Chess and Music Part 7: Nette Sings, Daniel Plays

If you were wondering why I was posting so much about chess and music, there was a good reason. It was inspired by a recent event which I was fortunate to be able to attend.

On Friday 6 May, jazz singer, artist and chess player Nette Robinson hosted an evening of chess and music in Hammersmith (as it happens, opposite my old school).

The format was a blitz tournament with the qualifying event before the gig and the semi-finals and finals, played on Purling Dark Chess boards, during the interval.

The blitz event was a 5-round Swiss with the top four going through to the semi-finals. Pall Thorarinsson (Iceland) won the qualifying tournament with 5/5, followed by FM Andy Smith (Ireland), Jim Stevenson (Scotland) and WIM Natasha Regan (England) on 3½/5. Other strong players such as David Okike (Nigeria) and Rick McMichael also took part, along with John Foley, Director of Educational Development and Training at Chess in Schools & Communities and Phil Ehr, former ECF Chief Executive. Stewart Reuben was also present at the event.

In the semi-finals two games were played, with each player having 3 minutes for each game. Andy Smith beat Jim Stevenson 2-0, while Pall Thorarinsson eventually defeated Natasha Regan in an Armageddon decider. The final, between Andy and Pall, also went to an Armageddon, and was decided when Pall made an illegal move. There were prizes of prints of Nette’s chess art for the successful participants.

The jazz band providing the music comprised Nette Robinson (vocals), Keith Arkell lookalike Dominic Ashworth (guitar), Andy Trim (drums) and Dan King (bass), with Nette’s husband Tony Woods playing the saxophone in some numbers. Yes – THAT Dan King. Daniel, alongside his talents in various aspects of chess, also has an exceptional gift for music, playing both acoustic and electric bass in various bands. Speaking to Nette and Tony after the gig, they were very complimentary about Daniel’s playing, saying that, although an amateur, he performs to professional standards.

It strikes me that this is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing a lot more of. We need to promote chess to adults as well as to young children. We need to take chess out of the ghetto of primary school chess clubs and draughty church halls and get the message out about what a great game chess really is for all ages. We also need to promote the message that chess is an art as well as a game, and, given Nette’s expertise in both art and music she is in an ideal position to do this. Being young, female, attractive, talented and charismatic also helps, of course!

I took some photographs at the event, which you can see here.

Clips from this and Nette and Daniel’s previous chess and music gig at the Bull’s Head in Barnes are not (yet) available online, but here’s a number from another Bull’s Head gig, featuring Nette’s Little Big Band. If you listen carefully you might just hear me clapping at the end.

Nette would admit that her chess is not yet at the same level as her music or art, but she’s making excellent progress. In this recent game played at Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, she defeats an opponent with a grade of 141.

Daniel doesn’t play so much these days, concentrating mainly on making DVDs, broadcasting, writing and teaching. Here’s a win from back in 1989, when he was much more active as a player.

Richard James

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About Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy ( or and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard is currently the Curriculum Consultant for Chess in Schools and Communities ( as well as teaching chess in local schools and doing private tuition. He has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966 and currently has an ECF grade of 177.