Did you know there was a Goddess of Chess? We published an article about the father of Chess before, now we’re discussing Caissa, known as the Goddess of Chess.
The game of mind and strategy has been one of the popular games in the world with a long and interesting history. It mostly uses excellent tactics, good moves, and memory. However, some players also believe it is a game of chance and luck, especially if the deities are on their side. Usually, the players pray to some gods and goddesses to be on the advantage side of the game.
What Does Caissa Mean to a Gameplay?
Caissa is the prominent goddess usually called upon by chess players to have luck on their side. If you’ve played with veteran chess players, you might have heard them say the phrase, “Caissa was with me.” It’s like describing a fortunate move, especially during uncertain times of the game. This phrase was used by Gary Kasparov, a World Chess Champion, on his My Great Predecessors.
Caissa is on your side if you use tactics first before strategy, as this is her game principle. However, if you disobey her principles, the bad omen are believed to come at you as Caissa’s wrath during the game.
Who is Caissa?
Caissa is a mythological nymph or deity introduced in an Italian poem called “Scacchia, Ludus,” published in 1527. It was written and published by Marco Girolamo Vida describing the game of chess between the Roman gods’ Mercury and Apollo. They were playing a match as they were with other gods and goddesses and the Thracian dryad Caissa, although she was referred to as Scacchia instead of Caissa.
The poem “ The Game of Chess” mostly describes the pieces in chess and how they should be played. The rook in chess is metaphorically called an elephant, while the bishops are depicted as Sagittifer. He laid out the rules of the match poetically, which the poet concluded with Mercury on the winning side. Then, after his victory, the poem continues as Mercury seduces the beautiful nymph Schassis. He taught her how to play the game and even named it after her.
Later on, the nymph Caissa appears in another poem written by Sir William Jones in 1763 following the Scacchia Ludus. The English poet created the poem titled Caissa and made her popular among chess players. She becomes the goddess of chess through this poem.
What Is The Caissa Poem About?
Scacchi is probably the first goddess of chess, but as the poem of Sir William Jones becomes more prominent, Caissa starts to gain more attention. In the poem, the god of war, Mars, falls in love with the nymph Caissa but she does not reciprocate his feelings. However, Mars continues to pursue Caissa by seeking help from other gods, especially with Euphron, the god of sports and games.
Mars wanted to impress the nymph, so he asked Euphron to create the game of chess. He designed it with an elaborate chessboard and beautiful chess pieces for Mars to give to Caissa. And as soon as the god of war offers the chess set to Caissa, he gets her attention by teaching her the game. At the end of the poem, Mars won the heart of Caissa, but she won eternal flames.
Who is Marco Girolamo Vida?
Macor Girolamo Vida, mostly known as Hieronymus Vida, is an Italian Bishop of Alba and poet born in Cremona. He studied philosophy and theology at Mantua and Cremona. His works include the famous poem of chess introducing the goddess of chess, Caissa or Scacchia. He also wrote many poems inspired by Virgil, which have made significant contributions to literary history.
Who is Sir William Jones
Sir William Jones was the one who wrote the poem Caissa. He is an English philologist, a judge, and a great scholar. He is known as a linguistic prodigy as he can speak various languages, including Greek, Latin, Arabic, Persian, and more. Sir William Jones offers many contributions to the world in terms of languages and literature.
Fun Facts about Caissa
Caissa and her principles have been a part of chess’s ancient history and origin stories. So, there are lots of fun facts related to the goddess of chess that you might want to know. Moreover, as time goes by, the people continue to acknowledge Caissa as a great part of the game.
1. Caissa Britannia
A chess variant called Caissa Britannia is named after the goddess of chess, Caissa. The Caissa Brittania is a British gameplay variation of chess invented by Fergus Duniho 21 years ago. It is originally called British Chess since it has relevant British features, such as basing the pieces on the heraldic animals of the country. You can find this Caissa Britannia with Lions, Unicorns, and dragons as chess pieces. Moreover, it includes a Royal Queen, which serves as the royal piece because the monarch during the time of the chess variation’s creation was a queen.
The British Chess was renamed Caissa Britannia to still represent the concept of the game being Queen-centered even after the monarch became a King. The name will still be appropriate since Caissa is usually the female personification of the game, suggesting the royal Queen.
2. The Britannia Variation of The Caissa Chess Pieces
The Queen is the royal piece of this chess variation; this is subjected to check and checkmate rule like how it is for the King piece in a standard chess game. You can usually move the Queen the standard way. You can move it in any direction you want during the match. However, the only difference is the Queen in Caissa Britannia can’t face the opposing queen in any position without pieces between them.
Then, next to the Queen is Prince Consort. It’s the replacement for the King in standard chess. You can move the Consort to capture in any radial direction, but you can only move it in one space. Or you can also slide the piece like how you move a bishop or rook without capturing. Its short-range captures provide a great advantage to make it invincible to long-range attacks from the Queen.
The next pieces are the animals representing the English heraldic animals, such as the lions, dragons, and unicorns. The lions were created by T.R Dawson, who took inspiration from the cannon of xiangqi. In the Caissa Britannia, the lion can capture by jumping over a piece. You can move this piece diagonally and even or quadratic.
In Caissa Britannia, you can find a piece of an inverted knight; it represents the unicorn in the game. You can move this unicorn piece on unlimited numbers of diagonal squares like the standard bishop. Or you can choose for this piece to knight jump consecutively in the same direction to capture or block a piece.
This dragon piece looks like an inverted bishop which you can move for two square spaces without being obstructed going in any direction. However, the downside of this piece is its small coverage, as it can only move around a quarter of the board.
In terms of using the rook in Caissa Britannia, it’s like the usual rook in the standard gameplay. However, this rook does not apply to the castle.
The same with the standard bishop piece in chess, you can move the piece diagonally as far as you can. Or you can move without capturing in one square.
In the first setup of the game, the Knight is not included as it serves as the promotion option for pawns. Once you choose to use the knight during the game, you can move it similarly to the standard knight.
The movement option for the pawn is the same as the standard pawns. However, it only differs when it comes to the rule of promoting the pieces. In this variation, when one of your pawns reaches the last rank, you can get it knighted or free a captured piece.
Fact #2: Computer Chess Event
Since 1974, there has been an annual event where computer chess programs compete with each other through a tournament called World Computer Chess Championship. It is open to various types of computers as long as it can play chess online. In the very first event, the computer who got the championship title was named Kaissa.
Fact #3: Authors who Use Caissa as a reference
There are lots of prominent authors and writers who use Caissa in their books and works. T.R Dawson is the first on the list; he used Caissa in his books as a character and to personify the game chess. T.R Dawson is known in relation to chess as he contributed a lot to developing the gameplay. He invented fairy chess pieces such as grasshopper, nightrider, and new playing conditions. Thus, he has become the father of fairy chess since he’s the prominent contributor of fairy pieces and conditions.
Anthony Saidy also used Caissa in his book The March of Chess Ideas, which discusses the development of chess strategies and more. The author of the book is a prominent Chess Master who is acknowledged internationally.
Garry Kasparov, a former Chess World Champion, and author, also cite Caissa, the goddess of chess, in his work My Great Predecessors. It is a known series of chess books written by the Champion himself. The series is available in five volumes where the writer talks about the official world champion players who played after him.
Other Tales about the Origins of Chess
The poem of Caissa with the god of war is one of the many tales relating to the origin of chess. There are plenty of stories telling how the game was created and who started playing the game. Mostly, the myths are from various parts of the world. Although, according to history, chess was created in India, some of the theories and speculations about the origin of chess are worth reading. For more details, read the list of interesting facts about the history of Chess.
The poem of Caissa or Scacchia was written in 1572, but some accounts say that even centuries before the poem, the game was already created. Padre Damiano wrote in his book about the origin of chess, starting with the Persian King Xerxes. He believed that the game was invented by the King.
On the other hand, some accounts of the invention of the chess game to Agamemnon or Palamedes, Odysseus, and Diomedes. There are lots of authors relating to these Greeks or Romans the creation of the game. You can even find a story attributing the game to the Trojan war in Troy. According to some theories, they associate chess with the dice-playing of the Greeks in Troy since most greek vases have illustrations of Ajax and Achilles playing a game.
With all the speculations and tales about the origins of chess, the Persian and Arab legends are more popular. The legends are written in the Book of Kings, a collection of Persian epics, legends, and tales written by Firdausi. In the Book of Kings, there are three legends relating to the origins of chess.
The first legend is about a man called Sissa ibn Dahir who created the chessboard as a gift for an Indian King. The King loves the chessboards that he places in every Hindu temple. Since he admired the gift from Sissa, he wanted to give something in return, so he asked him for anything he wanted. The man replied for the king to put grains on every square of the chessboards until it reached the last square. Then, the man wants the amount of all the wheat of grains placed on the square.
The next legend happened in the sixth century when the raja of India sent a gift of ivory and teak chess set to the shah. He challenged the wise men of the shah to figure out how to move each piece of the game. Fortunately, one of the men completed the challenge of the raja, and the Persian Shah also created a game called nard to outsmart the raja.
Then, the last legend is about the Indian Queen who happened to have two sons joining the battle. The other son died, and she suspected the son who was still alive. But the sages of the Kingdom created the chessboards to recreate what really happens in the battle. The brother died out of fatigue, not in the other son’s hand.
If you liked learning about The Goddess of Chess, Caissa, you may also like reading more about the history of Chess such as the the Lewis Chessmen.