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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 November 2006, 01:52 GMT
UK rock beats US scissors
By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News

If you thought "rock, paper, scissors" was a game for kids, think again. The world championships were held last weekend in Toronto and were won by a Briton.

I've never played a world champion at anything, let alone that rare species, a British one.

Bob Cooper
The sunglasses helped Cooper win the top prize

Bob Cooper has now joined the elite ranks of the England rugby team, Joe Calzaghe, Beth Tweddle and Scotland's stone-skimming team.

The sales manager, 28, from north London, may have conquered the world at rock, paper, scissors - but has he met his match at the BBC?

Round one is mine but only through illegal means - I was unaware that paper has to be made with a horizontally flat hand. Whoops.

But my luck runs out and he wins the next two with ease. Well, he's not world champ for nothing and he seems to read my "throws" with certainty.

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS
Bob Cooper's "throws"
Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper
Earliest forms thought to be in Japan in ancient times
Popular as a child's game and has been used as a means of arbitration among adults
A league exists in the US, called USARPS

So how did he achieve it, last week in Toronto, defeating a field of more than 500 contestants and an American in the final?

"Hard work, training and lots of research into tactics, body language and basic psychology," he says.

His sunglasses helped him to the top prize, he believes.

"It's similar to poker when you're out there bluffing, putting out the right or wrong signals. The eyes give away a lot so the shades are a definite benefit."

Bluffing is called "priming" and enables a player to either fake a move or provoke the opponent into a wrong move, he says.

Sport or hobby?

Cooper spent one or two hours each day training for the event, playing friends and colleagues or studying tactics.

His passion developed from being a game he played as a child, then as a means to settle arguments, then into a sport.

Tom Geoghegan's hand and Bob Cooper's hand
BBC nil, world champ one
But hang on, is it a sport?

"It is. In how many hobbies do you compete against national champions from Australia, America and Norway? A hobby doesn't involve national pride.

"I was representing the UK, I introduced myself as being from the UK and I was proud to do so."

Cooper's victory is captured on YouTube and shouts of "UK, UK" are clearly heard from the audience, which was estimated to be about 300.

So at a time when England's footballers and rugby players are struggling, and the cricket team is facing a daunting task Down Under, could rock, paper, scissors be a source of national pride?

"Hopefully I could get nominated for Sports Personality of the Year, or we could begin a campaign to reopen nominations," says Cooper.


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