Tough Traveling: Chessmasters!



Tough Traveling is an interesting and thought-provoking meme started by Nathan @ Fantasy Review Barn: each week Nathan chooses a topic from The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynn Jones, and challenges everyone to come up with a list of books featuring that trope.

Come join the fun!


This week’s topic is: CHESSMASTERS

A true master knows where all the pieces are at all times.  Others may think they have taken control but alas, the master knew their last move before they played it.


The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

In the Empire of Azad a complex game (also named Azad) is the means through which the players gain social status and political clout. It’s a complex game whose rules and outcome vary depending on the player’s mindset and goals, and is played on three-dimensional boards large enough for the players to move around and to act directly or interact with their “pieces”.  Players can either compete against each other or form alliances to outnumber and defeat other opponents.
Jernau Gurgeh travels from the Culture to Azad to compete in the game, and he is extremely successful but… is he the real mastermind behind it all?  Or is he just a pawn through which Special Circumstances is moving its own pieces to play its own game and direct the fate of the Empire?  Who is the player and who is being played here?

By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory, to use an unfashionable word. In this, the future is a game; time is one of its rules.




A Song of Ice and Fire by GRR Martin

In a world where political games are the soul of the land, and everyone plays the Game of Thrones (where you win or you die), no one is more skilled and wily than Lord Petyr Baelish, known as Littlefinger: bright and ambitious, skilled manipulator and quite adept at court intrigue, he’s the real puppeteer moving the strings of the players. He’s the true power behind the throne and the catalyst of many of the world-spanning events of the saga and the one who always seems to come up winning. Here is a little taste of his personal philosophy:

Always keep your foes confused. If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next. Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you. Remember that, Sansa, when you come to play the game.



8 thoughts on “Tough Traveling: Chessmasters!

    1. Banks is one of those authors I always wanted to read and could never find the time for: now that I’ve started, I keep asking myself why I waited so long 🙂
      I look forward to your comments once you start reading his works!


  1. I for one am thrilled to see a Banks reference. I have not read Player of Games yet though. Not sure why. I need more sci fi in my life at time.


    1. I had put sci-fi on a back burner (sort of) for a while, giving more of my time to fantasy or urban fantasy and I owe to Sci-Fi November the rekindling of my old love for the genre. Banks’s works are one of the reasons I’m happy I did 🙂


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