Space faring human race encounters one highly advanced spaceship. The one ship tells the human space fleet to go away and leave them alone. We don't listen and our ships are destroyed. Human spy is sent to the alien world. Aliens look virtually identical to humans except they have no cartilage in their nose and the 'females' are only capable of mating every seven years. The human spy tells this story and is a brilliant tactician. He enters into a game tournament where they play a very complicated version of chess. Human spy interacts with a higher ranking military officer who has a human female wife. Human spy gets caught and when he is ultimately returned to Earth he advises humanity to unconditionally surrender to the alien race. Humans eventually win because the alien males take human wives and their alien DNA is diluted in the vast human gene pool.

Looking for the title and author if anyone can recall them.

06/15 - update

I found the anthology. 'Second Game' was in 'The Arbor House Treasury of Great Science Fiction Short Novels' which came out in 1980 and 1981. I did read the original story from 1958 which was actually a nominee for the Hugo Award for Novelette in 1959.

  • 10
    Vulcans mate every 7 years.
    – Sinan
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 9:51
  • 1
    IIRC, it's not a tournament. Rather, he's got a booth at a fair.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 12:47
  • 2
    @Sinan They also look virtually identical to humans, and enjoy complicated logical games... :)
    – Dima
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 19:38
  • 2
    If you ever return, you might consider accepting an answer.
    – Jeff
    Commented Oct 10, 2011 at 3:40

1 Answer 1


It's "Second Game" by Katherine MacLean and Charles V. De Vet, referencing the spy who is found out because he's very smart and consistently beats people in their local strategy game (which is complex enough it makes chess look simple).

He plays each opponent, letting them win. Then, in the second game, he beats them. In this manner, he beats two of the world's best players (unknowingly) - this is a big thing, because the alien race chooses leadership based in part on playing ability.

The leader (the only one to beat him in the second game, IIRC) later comments to the spy that he has, indeed, beaten the species in 'the second game' - by diluting the alien species genes as you mentioned.

It's a short story I've seen in at least two compilations, but I can't find the author at the moment.


I emailed the fine folks at MIT's SF library ([email protected]) and this is the response I got (describing the work pretty much as I did above):

The story you described could be either the original novelette, "Second Game" by Charles V. De Vet and Katherine MacLean, which appeared in the March 1958 issue of 'Astounding' magazine, or one of the expansions. The first expansion was entitled "Cosmic Checkmate" and follows a similar storyline but is about twice the length of the original. I don't know when it originally came out, but there is a Kindle edition (ebook version) which is available for less than five bucks.

The second expansion came out in 1981, and was retitled to "Second Game," presumably to match the original more closely. It has a romantic subplot, which given your description makes me think that you read one of the first two stories rather than the third one.

The book review at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton/aced14.htm has more information.

Hope this helps.


  • Susan Shepherd
  • @zephyr: you are correct. It's worth noting, however, that I was thinking of the original novelette from Astounding magazine. I first read it in a compilation of Astounding's stories.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 15:00
  • @Jeff: once you have the title, finding the author is the easy part, just look it up on ISFDB.
    – user56
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 15:02
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    Thanks everyone. It is 'Second Game' by Charles V. DeVet and Katherine MacLean, 1958. I also had it in a compilation, but I cannot find the book and fear it may have been given away. Does anyone have the title of the compilations? The reason I ask is there were several other stories in the compilation I really enjoyed.
    – BreLock
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 15:25
  • 1
    @Jeff: Uh, yes it does, that's how I found it (I started to edit just before you submitted yours). You need to search for second game as a title (the second game returns nothing).
    – user56
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 15:47

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