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Subject: Boris Schapiro, Bridge Player Implicated in Cheating Scandal

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Date Posted: December 05, 2002 3:43:08 EDT

Boris Schapiro, a top British bridge player who was convicted of cheating in an international championship match by the World Bridge Federation but later inconclusively exonerated by an independent British inquiry, died at his home in Buckinghamshire last Sunday. He was 93.

At the 1965 Bermuda Bowl World Championships in Buenos Aires, the American non-playing captain, John Gerber, accused Mr. Schapiro and his partner, Terence Reese, of using finger signals at the table to communicate to each other how many hearts were in their hands. .

An emergency meeting of the World Bridge Federation's appeals committee, convened immediately in the Argentine capital, found the British pair "guilty of using illegal hand signals." Mr. Schapiro and his partner withdrew from the remainder of the tournament.

But the federation did not suspend the two players, instead referring its findings to the British Bridge League in the expectation that it would decide an appropriate punishment.

The British League then set up a quasi-judicial inquiry headed by a prominent lawyer, Sir John Foster, and Gen. Lord Bourne, both of whom were no more than social bridge players.

After a year's deliberation, the two judges conceded that there was "strong" evidence the two players were exchanging hand signals. But they still found them not guilty of cheating largely because the American vice captain and coach, Sami Kehela, thought them to be innocent, even though Ralph Swimer, the British captain, said that Mr. Schapiro had privately confessed to him, a confession Mr. Schapiro later denied making.

In his account of the scandal in "The New York Times Bridge Book" (St. Martin's Press, 2002), Alan Truscott, the newspaper's bridge correspondent, and his wife, Dorothy, an international player, say "some called the verdict a whitewash" and write of the "astonishment and indignation of many, including all the Americans" that greeted this finding, which effectively left Mr. Schapiro innocent in British eyes but guilty in those of the rest of the world.

The W.B.F. promptly suspended both players from international competitions, and Britain withdrew in protest from the 1968 World Bridge Olympiad. Three years later the two men were allowed to return to competitive bridge, but they never played together again.

Mr. Schapiro continued playing with other partners until late in life, winning the World Senior Pairs with Irving Gordon in 1998 at the age of 89.

Boris Schapiro was born at Riga, Latvia, on Aug. 22, 1909, into a family of wealthy horse dealers who moved their business to England at the time of the Russian Revolution.

Fluent in Russian, French and German, he developed a passion for cards as a boy and served in British intelligence during World War II.

After the war he became a regular member of the British international bridge team, winning the European Team Championships four times and the Bermuda Bowl, the leading world teams championship, in 1955.

He is survived by his wife, Helen, whom he married in 1970.

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