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The story begins in media res with as the viewpoint character fights a duel on a frozen planet. They combatants are wearing something between a power suit and a single-person armoured vehicle; visibility is almost zero and radar range is short. The viewpoint character knows what to expect, how to set his bombs for best effect, but he keeps finding his opponent not where he expects. Eventually, his opponent seeming to attack him from multiple directions at once, he loses.

We switch now to a military-type briefing taking place aboard a ship. The protagonist is filled in on this duel, and the fact that the person who lost is catatonic. This is not the first time his opponent has mentally damaged those he fought against; this is a problem that must be dealt with. I believe the simulations are constructed in the mind of one or both of the duelists, which is part of why it can have such a major effect. The antagonist represents a hostile power, and the protagonist is volunteered to fight the next duel against him.

There's probably some stuff missing here, but the protagonist is fitted with a helmet and hooked into the simulation apparatus. This duel is being fought using lances (or some kind of hand weapons) from the backs of horses (or some other riding beast), on a dusty plain. He enters the simulation and starts riding toward his opponent. As they approach, 2 more horsemen appear behind his opponent and fan out to the sides. More follow, until he is facing 6 or 7 enemies. Nonetheless, he charges, and as he does so he sees riders fanning out beside him to meet the enemy. His opponents, not expecting an equal fight, are defeated, and he is debriefed; he was wearing a helmet/device that allowed some of his shipmates to join in the fight, while the opponent was part of a small group (siblings) who had a telepathic bond.

I would have read this in a hardcover anthology between 1978 and 1981. Cover is forgotten.

13

"The Dueling Machine" by Ben Bova and Myron R. Lewis.

Google books cover blurb:

At first, the dueling machine seemed like a benign or even a helpful invention, allowing people to blow off steam and solve conflicts in a virtual reality-like environment. But before long, an evil tyrant discovers a way to use the device to inflict real and lasting harm on participants. Will the intrepid scientist who invented the technology be able to stop him before it's too late?

Published 1963, so consistent with your time frame.

The machine allows two people to battle in a virtual space; they alternate choosing scenario and weapons. It should be non-lethal, but starts incapacitating then killing people - this allows the Kerak worlds to defeat others and expand their empire.

The inventor uses a mind read device on the incapacitated prime minister and discovers he was attacked by six of the opponent (Major Odal), and realises that he is a telepath using six minds against one.

They use the same device to put multiple star watchmen in the dueling machine with the (apparently incompetent) junior officer Hector. In the first battle they break even. The second is throwing rocks on a small planet is. Odal throws a large rock and misses; Hector manages several smaller hits, until the large rock completes an orbit and pins Odal. Hector activates Odal's jet pack and the acceleration renders him unconscious.

With the duel lost and the secret out, the expansion of the Kerak worlds is halted.

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  • This is the one I remember; I believe I read it in the 1977 anthology Study War No More. It does start in media res but I'm mixing up the 1st and 2nd duels. The second duel: "He was encased in a one-man protective outfit that was half armored suit, half vehicle. [...] Massan carried several of these 'bombs'; so did Odal." – DavidW May 26 at 0:51
7

This sounds a lot likeThe Dueling Machine by Ben Bova.

Points that match:

The story begins in media res with as the viewpoint character fights a duel on a frozen planet. They combatants are wearing something between a power suit and a single-person armoured vehicle; visibility is almost zero and radar range is short. The viewpoint character knows what to expect, how to set his bombs for best effect, but he keeps finding his opponent not where he expects. Eventually, his opponent seeming to attack him from multiple directions at once, he loses.

Match. The loser in this case is listed as catatonic and is the basis for why the inventor of the dueling machine is brought in.

We switch now to a military-type briefing taking place aboard a ship. The protagonist is filled in on this duel, and the fact that the person who lost is catatonic. This is not the first time his opponent has mentally damaged those he fought against; this is a problem that must be dealt with.

I believe the simulations are constructed in the mind of one or both of the duelists, which is part of why it can have such a major effect. The antagonist represents a hostile power, and the protagonist is volunteered to fight the next duel against him.

Match. Dueling as a means of settling disputes has been revived by the invention of the dueling machine, which allows two adversaries to have at each other in the imaginary world of their choosing, with no danger to either other than humiliation and the loss of the point in dispute

There's probably some stuff missing here, but the protagonist is fitted with a helmet and hooked into the simulation apparatus. This duel is being fought using lances (or some kind of hand weapons) from the backs of horses (or some other riding beast), on a dusty plain. He enters the simulation and starts riding toward his opponent. As they approach, 2 more horsemen appear behind his opponent and fan out to the sides. More follow, until he is facing 6 or 7 enemies. Nonetheless, he charges, and as he does so he sees riders fanning out beside him to meet the enemy. His opponents, not expecting an equal fight, are defeated, and he is debriefed; he was wearing a helmet/device that allowed some of his shipmates to join in the fight, while the opponent was part of a small group (siblings) who had a telepathic bond.

Match. This is one of the final duels in which the inventor of the dueling machine figures out how to link other soldiers in with him to defeat the telepathic 'cheater'

I would have read this in a hardcover anthology between 1978 and 1981. Cover is forgotten.

Match. Written in 1969

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  • 2
    It would make more sense to use blockquotes (> in Markdown) for the OP's text instead of for your responses. – jwodder May 24 at 3:09
  • I did use the > symbol in my answers section. E.g. the following is what I entered. Is there something I am missing? As you can see I prefaced my answer with that character. > Match. The loser in this case is listed as catatonic and is the basis for why the inventor of the dueling machine is brought in. – beichst May 24 at 3:12
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    You put the >'s before your own text. As > is normally used for quoting text, it would make more sense to put it before the text you copied from the OP instead. – jwodder May 24 at 3:14
  • I see your point. Though I have gotten in the habit of using the > for my responses because it makes it more consistent when I want to add the exclamation point to hide a spoiler. – beichst May 24 at 3:19
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    beichst, your style is thoroughly confusing! Everybody else does it differently. – TonyK May 24 at 12:55
0

This is Ben Bova's The Dueling Machine.

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  • Could you edit this to explain how it matches? – TheLethalCarrot May 25 at 9:42

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