves, and 8…h6 9. Nxf7 Kxf7 10. cxd4 clearly favors white.
In the video above, I examine these and several other attempts by black to thwart the Lolli Attack, but in all cases the black position remains quite difficult.
Some brave souls might voluntarily enter such positions, daring white to sacrifice a piece and then hanging on for dear life, but I can’t recommend this strategy! Black should avoid recapturing the pawn on d5 on move five to avoid the Lolli Attack, as discussed in my article on the Italian Game.
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