Is there a word, phrase or expression that can be used to describe the following kind of situation:

The arrangement of well placed pieces on a chess board; one guarding the other, which in turn is being guarded by another etc., forming a type of layered structure of "Where one falls, another shall take its place" scenarios. A reliable withdraw, so to speak, in case things go south.

I'm interested in a general term that can portray the perseverance of the whole, in spite of the loss of individual elements. Not much on the topic at Chess exchange, so EL&U felt like the second best option.

Looking for something more specific than strategy, and the only other thing that comes to mind is last stand. However, the latter has a note of finality to it, presents the option of not being able to endure the odds, and fails to convey the desired meaning of "outlasting" one's opponent.

I believe some examples are in order:

  1. Player A's _____ won him the game.

  2. If it wasn't for the commanding officer's ______, the mission would have gone FUBAR

  • 1
    "Bash on regardless!"
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 17:05
  • 1
    Isn't it perseverance already?
    – ermanen
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 18:16
  • Integrity comes to mind also but it doesn't fit to your examples.
    – ermanen
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 18:36
  • I appreciate the input, colleagues. @Kris, +1 for bash on. Almost fits the bill, although it does have an offensive ring to it. Do you happen to have something a bit more on the defensive side up your sleeve? Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 19:11
  • 2
    @SycamoreRockwell: I still think "perseverance" fits to your examples. [OD definition: Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success] Can you explain why it doesn't fit? Also, when I consider your question as a whole and not only your examples, I think integrity captures the idea. Can you check this link for example: plato.stanford.edu/entries/integrity
    – ermanen
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 21:05

6 Answers 6


The phrase defense in depth (1,2) is somewhat related to the concept outlined in the question. As noted in wikipedia,

Defense in Depth ... is an information assurance concept in which multiple layers of security controls (defense) are placed throughout an information technology system. Its intent is to provide redundancy in the event a security control fails or a vulnerability is exploited that can cover aspects of personnel, procedural, technical and physical for the duration of the system's life cycle. [1]

Defence in depth (also known as deep or elastic defence) is a military strategy that seeks to delay rather than prevent the advance of an attacker, buying time and causing additional casualties by yielding space. Rather than defeating an attacker with a single, strong defensive line, defence in depth relies on the tendency of an attack to lose momentum over a period of time or as it covers a larger area. ... The idea of defence in depth is now widely used to describe multi-layered or redundant protections for non-military situations, both tactical and strategic. [2]

Note that terms redundancy and multi-layered, used in the above descriptions, can be used as adjectives suggesting the concept outlined in the question. Terms deep defense and elastic defense also are relevant.

  • You had me at redundancy and multi-layered. +1 Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 7:20

The strategy described works because the player has set up multiple defenses at the same time. Therefore, I'd fill in your sentences with:

Player A's layered defenses won him the game.
If it wasn't for the commanding officer's layers of defense, the mission would have gone FUBAR.

  • Thank you @Carolyn! Hits the spot. FUBAR the site only allows for 1 accepted answer per question. Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 7:26

Two words immediately sprang to mind. The first was resilience. A word which, for me, describes the ability and determination to get back up again and again after being knocked down.

For your examples;

  1. Player A's resilience won him the game.
  2. If it wasn't for the commanding officer's resilience, the mission would have gone FUBAR

Resilience - The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness:


Another word which is used frequently in martial arts is indomitable, often referred to as an indomitable spirit. It describes an endless tenacity to win.

indomitable - Impossible to subdue or defeat


  • Thanks @Alo! Keep in mind that sheer force and/or simple endurance isn't going to cut it in this case. The resulting word/phrase/expression must touch on both the fortitude to overcome, as well as on the intellectual potential needed to outsmart the opposing side. So far strategy and @Kris's bash on regardless is the closest thing I've got to forming a concise solution. Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 19:24
  • 1
    @SycamoreRockwell That's interesting because to me resilience does suggest a mental toughness as well as physical strength. Whilst I may be fighting a losing battle here (ahem!) I did consider 'tenacity' but it may not be forceful enough.
    – Alo
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 19:40

You can say:

We may have lost the battle, but we'll still win the war.


Another word is tenacity, regarding tenacious, which tends to imply "stickiness" but is commonly used to address perseverance through struggle, in a sense of stick-to-itiveness.

  1. Player A's tenacity won him the game.
  2. If it wasn't for the commanding officer's tenacity, the mission would have gone FUBAR

Grit may convey your intended meaning:

Courage and resolve; strength of character

Connoting a resilience of spirit more than victory through sheer brute force, it describes an individual of relentless determination and who has the ability to simply hold on and endure, and so I would say certainly convey your desired meaning of 'outlasting an opponent'.

  1. Player A's grit won him the game.
  2. If it wasn't for the commanding officer's grit, the mission would have gone FUBAR

It does, however, lack finesse, as this meaning is an illustration base upon, I suppose, the enduring properties of dirt.

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