In the lightning-fast world of online chess, seconds can separate victory from defeat. Therefore, the art of premoving emerges as a powerful weapon in your arsenal.
This guide gives you everything you need to know about premoves in online chess.
We’ll explain how to enable premoves on Chess.com, discuss the strategic edge of premoves, and illustrate how to use them effectively with practical examples.
At the end of the article, we’ll go over a few premove pitfalls to avoid.
This article uses algebraic notation like Nd5 and Bxd5.
If you’re not familiar with it, read my article where I explain all about this chess notation.
Simply put, premoving is the ability to harness the speed of the click by scheduling a move while it’s not your turn, effectively jumping the gun on your opponent’s next move.
As soon as their move registers, your pre-selected response immediately takes effect, unless the move is illegal. For example, if your opponent’s move puts your king in check and your premove does not deal with the check, then obviously it will not apply.
Take a look at the following position:
White played Nd5 and is expecting Black to capture it with their knight on f6, so White premoved Bxd5.
If Black does capture on d5, then the bishop will immediately capture back.
If Black doesn’t capture on d5, then the premove will not register because taking your own knight is of course not a legal move. White will have to play something else.
Here’s an amazing clip of GM Hikaru Nakamura premoving a mate-in-9 like it was nothing:
How to Enable Premoves on Chess.com
On Chess.com, premoves are disabled by default.
To enable premoves, go to Settings and click on Live Chess.
Then, toggle on the Enable Premoves option.
With premoves enabled, simply click and drag the desired piece to its planned destination while it’s your opponent’s turn. The square will highlight red, confirming your premove, as we have seen in the examples.
You can premove as many times as you want, and the moves will take effect in a sequential manner as long as they are valid.
The Strategic Edge of Premoves
The very evident advantage of premoving is that it saves time.
Say you calculate the perfect response to a potential queen capture. Instead of wasting precious seconds clicking when your turn comes, you can premove it during your opponent’s ponderous contemplation.
This saves valuable clock ticks, letting you focus on calculating further lines or analyzing other areas of the board, which is especially important in fast-paced time controls like bullet and blitz.
Moreover, premoving isn’t just about speed; it’s about anticipatory strategy. It allows you to visualize likely opponent moves and prepare responses in advance.
This proactive approach can lead to fluid, decisive play, leaving your opponent feeling like they’re constantly playing catch-up.
Premoving can also have a psychological impact on your opponent.
Some people may feel inferior when they see their moves being responded to in a split second. This subtle pressure can instill a sense of urgency and disrupt their thought process.
As a result, they may end up making hasty decisions or inaccurate calculations, potentially gifting you crucial advantages.
How to Premove Effectively
Premoves are most effective when the moves are forced and obvious, like recapturing after a piece exchange, or routine positional maneuvers.
Premoving is also a valuable tool when applying opening preparation, quickly navigating familiar lines without wasting time.
For example, the London System setup is something you can usually open with regardless of your opponent’s opening choice. Premoving some moves would be feasible here.
Sharpening Your Premoving Edge
Practice makes perfect.
To hone your premove skills, you can set increasing time limits to premove accurately against a computer opponent.
Chess.com offers a wide variety of computer opponents to practice against.
I have written an in-depth article explaining whether it’s worthwhile to play against bots. I highly recommend you have a look at it.
It’s also very helpful to watch masters utilize premoves effectively and learn from them.
Here’s a clip of GM Eric Hansen winning a game with less than three seconds on his clock thanks to a sequence of well-executed premoves:
Notice how Eric was able to premove the king in the beginning with no worries since the rook was protected by a pawn, so there was no chance for White’s king to sneak up and capture it.
When he was pushing the pawn to promote, the rook was protected by the knight, so again he didn’t have to worry about the White king ever capturing the rook.
This clip is very instructive as it’s a prime example of safe and effective premoves.
Of course, it’s easy to do that when your opponent only has a lone king as their choices are very limited.
Premove Pitfalls to Avoid
While premoving can be a game-changer in online chess, it’s crucial to tread cautiously amidst its potential pitfalls.
The rush of premoving can lead to costly mistakes. Here are some common premove faux pas to watch out for:
The most dreaded blunder. Prematurely premoving a piece without considering potential checks or captures can leave it dangling and vulnerable.
Sometimes, the thrill of a premoved attack can mask subtler tactical possibilities.
Be careful of falling prey to forks, pins, or discovered checks lurking beneath the surface. Always double-check the position before committing with a premove.
Premoving based on assumptions can backfire if your opponent deviates from expected lines. You should premove only when your chosen move remains strong regardless of their reply.
Here’s a funny clip in which Hikaru himself fell victim to a premove blunder:
Hikaru assumed that White’s pawn will stay on e6, so he premoved Qxe6 with the idea that the rook on e8 would protect the queen.
In the time scramble, he didn’t notice that if White advances the e6 pawn, the rook and queen will no longer be connected, so White’s king can simply take the queen!
Unfortunately for White, though, Hikaru still won.
A premove in online chess allows you to set up a move during your opponent’s turn that plays automatically as soon as it’s your turn — regardless of your opponent’s move.
Premoving is a double-edged sword. Use it wisely, considering these factors:
- The move is forced or highly likely (recaptures, routine development).
- You’re familiar with the opening sequence and can pre-navigate prepared lines.
- You want to apply pressure and disrupt your opponent’s thinking.
Hold Your Horses When:
- The situation is complex or uncharted.
- You suspect your opponent might play an unexpected move.
- The premove risks hanging your piece or creating vulnerabilities.
If you have any questions or insights you’d like to share, feel free to leave them in the comments below. I’d love to have a chat with you.