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In Game of Thrones season 2, episode 8, "The Prince of Winterfell" , Jaime Lannister says to Brienne:

There are three men in the kingdoms who might have a chance against me [in a sword fight]

Who are those three people?

I don't believe this quote, or any variation, appears in the books. There was this quote from A Storm of Swords when he is fighting Brienne:

She is stronger than I am.

The realization chilled him. Robert had been stronger than him, to be sure. The White Bull Gerold Hightower as well, in his heyday, and Ser Arthur Dayne. Amongst the living, Greatjon Umber was stronger, Strongboar of Crakehall most likely, both Cleganes for a certainty. The Mountain’s strength was like nothing human. It did not matter. With speed and skill, Jaime could beat them all.

So in the books it suggest that Jaime can beat anyone, though he is only referring to people of great strength, not necessarily of great skill (somebody such as Barristan Selmy, who is not considered to be exceptionally strong but is exceptionally skillful, may be able to beat him).

Is there any canon evidence to suggest who these three people may be?

I won't accept any purely speculative answers. However if there is no direct canon quote answering the question (which I believe to be the case) I will consider answers that are strongly inferred from canonical sources (such as a canon quote saying X is the greatest fighter in the kingdom, for example).

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    This was asked before over at Movies & TV: movies.stackexchange.com/questions/11732/… – System Down Oct 1 '14 at 22:55
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    @SystemDown I didn't see the question on the Movies SE. However I'm still going to leave my question open. People here are more likely to be experts on GoT/aSoIaF. Also I don't fully agree with your answer on the other site. Whilst it's pretty likely that Ser Barristan Selmy is on the list (hence why I mentioned him in the question) the quote that I provided states that Jaime doesn't feel that either of the Clegane brothers could beat him. – Moogle Oct 1 '14 at 23:02
  • It's throwaway remark not in the books. I wouldn't take it too seriously. I doubt Jaime is even aware of Bronn but he would certainly have a chance as would have Ned Stark. As Ser Barristan more soberly remarks, the top knights are more evenly matched than people would like to believe and contests may turn on tiny random chances. – TheMathemagician Oct 2 '14 at 15:14
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    Any of his predecessors. Alive ones: Barristan Selmy, Garlan Tyrell and probably The Viper or The Hound. This is very very very difficult to pin-down though, mainly because of Jamie's over confidence in himself. Notice how he discounts Ser Arthur Dayne (who GRRM has stated that he could probably beat Barristan, and would definitely beat Barristan if Arthur had Dawn)... There's also not enough evidence for what is going on in Jamie's head. – Möoz Feb 13 '15 at 2:04
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I'm going to have to agree with the answer they gave when this question was posed on the Movies & TV Stack Exchange: there's no way to tell. Jaime never says who the three men are, and without the benefit of his internal monologue, we'll never know for sure. The only person Jaime had ever fought at this point in the show is Ned, who is already dead.

But if we had to make a guess based on the books, I can think of a few possibilities. It's possible the screenwriter had based the line off of the section you quoted above. Of the four men who are stronger than Jaime AND currently alive, three have been depicted in the show: Greatjon Umber and the Cleganes.

Another possibility is that there are three people who are confirmed in the books to have beaten Jaime Lannister in a tourney match: Loras Tyrell on Joffrey's nameday, Jorah Mormount after the Greyjoy Rebellion, and Sandor Clegane in celebration of Ned being named Hand of the King. The only problem with this interpretation is that Mormount is not "in the kingdoms."

Another interpretation might be that Jaime is thinking of people who have beaten him, broadly speaking. In that case, Jorah Mormount could be replaced with Robb Stark, who outsmarted and captured him earlier in the war.

I guess it's worth noting that any way you slice it, Sandor Clegane makes the cut. Good for him!

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    I think the three people who beat him in tourneys are a good shout. Although were they all in combat, or in jousts? – Moogle Oct 2 '14 at 7:44
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    I agree the three who defeated Jamie in tourneys are a decent guess (IIRC it was in jousts rather than melee combat). Jamie seems like the sort of man who would remember every one of his very few defeats. I don't think it's really a problem that Jorah is no longer "in the kingdoms", since it's plausible Jamie does not know or care about Jorah's current whereabouts. – Royal Canadian Bandit Oct 2 '14 at 9:04
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    Except doesn't the OP quote include both Clegane brothers? And then ends by saying with speed and skill, Jaime could beat them all? – Misha R Feb 22 at 4:34
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Jaime mentions three men whom he considers his mentors:

"I learned from the White Bull and Barristan the Bold," Jaime snapped. "I learned from Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, who could have slain all five of you with his left hand while he was taking with a piss with the right."
ASOS: Jaime VIII

Those three are:

  1. Ser Gerold Hightower, the White Bull
  2. Ser Barristan Selmy, the Bold
  3. Ser Arthur Dayne, Sword of the Morning

But then Jaime mentions, as you noted, that he could have beaten two of them along with Cleganes, Strongboar, Robert, Great Jon:

The realization chilled him. Robert had been stronger than him, to be sure. The White Bull Gerold Hightower as well, in his heyday, and Ser Arthur Dayne. Amongst the living, Greatjon Umber was stronger, Strongboar of Crakehall most likely, both Cleganes for a certainty. The Mountain’s strength was like nothing human. It did not matter. With speed and skill, Jaime could beat them all.
ASOS: Chapter 21

He does not mention Ser Barristan Selmy. So we can assume at least one person he thinks could defeat him would be Ser Barristan. The other two are unknown. Or it could, as TheMathemagician suggests, he perhaps did not consider Selmy among those who were stronger than him and therefore did not mention him.

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    He says, "There are three men in the kingdoms who might have a chance against me" in present tense. Two of those people are dead and one isn't in the kingdom at the time (although Jaime most likely doesn't know that so Barristan is still a good option.). – Moogle Jan 10 '18 at 9:14
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    @Moogle Oh that was just to put things into perspective and point out the ones whom Jaime respects as fighters. As he suggests in the next quote, he doesn't think Gerold Hightower or Arthur Dayne could have beaten him in any case. It is an assumption, as I said, that one could be Barristan. He has never explicitly stated who are those three guys. I don't think it's Loras either, Given that Loras is a tourney knight and hasn't slain any one of note yet. – Aegon Jan 10 '18 at 9:18
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    The line preceding the quote is Jamie's realization that Brienne is stronger than him - not a better fighter - just physically stronger. To reassure himself he mentally ticks off others who are/were stronger yet who he considers beatable. The absence of Ser Barristan simply means he wasn't stronger than Jamie. – TheMathemagician Jun 8 '18 at 9:57
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I have a different idea of the men he speculates might have a chance against him, you have to think of when he says this, which is before he lost his hand and is still quite arrogant despite being captured. One surety is that one is likely Barristan the bold, who claims in the first season and book, that he would be able to kill the entire kingsguard alone, things that he does in the future make it seem like he very well could such as.

When in dance with dragons he defeats a champion gladiator that is in him prime. Which shows he still has the ability to keep up with a much younger man.

Another one I think likely isn't the mountain but rather the viper. If it wasn't for his own hubris and thirst for vengeance the viper would have easily defeated the mountain, while he does use a spear it is mentioned that the viper is also a swordsman but he prefers the spear. So it could be likely that Jaime might think the Red Viper could beat him or at least have a chance at victory, as they also know each other from childhood.

Lastly there is one more knight that he may think has a chance against him we already know he recognizes the sword of the morning Ser Arthur Dayne as one of the best if not the best swordsman to ever lived. There is also a knight by the name of Darkstar who is of the house Dayne and who is also a swordsman of great renown.

Also one more Jaime may not have considered but could perhaps beat him is Victarion Greyjoy who by all accounts is not only a brutal warrior but also a very skilled one, and after what happens to him in Dance with Dragons he would be a very formidable opponent. Also I didn't mention Loras because he might have beat Jaime jousting but Jaime implies himself that he's better with a sword than a lance, although he is still good with a lance.

The dog is also a candidate for obvious reasons but I think it likely that Jaime would have spent enough time with him to know whether or not he could beat him, or Jaime would have assumed he could. I also think Jaime would be far to arrogant to think a young knight like Loras would stand a chance against him.

Also Its likely Brienne could beat him but he says men so he's probably not including her.

  • The other answer points out that Sandor Clegane has fought him in a tournament before and won. Ser Arthur Dayne, Jaime explicitly says (well, thinks) he could have beaten. – Wlerin Oct 2 '14 at 12:50
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    Tournaments while they have multiple games usually refer to jousting as that is where all the renown and honor is. So they would have beaten him jousting not swording fighting. Also when does Jamie say he thinks he could be Ser Arthur Dayne the only quote I could find was thie "I learned from Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, who could have slain all five of you with his left hand while he was taking a piss with the right" Which is directing at Loras Tyrell, Osmund Kettleblack, Balon Swann, Meryn Trant, and Boros Blount. Remember that Loras also beat Jamie in a Tourney. – Iankill Oct 2 '14 at 13:00
  • Many jousting matches ended in sword fights. My memory of the hand's tourney is a bit rusty, though. I misread the quote about Ser Arthur Dayne, so disregard that. – Wlerin Oct 2 '14 at 13:06
  • While this is historically true, I don't remember any of the tournaments in the books or the show where this happened. Although at the end of the tournament of the hand the mountain does take out his sword and kill his horse and try to kill Loras but I don't think that was supposed to be part of the tourney haha. – Iankill Oct 2 '14 at 13:10
  • Although what you describe does happen in the Hedge Knight short story where two teams both with Targaryens on them fight it out. – Iankill Oct 2 '14 at 13:13
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Sir Arthur Dayne would own Jaime using his left hand while taking a piss with the right.

Here we should note that Jaime was an arrogant bastard and his belief have little to nothing to do with reality.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F! This appears to be a purely speculative answer, which the poster specifically didn't want. As well, the quote in the question suggests that Jaime could beat Dayne. – DavidW May 11 at 13:07

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