What did the author mean by Life Savers?
Life Savers are a type of fruit flavored hard candy. Life Savers come into the story when Waverly uses them to bribe her brothers to allow her to play chess with them. Here is the context:
During Christmas the local Baptist church gave out presents. She received Life Savers. Her brother Vincent got a chess set. Winston, her other brother, got a plastic model. As her bothers Vincent and Winston started playing chess, she was left out. In order to participate she bribed them with candy.
This started Waverly on her career in chess. Waverly proved to be a chess prodigy and she was even ranked.
From another perspective, Waverly used the "art of invisible strength" (in this case Life Savers) to allow her brothers to allow her to play. She also used this art to win in chess. Hence, we can say that the Life Savers got her started. Here is the quote:
I loved the secrets I found within the sixty-four black and white squares. I carefully drew a handmade chessboard and pinned it to the wall next to my bed, where I would stare for hours at imaginary battles. Soon I no longer lost any games or Life Savers, but I lost my adversaries.