Rules of the Game Questions and Answers
by Amy Tan

Rules of the Game book cover
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In "Rules of the Game," how does Waverly start playing chess?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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.

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Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "Rules of the Game," Waverly begins playing chess when she agrees to let her brothers use her Lifesaver candies as replacements for the missing chess pieces in their chess set.  The children have received gifts from an annual Christmas party, and the chess set that Waverly's brother receives has missing pieces.  Their mother instructs them to discard the game, but Waverly's two brothers refuse to give up the chess set, and they instead read the rules and learn how to play.   Waverly wants to be included; however, her brothers do not want her to play.  She uses the Lifesavers (her gift from the Christmas party) as a bribe to be let into the game.  Afterwards, she learns the rules of the game and goes on to continue playing chess.

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