He's got him right where he wants him.
"When you work in intelligence, there's no bigger slap in the face than a picture of yourself in the middle of an operation. It sends a clear message: we're one step ahead of you; we're in control; we own you. Mylar balloons and a bottle of champagne, that's just twisting the knife."
A character has come up with a perfect plan to ensnare an opponent(s). Whether kind of plan
it is, 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:
- Alice makes Plan A.
- Bob makes Plan B in response
- Plan A goes down in flames.
- Bob makes Plan B in anticipation of Alice making plan A.
- Alice makes Plan A
- Plan A goes down in flames.
Sometimes this situation is 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 B), Big Bad Wannabe
, Gambit Pileup
, I Know You Know I Know
(graciously admitting you were beaten), Xanatos Speed Chess
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Anime and Manga
- 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 gambit 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 destroys his enemy's gambit.
- Here's an example from 5D's done by Yusei. 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 YuYu 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; 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. 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 Jojos Bizarre Adventure:
- In 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. Earlier, 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 that losing would equal D'Arby's death, playing a Batman Gambit that made D'Arby break down.
- 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.
- One of the earliest examples lies in part 1, when Dio planned to have Johnathan cut him in order to take hold and freeze him. Johnathan Out-Gambitted him by cutting him at an area with the tip of his sword at the torch that allows him to defrost himself.
- Joseph Joestar's epic chariot battle against Wham. Every tactic one fighter used was immediately countered by the other, with Joseph barely prevailing in the end.
- This 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 × 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.
- Another test involves the room where they must leave two people behind or take the long road. 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 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.
- Sasuke (take a deep breath) thought that Itachi killed his clan out of hatred but he really did care about him because he was ordered to by the Konoha elder Danzo, who was than revealed to have been manipulated by Tobi who had also manipulated Pain into becoming evil. Sasuke was then manipulated by Orochimaru to steal his body, but Sasuke saw through this and was met up by Tobi who revealed that he was responsible for the Uchiha clan massacre by unleashing the Nine-taled Fox on Konoha, causing Sasuke to kill Danzo and then target Konoha, but then Kabuto blackmailed Tobi by resurrecting the real Madara whom Tobi had impersonated. Itachi was resurrected by Kabuto as well, but then he defeated him and sealed his own soul away, but then Madara revealed he had caused the death of Rin which caused Tobi to become evil as he was originally Obito and then tricked Tobi into restoring his natural body. Orochimaru, Sasuke, and Tobi (still struggling with the Black side of Zetsu) then try to help everyone else by defeating Madara. Black Zetsu is revealed to have the manifestation of Princess Kaguya who was the first human to use chakra whom Madara was descended from who in turn incapicates him. Whew.
- In Death Note, this is how Near & Mello beat Light, although Light also seemed to have become stupider in the second season.
- In Sailor Moon, the title character 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 out-gambits 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 Aizennote 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 by Balalaika herself 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...
- Once 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, sexually humiliating her via stripping her almost naked, intending to sell her into sex slavery, and trying to use her as a human shield.
- 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.
- Code Geass, a series that 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 had planned on this possibility and planted his hitman, Roberto, to act as her "boyfriend" days, maybe even weeks, ahead of time. It doesn't go well for her when she pulls a gun on Johan.
- A masterful one happens in Puella Magi 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, and even including the witch that she would have become, 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 and she's able to make the system and Kyuubey her bitches. 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 Puella Magi 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 actually is the same Deal with the Devil that Masako took for the sake of her brother Mario. This means, Kanba is out-gambitted 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, and he can only get "free" of it via having himself Ret Goned (alongisde Shouma, who does it to save Ringo from dying to Screw Destiny).
- Subverted in the Detective Conan anime. The Anti-Villain Akemi Miyano met up with Gin and Vodka, fellow members of the Black Organization, and told them they wouldn't kill her or they'd never know where she put the HUGE sum of money that she stole for them... but they shot her to death and took the key to the locker where she hid it. However, Akemi had the last laugh: said locker key was false, and she gave the real one to Conan (who had tried to disuade her from the robbery) before dying.
- One Piece: The Dressrosa arc amounts to a gigantic gambit pile-up between Law and Doflamingo. Ultimately, the winner is a third party — the Straw Hats, who save Law (completely disregarding the fact that he ended their alliance in order to save them and kill Doflamingo, knowing full well he'd probably die in the process) and screw up Doflamingo's plan anyway. Considering their notorious reputation as a collective Spanner in the Works, nobody should've been surprised. Law, however, was counting on the Straw Hats Spanner in the Works and mocked Doflamingo for not seeing it coming despite knowing of the Straw Hats reputation.
- The Buu Arc of Dragon Ball is full of gambits and plans that end up being nullified by even superior gambits and plans. Probably the worst example was when Super Buu demanded seeing the "Strong Fighter"/ Gotenks (Goten and Trunks fused together) he was promised by Goku, and in an effort to buy more time Piccolo suggests that Buu amuse himself by terrorizing the people of Earth, knowing they can be revived with the Dragon Balls. Despite Majin Buu's previous rampage there were still billions of humans left on earth so Piccolo thought that with that many humans left it would take Super Buu at least a few hours to fly across the world and terrorize every single one of them. Super Buu instead kills every single human, with the exception of Mr. Satan, Tien, Chiaotzu and all those present on Kami's Lookout, in only two minutes and never left Kami's Lookout while doing it. All of humanity had essentially become a Sacrificial Lamb for the sake of giving Goten and Trunks just two more minutes of time to train. It's safe to say that Piccolo's plan of trying to outsmart Super Buu to gain more time backfired on him tremendously. Every time the heroes would come up with a plan of defeating Super Buu, Super Buu would just outplay them or outsmart them. Another ingenious example would be when Piccolo destroyed the only exit of the Hyperbolic Time Chamber forever trapping himself, Gotenks and Super Buu in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. What does Super Buu do? He rips a hole through dimensions by screaming and escapes the Hyperbolic Time Chamber leaving Gotenks and Piccolo trapped inside while he turns the rest of the Z-Fighters into candy and then eats them. Probably the only person who was ever able to out-gambit Super Buu was Vegito. Who intentionally wanted to be absorbed by Super Buu and beat the shit out of him effortlessly to piss him off enough to make Super Buu desperate enough to absorb him. Super Buu instead turns Vegito into a jawbreaker. Vegito then uses his new form to kick Super Buu's ass. Vegito then points out that being turned into candy actually works as an advantage to him because he is extremely fast and far too small for Super Buu to hit and also retains all of his power because he's so much stronger than Super Buu.
- Sailor Moon: During the Grand Finale, Sailors Neptune and Uranus are convinced that Galaxia cannot be defeated without some horrible angsty sacrifice that only they have the moral strength to make, and thus pull off a Fake Defector act that includes killing Pluto and Saturn (depriving Moon of two valuable allies right after the death of Princess Kakyuu and the Heroic Sacrifices of the Inners), attacking Moon herself and her remaining allies the Starlights (so she wouldn't suspect them, but also weakening her physically and devastating her emotionally) and ultimately take Galaxia on by themselves. Unfortunately, Galaxia was on to their plan from the start. The end result is that Neptune and Uranus are killed in front of Moon, Chibi-Chibi Moon and the Starlights without accomplishing anything.
- Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act IV: After learning that Hokuto is apparently planning a full-on attack on Yokai Academy to capture Moka in the future, Tsukune and co. take time to prepare. However, they fail to consider the fact that Luna and Falla, two Time Masters, weren't present during the attack in that timeline, and are caught unprepared when Hokuto does factor in Luna and Falla's presence and instead has Jovian and Jacqueline kidnap Tsukune's mother and cousin and hold them hostage at opposite sides of Tsukune's hometown in order to Divide and Conquer the group while a Brainwashed and Crazy Felucia forces Moka to go with her to Hokuto without a fight.
- The ending of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has both male leads be out-conned by the woman 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 'n' 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. Riff's words to Mrs. Togar? "Screw you, Mrs. Togar, we made it to the concert anyway!"
- 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.
- 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 Fanservice.
- 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.
- In Diamonds Are Forever, Shady Tree gets James Bond out of the retort with the intent to question him about where he hid the real diamonds. Neither he nor Morton Slumber counted on Bond having leverage against them to the tune of 50 grand (courtesy of Tiffany Case):
James Bond: You wouldn't burn up 50,000 real dollars, would you? [...] You bring me the real money, and I'll bring you the real diamonds.
- The plotters in The Spanish Prisoner had a multi-layered plan to get ahold of the process and leave Joe to take the fall. In the end the Feds were watching them the entire time and were just letting them proceed to gather evidence.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: How Admiral Kirk was able to outwit Khan and escape from being marooned inside the Regula planetoid. Khan had left Captain Terrell and Commander Chekov behind to spring a trap on Kirk, while Kirk was able to determine exactly how long it would take to restore main power and rescue the landing party, leading Khan to believe it would take days instead of hours. Once the trap failed to kill Kirk, he made damn sure to convince Khan of his helplessness, counting on Khan to continue his pursuit of the Enterprise knowing that he could come back to finish Kirk at his leisure.
- Star Trek Into Darkness: How Spock defeats Khan, by allowing the latter to retrieve the armed torpedoes he thought contained his crewmates.
- Equilibrium. Du Pont uses John Preston as an Unwitting Pawn in his scheme to expose the Resistance, but underestimates the latter's ability to strategically kill all of his mooks. Despite being the same person who decided to piss off a First Class Grammaton Cleric, who is a skilled master of plenty of deadly weapons and Gun Kata. Meaning he's made another fatal error where he specifically mentioned previously that someone who is a master of the latter is an adversary not to be taken lightly.
- In Animorphs, Visser One's plan worked well. Tom's worked even better. Jake's worked best of all.
- 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. For example, Voldemort wants to kill Harry. Dumbledore guesses (and therefore knows) that if Harry dies at Voldemort's hand, then Harry will just come right back to life, and Voldemort will be weaker. That was the plan for two books.
- See also almost anything Dumbledore does, from leaving Harry at the Dursley's, to giving Hermione the time-turner, to going to the cave in book six, to trusting Snape and having him as the mole, to having Snape kill him.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist King Pryderi of the Chronicles of Prydain 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 outmaneuvered 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.
- In Isard's Revenge, Ysanne Isard neatly out-gambits both the New Republic and her clone, who is aligned with a former Imperial warlord the New Republic is campaigning against. She builds a secret lab near one of the warlord's bases she knows the New Republic will attack, researching yet another Imperial superweapon. The New Republic instantly seizes on it as justification for their invasion, while the warlord protests that he had never heard of the lab until the New Republic "found" it, making both sides look worse due to the Golden Mean Fallacy. This leaves both sides nice and distracted so Isard can launch her real plan, stealing the newly-repaired Super Star Destroyer Lusankya from under the collective nose of the New Republic fleet. Unfortunately for her, two astromech droids managed to escape her clutches, allowing some pro-Republic smugglers and a New Republic Intelligence agent to set a trap for Isard to stroll right into.
- At the climax of The Thrawn Trilogy, the New Republic plans on striking at the Imperial shipyards at Bilbringi, but try to play Thrawn by not-quite-as-secretly making plans for an attack at Tangrene. Thrawn sees through the Rebels' ruse and prepares accordingly, but gets surprised by the Smugglers' Alliance, who assumed that the New Republic was attacking Tangrene and planned their own strike at Bilbringi that just happened to coincide with the New Republic offensive. In other words, a cunning plan was defeated by a cunning-er plan but rescued by a botched plan - and even then it could've gone the Imperials' way were it not for a critical Bodyguard Betrayal.
- The Lord of the Rings: Sauron, the guy who when taken prisoner by the Númenóreans was in control of them within a year, out-gambits almost everyone during the War of the Ring. He anticipates Saruman's betrayal and gives Denethor the right information to draw the wrong conclusions, but just as Gandalf planned, Sauron simply couldn't imagine that anyone would try and destroy the One Ring instead of claiming it for themselves. He's actually right, except that he couldn't have foreseen Gollum destroying the ring by accident.
- 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 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 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 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. Also, chronic traitor Invidia eventually learns that, if you betray everyone you've ever worked with, people will eventually notice. And when you try to do it again, they'll leave you stranded in the woods. Naked.
- 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."
- 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 out-gambitted in Dan Brown novels.
- Done 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 a Messianic Archetype 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 gambit 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 out-gambits Ruin, trapping him, then Ruin out-gambits a lot of people by changing prophecies in order to try to get somebody to free him, then Kwaan and Rashek out-gambit 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 out-gambits the Lord Ruler in order to kill him. Ruin out-gambits 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 Demons 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.
- In the historical novel Wings of Dawn: Waleran, spokesperson for not using the same gambit all the time, even when it does seem to be working.
- The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest has an immensely satisfying occurrence of this against all the (many) people who have screwed over Lisbeth for all of her life.
- In Courtship Rite: Joesai manan-Kaiel, by Storm Master Tonpa of the Mnankrei clan. Joesai has planned to make people think the Mnankrei are responsible for the Death Rite on Oelita the Gentle Heretic; when Tonpa realizes he's being framed, he not only comes up with a way to put the blame back on the Kaiel, but to make them take the blame for destroying the local grain store, which they had originally planned to make look like an accident.
- Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch novels are made up of Gambit Pileups by two Great Others, the Light Geser and the Dark Zabulon. They've been doing this for decades. It helps that they're able to foresee the probabilities of future events very clearly.
- Lord Vetinari every Discworld book, to the point where he has prepared his own deepest dungeon for when he will be thrown in when he is overthrown.
- The Sinister Six Trilogy has The Gentleman thinking he got away with his plan, only for the Chameleon to betray him, only for HIM to be caught by Doc Ock who had the exact same plan, then they're all foiled by Spider-Man when he gets Pity on his side.
Live Action TV
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (The Musical). Same as the film.
- 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.
- Richard of Thrill Me plans the perfect crime, and Nathan acts as his accomplice because Nathan is better at details. However, Nathan wants them to get caught. And he's...better at details. Nathan leaves evidence kind of everywhere.
- 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 managed to do this with a group of people who tried to repossess half his home village, including his parents' farm: upon realizing that the covenant clause the group used to pin the debt on him, specifically, fails to specify the number of successors beholden to the debt (which by racconan law, it must or be limited to a single generation), he takes the quest specified in the contract, saving the village and ending the matter with him—and no one can do a thing about it.
- Chainsawsuit presents: double sting. Dateline tries To Catch A Predator. Meanwhile, a fan tries to see live Stone Phillips.
- 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.
- Caliborn and Calliope in Homestuck. Calliope typically comes across as by far the smarter of the two, but unfortunately for her, Caliborn is really good at thinking outside the box. At one point, their relationship is reflected by a game of chess they're playing, and Calliope comments that Caliborn is playing really badly and wonders why he bothered pestering her into letting him switch the positions of his king and queen. A few turns later, he calls checkmate, and she thinks he's crazy... only for Caliborn to reveal that he hadn't switched their positions, he'd just made little hats that made his queen look like his king and vice-versa, and he hadn't technically made any illegal moves. Calliope, quite understandably, Rage Quits.
- More importantly, he short-circuits most of her plans instantly by just having her dreamself assassinated before their session even starts.
- The events surrounding the trolls' entry into the medium also qualify. Equius and Vriska are plotting to usurp the title of Blue Team Leader from Aradia (with both of course also planning to backstab the other). Aradia allows them to proceed, because a.) the position of Team Leader doesn't really matter much anyway and b.) in their plotting they are actually unwittingly advancing Aradia's goals.
- 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...
- In Worm, Tattletale and Skitter outmaneuver Coil, having anticipated that he would betray them, and put him in a position that he cannot escape from, whereupon Skitter shoots him in the head.
- A well-known example 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.