The Competitive Fire of Stephen Stoyko

It took a special challenge to tempt FM Stephen Stoyko from the warmth of Winter Haven, Florida in mid-February, but the former New Jerseyite has always had a warm spot in his heart for the USATE, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
Stephen Stoyko in 2016
“I have only missed a few of these and there are not as many opportunities to play competitive chess where I am currently living,” said Stoyko, representing his new home state in a Florida Gators hoodie. One of the few Americans to win both the US Junior and US Senior Championships, Stoyko did not leave Parsippany empty handed. Playing his customary first board, Stoyko delivered a clutch sixth round victory to lead his team “Dangerous Old Men” to the Best Senior Team award. It was the second straight year that Stoyko’s team earned the Senior Team title. Stoyko was first board for the 1978 title team Westfield Winners. This year he joined longtime friend and former Hillside Chess Club teammate Scott Massey along with Thomas Colure and Mauricio Camejo. “I have always taken the choosing of a team for this tournament very seriously,” said Stoyko. “I can usually hold my own with just about anyone on board one. I look for strong players on two and three and try to find an underrated tiger on board four.” The strategy worked as Camejo and Massey both scored 3.5 points and Colure was nearly perfect with 5.5 on board three. Their only blemish was a narrow third round loss to “Check P.P. Per Move.” Stoyko, who scored 4.5 points to boost his rating from 2224 to 2241, lost his only game to Justin Chen (2374). “I didn’t sleep well on Saturday night and was not sharp in the early part of the game, but he played well,” said Stoyko, who at the advanced age of 72 still has the competitive fire, if not the meticulous accuracy, of previous years. As recently as 2016, Stoyko shared the US Senior title with IM Mark Ginsburg , each scoring 5.5 out of 6. Stoyko’s only draw was with GM Alex Ivanov. In 1968, Stoyko shared top honors at the  US Junior Open Championship with John Anderson, a tournament that included IM Jack Peters. Among Stoyko’s many accomplishments are three New Jersey Championships, won in 1973, 1983 and 1988, along with eight shared state titles. It has been a long and successful career for Stoyko, who started playing chess as a high school sophomore at Seton Hall Prep because of an outbreak of Impetigo that caused the wrestling season to be suspended. “I needed something to keep me busy without wrestling so I began to study and found some success,” recalled Stoyko, who is headed back to the Sunshine State until the next challenge. Stoyko showed he can still play brilliant chess with this first round brilliancy over David Siamon (2178) of Virginia. The annotations are his.

[Event "2020 USATE Round 1"]
[Site "Parsippany"]
[Date "2020.02.15"]
[Round "1"]
[White "David Siamon"]
[Black "Stephen Stoyko"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B77"]
[WhiteElo "2178"]
[BlackElo "2224"]
[PlyCount "74"]
[EventDate "2020.??.??"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2
Nc6 9. Bc4 Nd7 {(Let us consider its merits – From a totally defensive point
of view it has mixed value – it prevents Bh6, White’s main goal, due to
simple tactics against the Nd4, but it takes a defender away from the defense
of the King, which white normally has to sack a pawn and an exchange to
accomplish! From an offensive point of view, it brings a piece towards the
Queenside for general attacking purposes, but eliminates possible sacrifices
involving …Bg4 and …Ng4 which abound in a lot of deep Dragon theory.
Speaking of the theory – it is based on hunting down the Bc4 with …Bd7,
…Rc8, …Ne5 – c4. The overall plan is to cut out Black’s possible reply
to h5, hg6, …fg6. If Black can play this …fg6 move he is generally safe
from the attack because he has an escape square (if needed) on f7 with his K ,
can play …Rf7 to guard h7, and the R at f7 will discourage white from g4
since the F file pressure against f3 is strong.} 10. O-O-O Nb6 11. Nxc6 (11.
Bb3 Na5) 11... bxc6 12. Bb3 {(The bishop lives! Now it is up to me to get a
clear plan or I will get crushed on the Kingside. So let’s go hunting the
Bishop.)} a5 $1 13. a4 Rb8 $3 {I am proud of this move since it targets the B
and needs to be played (the only sensible square for the R).} 14. Bh6 Bh8 $3 {
(what else? Now things are getting tense since I have failed to kill his KB. I
can just barely hold with Ba6 or Bh6 and Be6, but I want more! So I reasoned
that his attack depended on the elimination of my B – what if he can’t
take my B? Well, he can take my Rook but then what for white? He is up
material but I have Queenside weaknesses to attack} 15. h4 $3 {My opponent is
playing very consistently! I must blunt the KB before he can play h5.} Be6 $1
16. h5 $1 Bxb3 17. hxg6 $1 fxg6 18. Bxf8 Qxf8 19. cxb3 {(So the attack isover
with, but I am down an exchange. I will get at least a pawn back and he
remains with Queenside holes. Besides, I still have the Dragon B aiming at his
K. Notice how the c6 pawn restricts his Knight)} Qf7 20. Qc2 Nd7 21. Rh3 Nc5
22. Rdh1 Qf4+ {(I have options here – if he ever takes on h7 he has no
threats after …Bg7. He can give back the exchange but he will be worse on
the Qside. So my thoughts are not on computer moves (…h5) but the
continuation of my attack. I have options on Nb3, Rb3, and Qb3. Qb3 is
playable but then we get into questionable endgame evaluations, and I don’t
want to trade Queens when I am attacking, especially since he will get my h7
pawn. The Q at f7 certainly does no want to tie itself down to defending the
h7 pawn,} 23. Kd1 Rxb3 24. Rxh7 Bg7 25. Qc1 Qe5 26. Qd2 $1 {He is trying to
get in e5 andQd8 possibilities. I must say my opponent is playing much better
than his rating.} Rb4 27. f4 Qf6 28. e5 Qe6 29. Qf2 Qg4+ 30. Qf3 Rd4+ 31. Ke2
Qf5 32. Qxc6 Qd3+ 33. Ke1 Qd2+ 34. Kf1 Rxf4+ 35. Kg1 Qe3+ 36. Kh2 Rh4+ 37. Rxh4
Bxe5+ {the Dragon B makes its presence known! White resigned} 0-1