In the last little while, the card game of bridge has been hit by cheating scandal after cheating scandal featuring top players illegally signalling to their partners via hand and card placement signals. All bridge organizations have as their strictest taboo the idea that partners would cheat to give count or strength signals.
Well, after the recent Spingold tournament, a tournament played at what is called the North American Bridge Championships (NABC) a high ranking player who lost, Boye Brogeland, claimed that the victors, the Jimmy Cayne team, had employed a cheating pair, and he was going to publish proof!
He admitted that he had only done so because he lost, and had he won, he probably would not have said anything. However, he lost and here we are.
This first video is a clear showing of how the cheating pair, who turned out to be the Israeli pair of Lotan Fischer (a player reprimanded by the Israeli NBO for cheating, previously) and Ron Schwartz, signal strength and lead preferences to their partner.
It is a breathtakingly simple scheme. The videos are from the recent Euro bridge championships to decide entry into the World Championships (the so-called Bermuda Bowl.) An intrepid Dutch scientist watched the final and discovered the the other pair in the finals was also exchanging signals!
Again, devastatingly simple. The shocking feature of the “other pair” is that it is not just some other pair. Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes are the number one pair in the world – and the number one pair in the world for quite some time! How long have these guys been at it!?
Suddenly, a top German pair, Alex Smirnov and Josef Piekarek announce that in the recently completed trials in which their team qualified for entry into the World Championships, they had committed “unethical behaviour” which meant that they would be forced to withdraw from the championships.
In the spirit of cleaning the game, and removing the stench of cheats, the national organizations of Germany, Israel, and Monaco withdrew their teams from the world championships.
Devastating. But not over.
During the lead into the World Championships, the WBF withdrew the sanctioning for a top pair from Poland. The WBF, operating in a Star Chamber-like dimension refused to say why the sanctioning had been withdrawn, but did not deny it could be for cheating.
With a win at all cost attitude, the Polish team refused to withdraw. They obviously did not see things the way Germany, Israel and Monaco did. To the shame of all bridge organizations world wide, and as an insult to every player who ever paid dues to a national bridge organization, the Poles were allowed to compete and to win this tourney.
Now, video evidence of the Polish pair shows without a doubt they used signals to get to the Bermuda Bowl, and the Poles should not have been allowed to play.
As an average player, someone who would never have the chance to represent their country at any level, suddenly the players we seek to emulate, are out and out cheaters. They aren’t playing fair. It’s the bridge world’s equivalent of the steroid scandal in the major sports. Everybody is doing it, right? If Fisher-Schwartz claimed they had to cheat because others are, well, they wouldn’t be wrong would they?
So where do we go from here? The WBF seems to be a parody of a world wide organization and the NBOs seem unable or unwilling to clean up their games. Even sponsors have to accept some of the blame since they hire these dirty pros.
I’m not even sure why I’m posting this….