Caïssa originated in a 658-line poem called Scacchia Ludus published in 1527 by Hieronymus Vida (Marco Girolamo Vida), which describes in Latin Virgilian hexameters a chess game between Apollo and Mercury in the presence of the other gods. In it, to avoid unclassical words such as rochus (chess rook) or alfinus (chess bishop), the rooks are described as towers (armored howdahs) on elephants' backs, and the bishops as archers:
Tum geminae velut extremis in cornibus arces
hinc atque hinc altis stant propugnacula muris,
quae dorso immanes gestant in bella Elephanti.
"Then twin, as if at the ends, citadels in the corners,
here and here stand ramparts with high walls,
which, immense, are carried into war on the back by elephants."
A leaked unauthorized 742-line draft version was published in 1525. Its text is very different, and in it Caïssa is called Scacchia, the chess rook is a cyclops, and the chess bishop is a centaur archer.
This led to the modern name "castle" for the chess rook, and thus the term "castling", and the modern shape of the European rook chesspiece. Also for a time, some chess players in Europe called the rook "elephant" and the bishop "archer". In German, Schütze ("archer") became a general word for a chess bishop until displaced by Läufer ("runner") in the 18th century.
William Jones's poem
The young English orientalist William Jones re-used the idea of a Chess poem in 1763, in his own poem Caïssa Or The Game at Chess written in English hexameters. In his poem, Caïssa initially repels the advances of the god of war, Mars. Spurned, Mars seeks the aid of the god Euphron (Jones's invention), brother of Venus, who creates the game of chess as a gift for Mars to win Caïssa's favor.
It is an unproven assumption that Jones's name “Caïssa” (ka-is-sa) is an equivalent to Vida's name “Scacchia” (ska-ki-a).
Caïssa is referred to in chess commentary.
- Garry Kasparov uses this reference now and again, especially in his five-volume work My Great Predecessors. It is used as a substitute for being fortunate – "Caïssa was with me" – especially in unclear situations, for example in sacrifices.
- The book The March of Chess Ideas by Anthony Saidy extensively uses Caïssa as well.
- T. R. Dawson extensively used Caïssa, both as a character to provide literary narrative to accompany his problem collections, or merely as a convenient anthropomorphism of chess.
The card game Android: Netrunner features a program type named Caïssa, which are modeled after chess pieces.
- Murray, H. J. R. (1913), A History of Chess, Benjamin Press (originally published by Oxford University Press), ISBN 0-936317-01-9
- The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper; … edited … by Dr. Samuel Johnson … Vol. XVIII. London: … 1810.
- Philidor, F.A. (1777), Systematic introduction to the game and the analysis of chess (L’analyze des échecs) (Fifth ed.), London, pp. 12–20
- Poèmes sur le jeu des Échecs ... traduits en français par Frédéric Alliey, Magistrat. ... Paris. ... 1851.
- Kasparov, Garry (2003), Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors, Part 1 (First ed.), Everyman Chess, ISBN 1-85744-330-6
- Dawson, Thomas Rayner (1947). Caissa's Fairy Tales. Croydon, England: Privately published by the author. pp. 31–17.
- Dawson, Thomas Rayner (1913-07-10). "Caissa's Playthings". Cheltenham Examiner. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Dr Johnson, Samuel (1810), The works of English Poets from Chaucer to Cowper (Reprint ed.), London, p. 450