Let's think of games like chess or go, where everyone can see everything, but also games like uno where it's hard to predict what color or value the person has with one card. Can you bluff here? According to the definition

.. an attempt to deceive someone into believing that one can or is going to do something.

it would be generally yes, but how can you bluff in e.g. chess? Would a move showing you are skilled, while you're not, be a bluff?

The definition just fits to every 'intention', so according to it.

.. try to deceive someone as to one's abilities or intentions.

If the definition tells, that every move is a bluff, answer the opposite, is it possible not to bluff in a game?

  • Bluffing in these games seems possible whenever move A is usually followed by move B, but suddenly it's not. If such sequences exist, I assume deviating from them leads to a loss/worse standing than no bluff at all.
    – npst
    Aug 15, 2019 at 11:11
  • I'll rephrase, can you bluff in open information game? What do you mean by moves A and B?
    – Someone
    Aug 15, 2019 at 11:49
  • I'm not good at Go, but assume you see your opponent making some move (A) to apparently grab a corner soon. The actual grabbing of a corner would be the move B. Preparing to grab a corner and not doing so might be considered a bluff.
    – npst
    Aug 15, 2019 at 12:03
  • 1
    Then again, the difference between a bluff and bad play could be intent.
    – npst
    Aug 15, 2019 at 12:04
  • 1
    In chess, this is usually called a swindle
    – shadow
    Aug 15, 2019 at 13:48

5 Answers 5


Bluff (verb):
1. Try to deceive someone as to one's abilities or intentions.

I like this definition because it speaks to the two different kinds of bluffing - abilities and intentions.

In poker, bluffing is focused on deceiving your opponents about your abilities - that is, how many different hands your hand of cards is capable of beating.

In chess, this sort of bluff is not possible, because all information about your possible decision space is public knowledge. Instead, bluffing in chess is about deceiving your opponent about your intentions. Tricking them into defending against a pawn advance in a way that leaves them vulnerable to an attack by the your knights, that sort of thing.

That said, there is some overlap in both games. Concealing your abilities in poker goes hand in hand with concealing your intentions, since your intentions are shaped by what your abilities are. And in chess you can try to conceal your skill level, creating traps that your opponents are more likely to fall for because they assume that your move was an error or mistake on your part and thus don't look as carefully for the hook hidden in the bait. But the primary forms of bluffing for the two games are distinct.


Yes, it's possible. Basically you play something that objectively is inferior, but because of the specifics of the position/time control, can still bluff the opponent into responding in even worse manner. Here's a vivid story about it from another forum:

Bluffing is probably easier OTB than on-line. OTB I have done it quite succesfully. E.g. to bring the opponent in time trouble. I was once playing against an opponent that totally outplayed me, but needed to think twice as long as me to do that. We were playing 2hr/40 moves, and he had only 15 min left for the last 15 moves before the time control. Unfortunately at that point he was already an exchange ahead, and was attacking a pawn that I could only keep by retracting my queen deep into my own camp, abandoning all hope to attack. There wouldn't be anything left for him to think about, so 1min/move would not be a problem...

So unconventional methods were needed. I decided to abandon the pawn, moving my queen to a very active location, so that the opponent had to worry about perpetuals. (He had some open file next to his King.) After a few minutes of analysis I could see that it would come to nothing, it was a pure bluff. But I just spend 30 minutes feigning utterly deep thought, with my head in my hands, just on that single move... Of course the opponent knew he was in time trouble, and tried to ponder as much as he could in my time. And he did not know in advance that this would be 30 min, so he iterated and iterated through all moves. Always immediately rejecting the one I intended to play as a non-sensical blundering away of a pawn.

After 30 min, I did the move he had not expected, delivering a severe blow to his confidence, as by that time he was 100% convinced that whatever I moved, he would be able to play the next 3 moves instantly. While I did lean back in my chair with a smile of utter confidence. I had thought so long about the move that he could not imagine there it was as poor as it looked. So he wanted to refute that move by taking the pawn, but only after he discovered what the hidden threat was that he was supposed to fall for. Naturally that took him quite some time, as there was nothing to discover. After 6 min, he came to that conclusion, and took the Pawn.

Now he was exchange + pawn ahead, but had to play 14 moves in 9 min. And my queen was still active. And he thought that I was an idiot, giving away a pawn for nothing. So he became a little over-confident, and put his rook on an unprotected square. Check, check, check, rook... Before the 40th move he was minor vs pawn behind! He just made the time control, and resigned quite angrily after that.

That is how it is done.

Here is another article with an example of Tal bluffing Fischer (the Qi Jingxuan-Miles game at the end is an even better example), and another one with Kasparov bluffing a computer.


Yes, though depending on the nature of the game and the stakes. they will have varying levels of usefulness.

Sandbagging is a term for pretending to be weak, or purposefully imposing limitations on yourself for some gain.

2d : to conceal or misrepresent one's true position, potential, or intent especially in order to take advantage of

By the 1940s, [sandbagging] was being used of a strategy in which a poker player with a good hand bets weakly, in order to draw other players into holding on to their hands and raising the bet. The use of sandbag has since evolved to refer to a general strategy of playing down one's position in order to gain some sort of advantage.

Source: Merriam-Webster

It could be useful to take advantage of 'Rubber-Banding': a mechanic where last place players are given an advantage in later rounds to bring all players close to even. If you intentionally score last place for the additional advantage, but secretly have a strong 'hand', you can take advantage of both your strong hand and the advantage, and ideally make up the intentional hit you took. The phrase typically applies to a type of mechanic in video games, but there are board games that have this style of bringing back losing players as well.

Sandbagging can also be useful in multiplayer games where players can expend resources to stop an opponent from winning. (The card game Munchkin comes to mind). By being continuously in second, you allow the first placer to draw out your opponents' resources that stop them from winning. Then, with many of their resources depleted, you make your winning move much harder to stop.

Hustling is another term that might be relevant.

d : to lure less skillful players into competing against oneself at (a gambling game)

Source: Also M-W

This refers more to the social engineering aspect of attempting to appear bad, so that players will play against you (or bet more) and then taking advantage of their perception of your skill.

In your description, it would be impossible to intentionally pull off

a move showing you are skilled, while you're not

That would require you to be good enough to be aware that the move is optimal and know generally how the opponent would react, and yet not be skilled enough to intentionally have made that move. That being said if you make this move from luck or a stroke of genius and realize how good it is and that it might lead your opponent into overestimating your skill, you might pretend it was intentional.

Finally, there is a term in multiplayer games with hidden information (such as cards in hand) called pillow forting. The political strategy is to convince your opponents that the cards in your hand are so strong, that any attempt to unseat you will fail and only expend their own resources, with the hopes that they will attack another opponent. (I've only heard this term in reference to Magic: The Gathering, where it is a decently common strategy.)

Generally speaking in strategy games, it is better to pretend to be bad than it is to pretend to be good. If your opponent believes you are good or have a strong advantage, they are more likely to play hard and make fewer mistakes. If they believe you are bad, they may get greedy, become complacent in their lead, and so on.


Many, many years ago, I was a member of chess club. One evening I was playing one of the more senior members, supposedly a higher level playes than I was. Due to a blunder I lost my queen against one of his rooks. Normally this would imply resigning, but I didn't. This irritated him perceptably, so I decided to "hang in there" and continue. Then, a couple of moves further on, he made a big mistake and I managed to play the game to a draw. You could say I bluffed after losing my queen. It certainly made my opponent a little angry, causing him to lose his focus and make a mistake. So yes, given that bluffing assumes triggering a weakness in the opponent, yes, it can be done in chess.

  • This clearly isn't a bluff. You just messed up and got lucky that the opponent made one as well.
    – Nij
    Aug 17, 2019 at 4:47

It's (allegedly) possible to ambiguously make an offer of a draw, but then recant if the other player accepts. Perhaps by muttering something like "I can't believe I almost offered a draw earlier".

This sort of thing is fundamentally deceptive, which encourages me to categorize it as 'bluffing'.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .