See also 急がば回れ
(Makeru ga kachi; “Losing is winning.”)
No, this isn’t some Orwellian doublespeak. It means that there are times when granting your opponent a win can be advantageous for you in the long run. Avoiding conflict and thus ceding a default win; using a gambit; or even surrendering can all help avoid unnecessary harm or even benefit.
This super simple saying comprises two noun phrases derived from verbs and a single particle linking them together. The particle is が (ga), which makes the link a subject-predicate kind of arrangement. The subject is the verb 負ける (makeru), “to lose” (as in losing a battle, not one’s keys), with a nominalization implied. (Note that this is not classical grammar; that would give us attributive form 負くる makuru.) The predicate, describing the subject, is 勝つ (katsu) in a more explicitly nominalized form. You can imagine a copula to make this a complete sentence if you want.
A variant on this saying hearkens back to the Thirty-Six Stratagems by replacing 負ける with 逃げる (nigeru), “to run away.” Some people apparently use the conditional verb form 負ければ (makereba) instead of the implied noun, but this is considered an error. However, replacing the particle が with topic marker は (wa) is acceptable.
This is the ま entry of the Edo iroha karuta set.
(“Rei no kyaria yakunin wa kubi ni natta ga, ippou de sore ga kare no joushi no fuhai no akashi ni naru you ni te wo mawashite oita. Ichimai uwate no mono ni koso, makeru ga kachi na no de aru.”)
[“That one career official was fired, but he set it up so that his firing became proof of his boss’ corruption. For truly skilled people, a loss really can be a win.”]