Here is my specific situation: I have written a novel in which two characters play a game, the moves of which follow exactly a known game between two ranked players in ChessGames.com. Must I get permission from the two real players? Or must I only credit them in the acknowledgments of the novel? Or need I even do that? Any information, especially with legal citations, would be greatly appreciated!
Chess games without annotation can't be possibly copyrighted. You don't need to inform them. You don't need to acknowledge them.
I've been using Carlsen's games (without annotation) for commercial. I literally sell his moves and the games. So far, the world champion has not complained.
Game annotations are protected by the laws. Make sure you only use the game moves.
@itub has some links, such as:
There was a case last year where World Chess Championship sued chess24.com, who was publishing the moves of the games, and my understanding is that the conclusion was that chess moves are not copyrightable (disclaimer: I am not a lawyer!). You can surely find lots of information about this case by googling "world chess lawsuit", but here is a link telling the story in some detail from the defendant's point of view: https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-judge-agrees-with-chess24-on-chess-moves
See also this article by a law professor: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-11-15/there-s-legal-intrigue-at-the-world-chess-match
A usual chess game (i.e., a competitive game between two players) is not copyrightable because there is no identifiable creator of that work (at least, this is the legal situation in Germany).
Annotations of all kind are copyrighted, problem compositions are copyrighted, a constructed game by a single author is copyrighted.
They probably could be . . .
It is likely that a court would rule that a chess game is an act of authorship and thus could be copyrighted. But to do so, the players - or, more likely, the organizers of the event - would have to take some steps to publish or register the "work". And at some point they would have to take steps to defend the copyright from infringement. But copyrights are expensive to litigate and chess games have little commercial value, so it shouldn't be surprising that there aren't any court precedents (to my knowledge).
But there have been debates outside the courthouse and incidents where publishers refrained from stepping on an event organizer's toes to avoid trouble. Emmanuel Lasker apparently attempted to copyright some of his games - his reward was a press boycott. Eventually the chess community came to the consensus that any attempt to copyright games was bad for the game. For nearly a century the subject rarely came up. But in the last decade or so, there have been several events in which the organizers threatened litigation to prevent others from broadcasting game moves during the event. But I can't find any actual court cases or successful attempt to prevent publication of game scores after the fact.
For the Good of the Game ....
So your ability to use these game moves is due to the fact that generations of players and publishers have worked under a general understanding that we all benefit from being able to publish game scores. As a member of the chess community, you have the moral responsibility to support the chess community and honor the players who have provided you with this gift. Legally, it is uncertain whether you need to attribute the moves to the players, and you take virtually no risk upon yourself if you don't, but if you have a drop of honor in your body, you will give a warm acknowledgement to them in a preface or end note.
As for annotations and commentary . . .
That's a totally different subject, and most annotations may be copyrighted.
I don't think so, what advantage can you take from them? The tournament is the main area which they get benefits from, including ELO recognition. Besides, the important part of in a novel is not much the exact game but the metaphor you find in the game.
That makes it the idea made by you so if you work on the narrative it is your work. Focus on that and you would get the novel done.