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"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. The foe is surely doomed. However, the foe has set up a superior plan, one that makes the first plan look pathetic. In short, the first plan has been Out-Gambitted.

This trope specifically has three parts:

  1. Alice makes Plan A.
  2. Bob makes Plan B in response.
  3. Plan A goes down in flames.

Or alternatively:

  1. Bob makes Plan B in anticipation of Alice making plan A.
  2. Alice makes Plan A.
  3. Plan A goes down in flames.

This is one of the reasons why the Unspoken Plan Guarantee works.

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, Last Plan Standing, Touché (graciously admitting you were beaten), Xanatos Speed Chess.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animation 
  • The main plot of The Bad Guys (2022) is Wolf trying to con a philantrophist into thinking he and his gang are willing to go through rehabilitation to escape jail time. Eventually, Wolf enjoys doing good things, but as it turns out it was all a ruse of the philantrophist from the start in order for them to be the fall guys of his master plan.
  • Cars: Lightning attempts to escape Radiator Springs after Mater removes the parking boot, only to immediately run out of gas after a few miles. Furthermore, the Sheriff and Sally are waiting for him right where they predicted he’d be forced to stop in order to bring him back to town.
    Sheriff: Boy, we ain’t as dumb as you think we are.
    Lightning: B-B-But-But...H-H-H-How-How did...?
    Sally: We siphoned your gas while you were passed out. Kachow.
  • In Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, this occurs with Miles and the Big Bad in the movie's climax. Specifically, it's how Miles is able to escape Miguel and the Spider-Society's chase after him in the end, after luring enough of them on the Space Elevator in Earth-928 and getting them high enough, Miles makes a break for it at the last possible moment, allowing him to opportunity to cut off his pursuers altogether. Then, he uses his Venom Sting to absorb energy from Miguel's suit, blasting Miguel away from Miles and allowing him to escape without detection. And all of that was just so he could lure them all away from their home base, get to the Go-Home Machine, and use it to transport himself back to his own dimension. Peter B. Parker and Gwen both even commend Miles for pulling off what they thought was an Indy Ploy, but was actually a rather clever Batman Gambit.
  • This is how the Big Bad of Zootopia gets taken down; Bellwether traps Judy and Nick in a pit then darts the latter with a Night Howler pellet, intending him to turn savage and kill Judy. Bellwether calls the ZPD reporting a savage fox and an officer down. While waiting for them to arrive, she intends to watch the gruesome death all the while carrying on her Evil Gloating. This backfires on her massively as it turns out Judy and Nick anticipated this and replaced the pellet with blueberries. While Nick faked going savage, Judy used her carrot pen recorder to capture Bellwether's gloating leading to an Engineered Public Confession. By the time Bellwether realizes she's been tricked, the ZPD are behind her and blocking off all means of escape, catching her red-handed leading to her arrest and the end of The Conspiracy.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • At IWA Mid-South No Retreat...No Surrender, January 21, 2006, Chris Hero faced Garbage Wrestler Necro Butcher in a "European Rules" match, with the stipulation that if Necro survived both rounds Hero would have to face him in a Barroom Brawl. Hero imposed tons of rules on the premise that there would be no way for Necro to keep up with them. Instead, Necro managed to fight Hero to a 1:1 draw (Hero won Round 4, Necro won Round 5), meaning that Hero found himself in the situation he did not want to be in, a Barroom Brawl against Necro Butcher. Butcher won, of course.
  • CHIKARA, 2009-2010: UltraMantis Black, by Ares, who had Tim Donst pose as Vökoder to retrieve the Eye of Tyr from Mantis, and then used the Eye to have Delirious injure Crossbones and destroy Mantis' Order of the Neo-Solar Temple.
  • The Miz suffered this fate at the hands of Montel Vontavious Porter and Bobby Lashley. After months of threatening to use the Money in the Bank briefcase to cash in on Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship only to be brushed off as a joke, including one failed mid-match attempt that was later negated on a technicality, Miz found his chance when he made a deal with MVP to have Bobby Lashley soften Drew up before Miz cashed in following his Elimination Chamber 2021 title defense. Unfortunately, the terms of this arrangement involved Lashley getting the first crack at the championship, a fact MVP reminded Miz of as soon as he started to get out of hand with his Evil Gloating the next night on Raw. Miz attempted various antics to stall for time, which only bought him until the main event of the following week, by which point Lashley was primed to tear him apart. Even Shane McMahon was sick of his B.S. and forced him to either face Lashley in a lumberjack match or forfeit the championship. Inevitably, Lashley tore the championship away from Miz in an absolute Squash Match, with Miz's best efforts resulting in one of the most ineffectual and the most cowardly world championship reign in WWE history—eight days long with an 0-3 record and not a single bit of successful offense hit as champion. While Miz did marginally better in his rematch a week after that, his time as champ was done, he had no Money in the Bank, and his credibility as even a challenger going forward was completely shot, while The Hurt Business had taken control of the title scene on Monday Night Raw.
  • Happened to Stephanie McMahon on the March 19, 2001 WWE Raw. Commissioner William Regal issued a restraining order to The Undertaker in her name. However, it didn't say anything about Kane, so Taker sent Kane after her. Kane was shown pressing Stephanienote  above his head. Taker told Regal to give Kane what he wanted, which was a match with Big Show at WrestleMania X-7, and that he, Taker, wanted a match with Triple H. Regal agreed.
  • Happened to HHH himself a few times.

  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (The Musical). Same as the film.
    Lawrence: Yes Freddy, isn't she wonderful!
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The final case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney reveals that Kristoph Gavin set up a long Gambit involving poisoning a painter via postage stamp and his daughter via nail polish after using the two of them to take revenge on Phoenix. But, Phoenix Wright set up an even greater Gambit that overhauled the entire legal system of the country just to catch Kristoph.
    • This happens in case 4 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies to Yuri Cosmos, who was given a bomb threat by the Phantom to stop the HAT-2 launch. When the government wouldn't cancel the launch, Yuri took matters into his own hands by switching Launch Pad 1 with the Space Museum (formerly Launch Pad 2) and having Clay Terran drug Sol Starbuck with his own anxiety pills to keep him none the wiser. However, the Phantom wiretapped his phone and used this information to kill Clay and escape.
    • In the final case of the The Great Ace Attorney duology, Lord Stronghart tries to use the argument that public order would break down if his crimes were to be known. However, Herlock Sholmes had already anticipated this and used a transmitter to let Her Majesty, Queen Victoria herself, know everything that was revealed in the trial. The Queen then proceeds to strip Lord Stronghart of his position as Lord Chief Justice and decrees that he will be prosecuted in a public trial to ensure that he will not be able to cover up what he has done.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: Miu convinces everyone to go into her virtual reality simulation, assuring them she has gotten rid of weapons. In reality, she also edited and added several settings, designating her avatar an object, and thus unable to be broken, creating a wall only objects could pass through, and making it so Kokichi's avatar could be paralyzed by her, in order to kill him. Kokichi quickly catches on but agrees to enter and forms his own scheme. Knowing Miu would make it impossible for him to kill her, Kokichi shows Gonta a flashback light, convincing him to murder Miu to mercy kill everyone at the ensuring trial. When the inventor calls Kokichi to the roof, Gonta appears and strangles her with a roll of toilet paper. This act shatters any respect the remaining students had for Kokichi.
  • In Double Homework, Dr. Mosely/Zeta does this to Dennis after he blackmails her into doing his bidding, and using her resources to help him sleep with all the girls in the summer school class. She buys time by convincing him that he has a mind-control device, and then, when he is otherwise occupied, she has her Cleanup Crew destroy all the incriminating evidence that he has stored in his apartment.
  • In Silver Crisis, the titular Silver does this to Ganondorf, having fully intended to betray him from the beginning, and doing the research to figure out how to defeat him. He bluffs Ganondorf into allowing him to go through with his plan, knowing that Ganon needs his help in order to achieve the power of a God and become unstoppable. During the final battle, he takes Din’s Aura from Ness himself, who she was residing in, angering Ganondorf, and causing him to attack Silver. But Silver then lands a fatal blow on him with a Silver Arrow he had hidden, absorbing his Aura for himself and becoming the “Ultimate Life Form”, in his own words.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "stupid stuff", Strong Bad makes a bet with e-mailer Kevin Grumbles (Pronounced with actual grumbling sounds) that he can get Homestar to say something smart in order to win some "grumblecakes." Turns out that Homestar had made a bet with Kevin (grumbles) that he could make Strong Bad say something stupid (which he does in an attempt to make Homestar sound smarter) and claims the grumblecakes for himself.
    Strong Bad: I'LL GET YOU, KEVIN (grumbles)!!!
  • RWBY
    • Cinder gets spectacularly outwitted in "Vault of the Spring Maiden". Cinder had already figured out that Raven Branwen had planned on double-crossing her to keep the holder of the Spring Maiden powers, Vernal, away from her. With the trio away from everyone else, Cinder makes her move, freezes Raven, then gloats about how pathetic a leader she is as she uses her Grimm arm to gut Vernal and steal her powers. To Cinder's horror, it's not there. Raven breaks free and reveals herself to have been the real Spring Maiden; Vernal was just a decoy.
    • Ironwood equally gets spectacularly outwitted in "Creation". Ironwood had Team RWBY and JNPR on the ropes as he threatened to destroy Mantle should they not return Penny to him. Even Ruby, ever the eternal optimist, suffers a Heroic BSoD because she can't figure out a way out of this. Unknowing to Ironwood, though, three things happened: Emerald pulled a Heel–Face Turn and joined our heroes, Marrow and Winter did the same, realizing how unhinged Ironwood was, and Qrow and Robyn were still free. When the latter four meet, they're able to come up with a plan to defeat Ironwood and the remaining Ace-Ops.

  • Chainsawsuit presents: double sting. Dateline tries To Catch A Predator. Meanwhile, a fan tries to see live Stone Phillips.
  • 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 El Goonish Shive, Sirleck planned to possess Magus as soon as he got his new body but Magus saw it coming and kills Sirleck as a result.
  • 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.
    • Rose gets Out-Gambitted big time by Doc Scratch. She knew that she was an Unwitting Pawn from the beginning, though never knew to what extent she was being controlled. This becomes symbolic when you consider her Aspect, Light, and her class, Seer, and how she was manipulated by creatures of the Void to do their bidding.
  • Joe vs. Elan School: Whenever an inmate thinks they've outsmarted the titular abusive school, it already has a solution in place, which Joe notes is because the school has decades of experience under its belt. Want to escape? The other students will stop you. Want to escape at night? There are frequent bed checks. Make an attempt in between bed checks? There are guards in the woods. Don't want to be Elan's champion in the Ring because your parents wouldn't want it? Ron has already called your parents to tell them some bullshit and they are fine with it.
  • The basis of this Penny Arcade strip.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • In the "Barsoom Command" arc, Schlock has discovered that the mission he is on was nothing but a trap to trick them into drawing one of their allies, the AI Lunesby, out of hiding. The trap has been sprung, Lunesby is in danger, most of Schlock's team has been arrested, and he's not far behind. Right when the bad guys are about to finish sweeping everything under the rug, they realize that Lunesby has already escaped; a few days previously Schlock hired an old enemy to contact some new friends, and they completed the mission while the bad guys were distracted containing Schlock and his team.
    • In the "Big Can of Sky" arc, Tagii manages to slip a message past Ennesby to another AI. The awesome part is that Tagii was a partition in Ennesby's brain at the time; it was literally impossible for her to be smarter than him, but she outsmarted him anyway.
  • 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.

    Web Videos 
  • Critical Role: In campaign 2, the Mighty Nein encounter Isharnai, a hag who feeds on misery, who put a curse on Nott, transforming her into a goblin and causing any spells that would turn her back into a halfling to fail. For Isharnai to lift the curse, she demands one of the other Nein give her something that would cause them greater misery. When it's Jester's turn to enter the hut, she offers Isharnai her hands (since she's an artist who worships her deity through the medium of painting), and only requests that she be able to eat one last cupcake before losing them. She then splits the cupcake in half to share it with Isharnai... and once the hag has eaten it, reveals that she sprinkled the Dust of Deliciousness (a joke item from 60 episodes prior that makes things taste much better and gives disadvantage to Wisdom saving throws) onto it beforehand. She proceeds to cast Modify Memory on Isharnai, making her believe that Jester was such good company that she agreed to lift Nott's curse for free. Out of game, Matt tells Laura how proud he is of her for pulling that off, and in the campaign wrapup, he reveals that Isharnai eventually shook off the Modify Memory spell, but was so genuinely impressed by Jester outwitting her that she chose to let it go.
    Matt: As a Dungeon Master, that was one of the more frustrating moments, like, as a person that's built to an intense, like, encounter like this... and one of the most proud I've been of a player outsmarting me.
  • 5 Second Films shows why you never switch a switcher.
  • Mr. Gibbs: In "Mr. Meseeks Hide and Seek", Brock tells Ledger he is hiding in cFNf, with the intent to blow him up upon entry. Ledger outsmarts this by putting a camera into cFNf first and seeing the bomb wall inside, only for Brock to outsmart this by shooting Ledger dead while he is distracted with the camera.
  • 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...

Alternative Title(s): Vizzini Gambit, Gambit Loses To Better Gambit, Out Gambit


Fake Moustache

The hero has disguised himself to expose a gang of con-men in the bazaar. However, the seasoned con-men turn the tables on him.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / OutGambitted

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