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Small Wonders

When he was nearly three years old, Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son would watch his mother and father playing chess in the family's ramshackle home in the Mekong Delta, and, like any toddler, pester them to let him play, too. Eventually they relented, assuming the pieces would soon wind up strewn around the kitchen, a plastic bishop stuffed into a teapot, the white king face down in a bowl of phˇ. To his parents' astonishment, Son did not treat the chess set as a plaything. He not only knew how to set up the board, which was crudely fashioned with a piece...

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