This conventional method was devised by Mr. James (Jim) Watson Sharples, born in May 1908 and died October 3, 1985, and his identical twin brother Mr. Robert (Bob) Boake Sharples, born on the same day in May 1908, and died in September 1999, both of Caterham, England.
Note: Any additional information about these two bridge personalities, especially photographic material, would be greatly appreciated as a contribution in honor of their efforts to enhance the game of bridge.
Parameters of the Concept
The Sharples conventional method is principally Stayman-esque in concept and is employed after a No Trump opening by partner when the responder holds only one 4-card Major and one or both 4-card Minor suits. The responder, after becoming captain, expects slam possibilities, especially if a 4-4 fit in a Minor suit can be established.
The Sharples method is an extension of the Stayman conventional method and allows the partnership to explore first of all for a fit in a Major suit, and, if no fit is found, then to attempt to find a fit in a Minor suit. The main feature of this convention is that the responder has such a holding of 4-1-4-4 or 4-2-3-4 and sufficient values to warrant not only game but also to strongly indicate slam possibilities.
The concept is originally used with strong No Trump ranges between 16 and 18 high card points, but the concept can also be employed using other No Trump ranges.
Note: This conventional method is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Sharples 4 Clubs or Sharples 4 Diamonds, or Sharples 4 or Sharples 4.
The following bidding sequence illustrates the application of the Sharples conventional method. The bidding auction proceeds normally.
North South Meaning 1 NT 2 The responder will first attempt by the Stayman convention to find a fit in a Major suit.
AJ KJ94 K108 AJ104
KQ75 7 AQ93 KQ98 2 Promises a 4-card Heart suit. 4 The responder now employs the Sharples conventional method to find a Minor suit fit by promising a 4-card plus Club suit. This bidding sequence does not deny a 4-card Diamond suit. It is essential that the partnership bid the lower-ranking 4-card Minor suit when holding both. See holding above. 4 The responder will bypass the Club suit when holding 3 or fewer Clubs and bid Diamonds to show a 4-card plus Diamond suit in addition to the 4-card Spade suit. See holding below.
KQ75 75 AQ93 KQ9
The No Trump bidder now has the information that the responder holds a 4-card Spade suit and a 4-card Club and/or Diamond suit and is showing slam interest in a Minor suit.
It is important to note that a jump to 4 Diamonds by the responder denies holding a 4-card Club suit. Therefore the distribution of the responder is most likely 4-2-4-3 or 4-3-4-2. Do not mistake the distribution when the responder jumps to 4 Clubs and assume that his distribution is 4-2-3-4. The responder could have both 4-card Minor suits when jumping to 4 Clubs and therefore his distribution would be 4-1-4-4.
Note: This jump is significant because it also imparts to the No Trump bidder that the partnership is strong enough to play at least in 4 No Trump.
Rebids by the No Trump Bidder
If the No Trump bidder holds a 4-card suit in that particular Minor suit, then:
1. The No Trump bidder should raise the suit of the responder, either 5 Clubs or 5 Diamonds, if his No Trump opening is minimum. 2. The No Trump bidder should bid on the six level the suit of the responder, either 6 Clubs or 6 Diamonds, if his No Trump opening is maximum.
If the No Trump bidder does not hold a 4-card suit in that particular Minor suit, then:
1. The No Trump bidder should bid a 4-card suit at the four level, if possible. 2. The No Trump bidder should bid 4 No Trump if he can not show another 4-card suit at the four level, if minimum. 3. The No Trump bidder should bid 5 No Trump if he can not show another 4-card suit at the four level, if maximum.
The following example illustrates how the partnership can bid a Minor suit slam using the Sharples conventional method.
North South Meaning 1 NT 2 The responder will first attempt by the Stayman convention to find a fit in a Major suit.
A1085 K9 KQ87 A107
8 QJ106 AJ94 KQJ6 2 Promises a 4-card Heart suit. 4 The responder now employs the Sharples convention to find a Minor suit fit by promising a 4-card plus Club suit. This bidding sequence does not deny a 4-card Diamond suit. It is essential that the partnership bid the lower-ranking 4-card Minor suit when holding both. 4 Denies a 4-card Club suit but promises a 4-card Diamond suit. Holding neither the No Trump bidder would rebid 4 No Trump. 4 NT The responder attempts a Minor suit slam in Diamonds since there is confirmation that there is a 4-4 fit. 5 (x) The No Trump bidder shows either 2 Aces or 3 Keycards (with Diamonds as the trump suit.) 6 The responder bids the Diamond suit slam.
Note: As a defense method immediately after, or in the pass-out seat, the Sharples conventional method can also be employed against a No Trump opening by the opponents.
An obituary notice for Mr. James (Jim) Watson Sharples authored by Mr. Robert (Bob) Rowlands in November 1985 and posted online. This information is also included on this web page and preserved for future reference.
Jim Sharples died on October 3, 1985 after a short illness. James Watson Sharples was born in London in May 1908, the elder of twins, the younger being his brother Robert. He was educated at Tonbridge School. At the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy, whilst brother Bob served in the Royal Marines. They did not meet 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 Auction Bridge, before turning to Contract Bridge when it became established in the early thirties. Shortly after the war, however, they abandoned their original Culbertson for Acol, of which Jim and Bob became the leading exponents for more than thirty years. They demonstrated their superiority when in1970 they were invited to take part in Bidding Challenge for Bridge Magazine. After monopolising this for a whole year, the Sharples graciously retired undefeated, having consistently scored over ninety percent each 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 only four players, at the age of seventy-one.
The Sharples represented England and Great Britain on countless occasions and were one of the greatest, if not the greatest, partnerships ever produced in England. The boys, as they were universally known, were the first to achieve the rank of Life Master and also were the first Grand Masters in 1966. Jim and Bob were the first to devise a Two Club defence to one no trump, which was later expanded to include Two Diamonds. With Jack Marx and Bob, Jim made an incalculable contribution to bidding theory. Sharples-Marx Transfers and Byzantine Blackwood are,with many other of their innovations, widely used. In latter years, Jim limited his bridge to his weekly duplicate at the London Club, with an occasional EBU event. Those privileged to partner him always benefited from his dry humour and serene confidence, while his opponents appreciated his impeccable ethics.
He and Bob shared a love of cricket and music. They accumulated a collection of old records which is renowned worldwide. He loved his home and however successful his bridge weekend might have been, he was always glad to return to their house and lovely garden at Caterham. Jim Sharples was highly regarded throughout English bridge circles and far beyond; he will be sadly missed. He is survived by his brother Bob and his sister Morna, to whom we offer our sincerest sympathy.
An obituary notice for Mr. Robert (Bob) Boake Sharples authored by Mr. Raymond Brock in November 1985 and posted online. This information is also included on this web page and preserved for future reference.
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 (European Bridge Union) 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, 196,7 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 71years 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 in 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 Star 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
If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.
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