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Calm Winner, Fretting Loser
In a contest or conflict, the winning side keeps calm, while the losing one loses composure.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-06-20 04:46:18 sponsor: Koveras (last reply: 2013-02-01 02:52:46)

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Rule of thumb to tell how two characters locked in a conflict or (sports) contest fare:

  • Both are calm and confident: They are evenly matched.
  • One remains confident, while the other becomes nervous: The former is getting the upper hand.
  • Both sides become nervous: Something is not going as expected.

Writers use this as a visual aid to show who has the upper hand without delving into technical/tactical details and leaving it up to the reader/audience to figure out (and to avoid thinking of a meaningful situation in a field where the author isn't confident of his own knowledge).

Compare Sore Loser, who often doesn't regain his composure even after being defeated, and the Unspoken Plan Guarantee, which is what often gives the winning side their confidence.

Just to clear this from the table: this is not an instance of People Sit on Chairs because it is a writing trick to substitute a description of something complex and confusing (e.g. a battle) with that of something easy to relate to (the commanders' respective moods), making the story roll along quicker.

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • In Lelouch's strategical stand offs against Schneizel throughout Code Geass R2, you can always tell when the former begins to lose when he starts grimacing under the mask, while Schneizel just sits there like he's enjoying a movie.

Film
  • In the final battle between Neo and Agent Smith in Matrix Revolutions, Neo remains calm the whole time, even when Agent Smith is trying to convert Neo into a clone, via Smith's hand stabbed into his chest, while Agent Smith ends up panicking when Neo resists him.

Live Action TV
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data takes on a Strategema master in a game of Strategema. The first time they play, the master wins and is calmly condescending to Data. The second time, Data plays to draw and the master gets more and more pissed off during the game before finally rage quitting.

Theater
  • In the concert version of Chess, Freddy grows more and more agitated during his first game against Anatoly, who remains confident. In the middle of the game, Freddy flips over the board to Rage Quit.

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