The absolute master in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms saga is The Strategist Zhuge Liang, though he's also rivaled by fellow chessmasters Sima Yi, Zhou Yu and Pang Tong. One could argue pseudo-villain Cao "That's exactly what I was thinking!" Cao also has his moments of Batman inspiration.
And as for the classic example: the "Empty Fortress" strategy employed in the novel by Zhuge Liang when he had to defend a fort against Sima Yi: Zhuge Liang simply opened the gates and played a zither on the wall. Naturally, Sima Yi suspected a trap and retreated, because... Oh, come on, it's Zhuge Freaking Liang! He's got to have a trap somewhere! The fortress really was empty, and it only worked because Zhuge Liang knew that Sima Yi would be naturally suspicious of him.
Another incident is where Cao Cao is escaping from the Battle of Red Cliffs, and has to choose between a wider path and a narrow one, with smoke trails coming from the latter. Cao Cao chooses the obviously trap-laden narrow path. His logic? It's one of Zhuge Liang's tricks to keep him on the wide one. He's almost right: Zhuge Liang, knowing that Cao Cao would use that line of reasoning, had set the ambush up on the narrow path.
If the traditional tales are to be believed, Zhuge Liang goes so far as to do this to people on his side, including his lord Liu Bei's sworn brother, Zhang Fei. The legend goes that Zhang Fei believed that Liu Bei treated Zhuge Liang, an untested scholar, far too well above his own veteran generals. Zhuge Liang, hearing of this, asked Zhang Fei what could be done to prove himself. Zhang Fei, due to go to a city on business for a day, insisted that Zhuge Liang would be smart enough to predict his next three meals or be dismissed from Liu Bei's service. Zhuge Liang agreed, wrote down his prediction on the spot, and sealed it in a bag, given to Zhang Fei's sworn brother Guan Yu. Zhang Fei went on his task, and upon entering the city, thought that Zhuge Liang would know of his habit for meat and wine, and avoided it, instead eating a local childhood favorite of his, green onions wrapped in fried dough. The next day, he realized that Zhuge Liang would know where he had been raised and what he would have eaten in his youth, and decided to try and fool the strategist by wrapping the fried dough inside the onions instead. Concluding his business, dinner time came and while he was hungry, Zhang Fei again thought of the wager, and Zhuge Liang's cunning. Certain that he could win, he rushed back to Liu Bei's camp, where he found a feast waiting for his return, organized by Zhuge Liang. Zhang Fei tried to claim he'd already eaten, but Zhuge Liang asked Guan Yu to read the prediction.
General Zhang Fei will enter the city but will ignore meat and wine, as that is his normal way, and eat green onions wrapped in dough. The next day he will think to change and win the wager, and eat dough wrapped in green onions. General Zhang Fei will come back not having eaten in the city, and thus have no third meal at all. If Zhang Fei hadn't overthought it, or just been The AlcoholicBig Eater like usual, he would have won the bet easily.
Cao Cao gets one himself at Wuchao granaries. First, Cao Cao undertakes the mother of all False Flag Operations and burns down the food supplies of his rival, Yuan Shao. Yuan Shao responds by reasoning that Cao Cao will have focused everything on the raid, and that his main camp will be weak. So he sends out a force to take out Cao Cao's main camp and cut off the retreat of the raiding force, including Cao Cao himself. At this point, news reaches him that the defending garrison was victorious, and he adds the forces that were meant to reinforce it to the attack on Cao Cao's main camp. This was all according to Cao Cao's plan. The garrison had not held out: the messengers that told Yuan Shao that were Cao soldiers dressed in the stolen uniforms. Cao wanted the force attacking his main camp to be as large as possible: he had an ambush waiting for them and wanted to get as many enemies as possible. Two of Yuan Shao's best generals were forced to surrender when they were completely cut off from their leader.
The Prince: Machiavelli advises the Prince to keep this trick up his sleeve. When the people grow complacent and start to wonder what they need their ruler for, the Prince should give them what they want. Let things fall apart just a little bit, and then when the people realize the error of their ways, swoop back in and fix things. The people are grateful, the Prince flexes his muscles, everyone wins.
In Double, Double / The Case of the Seven Murders, part of the villain's plan depends on the detective identifying the pattern and convincing victim #5 he will be next, adding a number of omens to further frighten the superstitious victim, so that he would make out his will to the killer. Subverted in that the killer overdoes it, the victim changes his will again, then everything spirals out of control as another person figures things out, necessitating two more murders.
Cathy in East of Eden has a gift for seeing people's weaknesses and the sociopathy needed to manipulate them. It's a repeated theme through the book that she'll mention an idea, it will spread and become other people's beliefs, but no one will remember it originated from her. (Ex:'s The ministed who committed suicide had trouble in Boston, they should jar their own fruits at the whorehouse, etc.)
The solution to Agatha Christie's Curtain: Poirot's Last Case revolves around the sadistic pseudo-murderer Norton's reliance on the Batman Gambit to manipulate those around him into committing murder through deft analysis of their own psychological weaknesses. Poirot identifies that Norton has evaded capture for years because he is not technically the culprit, only the author, of the crimes he engineers. The creepiness factor is increased when the reader's naive first-person-narrative counterpart, Captain Hastings, is himself manipulated to within an inch of committing a murder, without this becoming obvious to the reader as it happens.
The plan to capture David in Animorphs relies entirely on him behaving the way they expect, as well as him not realizing that Tobias is still alive. At various points, he could have broken character and foiled the plan, but he never does. Marco later attempts this in order to thwart the two Vissers, but this one doesn't go quite as well.
Frequently, the kids pull these gambits on Visser Three, usually due to the Visser's reliability in being a pretentious, arrogant, short-tempered, narcissistic jerkass. Also, these plots are usually suggested by Cassie.
In Lord O The Night Sky Crane does this alot, as befits a secret agent. Most notable when he plays up disbelieving Teds revelation on what the Smoking Mirror Cult is up too, in order to get a better and more convincing explanation for analysts to confirm it.
In Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, Hari Seldon basically sets up centuries worth of Batman Gambit in advance, using statistics. Somewhat subverted when it turns out that he actually left behind a secret Second Foundation to keep history working precisely according to his plan.
And of course in Second Foundation the eponymous organization pulls off one themselves when they trick the First Foundationers into believing the Second Foundation is on Terminus rather than Trantor.
And in the various prequels/sequels it's revealed that the whole thing... including the 10,000 year old Galactic Empire itself... was a millennia-long Batman Gambit by Robot Daneel Olivaw designed to ensure that he could remain operative to protect humanity as a whole.
Jhereg has an unusual take on this; the villain sets up a careful scheme designed to get the protagonist to kill him, under circumstances which will start a bloody war between two noble houses he hates.
Considering that Dragaera has an entire Great House of planners in the Yendi, this also gets used in several other books. Particularly notable are Yendi itself, where the Sorceress in Green and Sethra the Younger have been screwing with the internal politics of House Dragon to make sure the latter becomes Warlord when the new Emperor/Empress takes over, and Phoenix, where the Goddess Verra uses Vlad in a plot to try to calm the Teckla uprisings by starting a war with another country to get them to unite against a common enemy. The latter didn't work out very well.
Miles Vorkosigan usually starts out with one of these, then rapidly devolves into Indy Ploys. What makes him good is his amazing ability to convince people that he meant to do that.
Miles's protege, Elli Quinn, in a "What would Miles do?" moment says: "Never do yourself, what you can con an expert into doing for you."
Miles learned the lesson from an older, female counterpart Cavilo in The Vor Game.
Cavilo: The key to strategy... is not to choose a path to victory, but to choose so that all paths lead to a victory.
He furthermore learned from her that making all paths lead to victory only works so long as only one of those paths is taken, convincing him to use his strategy of only picking one stratagem at a time while making everyone believe that he has elaborate interlocking plans.
There are a number of examples of Batman Gambits within Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and its sequels. Most of these are done by the protagonists, though one antagonist, Achilles, becomes well known for these. In the final battle of Ender's Game, Ender makes use of the enemy's dual expectations, that no one would ever kill a queen and that humans are rational and will try to survive any battle, as well as the fact that the enemy is distracted trying to manage all of its ships, in order to slip some fighters in close to the planet and destroy both it and the enemy fleets in a single blow. This is a fairly convoluted set of circumstances, all of which are needed for the plan to work, and so it does come near being a Gambit Roulette.
Subverted at the end of Shadow Puppets: the super-intelligent Bean correctly intuits that Achilles has him marked down for a Batman Gambit, and asks himself what he (Bean) wouldn't be likely to do. The answer: ignore every negotiating ploy of Achilles's, walk up to him, and pop a cap in him — which he does.
G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown story "The Sins of Prince Saradine": Saradine has two enemies. One is the son of a man he killed, who lacks legal proof and thus is hunting Saradine to kill him personally. The other is the Prince's twin brother, who has proof of the murder and is using it for blackmail. He then gives everything he has to the blackmailer, and informs the other of his location. The avenger kills the blackmailer and willingly accepts execution.
In Black Legion, Abaddon reveals that he was the one to send the story's Herald Sargon to Falkion with news of Vengeful Spirit in the aftermath of Lupercalios battle. This led to Justaerin hatching the plan of stealing the Spirit to take Horus' body back, which in turn made him call on Khayon and Lhaer, who couldn't resist the temptation to steal the ship for themselves, which led to all three cooperating on finding the ship, which led them to Spirit and Abaddon himself. Just as the future Warmaster wanted.
Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are almost entirely guided by Lord Foul the Despiser. For example, the first book, Lord Foul's Bane, involves a band of heroes fighting and defeating a mad sorcerer... thus allowing Foul to acquire a powerful artifact that the sorcerer had been guarding.
The Chronicles are littered with Batman gambits. The above by Lord Foul the Despiser; Thomas Covenant's plan to give Lord Foul his ring, and thus the power to destroy everything and free himself, Covenant gambling on the assumption that Foul would kill him with it first, and thus leave Covenant in a position to absorb any attack it made on the Arch of Time with his own soul....
Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes often uses small-scale Batman Gambits to trap criminals or get information he requires. In the course of the stories, he does everything from plant false reports in the media, to put on disguises, to fake his own death, twice, in order to solve the various cases he handles. He's even gone so far as to lie to and manipulate Watson and his clients if necessary, although usually not in a way that puts them in danger.
Backfired in "A Scandal in Bohemia" when Irene Adler figured out what he had done and who he was.
Many of his deductions are a sort of retroactive Batman Gambit: after the fact, he deduces the "only possible way" that characters could have acted and events could have played out. Any number of alternate possibilities always exist, but are never acknowledged.
Exception: "The Yellow Face". Throughout the story, Holmes follows a suspiciously obvious chain of reasoning, and the reader often figures out the solutions faster than him. The reason? There are two possible solutions, and both Holmes and the reader always pick the wrong one.
In Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers, Milady de Winter's ability to pull off Batman Gambits is what makes her formidable — if she's unable to carry out an assassination she can just get someone else to do it for her. Cardinal Richelieu is the story's specialist.
Speaking of Dumas, can we say The Count of Monte Cristo? Oh, yes we can. Dantes got imprisoned due to this trope, and after his escape, he lives and breathes it for the remainder of the book.
And it is certainly a series of these gambits since we also get to see several of his gambits run out of control and almost destroy some innocents he wasn't aiming at and had to protect. Resulting in a near breakdown and loss of faith at the end of the book and realizing that he really isn't Providence. Fortunately, his loyal Greek Princess bails him out with a love admission.
In Artemis Fowl, the title character ends his encounter with the LEPrecon with a Batman Gambit, using the regulations of the organization to maneuver everything into place for his escape, though he kindly leaves some of the money behind.
Or perhaps he had another reason for returning some of the gold...
Nearly everything that comes out of the Bene Gesserit from Frank Herbert's Dune, either on an individual or a planetary level, is some form of Batman Gambit, but the Baron Harkonnen proves just as capable of executing one of his own; the course of action that the Duke Leto took to gain Arrakis, which eventually killed him, was the result of the Baron's successful Batman Gambit against him.
The Bene Gesserit also throw in a heaping helpful of Crazy-Prepared. They set up the Missionaria Protectiva to seed planets with a specific belief system, so that if necessary a Bene Gessirt could use the myths and prophecies to set up their own Batman Gambit as needed.
And the Baron's plan only worked because Yueh was executing his own Batman Gambit, knowing the Baron would want to gloat over the Duke's capture gave him the opportunity to equip the Duke with a tool to assassinate the Baron. Plans within plans indeed.
In Jamie Malanowski's The Coup, a US Vice-President engineers one of the most brilliant government ousters ever seen. He plays everybody like cards in a deck and does it with such panache that you find yourself cheering for the Magnificent Bastard.
Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel and its sequels are loaded with these, as Chauvelin uses the tactic (as an attempted plan) and the title character responds. The entire ending scheme in the original The Scarlet Pimpernel relies on the French buying into their own anti-Semitic tendencies; this is usually dropped from adaptations, such as the musical.
K. J. Parker's Engineer trilogy is one big gambit by the title figure, who manipulates nations just so he can go home to his wife and child. Arguably a Gambit Roulette, except that he made use of luck, but could have gotten by without it; "it'd have taken longer and needed a lot more effort, but [he] would have got there in the end."
K.J. Parker's The Scavenger Trilogy: Ciartan's war on the crows, which is symbolic of the several deep conspiracies which depend on getting inside the head of the enemy.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld: Vetinari. As Moist reflects: "It was bad enough being a puppet, but then he arranges it so you pull your own strings."
In Guards! Guards!, Vetinari specifically set up the deepest, darkest dungeon in his palace so that when he was inevitably thrown in there he'd be in perfect security. The locks are on the outside, but all the bars and bolts are on the inside...
Vetinari seems to mix these with other types of The Plan. It's just about impossible to tell which type of gambit he's using in any given situation.
In Men at Arms, Vetinari seemingly gives into the demands of the Assassins' and Fools' Guilds by forbidding Vimes from investigating the theft and the string of murders that followed, but he knows full well that doing so will only cause Vimes to redouble his efforts. It briefly backfires on him when he tells Vimes to turn in his badge — in the middle of a conversation with someone else, he realizes he likely broke Vimes's spirit instead of galvanizing it, because Vimes didn't put his fist in the wall after leaving.
Vimes, too, particularly in Night Watch. At one point he wonders whether Vetinari "felt this way all the time".
Unlike Vetinari, Vimes actually did know the future. Less of a Batman Gambit, more of a Reverse Cassandra.
Lord Rust, in Jingo, illustrates how spectacularly this can go wrong.
On multiple occasions, Wolfgang's pack of werewolves in The Fifth Elephant use this trope when they're hunting humans, anticipating their most likely escape route and then lurking in wait at the point where the quarry will believe they're safe and drop their guard.
Death pulls this a few times with his granddaughter Susan. Usually because she can go places and do things that he cannot. See Hogfather and Thief of Time for examples.
Minor characters also invoke this trope, as when Glod Glodson from Soul Music needs to speak to the Librarian, and asks some student wizards where "the monkey" is. In hope of seeing Glod pounded into pulp, they lead him there directly, encouraging him to act like a monkey when they get there. Instead, Glod respectfully tells the Librarian that the students just called him a monkey. And muses to himself that they'd have told him to push off if he'd asked about an ape.
Could actually qualify as a Xanatos Gambit, as helpful students would've corrected Glod's use of "monkey" to begin with, while the pranksters' response played into his trick.
Duke Edmund Talbot's battle strategies in John Ringo's Council Wars series tend to involve this, combined with never telling anyone, even his closest aides and allies, his plans makes it nigh-impossible for his enemies to predict his actions. Which is the whole point.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Riddle attacked four students, including one of Harry's best friends, and then kidnapped his best friend's little sister and future Love Interest Ginny Weasley to make Harry go into the Chamber, because he wanted to meet the boy who had defeated his future self, and talk to him. Oh, and kill him too.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: when Voldemort arranged for Harry to compete in the Triwizard Tournament, what he wanted was not to get him killed in the process, as everyone thought. He wanted Harry to survive all the tasks and win the Tournament, so he could kidnap him and use his blood to regenerate his body. There's also one Batman Gambit that fails: fake-Moody surreptitiously gives Neville the information Harry will need to pass the Second Task, assuming that Harry will ask help from everyone. However, Harry doesn't, so fake-Moody has to find another way of making that information reach Harry.
What's also worth noting is that fake-Moody's plan goes wrong in several instances, yet still works. Mostly, this is because Harry isn't as bothered about winning as would be expected from your average Triwizard competitor - he lets Cedric know about the dragons, takes time to try and help the others in the lake challenge, and goes back for Fleur (unsuccessfully) and Cedric (successfully) when Imperius Cursed-Krum is attacking him; if Cedric had been ultra-competitive rather than willing to let Harry take the Cup, the whole plan would have failed. In a minor case, fake-Moody didn't expect Hagrid to show Madame Maxine the dragons (therefore eliminating Harry's advantage over Fleur).
Some things worked out for Voldemort which weren't part of the plan at all. It presumably wasn't part of the plan for Harry to be distracted by thinking Karkaroff was this year's bad guy, and it certainly wasn't part of the plan for Ludo Bagman to favour Harry out of a need to pay his gambling debts.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Voldemort creates a false vision to trick Harry into believing he has Sirius trapped in the Hall of Prophecy, correctly guessing Harry would go to rescue him, finding the Prophecy instead, which Voldemort's Death Eaters could then steal. Previously, however, there is another failed attempt: Voldemort first just shows Harry where the Prophecy is, believing his curiosity would make him go and get it, but Harry actually doesn't know anything about it, so he doesn't even know what he's seeing.
Hermione pulls one on Umbridge towards the climax. It takes some real skill to talk a ministry-trained teacher into accompanying two enemy students into the woods alone at night, but Hermione gets Umbridge to do it with a rather clever lie, and soon enough, Umbridge is out of their hair.
Harry himself pulls off one of these in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: when Ron is having self-esteem problems that get in the way of his Quidditch performance before the first match of the year, Harry makes Hermione and (with her unknowing help) Ron believe that he spiked his pumpkin juice with luck potion, just by trying to "hide" the little bottle, and pointing out some lucky coincidences. Ron, believing that nothing can go wrong that day, plays spectacularly, and then Harry reveals that he did it all by himself. However, it leads to a row between Ron and Hermione that Harry didn't foresee.
Basically everything Dumbledore does is part of two huge Batman Gambits: one of these, training Harry and keeping him alive "so that he can die at the right moment" is successful. The other one — luckily — fails: a Batman Gambit that would let him die undefeated so the Elder Wand would lose his power, but Draco disarms him, winning the Wand's allegiance. This makes it possible for Harry to become its true Master later and use it to defeat Voldemort. No wonder the last chapter is called "The Flaw in the Plan".
Kelsier and his crew of Mistborn pulled off a terrific Batman Gambit. First, they tricked the noble houses of the main city of Luthadel into fighting each other so that they wouldn't be able to mount a unified defense against rebel forces. Then, Kelsier visits people throughout the city, establishing emotional connections to them, and building his image of a larger than life hero. To reinforce his legend, he mixes in tales of a legendary magical material, which he purports will allow to him to slay the Lord Ruler. To further reinforce this, Kelsier uses his magic to empower a common soldier. In secret, Kelsier gathers arms and armor for those in the city. Finally, when the army is distracted with the rebel army, thus drawing them away from the city, Kelsier produces a public spectacle in the city square and is promptly killed. But, you see, his death was part of the plan. Spurred by the death of their favored hero, the commoners of Luthadel rise up and depose the authorities, thus allowing the main heroine the opportunity needed to take out the Big Bad. Which she does.
And that's just the first book in the trilogy. The second two continue on in this tradition.
Bram Stoker's original novel Dracula, where the Count's master plan to infiltrate England and spread his vampire curse was only foiled by the Deus ex Machina of asylum doctor John Seward just happening to be the former student ofProfessor Van Helsing, the only person who'd recognise a vampire attack and know exactly what to do. Dracula's meticulous setup and coverup of his lairs and his later manipulation of Mina as a weapon against his pursuers was only matched by Van Helsing's counter-plan of hypnotising her to deduce the Count's location.
J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: as explained on the What an Idiot page, Gandalf used one of these to distract Sauron from the true location of the One Ring, convincing him that Aragorn had the Ring and was planning to use it against him. Of course, the whole thing was a diversion to allow the hobbits to enter Mordor unnoticed.
Sauron has one that fails big time in The Silmarillion. In it, the Númenóreans (think Atlanteans) march on Sauron with such a massive force that Sauron's minions flee and he's captured. Of course, being the master manipulator that Sauron is, he goes from prisoner to advisor to the king in only a few years. As the king is near death's door, Sauron manipulates him into making war on Valinor, the land of the Valar (minor gods, essentially). The plan was simple, trick the Númenóreans into attacking Valinor so Sauron could watch them die spectacularly. He didn't anticipate that the Valar would lay down their power before Ilúvatar (God), and ask him for aid. Ilúvatar made the world round, made Valinor inaccessible except to certain individuals (namely the elves), and sunk Númenor into the sea. Sauron didn't even see it coming, and was swallowed under the ocean. When he emerged, he could no longer take a pleasing form again.
It certainly backfired due to Sauron underestimating the opposition, but later in the mythos he seems to consider his fair form a worthy trade for the destruction of his only real competition for world domination.
As a rule, Sauron is actually quite good at the Batman Gambit himself, using his foe's psychological weaknesses against them quite a bit during the second and third ages: using the elves' desire to keep and preserve Middle-Earth to goad them into forging the rings and giving him valuable pointers on ring forging while they were at it, using the lust for power of the kings of Middle-Earth to get them to accept his rings of power and become the Nazgûl (he was less successful with the elves and dwarves), using the Númenórean's fears of death and resentment of elven and Valar immortality to goad the Númenóreans into a suicidal assault on Valinor, using Saruman and Denethor's desire to scry his plans via the palantír to push both past the Despair Event Horizon, driving Saruman into a Face–Heel Turn. He doesn't always get it right, but Sauron's frighteningly good at playing his enemies like violins. It's only when he's beaten at his own game by Gandalf and Aragorn that he's finally defeated. Or rather, that he would have been, had Sauron not been right about one thing; no one, not even Frodo, could willingly destroy the One Ring. Frodo falls at the end, and all Gandalf and Aragorn's plans and sacrifices would have come to naught except for the Spanner in the Works none of them foresaw, Gollum, who may be acting as the engine to fulfill Eru's will.
Nobody does it like Jeeves. He plays a blinder at the end of Right Ho, Jeeves, persuading Bertie to creep out at night and ring the fire bell, so that in the ensuing panic Tuppy Glossop's first instinct will be to rescue Angela Travers, and Gussie Fink-Nottle's to rescue Madeleine Basset, thereby rekindling their love. Jeeves's real plan is darker: he knows that the party will be unable to get back into the house, that the smouldering Aunt Dahlia will order Bertie to bicycle nine miles to fetch the key, that it will be their mutual exasperation with Bertie that will reunite the lovers... and, since he has secured the key beforehand and miraculously finds it shortly after Bertie has left and the lovers have made up, he ensures that the anger at Bertie will vanish — after all, bicycling nine miles to no use has to be punishment enough. And, finally, this will be the ideal time for him to 'accidentally' burn Bertie's unsuitable mess jacket while ironing it. Head and shoulders, he stands above the rest.
In Timothy Zahn's Star Wars Expanded Universe books, this is the essence of most of Grand Admiral Thrawn's strategies - he's very, very good at predicting his enemies. He can work out what species is leading an attack from the way they fly, and target his counterattack against their cultural or genetic blind spots. He sets up a power struggle within the New Republic just by understanding Bothan psychology. And he is able to understand the psychology of any species simply by studying their art. His Watsons and Commander Contrarians argue with him and his tactics until it really sinks in that he's just that good. For all intents and purposes, he's basically Sherlock Holmes, military commander In Space! He's also the only villain in the Expanded Universe to anticipate the heroes' Crazy Enough to Work tendencies - when the New Republic is given the choice between attacking a moderately defended Imperial planet and one of the Empire's biggest military bases, and gives every indication that they intend to attack the former, he predicts they'll attack the latter because they're used to doing crazy things the enemy won't expect. He's right. Everyone on the New Republic side is shocked.
Outbound Flight. Ready? * deep breath* Commander Thrawn of the Chiss Expansion Defense Fleet has three Corellians in custody, and he's learned about the Republic and how to speak Basic from them. He's got his eye on the nomadic Vagaari, a slave-taking people that's coming close to threatening his own people, and steals a gravity generator from them. His own people, the Chiss, are getting increasingly disapproving of him and his tactics. A Trade Federation taskforce shows up, he curb-stomps it and captures the remains, including many droids, and is convinced by the Trade Federation captain to stop Outbound Flight, a potential threat to his people. Even if Outbound Flight goes on, they may run into something vastly worse, letting the far-outsiders learn too much about the peoples closer to the center of the galaxy. What does he do?
He causes one of the Corellians to fear that they are hostages. The Corellian steals a shuttle, unwittingly taking some Trade Federation battle droids, and flees into Vagaari hands. The Vagaari are pleased with the droids, lock the Corellian into Human Shield position with the other captives on the outsides of their ships, and head directly towards the Chiss base. They are brought out of hyperspace by the stolen gravity generator, which is already being used to pin down Outbound Flight. The Jedi on Outbound Flight get immediately threatened by the Vagaari, so they do a mind-whammy on them, carefully not touching the captives. The droids inside of the ship shoot the Vagaari high command, knocking out the Jedi who are in mental contact with them, while the droid starfighters buzz the ships, firing between the captives.
This is done in the later Honor Harrington novels where Honor and her detachment are sent to do rear-area strikes to force Haven to redeploy their attack fleet to defend against her numerically inferior technologically advanced threat. They succeed, but unfortunately for Honor succeed so well they manage to trap her entire fleet.
This is basically how Gabriel Lafayette and Easy Mather's scheme works in Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks, and, according to the book, how psychics in general work, albeit on a far less grandiose scale.
Depending on how you interpret it (and there are more than a few ways to do so), the plot of Milton's Paradise Lost could be one of these, designed to give humankind the knowledge of good and evil, knowing that Satan would try to mess thing up by doing the opposite of whatever he thought God intended.
In Juliet Marillier's Heir to Sevenwaters, the plot is structured around a quest to retrieve a missing baby which turns out to be engineered by the villain to lure his son into a trap, since he knew that the kidnapping would make the baby's older sister go after him, and that the son would accompany his love interest.
Henry organizes one of these in The Secret History, in his plans for Bunny's murder and, later, the main characters' staying out of jail. This involves relying on his knowledge of his friends' habits and weaknesses to get them to do exactly what he wants them to do. He also uses this to lay the blame on other people, like Cloke Rayburn—but Richard is horrified when he finds out that Henry came very close to giving his name to the FBI.
For Arsène Lupin, the Hollow Needle mystery was pretty much all a Batman Gambit at the expense of the young amateur detective Isidore Beautrelet. Numerous others happen throughout Lupin's adventures but this is pretty much the biggest one.
The Moth-kinden of Shadows of the Apt, being an entire race of Manipulative Bastards, pull a rather nice one of these. The inhabitants of Tharn know The Empire's going to annex them at some point; not being a warlike people, they gamble everything on getting one particular man installed as Governor, as just about the only Wasp who's Inapt — like all Moths. Their agents have already got to him and cut a deal: if the Moths teach him magic, he'll let them get on with their lives as if the Empire had never even noticed them.
Halo: Ghosts of Onyx has some insurgents deliberately letting ONI learn of their nuclear weapons stockpile so that they can set a trap for the Spartans. It almost works too, if not for the insurgents not knowing about Kurt's near-prescience.
In Halo: Shadow of Intent, the Prelate wishes to kill his foe the Half-Jaw, but his light starship is no match for his opponent's enormous assault carrier. So the Prelate hatches a plan to even the odds step by step. First his starship attacks several peaceful colonies, so Half-Jaw will be enraged and come at him guns blazing. Next he lures the assault carrier to battle at a planet with an unstable star, with its magnetic storm wreaking havoc on the carrier's shields and weapons. Despite this, the Half-Jaw's ship still has the upper hand, but the Prelate has just enough an opening to get his ship close so he and his soldiers can board the carrier and and try to hijack it for themselves. Unfortunately for the Prelate, the carrier's defenders successfully wipe out his entire force.
Basically everything Belisarius does is either an Indy Ploy or a brilliant Batman Gambit. One of his more notable? A half-year long military campaign which he planned to lose, so that the advancing enemy army would continue pursuing part of his army past where another part of his army was concealed, allowing them to slip away with a unit of formed enemy troops the Malwa had assumed was annihilated the previous year, showing up in a completely different part of Persia disguised as ordinary prisoners of the "enemy unit", pull of a Trojan Horse attack that in one blow destroys logistical base of the Malwa in Persia while he sails off in a fleet of ships his wife had organized, resulting in the greatest military defeat in world history up to that point to a Malwa army 10 times the size of his... and not the one he was originally fighting. Because he wanted that Malwa army, its commander, and their "defeating" Belisarius" in battle to be considered the only good part of the whole situation by the Malwa.
His arranging of the rescue of Shakuntala is another good example.
"Name any simple thing about his plan!"
"The simple thing at the heart of the general's plan, Valentinian, is the soul of Venandakatra. The entire plan revolves around that one thing. Which is, perhaps, the simplest thing in the world."
"He's got a point. A rather good one, actually. Irrefutable, in fact."
The final novel shows a Batman Gambit's failure mode, although the bad guy waits far too long to realize it. He has Link's army trapped in a completely helpless position, but instead of going in to defeat them, keeps them pinned in position with the hope they can survive so that Link is isolated from other Malwa forces while the critical battle is taking place somewhere else, Link being in that position because it assumed that Belisarius would be the one to be in command of the critical battle. Link finally twigs on to what is happening and has its current host body killed so it can occupy a new one back at the Malwa capital, which is precisely what Belisarius was trying to delay as long as possible.
Lucretia from Bystander admits that most of her problems in the main storyline are a result of her novice attempts at this.
To clarify, her actual gambits mostly work, but she didn't do much as far as planning for a way to stop a reprisal.
The short story "The Man at the Table" by C. B. Gilford features an unusual example of this trope. Byron Duquay is sitting at a card table, preparing for guests, when an escaped killer, Rick Masden, enters his home. Duquay convinces Masden to sit at the opposite end of the table for a drink. Masden demands money and the keys to Duquay's car. Duquay says he will give Masden neither, and then proceeds to tell him that if Masden attempts to get up with his knife, Duquay will upend the table on him and grab his own, larger knife. Masden is clearly less muscular than Duquay, and at a disadvantage in a physical fight. Masden quickly realizes that Duquay was expecting company, and that Duquay is trying to delay him until help can arrive, which Duquay admits calmly. They reach an arrangement where Masden will leave his knife behind and leave empty-handed. It is just then that the other guests arrive, and Masden is apprehended. In a Crowning Moment of Awesome we learn that delaying Masden wasn't Duquay's real gambit. Bluffing him into thinking that he could and would fight Masden was. Duquay was paralyzed from the waist down, unable to stand. His wife had placed him in the chair earlier so he would feel like less of an invalid when playing cards with his friends.
It's looked for a while like in The Dresden Files Harry's mother set one into motion before her death that would lead her sons to find each other, Harry to get useful information from her when it would most benefit him, and the downfall of the vampire who killed her. It could also be said that Gentleman Johnny Marcone Batman Gambits off Harry's predictable hero tendencies.
Harry uses one against the Big Bad in Turn Coat. He goes out of his way to make a huge production of inviting the Senior Council to a fight. Since this is so archetypal Dresden, nobody, including his mentor, even considers the possibility that he might have something else planned. He relied on the fact that the traitor couldn't resist the chance to get so many of his enemies in one place so he could eliminate them in one stroke. Harry would have been in serious trouble with a whole lot of people if the gambit failed. It didn't.
In Blood Rites, Mavra sets up Harry by sending some underling Black Court vampires, including one he'd recognize as hers, to attack him and some associates. Harry calls up Murphy and Kincaid to go vampire-hunting, wiping out several lesser blampires and one they think is Mavra, plus a homicidally-violent human she's reduced to The Renfield. Only in the next novel does Harry find out that Mavra had not only survived, but she'd arranged it all so that she could covertly photograph Murphy in the act of shooting the Renfield, thus acquiring blackmail material to use against either SI or, as it turned out, Harry himself. Had Harry called in more than just one SI member, Murphy would have had enough fellow-cops on hand to dogpile the Renfield rather than shoot him, negating the photos' value.
The award for best Batman Gambit, however, surely goes to Martin in Changes, who manipulated Harry, Susan, and the Red King into position to allow Harry to hijack the Red Court's genocide spell and instant-kill their entire population. Also a Thanatos Gambit.
The White Court's entire internal culture is built out of this trope. White Court vampires, being weak compared to other supernatural forces out there, actually consider it a loss of face to do something directly. Tricking others into doing things for them is not just the preferred, but the only acceptable, way to get things done.
In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel ''His Last Command Gaunt wanted the inquisitors and senior commissars to learn about the Chaos portals, so he deliberately acted in a suspicious manner that Ludd would report.
Saint Dane in the Pendragon series is a master Batman Gambiter; most of his plans are Batman gambits. In fact, he once pulls off a double gambit: the characters realize that he's pulling one of these off, but that itself was what he wanted!
In the Star Trek: Typhon Pact novel Rough Beasts of Empire, the Tzenkethi manipulate Romulan politics so as to become an unofficial leading power in the Typhon Pact. The Romulans are the most powerful faction, but are currently led by somewhat hawkish leaders; this threatens the galactic stability seemingly desired by the Tzenkethi. In order to "rein in" the Romulans without drawing attention to themselves or damaging the Romulans' actual strength (which serves the Pact well), they conspire to remove the current Romulan leader and install a Praetor they'd prefer be in power - all through subtle manipulation (and a few assassinations disguised as natural causes). This gambit is played out as Praetor Tal'aura works on her own; to reclaim the breakaway worlds of Donatra's Imperial Romulan State by framing Donatra for a supposed attack on Ambassador Spock, then arresting her when she accepts an invitation to a diplomatic conference on Romulus. The latter gambit is playing into the former, as a reunited Romulan state benefits the Typhon Pact and thus is in the best interests of the Tzenkethi.
A fully-justified humdinger of one is pulled off in James P. Hogan's The Multiplex Man. In a WorldTwenty Minutes into the Future where East and West have exchanged ideologies, a terminally-ill scientist researching Neural Implanting is trying to escape "The Green Curtain" and defect to the free East. But after a close-call with a Super Soldier the corrupt American government created with his research, he realizes he won't survive the night. So, he imprints himself in the super soldier's Neuro-Vault minutes before he dies. Once in the super soldier, he incinerates his corpse and send an encrypted communication to his allies detailing how create a Linked List Clue Methodology which will lead the super-soldier to a place where he can be retrieved from the soldier's Neuro-Vault. It works out perfectly because the super soldier is nothing more than a program, and thus the scientist is able to tailor the clues to be irresistible to it.
Everything Tavi does in Codex Alera. Ever. At all. He's this trope so through and through that other characters pull a Batman Gambit on the premise of Tavi pulling a Batman Gambit.
In a similar vein to how sometimes complete novices are the most dangerous to fight against, Tavi is predictable because he's unpredictable.
Stan Liddell, schoolmaster in The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall, tries to pull a Batman Gambit in order to see if any of his schoolboys are responsible for the theft of a working machine gun from a crashed German bomber. He tells them all to write an essay on their war souvenir collections, hoping that someone will let something slip. Chas McGill takes advantage of the ploy to divert suspicion from himself to rival collector Boddser Brown.
The entirety of the Iron Warriors short story "The Beast of Calth" is Honsou pulling one of these on the Imperial forces between him and his goal.
In The Age of Innocence, May Archer is determined to end the "affair" (it's merely emotional, not physical, as everyone assumes) between her husband Newland and her cousin Ellen. So she tells her cousin that she's pregnant—even though she isn't certain that she is—knowing that her cousin will react appropriately. Sure enough, Ellen cuts all ties to Newland and flees to Europe. Later, as Newland hints at leaving May to pursue Ellen, May tells him she's pregnant, though by this time, she's sure that she is. What adds to the cleverness of the gambit is that May is consistently presented as superficial and clueless, yet proves herself to be much smarter than anyone realizes.
High Priestess D'ol Falla does this in the Green-Sky Trilogy. Her whole plan to free the people of Erda, trapped underground for centuries, hinges on three young priests not letting the power and glory of their position keep them from feeling basic human decency.
In John Devil (1862) by Paul Féval, how Henri Belcamp gets his final upper hand on Gregory Temple at Newgate. Both of them come up with the same plan to free Richard Tompson (disguise him and switch places), but Henri knows Temple will use the same plan, so he makes sure he get there first and then trick Temple into tell him what he needs to know from him before using Temple's escape plan for himself.
In The Black Coats: The Invisible Weapon it's explained that the "Pay The Law" stratagem depends on the assumption that one someone is being set up to be framed, in a seemingly hopeless situation, that they will flee thus only making them look even more guilty. It's had a 100% success rate so far.
The first Red Dwarf novel retcons Lister's acquiring of Frankenstein into one of these. In the series, he's simply dumb enough to bring a stray cat onto a spaceship against quarantine regulations, have his photo taken with it, and send it to be developed in the ship's lab. He gets caught and is punished by being put into stasis. In the book, depressed about losing Kochanski, and with four years to go before they reach Earth, he wants to be put into stasis. He researches the most minor crime that has stasis as a penalty, buys a showcat, and makes sure it's inoculated against everything (so he's not actually risking the crew). The photo ensures that he gets caught, but without the cat being caught and dissected.
In The Postman Always Rings Twice, a woman and her lover are tried for killing her husband. The prosecutor tries a Batman Gambit to get them to turn on each other by only putting one of them, the woman on trial. The woman's defense attorney then does a Batman Gambit of his own to get her from confessing everything and he gets her off on probation.
The plot opens with one; Hoodwink's plan to save his daughter begins with convincing the judge and the crowd that he is the 'evil user' that committed the crime instead of her.
Later on Seven insists that Hoodwink is the victim of one: The Users tell him to cross the Forever Gate by climbing the wall. Seven tells Hoodwink that they were expecting him to fall or freeze to death because that is only way to cross the true Forever Gate.
In A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, Jim recalls a childhood incident in which he framed Smelly, the school snitch, for shoplifting. First, he bragged about his own shoplifting to his friends (which he used a fake school book for), counting on Smelly to eavesdrop and immediately take it to the authorities. Then, predictably, Smelly showed up to watch Jim get caught stealing candy bars, only for the store employees to find he had only a regular book and no candy on his person. Jim claimed that Smelly was the real thief, and when Smelly was grabbed, he dropped his book and candy bars fell out. Bonus points to Jim for using the distraction to test out a new device for stealing candy bars.
Annabeth convinces Arachne to weave a giant Chinese finger trap, then go inside it, by appealing to Arachne's ego.
Double subverted. Percy tricks Phineas into giving up the location of Alcyoneus's lair, but it involves using himself as blackmail against Gaea and gambling that she'll come through for him. It works.
In Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1901 novel Emily Fox-Seton, after the villain has shot himself, his abused wife admits to the heroine that he did not commit suicide. While he gave his wife her daily beating, her generally omniscient ayah, knowing from experience that he would afterward go to toy drunkenly with his unloaded pistols, quietly reloaded them.
In Rhapsody, Achmed pulls off several of them. The one that jumps to mind first is when he sends Rhapsody to Lord Roland to try and negotiate peace. Lord Roland is enamored and acts like a bit of an idiot to try and win Rhapsody, falling right into plan. Achmed then gets the pleasure of explaining that mistake.
In one Relativity story, the Egyptian-themed-but-didn't-really-do-any-research supervillain Rune tries to bury the heroes by trapping them in a room that is slowly filling with sand from a broken hourglass. Black Torrent reminds Rune that a real ancient Egyptian would have used a water clock instead. So Rune changes the sand to water, hoping to drown the heroes, but they swim to safety instead.
* A Mage's Power: Selen's coup relied heavily on his mark's paranoia. If she hadn't jumped at his bait, then The Plan would have fallen apart before it started. He even thanks her for her help once she's at his mercy.
Emily The Strange The Lost Days: An unusual kind is used by the founder of Blackrock, Emma Lestrande. Before she died, Emma arranged for her as yet unborn grand niece (Emily) to inherit what she owned, but that Emily would have to take possession secretly. She knew that her grand niece would be super smart and have to hide her mind from a boy who would not be born until four years after her grand niece's birth (thus four years after her own death). She also arranged for a then thirteen-year-old boy to get some money to buy his way onto the City Council when he was old enough and to assist her greand niece when she showed up.
The Reynard Cycle: Reynard is a master of these, and often comes out on top due to his ability to predict how both friends and foes will react.
For example, in The Baron of Maleperduys, a major portion of his plan to defeat Drauglir relies on his confidence that Tybalt will inevitably betray them to the Calvarians.
The War of the Five Kings in A Song of Ice and Fire was set in motion by a Batman Gambit set in motion by Littlefinger. When Lysa Arryn comes to him asking for help after her husband Jon tells her that he is sending their son to be fostered at Dragonstone. He turns it to his advantage by having Lysa poison Jon, and send a raven to her sister in Winterfell accusing the Lannisters and implying that King Robert was next. Littlefinger does this knowing full well that 1). King Robert would appoint Ned Stark as Hand of the King to Replace Jon Arryn. 2). Ned would follow Jon Aryyn's trail and learn the truth of the parentage of Queen Cersei's childeren. 3). Ned handling the news in a hamfisted manner that he could use to lure him into a trap. Bringing the Starks and Lannister to war. The plan would have failed if Eddard had not followed the Red Herring. Or if anyone suspected Lysa.
Erebus pulls one on Horus in False Gods. During a war council on Davin, Erebus interrupts Horus to tell him that the planet is no longer compliant but offers to discuss the matter in private (despite having brought it up in public). He informs Horus that the governor and one of Horus's allies, Eugen Temba, has fled to Davin's moon and asks what he will do to save his honor. Horus announces that he will lead a speartip thrust to the heart of Temba's rebellion. Ignace Karkasy later tells Garviel Loken that Erebus had made the best acting performance he'd ever seen. By playing on Horus's pride and honor, Erebus got him to walk right into his trap. He later plays on Aximand and Abaddon's love of the Warmaster to convince them to take him to the Serpent Lodge, where Erebus twists Horus to the service of the Ruinous Powers.
In the Diogenes Club story "Sorcerer, Conjurer, Wizard, Witch", Mycroft's plan to deal with the Great Enchanter Colonel Zenf is based on people doing certain things if they believe certain facts to be true. It proceeds pretty much exactly according to plan, despite the fact that when Zenf emerges, Mycroft's been dead for fifteen years, and his successors have no idea what the plan is.
The Doctor at one point surrenders to the Daleks, knowing fully well they aren't going to straight up exterminate him, but rather bring him exactly where he wanted to go.
The Doctor pulls one on Karlax as well. Saving his dying body from space, leaving him in an unlocked Zero room, and then putting in a failsafe that made sure that if someone else operated the TARDIS it'd centre in around him.
In Star Trek The Eugenics Wars Gary Seven realizes that not only is Khan the most dangerous of the supermen, he also knows that Gary Seven keeps tabs on the other superhumans. He also knows that at some point Khan will try to get his hands on the list. Rather than try to prevent this, he adds the non-existent Ament to the list, then when Khan takes it by force he has Isis transform and wait for Khan to recruit her, allowing the two of them to subtly steer Khan away from world conquest and keep a close eye on him.
In Ready Player One, main character Wade "Parzival" has to find a way to knock out the magical shield used by IOI to prevent passage into the castle that holds the gate to the Egg. Said shield is the most powerful in the story of OASIS, and pretty much impossible to destroy from the outside. He uses some hacking to fake having a debt with IOI, who always force their debtors into indentured service. Once there, he uses a backdoor into IOI's intranet to give a supply bot orders to bring the most powerful bomb in inventory as close as possible to the wizard holding the shield up and detonate it at a certain time. Then, he calls every gunter in the game to help, correctly assuming that they would prefer his victory to IOI's. It works.