Bob Sharples

By Raymond Brock
EB December 1999

Bob Sharples, who died in September of an infection he picked up while in hospital for a check-up, was very deaf and couldn't see very well - but he was always playing bridge. He had become a bit grumpy in his old age (91 earlier this year) but was nonetheless one of London Duplicate Bridge Club’s characters.

Apart from the fact that he is survived by an older sister, there is little to say about him personally unless one speaks of ‘The Twins’.

Bob and Jim Sharples (who died in 1985) were identical twins and had all the characteristics the layman associates with this condition: they were difficult to tell apart (although on close examination Bob had a slightly fuller face and slightly heavier build), they dressed alike, they were both bank officials in the City, they remained bachelors living all their lives in the family home in Caterham-on-the-Hill, and they never owned a car, nor indeed learned to drive.

Their hobbies, too, were shared: cigarette smoking, collecting classical gramophone records and, of course, bridge. Not quite everything was shared, since I never saw them give each other a cigarette and when you ate out with them it was amusing to see them haggle over their bills, each paying his share to the nearest halfpenny.

Together they became the EBU’s first National Masters in March 1958, the first Life Masters in May 1959 and the first Grand Masters in August 1966. They played in more than 20 Camrose matches and won some 21 national titles.

I have many memories of them. They were there when I played my first Camrose home country international match in 1961 (with Roy Higson) in Oxford against Scotland. The rest of the team was Preston & Swimer and Sharples & Sharples, who brought Alfredo Campoli along as a spectator. The first two matches were drawn and England won the third (5 imps counted as a draw in those days).

They were there when I reached my first Gold Cup final in 1967 (playing on Rita Oldroyd’s team). We lost heavily to the Sharples, Harrison-Gray/Priday and Rose/Gardener. Gray and the Sharples won the Gold Cup for three consecutive years 1966, 1967 and 1968 to register a total of seven wins for Gray and six each for the Sharples.

I played with Bill Pencharz and the Sharples in the Gold Cup for a number of years and in 1979 they registered their sixth success, though we were 27 imps down with six boards to play.

It is rare for a team-of-four to win the Gold Cup since the final weekend is so onerous - on this occasion, remember, the Sharples were 71 years old.

The Sharples represented Britain in European Championships on three occa­sions, their best result being in 1958 when they (plus Gray/Truscott and Reese/ Schapiro) came second, losing on a split tie to the Italian Blue team. They were often associated with Gray in their middle years and after his death became the guardians of Acol. Their particular strengths were in their system agreements and bidding judgement. They won the Bidding Challenge in Bridge Magazine for 11 months before retiring undefeated in 1970.

As Bob, the Bully, joins Jim, the Jelly, Acol will never be quite the same again.

Major International Appearances

European Championships: 1956 and 1958

Camrose Trophy Selections: 1949 1950 1951 1953 1955 1958 1960 1963 1966 1967 1968 1969 1971 and 1972

Gold Cup Winner: 1962 1966 1967 1968 1970 and 1979

Crockfords Winner: 1952 1963 and 1978

Spring Foursomes Winner: 1962 and 1968

Brighton Four Stars Teams Winner: 1967 and 1971

Autumn Congress Two Stars Pairs Winner: 1949 1953 1957 1958 and 1965

The Hubert Phillips Bowl Winner: 1951 1957 1967 and 1971

Easter Congress Guardian Trophy winner : 1973

Tollemache Cup winner: 1954 1957 1958 1963 1967 1970 1977 and 1978