Second Game, by Charles V de Vet and Katherine MacLean

I woke up the other morning realising that I had read - many years ago, in a hardback version from Godalming library where I spent a good deal of my childhood - a short story called Second Game which had some similarities with Player of Games.

The Goodreads link is

It has an odd history, appearing first in Astounding in 1958, then expanding into a novella published in 1981,then into a novel,and sometimes called Cosmic Checkmate. None if which I knew until some Google searching brought me to this blog...

Anyway, the story revolves around a game which is never fully described in the story, but which is highly reminiscent of chess. Humanities "Ten Thousand Worlds" have been brought to a halt by a single world in which this game governs all of society including rank in government. The human protagonist goes in to find out what's what, by posing as a master of the game, under the banner "I'll beat you the second game"... he uses the first to analyse his opponent's strategy.

I have no idea if Iain Banks ever read this story, or whether the similarities are coincidence, but it was pleasing to track it down and satisfy my nagging curiosity!


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