There isn’t really a problem with Championship B’tok as a story. The problem is that it isn’t a story—it’s just part of one. That larger story is likely a good one but this piece of it doesn’t work on its own, for reasons that don’t have anything to do with the writing or storytelling.
Championship B’tok (the title refers to a more complicated, alien variant of chess) is an ambitious story with a complicated plot. It utilizes 3rd-person limited POVs that rotate rapidly among a number of different characters. Such a technique often leads to a story hard to get a handle on until well into the story. Which is why a lot of works, including the Wheel of Time, start slow. Books that don’t, including 2015 Hugo best novel nominee The Dark Between the Stars, provide a payoff later in the story. The problem here is that Championship B’tok is so short I didn’t get a handle on things until the story was almost over (although it is a long novelette).
The b’tok reference, of course, refers not just to the regular games of b’tok between the human commander of a former POW planet-camp and the human leader of the defeated, alien “Snakes,” but to the Snakes clandestine efforts to prepare for a revolt. But the board appears even bigger than that. There may be a third group moving not just humans and Snakes but also the other sapient species in the known galaxy by controlling technological progress. It’s cool stuff well done. Why can’t I get it in a book? (Here I am showing my anti-serial priors.)