At the beginning of the story, Waverly's mother teaches her the art of invisible strength, which is a method of manipulating people using silence, humility, and presumed obedience in order to attain something. After her brother receives a used chess set from a local church during a Christmas giveaway, Waverly becomes fascinated with the game and develops into a talented chess player. She spends the majority of her leisure time playing chess and even competes against the old men at the local park. Waverly is grateful for Lau Po's lessons and dramatically improves her chess skills. Waverly also begins attracting attention from her neighbors, and crowds gather to watch her defeat significantly older opponents.
After a local man suggests that Waverly sign up to play in a local chess tournament, her mother simply smiles graciously, which means nothing. Waverly then utilizes that art of invisible strength and reverse psychology to sway her mother's decision and enroll in a local tournament. Waverly bites her tongue and tells her mother that she does not want to participate in the local tournament because they would have American rules. Waverly also says, in a small voice that if she were to lose, she would bring shame to her family. Waverly's method works, and her mother allows her to play in the tournament by saying, "Is shame you fall down nobody push you" (Tan, 4).