Waverly is interested in chess because her brothers are so excited about the new chess set.
When the family gets a used chess set for Christmas, their mother tells them to throw it away. She does not think it has any value because it is just an old chess set with missing pieces. The boys are thrilled however, and can’t wait to play. Seeing their enthusiasm, Waverly is interested in chess too.
And my brothers wore such serious faces that I was sure something was at stake that was greater than avoiding the tradesmen's door to Hong Sing's.
"Let me! Let me!" I begged between games when one brother or the other would sit back with a deep sigh of relief and victory, the other annoyed, unable to let go of the outcome.
Waverly bribes her brother with candy pieces to replace the missing ones, and he agrees to let her join them. The winner gets to eat the Life Savers! Vincent explains the rules and Waverly immediately begins asking questions. Their mother becomes curious and reads the rule book. She tells them to learn the American rules, so they can beat Americans and not be tricked.
"This American rules," she concluded at last. "Every time people come out from foreign country, must know rules. …”
Eventually, Waverly is the one who becomes good at chess. She becomes so good that she starts playing strangers in the park, who teach her chess etiquette and more moves. In time, she enters tournaments and gets better and better. She doesn’t have to do chores, and her brothers pick up the slack. Waverly’s life becomes about chess.
Waverly’s mother still gives advice, even when Waverly becomes incredibly successful. Waverly gets frustrated that she focuses on not losing pieces, rather than winning the game. She doesn't think her mother gets it, but her mother points out she is still winning. Waverly loves chess, and she is good at it, but she doesn't like the pressure her mother puts on her.