14 October 1936- 1st January 2008
Patrick Jourdain writes:
Raymond Brock, who has died aged 71, was, for four decades,one of Britain's leading bridge-players and administrators. He was a member ofthe British team in 1987 that won silver at both the European and World Championships and was a World Bridge Master.
In the Home Internationals Brock had 26 caps for England as a player and, later, four as non-playing captain, including last year. Whilst resident in Glasgow in the early 70s he had seven matches for Scotland in the era when Scotland won the Camrose Trophy three times. Brock won the Gold Cup,the British knockout championships, on seven occasions.
Brock was educated at Manchester University and became a Physics teacher at a Manchester school. His international bridge career began in 1960 partnering Roy Higson of Lancashire. In 1968 Brock became a computer manager for Honeywell and moved to Glasgow. After his return to England in 1975 he lived in Middlesex and initially formed a partnership with Bill Pencharz, earning four caps for England. But his success in British teams came from the eight-year partnershipwith Tony Forrester, bridge columnist of the Daily Telegraph, which began in 1982. This included the World and European silver medals and two bronze medals at Common Market Championships.
Of numerous national titles his most recent was the England Teams Championship for the Crockford's Cup in 2004. This was his sixth win in Crockford's.
As an administrator Brock was twice President of the British Bridge League and non-playing captain of many of its teams, including a world bronze for the Women in 1980, and gold for the Juniors at the 1989 World championships in Nottingham. He was a key figure in coaching young players and in 1994 captainedthe British Junior team that won the Europeans and went on to win the world title the following year in Bali. Brock was an England selector.
Brock married for the first time in 1993. His widow, Sally,is one of Britain's leading bridge players. They won the England Mixed Teams title six times and the British Mixed Pairs twice. They had two children.
Anna Gudge writes:
Raymond was a very dear friend and mentor - it was owing to him that I started work within bridge, back in 1984, for the British Bridge League. It was always a pleasure and privilege to work with him - Raymond was kind, just, and a marvellous "boss" ! He knew exactly what he wanted,and wouldn't rest until it was done, but he never, ever, failed to thank those who worked with him. He was a generous host, great company and a true friend. I am sure that no one who knew him will ever forget him. Within his own"bridge world" he was once described as an elder statesman, and in his own biography on this site, referred to that with some pleasure and pride.
I am happy to have known him - my heart goes out to Sally and the children as I am sure do the hearts of all their many friends, both within and outside the world of bridge.
By Jack Marx BM January 1969
Maurice Harrison Gray, whom the bridge world now mourns, wasknown and addressed almost universally as ‘Gray’. His devotedRussian-born wife, Stella, sometimes called him ‘Graysky’. Onlyoccasional presumptuous new acquaintances, and they soon learned better, woulddream of calling him by his Christian name. Why this was so is not easyto explain, but it was certainly not due to any lack of reciprocal warmth offeeling.
It must have been early in 1934 that I first learned of hisexistence, but for months he was only a name breathed in my ear by my friendand partner, the late Skid Simon. To Skid I must have been a source ofgreat exasperation. I disclaimed any ambition to climb to the top of thetree. So I was secretly quite pleased when Skid announced that he haddiscovered a ‘prodigy’ in some obscure Kensington club and hoped they mightpair up together.
However, it seemed that the prodigy already had a partner inthe person of Jane Welch, a charming young actress who happily still adorns therubber bridge scene in London. Some time later Skid announced in his airy waythat he had entered the four of us as a team in the Tollemache Cup, then anopen event. We survived several rounds but Jane, for professional reasons, thendropped out and the famous Gray Simon partnership was born.
With no help from me they soon made a great name forthemselves, touring the country on the slenderest finances, playing provincialteams and gathering in shoals of trophies at congresses. Poles apart inphysical stature, they were a real delight to caricaturists. I still have acartoon stored away somewhere of the pair of them riding a tandem along a roadsign-posted to some congress resort. Gray is pedalling away furiously in front,smoke belching from a huge pipe like a traction engine; Skid behind is droopingwith feet dangling, head buried deeply in Lenz on Bridge. In asense, when a little later Iain Macleod and I teamed up with them, we werecashing in effortlessly on their success.
Gray’s courtesy and considerateness, whether as partner,opponent or captain, would be difficult to equal. I was to realise thevery real kindliness of his nature when I partnered him in the 1950 EuropeanChampionship at Brighton. My health was far from robust, my match-playwas very rusty and in our early practice games I was almost in despair. It was primarily through his encouragement and understanding that we were ableto make a show of it and win. The same qualities were displayed in thehelp it always delighted him to extend to younger players.
Like many talented people he was apt to be touchy at evenimplied criticism of his talent; and disagreements on impersonal issues wereapt with him to become personal disputes. These failings perhapsaccounted for his long and sterile feud with the governing body that deprivedthe country of his services throughout most of the ‘fifties. Everyone wasdelighted when the cold war thawed, and at Oslo in 1958 he helped to bringBritain within a split tie of the European Championship.
The last years of his life in the world of bridge were along and glorious Indian summer, and his recent successes in the Gold Cup showthat he was still a force to be reckoned with. Right up to the end hefirmly declared his intention of playing in the international trials due tostart this month. Whether he really believed it would be possible evenStella cannot be sure. At the back of my mind was the hope that at leasthe might be our non-playing captain at Oslo next year. Providence, alas,has decreed otherwise.
By Gerard Faulkner EB October 1991
Jack Marx died aged 84 on August 29th, 1991. With hispassing, bridge has lost a great ambassador and innovator.
As a player, Jack had many triumphs, the most notable on theinternational scene being a gold medal in the European Championships in 1950and playing for Britain in the World Championships in that year. On thedomestic front, he played a number of Camrose matches for England, the lastbeing in 1972, and was a winner of the Gold Cup in 1937, 1947 and 1971. We shared that last win, and it gave us both much pleasure to note that Jackhad first won the Gold Cup in the year of my birth!
As an administrator, Jack took on selection duties for boththe BBL and EBU and was a member of the Rules and Ethics Committee, as it wasthen known, from 1970-76.
It will, however, be in the area of bridge writing andinnovation that his influence will be most felt in the future. Apart fromnumerous entertaining articles over the years, Jack was the originator ofByzantine Blackwood as well as being an independent originator of the Staymanconvention. Most of all, he will be remembered as one of the fiveoriginators of Acol (the others being Harrison-Gray, MacLeod, Reese and Simon).
Having survived a near fatal illness in the mid-seventies,Jack withdrew from serious competitive bridge but continued to enjoy the gamewith his many friends at the London club and elsewhere. Jack was a truegentleman who invariably conducted himself at the bridge table, as in life, ina friendly, generous and gentle way. He will be sadly missed.
John Sadler died on 30 October at the age of 74, afterbattling cancer for the last 7 years.
John’s highest achievements at bridge were gained inpartnerships with Doug Smerdon and Tony Waterlow. In theseventies, John reached the final of the Gold Cup playing with DougSmerdon. In the early eighties, with Doug as his partner andTony Waterlow-Derek Oram as team-mates, John won Crockfords. Then thefollowing year the team came within a whisker of retaining the Crockfords Cup,losing the top spot on a split-tie.
The Sadler-Waterlow partnership flourished in theeighties. They achieved considerable success in Camrose Trails over aperiod of some 8 years, coming close to representing England when they werenamed as the reserve pair for a Camrose match against Wales. Duringthis period, John had a second home in Torquay, and made a habit of picking uptrophies at the Torquay Congress.
More recently, John reached the semi-final of the 2000 GoldCup, and around this time his team won the London League three years on thetrot.
Following Doug’s death in 2003, John has played mainly withIvor Miller. John’s last game of bridge was played some two months ago atthe Ace of Clubs in North London, where he and Ivor achieved 68% to win a 25table duplicate.
John will be remembered as a very courteous and formidableopponent, and as a most constructive partner and team-mate.
by Patrick Jourdain
Dorothy Shanahan, who has died aged 91, was, for threedecades, part of British women's teams recording the most successful haul ofmedals for the nation.
Miss Shanahan was in the team that won the World Olympiadgold in 1964 and the European gold medal in 1961, 1963 and 1966. The team tooksilver in 1957, 1965 and 1969 and bronze in 1955, 1967 and 1973, Shanahan'slast appearance for her country.
In addition to playing in women's bridge, Miss Shanahan alsopartnered the late Maurice-Harrison-Gray where she featured in his stories under the pseudonym, TheDormouse.
Her diminutive stature and quiet personality was in strongcontrast to her better known team-mates Rixi Markus and Fritzi Gordon.
by Raymond Brock EB December 1999
Bob Sharples, who died in September of an infection hepicked up while in hospital for a check-up, was very deaf and couldn’t see verywell - but he was always playing bridge. He had become a bit grumpy inhis old age (91 earlier this year) but was nonetheless one of London DuplicateBridge 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 twinsand had all the characteristics the layman associates with this condition: theywere difficult to tell apart (although on close examination Bob had a slightlyfuller face and slightly heavier build), they dressed alike, they were bothbank officials in the City, they remained bachelors living all their lives inthe family home in Caterham-on-the-Hill, and they never owned a car, nor indeedlearned to drive.
Their hobbies, too, were shared: cigarette smoking,collecting classical gramophone records and, of course, bridge. Not quiteeverything was shared, since I never saw them give each other a cigarette andwhen 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 inMarch 1958, the first Life Masters in May 1959 and the first Grand Masters inAugust 1966. They played in more than 20 Camrose matches and won some 21national titles.
I have many memories of them. They were there when Iplayed my first Camrose home country international match in 1961 (with RoyHigson) in Oxford against Scotland. The rest of the team was Preston& Swimer and Sharples & Sharples, who brought Alfredo Campoli along asa 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 in1967 (playing on Rita Oldroyd’s team). We lost heavily to the Sharples,Harrison-Gray/Priday and Rose/Gardener. Gray and the Sharples won theGold Cup for three consecutive years 1966, 1967 and 1968 to register a total ofseven wins for Gray and six each for the Sharples.
I played with Bill Pencharz and the Sharples in the Gold Cupfor a number of years and in 1979 they registered their sixth success, thoughwe were 27 imps down with six boards to play.
It is rare for a team-of-four to win the Gold Cup since thefinal weekend is so onerous - on this occasion, remember, the Sharples were 71years old.
The Sharples represented Britain in European Championshipson three occasions, their best result being in 1958 when they (plusGray/Truscott and Reese/ Schapiro) came second, losing on a split tie to theItalian Blue team. They were often associated with Gray in their middleyears and after his death became the guardians of Acol. Their particularstrengths were in their system agreements and bidding judgement. They wonthe Bidding Challenge in Bridge Magazine for 11 months beforeretiring undefeated in 1970.
As Bob, the Bully, joins Jim, the Jelly, Acol will never bequite the same again.
Jim Sharples by Bob Rowlands BM November 1985
Jim Sharples died on October 3, 1985 after a short illness.
James Watson Sharples was born in London in May 1908, theelder of twins, the younger being his brother Robert. He was educated atTonbridge School. At the outbreak of the Second World War he joined theRoyal Navy whilst brother Bob served in the Royal Marines. They did notmeet during the war but unusually for brothers they wrote to each other weekly,always including a bridge problem or discussion in their letters.
In the twenties, as children, he and Bob learnt AuctionBridge, before turning to Contract Bridge when it became established in theearly thirties. Shortly after the war, however, they abandoned theiroriginal Culbertson for Acol, of which Jim and Bob became the leading exponentsfor more than thirty years. They demonstrated their superiority when in1970 they were invited to take part in Bidding Challenge for BridgeMagazine. After monopolising this for a whole year, the Sharplesgraciously retired undefeated, having consistently scored over ninety percenteach month! Jim and Bob won every major bridge event in the calendar,including the Gold Cup six times, the last occasion in 1979 in a team of onlyfour players, at the age of seventy-one.
The Sharples represented England and Great Britain oncountless occasions and were one of the greatest, if not the greatest,partnerships ever produced in England. The boys, as they were universallyknown, were the first to achieve the rank of Life Master and also were thefirst Grand Masters in 1966. Jim and Bob were the first to devise a twoclub defence to one no trump, which was later expanded to include twodiamonds. With Jack Marx and Bob, Jim made an incalculable contributionto bidding theory. Sharples-Marx Transfers and Byzantine Blackwood are,with many other of their innovations, widely used. In latter years, Jimlimited his bridge to his weekly duplicate at the London Club, with anoccasional EBU event. Those privileged to partner him always benefitedfrom his dry humour and serene confidence, while his opponents appreciated hisimpeccable ethics.
He and Bob shared a love of cricket and music. Theyaccumulated a collection of old records which is renowned worldwide. Heloved his home and however successful his bridge weekend might have been, hewas always glad to return to their house and lovely garden at Caterham. Jim Sharples was highly regarded throughout English bridge circles and farbeyond, he will be sadly missed. He is survived by his brother Bob andhis sister Morna, to whom we offer our sincerest sympathy.
by Greta King BM November 1986
Dennis Spooner, scriptwriter and bridge personality, diedsuddenly last month at the age of 54.
He started his career at Leyton Orient as a footballer andgraduated to scriptwriting where he amused members of the bridge world bynaming villains in The Avengers after members of the Harrow bridge club. His Useful Hints for Useless Players and his Diary of a Palooka willlong be remembered.
We extend our sympathy to his wife, Pauline, and threechildren.
Successfully submitted scripts to the Gerry Anderson'sprogramme, Fireball XL5 in 1962. After two episodes there, he received moresubstantial work on Stingray, and Thunderbirds, writing almost 20 episodes forthe two shows.
Spooner worked on Doctor Who almost exclusively in the formative William Hartnell era. Perhaps most significantly, he was the script editor from The Rescue to The Chase. In addition, he wrote the stories The Reign of Terror, The Romans and The Time Meddler for Hartnell's Doctor Who.
After the BBC he moved to ITC. Starting in 1967, Spooner became a sort of "contracted freelancer" with ITC. He was obliged to write 10 episodes annually for ITC, although he wasn't exclusively bound to them.
Ralph Swimer 1914 – 1998 By
Godfrey King EB April 1998
Swimer, one of Britain’s
best ever bridge players, has died after a short illness.
in 1914, Ralph built a very successful business, but devoted most of his spare
time to bridge. He formed a brilliant
partnership with his great friend Dick Preston and together they won most of
the national championships during the 1960s & early 70s, including the
Gold Cup and the Master Pairs many times.
was a WBF World Life Master and played for Britain in the World Olympiad in
1960 when Britain
came second to France. He represented Britain in one other world
championship and two Zonal championships.
of the most traumatic events of his life was as non-playing captain of the
British team in 1965 when Terence Reese and Boris Schapiro were accused of
Alan Truscott wrote in the New York
Times 12th March
memorable episode in bridge history, which made headlines around the world, was
recalled by the death two weeks ago (Feb 28) in London, England,
of Ralph Swimer at the age of 83. He was
the non-playing captain of the British team at the 1965 world team
championships in Buenos Aires,
was embroiled in controversy near the end of the tournament.
was advised by officials that two of his players, Terence Reese and Boris
Schapiro, had been seen by several observers to be cheating by using finger
signals to indicate the number of cards they held in the heart suit. He then watched them and confirmed to his
dismay the validity of the accusation. He
talked to Schapiro, received a confession that was later denied by the player,
and announced that his team would forfeit in its two unfinished matches.
hearing by the World Bridge Federation found the players guilty, but a
subsequent British inquiry decided that the evidence did not prove the charge
beyond a reasonable doubt. In England
Swimer was hailed as a hero by some but targeted as a villain by others. He was forced to bring a libel suit against a
player who said in a magazine article that he was a party to a conspiracy, but
the jury was unable to agree.
aside, Swimer was a player of the highest class who won many titles. In 1960 he was a member of the British team,
including Reese and Schapiro, that finished second to France in the first World
Team Olympiad in Turin, Italy.