One Christmas, Waverly and her family attend the annual Christmas party at the First Chinese Baptist Church, which is at the end of their alley. The missionary women had put together a Santa Bag and were distributing random gifts to the boys and girls in attendance. Waverly ends up picking one of the heavier compact gifts, which turns out to be a twelve-pack of Life Savers. Her older brother Vincent ends up receiving a used chess set as a gift. Initially, Waverly's mother tells her children to throw away the chess set because it is used and missing pieces. However, the children are enchanted by the chess set, and Waverly's brother allows her to play in exchange for some Life Savers.
Gradually, Waverly learns the rules of chess by reading the directions and borrowing books from the Chinatown library. Eventually, Waverly begins defeating her brothers on a consistent basis and starts playing against the experienced old men, who play chess by the playground at the end of her alley. Lau Po ends up playing Waverly in chess and teaches her many important tactics, which help her become an excellent chess player.