Tan's short story makes an explicit comparison between Waverly's development as a chess player and her relationship with her mother. Chess, like her relationship with her mother, is a "game of secrets in which one must show and never tell." To the extent the essay is about cause and effect, the central problem becomes what happens when this rule is obeyed (or broken).
While Waverly is aware of the effect of her growing ability at chess—she becomes known in her community, businesses sponsor her for chess tournaments, her trophies are proudly displayed in the window of the bakery downstairs—she is equally unaware of how her success has affected her mother. In that sense, the unexpected effect caused by her success is her mother's pride and sense of accomplishment at having such a daughter.
The end of the essay, in which Waverly reacts negatively to her mother's bragging about her at the market, hits her like an unexpected chess move. She has been blind all along to her mother's feelings,...
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