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Chessmasters in video games.


Examples With Chess Motifs

  • Ryuusei Cartwright of AdventureQuest subverts this trope; since "there is nothing to be gained in epic struggles", referring to his failed attempts of past, he speaks of playing metaphorical chess randomly, and seeing what happens.
  • In the final assassination mission of Assassin's Creed I, Robert de Sable reveals that Al-Mualim has been manipulating Altaïr into killing everyone who knew the secrets of the Piece of Eden, so that none could challenge him when he would use it to take over the Holy Land. In his final moments, he comments that everyone, including Altaïr and the other Templars, were just "pawns in his grand game."
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  • One of the Nod mission briefings in the original Command & Conquer has Kane, the series' quintessential Chessmaster, actually playing a game of chess while explaining the upcoming mission to the player. He even ends the briefing, and starts up the operation, with a smile and a simple "Your move."
  • Gwyndolin of Dark Souls. The guy is secretly ruling the capital city through the use of an incredibly powerful illusion. He runs his own religion/Secret Police, and he is working with an Ancient Keeper to manipulate an undead into sacrificing themselves to fuel the First Flame, which is the source of all fire and light in the world. The Furtive Pygmy might be one of these as well, though it isn't sure if he is a Chess Master or Awesome by Inactivity and dumb luck.
  • Maxwell, the antagonist of Don't Starve, complete with chessboard flooring decorating some of the game's special areas (such as his throne room) and clockwork chess piece monsters (styled after rooks, bishops, and knights) defending those special areas. He tricks unsuspecting people into making a deal with him and then traps them on his island of death, seemingly just to watch them suffer horrible and painful deaths. Over and over and over again. However, it turns out that he's a piece in an even bigger game, and he knows it. The main reason he keeps capturing survivors and egging them on is actually because he wants to have his freedom back at the cost of theirs.
    Maxwell: Even a king is bound to the board.
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  • Fallen London: The Great Game, fought with spies and moles, continues even in a cavern where death isn't permanent unless you leave. Plans are codenamed as chess moves, players are given ranks based on the chess pieces, and your Great Game talisman is a white knight piece. In truth, the game itself is one big deception, as it was revealed that the chessmasters behind the Great Game don't give a damn about the sides they fight for (holding sides of the board is important but not absolutely necessary to win chess), and their true goal is the supernatural currencies in the Bazaar's vaults (in other words, to capture the King and shake him down for cash).
  • Gaia from God of War. Everything Kratos does in the second game and the beginning of the third game was manipulated by her, in her effort to overthrow the Olympians and replace their rule with that of the Titans. She sent him to find the Sisters of Fate, kill them and use their time-powers to wound Zeus, take his Sword of Olympus, bring the Titans from the past to the present time and attack Olympus in stronger force. When Gaia though Kratos was of no use no more, she told him right out he was "a simple pawn, nothing more". In the endgame, there things have turned really ugly, Zeus told her that her "pawn had failed you (her)" and that she should had used the "other one".
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  • Sandro, the Necromancer Lich, in Heroes of Might and Magic 3 tricks several heroes into finding certain artifacts for him that help him almost conquer the whole continent, and perhaps more. And after that fails he comes up with a plan that causes the events of the original campaign.
  • Legacy of Kain has enough of these to make one think it was a required step in character design. Most notably are Moebius, the hylden, Elder God, and Kain
  • Steve Gardner and John Parker from Metal Gear: Ghost Babel. Snake comments in the ending that he plans to make them pay for playing chess with peoples lives and hearts.
  • Arcturus Mengsk from StarCraft. He plays the Confederates and Zerg off one another to put himself in charge. In the novel Liberty's Crusade he is shown as a avid chess player, complete with a chess set in his command center. Towards the end, when his plans start falling apart, the chess set gets thrown across the room, although Kerrigan does the actual kicking for him.
    • He did not subscribe to the notion of comparing war to Chess with a pretty convincing argument. Such as how war is very rarely ever fought in a scenario where both sides are evenly matched, or that there are never only ever two forces active on the board and not all of them share the same goal of capturing the King.
      Mengsk: First, the opponents are hardly ever truly even. The Confederacy of Man had Apocalypse-class missiles and my homeworld did not; the Confederacy played that card until Korhal IV was a blackened glass sphere hanging in space. Hardly even. ... Second is the idea of equal forces. The truth is that a better gun inspires a chemical counterweapon, which then inspires a telepathic strike, which then brings about an artificial intelligence guiding the weapon. The pressure of war does bring about growth, but it is never the neat, linear growth that you learn about in the classroom. Third is the idea of a level playing field. The chessboard is limited to an eight-by-eight grid. There is nothing beyond this little universe. No ninth rank. No green pieces that suddenly sweep onto the board to attack both black and white. No pawns that suddenly become bishops.
  • Umineko: When They Cry has Chess motifs all over the place, but the one who seems to be doing all the manipulation isn't the one using the chess metaphors.
  • A character called 'A Friend' in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, who sends the main character e-mail containing chess metaphors on how the plot is turning, is very likely the man behind the plot; namely the taxi driver. Fans have written everything short of academic essays on this guy.

Examples Without Chess Motifs

  • Ace Attorney:
    • Freed from the constraints of Stupidity Is the Only Option in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright becomes one of the most capable Chessmasters not only of that game, but of the entire Ace Attorney series. He manipulates every important event towards his own ends, and any major errors on his part are made only when he's being controlled by the player during the fourth case.
    • The prosecutors of the original trilogy, (excluding Winston Payne) also seem to have Chessmaster-ish qualities, Edgeworth even has a chess set in his office with a suspiciously spiky blue pawn.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations 2, the chess motif becomes literal, with Edgeworth engaging in "Logic Chess" to get people to talk. There's also a witness who is obsessed with chess, and another who plays long-distance chess with the former. The real Chessmaster of the game is the former's best friend and the latter's protege, and the one acting as courier for their games. Fittingly enough, he admits to having a certain fondness for chess, and he takes the grandmaster title for the role, masterminding every murder in the game save one and manipulating most of the cast to do his bidding.
  • In BlazBlue, we have Hazama / Yuuki Terumi. Easily one of the most powerful people in the world, Hazama has manipulated dozens if not hundreds of people into furthering his evil deeds. He even ends up outwitting an omnipotent supercomputer with three minds that runs reality. Just don't mention a certain squirrel girl to him. Honorable mentions to fellow villain Relius Clover and their opposing heroic Chessmaster, Rachel Alucard.
  • Chrono Cross has a rare example of the Chessmaster actually being a good guy. Belthasar manipulated 10,000 years of history across multiple parallel dimensions to make sure the protagonist would acquire the (eponymous) ultimate item needed to completely destroy the Big Bad.
  • City of Heroes: Lord Nemesis. Anyone who can convince you that you're a Beta Baddie deserves a nod. Take a gander at his Gambit Roulette entry if you don't believe me.
  • In Diablo II, most of the plot and background involving apparently fluctuating fortunes for all sides in the conflict between the Burning Hells, the High Heavens, and the humans in between, including significant losses for the Three Prime Evils Diablo, Mephisto and Baal along the way, turns out to have been all part of the long-term plan of the Prime Evils themselves. This trend continues in Diablo III.
  • A non-villain example is Sereph Lamington from Disgaea. His Batman Gambit was so well executed that he qualifies for this trope. Sending his most loyal angel on a false assassination mission (knowing that she'll take the change in mission he was expecting), turning the ambitions of his 2nd in command to his advantage (humans, angels, and demons had to share in it) which causes said traitor to be exposed to him (and punished). Even his battle with Laharl was part of the plan. There's a reason why he's the Seraph, and this is it. Far more intelligent than he looks.
  • There are two real chessmasters in Eien No Aselia, and in general they don't really show up until the last 15% of the game. Temuorin is the big bad and set up the whole plot and Tokimi interfered so that the game doesn't get a downer ending.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Daedric Prince Mephala, also known as the Webspinner and the Lady of Whispers, is known for her complex, long-reaching plans that are likened to spider webs. Being "the Chessmaster" falls well within her sphere of influence.
    • The giant slug-like beastmen, the Sload, view this as a societal ideal. Sload tales have their heroes sitting around for very long periods of time, consulting wiser Sload and performing subtle actions to further very long goals, while Sload villains are bold and audacious types who always rush and always lose to the hero's careful manipulations. The Sload idea of what is "right" or "wrong" tends to differ a lot from the other races.
    • Throughout the series' until his death at the start of Oblivion, Emperor Uriel Septim VII was one. His Imperial Legions were nowhere near the fighting force they once were and his Empire was only maintained through his elaborate schemes, shrewd diplomacy, and political maneuvering. His shift to a methodical politician was a stark change from his early reign, where he was more of an aggressive integrator.
    • Morrowind:
      • Azura, Daedric Prince of Dusk and Dawn and the "Lady of Prophesy", may be this...the fact that we can't be quite sure is a testament to her skill. Seen most prominently in the main plot of Morrowind, where she guides the Nerevarine into unbinding the Heart of Lorkhan, the source of Dagoth Ur and the Tribunal's divinity. While Azura takes on a highly benevolent image in helping to free the Dunmer from the threat of Dagoth Ur, the primary reason why the Nerevarine is actually sent to Vvardenfell is to undermine and destroy the Tribunal (who defied her, stole her worshipers, and may have killed her previous champion, Lord Nerevar). Actually defeating Dagoth Ur is just the good PR "icing on the cake" while she actually gets what she wants when the 4000-year reign of the Dunmeri Physical Gods is brought to an end. No matter how you play it, she ends up being the only party involved in the main quest to get everything she wants.
      • Hlaalu Helseth, who becomes king of Morrowind in between the events of Daggerfall and Morrowind, is one, along with being a Manipulative Bastard. Fail to capture the throne of Wayrest during the events of Daggerfall? He returns to his mother's homeland of Morrowind and captures the throne there. The former King Llethan is old and weak? Helseth poisons him and usurps his throne, killing Llethan's chosen heir as well in the process. Some "Nerevarine" character is making news in Vvardenfell? He sends the Dark Brotherhood to kill the Nerevarine, who he perceives as a threat to his rule. When that fails, he gets the Nerevarine to work for him. The in-game book A Game at Dinner also provides a great example, in which Helseth roots out a spy.
    • In Skyrim's Dragonborn DLC, Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of Knowledge, proves to be one. He allowed Miraak to think he could plot against him in Apocrypha, using the opportunity to secretly groom the Last Dragonborn as his replacement, and thusly allowed Miraak to become a threat that the Last Dragonborn and the Skaal couldn't ignore. Simultaneously, Miraak can't be reached by normal means, and doing so requires knowing the full Bend Will shout, the words of which only Hermaus Mora himself knows. The last of which, Mora refuses to give until the Skaal give up the knowledge he is pursuing. Everything falls exactly as Mora plans to get what he wants (and then some).
    • In Online, Mannimarco. He successfully plays Varen and the other four companions into getting the Amulet of Kings for him, allowing his Worm Cult to rise to power and kicking off the game's plot. In the same game, Meridia "uses you" (her own words) to build up an army and end the Planesmeld that Mannimarco is attempting.
  • Fable II has Theresa, who's also a Manipulative Bitch; the DLC reveals that she was the one who gave the music box to Murgo, then convinced Sparrow to buy it while manipulating Lucien to become obsessed with the spire and possibly convincing him to kill Rose and try to kill Sparrow, so she could guide Sparrow to become a hero and gather the heroes of legends to claim the spire for her own. May also constitute a Gambit Roulette.
  • In Fallout, the player can become this. By having a high Intelligence, Speech, and Luck, you can do just about anything without getting into direct fights, having others do your bidding. While Luck is not only representative of literal luck, high-Luck characters are able to tell the future and are heavily implied to have superhuman abilities. In gameplay, this usually translates to robbing casinos blind, performing brain surgery by accident, and getting in good with factions.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy X has a heroic Chessmaster tag-team of Jecht and Auron, who spend the game (and the 10 years prior to it) preparing Tidus so he'll someday kill Sin, instead of letting it get sealed back into its can.
      • One of Auron's moves in the game was getting Tidus and Yuna alone together in one of the most romantic spots in Spira long enough for the inevitable to happen, ensuring that Tidus would not allow the Grand Summoning to happen as scheduled. Bonus points for sending Kimahri along as chaperone, the only member of the party who wouldn't have stopped them.
      • On the villains' side, there is Yu Yevon and Yunalesca. The former sacrifices an entire city so that the latter can build a cycle of Senseless Sacrifice in his name.
      • Not quite as bad as the former entry, but The Maesters have a bit of this going too. The whole of Operation Mi'hen was to make the Crusaders look like they were ignoring scriptures and doctrine to strike off on their own, while in fact, the Church of Yevon was the driving force behind it all along. Hell, even if the Operation worked the group could claim credit, which turns the Operation into a Xanatos Gambit.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics was completely filled with Chessmaster-on-Chessmaster action. The Galbados Church was trying to manipulate commoner legends to set themselves up as faux-saviors in the Lion War. The church's new "Zodiac Braves" were actually the demonic Lucavi, playing the church for fools and using the bloodshed of the Lion War to revive their leader. Both Prince Larg and Goltana were using the recent death of the King to try and place their preferred puppet candidates on the throne, setting themselves up as Regent. Dycedarg was using Larg, hoping to kill him and take his place in the whole plot. And Delita was outmaneuvering them all, using the church and Goltana to set himself as the new king by marrying Ovelia (The fact that he seemed to genuinely like her was almost problematic for him), and using the protagonist to stop the Lucavi, as he couldn't deal with them personally without screwing up the rest of his plans. Delita succeeded, and every other contender was dead when the dust settled. About the only people not trying to screw everyone else like a two-dicked billygoat was the protagonist and his crew, but his actions definitely were manipulated for other peoples' gain.
    • Rufus Shinra, of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, was a very sneaky, wheelchair-bound chessmaster who, with only four hired goons and his wits about him, manages to fool Kadaj for the entire movie. While suffering from a fatal disease, no less.
      • Not as though this is his first act of such. He's been doing this for years as revealed in Before Crisis wherein he was shown to be the financial backer and chessmaster behind the second incarnation of the ecoterrorist group AVALANCHE, simply because he wanted his father out of the way. Though, the whole thing does come back to bite him on the ass with the third incarnation of the group in Final Fantasy VII proper.
      • Though, this trait runs in the family as we see in Crisis Core with Rufus' all-bastard half-brother Lazard is revealed to be effectively using both SOLDIER and the Genesis Army to play chess with himself in his efforts to topple the company. But again, it all comes back to bite him in the ass when people start investigating him too closely and he ends up a victim of the very same Send in the Clones style plot he had been orchestrating. It proves though that only by having his DNA rewritten will he ever stop being a Shinra. Which he absolutely hates being, but in trying to destroy his family, he proves how much of a Shinra he really is.
  • It's heavily implied that Miu Tenjo of Fragment's Note is indirectly responsible for every occurrence in the series. She appears to have planned out the fact that her meddling in the timestream created an irregularity, Ayame, allowing Kazuha to alter the past through her, save Kyoichi, and forge a happy ending for Yukitsuki.
  • Frozen Synapse's Charon's Palm can be seen as a chessmaster with a perhaps unique twist; it splintered itself in two to create Tactics and assist Graham Nix with his coup, creating more destruction and death of innocent and guilty lives than was necessary. Why? Because it was bored.
  • The player in this game of Galactic Civilizations 2, who ended the existence of his galaxy's then greatest military power in a single turn. When his race specialized in cultural influence and entertainment programming, and had zero military power whatsoever. Via a combo of diplomatic, financial, and cultural maneuvering that... seriously, just read it. * g* (The relevant parts are at Day 9 and 10.)
    Player: I don't care that my foreign intel reports rate you as the most powerful race in the galaxy. I don't care that I come dead last on that same list. I don't care that I couldn't even fight back if I had any gunships because of a pledge to spread peace throughout the galaxy. In fact, you know what? That's it. Your race ends this week. When I next click that 'Turn' button, you're out of the game.
    • At the end of that same game, He exploited his own cultural influence technologies and a law he passed at the beginning of the game to override the normal limitations on ship movement in order to place the final starbase he needed in order to wipe out his remaining rivals and end the game. Day 30. I cried at the beauty of the move:
      Player: I'd catapulted the slowest unit in the galaxy 600 trillion kilometers in an instant: right to the sun it was built to destroy.
    • He's come a long way since his last GalCiv II game, then. In that attempt, it took him the entire game to realize that all of his strategies and tactics were merely a sideshow to some byzantine maneuvering between the AI opponents, and the only reason he hadn't been exterminated by one faction long ago was because they knew it would allow another faction to win.
  • The ending of Ghost Trick reveals that the course of the entire game is orchestrated by Ray, who is actually Missile from an Alternate Timeline where he did not have the necessary ghost tricks to save anyone, so he goes back in time and waits for ten years for the right moment to come around again, so he could manipulate Sissel's self-interest into saving Lynne and everyone else that could be a lead in Sissel's Quest for Identity.
  • Half-Life has the G-Man, the mysterious suited man who has been shadowing Gordon Freeman since the beginning of the series. He speaks of his "employers," but it's obvious that the G-Man has been subtly influencing events since the first game and that Gordon is really just his pawn, at least until the Vortigaunts intervene in Half-Life 2: Episode 1. The real question is which side the G-Man is on.
  • Halo:
    • Gravemind displays the traits of a chessmaster throughout Halo 2 and Halo 3. Gravemind, who embodies the combined intelligence of everything ever infected by the Flood, managed milennia to turn an AI that had been specifically designed to destroy the Flood over to his side, manages to in five seconds convince the Arbiter to prevent the rings from firing, takes over the Covenant capital city, and uses the Chief and Arbiter to stop Truth from activating the Ark and destroying all life in the galaxy, just so that he could infest all life in the galaxy. When the Halo was about to fire and destroy the Flood yet again, Gravemind says that all it'll do is delay the inevitable. Halo: Silentium reveals that he's also sort of responsible for all the trouble the Ur-Didact causes from Halo 4 onward.
    • There's also the Prophet of Truth. In Halo 2 he is the epitome of the Chessmaster, going as far as to make preperations to eliminate the Sangheili without them even knowing it, kills off his two co-leaders with no mercy or regret (hahaha...), and having the Arbiter run a wild goose chase, culminating in the latter's "demise" at the hands of Tartarus. In this case, it all backfires on him pretty badly, thanks in part to the above-mentioned Gravemind.
  • Harvest December has its protagonist, Masaki, as another example. He knows just what to say and how to push his friends' buttons to get them to say or do what's in the best benefit for them rather than himself.
  • Master Li from Jade Empire. They don't call him the Glorious Strategist for nothing.
  • Virtually everyone in Organization 13 from Kingdom Hearts gets in on this, though special mention has to go to Zexion, complete with Villainous Breakdown when he Didn't See That Coming.
    • However, the undisputed king of this in Kingdom Hearts has to be Xehanort. Everything that has happened in the Kingdom Hearts saga from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep onwards can be traced back to Master Xehanort, although his future incarnations kind of drifted away from his original plan. Sheer Power Of Friendship is the only reason his plan to restart the Keyblade War didn't succeed at the Keyblade Graveyard, and after losing all his memories, he's able to continue his plans in some form thanks to Braig.
  • Ganondorf from The Legend of Zelda series tends to stay two steps ahead of Zelda and Link, even though he eventually gets defeated in the end. Some of his grand schemes include the following:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Ganondorf seeks entry into the Sacred Realm so he can claim the Triforce. The entrance is barred by a lock requiring 3 Spiritual Stones and the Ocarina of Time. He allows Link to collect the stones and knew that Zelda would entrust the ocarina to him. Using this to his advantage, he simply waits for Link to bring all of items to the Temple of Time, waits for Link to lift the Master Sword, and then waltz in to steal the Triforce right in front of him after the sword puts Link in a deep sleep. Ganondorf only obtains the Triforce of Power and he knew Zelda held the Triforce of Wisdom while Link held the Triforce of Courage. Rather than taking Link head on or endlessly search for Zelda, Ganondorf lets Link undo the corruption in the temples so that Zelda could be lured out of hiding, making her believe that Link was making progress. He is proven right and he snatches Zelda away to lure Link to him, having all 3 Triforce pieces in one place.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: Ganondorf's powers are sealed by the Master Sword and the sword needs to be removed from its shinre to restore his powers. Already knowing firsthand at what the sword can do to him, Ganondorf kills the two sages that are praying for the Master Sword, which is the source of its power. By doing so, the Master Sword would be nothing more than a normal sword. He knows Link would go and obtain the sword to strike him down with, so he lets Link go through his trials to reach the sunken Hyrule and unsheathe the sword. Ganondorf gets his power back and Link can't stop him due to the sword having no power left. Knowing that Zelda has the Triforce of Wisdom and Link has the Triforce of Courage, he lets Link go around the Great Sea obtaining the Triforce fragments and waits for him to return to Hyrule to see Zelda. Once Link does so, Ganondorf snatches Zelda away and then he successfully extracts Zelda and Link's triforce pieces to form the complete Triforce. If the King of Hyrule hadn't stepped in to make his wish to the Triforce first, Ganondorf would have succeeded in his plans.
  • Lord Fain of Lusternia. Ostracised by his fellows Gods eons ago for his questionable methods, upon his return to the First World he adopts the guise of a shadowy manipulator, using mortals and other Gods as tools to carry out his complex plans. Though progress through his service is characterized by chess motifs, it's just flattery designed to ingratiate him to his more competent followers - to Fain, everyone is a pawn.
  • Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai! refreshingly has the main protagonist, Yamato, be a Chessmaster. Touma is the 2-S equivalent and the two have a rivalry of sorts.
  • Mass Effect 2 has the leader of Cerberus, the Illusive Man, who pulls string after string to get things to go as he wants them to throughout the game. He does, however, make one flaw- he under-estimates Commander Shepard. Depending on the player's actions, Shepard can disobey the Illusive Man by blowing up a "potential resource", after which possibly telling him to "fall in line or step aside- but don't get in my way", and potentially getting Cerberus' most loyal and intelligent operative to disobey a direct order and quit in the same moment.
    • Harbinger: Sends Collector's to find and destroy Shepard. Attacks human colonies in order to build Human-Reaper, but eventually decides to use the project to lure Shepard to him. Then he leads the Reapers on a charge to the Alpha Relay, forcing Shepard to either let them through it or destroy it, killing 300,000 batarians and earning the hatred of the whole galaxy.
    • The cake must go to the Shadow Broker. He killed his master and took control of his information network. He uses that network to keep himself in power, playing rivals off against each other and controlling galactic espionage in order to prevent anyone gaining the upper hand, and thus making sure his service are no longer.
      • And he is still Out-Gambitted by his replacement, Liara T'Soni.
      • ...Who is subsequently Out-Gambitted by the Illusive Man. He knew that Liara had no hope of finding the Shadow Broker alone, so he sent her data tipping her off to the Broker's location and plans. After she dispatched and replaced the Shadow Broker, the Illusive Man recognized that the new Shadow Broker's organization was at an all time low in power from the recent coup. So he sent a small army of Cerberus soldiers to destroy her main base and splinter her organization. Liara just barely managed to escape.
      • However, Liara DID escape, with the hardware needed to maintain the network while using her base as a convenient way to take out a chunk of Cerberus troops by blowing it up.
    • The Reapers as a whole are this on a galactic scale stretching over a billion years. Using an incredibly clever Batman Gambit (mixed with unbelievable firepower and technology), they have successfully waged completely one-sided wars and harvested thousands of advanced and intelligent civilizations over the course of their existence.
  • Sigma manages to pull this off in Mega Man X4. While previously he could just infect a ton of Reploids with the Sigma Virus to build an army of Brainwashed and Crazy minions, here he instead accomplishes his goals by pulling some strings from behind the scenes to get the Maverick Hunters and Repliforce to fight each other and then allow him to get access to and commandeer the Final Weapon to try and annihilate the human race, with only 3 actual Mavericks working for him directly.
  • Revolver Ocelot of Metal Gear Solid was described in one Fan Fic as "the only person ever to successfully pull off an octuple cross". Said octuple cross must have been a pretty small operation by his standards. Actually, the worst he manages is a octuple cross, betraying Colonel Gurlucovitch, Richard Ames, James Johnson, Olga Gurlucovitch, Fortune, George Sears, the Patriots and the player himself. Let's put it this way, by the end of MGS4, you discover the entire series was about two competing chessmasters...both of them are Ocelot.
  • In Modern Warfare 2, General Shepherd sends a CIA agent, Joseph Allen, to infiltrate the terrorist cell of Vladimir Makarov. Makarov reveals he knew Allen was CIA, and kills him after a terrorist attack in a Russian airport; this leads Moscow to declare war on the US and invade the East Coast; which the US manages to repel by the skin of their teeth (and with a little help from Taskforce-141). Anyways, Shepherd is revealed to have planned this all along; after the events of the first Modern Warfare, he felt that the US public hadn't appreciated the sacrifices his men made. So by starting a war with Russia, he's a hero, and the public has rallied behind him.
  • Mortal Kombat has Quan Chi, who has manipulated virtually everyone in the series, such as taking in the form of Sub-Zero/Bi-Han and subsequently slaughtering the Shirai Ryu, leading to Hanzo Hasashi's resurrection as the hellspawned revenant Scorpion, who ultimately kills Bi-Han out of revenge, leading to that person's resurrection as Noob Saibot, to manipulating both Raiden's and Shao Kahn's sides in 9 so he could make conquest by Shinnok easier by having the latter disposed of by the Elder Gods as a consequence for violating the Mortal Kombat laws.
  • The Kimono Girls take on a role that could be described as this in Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver. I'm as surprised as you. Their actual plan is horribly vague; apparently it involves finding a kindhearted Trainer to summon Ho-oh or Lugia (depending on the game). What purpose this serves is not made clear, and the whole plan seems to be rendered a bit useless by the fact that said kindhearted Trainer proceeds to beat the crap out of the aforementioned Pokémon and, if they're feeling merciful, capture it in a tiny ball and make it their slave.
    • Darkrai from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky, who actually came up with different plans to kill the heroes over the course of the game. During the post game story, he has no less than five backup plans in place!
    • Lenora from Pokémon Black and White has this as her battle style, in the game, Anime, and Manga. In the game, defeating her first Pokémon is a no win situation, as both of her Pokémon know Retaliate, which with the STAB granted by it being a normal type move, which makes it one of the most powerful moves you'll see early in the game. In both the Anime and Manga, her battle style resolves around forcing her opponents to play into her hand. There's a reason she's considered That One Boss.
  • A somewhat odd version occurs in Sanitarium. It initially appears that the Big Bad has an incredibly elaborate plan to stop The Hero. However, it later turns out that there are two versions of the villain: one in the real world and one in a parallel world. Each was attacking the hero independently of the other, meaning that the elaborate plan was actually two simpler plans. Although both versions still fit this trope, the fact that the plan wasn't as elaborate as initially thought makes them somewhat diminished variations.
  • Hikawa from Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne manipulates people and events from the shadows, never taking any unnecessary actions and always moving towards his goal.
    • Lucifer arguably counts as well, attempting to maneuver the player into unmaking reality and spearheading Armageddon. Granted, he more or less admits this upfront and gives the player a choice in the matter. However, failing to follow his plan means the player will miss out on most of the game's backstory and some nice rewards...
  • Sonic Adventure 2: Shadow the Hedgehog allows Eggman to believe that he is gathering Emeralds as a favor for waking him from his 50 year sleep in a stasis pod, then tells Eggman he can hold the world ransom with the Eclipse Cannon on the Space Colony ARK, when really Shadow has been doing all this just so the Cannon could destroy Earth. Why? Because in SA2, Shadow the Hedgehog really, REALLY hates human beings for causing the death of his only friend/little sister Maria. So much that even when his plan fails, he is content to watch the Earth be destroyed anyways even if it's by a way that wasn't in his plan. Until Amy shows up and is able to remind him of Maria's final words to him.
  • Soul Nomad & the World Eaters has Levin/Raksha, amongst others. Those "pointless" side quests you've been doing? Not so much.
  • Spyro the Dragon: Malefor is a shining example. He's such a good example, it's hard to tell what WASN'T a part of his plan. Did he really intend to kill Spyro in the raid or did he want him alive to set him free? Did Spyro really free Cynder or did Malefor let her free so he could use her to lure Spyro to the Well of Souls to free him? And to top it all off, the Breaking Speech he gives the two when they finally confront them even has them wondering whether they'd done anything but play right into his claws.
  • StarCraft has Sarah Kerrigan. Brood Wars was Kerrigan playing her own constant Chessmaster, to the point where she was more playing a game of Gambit.
    • Both Starcraft and Brood Wars actually have several of them. The Overmind definitely counts, maybe also Dugall. Alan Shezar and Ulrezaj also count, if you take Blizzard's bonus campaigns as canon. Oh, and Duran (who also qualifies as a Magnificent Bastard).
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Knights of the Old Republic. Revan, who dazzled even the Mandalorians with his battle strategy, using feints, sacrificing non-productive targets (regardless of population), and flanks. It's even implied that Revan deliberately fell to the Dark Side to serve the greater good in a complicated Batman Gambit.
    • And then there's Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords... words do not begin to describe... First of all, she was Revan's master, and Revan may have been following her bigger plan all along. Malak becomes a Spanner in the Works? Fine. Just rig things up so one of Revan's top generals (The Exile) ends up walking into her trap. Then manipulate the hell out of Exile and Exile's entire party, brought together (and forced to stay together) by a combination of blackmail, lies, and Force bonds. The endgame? She's playing her chess game against The Force itself! She blatantly admits what she's doing, too. "no game of dejarik [StarWars's answer to chess] can be won without pawns." indeed.
    • The Sith Emperor of Star Wars: The Old Republic managed to be the Man Behind the Man for nearly all of the major events of the galaxy since the Exar Kun War, including all of the events in the Knights of the Old Republic series. He manipulated the Mandalorians into attacking Republic space leading them into the Mandalorian Wars, a devastating war which he orchestrated entirely to lead Revan to him, who he took as his apprentice and sent off to find the Star Forge. When this failed due to Malak's betrayal and Revan's subsequent redemption, he set up puppet leaders on Republic worlds on the Outer Rim, infiltrated the Jedi Order, and rigged the Mandalorian gladiator tournament to place a Sith agent as the new Mandalore. All of this was in preparation for their strike on the Republic border worlds, in which he struck while the Mandalorians (under the leadership of aforementioned Sith agent) blockaded Coruscant and disrupted Core World trade routes. At the time of the first cease-fire, his Sith Empire controlled nearly half of of the known galaxy—the closest any Sith Lord has gotten to conquering the galaxy until Emperor Palpatine himself, nearly four millenia later.
      • Whether played on the Light Side or the Dark Side, the Sith Inquisitor is not too far behind in this department; having risen from a Slave to Dark Councillor over the course of their storyline and even leading the entire Empire along with Darth Marr as of the end of Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion. Only fitting, since the class was inspired by Emperor Palpatine.
      • Expansion Knights of the Fallen Empire culminates in a play of its own. Despite the Zakuulan Empire - and its nigh-invulnerable "Eternal Fleet" - being first led by the actual Sith Emperor before events have his remaining son take the throne, the ending of the penultimate chapter brings another new leader to the fore. And it isn't Arcann's Princess Azula-esque younger sister Vaylin, either. Who it is... is SCORPIO. In the five-year time skip that punctuates Chapter One, the now-former Imperial Agent companion implants herself as the Lady Of Shadows; a secretive information broker and manipulator of the Zakuulan underworld. Realising that the player character - dubbed the Outlander after Arcann points them out as the Emperor's assassin - is at the head of a coalition resistance force, she tags along under the pretenses of offering her incredible knowledge as an ancient-tech superdroid. However, she's well aware that, in order to render Arcann vulnerable, the Alliance needs a way to either deactivate or control the Eternal Fleet. As the story continues, the Alliance learn that the Fleet's ships are controlled by GEMINI droids; which look, to all concerned, like later models of SCORPIO, albeit without the freedom of independent action. By suggesting that the Alliance abduct one of the GEMINI droids in order to forge a link to the Fleet through which they can turn it against Arcann and faking her death in the very same mission, SCORPIO manages to break away from the Outlander's group for long enough to take control of a GEMINI droid herself, use the link to inform Arcann precisely where he can find the person who both killed his father and bested him at every turn and then, while he has his back turned trying to follow through on his quest for vengeance, she literally walks into the Zakuulan throne room, sits herself down on the Eternal Throne, takes control of the whole Fleet for herself and, better yet, turn Arcann's sister Vaylin to her side in the process.
  • If you are in a Suikoden game and your last name is Silverberg, chances are you're a Chessmaster. If your name is Lucretia Merces, you are a crazy, crazy chessmaster.
  • Super Paper Mario has Dimentio. Not only did he pull all the strings behind the plan to cause the end of all worlds with a damned great Evil Plan he tried to get Mario and crew to join him by saying that he was doing the right thing for a perfect world.
  • In Super Robot Wars (in various timelines), Shu Shirakawa and Ingram Prisken often act as chessmasters, manipulating the protagonists into doing their bidding unwittingly, and with unparalleled amounts of panache (Shu has even garnered an unwanted harem in the past). Interestingly, they take to the field of battle quite often, but this is perhaps solely to show off their (incredibly cool) Humongous Mecha. Due to the crossover nature of the series, Shu and Ingram have butted heads with each other, Gendo Ikari, The Titans, Big Fire, and various other factions and have generally come out on top. They could also be considered a subversion of this trope,because they themselves are being forced to do the bidding of higher powers, and actually fall under direct control of them on several occasions. The protagonists generally end up killing them, or being unable to prevent their deaths. Ironically, after noting just before dying that he was now free of all the chains that bound him, Shu is actually brought back from the dead to resume his previous role. Perhaps proving what a magnificent bastard he is, Shu is actually -released- from his bonds upon his resurrection. Whether or not this was intentional is up in the air, but if it was, it most definitely counts as a Gambit Roulette.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl had a single-player mode named the Subspace Emissary that actually had a plot, and a good one too, about the various heroes banding together to stop the world being destroyed. In this mode it turned out that King Dedede, of all people was the one with the best plan: he protected himself by appearing to be a bad guy, created a backup reserve so that if the rest of the heroes were wiped out then there could still be some left who were ignored before but could now take up the quest and incapacitated some of the other villains as he did this. He did this with badges on a timer that could restore the defeated fighters he had collected for safekeeping in his castle back to life, so that they would be safe until the time was right and they were needed. No-one saw this coming - not even smart characters like Ganondorf. Read the above entry on Legend of Zelda, and know that Ganondorf was Out-Gambitted by this guy.
  • The Administrator from Team Fortress 2 could certainly qualify: though it's never specified why, it's clear that she's been deliberately prolonging and encouraging the conflict between RED and BLU for years.
    • Gray Mann also qualifies as one. He patiently waited over a century to solidify his power and weaken both his brothers enough, and when they are both old (to the point of dying mid-conversation occasionally) he tricks them into negotiating a truce, and then he kills them both, taking their assets. Then in order to take over Mann Co.'s Saxton Hale, he steps down from his position, makes his little daughter the CEO, then takes over Mann Co. by playing off Hale's refusal to fight a child. The most recent comics are hinting at a chess match between the Administrator and Gray Mann.
  • Touhou's Yukari Yakumo, especially evident in Touhou Bougetsushou where she pulls a Batman Gambit on Remilia Scarlet and a Kansas City Shuffle on the Lunarians in order to put the fear of the unknown into the resident Physical Goddess of Knowledge.
  • Tsukihime has, of all people, Kohaku - the cheerful and seemingly carefree maid who ends up single-handedly killing off the entire Tohno family in Hisui's True Ending (and comes close in the other paths too). She gives Akiha her blood to awaken the Tohno blood in her, as well as being responsible for the resultant insanity of the real SHIKI. On top of that, she leads Shiki into believing HE'S the one responsible for all the murders and that it won't stop until SHIKI dies. Oh, and during the final battle, she deliberately gets herself attacked knowing there's a good chance that Akiha will jump in the way and sacrifice herself to save her. All this while never letting go of that cheerful smile, even up to her eventual suicide after her revenge is complete.
  • Lord Alden in Vanguard Bandits is a literal chessmaster, being the best player on the continent and rumored to be undefeated. Then Milea beats him in her second time playing the game at all. Meanwhile big bad Faulkner, is more of the moving and controlling of wars type of Chessmaster. And he's very, very good at it.
  • This is the whole point of the text adventure Varicella, with the player competing for the role of regent with a whole slew of Chessmasters which ends up in a magnificent Gambit Pileup
  • Kil'jaeden the Deceiver from the Warcraft Universe. His motto is "There are more ways to destroy one's enemy than with an army. Sometimes those ways are better." He corrupts the race of orcs by posing as the spirits of their ancestors and makes them think the Draenei are evil and should be destroyed, because if he used his personal demon army to raid the planet the Draenei are living on, they would simply run away (or so he thought, they were actually stranded).
    • One interpretation of the events of Warcraft III is that Kil'jaeden created the Lich King knowing that it would betray Archimonde (his counterpart and co-leader of the Burning Legion), leading in Archimonde's death and Kil'jaeden becoming the absolute ruler of the demons.
    • He also managed to enslave a race of demons known for their clever trickery.
    • The Old Gods take the cake, though. First they infest the Titans' newly-created world with "the curse of flesh", causing their mechanical creations to become organic. Then they rig it so that the Titans can't actually destroy them without destroying the world alongside them, forcing them to just seal the Old Gods away. Even that doesn't do the job so well for C'thun and Yogg-Saron...which is where the players step in. In fact, the latter could be counted a Chessmaster among Chessmasters - even after being sealed away he manages to corrupt the wardens of his prison into loyal, if batshit insane, servants. When you do fight him, he takes you on a brief guided tour of the events throughout Warcraft's history he has been responsible for, including the assassination of a king and the creation of an important MacGuffin.
      • Recent developments of the Warcraft lore establish N'Zoth as the absolute king of this trope. Xal'Atath, the artifact weapon of shadow priests, states that he was the weakest of the Old Gods, yet he's the one responsible for the most of the worst things happened to this poor world. To count his known deeds: he corrupted Neltharion the Earth Warder into creating the Dragon Soul and becoming monstrosity known as the Deathwing; transformed Queen Azshara and her loyal Highbourne into the Naga, effectively seizing the Burning Legion's asset; became The Man Behind the Man for the satyr Xavius, another former Legion agent, who was controlling and spreading the Emerald Nightmare, the creation of another Old God, Yogg-Saron; because of his influence on the Black Dragonflight, the Naga and the Twilight Hammer Cult (created by yet another former Legion pawn, see the pattern?) he was maybe the one who influenced the strife between the human kingdoms (which allowed the Horde to basically steamroll some of them during the First War), all the recent problems of the rebuilt Stormwind (starting from the stonemasons guild uprising and subsequent formation of the Defias Brotherhood) and all of the events of the Cataclysm expansion. And now, when the Burning Legion invaded the Azeroth once again, he seems to be planning on using the invasion and heroes' efforts to stop it as a means in his plan to break out of his prison, and some subtle clues point out that he may be behind those events too!
    • Lich King Ner'zhul deserves special mention. He was the mastermind behind the Scourge Invasion and plotted successfully against his masters. He even succeeded to deceive his guardians, the Dreadlords... who are considered to be chessmasters themselves.
  • Grand Master of the Order, Jacques de Aldersberg in The Witcher computer game, who used crime group Salamandra along with mad wizard under his power, sparked full-scale racial war and manipulated the whole bunch of people to solidify the power of his Order - and all this just to save humanity from his vision of terrible future, which makes him into Well-Intentioned Extremist as well.
  • The World Ends with You, has around three - Joshua, who initiated the whole thing, and kept it moving whilst on the sidelines for a good portion of the game, Megumi Kitaniji, who carefully made sure that everyone was kept in the dark about his game with Joshua, whilst slowly infiltrating Shibuya with the Red-Skull pins, and finally, (possibly) Sanae Hanekoma, who popped up here and there, never letting on too much, and in the end turned out to be an Angel. This is hardly surprising, coming from a game with a Gambit Pileup.
  • Xenogears could feature a football team full of chessmasters. Just to name a few who were playing (and they were each manipulating each other): Miang, Krelian, Grahf.
  • Wilhelm in the Xenosaga series manipulates most, if not all, the protagonists and antagonists in the story in some way as well as the overarching flow of events, often by assuming leadership of companies and organizations (where all positions appear to be held by different individuals).


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