Why does Waverly see her mother as her opponent at the end of the story?

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Waverly's mother, Lindo, is extremely proud of her daughter's talent, but she develops into an oppressive influence as she constantly hovers over Waverly while she's practicing chess and forces Waverly to walk with her in the community's crowded marketplace against her will. Lindo's oppressive influence negatively affects her daughter's motivation to play chess, and Waverly struggles to live up to her mother's standards. Waverly also finds it embarrassing that her mother continually shows her off by proudly parading her around in public; she finally confronts Lindo about her oppressive personality. When Waverly returns home after briefly running away and offending her mother, Waverly's mother tells the family, "We not concerning this girl. This girl not have concerning for us" (Tan, 5). Waverly then runs to her room and begins plotting her next move to defeat her mother, who has developed into her main opponent. Waverly realizes that she must challenge her mother's authoritative guardianship, and she begins to formulate a plan to oppose her mother using the "art of invisible strength."

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Throughout the novel, Waverly struggles to free herself from the power her mother has over her, and the chapter "The Rules of the Game" does a wonderful job explaining the origins of this.  Waverly becomes a chess champion, but then eventually blows up at her mother for embarrassing her.  When Waverly confronts her mother, she threatens to never play chess again, but Lindo, Waverly's mom, just turns a cold shoulder.  When Waverly eventually chooses to play again, Lindo tells her it's not that easy.

The symbolism between their relationship and the game of chess is quite apparent: Waverly has the ability to beat the best of the best, but once her mother gets inside her head, she begins to doubt herself.  Trying to avoid her mother's ridicule is like trying to win a mental chess match; hence, at the end of the chapter we get the "imaginary chess game" where her mother is symbolically sitting across from her, winning this game of inner strength.

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