At city park, these players are king

Friends gather daily to match wits across chessboard near Henry Johnson Boulevard

PATRICK CAIN Special to the Times Union
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B3

Date: Tuesday, August 23, 2005

ALBANY - Just past Henry Johnson Boulevard in Townsend Park, Darryl Perkins ponders how to get away unscathed from his next kill.

He considers a variety of methods, then he sees it - rook to A7, checkmate. Perkins, 55, of Albany sits in the park nearly every day playing chess with friends, but welcomes anyone who wants to play.

"Young or old, anybody who wants to play chess can come out," said Perkins, or as he's known as "Darryl the Great."

Every day the group's size varies. Many of them come out during their lunch break from the nearby state offices. This is the first year the group has played in the park. Previously they were in the Albany Public Library, where they are no longer allowed to play.

"Some guys got too excited and made too much noise so now we have to play outside, weather permitting," said Ali Jackson, 52 of Albany. "Winter is coming and we need a spot to play. Any place that has a nice hall and is willing to help out would be greatly appreciated."

Jackson is fairly new to the game, having been inspired to play by from watching Perkins.

"Watching the great Darryl play got me into it," he said, with a book of best chess endings in front of him.

Chess straightened out his life, said Perkins as he slapped the clock, moving one step closer to the 50 cents he had wagered on the game.

Though money was on the game, not all are for money. Most of the players are there for the fun of it, he added.

Perkins and many of the other Townsend Park players are middle aged or older, but chess isn't just an adult game.

Many educators have turned to using chess in the classroom as a tool to increase reading and math ability. In a Texas study, elementary students who played chess between grades 3 and 5 showed twice as much improvement in math and reading as non-players.

In New Jersey a bill was passed allowing chess as a unit of instruction in elementary schools, stating, "In countries where chess is offered widely in schools, students exhibit excellence in the ability to recognize complex patters and consequently excel in math and science." Chess clubs outside of the Townsend Park group are scattered throughout the Capital Region. Unlike those in the park, they often have membership fees.

Patrick Cain, a Times Union intern, is a student at Ohio State University. Reach him at 454-5420 or by e-mail at

****FACT BOX:****

YOUR MOVE Local chess clubs include: East Greenbush Chess Club -- Thursday, 7-10 p.m. at The Greenbush Reformed Church Schenectady Chess Club -- Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at the Niskayuna Community Center Guilderland Public Library Fridays, 6:30-8:30 p.m.NY Saratoga Staunton Chess Club -- Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Source: Eastern New York Chess Association