play one against another

play one against another

To manipulate two opposing sides of an argument, conflict, competition, etc., against one another for one's own benefit or advantage. My father and my uncle are engaged in a bitter business rivalry. If I can play one against another, I might be able to secure some sizeable investments for my own company. Janet really dislikes Mary and wants to date her boyfriend Mike, so she's been playing one against another to get them to break up.
See also: another, one, play
References in periodicals archive ?
Sometimes agents play one against another and I don't want to get involved in any of that nonsense either."
Although Stone slips into a verbal shorthand that makes Eastern Europe seem to be a unified actor, these divisions permitted the Soviet Union to play one against another. Much of the bargaining between the Soviet Union and individual satellite states that Stone studies may have been competition among the East Europeans for the all-valuable Soviet subsidy.