Follow TV Tropes


Defeating the Cheating Opponent

Go To

"All these years, you've been cheating? Well now, I'm gonna beat you, fair and square!"
Grandpa Lou Pickles, Rugrats, "King Ten Pin"

The Hero and The Rival are facing off in some sort of contest of wills. This could be a sporting event, a board game, a match in a Tournament Arc, or even a longtime goal that both of them are working towards. During the competition, it comes to light (for one reason or another) that the rival has been committing the most egregious of competitive sins: he's cheating. In fact, not only is he cheating now, there's a good chance that he's been cheating in every event that came before this one. The judges and/or the hero's allies are ready to declare the hero the winner by default, the crowd will be calling for the rival's head on a platter, and the band will start tuning up for the Humiliation Conga.

And yet, the hero insists on continuing like nothing happened, confident that they'll still win anyway. The plot will see the rival get their comeuppance by having the hero still win fairly, even when their opponent said "Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!". The rival was so focused on cheating and covering it up that they have no idea about the ins and outs of the competition, game, sport, etc. as a whole. And without that ace up their sleeve, the rival gets their proverbial butt kicked by the hero, who was playing fair the whole time.

This can be justified when it's a gentleman's agreement or a personal vendetta that was violated, and there's no governing body to oversee any sort of "rules" regarding it. But it's Artistic License when it comes to cheating in sporting events, games, and organized competitions in general. It doesn't matter if you want to go forward if your opponent was caught cheating; they cheated, therefore they're out. Any governing body worth its salt would never allow a competition to keep going after someone was caught cheating (especially when you consider how blatantly some of these rivals were breaking the rules). The moment it came to light that intentional and flagrant rule-breaking was going on, the cheater would be thrown out on their ear and automatically forfeit any remaining contests. But in fiction, it's way more satisfying to add to the rival's humiliation and eventual Villainous Breakdown by watching the hero win fairly in spite of their rival cheating.

Note that this isn't just a situation where the bad guys cheat but the good guys still win. It must be a situation where the villain(s) have their cheating exposed for everyone to see, the good guy insists on continuing with the competition knowing their opponent cheated, and the hero still wins fair-and-square. If any of those three events don't happen, it's not this trope.

See also Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat, when an opponent who could have won legitimately ruins their own lead by cheating. Compare Underdogs Never Lose. Contrast Screw the Rules, They Broke Them First!, when someone replies to a rival cheating by cheating right back.


    open/close all folders 


    Anime and Manga 
  • Ah! My Goddess: Aoshima sabotages the Motor Club's vehicle for an upcoming race, and hires a ringer for his car. K1 and Belldandy win anyway, knowing that Aoshima cheated, thanks to the unique feature of their vehicle being a three-wheeler and knowledge of a feature of the race course which allow them to come out on top.
  • In Chivalry of a Failed Knight, Ayane sets up a rather intricate minefield with her Noble Art and forces Ikki to exhaust Ittou Shura before the match starts. She's caught and is about to be disqualified because setting up traps during a fight is allowed, but not before a fight. Despite this, Ikki insists the match go on, and Ayane ends up losing. Not because her cheating got exposed, but because she's distracted from fighting properly.
  • EDENS ZERO: During the Nero arc, Rebecca gets captured by one of the elite guards named Lyra, who forces her into a card game broadcasted across the web where if Rebecca loses a hand, she'll lose some of her clothing and if she loses completely, Lyra will take a body part. As the game goes on, Rebecca does win a few hands but suddenly Lyra starts to make a swift comeback. Rebecca uses her Reverse power to rewind time at one point in order to win a hand, only for Lyra to still somehow beat her. This confirms to Rebecca that Lyra's cheating and, after using up her last Reverse to avoid losing the game, tricks Lyra into exposing herself by ripping a card in half and faking her out with guessing the wrong card. When Lyra complains, Rebecca reveals the real card she had hidden and asks her how she knew what card she had guessed before hand if she hadn't rigged the game. Lyra naturally can't answer that in front of her viewers, forcing her to abandon the game entirely and attack Rebecca directly. Luckily, Shiki arrives to save her and Kleene takes Rebecca's place as Lyra's opponent, ultimately defeating her in direct combat.
  • Food Wars!: During the Central Arc, Eizan helps Azami reform Totsuki Academy by shutting down the cooking clubs so Azami can enforce his own vision of cooking. To do this, Eizan defeats the leader of one club in a rigged Cooking Duel, bribing the judges so they vote for his dish without tasting anything. Soma is undeterred; during his own duel with Eizan, Soma prepares a dish so delicious that even Eizan and the corrupt judges can't resist trying it (albeit with a bit of taunting to get Eizan to bite in), after which they're unable to bring themselves to vote against Soma.
  • Inazuma Eleven: Otaku Junior High had the reputation of being the weakest team in the Football Frontier until they actually won a few matches. However, during their match with Raimon, it comes to light that they've been cheating by moving the goalpost and obscuring its view. After Megane figures out their tactics, he makes them realize that what Otaku did was wrong, so they play the rest of the match against Raimon fair and square. Raimon wins.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: D'arby challenges the Crusaders to a series of high-stakes gambles and clearly cheats every time, reducing the heroes' morale and composure so that he can steal their souls. This changes when he plays a game of poker against Jotaro. Realizing D'arby doesn't know how Jotaro's abilities work, Jotaro bluffs his way through the game. By the end, Jotaro raises the bet all the way up to his own mother's soul, daring D'arby to call the hand. D'arby suffers a Villainous Breakdown and faints from pure shock before he can call it, giving the heroes the win. As is revealed after the heroes win, Jotaro's cards were lousy; he was just so good at bluffing that it didn't matter.
  • Kengan Ashura: The only foul in Kengan matches is the use of weapons. However, anything that make through the check can be used with impunity, since doing otherwise would damage the Kengan Association's authority. Koji Kaburagi is abusing this loophole to eliminate promising fighters before they can become too much of a threat for others. Everyone knows he is using weapons, but he always manages to sneak them past the referee. During his fight against Ohma, Koji has his employer use The Mosquito to distract Ohma, use poison to take out his sight, and attempt to cripple him by stabbing him in the spine with a needle. Once Ohma manages to figure the employer's position and removes him from the equation, Ohma quickly overwhelms Koji fairly with his superior strength and skills.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam: During the Tournament Arc, Domon is paired up with Allenby against two other fighters, who rig the ring so that Allenby and Domon get hit with heavy Artificial Gravity and electric shocks, but the cheaters don't. It's not part of their Gundam abilities, and they're clearly cheating. The tournament organizers are ready to call it instantly, but Domon insists on fighting anyway. The end result is the two opponents stunned that Domon can keep moving, only trying to run away before Domon blasts them both with a Burning Finger. All of this was done at the behest of Wong, the head of the Gundam tournament who is trying to keep Neo Hong Kong in power. Wong rigged the fight because he thought that Domon was spying on him, when it was really Neo Germany's fighter Schwarz Bruder doing the spying; He just happened to jump over where Domon and Allenby were hanging out in his earlier escape.
  • Pokémon: The Series: One of the early episodes has Ash competing in a Pokémon race, filling in for Lara Laramie who broke her arm and couldn't ride her Ponyta. Despite local rival Dario pulling all sorts of tricks and traps (even having hired Team Rocket's help for it) to take out the competition, Ash ends up winning when the Ponyta evolves to Rapidash, and overtakes Dario's Dodrio at the last second.
  • Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale: Eiji has an inroad in the Ordinal Scale game, showing him his opponent's moves. He also has a power suit augmenting his physical abilities. Despite that, Kirito defeats him Eiji the penultimate battle because Kirito actually learned to fight, while Eiji just got by on cheating. Once the cheating was exposed and Eiji couldn't rely on it anymore, he was a sitting duck.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • In the manga, Yugi's first duel against Kaiba ends this way. With very little chance at victory, Kaiba summons Yugi's grandpa's stolen Blue-Eyes White Dragon straight from his uniform pocket. However, the Blue-Eyes destroys itself instead of defeating Yugi, allowing him to use Monster Reborn to bring it back to his side of the field and wipe out Kaiba's remaining Life Points. The first anime version of the duel has the same events play out, except Kaiba ends the duel in a draw by splitting the duel field with his last card.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
      • During the climactic duel of the Duelist Kingdom arc, Pegasus uses his Millennium Eye to read Yugi's mind and see what cards he uses. However, Yugi and Atem counter this ability by keeping their plans secret from each other and then swapping out before Pegasus can read their minds. It's played with in that Yugi and Atem ultimately have no choice but to continue in spite of Pegasus clearly cheating.
      • Joey seems to have the worst luck being pitted against cheaters. His first opponent in Duelist Kingdom is Mai Valentine, whose supposed psychic powers allow her to predict which card she draws before she actually draws it. However, Joey discovers that Mai marked each of her cards with a certain perfume and committed the scents to memory. While he does expose her ruse, the game still continues and Mai is ultimately defeated.
      • Joey's duel against Espa Roba sees Espa's brothers spying on Joey's cards, and tell Espa via hidden comms what's in Joey's hand at any given time. After Joey exposes the truth with a card trick of his own, he proceeds to defeat Espa in a fair duel.
      • During Battle City, Weevil pays off a random kid to steal Joey's deck and slip in the "Parasite Paracide" card, which Weevil uses in tandem with the "Insect Barrier" card to ensure Joey can't attack. Joey, however, still manages to pull a fair victory, winning the Duel and earning Weevil's prized Insect Queen in the process.
      • In the anime-only Noah arc, Joey gets pitted against Johnson who takes on the persona of the Judge Man card and uses dice and coin flip cards in his deck. However, he's rigged the card to work in his favor and give himself an unfair advantage. Noah interrupts the match, calls him out for this and sets to disqualify him, only for Joey to insist that the match be allowed to continue at the least in a fair and square manner. Noah allows it and Joey manages to pull through and beat Johnson.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Episodes 9 and 10 have Yusei dueling against corrupt prison warden Takasu for his freedom. The catch is that Yusei is playing with a deck of mismatched cards given to him by the other inmates and both players' duel disks are made to electrocute them whenever life points are lost. Takasu blatantly cheats by not only rigging his disk to not shock him, but also using the prison's security cameras to look at Yusei's hand. Fortunately, with the help of fellow inmate Kohei Aoyama, Yusei manages to turn the warden's cheating against him and win the duel. When Takasu tries to go back on the deal out of spite, Godwin steps in, fires him out of disgust, and gives Yusei a safe trip out of the prison.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Scrooge McDuck's entire dynamic with Flinthart Glomgold can be defined as this trope. Glomgold is determined to usurp the moniker of "the World's Richest Duck" away from Scrooge through whatever dirty or unscrupulous means possible — predictably a lot of Glomgold's fortune is stolen goods. But even with all his stolen loot, Glomgold never quite manages to outdo Scrooge, who takes pride in having earned every last penny he has by being "tougher than the toughies and smarter than the smarties", all from the ground up, fair and square.

  • The Awakening of a Magus:
    • During the ritual to cure Remus, a local wolf pack leader is displeased at Harry's and the werewolf's presence, so he challenges Harry to a honor duel... and attempts to make it a fight to kill. However, with Harry's physical changes, all it does is nearly get him killed (Harry is forced to heal up a major artery) and cost a lot of standing with other pack leaders.
    • When a particularly arrogant transfer student attempts to cheat in a fencing duel with Draco by using a stamina-restoring talisman, Draco simply beats him despite the cheating, after which his trainer is notified.

  • Ben-Hur: During the Chariot Race, Messala uses his Spiked Wheels to destroy the wheels of the other charioteers. When he catches up to the childhood friend he betrayed, Judah Ben-Hur, he attempts the same, but Judah skillfully dodges the device. He then whips Judah with his whip, which Judah manages to take from his hands. Messala's wheel gets demolished by Judah's in the struggle, which ends up destroying Messala's chariot and causing Messala himself to be trampled by the horses of the other charioteers, and Judah wins the race.
  • The Gamers: Hands of Fate: Members of the Legacy faction go to extreme length to knock Cass out of the tournament, including pooling their knowledge to list his entire deck (equivalent to card-counting) and then stealing and burning a good half of it during downtime (something that should have gotten them banned, had the tournament organizers been halfway competent). With a little help from his friends, Cass gets right back into the game and crushes the Legacy leader in the finale, anyway.
  • Gladiator: Emperor Commodus has a Villainous Breakdown during his final battle with Maximus. Even though Commodus has rigged the fight in his favor, Maximus is still beating him. During said breakdown, Commodus reveals his dagger and goes after Maximus, even though his plan was to humiliate Maximus in a "fair" fight. Then, Quintus gives his own middle finger to the Emperor by refusing to give him his sword, and ordering the guards surrounding him to sheathe their swords as well. Commodus is killed as a result by Maximus, but the wound inflicted by Commodus and his dagger still ends up fatal to Maximus, as he gets back to Rome just before the wound claims his life.
  • The Karate Kid (1984) zigzags this trope in the climax of the film. Bobby injures Daniel's leg on Kreese's orders, and Bobby is disqualified when the judges catch it. However, the rest of Cobra Kai is allowed to still compete. Despite the injury, Daniel faces his next Cobra Kai opponent Johnny in the finals. While Johnny isn't cheating, he certainly takes advantage of the earlier injury. Even so, Daniel wins fair and square with a flying crane kick to Johnny's face.
  • The Phantom Menace: Qui-Gon has Anakin enter into a podrace in a bet to get a new part for their damaged ship. His main rival on the track is Sebulba who won against him in the last race and smugly rubs it in his face. Anakin suspects sabotage since his pod had a malfunction that cost him but couldn't prove it. Sure enough, Sebulba breaks off a vital part on Anakin's pod when no one is looking before their next race so that when the race begins, Anakin's pod initially doesn't start. He manages get the engine going and quickly catch up to the competitors until it's only Sebulba and him once more. Despite Sebulba trying to run him off the track, Anakin turns the tables and causes Sebulba to crash, and Anakin wins.
  • The Sting: Doyle Lonnegan likes to play high-stakes poker games on a train, which he wins by cheating- he'll deal an opponent a good hand to encourage them to bet high while dealing himself a better and. Henry Gondorff beats him in the game by cheating as well to give himself a hand that beats Lonnegan's while counting on the fact that Lonnegan can't call him on it while in front of his regular poker group since they don't know that he's a cheater.

  • Star Wars: Canto Bight: In The Ride, during the climactic card game of pazaak (basically the Star Wars version of blackjack), rival player Orisha is caught using a trick card that can change to any number she wants. Because she threatens to pull all her money from the game if penalized, money which the protagonist Kaljach desperately needs, he allows her to play her illegal card. Fortunately for Kal, Orisha's card malfunctions due to a prior accident, which sends her score over the limit and gives him the win.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cheers plays with this. Robin challenges Sam to a game of chess, which Sam doesn't play. Sam uses an earpiece and a computer chess program to cheat, which doesn't fool Robin in the slightest. Robin decides to keep playing because an honest game with someone who doesn't know the game would be boring. The computer crashes, forcing Sam to make a random move that confuses Robin enough that Sam wins.
  • House of Anubis: In season 2, as part of his gem-hunting subplot, Jerome needs to play ping-pong against a rival school in order to win back the shield that acts as the trophy. The rivals are Jerkass champions who show up beforehand to mock Jerome and judge his talent during practice. However, during the game, a cursed to de-age Alfie screws around and discovers that not only are the balls weighted, but the rival kept extra balls in his hat. Jerome and Alfie are given the chance to play one more round, and manage to win fair and square.
  • The Side Hustle episode "Thumb and Thumber" sees Presley facing off with her childhood thumb-wrestling rival, Rago, in the final round of a thumb-wrestling tournament so she can win a new boat for Tedward, allowing her, Munchy and Lex to pay off their debt after his old one was destroyed. Rago's mother supposedly kisses his thumb for good luck before each match, which the trio finds totally gross, but they find out that she was kissing it with thumb grease, which allowed Rago to slip out of his opponents' pins and easily win all of his matches, which is supposedly how he was able to defeat Presley when they were seven years old. Lex and Munchy stop this by secretly stealing the grease from Rago's mother before the match begins. Rago is forced to prove to his mother he can beat Presley on his own as the match starts, but Presley defeats him fair and square.
  • Victorious: In "The Hambone King", Robbie loses a hambone match to Tori's old rival Jarold, and Tori helps him train for a rematch. But despite his efforts, he still loses; Tori then realizes Jarold cheated at the match because his friend Merl threw a piece of Sushi in Robbie's face, messing up his rhythm. Tori then takes Robbie's place in a third match, and when Jarold tries to cheat again, Tori manages to eat the sushi thrown at her, and Jarold loses, granting Tori the victory.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Before their match at Backlash 2000, The Rock has the odds stacked against him. Not only was Triple H the WWF Champion, but Vince McMahon had ordered a referee in HHH's pocket to oversee the contest. The Rock made "the promise of the promise" that he would still win anyway. And thanks to the timely intervention of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin cleaning house with a steel chair, Linda McMahon intervening to play fair, and formerly-fired ref Earl Hebner doing the count instead, Rock managed to defeat HHH and win the title.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins: Learning the dueling specialization from the pirate Isabela requires beating her in a game of Wicked Grace. However, she cheats. Unless your own Cunning skill is high enough for your character to realize it, Isabela is unbeatable. The only way to beat her without that high Cunning score is to have Leliana or Zevran in your party and listen to them when they tell you what to do. Unlike many examples of this trope, Isabela is impressed if you beat her by cheating and complements your skill at being able to do so without her realizing it
    • Dragon Age II: Hawke can overhear a conversation between Isabela (who has been promoted to party member) and Merrill; when Merrill asks why Isabela wins at Wicked Grace all the time, Isabela replies "Because I cheat, Kitten."
    • Inverted in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The player can choose to play a game of chess against Cullen. If you take the option to cheat, Cullen beats you anyways, remarking that his other opponents also cheated. Taking the "play fair" option is the only way you can win.
  • In Disc 1 of The Legend of Dragoon, Dart decides to celebrate a major victory over Sandora by participating in the Hero Competition, only for his first match to pit him against Gorgaga, a known scumbag. Gorgaga proves as much when he hits Dart with a poison attack, in a blatant violation of the competition's rules. It's the only trick up his sleeve though, so you're free to either cure yourself or tough out the poison damage, and beat the tar out of the cheater. If you happen to lose, Gorgaga gets disqualified for breaking the rules and Dart proceeds to the next round anyway. Another opponent Dart faces in a later round is also mentioned to have been using poison-tipped arrows, and is also disqualified for it if Dart loses.
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005): Razor, the top of the Blacklist, beats you in the race at the start of the game by cutting your gas line and takes your prized car as his. After working your way up the ranks, you take him on once more where he clearly think he has the edge in your car and he can smoke you easily in a fair race. To say the least, he's not pleased when you manage to beat him and pay him back for his earlier stunt.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Apollo manages to take down a prosecutor who has enough sway to just change the law on the spot. Queen Ga'ran not only threatens Apollo with death, but she starts changing the law every time he exposes her lies and culpability in murder. Apollo insists on continuing anyway, and eventually proves that Ga'ran has no claim to the throne, which she can do nothing about.

    Western Animation 
  • Central Park: In "Down to the Underwire", when Bitsy attempts to buy Paige's newspaper from owner Roberta McCullough, Roberta reveals she remembers Bitsy from childhood as the girl who tripped her during a big race, causing Roberta to get last place. They decide to stage a rematch in the office, with the paper at stake. When Bitsy attempts to pull the same trick again, Roberta manages to avoid getting tripped and win the race.
  • The Cleveland Show: The episode "Cleaveland's Angels" has Cleaveland ending up indebted to the owner of the local casino after gambling away both his own money and Roberta's college fund at the blackjack table. However, he later discovers that the owner rigs the game by planting an employee disguised as a customer who pretends to accidentally spill their drink on the player so they won't notice the dealer pull out a card to bust their winning streak. After witnessing Holt suffering the same fate, Cleveland recruits Donna, Kendra, and Arianna to get everything back, hatching a plan involving Arianna pretending to drunkenly spill her drink on the plant and ripping his pants off to make him leave before he ruins Kendra's streak, with the dealer caught in the act having no choice but to give Kendra the winning card. The owner is less than pleased with being out-conned by Cleveland's group and tries to kill them before they have a chance to escape with their winnings, but fails.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: In "Spike", Lilo and Mertle's families face off in a family quiz game where Mertle's family have been winning the first half, until Stitch finds out that Mertle's been cheating by having her friend Teresa look up answers online and feed them to her through an earpiece. Lilo stops this by having the titular experiment of the episode, Spike, "hug" Teresa since his quills make his victims temporarily lose their intelligence. Come the second round, Teresa's acting too loopy to give proper answers and leaves Mertle without any advantages, allowing Lilo's family to catch up and win in a fair contest.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: Enforced in the "Night Game" episode. A war between the forces of Good and Evil is played as a game of baseball, with the fate of a human soul on the line. The Busters go in to rescue Winston, who is playing on Team Good. At one point, the Busters note that Team Evil is cheating, and the umpire replies "Evil cheats; that's why we call them 'evil'" to the Busters. They are allowed cheat but ultimately decide against it which turns out to be a Secret Test of Character. The umpire reveals only Team Good is not allowed to cheat; if they do, then Team Good loses. Winston and Team Good still win the baseball game anyway in spite of Team Evil cheating, and the human soul, implied to be Peter's, is spared.
  • Regular Show: Rigby beats Skips at arm wrestling several times, despite being a third of his size and Skips having Super-Strength. When Skips learns Rigby cheated with "the Arm-Boy," a mechanical arm designed for arm wrestling, he's so enraged he yanks the Arm-Boy off and forces Rigby to play fair... at which Skips wins so hard he kills Rigby. He gets better after Skips arm wrestles Death for the sake of Rigby's soul, though.
  • The Rugrats episode "King Ten Pin" provides the page quote above. Grandpa Lou Pickles faces off against his old bowling rival, Billy "Strike" Maxwell, whom he's never been able to beat, all the way back to an incident when they were young men (which the audience is teased about, but doesn't get to see). Maxwell was cheating with things like bowling pins designed to stay up during Lou's turns and having a minion in the back using a spray gun to knock the phony pins down during Maxwell's turns. Once the cheating gets exposed, thanks to the Rugrats' intervention, Lou still wins fairly by bowling the game of his life.