Amy Tan
Amy Tan

Rules of the Game

Published: 1995 by Ivy Books

By: Amy Tan

Page: 262

Plot Diagram
Exposition- Waverly Jong is a young girl who lives with her mother, Mrs. Jong, and her two older brothers, Vincent and Winston. Her family is of Chinese descent and they live happily in busy Chinatown, San Francisco. Waverl'ys mother is very strick and tries to raise her children as disiplined as possible.
Rising Action- The Jong's attended the first annual Christmas party at the First Baptist Church where the children each got a special present from Santa Claus (one of the church members dressed in a red suit with a fake cotton beard). Each child got to choose their present from the selection provided. Waverly chose a small, shiny, red package which turned out to be a pack of lifesavers, one of her favorite candies. She would spend lots of time arranging them and rearranging them again. Her brother, Vincent, chose a chess set donated by one of the older woman at the church. There was some pieces missing from the set but this did not stop the children. Waverly used her lifesavers as a replacement for the pieces. She watched fascinated as her brothers played and moved their pieces swiftly across the board. She wanted to learn how to play. Her brothers and Mrs. Jong gave her the basic rules and that was all she needed. She spent every night configuring moves and different tactics on her hand drawn chess board that she hung next to her bed. When Waverly played her brothers now, she began winning. Her brothers got sick of challenging her because they would always lose. So Waverly took her buisness else where. She began going to the local park wear she challenged the old men. With every game she would learn more. While walking home with her mother, a man who often played with Waverly suggested to her mother that she play in a local tournament. Her mother let her play in the tournament and Waverly was very successful and defeated her opponents to win the tournament. The people of her community began calling her things like The Great American Hope, a child protegy, a girl to boot. Her friends and family were proud. Waverly continued to play in tournaments and continued to do well and bring home first place trophies. Her mother even began giving her special treatment and letting her get out of things like chores and eating all her dinner. There was no stopping Waverly. She knew too many secrets, too many techniques. It seemed as though she was impossible to beat.
Climax- Waverly's mother boasted her to the world whenever she got a chance, "This my daughter Wave-ly Jong". Waverly began growing tired of all the attention. She felt as though she was nothing but a trophy to her mother. Finally, Waverly spoke up to her mother and told her how she felt. Mrs. Jong was very offended. She got very upset with Waverly, and Waverly took off into the dark alleys running from her mother's rath.
Falling Action- Waverly stayed out for as long as she thought was necessary and then returned home. She was not welcomed when she came home. Instead she was shunned and sent to her room without dinner. She lay on her bed and imagined her chessboard. She faced a knew opponent, the harsh black slits of her mother's eyes. Her opponent moved closer and closer. Waverly felt herself being closed in upon. She closed her eyes and pondered her next move...

1. Malodorous- adj.- having a bad smell.
Ex.- He wore a dark, malodorous suit. (p.270)
Synonym- decayed or foul
Antonym- fragrant or perfumed
2. Benovolently- adv.- in a kind and well-meaning way.
Ex.- "Little sister, been a long time since I play with dolls." he said, smiling benovolently. (p.267)
Synonym- beneficient
Antonym- selfish or mean
3. Retort- n.- sharp or clever reply.
Ex.- I quickly put the box down next to him on the bench and displayed my retort. (p.267)
Synonym- comeback or joke
Antonym- request

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So, you wanna learn **how to play chess**??

The story Rules of the Game takes place in Chinatown in San Francisco. This is where the main character, Waverly Place Jong, lives with her family. Waverly lives on a flat on Waverly Place, which she is named after, above a Chinese bakery which plays an important role in the story when she starts winning and excelling through chess tournaments. There are many alleys where the children in her neighborhood like to run around in and hang out. Also, there is a park where many of the children in Chinatown like to play and hang out.

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Point of View
The story, Rules of the Game, is told from Waverly’s point of view which is first-person narrative. First-person narrative is when a character in the story tells the story. That person can be a major character, a minor character, or just a witness. In the case of Rules of the Game Waverly is the main character who is telling the story.

The mood of Rules of the Game has some excitement and it is a little surprising. Waverly is a very young girl that doesn’t have much where she is growing up. What’s exciting about it is that since she doesn’t have much and she is so young, you wouldn’t expect her to be beating people in chess that could be a lot older than her. That also ties in to why the story is also surprising.

Mother-Daughter Relationships
Many mother-daughter relationships can be bumpy at times. Even though they go through all these ups and downs they still love each other. An example of this would Waverly and her relationship with her mother. Waverly and her mother in the beginning of the story have a good relationship. Over the course of the story as Waverly changes and becomes more "American" their relationship weakens. Waverly's mother is very supportive of Waverly playing chess. At her first tournament it says, 'my mother sat with me in the front row as I waited for my turn.' This shows that Waverly's mother cares for her and supports her playing chess. When Waverly's mother gives Waverly her chang (a small tablet of red jade which held the sun's fire) it shows that she is proud of Waverly. Waverly's last comment to her mother is when her mother is telling people about her chess abilities in public. Waverly tells her mother off in public, saying 'I wish you wouldn't do that, telling everybody I'm your daughter.' Her mother is shocked and Waverly explains saying, "Why do you have to use me to show off? If you want to show off, then why don't you learn to play chess." At the end of the story their relationship is not as strong as in the beginning.

Time Period
January 12, 1945 - American forces liberate the Philippines.
January 20, 1945 - Franklin Roosevelt is sworn in as President for a 4th term.
January 20, 1945 - Harry Truman is sworn in as the 34th Vice President of the United States.
April 12, 1945 - Harry Truman is sworn in as the 33rd President of the United States.
June 26, 1945 - The United Nations is established.
July 12, 1945 - American forces take Okinawa.
August 6, 1945 - The United States drops the 1st atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
August 9, 1945 - The United States drops the 2nd atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.
September 2, 1945 - Japan unconditionally surrenders to the United States, ending World War II.
July 4, 1946 - The Philippines, a United States protectorate, gains its independence.
October 1, 1946 - Nazi war criminals receive sentencing at the Nuremberg trials.
October 17, 1946 - Winston Churchill proclaims "an iron curtain has swept across the continent (Europe)," beginning the Cold War.
March 24, 1947 - The 22nd Amendment is passed by Congress.
January 20, 1949 - Harry Truman is sworn in as President for a 2nd term.
January 20, 1949 - Alben Barkley is sworn in as the 35th Vice President of the United States.
April 4, 1949 - North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is established by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States.
June 25, 1950 - The Korean War officially starts as North Korea invades South Korea.
June 26, 1950 - North Korean forces take Seoul.
June 27, 1950 - The United Nations declares war on North Korea.
September 15, 1950 - U.N. forces take Inchon.
October 7, 1950 - U.N. forces recapture Seoul.
January 4, 1951 - North Korean/Chinese forces recapture Seoul.
February 26, 1951 - The 22nd Amendment is added to the Constitution.
November 1, 1952 - The United States detonates the 1st thermonuclear device.
January 20, 1953 - Dwight Eisenhower is sworn in as the 34th President of the United States.
January 20, 1953 - Richard Nixon is sworn in as the 36th Vice President of the United States.
May 17, 1954 - The U.S. Supreme Court declares that segregated schools violates the 14th Amendment.

Time Period

Main Character Descriptions
Waverly Place Jong is the antagonist of the story. Her mother has named her after the street they live on, Waverly Place. However, Waverly’s family usually call her “Meimei,” meaning “Little Sister,” because she is the youngest child and the only daughter.
When her brother, Vincent, gets a chess set at their church Christmas party, Waverly is the one who turns out to be most skilled at the game. After researching the rules of the game and learning the basic moves, she is able to beat both of her brothers, who stop playing the game with her. Instead, Waverly plays with the an old man in the park who teaches her chess technique and etiquette. An observer at one of these casual matches encourages Waverly’s mom to enter her in a chess tournament, and Waverly takes home a trophy. She moves on to regional, and then national tournaments, picking up sponsorships from local businesses to support her efforts.Although her mother supports her, Waverly feels pressured, as when her mother tells Waverly after her first win that she should concentrate on losing less pieces. Still, Waverly’s mother is supportive of her daughter’s chess playing, and even exempts her from certain chores or family customs when she is practicing her chess games. However, mother and daughter get in an argument when Waverly draws attention to the fact that her mother is using her to show off to others. Waverly runs away, and when she returns home later that evening, Waverly’s mother tells her that she is no longer a concern of hers. Waverly retires to her bedroom, where she imagines her mother destroying her in a game of chess, and tries to figure out her next move.

Mrs. Jong, Waverly’s mother, teaches her daughter and two sons the art of invisible strength, a number of Chinese wisdoms that can be used when developing strategies for winning arguments, respect, and in Waverly’s case, the game of chess. Mrs. Jong’s English is stilted, and she speaks in short, clipped phrases, which Waverly often views as criticism, especially when her mother is hanging over her shoulder giving advice while she practices her chess games. Mrs. Jong is very vigilant over what her children say and do, and is a very proud woman who generally exhibits proper Chinese humility in public. A good example is when her son, Vincent, receives a used and broken chess set at the church Christmas party. She acts gracious in public, but when they get home, she tells Vincent to throw the game out, saying that they do not need other people’s trash. Vincent does not listen, and when he is reading the chess rulebook, Mrs. Jong speaks up, saying that the rules of chess are just another set of American rules, and that she, too, had to learn American rules before they would let her into the country.She cautions Waverly that it is not wise to ask why a rule is the way it is — instead, it is better to find out for yourself. This piece of advice helps Waverly to develop her chess technique. Mrs. Jong is supportive of Waverly’s chess playing, watching from the crowd when Waverly plays in the park on weekends. At these times, she is properly humble according to Chinese custom, saying that Waverly’s winning is just luck. However, after Waverly starts to win more tournaments and becomes a national chess champion, Mrs. Jong starts to show Waverly off to others in public. Waverly is embarrassed by her mother’s behavior and says so one day, which sparks an argument. Waverly runs away, and when she returns home later that evening, Mrs. Jong tells her she is no longer a concern of hers. Waverly goes to her room and tries to figure out what to do next.

Waverly Place Jong “Meimei” - Round competitive patient , Static
Mrs. Jong - Flat, Static
The old woman at the market - Flat, Static
Waverly’s brothers - Flat, Static
The old man in the park - Flat, Static
The 15-year old boy -Flat, Static
Bobby Fischer - Flat, Static

Direct Characterization
1) "The chessmen were more powerful than old Li's magic herbs that cursed ancestral cures." (p. 264)
2) "Chinese people do many things," she said simply. "Chinese people do buisness, do medicane, do painting. Not lazy like American people. We do torture. Best torture." (p.264)

Indirect Characterization
1) "Bite your tongue," scolded my mother when I cried loudly, yanking her hand toward the store that said bags of salted plums.
- This shows that Waverly's mother, Mrs. Jong, is very authoritive.
2) The day after I won an important regional tournament, the window encased a fresh sheet cake with whipped frosting and red script saying, Congratulations Waverly Jong, Chinatown Chess Champion".
- This gives the reader a sense of pride in Waverly from the people at the bakery.

Life Savers- For Christmas, Waverly received a twelve pack of life savers. She spent much time arranging her candy tubes in the order she thought was best. This is like how she arranges her chess pieces on the chess board. It is also like strategizing her plan on how she will defeat her opponent in chess because she deciphers the best way to eat her Life Savers.

  1. In my crisp pink-and-white dress with scratchy lace at the neck, one of two my mother had sewn for these special occasions, I would clasp my hands under my chin, the delicate points of my elbows poised lightly on the table in the manner my mother had shown me for posing for the press. I would swing my patent leather shoes back and forth like an impatient child riding on a school bus. Then I would pause, suck in my lips, twirl my chosen piece in midair as if undecided, and then firmly plant it in its new threatening place, with a triumphant smile thrown back at my opponent for good measure. (pg. 270)
  2. The Chinese bakery downstairs from our flat displayed my growing collection of trophies in its window, amidst the dust-covered cakes that were never picked up. The day after I won an important regional tournament, the window encased a fresh sheet cake with whipped-cream frosting and red script saying, “Congratulations, Waverly Jong, Chinatown Chess Champion.” (pg. 269)


  1. Her black men advanced across the plane, slowly marching to each successive level as a single unit. My white pieces screamed as they scurried and fell off the board one by one. As her men drew closer to my edge, I felt myself growing light. I rose up into the air and flew out the window. Higher and higher, above the alley, over the tops of tiled roofs, where I was gather up by the wind and pushed up toward the night sky until everything below me disappeared and I was alone. (p.272)
  2. I raced down the street, dashing between people, not looking back as my mother screamed shrilly, “Meimei! Meimei!” I fled down an alley, past curtained shops and merchants washing the grime off their windows. I sped into the sunlight, into a large street crowded with tourists examining trinkets and souvenirs. I ducked into another dark alley, down another street, up another alley. I ran until it hurt and I realized I had nowhere to go, that I was not running from anything. The alleys contained no escape routes. (p.271)
1. Like most other Chinese children who played in the back alleys of restaurants and curio shops, I didn't think we were poor. (p. 263)
~ I like this quote because I feel that it shows that poor has no particular definition. You're only as poor as you believe you are. But if you truly believe that you have all you need in life to make you happy like Waverly and the other young children of Chinatown feel, then you are not poor. You're simply happy.

2. My mother named me after the street that we lived on: Waverly Place Jong, my official name for important
documents. But my family called me Meimei, "Little Sister," I was the youngest the only daughter. (p. 264)

~ To me, this quote really showed a sense of the Jong's heritage and where they came from. It gives a the reader a tatse of Chinese culture. It is also important to the story by explaining where Waverly's nickname came from. She is referred to as this many times throughout the reading and without the explanation, there could be some confusion.

3. The chessboard seemed to hold elaborate secrets waiting to be untangled. (p. 265)

~ I feel that this quote adds importance to the story of being the beginning of Waverly's interest in chess. Also, later in the reading, it shows Waverly untangling some of these secrets. This being part of the key to her success.

4. Lau Po, as he allowed me to call him, turned out to be a much better player than my brothers. (p. 267)

~ This quote introduces one of Waverly's teachers of the game. He shows her many secrets and improves her playing skills. I also like this quote because I feel that it proves no matter how many people you play, or how many times you've played something, there is always the possibility of someone being better than you and beating you. I feel you shouldn't look at it as a defeat, but look at it as Waverly did and use it as a learning experience.

5. I closed my eyes and pondered my next move. (p. 272)

~ This is the closing sentence to the story. I chose it because it shows Waverly when she is vulnerable which is something not shown often during the story. I also like that it is the ending of the story and therefor you don't know her next move or what the results will be of the battle between her mother and her. This is what makes it a cliff hanger.

Critique, Critique, Critique!
If I were to rate this story on a scale of 3 stars, I would have to rate it as a nice even 2. There were many aspects that contributed to my decision. The main molding to my opinion was the theme of the story. Unfortunately, the story was about chess. In my opinion, chess is not one of the most exciting games to play and I certainly don't think it is one of the most exciting topics to read about. However, this story was not just about the game of chess. It was about a young girl and the process she goes through to master the game. I think this adds a certain depth to the story instead of it literally being the rules of chess. Not only does the reading include the rules of chess, but it also includes different tactics and secrets that Waverly uses to defeat her opponents. Waverly's story is actually quite fascinating. She is so young, but yet so talented. She picks up the game so quickly and improves her technique any chance she gets. She is not afraid of a challenge from more experienced players. She attends tournaments and allows no one, no matter how wise, or how old, to destroy her confidence. She goes out and plays her hardest to defeat the opposing player. I think this is a good way of encouraging the reader that anything is possible and let no one block your path to success. I think this is one of the great messages Tan sends out through the text. That is one of the positive aspects that I found in this story. So yes, this story may not be as entertaining or as interesting as I would have liked it to be, but by analyzing the reading more thoroughly, I found many positive things that balanced out with the not so eye catching topic.

Background Information About the Author
Amy Tan was born February 19, 1952 in Oakland, California. Her parents were both Chinese immigrants and lived in separate parts of California before meeting in Santa Clara. As Tan was growing up, she suffered a terrible tragedy. Both her father and one of her brothers died of a brain tumor within months of each other. After her father’s death, Tan’s mother moved their family to Switzerland where Tan finished high school. After high school, Tan ventured off to San Jose State College. This is where Tan earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in English and linguistics. After college, Tan was married to her boyfriend Louis Demattei. She went back to school to earn her Ph. D in linguistics. However, she dropped out of the program to help disabled children. She later became a freelance business writer. Although she was very successful, she began writing fiction as a creative release. Some of these writings became her most famous works. She has written many books but her most popular topic explores the mother-daughter relationships. In 1993, her most popular fiction work, The Joy Luck Club, became a commercially successful film. She also wrote a popular children’s series that airs on PBS. It is called Sagwa the Siamese Cat. She has entertained many people of all ages with her talents and continues doing so today.
About Amy Tan

Other Works by Amy Tan
Amy Tan has written many other fictional works, her most popular being "The Joy Luck Club". Not only was this a successful book, but it was later turned into a short film. She is also the author of "The Kitchen God's Wife", "The Hundred Secret Senses", "The Bonesetter's Daughter", and "Saving Fish from Drowning". She even wrote an animation series, "Sagwa the Siamese Cat". It is a children's show airing on PBS about a young siamese kitten and the adventures she takes in life with her friends and family. As you see, Tan does not limit her imagination to books but expands her boundaries to short films and children's series.


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