Cam French

Spike Lee – Do the Right Thing

This comes from the IBPA report of 8/16/2012. TY John Carruthers for granting permission to reprint. 

It showcases players at the top, acting ethically and often at a cost to their standing. 

Maybe more of our experts should emulate such behaviour. Yes, that would be you Alan Sontag and Peter Weichsel. 

This is bridge at the top in every way. Thank you to these players for doing the right thing. 


John Simon Sportsmanship Award
Recipients: Jeff Ruben & Andrew Stayton (USA)
and Debbie Rosenberg (USA)

Jeff Ruben & Andrew Stayton Debbie Rosenberg
The John Simon Sportsmanship Award is granted occasionally for acts of sportsmanship by bridge
players that define how we all should act. This year there were two incidents at the North American
Bridge Championships in Philadelphia in July that stood out.

Firstly, in the David Bruce 0-5000 Life Master Pairs, Jeff Ruben and Andrew Stayton, who had won the
event, were checking their matchpoint scores against their estimates. They noticed that their score for
one board greatly exceeded their estimate. Upon checking further, they discovered that the score for
that board had been entered incorrectly, and furthermore, that the correct score would drop them
from first to second place. They immediately reported the correction to the Tournament Directors.

Secondly, Debbie Rosenberg woke up in the middle of the night realising that her team in the Richard
Freeman Mixed Board-a-Match Teams had scored a board incorrectly, winning a full point rather than
the correct half a point (board-a-match in the ACBL is scored as a point for a win on the board and half
a point for a draw). The margin of her team’s win was less than half a point. Rosenberg also immediately
reported the error to the directing staff, dropping her team out of first place into second. 

While it is true that these actions are covered in the rules of the game, the behaviour of Ruben, Stayton
and Rosenberg is laudatory and shows that there is sportsmanship at all levels of the game

I beg to differ with the last sentence. How many would want to keep a tainted title? I won’t pretend to know but clearly there are those who would keep any ill-gotten gain, the price is moot. I would say it shows that there are some ethical players who abide by the letter, spirit and intent of the law. Clearly there is quite a contingent who feel otherwise. Pity. 

TY Jeff, Andrew and Debbie for showing us that sportsmanship is alive and well with you. WD!!

And SHAME on you others who just can’t do the right thing……GL to you. 





What is Love?

Dance Mix ’95 – Haddaway – What Is Love 

At the Toronto Regional I held this:


All vul
You Hold
Q5  Q1098  863  AK72
Pass on your right, you pass, (do you?) LHO tries 2D (weak) and partner bids 2S. Pass to you.
I dare say this might make a MSC problem so I sent it to TBW.
3S/4S/3D/3C, and to my mind the least likely – Pass. What is your call? Think about that a moment before you scroll down.
At the other table the auction was the same to this point, my counterpart bid 4 spades which made easily.
Bidding is a dialogue and good partnerships exchange information to explore both strain and level. I don’t know what suit we belong in let alone what level. This is a good problem because there are various options, none of which stand out from the crowd. I tried 3 clubs because
i) I have values therein
ii) it is forcing  
iii) it saves space and gives partner room to rebid accurately  
Although it was undiscussed (I just don’t play that much) I meant it as an expession of values, forward going and the next thing I knew, boy were we moving at warp speed. My 3C begat 3D from partner, I bid the obvious 3S and he bid 6 clubs!  I thought about that for a while and eventually passed. (we had played one 4-3 fit with Qxx opposite AKxx) at the grand slam level (yikes) already that day, yes they were 3-3 though we didn’t deserve that break. (sorry Fred) 
I bought well.
Partner had
AKXXX      K      AQ10   Q9XX 
I had
Q5  Q1098  863  AK72
and it rolled home. What is love at the bridge table? Making life easy for partner. Easier said than done, which is why we love our game so. 
Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me – no more. 🙂 

Do It Again





                                            Steely Dan – Do It Again


A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a CBF Regional  – for the first time ever hosted in my backyard. After being KO’d with great team mates (Mike Kenny and Steve Cooper) by Jeff Smith and Paul Thurston on Saturday, Sunday came and we were on a roll.

All Vul.

 108x   Q10x  Ax  Q108xx

I passed and 1H was opened on my left and passed around to me. Any thoughts? Very good opps. And although I prefer to see and document the names of all participants, in this case I violate my own rule out of respect for them.  

Possible actions in no particular order:

Pass. 1NT Double 2clubs 

Think about your bid before you scroll down.





















My mind flashed back to Fred. For those who don’t share that memory, here is a link.

Stealing a page from Fred’s playbook, I balanced 1NT. The subsequent effect was rather profound. LHO doubled, partner redoubled and 1NT rewound became the final contract! I awaited the dummy with bated breath.

As expected – I bought a favourable dummy. Would it be enough?

KQ  xxx Qxxx AJ9x

Hearts were opened (with the opener having 7!) and cleared.The club finesse worked (had it lost I can assure you I would not be writing this up) and now 6 tricks were in the bag,  I could cash the ace of diamonds for trick seven.Obviously that is a great result. But I could easily count out west’s hand as 3-7-2-1. Therefore I  played a spade. he cashed his two hearts and was endplayed in diamonds for an overtrick.

This was the end position:


♠ KQ 
♦ Qxx
♠ A
♥ J9
♦ Kx
East (irrelevant)
♥  –
♠ 10xx  
♦ Ax


  The full deal.                             



♠ 10xx  



My point in writing this is not to bask in the limelight of a glorious result but to note the high road of one of the opponents. When we were young and hopeless and always drew a superior team round one of the Swiss –  and I always wondered why that was. Now I know. I recall in my totallity of bridge playing a whopping two players whose team we as significant underdogs had defeated, coming back to our table to say “nice match boys”. This time I will out those two. They were Irving Litvak and Wayne Timms. Irving, a club proprietor, (and as recently as this week a team mate in an imp match where I served as a victorious fill-in) is ever gracious, and Wayne although  convicted as a cheater some 25 years later but always had charm, time for younger players and the charisma lacking too often in our game. Perhaps that was part of his charade. Truth is, I always admired and respected Wayne because of the atypical way (intimidation was a big part of the game in my youth) and Wayne was the antithesis if that. Sadly his conviction (for bringing and inserting pre-dealt hands into a match) and cheating on OKB (elevating his Lehman to 70! by playing with himself on two computers simultaneously) has (to be kind) caused us all to reassess that former position. 

On this day, Doug Baxter joined this modest duo by coming to our table to congradulate us. (Doug played at the other table.) That makes three players in about 30+ years, so one per decade. I say THANK YOU to Doug, to Irving to Wayne. It takes (apparently) a big man to say so.

Maybe we all should learn from this lesson. Once in a while (I know rarely) you are beaten by an inferior team, or even peers. Perhaps you might steal a page from this sportman’s handbook which says – congratulate the other team. Is that too tough? Apparently yes. I congratulated the only team (Steinberg/Korbel) that beat us. But maybe attitudes can change. I think Doug’s actions speak to that.

Thanks Doug. 





Somethin’ to Talk About

Somethin’ to Talk About

Bobby posted this on my blog the Kobayashi Maru (02/17/2008),



His comment (below) was a few months later on 08/15/2008 and I suspect it has not received the attention it deserves. I submit it all, without edit or comment. I leave that to the reader.




BOBBY WOLFFAugust 15th, 2008 at 9:59 pm  

My response is intended to shed more light on Cam French’s quest, as he has sometimes called it — “To right a wrong” and, while doing it, if possible, to eliminate the deceit, betrayal and perfidy which accompanies it.

He has referred to my contribution to the subject as (among several things) welcoming more scrutiny to my views, but calling it just “too painful” for me to lift tall buildings to get it done. Let me explain: There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, nor should there be in anyone’s mind, that Steve Sion and Alan Cokin as a partnership, cheated in Norfolk during the 1979 Fall Nationals and especially during the Board-a-Match Teams which they won, playing on a team with Jim Sternberg, Alan Sontag and Peter Weichsel. What else is new? Since the pair had been cheating for years before that and whatever their finish, whether it be in Nationals, Regionals, or Sectionals,(maybe even in club games), it totally distorted the final results.

Next, a few years after that and while a member of the WBF Executive Council, I proposed a law which, at the time, was unanimously passed and resulted in the following: Once a partnership is found guilty of the most heinous crime which bridge can produce (illicitly exchanging surreptitious signals) with intent to defraud their opponents and the event (thus — bridge in general), said finish would not only be denied in that specific event, but it would apply retroactively to all events in which they participated as a partnership and the disqualification would apply not only to them — but to every other individual on those teams as well. Furthermore, any and all additional attendant advantages therein would be forever thrown out!

My simple motive for proposing and having this motion passed was to dissuade all honest players from partnering or teaming up with possible cheats for fear of this humiliating reprisal. Before I leave the subject, let it be noted that I further proposed (as part of the motion) that after said titles were vacated — no other team or pair would move up into finishing position in the standings which the cheating “team” or “pair” were justifiably forced to abdicate. As far as I know, this caveat is still part of WBF rules, even though, at least up until now, it has not been called to use.

I vividly recall with mixed emotion two parallel incidents which followed the posting of the finishers in high-profile Pairs Games. One occurred in 1970 in Stockholm and the other in 1974 in Monte Carlo. It was quite a humorous sight – as the fourth place pairs were receiving facetious congratulations from their sympathetic comrades who were, as they say — in-the-know! Funny, but true.

For those who may be curious as to what I meant by “too painful” — it is so highly subjective (not to mention impossible) to judge exactly what would have happened if the “cheaters” had not been playing. In a KO tournament, what about all the victims the rogue team beat on their way to the finals; and in Pairs, B-A-M or Swiss Teams — how about the skewed nature of results when the cheating caused a difference even to the extent (believe-it-or-not) that sometimes a cheating pair will lose a board because of their cheating rather than win it by not cheating?

In essence, what I was trying to accomplish was to deputize the whole high-level world bridge community to rise up and unify to swat down these diabolical attempts to destroy the honor of our game.

Alas, it has fallen far short of my lofty expectations. To understand why – one merely needs to refer to The Lone Wolff and arrive at his or her own conclusions. Sadly, the sanctity of bridge has changed profusely. One of the reasons for it is Professionalism. The intrigue and lure of bridge has been transformed from “the romance derived from the sheer beauty of the great game we play” to a more practical concern –”I need to win to maintain my livelihood”.

Could that be a reason why the other members of the ill-fated Norfolk team didn’t abdicate their victory since, by so doing, they each would have to strike one National Championship from their resume. Painful? Yes!!! And — in retrospect — I think I have understated it.

Let me discuss the ACBL role in this issue. The current ACBL, in my opinion, is made up of a dynamic CEO, Jay Baum, and some veterans along with many employees who do not even know how to play the game. It is fitting to cite a perfect example of lethargy involving our administration: There was a time, perhaps 15 to 20 years ago, where the “hallowed” trophies like the Reisinger, Vanderbilt, Morehead (GNTs) and Spingold were not even engraved with the current winners (besides being eight years behind).

Perhaps Shakespeare was ahead of his time and in a context apart, but I am reminded that our ACBL Board of Directors should be made of sterner stuff wherein this above sacrilege could never happen. Can anyone possibly believe that such an apathetic group of leaders, without tradition or genuine love for the game, can possibly treat bridge with the passion which Cameron French, Zeke Jabbour and, of course, some other notable exceptions do?

Before I conclude, I think it might be appropriate to mention the following historical episode. After winning my first two World Championships in 1970 and 1971, the Blue Team came out of retirement to contest and win the next four: One World Team Olympiad and three Bermuda Bowls in 1972-1975.

In all four of those championships my team competed representing both the USA and on one occasion the WBF as a defending Bermuda Bowl Champion (1973). All four of the teams that I played on were composed, except for my partner Bob Hamman, of different teammates. On all four occasions my team finished second to the Blue Team (losing by close margins twice, a medium margin once, and being blown out once).

It may be interesting to those who are familiar with the gambling world that in 1973, in Guaruja, Brazil, after our team edged out the Blue Team during the Round Robin for the No. 1 Seed in the finals, that the British bookmakers put our final match up on the board – with the Italians being favored by 21 to 1. In other words, if one wanted to bet on the Italians, they would have had to risk $2,100 to win $100. I mention this only to educate the public as to what the legal betting establishments around the world were privy to – yet the great unwashed American bridge community (and many others) were in denial!

In each of the four tournaments, according to the Burgay tapes (released in 1976 and authenticated by the United States CIA), every Blue Team member was wired to the teeth (for more particulars please read The Lone Wolff and be sure to get the upcoming World Bridge History, authored by Jaime Ortiz-Patino to be released this October at the World Championship in Beijing). As an aftermath of the Burgay Tapes, Jimmy barred every member of the Italian Blue Team from ever appearing in another World Championship, although he relented for two particular Blue Team members in 1979 and again in 1983. I must confess I fell from grace as well as I succumbed in 2004, as Permanent Chairman of the WBF Credentials Committee, in Estoril, by allowing the two surviving members of the Blue Team to participate in the Senior Teams – representing Italy.

Having said the above, I strongly believe that my teams, as well as some of the great USA teams of the late 1950′s and 1960′s, should have not been moved up and declared winners of events which they had failed to win — for whatever the reason!!!

Perhaps now others will understand what I meant when I referred to looking back as “too painful”.

Bobby Wolff











Stand Tall

Burton Cummings – Stand Tall


You just won a tournament, a title, a National Championship or a Bermuda Bowl. You are basking in the glory.

To your horror you later discover you had cheating team mates at the other table. You were cheated too.

Now we will further presume you had no idea that this partnership cheated, because if you did you would never have played with them in the first place. But you did. Through their unlawful acts your entire team has been tarnished. You cheated (albeit unwillingly) and won. Period.

Would you toss your unlawfully won title back?

I asked many experts this question from Grant Baze to Paul Soloway and they all said what you would expect them to say. Grant once found and reported a scoring error that dropped him from (if I recall) winning the event to fifth or sixth place. To him, it was a no-brainer. It really isn’t that tough. Do you really wish to retain an unlawfully title?

Capp’s team and Norfolk are not the only ones impacted by this. This happens more often that you can imagine, scoring errors (not exactly cheating) but if you knew you lost 9 imps on the board and the opposition has you winning 3, you fail to explore the truth, you are cheating your opponents and the game.

In my local unit, I recall a team captain reporting a false score (the other team had an error in his favour) and he submitted a false slip, having failed to reconcile the difference. Unfortunately for him, they discovered their error, and reported it. Soon the miscreant was sitting out a 30 day suspension. This is different obviously, but why someone would do that just puzzles me. I mean do they forget this is a game based upon ethics and integrity? I guess the sad reality it yes – they choose to forget.

So, with (unknown to you) cheating team mates at the other table – you score a victory. Would you toss it back when you learn the painful truth?

I am going to step out on a limb and speculate that precious few would say no. I think I am on terra firma with that guess. Which begs the obvious question – why can’t Sternberg, Sontag and Weichsel toss theirs back? Are they just embarassed, or do they consider it a lawful victory or are they simply above the spirit and letter of the laws? I don’t pretend to know. Maybe they can weigh in and enlighten us all.

Maybe a little of of all the above.

We deserve better. The game deserves better from two of its superstars.

And if pointing the finger at those who benefit from cheaters makes me look bad, well, so be it. They should be ashamed of themselves. Stand tall or stand down. As Al Roth would say – what is the problem?

Well would you or wouldn’t you?




Bad Company – Bad Company


I got this note from a long-time contributor.

Thought you might smile. Some bridge players have a deliciously wicked sense of humour. You decide if this qualifies.

My friend Jerry Clerkin once made a pre-alert statement when he started a game against Cokin.  Jerry said, “We play upside down pencil signals.”

I almost feel sorry for poor Cokin;  Sion browbeats him into cheating (most of the expert community were of the opinion that Sion was a horrible influence on Cokin), they get caught, booted for 5 years, legal bills, ostracization and now has to endure the barbs of friends. Well I did say almost.

And he was the only one (apparently) that wanted to throw their unlawfully won Norfolk title back. But Sontag, Weichsel and Sternberg would not so much as entertain the thought.

“Bad Company, and I can’t deny it. Bad, bad company, ’till the day I die.”



Here is the funny part. Since this was posted, at last count 24 people have emailed me privately about this post. 22 said it was funny, 2 wishing they had the imagination to dream up such a barb, and 2 found the remark “offensive”. None would post, thereby going on the record. Not sure what that says but it is telling on its own. Cheating is the forbidden fruit, no one wants to talk about it. It is the bastard child of our game especially in a case like this where otherwise honest and ethical players like Sontag and Weichsel do a U-Turn on the ethics highway and someone calls them to account. But until we realize that sooner or later we will have to address cheating with all its warts, pain, implications and ramifications, it will remain a tainted topic, where few dare to venture. I encourage those who have an opinion to post for all to see.

Hard to Handle

The Black Crows – Hard To Handle


Bobby (and to a lesser extent his beloved) and I have enjoyed an off-and-on love hate relationship.

One minute we are loving, cuddling and like lovers.

The next they are spewing toxic hostility  (to be fair, mostly JKW) and I respond with corresponding force.

If you need specifics scroll back.

Linda Lee asked me to tone down the hostility. I never saw it as such, but I can see how questioning a person with Bobby’s record can bring one into the cross hairs.

There is no pleasure in criticizing for its own sake. And when one calls into question words of Bobby Wolff, JKW, or the actions (perhaps inactions) of Alan Sontag and Peter Weichsel – there will be return fire. Fair enough.

I got hate mail and love mail, thankfully much more of the latter. The episode with ERM swindling Stoney and gloating about it was a poster child for our rapport. Judy was incensed,  the readers laughed and Bobby played it down the middle as he had to. What many of us thought was funny, one took offence and that is OK.

And I confess I like to stir the pot. I don’t see too many others doing it. Sometimes someone needs to step out and say – this is wrong. I have no idea how I somehow fell into the role – as one of my friends called it – “you are the cheating guru.” That is not a role I seek or want. No thx.

As as for “flogging a dead horse” (JKW’s words about Norfolk) well….

 I do not apologize.

There is no statute of limitations on doing the right thing.

Zeke and company were swindled by self-confessed cheaters aided and abetted by the League. They are certainly Collateral Damage. But hey- so what if the cheaters confessed, the aggrieved filed a timely appeal, (never heard) – well too bad. That doesn’t sit well with me, but THAT IS THE WAY IT IS. it doesn’t mean I have to like or accept it, but that is the way this will apparently play out. Cheaters win.

I guess Bob Hamman was right all along – “it is a great story but if you imagine some scoring change will ensue then you are mistaken.”

Bobby had the courtesy to become engaged, sharing his perspective, insight and experience. Precious few of said rank did the same. Many commented in private, but Bobby was out there on the record. And as Martha says – “that’s a good thing.” I want to thank him for that.

Bobby and I have made peace. We have agreed to disagree and have extended the olive branch to one another. That does not mean we are best friends, or happily ever after – it does mean we have agreed to a mutual respect for each other’s opinion and we or at least he 🙂 will tone down the volume.

And although I remain (in a few minds) “despicable” or (gotta love this) “can’t shine Stoney’s shoes” that criticism comes with the territory. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I loved that Stoney shoes line (JKW) and I confess the verbiage never bothered me, in fact I loved it. Great line.

And before I depart, I ask Alan Sontag and Peter Weichsel  – why can’t you do the right thing? You are superstars in our game. You should lead the way by positive example. If only Kantar or Rosenberg or Alder had asked….would you stand fast? Give it up. You owe us, I take that back – you owe the game more and you certainly don’t need (or want) to win with cheaters at the other table. Or is that OK? I guess so. So it would appear from the cheap seats. You should be ashamed of yourselves clinging to an unlawfully won titile as if it was your God given right. There is no “right” to win with cheaters. You did not earn or merit the Norfolk title – but hell-go ahead – keep it. That is your choice, so be it.  It pales in comparison to all your other fabulous achievements and sadly tarnishes that otherwise unblemished record.

So you tell us – why? You won’t and you can’t because there is NO viable reason for doing so. Winning alongside cheaters?  Apparently that is your legacy. Say it ain’t so.

Truth be told, I am going through divorce, about to be fleeced. I have a couple of children’s/teachers’ and bridge books I want to publish.  Too much on my plate and bridge blogging will have to take a back seat. I am too seasoned to say never again but it will not be the priority it once was.  

So if you are a woman bridge player, hot, loaded, intellectual and with other tangilbe virtues (like children) and a love for Canada’s horrible weather please feel free to email me in privately at: or

As for blogging let’s just kiss and say goodbye.



The Big Leagues

        Tom Cochrane – Big Leagues 




It is woven into the fabric of our game.                                

I think Alan Sontag, Peter Weichsel, Dr. James Sternberg, Steve Sion and Allan Cokin have chosen to ignore that fact on this occasion.

I heard from someone (maybe Bill Pollack, not sure) that Cokin was the only one wanting to toss this back. Maybe he was right.

I said this in CD VII

Alan Sontag in his engaging book The Bridge Bum, recounts how he waived a penalty (and suggested an alternative) against Forquet who had bid out of turn (at stake were 5 Italian Lancia sport cars) on the first board of the match! Instead all “agreed” to Sontag’s suggestion of a re-deal. This in turn won him Sportsman of the Year from the International Bridge Press Association. Sontag said in his book – “I did not want to win on a technicality…taking advantage of a technicality would have proved nothing, especially to myself. My three team mates {Rubin/Granovetter/Weichsel} agreed.”

So Sontag didn’t want to win on a technicality. I applaud that. This in turn wins him IBPA sportsman of the year? Good for him. Congratulations. He is willing to forsake a legal sanction and insert his own (albeit reasonable) solution. Note that the Laws pursuant to a bid out of turn do not provide a re-deal as an option. So this home-cooked solution, as noble as it may have been, is not based upon the Laws, but rather the sentiments of fairness and sportsmanship. Would Edgar have been apopletic? How does winning a title with team mates cheating at the other table reconcile with “I did not want to win on a technicality” to say nothing of his sense of fairness and sportsmanship? It doesn’t.

Is cheating at the other table “a technicality”? Or is it worse? If he wants to win fair and square (and he does), then stand up and prove it. Forqet and Omar Sharif deserve a “re-deal” but fellow citizens don’t deserve any justice for being cheated by Cokin and Sion.

Toss the Norfolk title back. After reading the whole story, perhaps one’s perspectives changes. I ask Dr. James Sternberg, Peter Weichsel, Alan Sontag and Alan Cokin to do the “Spike Lee” {the right thing} and forsake that tainted title. Actions speak louder than words. But let’s be honest – offering a re-deal after an opponent’s gaffe is magnanimous; retaining a title won with cheating team mates at the other table is …. pathetic.

I see no reason to change any of that.

What would you call it? Sportsman-like? Fair? Reasonable? Let’s call a spade a spade. If Sontag and Weichsel want to retain their stolen title – well just what does that say? It tells me that these icons of bridge are in effect apologists for cheaters. They won with cheaters. Their team mates were convicted. Their partners confessed to “basically cheating on every hand they ever played” (ask Bobby) but they imagine that they are untarnished? NO. Wake up, smell the coffee. They are tarnished.

They won unlawfully and to this day retain the fruits of their team mates’ cheating.

That should tell you all you need to know. Let’s face the music. They won with self-confessed and convicted cheaters. Enough already.

Of that there is no question. Don’t believe me – ask Bobby, Kit, Chip. No one wants to taint the armor of the charismatic Sontag or his (then) partner Weichsel. They seem to think they enjoy survivor’s immunity. I beg to differ. So do Capp, Jabbour, Feldman, Sacks, Hoffner and Hann, Paul Soloway, Grant Baze and many other experts who prefer not to be on the record.  It is not rocket science. You win with cheaters, you are part of the team. Like it or not. Check out the sportsmanship here. Note the coaches’ remarks.       

Now that is sportsmanship!

Why did they do it? “She deserved it”.

Zeke and Capp and their team “deserve it” too. Or do they “deserve” to be cheated. Which is it?

“I did not want to win on a technicality…taking advantage of a technicality would have proved nothing, especially to myself.

Care to step up to the plate boys? Hit the home run and we will carry you around the bases. I promise Zeke and Capp will do the heavy lifting.

Why not just do the right thing? That would be such sportsmanship so as to make those college girls blush.

Cheers from the horse-flogger (THF), ty to JKW for that moniker.

So are you sportsmen, or those who tail-gate on the backs of cheaters? Please let us know. Which is it? Right now, we all know. Only you can change that.

Na – convicted cheaters at the other table are ………well ……you fill in the blank. My blank says pathetic. What does yours say? Acceptable? Fine, dandy,  or heaven forbid – “a technicality”?

What’s the problem? Sternberg wants his money back? Zeke and company aren’t worth it? They don’t “deserve it”? They “deserve” to be cheated. OK.

This is the BIG LEAGUES. You owe us more than silence and petty vindictiveness. My late (bless her soul) mother-in-law said – “you sleep with dogs you are gonna to get fleas.” You slept with dogs and their fleas have migrated all over your team.

Time to step up (or not) and show the bridge world you are true members of the BIG LEAGUES. All you will receive is accolades, thanks, appreciation, the respect from many and a free ride around the bases to home plate. How bad can that be? Make history. Set the crooked record straight.

Sportsmanship at its finest. You to call.

Cheers from THF,



Who You Gonna Call?

Hilary Duff – Shining Star

(hey I agree EW&F would be preferable……) 

so I toss you a bonus……


Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters



Bob Hamman: Shining Star





I recently spent over an hour on the phone with Bob Hamman. He does not like email, except to arrange appointments, which he did with me.

Maybe it is just me he prefers not to email his insider knowledge. In any case he was frank, funny and as expected the consummate professional. He did not slag Bobby Wolff or anyone else. He rises above, making him the consummate professional. I will condense our conversation into a few interesting anecdotes.

He said he had heard “rumblings” over the years about Cokin/Sion, long before they were caught. He also said he had no proof of firsthand knowledge, even though he had played against them, just heard it through the grapevine. And it was not “old hat” when C/S were caught.

He held out genuine respect for Sion as a player, calling him “intelligent and gifted” which of course he was. We did not broach the flip side of the coin, that being Cokin. But the inference was clear that Cokin did not share the lofty rank of Sion. As I said in CD, that partnership, analagous to Hamman/French was incongruent in the talent levels of the players. That is unusual at the upper echelons; I mean why is Bob Hamman going to play with me when he might have Soloway, Wolff, Kantar, or Zia? Of course he won’t.

So why did Sion – the gifted one (Stevie Wonder) play down and engage Cokin, who was a couple of big steps down the food chain? The answer is – money. I think that was a “tell” as poker players might appreciate. But no one was looking for it back then, because we just didn’t think it was plausible.

Hamman told me that his instincts, based on hands told him one of two things, and this was in reference to Katz/Cohen. Either it was a very weak play or bid, or there was something fishy. In other words, a legitimate expert would never have done said play or bid because it screamed incompetence. 

You see he could not draw the same inferences from my bids or plays, because I don’t share the lofty rank of top flight expert, and probably never will. But it is unlikely I will be drilling his star-studded team as Katz/Cohen were in Houston before the match was truncated. I suugest all readers might want to purchase Danny Kleinman’s Bridge Scandal in Houston. Kleinman goes over each hand, compares the notes of the voyeurs (who suspected cheating), looks at their system in depth and grades each player’s performance. At the end of the day, he sees precious little evidence of K/C cheating, but rather a very poor performance of Hamman’s team, and a few lucky and apparently reasonable results by Katz/Cohen. In the aftermath of the accusations, lawsuits and allegations little was proven, less was confessed. All we know for sure was, the antenae was quivering and the proof is not in this pudding.

Bob Hamman, on the back cover of Danny’s book had this to say:

“I read your book Danny, and you’re simply wrong. There is no way a bad player-Katz-and a mediocre player-Cohen-could win legitimately in a long match against me and my team mates. Where there are bear tracks, there is a bear. Do you have to wait Danny, until the bears walks up to you and bites off your nose?”

Hamman of course was far from alone. Ira Rubin concurs Danny’s book does not play well for the prosecution but he adds this juicy tidbit.

“Before I first played against them, Paul Soloway warned me they were wired, and he was right.”

Danny was a forensic observer. He went through the hands with a fine tooth comb, and let the reader be the judge. Unfortunately Katz and Cohen refused to comment, elaborate or explain why they agreed to withdraw, effectively forfeiting the match. I think we all expect the innoncent to fight with vigor. Maybe the costs to their wallet or professional practises was too much to bear. Let’s just say they sued, and did not acquit themselves with distinction in the annals of the apparently wrongfully convicted.

Hamman saw plays and bids that said to him – no player who is at this level (say playing for the final of a championship event) would ever do that. If they were talented, it would never happen. So why did it happen? The antenna quivers. (Again, this was in reference to Katz/Cohen, following the Huston incident.)

He looks at the evidence and discerns that weak plays are not typically made at this level. So when one jumps out and screams – what could it mean? It means the finalist is not that talented and/or they have a wire.

He trolled back through history and mentioned several players who cheated, most of whom escaped “justice’ because the system  was not equipped to cope. Is it today? Perhaps, but I suppose that depends on who you ask. Don’t ask me. I cite the case – Kenny Gee.

Hamman also felt that today’s game (at the top) was inherently clean. He mentioned more than once Bobby’s opinion of not revising the standings of older events even if based upon cheating was a sentiment he shared. When the field is contaminated, how do you determine a winner? I say, by whoever navigated this minefield the best. In other words, the one who finished best lawfully. I confess, I can’t imagine how an event can be held without a winner. Of course bridge is alone as a sport on an icefloe with this one, isolated and destined to sink.  

As Cokin noted (about him commenting on his role as disclosed in Collateral Damage) “what is the upside?” And he was right too. When you are in up to your eyeballs, how do you get out? You can’t apparently. That certainly is the sentiment shared by Dr. Sternberg and his hires. The cone of silence, omerta. That may not serve the greater good, but in this case it may well serve self-interest. Sadly, for a game that is based upon ethics, some cling to their unlawfully won trophies. Let them. They deserve them.

So, take it from Bob Hamman. There was a lot of crookedness. Cheating was rampant within the elite. (Though Hamman did NOT agree with that “rampant” description.) Just ask Bobby. The Italians were sanctioned and to this day, with Burgay tapes and Bianci’s confessions, Truscot’s evidence leave the Blue Team unconvicted, though hardly untarnished. Will Garozzo step up and confess the sins of his countrymen? Sure, right after I win the lottery.

Today (at least at the top) the game is clean. Or so they say. I tend to believe them. They all know each other, French or Schmo does not suddenly appear in the Spingold quarterfinals on his debut. It takes talent to get there.

From Hamman’s conversation and perspective – what can we learn? How can we move on and make our game as integral as it should be?

I think the onus has to be on the expert player. He or she sees things the rest of us don’t. Their skill, “the antennae quivers” as Sontag so eloquently put it; allows experts to see things on a unique plane. As well they should. Like the recorder system, there might be a vehicle to report suspicious players. If you accuse and can’t prove it – well you will be thrown out faster than an Ozzie Smith toss to first base. Maybe we need our own “Internal Affairs” investigative unit. This would enable players to report possible transgressions, without facing the recoil if mistaken. (No, this was not Hamman’s idea.)

I guess one thing I learned from him is he expects his opponents to do the right thing most of the time. So when they don’t, he sees them as incompetent or (less likely) “juiced”. Of course he plays against the best so often; he doesn’t have to face the random skill level of the likes of me. I hope, should I face him in the upcoming Spingold he will see my exotic plays for what they are worth – a weaker player swinging for the bleachers.

I think he is disgusted (as are we all) by those who defile our game. How to remedy the cheated? Well that is a tough road to hoe. No one knows. All we know is the present (and former) rules just don’t work. Danny Kleinman doesn’t know who to call to report suspicious players – and of course he is far from alone because “who you gonna call”?

Our game is based upon the principles of ethics and fairness. When that is violated, we should feel anger, disgust and despoiled. If cheaters retain their ill-gotten gains, well, that just doesn’t work for most of us.

Hammon (or Hambone as he is apparently referred to by his friends), and no – I am not part of the fraternity did not weigh in with specifics on the Norfolk incident. He did tell me three years ago that it was a great story, and it should be explored but if I expected a revision of history, when then I was mistaken. And of course, he was right.

I think I can safely say he and all (Ok most) of us want an integral game. And that means playing fairly, and doing the right thing. Not so tough when you think about it. 



And I am just about done with blogging. Just came back to say goodbye. I grow weary of the toll. Not saying never again but am saying….Na Na Na hey hey godbye.

Classical Gas

                                        Classical Gas  


                                     Mason Williams – Classical Gas (guitar solo)



You are a fabulous politician. I was and am a student of political science, love the intricacies of politics and see you issue so many disclaimers, alibis and embellishments, it makes me blush. I think back to Lew Richardson, and smile. 


Bobby Wolff March 22nd, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Somehow my personality prevents me from remaining quiet when I hear untruths (a euphemistic term) about history, particularly bridge history so here goes.

In 1973 or possibly 1974, (you have to be kidding) while playing at the Bal Harbour Spring Regionals in a KO match against a team with Sion-Cokin (SC) on it (and losing) I brought their cheating to light in the form of an appeal to an outrageous lead (incidentally, exotic/outrageous/killing leads were part of their weaponry, even though that was never proved) or l by one of them to a sequence which went 1NT P 3NT at the other table against my teammates Jimmy Cayne and partner while playing with Charlie Weed as my partner. At the time Jim Sternberg (who at that time was sponsoring SC) and who, no doubt to me thought they were innocent, and other than that association has always been before and since a credit to our game, (That “association” is a damn big “other”. Sternberg’s consistent silence, his embrace of denial that S/C even cheated is beyond the pale. So please, don’t alibi for Sternberg. He needs a shake if he can’t believe S/C cheated. Let him peruse the confessions. I won’t deluge the reader with more evidence. Such a position is willfully blind.CF) was, of course non-plussed and a staunch defender of them.

Why “of course?” I suggest it is clear he should have considered the evidence before leaping in to defend and exonerate his hires. He is not Johnny Cochrane. He cast his die with cheaters and in your own words was “a staunch defender of them.” You noted with your friend Bob Saron; that endorsement would entail a consequence. Perhaps, given the overwhelming evidence available he might stand up and do the right thing. Will that happen? Sure. I get the fact that Sterberg and company don’t want to go there, but in a game where ethics are paramount – why can’t they do the right thing?  I just don’t get that.

In my opinion, Sternberg made a hasty and unfortunate choice. He owes it to bridge, not me, not Zeke, not Capp, not you to re-assess that decision. Standing toe-to-toe with confessed cheaters is hardly a viable position. But that is the position he, Sontag and Weichsel have chosen. GL to them.

The ACBL District Director from Florida, Bob Saron, also came to their defense and instead of at least creating suspicion of their actions, I was criticized publicly for bringing what I thought (at least to a sophisticated audience) a slam dunk to at least start the official monitoring.

So let me get this straight. You suspected them back in 1973 or 1974. They weren’t caught until June 1979. Why the gap? Was there any investigation? Did you share your perspectives with someone who might actually DO SOMETHING, versus standing down? Why were the (in Sontag’s words) “the antennae {NOT} quivering”? That strikes me as an awfully long passage of time for cheaters to continue their unfettered contamination of multiple events. You told all of us that their confessions reveal that they basically cheated on every hand they ever played together.

As a sidelight, years later, 1981, I started serving my 2nd term on the ACBL BOD’s (having served briefly in 1963). Bob Saron (who together with his lovely wife Sally were both truly wonderful people) decided to run for ACBL President against Doug Drew (Toronto) and, this being my first election it became clear that Bob was the favorite since he had groomed himself by waiting his turn and was, of course, very well-liked. It turned out that his support of SC, by this time their cheating scandal was old hat, raised its head and he lost the election to Doug ignominiously, never after that to be elected even dogcatcher in spite of being pro-bridge, very bright, a hard worker and together with Sally among the most liked pairs on the BOD’s.

Incidentally, earlier, at the Spring Nationals in Houston my Vanderbilt team played against SC in an early match (this time winning) when Bob Hamman and I became convinced beyond any doubt that they were cheating, but at that time we did not have the material evidence available to prosecute a case.

Incidentally, I am sure you were 100% accurate to be on to them. But if you became “convinced” you must have had some evidence,  hands, leads, bids, exotic defenses that fueled your conviction. If so “convinced”, why stand down? Why not engage some fellow experts to gather the information? How could you allow these cheaters who you were on to – to continue? I confess – I don’t get it.

By the time Robinson-Woolsey (probably with some help) did the deed at the GNT regional finals (sometime after Norfolk) (June at the GNT in Atlanta vs. March in Norfolk, 1979 NABCs, though of course the same pattern CF) and while it was news to many, it was ho-hum to Bob and me. Later the ACBL, with their known legal wimpiness took over and we are now where we are.

No. In the meantime while you were convnced (“old hat”) and did zip, countless others were swindled. As you yourself said, Cokin admitted they cheated on every event they ever played in. And it took five long years from your realization until Woolsey/Martel’s intervention at Norfolk in March (not Robinson/Woolsey, who were part of the solution at Atlanta during the GNTs) to bring this matter to fruition. If Martel and woolsey and company did not intervene – how much longer would this charade continue? Someone had to step up. You had that opportunity 5 years prior.

Only as a sidelight can I relate how since then, Alan Cokin has done everything he can to help bridge (especially with Junior team training) and, at least in his relationship with me, has been a model reformer

I will happily concur that Cokin remains the repentant and redeemed party in all of this. Still, as we can all imagine, some are willing to forgive, but not forget. For example, I know of a top-flight player whose captain hired Cokin to coach their team. This person was very disturbed, and uncomfortable (to be kind) with this arrangement. It was reported that Cokin was great on the theoretical end, but when it came to the hands; the player(s) simply felt he had no credibility. That is, rightly or otherwise a price that he will have to pay. Rightly IMHO.

while Sion continued his sociopathic behavior and has now been barred permanently from the ACBL. If anyone wants to check the truth of my story or my recollections please consult any of the above parties mentioned…….                                       

To be sure, and for a relatively long period of time I have maintained what I have always thought. What happened in Norfolk was indescribedly ridiculous:

1. That SC had not previously been caught.

2. That cheaters and all their possible partners and teammates should be officially erased from any and all tournaments won with the guilty player(s) on their team or pair.

3. That no one should be moved up, because of the several reasons I have listed before, some of which have to do with the uncertainty of who would have won and also the undoubtedly unfair result of “How about all the other tournaments where the cheating pair won and nothing at all was ever done to correct those abominations”. I am not, in any way, trying to be vindictive against anyone who thinks he would have won and is entitled to be named the winner, I am just trying to respect my own view which is to try and be fair and just. (Please keep in mind that my team finished 2d in 4 straight World Championships 1972-1975 to a team which perhaps one day, at least I am hoping, will be part of an official announcement of, at least, prior irregularities). (It won’t happen, you have nothing to fear, sad but true. CF)

If it does happen, I DO NOT think that my team should be moved up. Pity, I do. CF (At least we are both consistent.)

If you are playing in the final, head to head against cheaters (as you allege), even though they have certainly KO’d other teams unlawfully, and you can prove they cheated, why should there not be a lawful winner? Cite the case in any other sport where a major event is played, and no winner declared. It doesn’t exist. We are all alone in this stance of no winner. Maybe we all lose from such a position. I don’t see the upside.

4. The WBF current rule (unless unbenounced to me it has been removed) which I suggested and was unanimously approved, if ever a player or pair is convicted of cheating all of the previous tournaments that guilty player, pair or team, participated in and won, all players on that team will be stripped of their victory(s). My principle reason for suggesting this statute is to basically deputize all possible honest partners and/or teammates to not trivialize the possibility of playing with as partner or teaming up with miscreants. I Love that and applaud you for being a driving force in this regard.

The above comments are made only to try and right possible misconceptions which, while usually trying to be made in good faith, sometimes loses much meaning in the describing and thus the interpretation.


We can all agree to disagree.

But, and it is a BIG BUTT, if I suspected Sion/Cokin 4/5 years before they were caught and I did little or nothing, especially as I was (in Bobby’s case) a high ranking authority with the ability and rank to compel change, launch investigations, execute authority and/or empower the appropriate body to do so I would habe done so. Why did that not happen? Is that too much to ask?


it is the minimum, not the maximum.  

Bobby, I think you doth protest too much.

Please no alibis for cheaters, and I love your WBF rule. When (as if) will the ACBL adopt the same? Quit laughing.

Classical Gas.