"Unicorn Variation" won the 1982 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and was ranked second for 1982's Locus Award for Best Novelette. The Japanese version won the 1984 Seiun Award for Best Translated Short Story.
In his 1983 collection Unicorn Variations, Zelazny explained the story's origin: he had been approached by Gardner Dozois, who was soliciting content for an anthology of stories about unicorns. Subsequently, he was approached by another editor, who was soliciting content for an anthology of stories set in bars. When Zelazny told George R. R. Martin of these encounters, Martin said that Fred Saberhagen was soliciting content for an anthology of stories about chess; he then suggested that Zelazny write a story about chess and unicorns in a bar, so that he could sell the story to all three anthologies.
- 1982 Hugo Awards, at TheHugoAwards.org; retrieved July 23, 2018
- Locus Awards 1982, at the Science Fiction Awards Database; retrieved July 23, 2018
- "星雲賞受賞作・参考候補作一覧" [List of The Seiun Awards Winners & Candidates] (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-07-23.
- Introduction to "Unicorn Variation", in Unicorn Variations, published October 1983 by Timescape Books