The Chessplayers
by Charles L. Harness

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1953

collected in —
The Rose
An Ornament to His Profession

November 2008

Chess above all

There is a small, select group of stories dealing with chess, some of them science fiction or fantasy; and a small, select group of chess-fancying readers who seek them out.

Additionally, there is a fortunately-small and none-too-select group of stories dealing more or less principally with rats; and (I presume) a hopefully smaller and one-would-wish fastidious group of fans who admit to enjoyment when they happen upon such stories accidentally, if well-done.

"The Chessplayers" by Charles L. Harness is a neat little short story of a chess club that runs across a refugee professor who claims he has a chess-playing rat. Trained it himself. Now here we're in a very small intersection of two small groups: non-humans who can play chess, rats being a subset of the non-humans. (My aircat, Arahant, plays chess of course, and very well, thank you.)

Does one need to be a chess fanatic to like "The Chessplayers", or at least a chess player to understand it? Definitely not; although a key bit of general chess knowledge may help: that a simultaneous game (or simul here) involves a single chess master playing multiple games at once with a number of opponents.

I think you'll like the K Street Chess Club and their encounter with Zeno the chess-playing rat.


© 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

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