Cam French

The Lone Wolff Howls

Bobby Wolff was thoughtful enough to respond to my observation that he found it “too painful” to look back and revisit the history books with regards to the cheating detailed in Collateral Damage.  Many readers might not have seen this as it was published as a comment to one of the CD chapters.

I think it deserves to stand alone. You be the judge.

 Comments invited.  

CF 02/2009


BOBBY WOLFF August 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


Cam FrenchOctober 1st, 2009 at 9:49 pm

I agree with almost everything you say.

I have to wonder, why has our ACBL not adopted your WBF motion? Part of the problem of catching and outing cheaters is that for far too long they got a slap on the wrist.

Even recently some of the sentences (Ken Gee comes to mind) defy explanation. Your WBF motion might help the system of justice, which seems to me as sorely lacking.

My other reservation is the notion that when cheaters win an event, no one else can “move up” in standings because the entire feild results have been contaminated. No one can win. This is the ultimate blow cheaters deliver to our game, through their acts they despoil the entire event. That cannot be just to the field. Every event deserves a winner.

I recall a Canadian hurlder Perdia Felicien crashed into another competitor (at the Olympics) and someone still won the race. Car racing features crashes all the time, and someone still takes the checkered flag. Fair?

The Olympics allow for moving up when competitors are caught on the juice. Ask Marion Jones about taking titles away.

Bridge is the only “sport” that allows it competitors to enter, and should cheating players win – well that is just too bad, no one else deserves to move up. It provides those cheaters with a second victory, descrating the event.

That makes my blood boil.

All that said, we all share a common goal, setting the record straight and ridding the game of those who would breach its moral, legal and ethical standards.


Blair Fedder L224430October 10th, 2009 at 9:22 pm

I believe that Bobby’s point about not moving up is valid. The fact, that first place has been vacated due to the expulsion of the cheats, does reflect on your 2nd place finish. No, you did not win the event, but neither did you lose. As the cheats has skewered the entire results, their expulsion also reflects on the rest of the field. This, in turn, recognizes that the rest of the field may have played better than their results showed….. It is imperative that once a pair is found guilty of cheating, they should never be allowed to play again, either as a pair or with anyone else….Thank you Bobby and Cam

Blair Fedder L224430October 10th, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Does anyone care to comment on the Chinese women’s team that won even after being caught texting one another during the competition? Am I mistaken? Is this also the reason why cell phones ( and other devices ) were banned from the playing area?

Larry LowellMay 10th, 2010 at 4:33 pm

I think this rumor has now been shown to be false, although apparently ACBL has not officially rebutted the rumor. MAY 10, 2010

Leave a comment

Your comment