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"For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."
Sun Tzu

Fights aren't always won with guns or swords: outsmarting your opponent can be just as effective. Battling this way also saves resources—especially if it's a Combat by Champion of the highest-ranking members of each side. Even if not, it's easier to recover from almost being outsmarted and getting your pride wounded than almost getting outfought and getting your leg wounded. And some play it well enough to never get wounded in the first place.

A staple tactic of the Chessmaster, the Guile Hero and the Manipulative Bastard alike. One way for the Insufferable Genius to prove himself. The Super-Trope to both Batman Gambit and Xanatos Gambit. Losers are Out-Gambitted. Winners are often Badass Pacifists. If both combatants are particularly brilliant, can easily descend/ascend into Gambit Roulette or Xanatos Speed Chess.

Examples of Battle of Wits include:

Anime & Manga

  • The Final Battle of Code Geass R2 takes place on many levels (including large-scale army maneuvers and one-on-one duels) but the most important is the battle of wits between Lelouch and his brother Schneizel.
  • Any fight in Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure. Raw power is great and all, but the truly dangerous Stand users are the ones who use weak or peculiar abilities to devastating effect.
  • Any fight in Yu Yu Hakusho
  • Liar Game's whole plot is a battle of wits par excellence.
  • Death Note had this as its entire focus. Well, that and Light doing cartwheels off the slippery slope...
  • Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children sets up a battle of wits between Rufus Shinra and Kadaj. Kadaj believes Rufus to have recovered the remains of Jenova and to be hiding them somewhere, whereas he claims them to have been lost. The two keep hanging out exchanging quips and platitudes in a way that definitely suggests there is supposed to be a battle of wits going on, but they don't actually do much beyond that. Meanwhile, Kadaj's gang's brilliant plan to find Jenova consists of running around causing random trouble like the superpowered juvenile delinquents they are. In the end, Rufus reveals that he's been sitting with the remains of Jenova hidden on his wheelchair the whole time.

Comic Books

  • Subverted with the Trial of Head, Hand and Heart in Elf Quest. Rayek's solution to the Trial of Head is clearly smarter than Cutter's, but Cutter wins by luck. Rayek justifiably complains, but Savah, who's officiating, lets it slide because she knows the upcoming Trial of Heart will be more decisive.
  • Spider-Man's favorite tactic for dealing with foes stronger than him.

Fan Fics

  • Surprisingly enough, most of the battles in the Tamers Forever Series are quite strategic in nature. The most prominent example would have to be the battle between Piedmon and Gallantmon. Which essentially involved Piedmon using every dirty trick he could think of and Takato adapting to and countering these moves, all while engaged in an awesome midair duel.



 before the 10th fight

Gillon: Never try and hustle a hustler, Mr. Caine!

after the 10th fight

Caine: Actually, I believe it goes: Never con a con-man. Especially one who's better than you are.




  • In Der Ring Des Nibelungen's third opera: Siegfried, Wotan (initially disguised as a wanderer) challenges the dwarf Mime to a "Battle of Wits", with the wager being the loser's head, after the dwarf refuses to give him hospitality (all of thing was actually a scheme from Wotan who needed to give Mime an important information, the mere "Battle of Wits" was too with the purpose of Mime getting the information).

Live Action Television

Newspaper Comics

  • Beetle Bailey and Sergeant Snorkel are constantly trying to outwit each other as Beetle tries to avoid work or otherwise get on Sarge's nerves.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • Bugs Bunny is the patron saint of this trope. Of course, most of his opponents come ill-equipped for a battle of wits, but are generally well-armed otherwise. Perhaps his worthiest opponent is self-proclaimed "super genius" Wile E. Coyote; in this case, Bugs uses Wile E.'s arrogance to his advantage.

Web Original

  • Grandmaster of Theft's entire series is based entirely around these, from each fight to the operations & mysteries themselves.