The text and games below are from an article I wrote in 1983 for the 10th anniversary of Sittingbourne Chess Club. The photo is from the East Kent Gazette, probably in 1975 (though I cannot remember the specific occasion).

Triumph of the Underdogs

On 4th May 1976, Sittingbourne's second team (Peter Millican, Ron Browning, Steve Towsey, Dave Shillinglaw, John Kirwan, and Kevin Baker) travelled to Herne Bay to fight for a place in the Stevenson Cup final. Our opponents were the Herne Bay first team, led by the intermediate county champion M. H. Micklethwaite, and stronger than us on every board. Several games were unfinished that evening, but after adjudication the score was given as 3-3. Sittingbourne seemed set to qualify on board count, with wins on the top two boards, but Herne Bay then signalled their intention to appeal against one of the adjudications. In this they were successful, but meanwhile, as the unemployed member of the team (I completed my 'A' levels that June), I had been preparing a forty-column analysis of Steve Towsey's third board game, proving it to be a draw and thus overturning another of the adjudicator's decisions. So we reached the final after all, and went on to defeat Petts Wood by 4½-1½ with an identical team, but wins this time on the bottom four boards! Thus Sittingbourne Chess Club won its first major trophy.

Two years later, on 14th May 1978, our first team (Peter Millican, Harry Kennett, Steve Towsey, Steve Beach, Les Danks, and Ron Browning) was faced with an even greater task. With a loyal band of supporters we made our way to Charlton to play their third team in the final of the Lewis Cup. The venue was an extremely untidy house, with the games divided between three different rooms. The opposition was a team outgrading us by 20 points (!!) on every board and led by John Hannan, formerly second board for Kent Juniors and exempted in virtue of his recent absence at university from his usual membership of Charlton's first team. Stifling our complaints, we defiantly sat down to play. By the evening we had scored the greatest victory in our club's short history: we had won the final of the Lewis Cup by 4½ points to 1½.

In both of my games from these two unforgettable matches, my success was helped largely by my being, like the whole team, an underdog. In the first, M. H. Micklethwaite vs. Peter Millican, Stevenson Cup Semifinal, 1976, my opponent sacrifices a knight for an apparently crushing attack that just fails. In the second, Peter Millican vs. J. P. Hannan, Lewis Cup Final, 1978, my opponent interprets my unorthodox sixth move as a blunder, tries mechanically to refute it, and thus walks into the very line that justifies it. Over-confidence by the opposition certainly favoured me on top board, if not the rest of the team, but it was by no means the only factor that secured our victory. In both competitions we had a reliable and dedicated team, and a great deal of support from other members of the club who came along to encourage us. Indeed, if there is one thing that makes these games stand out in my memory as amongst my favourites, it is the friendliness and team spirit that accompanied them.


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Picture from the East Kent Gazette, 1975


The Charlton-Sittingbourne scoresheet