This excellent short story, like many of Tan's works, focuses on the conflict between a first generation Chinese immigrant and her second generation daughter, born in the USA and therefore very different from her mother. Waverly Jong in this story is trying to forge her own identity, blending elements of her Chinese background with the country she finds herself in, yet she comes into conflict with her mother through the way in which her mother takes pride and personal interest in her daughter's chess playing. It becomes clear, however, that the mother enjoys the glory that she receives from her daughter's success:
My mother would proudly walk with me, visiting many shops, buying very little. "This is my daughter Wave-ly Jong," she said to whoever looked her way.
When Waverly challenges her mother on this and asks her to stop making such comments, she voices the conflict between them and hurts her mother, leading to the metaphorical chess game Waverly plays with her mother at the end of the story, which uses the imagery of a chessboard to represent the mother-daughter conflict. We are left with Waverly's defeat at the hands of her mother, but the last paragraph indicates that this is only a temporary state of affairs:
I closed my eyes and pondered my next move.
Waverly is left to consider what her "next move" will be in the battle for her own independence against her mother. The game is by no means over.