Meimei lives in San Francisco Chinatown with her parents and two brothers. Meimei reminisces about her childhood neighborhood, where she played with her brothers in the alley behind their apartment. Life changes for the Jongs at Christmas when Meimei’s brother receives chess set from the Chinese Santa Claus. She is really good at chess, so much so that she goes to the old man in the park and challenges him to a game. He saw her potential so teaches her the ways of the chess Jedi. While Meimei spends all her time winning, Mom keeps telling people that Meimei’s just lucky. Meimei keeps improving, and soon becomes a wee genius at chess. Even Meimei’s success, Mom continually tosses out little passive-aggressive put-downs. She no longer played in the alley of Meimei Place. She never visited the playground where the pigeons and old men gathered. She went to school, then directly home to learn new chess secrets, cleverly concealed advantages, more escape routes. Meimei realizes that she’s lost out on a lot of childhood activities because she has to come home and practice chess every day. But she found it difficult to concentrate at home. Her mother had a habit of standing over me while she plotted out my games. She thinks of herself as my protective ally. There may be a few perks, like never doing chores, but Meimei feels it’s not good. And then they got conflict about it. Meimei snaps and runs away when Mom gets angry. After when she get back to house, she imagines her mother as an unbeatable chess opponent with scary eyes—and begins to ponder her next move.