Out-Gambitted

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Who's got whom right where he wants him?

Vizzini: I switched glasses when your back was turned. Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders... never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!
(Vizzini laughs maniacally for a few seconds, then stops abruptly and falls over dead.)
[...]
Buttercup: And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.

The Man in Black: They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

A character has come up with a perfect plan to ensnare an opponent(s). Whether it's a Xanatos Gambit, Batman Gambit or other such plan, this character's foe is surely doomed... But it backfires. That opponent has set up a plan of his/her own (whether before the first plan or in response). A superior plan, that makes the first character's plan look pathetic by comparison. In short, the first plan has been Out-Gambitted.

This trope specifically has three parts:

  1. Alice makes Plan 1.
  2. Bob either makes Plan 2 in response, or it turns out he already made Plan 2.
  3. Plan 1 goes down in flames.

Sometimes this situation The Chessmaster vs. a superior Chessmaster, and sometimes it's somebody who only thinks he's the Chessmaster vs. someone who actually is.

Compare Spanner in the Works (Alice is outdone by accident), Kansas City Shuffle (Alice thought Bob was using a different Plan 2), Big Bad Wannabe, Gambit Pileup, I Know You Know I Know, Touche (graciously admitting you were beaten), Xanatos Speed Chess.

Examples of Out-Gambitted include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Hohenheim manages to completely undo Father's transformation of everyone in Amestris into a philosopher's stone using a transmutation circle made from the shadow of the solar eclipse. And this was possible because Father's own Evil Plan required that solar eclipse. Furthermore, Hohenheim's allies undo the seal Father put on everyone else's alchemy by using Father's own transmutation circle.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! is this trope. Every duel seems to boil down to "Who will Out-Gambit who?". All players use their cards and strategies, putting a gambits against enemies and sometimes two duelists can be Out Gambitted multiple times in the same duel. Yami Yugi's duels are almost always about how his gambit (mostly common Batman Gambit ones, rarely Xanatos Gambit) destroys enemy's gambit.
    • Here's an example from 5D's done by Yusei, which also is something of a Xanatos Gambit. Yusei has on his field nothing except two face-down cards, against Greiger/Bommer's Flying Fortress SKYFIRE/Giant Bomber AIRRAID. If SKYFIRE's attack goes through, then Yusei will lose - and SKYFIRE allows Greiger to destroy a card on the field once per turn by discarding a card. Greiger decides not to destroy either one, speculating that it's actually a ploy to make him deplete his hand uselessly. It turns out he's right: the two cards are Wasteland Tornado and Limiter Break. If Wasteland Tornado was destroyed while set, Yusei would be able to destroy a face-up card - in this case, SKYFIRE. If Limiter Break is sent to the Graveyard, Yusei can Special Summon Speed Warrior to protect against SKYFIRE's attack. And since Greiger doesn't destroy either card, Yusei instead activates Wasteland Tornado to destroy his own Limiter Break and get Speed Warrior to intercept the attack.
  • Happens incredibly often in Yu Yu Hakusho. Technically Yusuke's death falls in this category; Jaki's attempt at turning Kuwabara to the Dark Side, possibly for a stronger host; Yusuke outwitting Goki (with little difficulty) and then later Hiei, back when they first met; Yusuke accidentally foiling Rando's plans by getting his ears clogged with algae; Kurama's fight with Roto; Kurama outwitting Kaito (although that was technically supposed to happen); Sensui and Toguro both getting their way despite the team's actions. Phew! Quite the list.
    • There's also the fight between Yusuke and Kibano. Who used a mask that shuts out the other senses to focus on sensing spirit energy and uses it to fight Yusuke in the dark. The mask however is also the reason Kibano was unable to see or smell the cigarette Yusuke puts on him to find him through the darkness.
  • Dio to Jotaro in Jojo's Bizarre Adventure part 3: Dio launched a barrage of knives against Jotaro, which made him fall quite a long distance. Knowing Jotaro was probably Not Quite Dead because No One Could Survive That, he decided to chop his head off with a Stop sign. Too bad that's just what Jotaro wanted, because he got a free hit while Dio was closing in.
    • Although Dio would've gotten Jotaro, who couldn't move as the result of stopping his own heart for too long. Jotaro was only saved because Polnareff took that opportunity to try and kill Dio, which gave Jotaro just enough time to recover.
    • Jotaro successfully Out-Gambitted D'Arby in their poker game, where the stakes were the souls of him, Joseph and Polnareff - the boy that Jotaro choose to give the cards was working for D'Arby, and gave Jotaro weak cards, but Jotaro refused to look at them, making D'Arby think that he had switched them, and adds too much to the stakes, with the possibility of losing would equal D'Arby's death, playing a Batman Gambit that made D'Arby break down.
    • Pretty much every fight in Jojo, considering that it's a series where intelligence goes far beyond strength, results in one of the fighters being Out-Gambitted.
  • This pretty much describes every match in Akagi; Akagi manipulates everyone around him (even people who are watching the entire Mahjong games from the outside) as they think they have him cornered.
  • Hunter X Hunter, during the hunter exams. Gon had a choice between two candles that he had to keep burning in a windy room longer than the villain's candle, he picks the long one (both are rigged to burn quickly) but because it burns so strong he is able to leave it unattended to run over and blow out the villain's candle.
    • How about a few minutes later with the room where they must leave two people behind or take the long road? (Explained: the team loses 50 hours in a gambling match just after the above example, so they have about 2 hours left, one route which only 3 of the five can travel down takes 5 minutes, the other route takes about 12 hours. The solution Gon sees is to chose the long route, then break down the wall to the short route, then sled down the hill on a door—they make it to the finish with less than a second to spare.)
  • Shikamaru Nara from Naruto pulls this off quite a lot. All of his battles involve him making his opponent so sure of their victory that they inevitably screw up and fall to his masterfully laid Batman Gambit.
  • In Death Note, this is how Near & Mello beat Light, although Light also seemed to have become stupider in the second season.
    • It's more that he stopped getting convenient strokes of luck, like getting an easily manipulated minion with the shinigami eyes right after L just so happened to reveal his identity to Light. Plus Light already had a tendency to make rash mistakes.
  • In Sailor Moon Stars, Sailors Uranus and Neptune, in the face of death, come up with a brilliant plan to escape: fake a Face Heel Turn (and even kill Sailors Pluto and Saturn to fool Galaxia), and right when Galaxia least expects it, do her in. However, it turns out that Galaxia had seen it coming, since she had already been Crazy Prepared with immortality, and so she instantly destroys both Uranus and Neptune in front of Eternal Sailor Moon and the Sailor Starlights.
    • This is a mix of both this and Spanner in the Works, really. Galaxia had cast her starseed out long ago, but for an entirely different reason: To protect it from Chaos who was slowly possessing her after sealing it within herself. Once she cast it out to keep it safe from him, he fully takes her and turns her evil. While she was planning ahead, she wasn't expecting someone to try and take the starseed she no longer had. She was also taken off guard by the attempt because every other Senshi that wore her golden bracelets were under her control, unlike Uranus and Neptune; Galaxia herself admits so openly before killing the two. Had she not casted her Seed away, Uranus and Neptune would've won.
    • Also, like Uranus and Neptune before her, Moon pretends to pull off a Face Heel Turn in the first season, greatly risking her own life to try getting into the Dark Kingdom to rescue Mamoru. Kunzite, however, sees right through her and almost gets her killed.
  • This is how the main characters in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni finally win. Rika, using her Groundhog Day Loop induced prescience and the Power of Friendship, successfully outgambits the people trying to kill her.
  • Happened in Liar Game, where Akiyama was out-gambitted by Yokoya, who walked away with a huge amount of the winnings and left him in debt. However, Nao pointed out to Yokoya that even though he had won, he still lost the game, because he went back on his philosophy of complete dominance and instead turned to common cheating and stealing and three of his teammates had betrayed him.
  • In Bleach, Shinji explains his reversing ability to Aizen, but leaves out the fact that he can reverse each of the three dimensions individually. Just when Aizen has him "figured out" Shinji reverses only front and back, allowing Hitsugaya to stab Aizen from behind, which he never suspects because he's not reversed in the other two directions. Cut to Aizen revealing that he's been using Kyoka Suigetsu this whole time, and just made Hitsugaya stab Hinamori.
    • Aizen's on the receiving end of this trope several times during his end-game. The first and most obvious one is when Gin pulls a Starscream and tries to kill Aizen. Aizen has, of course, been expecting this all along, but Gin reveals he was the only shinigami that completely lied about how his powers worked while biding his time to figure out the weakness in Aizen's abilities. He proceeds to instantly kill Aizen with his Bankai's true power, making Aizen experience true fear for the first time in his life. Unfortunately, the Reality Warper grafted to Aizen's chest is able to save him and use that fear to help him evolve, but this means that Aizen's new form completely fails to adapt to Ichigo's Look What I Can Do Now! power-up later. After Aizen's defeat, it turns out that Aizen was also Out-Gambitted by Urahara from the start; while Urahara outsmarted and nearly killed Aizen several times in their fight, Aizen walked away victorious but failed to notice it had all been an elaborate distraction for a seal to lock Aizen away when he inevitably grew too reliant on the Hogyouku and was rejected by it.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Negi out gambits Kurt Godel by simply not revealing that he has an informant from the future, which allows him to guess his rival's goals.
  • In the Bokurano anime, Koeyemshi is trying to get Kana to be the next pilot by putting mental pressure on her and threatening to force her brother Jun to do it instead if she refuses. However, Jun asks his friend Youko to help, and she stops Koeyemshi by shooting him to death.
  • The Washimine yakuza clan ended up with this in Black Lagoon.
    • To start, they attempted to make an alliance with Hotel Moscow, with hopes that they'll take care of their enemies. Hotel Moscow sends Balalaika and her Badass Army to help them. Her brutal tactics against Washimine's other Yakuza rivals quickly spiral out of control and the Washimine head attempts to assassinate Balalaika... Big mistake. The head got his neck snapped and with this Casus Belli in hand, Hotel Moscow allies with the rest of the Yakuza Council against Washimine and begins destroying them piecemeal.
    • Yukio, a high school girl and the lead's last relative, takes control over the clan and manages to restore some semblance of fighting strength and strikes back, taking out the local head of Hotel Moscow... Who was one of Balalaika's hated rivals. Since Balalaika's troops are made of former Soviet Airborne Troops who fought at Afghanistan and can start and win World War III, Balalaika quickly fights with much more cunning and brutality, which almost completely destroy Washimine...
    • One this is done, Balalaika uses the guise of her new alliance to murder the heads of the entire rest of the council, throwing the entire Tokyo underworld into all-out chaos and giving Hotel Moscow carte blanche to move in and seize control. Which had been Balalaika's objective all along, and she outplayed at least three other factions in the process. Once she realized that Balalaika had won the war, and Yukio's bodyguard and most faitful supporter Ginji died in a duel with Revy, Yukio chose to commit suicide rather than giving Balalaika the ultimate laugh. It wasn't better that Washimine clan itself suffered a civil war between those who supported Yukio and those who supported Chaka, which finished when Chaka was brutally slain by Ginji for kidnapping Yukio, beating her bloody, and intending to sell her into sex slavery.
  • In the case of Neon Genesis Evangelion, we have numerous plots going along side-by-side. We have Seele who's trying to manipulate everyone into activating Instrumentality, we have Gendo trying to reunite with his wife Yui, the angels who plan on reuniting with Adam, and later Ritsuko who plots to kill Gendo and stop his plans due to how he used her. The one who emerges on top? Rei Ayanami, who undermines Gendo after he sees an end to both the Angel's plot (sort of) and Ritsuko's plot. However, it's debatable that Yui Ikari planned everything out from the very beginning in a huge plan, but that's up for debate. It's Eva, after all...
  • Code Geass, which is a series that has contains several Magnificent Bastards and Chess Masters frequently uses this throughout the series. Just a few at note include
    • Zero's first battle with Princess Cornelia. With Zero playing the "Alice Role."
    • Zero's altercation with Mao (both times actually.)
    • Zero leading the Black Knights against Xing-ke. Once again Zero is Alice.
  • In Monster a hooker connects the dots and realizes that Johan Liebert has been committing a slew of murders for the past few years, so she attempts to blackmail him with this information. Johan, being able to be both a Complete Monster AND Magnificent Bastard, had planned on this possibility and planted his hitman, Roberto, to act as her "boyfriend" days, maybe even weeks, ahead of time. Needless to say, it doesn't go well for her when she pulls a gun on Johan.
  • A masterful one happens in Madoka Magica. Madoka is in a tight spot since three Magical Girls (Mami, Sayaka and Kyouko) have died at different spots and only Homura is left to fight off Walpurgis Night, which will destroy the world if not stopped. Madoka can defeat Walpurgis if she makes a contract with Kyuubey and becomes a Magical Girl, but will end up turning into an even more powerful witch herself. In either event, the world will end and Kyuubey will harvest the witch's energy output. Faced with this situation, Madoka becomes a Magical Girl... but uses her wish to erase every witch from existence before they're born, including all witches born in the past and future, taking advantage of how Homura's time loops have actually let her get access to more and more raw magical power, thus Kyuubey is unable to deny her. This ends up altering reality and effectively rewriting the whole Magical Girl system so that magical girls will no longer turn into witches, leaving Kyuubey to gather energy from sources other than the broken dreams of young girls like Madoka and her "teammates".
    • Another one happens at the end of the sort-of prequel Oriko Magica. So Kyouko, Mami and Homura have managed to kill Witch!Kirika and corner Oriko, and Homura finishes her off via destroying her Soul Gem after Kyoko impales her with her spear? No, Oriko won't be stopped by that. She will use her last moments to take a shard of Kirika's witch body and shoot it out of the witch's barrier... and fulfill her original "mission": killing Madoka Kaname via getting her Impaled with Extreme Prejudice with that shard. Oy vey.
  • Kanba Takakura from Mawaru Penguindrum. Several times. First his sister Masako kidnaps his brother Shouma and sets a Hostage Situation... to get a kiss from him, which she does. Later, when Himari dies for real, he fails to stop it... but Sanetoshi is able to do so, also roping Kanba in a Deal with the Devil. Which may be the same Deal with the Devil that Masako is implied to have taken for the sake of her brother Mario. This means, spoiler: Kanba is outgambitted by Masako, who then is "defeated" by Sanetoshi, and ''then'' Sanetoshi plays both of them like violins, or their precious siblings (Himari and Mario) will die again. Ultimately, Kanba is so involved in Sanetoshi's plot and so desperate to save Himari for real, that he ends up having a Face Heel Turn despite Shouma and Masako's pleas. Phew!


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Knights of the Dinner Table: Rules Lawyer Brian exploits a hole in the rules that led them to getting a cheese loop of money. Game Master B.A. sets up (unbeneknownst to the players) an ingenious Massive Multiplayer Crossover Batman Gambit which ended up with the players' Time Traveling characters from a Science Fiction Mirror Universe destroying the loot they gained in their Heroic Fantasy universe. So what do the players do? They have their time-travelling characters join up with their fantasy characters and use their superior technology to Take Over the World.
    • Another time, Brian killed the last member of a species milking it for the XP bonus and argued his way into getting a relic since the god of this species wouldn't have left him unarmed. The relic gave him wishes which allowed him to wish for immortality using an elaborate ironclad runon sentence wish that he'd had reviewed by a paralegal in real life. BA had no way of squirming out of the contract (even with the help of multiple other game masters) but they eventually realized that, since Brian was no longer mortal, he could be assaulted directly by the aforementioned god of the relic.
  • Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment is this trope. In the end of a rollercoaster of magical action and double, and double double crossings, the reader is left just as much in the dark as the main protagonist of the book, Doctor Strange, whether or not Doctor Doom planned everything the way it went or not..
  • This happened once in the Sleepwalker comics when the Kingpin was confronted with a rival crime boss named Crimewave, who was planning to usurp his position. The Kingpin's response was to manipulate Sleepwalker and Spider-Man into capturing Crimewave for him after luring Crimewave's disgruntled second-in-command into his service. Crimewave has never appeared again in large part because no writer has ever been interested in using him, but this troper's Fanon has it that Crimewave met with an "accident" in prison for pissing off the Fat Man.
  • A young Imperial Naval gunnery officer named Garil Dox became an instant Rebel sympathizer when the Death Star destroyed his homeworld, Alderaan. Feeling that he could do more good from the bridge of the Imperial Star Destroyer Reprisal than if he jumped ship to seek out the Alliance, he waited until Darth Vader himself came aboard to oversee the capture of several Rebel groups by Commander Demmings. Knowing Vader's temper when it came to failure, each time the Reprisal closed in its target, Dox discreetly fired a killing shot despite orders to capture. Vader's anger rising, he ordered one last mission. They arrived at a remote planet with one small settlement on it that Vader claimed was a Rebel outpost. Once again, he ordered Demmings to neutralize the enemy without killing them, and Demmings ordered the best gunner, Dox, to make the shot. Dox annihilated the outpost and waited to see Demmings' summary execution, only to be arrested on the spot. Vader revealed his knowledge of Dox's plan to discredit Commander Demmings, a valued soldier of the Empire, along with preventing capture of Rebel operatives who could reveal damaging information about the Alliance. He then twisted the knife by telling Dox that the outpost that he had just destroyed was not a Rebel base at all, but a settlement of Alderaanian refugees. Dox then expects Vader to kill him, but the Dark Lord knows it's what he wants and orders him sent to an Imperial labor camp instead, where he can serve the Empire in a useful way via FateWorseThanDeath.
  • Spy vs Spy, as demonstrated in the title image, was a comic consisting of the two spies Out Gambitting each other in ridiculous and amusing ways. It would almost universally end with one of them getting shot, blown up, or hit with something due to the other spy using their plan against them.
  • Jadina from Légendaires is able to outgambit the God of Evil Anathos during the Anathos Cycle in a quite impressive way: She first let her Dark Action Girl Tenebris get captured so she can lead the Castlewar, Anathos' mobile fortress, into an Ambush inside a Canyon. Anathos sees through the trap and replies by forcing Jadina's Legendaries to split up when they attempt to infiltrate the Castlewar and having them forced to fight against his Hellions while he gets Jadina for interrogation, as he deduced this infiltration attempt was a diversion for a bigger plan. Turns out he's right, but finds that out too late: the Legendaries are able to defeat their Hellion counterparts, and both them and Jadina are able to distract him long enough for the plan to works. The Elves then open several portails between the place and their world's sea, filling the Canyon with water and thus making the Castlewar's weaponry unfunctional while they attacks it with their ships. When Anathos tries riposting by sending his Vulturs attack the ships, the Pirahni and humans arrive with flying machines and rides, quickly destroying them. Even the other Legendaries are impressed to see Jadina planned this all along.


Film[edit | hide]

  • The ending of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has both male leads be out gambitted by who they thought was their mark.
  • In Spider-Man 3, Spider-Man is framed for a bank robbery thanks to Eddie Brock Jr. As it turns out, there never was a bank robbery the day earlier, and Brock's plan to get the office job at the Daily Bugle would've succeeded if Peter Parker hadn't recognized the photo from a previous photo of Spider-Man returning stolen loot to the bank (not to mention that Peter Parker had very good reason to be 100% certain that Spider-Man had never robbed any bank) and made sure Brock's scam was revealed to J. Jonah Jameson. In a later scene, Parker takes Brock's place in the office.
  • Rock and Roll High School marks possibly the only time where one gambit (Riff Randall waiting for three days to be first in line to get tickets to the Ramones concert and getting a hundred tickets for her friends and her music teacher) is Out Gambitted by another gambit (Mrs. Togar donating her ticket and her best friend's ticket to charity), which is then Out Gambitted by the Gambit Roulette that was Riff Randall's knowledge of the Ramones getting her and her best friend a free ticket each to the same concert. (Granted, neither party knew about the giveaway until Riff and her friend got the tickets from it.) Riff's words to Mrs. Togar? "Screw you, Mrs. Togar, we made it to the concert anyway!" And those words were broadcast over the radio, no less!
  • Batman Returns: The Penguin orchestrates a crime wave to make the people of Gotham lose faith in the current administration. He has one of his mooks abduct the Mayor's infant child in broad daylight, only to show up himself and "rescue" it. He wins over the people's sympathies with his pitiful life story. He frames Batman for murder, and uses a remote controlled Batmobile to cut a path of destruction, making it seem as if Batman had finally snapped. All to instigate a recall election and get himself elected Mayor. But he didn't count on the Goddamned Batman having a disk drive in his Cool Car to record the Penguin's rants and broadcast them at his next speech:

The Penguin: "You gotta admit, I've played this stinking city like a harp from Hell!"

    • Batman: The Movie features multiples layers of this. The Penguin dons a Paper-Thin Disguise and tries to convince Batman and Robin that he's Commodore Shmidlab. Batman and Robin take him to the Batcave so they can prove that he's the Penguin and arrest him—once inside the Batcave, Penguin re-hydrates the Mooks he's carrying (don't ask) and orders them to attack, which was his plan all along. However, the tragic demise (again, don't ask) of these same mooks apparently convinces Batman that Penguin really is Commodore Schmidlab—but as Batman and Robin are escorting him out of the Batcave, Penguin gasses both of them and steals the Batmobile. As soon as Penguin is out of sight, Batman and Robin wake up (they were faking unconsciousness, having taken an anti-knockout gas pill beforehand) and follow the Batmobile's homing beacon right back to the Penguin's lair.
  • House on Haunted Hill. To say any more would ruin it.
  • The climax of Bill and Teds Bogus Journey involves this.
  • In Diggstown, Bruce Dern gets out gambitted by James Woods in an overtly crooked boxing wager. Realizing that he'd been bested by a superior conman, Dern shrugs and says, "You beat me fair and square!"
  • Sands of Once Upon a Time In Mexico wanted druglord Barillo and General Marquez killed after allowing them to kill the President of Mexico in exchange for a pile of money. He gets Out-Gambitted on both sides, first when the Mariachi and his crew decide to fight for the President instead of letting him die, and when Ajedrez, a key player in his scheme, turns out not only to be a mole for Barillo, but also his daughter.
  • Wild Things essentially consists of this trope and Fan Service.
  • The finale of Krystof Kieslowski's White is a beautiful example of this.
  • The finale of Hunting Humans is just one borderline ludicrous example of this after another. Let's see:
    • Serial Killer A goes to the home of the detective that Serial Killer B hired to keep tabs on him, and kills him. Serial Killer B (revealed to be the detective that Serial Killer A hired to keep an eye on Serial Killer B's detective) shows up to ambush him.
    • Serial Killer A reveals the detective isn't really dead, and that he hired him to his side.
    • Serial Killer B reveals that he knew Serial Killer A would try to bribe the detective to his side, so he offered him $5,000 on top of whatever Serial Killer A offered him to remain loyal.
    • Serial Killer A then reveals that he hacked into the detective's accounts and took all his money, and that the only way he can get it back is if Serial Killer A remains alive. After Serial Killer B kills the detective, Serial Killer A states he didn't take the money, he just made it look like he did.
    • Serial Killer A reveals he has an ally outside ready to snipe Serial Killer B at his command.
    • Serial Killer B manages to get outside, and into a wooded area, and when Serial Killer A follows him, Serial Killer B reveals that years of training have made him a fighting machine capable of countering everything that Serial Killer A throws at him.
    • Serial Killer A kills him using one of eighteen guns he had hidden in the forest, knowing the Serial Killer B would come to the detective's house, and that their battle might take them outside.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Vizzini from The Princess Bride is a very notable one.
    • If you pay attention to the Man in Black's challenge, he says "Where is the poison? The contest ends when you choose and we drink." In other words, under the literal rules of the game, even if Vizzini had figured out they were both poisoned, he still would have drank and died. Unless he decided to Take a Third Option and NOT DRINK.
    • At one point when Vizzini is saying "you may be relying on your strength to save you", Westley looks concerned that he will indeed figure it out. Instead he goes off into various tangents, much to Westley's relief.
  • The entire, seven book series of Harry Potter. Voldemort makes Plan 1. Dumbledore (along with Snape) makes Plan 2. Voldemort goes down in a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
    • For example, Voldemort wants to kill Harry. Dumbledore guesses (and therefore knows) that if Harry dies at Voldemort's hand, then Harry'll just come right back to life, and Voldemort will be weaker. That was pretty much the plan for two books.
    • Also, almost anything Dumbledore does, from trusting Snape and having him as the mole, to having Snape kill him, to leaving Harry at the Dursley's, to giving Hermione the time-turner, to having the Tri-Wizard Tournament, to going to The Cave in book six. He is The Chessmaster.
      • The Triwizard Tournament wasn't his plan though - Voldemort taking Harry's blood was just a lucky bonus from something that went horribly wrong seeing as how he had no idea Moody was a fake until the climax of the book.
        • However, as it would with a true chessmaster, this contingency massively works in Dumbledore's favor. Harry's blood in Voldemort's body is the tie to life that allows Harry to survive his own death, sans horcrux. Even when Dumbledore loses, he wins.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist King Pryderi of the Prydain Chronicles makes an alliance with resident Evil Overlord Arawn in an attempt to conquer Prydain and put an end to the infighting and bickering between lords that has long plagued his land. After he has conquered Prydain he planned to make Arawn into his servant by virtue of his superior army. Too bad for him, Arawn is well-known and feared for his evil trickery and, too late, the King realizes that the Death Lord has outmanuevered him. Unsurprisingly, he doesn't live long after.
  • In Survivor's Quest, the Vagaari turn out to have a rather large gambit involving Obfuscating Fawning Idiocy. But, it's revealed, the Chiss planned for this all along, letting word leak out so that the Vagaari formed their plan in the first place, setting up safe spaces for their crew, inviting along Jedi and 501st stormtroopers and not letting the Vagaari see what they could do. All to make that nomadic people of slavers strike, satisfying the Chiss Martial Pacifism so that they could seek out and attack the Vagaari. After it's all over Mara Jade looks at that plan in disbelief, and says that Thrawn's fingerprints are all over it. But Thrawn is dead, and his clone was destroyed. Wasn't it?
    • In Isard's Revenge, Ysanne Isard neatly outgambits her clone and the New Republic. One of the things she does is set up a lab at a site she knows the New Republic will attack, one that involves research into the next generation of superweapons. The New Republic instantly seizes on this as justification for mounting a more vigorous campaign against this particular splinter of the Empire, while the splinter protests that they'd never heard of this lab until the New Republic attacked them, it must have been forged. A clueless pilot even wonders what good it would have done the New Republic to set up a fake Death Star lab. The end result is that both sides look worse due to the Golden Mean Fallacy, and despite trying to trick each other they do pretty much exactly what she wanted. Until...
      • At the very end of the novel, Isard herself falls victim to this trope. Her plan was to steal the newly-repaired Super Star Destroyer Lusankya from under the collective nose of the New Republic fleet. Unfortunately, New Republic Intelligence agent Iella Wessiri, Booster Terrik, and Mirax Terrik Horn (with the assistance of a fourth which will remain unnamed) managed to anticipate her action, in part thanks to two droids escaping her clutches earlier. Both of Isard's boarding parties were knocked out via atmospheric pressure, and Isard herself was going to be tried for piracy before a military tribunal, avoiding a public trial that would only have helped her. She avoids that fate only by attempting to attack Iella, who fatally shoots her.
    • In The Thrawn Trilogy, the Republic tries to play Thrawn by making him think they were going to attack Tangrene instead of Bilbringi. Seeing as it's Thrawn we're talking about here, it backfires rather spectacularly.
      • Which is to say Thrawn figured out the real target was Bilbringi and planned accordingly. But he wasn't counting on the Smugglers' Alliance to join the war and, assuming that the Republic was striking at Tangrene, plan their own attack on Bilbringi which just happened to coincide with the Republic's offensive and helped turn certain defeat into a crushing victory. A case of a cunning plan being defeated by a cunning-er plan but rescued by a botched plan.
      • Which could still have turned out to be an Imperial victory if Rukh didn't kill Thrawn.
  • Lord of the Rings: Sauron out-gambits everyone else (Saruman and Denethor most notably), only to be out-gambitted himself by Gandalf via Evil Cannot Comprehend Good.
    • Though it should be noted that Sauron was ultimately right - no-one has the willpower to destroy the One Ring. It's the interference of fate, in other words of Eru Ilúvatar that ultimately results in Sauron's fall.
      • The Plan against God(s) may be futile as power levels don't work very well when dealing with infinity. If dealing with an omni-intelligent god, It'd be irrelevant, as Carl Sagan once noted: 'a Googolplex is precisely as far from infinity as is the number One'.
        • The wizards themselves are already technically intervention from heaven, since they're Maiar sent on behalf of the Valar. But they were told to rely on Middle-earth to solve its own problems (see The Silmarillion for what happens when they try intervening), so they're only allowed to assist men (which is vague considering the badassery that Gandalf pulls).
    • Almost as impressive as when the Númenoreans take him prisoner, and a few years later are almost entirely under his control.
  • This describes every single one of Zhou Yu's schemes against Zhuge Liang in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Time and time again, Zhou Yu create schemes after schemes to kill Zhuge Liang. Zhuge easily saw through each one of them, making a fool out of Zhou Yu. In the end,he dies of illness and the reopening of an old wound, caused by the rage at Zhuge beating him time and again; knowing that he could never match Sleeping Dragon.
  • Done brilliantly in the ninth book of the Everworld series. Senna Wales, the witch who has been previously pulling all the strings and guiding the other characters along has the tables turned on her when her mother, Anica Wales makes a deal with Merlin to capture her. Their plan is to lure Senna out in the streets of Egypt at night, separating her from the others of the group who could potentially help her, forcing her to confront them alone, leaving her to face Merlin, a mage even stronger than she is and with a thousand years of experience, with Senna's mother there to lend her witch powers in case Merlin somehow fails while the entire city they're in is under the control of the Amazons, who are allied with Senna's mother. And just to make totally and completely sure that Senna has no escape and is caught like a rat in a trap, Merlin brings a dragon to the party for back-up. And then what happens? Senna, Magnificent Bastard that she is, instantly readjusts her plans, fools them both, uses Christopher as a decoy, tricks Merlin into wasting his magic, uses all of her powers as a witch and a gateway to their full extent, and she wins. The battle ends with Merlin exhausted and running in defeat, his dragon dead, the Amazons driven from Egypt with their queen no longer among the living, and Anica begging her daughter for forgiveness. Basically, Senna faced two mages who are Crazy Prepared and vastly more experienced than herself, with no prior warning or prep time, and thwarted them. She's that good at Xanatos Speed Chess. After the confrontation is over, Senna is heavily exhausted by clearly enjoying the victory, and comments to Anica, "You underestimated me." If that isn't a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the whole book, or the entire series, it's pretty hard to imagine what is.
  • If you are a character in the Codex Alera, you should try to avoid going up against Gaius Sextus. Even if you seem to win against him, he's probably still using you somehow or other. Witness Lord Kalarus, whose plan to make himself a Load-Bearing Boss and blow up half the countryside was foiled by Gaius walking into the heart of his territory and detonating the volcano himself, or Lord Aquitaine, who almost got his wish to be First Lord when Sextus legally adopted him as secondborn to Tavi, leaving the country in the most capable hands possible between his death and his grandson's return.
  • One of the Gor books had a character warn the fellow kidnapping her that she planned to scream. He admitted that was an excellent Plan. When she opened her mouth to scream, though, he stuffed in a wadded-up scarf, gagging her. "I, too, had a plan--a counter-plan. My plan, which I have now put into effect, was clearly superior to yours."
    • Almost a parody of the trope, and the simplest Xanatos Gambit on record: if she screams, he gags her and if she doesn't scream, he doesn't need to gag her.
  • The Big Bad of Raised by Wolves had a very simple plan: infect Chase with lycanthropy, then leave him in Stone River Pack's territory. Chase would be taken in by Stone River, where he'd make contact with Bryn- a former target who got away- and bring her back to him. Unfortunately for him, Callum, the pack's alpha, turned out to have precognitive abilities, a mastery of Xanatos Speed Chess, and a grudge against the Big Bad for what he did to Bryn. Didn't See That Coming.
  • It's common for someone be outgambitted in Dan Brown novels.
  • Done brilliantly in The Thief. The Magus of Sounis frees Gen, a low-born thief who stupidly brags about his successes, from prison and forces him to steal Hamiathes' Gift so the king can use it to claim rightful rulership to the throne of neighboring kingdom Eddis. Except that he's been played since BEFORE the start of the book by Gen, or rather Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis and the Queen of Eddis' COUSIN, who knew that the Magus knew where Hamiathes' Gift was, pretended to be commoner of Sounis and purposely bragged about his skill to draw the Magus' attention so that he'd be hired to steal it, and once he did stole it a second time in such a way to make the Magus think he lost it, and finally returned it to his queen.
  • Minor example from Kitty and the Silver Bullet: Kitty, trying her hand at being a Chessmaster, tries to use Detective Hardin and the Denver PD as an Unwitting Pawn to take down Carl for her. Hardin turns it around by being fashionably late to the fight, thus making Kitty bait to trap Carl into an assault charge. They're on the same side, though, so it's all good. Bigger example from the same book: Rick's attempt to unseat Arturo is thwarted by Mercedes, with the help of a spy in his ranks. But then Arturo becomes the Spanner in the Works by opting for Redemption Equals Death, thus leaving Rick in control of Denver anyway.
  • Dune, being a millenial tale of galactic intrigue that accumulates Gambit Pileups like some books accumulate minor characters, has numerous examples of this trope.
    • In the first novel, the Emperor travels to Arrakis to "put down the Fremen rebellion" once and for all and to severely discipline the Harkonnens he was using as his tools. The Guild travels there to safeguard their precious Spice, having foreseen a crisis with their oracular powers. Paul Muad'dib, however, has become The Messiah possessed of far greater powers and takes advantage of having all his enemies together to pull a surprise attack that winds up with him dethroning the Emperor and taking his place.
      • Even earlier, the Atreides were themselves victim of this when they knowingly walked into the Harkonnen trap on Arrakis, counting on their superior training and potential alliance with the Fremen to see them through. What Leto failed to realize was that the Emperor was backing the Harkonnens and the sheer amount of money both were willing to spend to defeat him.
    • In Dune Messiah, the Bene Tleilax construct a complicated gambbit involving forcing Paul to discredit himself out of love for his consort, Chani. Paul, of course, has anticipated this, but it's the loyalty of the ghola Duncan Idaho, whom they were counting on to either kill Paul (forcing Alia to make the same choice) or recover his memories, showing Paul what could be achieved with Chani, that allows Paul to evade the trap.
    • In Children of Dune, Alia, now possessed by the Genetic Memory of Baron Harkonnen, plots to have Paul's children assassinated to cement her rule. Meanwhile, the Bene Gesserit are trying to manipulate the children into returning to their control. Leto II, however, by willingly embracing his father's messianic role, successfully discredits Alia and becomes the God Emperor.
  • The Mistborn trilogy is basically a Gambit Pileup by the end, so naturally a lot of people end up Out-Gambitted, In roughly chronological order Preservation outgambits Ruin, trapping him, then Ruin outgambits a lot of people by changing prophecies in order to try to get somebody to free him, then Kwaan and Rashek outgambit Ruin by figuring out his deception and killing Alendi so that Rashek can take the power of the Well of Ascension for himself, becoming the Lord Ruler, and stopping Ruin from getting out. Then Kelsier outgambits the Lord Ruler in order to kill him. Ruin outgambits everyone again to get Vin to go to the Well of Ascension and free him. After that it turns out that the Lord Ruler had prepared for the possibility of his death and Ruin's release and prepared storage places for people to hide to protect them, and hid the atium stockpile, which contained most of Ruin's power where Ruin couldn't get at it. Then it turns out that Preservation had planned for everything, in spite of having had most of his mind destroyed when he trapped Ruin thousands of years before, and he managed to get Elend and his army to destroy the atium stockpile, keeping the power away from Ruin, meanwhile he'd also arranged for Vin to take his power, and perform a Heroic Sacrifice to kill Ruin.. And really there are other examples, these are just the major ones.
  • In Freedom this turns out to be the case: The villains thought that they had finally managed to pull one up on Sobol and beat the Daemon. Turns out that he had expected someone would try to do so and had planned against it.
  • In War of the Dreaming, this happens to Azrael's plan to free mankind from tyranny by destroying the magical realm's power over them, carried out by a complex line of murder, betrayal, backstabbery, and replacing Congress with shapeshifting doppelgangers. The counter-gambit to this is set up by Prometheus, who outmaneuvers him simply by having a son whose descendents will interbreed with humanity and spread the ability to Screw Destiny at much less cost.
  • Black Arthur in The Demon's Lexicon thinks he's been very clever indeed: he first managed to make a deal with a demon in return for unprecedented power by providing the demon with a human body that will not deteriorate - that of his infant son - and when that plan went awry thanks to the baby's mother running away with him, allowing him to grow up among humans as Nick Ryves with no memory of his true nature, he managed to lure Nick into a magic circle and trap him there, counting on Nick's demon nature and their original bargain to win out. Unfortunately, what Arthur didn't count on is that Nick's adopted brother Alan is a lot better at this than he is: most of the events of the book are part of Alan's plan to get Nick trapped in just such a magic circle, so that he could then set him free in a way that would ensure he could never be bound by another magician.
  • In Helm, Arthur de Noram is no match for the man he tried to conspire with, Siegfried Montrose.
  • Unsurprisingly, given its high concentration of Chessmasters and Magnificent Bastards, as well as those who aspire to be such, this happens a lot in A Song of Ice and Fire. In particular, pretty much everything that happens to Cersei Lannister in A Feast For Crows is this trope.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Many examples from House.
    • Happens to Cuddy again and again every time she tries to play House.

(in response to her switching his painkillers with laxatives) I know when my Vicodin isn't Vicodin. Do you know when your birth control pills aren't birth control pills?

    • Really, everyone else in the cast to House. What's extra hilarious is that after their long diatribes informing him that he's miserable, his response is inevitably some version of "yes, I know".
    • Wilson is the only one who ever really matches House, in fact he pulls off one of these himself in "Safe" where House plays a series of practical jokes on him in the hopes of getting him to respond. Wilson stoically takes it all without complaint and House seems to give up, then at the very end of the episode House's cane snaps in two and he falls flat on his ass. Wilson deadpans that "someone" must have sawn halfway through his cane during the night.
      • You magnificent bitch. You just invoked the name of your dead girlfriend to play me? You're my hero. (From "Saviors", when House finally realizes Wilson's been screwing with him the entire episode.)
      • Epically done on an episode, in which both House and the audience are led to believe that the pranks are being played first by Foreman and his ex-con brother, in a bonding ritual, and then by Lucas, in an effort to force House and Wilson out of Cuddy's dream home. At the very end of the episode, after House declines to get revenge on whom he thinks is the prankster, Wilson simply says "I win."
    • A season six episode depicts Foreman observing Thirteen wearing a magnificent watch and Chase driving an awesome car that they felt like "treating themselves to." This leads Foreman to conclude that everyone else on the team is making more than him, despite his position as a senior fellow. When he goes to Cuddy and tries to bluff his way into raising his salary by threatening to leave for another hospital, the team starts to worry that Foreman might actually quit. When Foreman leaves for a job that doesn't exist, the team appeals to Cuddy to hire him back, saying it was all a ploy on their part to stop Foreman from acting like such an affected twit (The watch and the car were both borrowed from friends). After agreeing to bring Foreman back, reduce the team's salary, and add it to Foreman's, she tells them that she has no idea what they're talking about, and hasn't seen or spoken with Foreman in four days. Cue Foreman's appearance right outside Cuddy's office, smug smile and all.

Foreman: The phrase... Who's ya daddy?" comes to mind.

    • This occurs in the season 8 episode "Chase," surprisingly on House against Taub. Throughout most of the episode, House is constantly attempting to successfully ambush Taub, who's been taking self defense classes, and Taub is shown to be surprisingly adept at reacting to whatever House throws at him. He also reveals, however, that constantly being on guard against House's attacks forces him to try to think three steps ahead of House; in one scene, House assigns Taub to "obviously fraudulent lab work" so that he'd know exactly where Taub would be at the time so he could leap out and blast him with a squirt gun (and as a bonus, he'd get to watch Taub's paranoia at work beforehand, watching him look in all the wrong places for the oncoming attack.) After he leaps out and fires, however, it turns out Taub already rigged the squirt gun to misfire, and instead it squirts at House's own face.
  • In Mad Men, Duck Phillips tries to leverage Don Draper out of his position at Sterling Cooper through a corporate buyout that would leave him as President and Draper's creative division nearly devastated. He does all this with the assumption that Draper was working under a contract and couldn't take clients with him when he left. The hitch in his plan? Don doesn't have a contract.
  • Any time on Doctor Who that someone tries to play the Daleks or Cybermen for personal gain.
    • In those cases they usually forget that the races in question have very straight-forward goals (exterminate everything and assimilate everything, respectively), and so are not as vulnerable to convoluted maneuvering from anyone who isn't The Doctor.
    • Inverted in "The Five Doctors", where the Master, knowing that the Cybermen will kill him once he has outlived his usefulness, leads them all into a death trap once they have outlived theirs.
      • People often forget that the main reason the Master always loses is that we mostly see him go up against the Doctor. His batting average against not-the-Doctor opponents is very good.
    • Also the Doctor Who spoof for Red Nose day (starring Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor) is practically the embodiment of this trope.
    • And in "The End of Time", The Master prepared for the possibility of his death, but his plan gets derailed when his widow reveals she's been making plans of her own. Not enough to stop him entirely, but it kind of ruins the man's day.
      • Also in "The End of Time", the Master summons Rassilon, leader of the Time Lord High Council, in a gambit to resurrect the Time Lords and turn them all into copies of himself. One hand motion by Rassilon and the smile is wiped off of the Master's face...
  • The perps in Columbo usually think that their plans are pretty damn foolproof, actually, and that this shabby little detective has no chance of uncovering them. Unfortunately for them, Columbo has a tendency to prove them very wrong with his own cunning plans.
  • Captain Dylan Hunt of the Andromeda has a knack for pulling this off, especially when dealing with the Nietscheans. The episode "Double Helix" in season 1 features multiple layers of outsmarting each other.
  • Criminal Minds: In the fourth season episode "Masterpiece", Jason Alexander plays a serial killer who confesses to Agent Rossi that he's committed seven murders and is about to kill five more people, unless the BAU can find where he's hidden his victims. He does this as a massive Take That to Rossi himself, who caught his serial-killer brother and watched as he was executed. It does not end well for him - Rossi lets him believe he's won, confess his entire scheme, and then reveals he's recorded the entire thing. And oh yeah, his team is fine, thank you very much, he knew the place was booby-trapped. This is why one does not threaten Rossi's "family".
  • In Cheers Sam is often outgambitted by rival bar owner Gary in the "Bar Wars" episodes. Other times it's the snooty owner of the restaurant upstairs, "Melville's".
  • In Noah's Arc, Guy has an elaborate plan to manipulate both Alex and Trey, involving staging random accidents that Guy can "fix", breaking down Alex's credibility in the eyes of Trey and Alex's friends, and a Wounded Gazelle Gambit. As complex as Guy's plan is, he's Out-Gambitted by Alex and his friends concocting a simple fake note, tricking Guy into revealing his feelings for Trey (who was never interested to begin with).
  • In the season 2 finale of The Sandbaggers, Burnside spends the entire episode maneuvering to convince Wellingham to appoint Peele as the head of SIS, as Gibbs, the other candidate for the job, is someone he has a long-standing rivalry with; he spies on Wellingham to find out what he wants and feeds the information to Peele, goes looking for skeletons in Gibbs' closet and tells Wellingham they're common office gossip, and so on. Then Peele writes a memo that clearly displays him to be unfit for the job, and Burnside has to go back to Wellingham and walk back everything he's said, and Wellingham reveals that he knew all along what Burnside was up to, had already made the decision to appoint Gibbs, and had maneuvered Peele into writing the memo in order to convince Burnside that he wasn't a suitable candidate.
  • Victoria Hardwick, one of Lex's early love interests in Smallville, persuaded him to help her father take over LuthorCorp. Lex suggested they take over both their fathers' companies together. She then stole information from him that Cadmus was a prosperous lab and that LuthorCorp had sunk all their money into a bid for the company, and arranged for Hardwick to outbid them. When she revealed this to him, he explained that the data was fake and Hardwick had bought a worthless company, leaving them financially vulnerable and allowing LuthorCorp to buy them in turn.
  • In Supernatural's sixth season finale, Castiel and Crowley have a plan to open a door to Purgatory and harvest all of the souls within for their raw power. Shortly before the plan goes down, however, Castiel (the more powerful of the two) decides to cut Crowley out of the deal so he can take all the power for himself. Crowley immediately seeks out Castiel's even more powerful big brother Raphael and offers him his original deal, and Castiel is forced to flee. Castiel had expected this, however, and secretly replaced one of the ritual's ingredients with a fake so that Crowley and Raphael wouldn't be able to perform it properly. He then did the ritual himself elsewhere, and using his newfound powers, promptly slaughtered Raphael and went into full on A God Am I mode.
  • Pretty much how the team beats the Villain of the Week in every episode of Leverage.
    • A season finale involves the team squaring off against their most dangerous opponent yet - the guy from the pilot who put the team together in the first place. He knows every single con they pull to the point of knowing exactly which algorithm Hardison will use to hack a hydroelectric plant's computer. Fortunately, the team realize this and get the help of several acquaintances (including Parker's aging Gentleman Thief mentor and Nate's ex-wife) and former opponents (The Cracker Chaos and the bruiser who beat up Eliot in the first season). In the end, Nate has the two Big Bads cornered on a precipice with a gun pointing at them, choosing which one to kill. Then he sees his team and changes his mind. He leaves the gun at the edge of the precipice and walks away, knowing full well that the Big Bads would lunge for it and fall.
  • Happens in Third Watch in the final season. A serial killer is playing games with two cops and won't tell them where his latest victim is hidden before she dies - he knows pretty much the exact hour this happens. However, he's willing to divulge her location after that hour. What the cops do? Since the perp has no way of knowing the time outside of the interrogation room, they switch the clocks.


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • The History of the Devil: Lucifer is out-gambitted twice; once in a flashback by Jesus Christ, and again at the ending by the prosecution. His goal had been to reenter heaven by proving himself innocent of humanity's suffering. The prosecution acquits him on the caveat that he can never leave heaven again, knowing that heaven is utterly empty, having been abandoned by God and the other angels.
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (The Musical)

Freddy: That lousy, stinking, lying, cheating, totally dishonest, dirty, rotten-
Lawrence: Yes Freddy, isn't she wonderful!

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The final case of [[Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney]] Kristoph Gavin set up a long Gambit involving poisoning a painter via postage stamp and his daughter via nail polish after using the two of them to take revenge on Phoenix. But, Phoenix Wright set up an even greater Gambit that overhauled the entire legal system of the country just to catch Kristoph.
  • Maaaaybe Old Snake to Liquid Ocelot, taking down the Patriots in Metal Gear Solid 4.
    • Seeing as Ocelot's plan was to play the part of the villain and pretend to work for the Patriots in order to get Old Snake to fulfil his goal of taking them down... No. But Ocelot DID Out Gambit the Patriots as part of that plan, so the game still falls under this trope.
  • Embarrassing photo used to instigate a blackmail scheme? Check. Allergy information to put a young boy in a dangerous situation? Check. Non-integral minions bribed into disloyalty? Check. Said young boy made angry enough to want to kill the blackmailer? Check-a-roony. Maderas' scheme to inherit the throne by killing Laharl was made one of these by Etna herself, and he never saw it coming up until it actually happened. Can we say "owned", boys and girls?
    • Seraph Lamington trumps that by a wide mile, by acting like a gullible fool around his right hand man, Archangel Vulcanus. Vulcanus believed Lamington was completely blind to his plan to conquer the Netherworld, Celestia, and the Human World, while it turned out Lamington was very aware of his schemes from the start, and in fact he was using Vulcanus' plan in order to lure Laharl and Flonne to Celestia so he could begin the last step in his own Gambit. Damn.
  • Although primarily designed to be humorous, the Homestar Runner game Peasant's Quest falls into this trope when the expected victory scene is replaced with a short speech by Trogdor informing the player that despite having met all of the said conditions for vanquishing the dragon, he is invincible and cannot be killed. Fortunately, you get a statue built of you because you've come closer than anyone else!
  • In Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath, Kane (of all people) manages to be out foxed by Alexa Kovacs.
    • In Command & Conquer, Kane spends most of the GDI campaign outmanouvering the GDI... right up until they manage to trick him by pretending to have their funding cut and their leadership completely out of the loop, making NOD go on the offensive before the Brotherhood is really ready for that.
  • The Gambit Pileup of Chrono Cross occurs when two factions compete on manipulating entire civilizations (and one of fiction's greatest Unwitting Pawns) to further their schemes across time and space, little realizing that they themselves are being played by a Chessmaster nobody had accounted for, despite making little effort to hide himself and even having exposition-heavy chats with the protagonist on occasions.
  • The player's interaction with Drakuru in World of Warcraft becomes this. While he initially uses you as a pawn in his schemes to breach Drak'tharon Keep and enable the Scourge invasion of the Gun'drak zone, things change once you get there. He tries to turn you into a ghoul and make you into his right hand, but the Knights of the Ebon Blade fake the transformation and have you secretly sabotage all of his plans while pretending to serve him. Eventually you manage to turn his secret weapon against him and he asks the Lich King for help, who kills him. This turns out to be because Arthas is working on a gambit of his own, and you're more important to it than Drakuru.
  • The Game Mod Blue Planet: War in Heaven for FreeSpace 2 has a magnificent example of this. Admiral Calder of the United Earth Federation thinks he's driven a Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance fleet into a trap by tricking Admiral Lopez of the GTVA into making rash actions to protect her ships. However, Lopez's entire fleet was nothing more than bait set out by Admiral Steele, the commander of all GTVA forces in the Sol system. He knew exactly what sort of gambit Calder would pull on Lopez, and when Calder's battered, exhausted force finally began to close the noose on Lopez's flagship GTD Carthage, Steele brings the GTD Imperieuse out of its Silent Running Mode in the Asteroid Belt—Calder thought he had left Sol system to resupply—and jumps out of subspace into the fray at the exact right location to start tearing Calder's ships to pieces with his main beam cannons from beyond the Earth ships' effective range. The "Tevs" lose a few small ships and a number of fighters, while the most elite task force in the entire United Earth Federation is almost completely destroyed save one ship in a matter of minutes. Also doubles as a Player Punch as the player is stationed on that one ship that makes it out alive only to emerge from subspace too close to the sun and doom the crew to an agonizing death...or so it seems.
  • In every Resident Evil game except RE5, Wesker always wins. Everything is set up to rebound to his benefit, even if he takes a hit or two along the way. Until RE5, the only character to hand Wesker a defeat of any kind is Ada Wong, who pulls off a successful doublecross at the end of Resident Evil 4.
  • Golden Sun. Alex Chessmasters his way to attaining the ultimate power of the Golden Sun, only to find that The Wise One had foreseen the possibility of this happening and arranged events at the beginning of the first game such that Alex would be screwed over at the last possible second of the second game. Ouch.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Eggman pulls this on Sonic and Tails. Eggman kidnaps Amy, in order to get Sonic to give him the last Chaos Emerald. However, earlier, Tails made a fake, which would ultimately blow up the Eclipse Cannon. Sonic plans to exchange it for Amy, to kill "two birds with one stone". However, Eggman tricks Sonic into getting trapped in an escape pod rigged to explode. What follows can only be expressed in dialogue.

Eggman: "You thought you could trick me with that fake Emerald?"
Tails: "So... How did you know it wasn't the real one?"
Eggman: "Because You Just Told Me, Fox Boy!"

  • Jade Empire: The plot is a whole load of this.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Batman and Bane join forces to destroy all of the Titan drug in Arkham City. Bane actually wants it all for himself, and only worked with Batman because it would be easier to find everything this way. However, at the resolution of the quest, Batman reveals that he knew full well Bane's intentions and that he let Bane collect his half anyway so he could dispose of them in one go.
  • The Assassin's Creed II "Lost Archives" DLC reveals that Warren Vidic and Lucy were working together all along to use Desmond to obtain the Apple for the Templars. This plan would have gone without a hitch if it didn't run counter to the plans of Those Who Came Before. One of Those Who Came Before, Juno, was aware that Lucy had betrayed the Assassins. Juno had the Apple force Desmond to kill Lucy to keep the Apple out of Templar hands.


Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • In the Strong Bad e-mail stupid stuff, Strong Bad makes a bet with e-mailer Kevin Grumbles (Pronounced Kevin *grumbling noises*) that he can get Homestar to say something smart in order to win some "grumblecakes." Turns out that Homestar had made a bet with Kevin *grumbling noises* that he could make Strong Bad say something stupid (which he does in an attempt to make Homestar sound smarter) and claims the grumblecakes for himself!

Strong Bad: I'LL GET YOU, KEVIN *GRUMBLING NOISES*!!!!!


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Coming Up Violet, Racquel gives Abby two cups of punch, one for Abby and one for Violet. Violet's cup is spiked so that Racquel can humiliate her. Abby swaps the cups so Racquel is drinking her own punch, since Abby wants to be rid of Racquel.
  • In Tales of the Questor, the fae princeling Dolan had set up a gambit both to shaft the human Duke, after DECADES of extortion, into releasing the Wild Hunt, and another to raise the princeling's own status in the Unseleighe Court and to debase a family enemy from the Seleighe court by forcing his enemy's daughter, Lady Absinthe, to ride the wild hunt for him. This led to the whole thing rather famously blowing up in his face.... with good evidence that Lady Absinthe had known the score all along and had helped set Dolan up for his fall.
    • Quentyn himself has managed to do thise with a group of people who try to repossess half his home village (including his parents' farm): upon realizing that a covanent clause cannot be indefinite (if it doesn't specify the number of generations, it will only affect the immediate successor), he takes the quest specified in the contract—and the Archivist Guild can't do a thing about it.
  • Chainsawsuit presents: double sting. Dateline tries to see a live nerd To Catch A Predator. Meanwhile, a nerd fan tries to get on screen see live Stone Phillips. Wooooo!!
  • The basis of this Penny Arcade strip.
  • This exchange between The Dragon and the Big Bad leader of a cult dedicated to the god of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder in Exterminatus Now.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Whateley Universe: the Intelligence Cadet Corps puts a tracker on one of the Masterminds and figures out where their secret hideout is; but Stopwatch is way ahead of them, using a fake hideout and planting false clues in it, so when the Cadets search the hideout, they leap to the wrong conclusion about the intended heist.
  • In There Will Be Brawl, Ganondorf attempts to overthrow the Mushroom Kingdom by using the Butchers to create fear among the residents. Unfortunately, he also underestimates the amount of influence that Kirby still holds over them...


Western Animation[edit | hide]

Batman: She almost had me, you know. Arms and legs shackled, dizzy from the blood rushing to my brain... I had no way out other than convincing her to call you. I knew your massive ego would never allow anyone else the honor of killing me, though I have to admit she came a lot closer than you ever did, puddin'.

    • In "You Scratch My Back", Catwoman should have known better that to try and play Nightwing, Batman's protege. He has after all been taught by the best.
    • In an episode of Justice League, the Injustice League has captured Batman, and begins working on different ideas to tear the league apart to defeat them. What they don't realize before it's too late is that a) Batman's manipulating THEM into screwing up, and b) He can escape whenever he wanted.
      • Naturally, The Joker- the member who actually caught Batman for the team- is the only guy Except for the Ultra-Humanite who fully expects Batman to escape, and pleads for the right to kill him immediately. Lex Luthor doesn't listen, and the team listens to Lex, which means, of course, that The Joker was the Only Sane Man in that situation. The real man who Out-Gambitted the Injustice League, though, was the Ultra-Humanite, who had already agreed to help Batman out...in return for a generous donation in his name to his favourite music channel.
    • Justice League Unlimited's third season revolves a great deal around the conflict between super villains Lex Luthor and Grodd. In their final confrontation, Luthor manipulates Grodd into using his own powers to destroy himself, resulting in this exchange:

Luthor: Goodbye, Grodd. It could have gone the other way.
Grodd:: It really could have, couldn't it?
Luthor: No. But why speak ill of the dead?

    • Also, Green Arrow versus The Question in the Gail Simone written Justice League Unlimited episode Double Date. Arrow spots Question pocketing evidence, and confiscates a locker key. Once he's gone, Question then reveals that the key was a fake-out, and the real evidence he palmed was a shipping manifest. And then we find out that Arrow knew he was being conned, and hid outside so that he could follow Question when he chased up the real lead.
  • Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam are "masters" of this trope.
    • As is "super genius" Wile E. Coyote, at least in those shorts where he's pitted against arch Karmic Trickster Bugs Bunny. (In the Road Runner shorts, he's not really outwitted so much as victimized by fate, gravity, poorly designed ACME products, and his own ineptitude.)
    • ...but they are merely amateurs compared to Daffy Duck. ("Wabbit season!" "Duck season." "Wabbit season!" "Duck season." "Wabbit season!" "Wabbit season." "Duck season! Fire!")
      • The theatrical compilation film 1001 Rabbit Tales starts with Bugs and Daffy as door-to-door booksellers. After they get out of the opening meeting with their boss at the publishing company, they take the elevator down. Daffy switches territories with the utterly apathetic Bugs about six times.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars had Obi-Wan and Anakin negotiate for a captured Count Dooku. The negotiations concluded, they celebrate by having a party. Our heroes are wise to the fact their drinks are spiked, and use The Force to switch theirs with some nearby partiers. Not to be outdone, the Dangerously Genre Savvy Villain of the Week poisons all the air in the room.
  • In [[Avatar: The Last Airbender]], Long Feng and Azula are savvy enough to know they are BOTH attempting this, but Azula's Hannibal Lecture is just too good and he concedes.
  • South Park: Scott Tenorman. He thought he was getting around Cartman's Batman Gambit, only to run straight into one that was far, far worse and cry the tears of unfathomable sadness.
  • David Xanatos in episode 12, "Her Brother's Keeper". No, seriously. His plan is to woo Elisa's brother to his side, first taking advantage of the fact that she can't tell him about the gargoyles (and hence why she thinks Xanatos is an evil mastermind) and then tell him his own version to make sure not even their testimony will help anymore. He even orders Fox to tell Elisa this outright, because with her brother no longer believing her, it will do her no good. Except that it does, because she brought a tape recorder. Duh. This plan is hardly Xanatos's best anyway, since it involves setting hypercompetent killers on himself with serious lethal intent and real weapons.
    • Arguably, his Xanatos Gambit in that episode paid off; by the time Elisa got around to giving the recording to Derek, Derek had already decided not to listen to it. A better example of Xanatos being Out-Gambitted would be in "Double Jeopardy", in which Thailog plays Xanatos, Sevarius, and Goliath against each other.
      • Also notable in that he shows honest surprise and dismay as to the beast he's created, meanwhile in other so-called 'Xanatos loses' episodes he gains something and has a way out of jail or capture anyway.
  • In one American Dad episode, Steve's mildly retarded friend Barry turns out to be a criminal mastermind kept in check only by powerful anti-psychotic "vitamins". After he goes off them and causes havoc, Steve challenges him to a game involving two cups, one of which contains his medication. The scene that follows is a parody of the one from The Princess Bride, and naturally Steve put Barry's meds in both cups.
  • In Beast Machines, Tankor/Rhinox is Out-Gambitted by Megatron when he reveals that Tankor/Rhinox can't actually hurt Megatron thanks to the Restraining Bolt Megatron hardwired into him when he first implanted Rhinox's Spark into the Tankor body.
  • In Teen Titans Robin creates the identity of Red X so he can finally meet with Slade. Slade figures this out and not only does Robin only meet with a Sladebot, but this causes tension between him and his friends.
  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic Princess Celestia defeats Discord's efforts to keep the Elements of Harmony powerless by returning all of Twilight's friendship aesop letters, which convinces Twilight to fight for her bonds with her friends. Yes, Celestia outwitted a Reality Warper spirit of chaos by mailing a bunch of letters.
  • In Generator Rex, all of the villains who spent the entire series scheming to obtain the Meta-Nanites, the keys to godhood, were outmaneuvered before the series even began. The Salazars -- Cesar and his parents -- had programmed the Meta-Nanites in such a way that only Rex could tap into their full power.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • One of the best examples was the Battle of Midway. The reason for the Japanese attack was to force the American carriers to come out to fight. By breaking the Japanese code, the Americans knew this and so were able to get their carriers in a position where they could catch the Japanese carriers by surprise.