Created By: Lancel on December 13, 2011 Last Edited By: Larkmarn on April 23, 2013

Inevitable Battle Between Aces

If there are two aces on opposite sides, plot demands that they MUST duel, preferably at the climax.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

"Markov and Warwolf One are lost from radar! It's a battle between aces!"

You have a character, he may be The Hero, he may be the mentor, he may be a random recurring side character, but he is nonetheless The Ace at what he does. Then suddenly a new player enters the field, who is also The Ace at what he does, and it just so happens that he does is exactly the same thing as what the first character does, and may possibly be better. Instantly this new character becomes The Rival, he may be just another guy, he may be the enemy, but regardless of how he is introduced, what he does, or what circumstances transpire, the audience knows what must follow, and what must follow is this trope.

Yes, these two characters must do battle, one-on-one.

There can sometimes be multiple duels between the same two aces and they are often always proper duels, even if they both have allies around (unless someone gets the upper hand, then someone might come in like Big Damn Heroes). Expect the designated hero of this duo to be defeated handily in their first encounter, but for the villain to suddenly away before he can finish off our hero, usually due to being low on fuel or, if he has a wingman, his wingman saves his tail. Sometimes the hero's skills develop over time, eventually leading to the hero finally winning as he surpasses his rival.

If involving The Hero, sometimes The Hero will not actually be an ace the first time he encounters The Rival, but when they meet again he will be a worthy equal.

Bonus points if the final duel between these two is also the Final Battle.

This happens most often in vehicular combat, particularly combat between Aces who happen to also be Ace Pilots of Mecha or Fighters, where they may be piloting the absolute best their side has to offer for even more bonus points. Expect a battle of this grade to involve Old-School Dogfighting, More Dakka, Beam Spam, High-Speed Missile Dodge, and Macross Missile Massacre, depending on the available technology to the setting. This battle can, however, occur in any field. If one is The Ace at cooking, and a rival is introduced, expect them to prove who the better chef is with a cook off.

See also The Ace, Ace Pilot, Duel Boss, Sniper Duel (which can often entail this trope), Duel to the Death (how it ends sometimes), and In the End, You Are on Your Own (what often transpires when the ace battle is also the Final Battle). Also Combat by Champion, which is often where an entire conflict hinges on the outcome of this trope.

Examples

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[[folder:Anime and Manga]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • The moment the German ace known only as "Pretty Boy" turned up in Red Tails you knew this was going to happen, given George Lucas's love for Old School Dogfights. It ends up happening twice between him and Lightning. The first time, Lightning, flying a P-40, damages Pretty Boy's Me-109, follows him back to base, and he and Ray Gun have a merry time shooting the bejeezus out of it. The second time is at the film's climax with Pretty Boy in an Me-262; it ends in a Mutual Kill after he and Lightning go head-to-head.
  • Surprisingly averted in Top Gun unless you count the training flights, of which the best contender is the inconclusive one between Viper and Maverick (Mav stayed on Viper's tail right up to the part where Viper's wingman Jester snuck up behind him). The mystery country flying the MiG-28s is never stated and their pilots receive no characterization whatsoever.
  • Fire Birds, which is Top Gun WITH ARMY HELICOPTERS! does this with helicopters instead of planes. The climactic duel is between Preston, flying the AH-64 Apache he spent most of the film training in, and mercenary Eric Stoller flying a Scorpion attack helicopter (which doesn't exist, by the way; they used a dressed-up Hughes H-6 derivative). Preston wins.
  • Flyboys: At the climax Blaine fights the Black Falcon, a No Celebrities Were Harmed of Red Baron Manfred von Richtofen whom they had faced several times and had him kill one of the squadron each time. Blaine ends up maneuvering alongside and shooting him to death with a pistol.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • The X-Wing Series does this less often than you'd think since while the Imperial leadership is always well-characterized the mooks usually aren't. Nevertheless:
    • The Bacta War: Corran Horn versus Erisi Dlarit, Ysanne Isard's former mole in Rogue Squadron, at the Battle of Thyferra. Corran launches torpedoes at her, she evades them with a dive towards the surface of Thyferra's moon, Corran gets around her and ambushes her with lasers.
    • Starfighters of Adumar: Two duels between Red Flight led by Wedge Antilles, and their Imperial counterparts led by Turr Phennir. At the battle over Cartann City, Red Flight kills all three of Phennir's fellows but he retreats to his orbiting mothership and escapes. In the subsequent Imperial/Republic battle, Phennir and Wedge end up one-on-one with the former in a TIE Defender; this one ends with both of them too damaged to fight but still alive.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • Space: Above and Beyond: T.C. McQueen versus Chiggy von Richtofen, a walking Shout-Out to Manfred von Richtofen whom they once sent fifteen fighter squadrons after and only had one come back. After spending the episode training himself to be able to fly without a working inner ear (his had been injured in the pilot), T.C. was able to bring him down.
  • Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined): Starbuck VS Scar, an ace Cylon Raider that had been attacking the fleet's Asteroid Miners and pilot trainees. This one gets subverted: Starbuck initially engages Scar one-on-one, then lures it into the sights of her wingmate Kat, who makes the kill.
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[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
  • BattleTech does this frequently. The Clans live this trope, as does Solaris VII.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Game]] [[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • December 13, 2011
    nielas
    This trope also plays out in sniper movies where the two ace snipers will engage in a sniper duel in the end. eg Enemy At The Gates, Sniper
  • December 13, 2011
    Lancel
    It could. Technically there is Sniper Duel, but they could also count as being contractually obligated to duel by the end.
  • December 13, 2011
    nielas
    This type of plot is common in any story where the hero trains to master some form of combat. In the end to show that he/she is now a top contender, there will be a duel with the person on the opposing side who has an established reputation as being one of the best. It shows up in movies like The Karate Kid, Searching For Bobby Fischer, etc.

  • December 13, 2011
    JonnyB
    The legendary battle between Eddie Rickenbacker and the "Red Baron," Manfred von Richthofen, during World War One (which actually never happened, except in fiction, although Rickenbacker did go up against many of Richthofen's "Flying Circus" squadron) probably is the Ur Example.
  • December 13, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    Should be Battle Between Ace Pilots. The Ace is undergoing a bit of repair, and could be an Ace cook. Thus, two ace cooks may have a cook-off. But to keep this as the plane version, we should add Pilots to the title.
  • December 14, 2011
    Lancel
    Hmmm... What about expanding the trope some? It occurs to me that if you have a character is the Ace at cooking, then someone else comes along who is also an Ace at cooking and is presented also as The Rival to that Ace, then we're likely to see a cook off between the two where they compete to prove who is the superior cook. The only trick I see to this is that The Ace trope references reputation as well, and often in these aerial battles The Hero does not always get his reputation pimped that much (although the rival in the dogfight usually does).
  • December 14, 2011
    Statalyzer
    I agree, it doesn't have to involve aircraft.
  • December 14, 2011
    MidnightRambler
    Related to Combat By Champion where the outcome of the entire conflict hinges on a Battle Between Aces.
  • December 14, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Space Above And Beyond: Colonel Mc Queen of Earth vs. Chiggy von Richtofen of the Chigs.
  • December 14, 2011
    MrTerroFace
    In Code Name:Kids Next Door, Numbuh Two fights off a rival pilot in one of the earlier episodes.
  • December 17, 2011
    Lancel
    Rewritten with the expanded version.
  • December 17, 2011
    Chabal2
    Not sure if this counts, but... in Dawn Of War, one of the more complicated sync kills is the Bloodthirster against the Avatar of Khaine. If one kills the other, the sync kill is a duel rather than the usual Coup De Grace. Others include the Space Marine's Force Commander against Bloodthirster or Librarian against Avatar.

  • December 17, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    One line does not move this trope from describing vehicle combat to rivalry combat. As already mentioned, Sniper Duel has several Ace sniper duels as examples. Ace pilot duels could also be split, especially since Ace Pilot is split from The Ace. Just write up the main ace combat supertrope as a separate ykttw.
  • April 23, 2013
    MarqFJA
    I concur with crazysamaritan.
  • April 23, 2013
    Larkmarn
  • April 23, 2013
    StarSword
    OP hasn't been here since 2011, and since Old School Dogfight is out of TRS at long last I think I can take this over.
  • April 23, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^How 'bout we split the difference and call it Inevitable Battle Between Aces? I'm not opposed to giving Ace Combat a trope namer since the name is descriptive.
  • April 23, 2013
    StarSword
    Okay, I sorted and namespaced the draft. Can I get some help fixing the plethora of Zero Context Examples?
  • April 23, 2013
    Larkmarn
    That's cool by me... I just think the inevitable really should be in there because the description is largely about how this WILL happen.

    Although I'm still a bit... iffy about the tropability of it in general, since at least some examples (and part of the description) makes it sound like "The rivals face off" which is a bit chairs-y for me.
  • April 23, 2013
    StarSword
    ^You want to take a crack at a rewrite? I need to take a shower and do some math homework.

    Also, it's not chairs. That's something that just happens and has no narrative purpose or effect. It is, however, a very common trope, one I might argue comes up on Omnipresent.

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