A lazy, hazy spring swelter

Chess players sweat out matches as youngsters follow watery pursuits

Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Monday, June 19, 2006

ALBANY - There was a certain toughness, if not athleticism, about the way Bill Malloy dispatched his chess opponents Sunday in Townsend Park, a shady green wedge at the crossroads of a thoroughly wilted city.

The heat ripples rising off Washington Avenue looked thick enough to trip over and the temperature hit 91 at Albany International Airport. Father's Day was the hottest day so far this year and the first real test of the city's summer constitution. Factor in the moisture in the air - or heat index - and it actually felt like 92 and could have been even higher in cities.

In what amounted to a sweltering hit-and-run, thermometers punched 93 in New York City, 92 in Buffalo, 93 in Rochester and 91 in Syracuse, not counting humidity, according to the National Weather Service.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation warned of potentially dangerous amounts of ground-level ozone - a significant component of smog that heat only makes worse.

Barely a mile from the DEC's Broadway headquarters, tiny rivulets of sweat formed on Malloy's intent brow, matting his gray-black hair and making him look less sporting than he really is.

"This is my second all-dayer," Malloy said, pointing out that he had spent hours in the park in Saturday's cooler weather. "The heat gets to you."

With the efficiency and pop of a machine gun, Malloy and his opponents slapped at a digital timer after maneuvering their kings and other pieces in and out of peril. Malloy methodically stuck to his game, but the heat was taxing - even for the man onlookers called the "Grand Master."

"I'm winning this one in grand style," Malloy declared shortly after draining the last of his warm Coke, "then I'm going to get a soda."

He had made similar promises before several other games, but nonetheless kept his seat at the faded red picnic table decorated with crumpled dollar-bill wagers and equally crumpled box of Newport cigarettes.

Elsewhere in the city, children with garden hoses shrieked through side streets in Arbor Hill, and pink-faced Sunday strollers took refuge in the air-conditioned chill of the State Museum, where the Ice Age mastodon exhibit seemed gallingly inappropriate.

But in the small city park at the confluence of Henry Johnson Boulevard and Washington and Central avenues, a core of a half-dozen devoted chess players parried on.

Temperatures are forecast for the mid-to-upper 80s today, though not expected to break 90 again, said George Maglaras, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

Maglaras and his colleagues use formulas and computer models to project where the mercury will peak each day, using weather balloons to take temperature measurements nearly a mile high, where the air is cooler and does not experience dramatic daily variations.

Generally, each 1,000 feet up or down is equivalent to 5.5, Maglaras said. With temperatures in the mid-to-upper 60s at 5,000 feet, you can do the math.

While Sunday far eclipsed the normal temperature of 78, it also fell well short of the record 97 set in 1957. It was, on balance, just a hot June day, Maglaras said.

"It only seems unusual because we really haven't had that much hot weather," he said.

"You have to focus through it all," counseled Darryl Perkins, Malloy's opponent as the sun dipped lower in the sky and gradually ate away at their coveted shade. "Better than the cold," he added. "Summertime you can play damn near every day."

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@ timesunion.com.