Boris Schapiro

Born August 22, 1909.
Died December 1, 2002
aged 93.

The bridge world mourns the passing of one if its most colourful, irreverent and irrepressible bridge players. Boris Schapiro almost defies description – he was a ruthless and brilliant bridge player, an intimidating opponent who, despite a sometimes cantankerous exterior, had enormous charm and warmth. He was a force to be reckoned with at any bridge table, a force that did not lessen with age.

Boris will certainly be remembered as one of the all time greats in bridge, still winning world championships at the age of 89, when in partnership with Irving Gordon he took the Senior Pairs World Title in Lille in 1998.

Born in Riga, Latvia, his family of wealthy horse traders fled the Bolsheviks and finally arrived in England where they had business interests at the end of the First World War. Boris was educated at Clifton and at various universities, including the Sorbonne in Paris. He started playing bridge during his school days when the game helped to supplement his income, but it was only after the Second World War that he started playing in earnest.

In a career that spanned six decades, Boris won the Gold Cup 11 times, the European Championships four times and the Bermuda Bowl in 1955. He came second in the World Teams in 1960 and the World Pairs in 1962 as well as winning the Times Invitational Pairs in 1964 and coming second in the same event in 1991 at the age of 81.

Boris Shapiro’s first Gold Cup win was in 1945 and he won again the following year in partnership with the late Iain Macleod, the future Conservative Cabinet Minister and author of the book “Bridge is an Easy Game”. The next year, the partnership with Terence Reese was formed, and this was to become one of the best known and most feared partnerships in the history of bridge. They won four European Championships in 1948, 1949, 1954 and 1963 and, in 1955, the Bermuda Bowl, the World Open Championship. They were second in the World Teams Olympiad in 1960 and the World Open Pairs in 1962 when Boris also won the World Mixed Teams playing with Rixi Markus, Nico Gardener and Fritzi Gordon. He and Reese went on to win the Sunday Times Invitation Pairs in 1964.

In 1965, when playing in Buenos Aires, Reese and Schapiro were accused of using finger signals to give information about the heart suit, and although a thorough enquiry held by the British Bridge League determined that no advantage had been gained, Schapiro decided that the time had come to retire from the arena, only coming back to Championship bridge as a veteran player. He was runner up in the Sunday Times Invitational Pairs in 1991. 1998 was a particularly successful year for Boris, as he won his 11th Gold Cup and the South African Championships as well as the World Senior Pairs.

Irving Gordon has described Boris as being emotional, loyal, true-hearted, excitable, well known to scream and shout, but not afraid to apologise and make his peace.

In 1968 he became bridge correspondent of The Sunday Times, a post he held until his death. He was made an honorary Life Member of the English Bridge Union in 1998 in recognition of his immense contribution to the game.

He is survived by his wife, Helen, whom he married in 1970, forming another strong and durable partnership.

Major International Appearances

European Championships: 1948* 1949* 1951 1952 1954* 1955 1957 1958 1959 and 1963*
Bermuda Bowl: 1955* and 1965
World Olympiad: 1960 and 1964

* = 1st place

Camrose Trophy Selections: 1947 1948 1949 1950 1954 1955 1958 1961 and 1964

Gold Cup Winner: 1946 1947 1948 1950 1952 1953 1956 1960 1964 1965 and 1998

Crockfords Winner: 1949 1950 and 1960

Spring Foursomes Winner: 1963

The Hubert Phillips Bowl Winner: 1953 1955 1960 1962 and 1964

National Pairs winner: 1947 and 1949

Tollemache Cup winner: 1947 1959 and 1961