Cam French

Stealin’ (When I Should Have Been Buyin’)

                                                Ode to Uriah Heep


Judy Kay-Wolff expounded on the legacy of cheating (in particular by the Blue Team). The rhetoric and anger that this provoked has caused the dialogue to degenerate from civil to insulting. Let’s remember that JKW, once married to Norman Kay, had an insider’s perspective of the inner sanctum. She is not speaking from the bleachers, she had an umpire’s view right behind home plate.

Her words on her blog:

….   True, they featured three of the very best players in the world (Garozzo, Belladonna and Forquet) but I am getting sick and tired of the lionizing of a team that the world of bridge knows cheated for well over a decade, resulting in their fourteen consecutive dirty world championships. THERE IS NOT A TOP PLAYER (who has not self-deluded himself) IN THE WORLD ALIVE THEN OR NOW WHO WOULD NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THAT FACT.   Blame it on their culture, their ego or the fact that their captain Albert Perroux told them in no uncertain terms that if they did not ‘help’ their partner, there were others waiting in the wings to replace {them}. “

Personally, I would have preferred had she shared some hands, evidence or cited some sources instead of fanning the flames with  “THERE IS NOT A TOP PLAYER (who has not self-deluded himself) IN THE WORLD ALIVE THEN OR NOW WHO WOULD NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THAT FACT” and thus, those of us who didn’t “know” were either stupid, ignorant or so far from ground zero that we could not connect the dots. And why should we? Truth is, 95% of us are a long way from the inner circle. Accusations are a serious charge, and as such every governing body and certainly our own ACBL will punish unsubstantiated accusers with a vengeance. Some wish, perhaps forlornly that they had the same zeal for suspected cheats. Will she face sanctions? I doubt it. OK, no way.

Tobias Stone and John Crawford (amongst others) got suspended for alleging much the same – the Blue Team cheats. Accusing is one thing, proving is another. I plan to harvest from some published material to shed light upon this story.

When I was researching Collateral DamageI had the wonderful opportunity to liaise with some of the world’s foremost players. I communicated with (note, this does not mean I have them on speed dial or that we are close personal friends – hardly) the likes of Chip Martel, Bob Hamman, Bobby Wolff, Kit Woolsey, Mike Cappeletti, Zeke Jabbour, Ron Feldman, John Carruthers, Paul Soloway, Grant Baze, Fred Gitelman, Marty Bergen and many others. Most offered quick replies, but a couple provided “background” material – like the proverbial Deep Throat to Bob Woodward. It was then, while investigating the sordid events that I learned the sad truth.

Cheating, at the highest level of the game (and the Blue Team in particular) was well known in expert circles. And remember, this is long before bidding boxes let alone screens, so inflections, tempo, cigarettes (yes, cigarettes),  and subtle nuances were available to experienced partnerships.

A couple of older experts stepped up and bestowed upon me a history lesson. Basically the message was that the Blue Team (and other icons like Reese/Shapiro) had long since been convicted in the collective mind of the expert community. The fact that there were few hands, or many doubters was moot. The awkward finger placement by Reese/Shapiro, subsequent confessions and decoding evidence exposed by Truscott in The Buonos Airies Affair. The Blue Team’s covert codes were never fully deciphered and thus remain to many – a mere frivolous allegation.

One of the toughest things to prove is cheating at bridge. When you pee into a bottle, or they measure the horsepower of your race car; – these are measurable, and clearly defined. When you make an inspired lead from KX, hit partner’s ace, score your ruff, well done. When it becomes routine (even better to your partner’s Kx or Ax), tongues start to wag. As well they should.

Alan Truscott in his The New York Times Bridge Book sets out some of the historical arguments about some of the more famous cheaters. He butresses that with hands which he admits are not 100% conclusive but speak to a pattern of unauthorized partnership understandings.

How is this for a pattern?

Truscott details several cheating scandals including the famed Indonesian Manoppo brothers. In an analysis of 600 deals, 70 of which they were on lead and led from an ace or king. In each case they hit an ace or king in their partner’s hand. They were suspended for a long period and barred permanently from playing with one another.

In 1958 the American acting NPC John Gerber at the Bermuda Bowl received a mysterious letter. The author was purporting to explain in detail how the Italian team was cheating. Instead of following up, or relaying it to the proper authorities, Gerber discreetly passed the note along to the Italian NPC. Thereafter its contents remained secret and a valuable opportunity squandered.

As for Leandro Burgay he documented (on tape) Blue Team member Benito Bianchi detailing the secret code which involved “”the use of cigarettes and head positions. The cigarette could point up or down, left or right to indicate an honor card or suit.” Burgay, as the one who cat out of the bag was villified by the Italian authorites. He was blackballed with silly allegations (like allegedly trying to blackmail the Italian team captain to be on the team when the team had already been selected  – and the captain did not pick the team) and Burgay’s revelations earned him a six year suspension. Bianchi – who admitted the phone conversation but claimed the tapes were doctored got a whopping six month suspension. Both players appealed and Bianchi got of with a reprimand, Burgay (let’s shoot the messenger) got one year. The Italian audio expert Signor Bacicchi hired as part of the cursory Italian investigation confirmed the tape was authentic and had not been doctored.

Truscott writes: “examining the deals from played by Bianchi and Forquet in 1973 and 1974 World Championships, the last before screens were introduced…a quarter century later, analysis offers a wealth of evidence the the Italians were “helping each other”. They were almost 100% in choosing the bids and leads that fit partner’s hand.”

One interesting hand Truscott offers is below. (buy the book if you want more…)

The auction proceeds (at both tables)

LHO     Partner         RHO      Belladonna/Schenken

  1H          P              1NT            ?

Belladonna and Schenken held:  A5   9  K10976  K10732 (vul vs. nv)

The unusual notrump was just emerging as a convention and neither player chose it. Schenken bid a straightforward two diamonds, subsiding when the auction was at three hearts by the opposition by the time it came back to him.

Belladonna bid two clubs. Truscott calls this “a decidedly odd decision. Two diamonds allows for the possibility of introducing clubs later. Two clubs may have been a lucky guess, but it fitted West’s {his partner’s} hand. The Italians had a habit of making lucky guesses.” The West hand held J8643  A83  A  AQ64 and they duly bid to five clubs and made it while buying the contract for three hearts (off one) at Schenken’s table. (+11 imps to Italy)

Yes, Sheinwold predicted that with screens the Italians would lose to America when they were first deployed in 1975 at Burmuda. What does that tell you? That would have been true except for the horrible (13%) grand slam Belladonna and Garozzo reached with the trump suit being AQ opposite J98632 and the infamous K10 in the pocket. If the slam goes down the Americans win by 4 IMPs.

Sheinwold, not exactly tepid in front of a microphone or on paper, certainly had his suspicions. He explained it like this: “They did it to us again {1974} but next year we’ll have the screens. I’ve been saying for years that any good team can beat them on even terms. It will be interesting to see whether or not screens make a difference next year in Bermuda. I’ll be there to eat my words if the Blue Team can still play as if they can read each other’s minds.” If that doesn’t simmer with acrimony, well, give yourself a shake.

This is old hat to Judy Kay-Wolff, Bobby Wolff, Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay and the bridge elite of that day. This is what Judy was talking about – a widespread suspicion (lacking for the most part in tangible proof prior to Burgay) that permeated the upper echelon of the day, especially in America. For those of us too young or too far removed from the inner sanctum it now starts to become clear.

And before we lambaste the Italian bridge authorities for whitewashing the Burgay tapes and protecting their own, our own ACBL has hardly acquitted itself with distinction when it comes to cheating. Italy was protecting decades of tainted titles. No way some loudmouth agent provacateur (Burgay) was going to compromise that. He was “thrown under the bus”, publicly discredited and note that even today the Burgay tapes remain tightly sealed, collecting dust in a closet if not already destroyed. Now that’s how you handle cheating – shoot the messenger and batten down the hatches.

Bobby Wolff had this to say:

“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  (emphasis added) (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.  (this is from an essay called The Lone Wolff Howls posted on my blog at .)

Now some of you do not like Bobby Wollf or Judy kay-Wolff; or less likely – even me – but so what? But they both (unlike me) have been part of the inner sanctum going back some 50 years. it is possible that where there was smoke there is fire? You bet.

Alfred Sheinwold thought so.

John Gerber thought so.

Tobias Stone said so and was suspended.

John Crawford said so and was suspended.

Burgay said so and was suspended.  

Judy Kay-Wolff’s outburst isn’t just a rant from nowhere. it is a release of anger, frustration and disgust coming out of watching from the sidelines and powerless to address a gaping wound that will never heal. How would you feel if you or your spouse knew in your heart and soul that decades of cheating had deprived you of titles you might have won? I know I’d be pretty pissed, but then again that’s only me, and the likelihood of me sharing the podium, accepting a world title trophy with my partner Zia is shall we say – unlikely. I’d be more like Ira Corn in the early days of the Aces. (He was a ball and chain, and eventually with some cajoling from Wolff and others, stepped aside for a real expert.)

There is much more written on the subject. The Italians aren’t the only ones. But their record was so staggering (pre-screens which arrived in 1975) it defies credence. We have scores of others, too numerous to list. Cheating is a cancer upon our game. Whether it was 50 years ago or yesterday, we ought to push it into the limelight and show its hurricane-wrecking damage upon the fabric and spirit of our game.

I recall the Terrence Reese/Boris Shapiro scandal, reading both books (one for the prosecution by Truscott, the other for the defense by Reese) and trying to imagine that Reese was a cheater. It simply boggled the mind. His book Master Play is still considered a classic. I recall reading Martin Hoffman (who wrote in the Reese style of Play These Handss With Me) citing a chapter called “Hold It!” It pertained to retaining key cards and not relinquishing them prematurely. Hoffman called it an eye-opener or the like, and I felt the same way discovering that ducking one’s QX offside, when the layout was critical to defeat the hand.


                                              Axx                           Qx


Reese represented the elite to me. The mere thought of him cheating, and his vigorous rebuttal left me with precious few doubts, the biggest of which was – why? Where is his motivation? He doesn’t need an edge, and the Americans are playing the “cheating card” and crying sour grapes. Boy, was I wrong. I will blame it on the impetuousness of youth, a fleeting condition long since passed.

Well, fast forward forty years and Reese is dead and has apparently confided in a friend and bridge partner (David Rex-Taylor) that indeed, they were cheating as accused. This is from Alvin Levy.

In the most famous cheating scandal, in 1965 Terence Reese and Boris Shapiro were alleged to have used finger signals to tell each other the number of hearts in their hand.  While most were convinced that they were passing signals, proof that they were using the information to best advantage was not overly convincing.  This June, 40 years after the cheating incident, David Rex-Taylor revealed that Reese had confided in him the details of his actions and asked that David wait 40 years to tell the world.  Reese’s explanation was that they did pass information on the length of their heart suit but that they didn’t use the information.  Their “cheating” was to be revealed in a book that Reese was going to write.  His purpose was to show that cheating could be practiced undetected.   I’m sure every bridge magazine will have an article and view on this newly revealed “confession.”  I want to believe the explanation as Reese’s books made bridge exciting for me when I took up the game in the 60s.  I await an explanation on how Reese expected to convincingly prove that they had actually passed information as no third party monitor has been mentioned.

Shapiro allegedly confessed to (England’s) NPC Ralph Swimer claiming “the evil man {Reese} made me do it.” And David Rex-Taylor comes out of nowhere to verify the code as deciphered by Dorothy Hayden, B.J. Becker and the American contingent.

One seasoned Canadian internationalist told me cheating was widespread for decades at the top levels. It might have been subtle (tone, tempo) and it might (and was) more flagrant. He also (like Judy Kay-Wolff) thought “everybody knew it”, but then again, that is their circle and such information hardly trickled down to us grunts in the trenches.

I believe that the aforementioned Gerber/Stone/Sheinwold/Crawford and many more – were all 100% convinced of Blue Team cheating. What a legacy for Reese via Rex-Taylor to leave! A confession, albeit bolstered by a dubious alibi, but nevertheless – setting the record straight. Wouldn’t it be nice if some surviving Blue Team member would step up and tell their story? I hope to see that while they remain alive, not delivered by a third party as part of a eulogy. The English, ever interested in “fair play” cheat and come clean after death. Will a Blue Team member shed light upon this darkness? I wouldn’t bet the farm.

Judy Kay-Wolff vented from a 50 year old wound. I hope this essay has shed some light on her plight and cheating in general. Now, if we can get the silly rule (alas even the oft-swindled Bobby Wolff likes it) that “vacates titles” where cheating has been proven (so no one else can advance in rank)  – maybe we can start to restore justice.

I am waiting with bated breath.


CF/Toronto 10/09


bobby wolffOctober 8th, 2009 at 6:01 pm


Quite simply the best and most honest writing I have ever read, transcending War & Peace, Citizen Kane, Crime and Punishment (appropriate) and even (religious people please do not look) the Bible (both old and new). It will take a while for my tears to dry, but I am really very choked up.


JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 8th, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Dear Cam:

Your unexpected masterpiece left me speechless as few can put themselves in other people’s shoes. Your “behind home plate description” of my bird’s eye view may help readers to understand my frustration as I stood by helplessly, listened to the horror stories and just watched them continue. Perhaps as related through different eyes (yours), some non-believers may back off and accept what really happened. In any event, it matters not as we cannot go back and turn around the course of history. We can only attempt to safeguard our hobby for the future and make sure the authorities make stronger efforts to police the game (which I believe is beginning to happen) — but perhaps fifty years too late.

Ray LeeOctober 8th, 2009 at 9:46 pm

I agree – that’s a very nice summary of the issues, Cam.

When I was working with Alan Sontag on the second edition of his classic book ‘The Bridge Bum’, I pressed him to make clearer his opinions on cheating in bridge. The result was Chapter 9 of the book, which talks about Reese-Schapiro, the Italians (all of them) and Sontag’s own encounters with suspicious behaviour. A few years later, Alan was playing in the final of the World Senior Bowl against a pair that had previously been suspended for cheating. He won the set something like 65-2, effectively ending the match. Afterwards he told me that before play began, he told his opponents exactly what he expected of them in terms of deportment; in particular, he itemized a number of actions he would not allow them to employ (including inconsistent placement of their cards on the table on defense, etc.). He had no doubt that this preamble had produced a level card table for the session — hence the score.

Let me, as Alan did in that same chapter, quote from a 1973 article in ‘The Bridge World’, which said in effect that champion players know when they are being cheated, but the problem is proof. “A few too many inspired opening leads, some competitive decisions that are just too consistently lucky… Also, there is the tell-tale rattle in the tempo of cheating players. Since they are in possession of different information from that available to a normal pair, their problems are different — their little flickers of hesitation come at odd times. It is the business of top players to be extraordinarily sensitive to such things: their antennae come quivering to attention at the first false note, a sense of unease ripens into suspicion…”

I can’t think of a better summary than this of the three or four deals that Bobby Wolff described in his recent postings. Once again, let me quote Alan Truscott: it is almost impossible to prove cheating from hand records. So yes, Cam, the fact that 95% of the bridge world (or probably more) didn’t know about these things isn’t surprising. You had to be at the table, and be a world-class player yourself, to realize what might be going on. Sontag’s final word on Reese-Schapiro, not having been there: “Do I know for sure that Reese and Schapiro were cheating? No. But do I think they were? Certainly.”

Finally, let me once again draw readers’ attention to Frank Vine’s piece, ‘The Curse of the Blue Team’, which satirizes some remarkable bids and plays made by Blue team members. I’m with Cam — I grew up in England, learning bridge from Reese’s books, travelling to Harrogate one weekend to watch my hero play in the Gold Cup Finals, and so on. It has taken me many years to become reconciled to the fact that Reese cheated in 1965 (whether or not they used the information is a weaselling technicality — finger signals are cheating and that’s the end of it), but IMHO no-one can read ‘The Great Bridge Scandal’ and come to any conclusion other than that R-S were cheating in Buenos Aires. And in fact, at least two of the top American pairs in the same era were known to be wired. Now it appears the Blue Team greats were tarred with the same brush. I’m saddened, but somehow unsurprised. Over the last 10-15 years, as I’ve spent more time world events and got to know many of the people who play the game at that level, my conclusion is that cheating in one form or another is, sadly, commonplace. Part of the reason for that is the unwillingness of authorities anywhere to pursue wrongdoers, but that in itself is partly due to the difficulty of proving one’s case.

Which is where we all began.

Roy HughesOctober 8th, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Without addressing the question of the truth of the charges Truscott made against members of the Blue Team in his book ‘The NY Times Bridge Book’, I would like to say that the author did his case no good at all with the deal quoted by Cam, where Schenken and Belladonna held, in 4th chair vul vs not:





and had to find a call after 1S-pass-1NT.

Truscott called Belladonna’s choice of 2C (which found a big fit in partner’s hand) as ‘a decidedly odd decision’. I don’t see it that way at all. 2D (chosen by Schenken) is better from a perspective of preparedness, since you can later bid clubs and allow a preference at the same level, but overcalling 2C has the advantage that if you are doubled, you can try running to 2D. Both overcalls were reasonable; one worked very well, and the other didn’t. This deal would be evidence of improper knowledge only if presented as one of a very large body of deals, where the partnership in question guessed correctly more often than they should — something Truscott alleges but doesn’t prove. Admittedly, such a proof would be very difficult to offer, given the extent to which experts disagree about competitive actions.

Ron LelOctober 9th, 2009 at 4:15 am

“I communicated with (note, this does not mean I have them on speed dial or that we are close personal friends – hardly) the likes of Chip Martel, Bob Hamman, Bobby Wolff, Kit Woolsey, Mike Cappeletti, Zeke Jabbour, Ron Feldman, John Carruthers, Paul Soloway, Grant Baze, Fred Gitelman, Marty Bergen”

Cam, I find it interesting that each of these is an American. Burgay, if you desire to use him as an authority, is not a reliable source for a number of known reasons.

By the way, have you read Cathy Chua’s book on cheating? There is a very interesting article about the Manoppos that you might wish to look at.

Ron LelOctober 9th, 2009 at 5:11 am

Quote Ray:

“A few years later, Alan was playing in the final of the World Senior Bowl against a pair that had previously been suspended for cheating. He won the set something like 65-2, effectively ending the match. Afterwards he told me that before play began, he told his opponents exactly what he expected of them in terms of deportment; in particular, he itemized a number of actions he would not allow them to employ (including inconsistent placement of their cards on the table on defense, etc.). He had no doubt that this preamble had produced a level card table for the session — hence the score.”

Ray, IF this story is true, I think Sontag’s behaviour was disgusting and clearly a blatant attempt to intimidate the opponents – dare I say he cheated?. I would have called the Chief Tournament Director and had Sontag up before a commitee for unethical behaviour.

Sontag should clearly have made his concerns known to the TD and called the TD at the first infraction at the table. Are you sure this story is as you say it is?

PimoOctober 9th, 2009 at 7:18 am

BEAUTIFUL ARTICLE…nitpicking it will not change the clarity of your remarks…Thank you

Peter GillOctober 9th, 2009 at 11:59 am

You wrote:

“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 know I’m nitpicking, but the WBF website says Benito Garozzo played in these WBF events:

1978 5th WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS in New Orleans 1978 – Mixed Pairs 23rd with Lea DUPONT

1979 24th WORLD TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS in Rio De Janeiro 1979 – Open Teams 2nd ITALY

1980 6th WORLD TEAM OLYMPIAD in Valkenburg 1980 – Open Teams 11th for ITALY

1982 6th WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS in Biarritz 1982 – Open Teams 6th in team BARBONE

1983 26th WORLD TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS in Stockholm 1983 – Open Teams 2nd ITALY

1984 7th WORLD TEAM OLYMPIAD in Seattle 1984 – Open Teams 5th ITALY

1990 8th WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS in Geneva 1990 – Open Teams in Team 17th EISENBERG

1994 9th WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS in Albuquerque, NM 1994 – Open Teams 33rd ROSEN

1995 5th WORLD YOUTH TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP in Bali 1995 – Junior Teams 5th coach of ITALY

(well, official coach, not player, still has to be ratified by WBF)

1996 1st WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP in Rhodes 1996 – Mixed Teams in Team GAROZZO

1998 10th WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS in Lille 1998 – Senior Teams 4th ROSEN and Mixed Pairs 63rd with Lea DUPONT

2000 11th WORLD TEAM OLYMPIAD in Maastricht 2000 – Mixed Teams 15th EISENBERG

2002 11th WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS in Montreal 2002 – Open Teams 33rd ANGELINI and Open Pairs – Semifinal 86th with Lea DUPONT

2005 37th WORLD TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS in Estoril 2005 – Senior Teams 11th ITALY

2006 12th WORLD BRIDGE CHAMPIONSHIPS in Verona 2006 – Senior Teams 36th ROMANIN

and Benito Garozzo is on the current WBF Systems Committee, ref

Peter Gill


LuiseOctober 9th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Ron Lel — more nitpicking here, but I don’t think your statement about how each of them is an american is correct. One of the people named in that list used to live in Canada — I worked with him and I was at his house! I am pretty sure one of them is a canadian who is now batting for the other team.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 9th, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Ray: I took pleasure in your Alan Sontag reference!

If, in fact, Alan Sontag did set the ground rules straight before the match, I tip my hat to him. Those of you on the outside looking in have no idea what some lowlifes would do for the thrill of beating a superior team. On the contrary — instead of being reprimanded as someone suggested, I believe Alan should have received a Medal of Honor. Whether the opponents had intentions of going into their dog and pony act at the time, we will never know. But Alan’s caution certainly served as a deterrent and it appears to have been a clean match.

He knew exactly what he was doing and I have no doubt that his admonition was timely and appropriate — since usually where there’s smoke — there’s fire.

Norman CressyOctober 9th, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Truscott details several cheating scandals including the famed Indonesian Manoppo brothers. In an analysis of 600 deals, 70 of which they were on lead and led from an ace or king. In each case they hit an ace or king in their partner’s hand. They were suspended for a long period and barred permanently from playing with one another.


bobby wolffOctober 9th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I wish the reader would try to analyze the difference, and just as important, why, between Ron and Judy’s opinions concerning Alan Sontag’s behavior while playing against Lasut and Manoppo.

Judy thinks that all thought should be focused on competing while on a level playing field and leave the mental toughness required for the protection of the players, to themselves. Ron, instead, thinks that in one’s zeal to insist on fair playing conditions it is punishable intimidation to merely remind opponents (even if they have very questionable reputations) to “try and hold their cheating to a minimum” (meant as a joke). Again the battle lines between the two protagonists are quite accurately drawn. In Ron’s defense (and I mean this sincerely and not from a critical standpoint) since he has not had any experience (that I know of) of competing seriously and at very high levels it might be thought natural for him to take his view. On the other hand Judy has kibitzed many times when the competition and intensity could be said to be “off the charts”.

I side with Judy 100% (no surprise) and go so far as to think Ron’s position is nothing short of ridiculous.*

*Not at the social or perhaps even club level, but certainly at the championship level or the immediate levels below.

Ron LelOctober 10th, 2009 at 1:12 am

Fwiw I have played finals in top level national events – not international – and have frequently played behind screens. I guess it depends whether you think intimidation is a reasonable tactic. After all, we have tournament directors and committees to deal with inappropriate behaviour, (including cheating). Should a player have the right to set himself up as a policeman and intimidate opponents? I think not, and stand by my comments.

Nick KrnjevicOctober 10th, 2009 at 3:19 am


It’s curious that your reaction to the Sontag indicent is to come charging to the defence of a pair that had been suspended for cheating.

Awkward fact that cheating bit, but to judge Sontag without making any reference whatsoever to the opponents status as apprehended cheats is to ignore the 8 ton elephant in the middle of the room.

It’s even more curious that you choose to interpret Alan Sontag’s pre-game discussion as being intended to somehow provide him with an untoward advantage over the other pair.

Let’s consider what it was that Alan was trying to…ummm…”intimidate” the opponents from doing. Oh yes. He was trying to discourage a pair of apprehended cheats from engaging in recidivism.

And yet the sole focus of your post is to consider Alan’s conduct as though this incident occurred in a vacuum against anonymous opponents of unknown character.

But it didn’t. It happened in the real world, against apprehended cheats.

And in the real world the bottom-line on how you judge Alan depends whether you think cheating is a reasonable tactic.

BOBBY WOLFFOctober 10th, 2009 at 3:21 am


Fine, stand behind your comments and lose. My guess is that while playing behind screens in your native Australia (or your neighbor NZ), you wouldn’t have much to worry about, possibly because I have not had to deal with any of your countrymen who were under any suspicion, nor have I heard about any other nefarious situations down under.

However, I have played in World Championships where the first round of the Round Robin, the USA (Aces) were paired up against a well-known Far Eastern country where after the 2d board at my table, I stopped play and asked for the director. He arrived and I requested a monitor to be present for the rest of the match (I think 16 total boards, but it well could have been 20). As the director was considering my request, one of my opponents called me away from the table and in very broken English said, “Please, a monitor is not necessary and you’ll have no more trouble from us”. I asked if that was a promise” and he said “Yes”! From that point till now and although my International bridge career is about over, it has been 35 years since then and I have played against them and other members of their family (probably over 200 boards) and he has kept his promise.

Your favorite bridge magazine, Australian Bridge once did a “watershed article” on two members of his family and along with Truscott’s great book added many mind boggling statistics, which I never read in detail, simply because I didn’t need to in order to be sure of what was going on.

If players, experienced or not in International Play, do not protect themselves, verily they will not be protected. Neither the WBF nor local TD’s are trained in what to look for in determining cheating. It, like any specialized law enforcement, needs special grooming to understand the workings and final conclusions on how to crack the whip and secure a case which will stand up to people like yourself who want to champion the poor underdog and probably would rather let 50 gullty players off scot free than God forbid challenge, let alone convict, one questionable pair.

I hesitate to suggest to you to get a copy of ” The Lone Wolff” and read it, simply because either your friend or possible soulmate Henk has proclaimed that book one of the worst of all time or somesuch. Catching cheaters in bridge is more than a full time job, even if one’s staff is very proficient. The best method is a ‘sting’ operation, but this is not the right place nor time to discuss such things.

If I ever would decide to do so, which is less than a 1% chance, I could write a longer book just about the above subject since over the course of years quite a number of guilty parties have fallen into the nets, but also to be fair, there have been several suspects who have eventually earned a clean slate.

Usually when there is “smoke” there is “fire”, especially by the time a case got to me. But I like to reminisce about my American court system finding a cold blooded double murderer “Not guilty” in order to satisfy the “race gods” and pay off our country’s debt to society.

Without beating this horse within an inch of its life, suffice it to say, If one does not take extra effort to protect himself, such as the aggressive display of Alan Sontag, he will later be found on the sidelines of the tournament after having become an ignominious loser.

Such is the state of the game I, and other kindred spirits, are trying to improve. During my long career there have been some positive strides, but there is a long way to go to get to the Emerald City. It would be helpful if others who feel the way I do, join the crusade.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 10th, 2009 at 5:26 pm


Your comment was like a breath of fresh air. It was brief, erudite and to the point. I, like you, don’t believe in dousing fires — but attempt to avoid their eruptions in the first place. Bobby never bothered to mention that the opponents Alan was facing have a long track record and they started their dog and pony act on the first two boards of a match against Bobby many years ago, causing them to do a “three-sixty” when he suggested a monitor.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed and Alan’s admonition to them was like a zookeeper trying to keep the animals in line before all hell breaks loose. It was far from intimidation. I consider it just getting the grounds rules straight!

Thanks for your input.


Ron LelOctober 11th, 2009 at 1:41 am

“I consider it just getting the grounds rules straight!”

I consider it cheating. TDs are here to enforce the rules, not vigilantees.

Nick KrnjevicOctober 11th, 2009 at 4:47 am

So Sontag was “cheating” because he asked apprehended cheats not to cheat.

Novel interpretation.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 11th, 2009 at 5:44 am

Yes, Ron.

Your copycat words “getting the grounds rules straight” is the perfect way you handle pairs suspected (or known) to cheat — before they get into gear. Obviously, they got the message loud and clear. If it were a respectable pair with no track record, there would have been no need to state the preamble and I guarantee nothing would have been said. However, in the case of Alan’s opponents — it was with due cause and prior knowledge. Perhaps his other choice was to request a monitor as he is entitled to play on a level playing field. That’s not too much to expect, is it?

As far as relying on the directors, it depends on who the director is, what event and how qualified he or she is. There are DIRECTORS and there are directors! Directors and appeals committees are hardly infallible and have made their share of mistakes. They are human. It shouldn’t have to come down to that.

You do know what they say about an ounce of prevention………

Ron LelOctober 11th, 2009 at 8:31 am

Requesting a monitor is fine; that is within the rules and I would support that action. Talking to the TD is fine.

Nick, is English your first language, because you do not seem able to comprehend what I am saying? : “Intimidation is NOT fine”. The above IS fine.

Nick KrnjevicOctober 11th, 2009 at 2:48 pm


It’s disappointing to see you now resort to ad hominem attacks.

This type of retort undermines the credibility of your position.

The question as to why you continue to perceive asking convicted cheats not to cheat as being blameworthy conduct remains unanswered.

BOBBY WOLFFOctober 11th, 2009 at 4:37 pm


My very simple response, in support of Judy and Nick, and without regard to anything emotional or illusory is what must be very hard for you and yours to understand.


The rules in bridge have not been written to deal with anything worse than relative minor abuse of bridge proprieties and even with these, are vague. Cheaters are smooth and apparently ethical, but why shouldn’t they be, since they always know what their partners want them to do and able to perform vice versa.

For so many years, while trying to overcome this insidious problem, to my knowledge all the “good guys” have struck out and the miscreants continue to strive.

Again my book relates several appeals where the “bad guys” (Russia and Indonesia) had, who some would construe and then determine, “unfortunate, but the bad guys must win these appeals since our rules do not currently provide redress for these “clever” actions”. They would then suggest, from their ivory towers, that I should try and rewrite the rules, get them by the “power brokers” (most all Boards of Directors) who do not like any reference to “cheating” or even to “wilful self-serving” to be allowed and have them installed. Absolutely impossible advice, since, under the present conditions, and although from time to time I have been fortunate to contribute to installing a few minor deterrents, but alas nothing far enough reaching, which attacks the whole conundrum of first defining and then attacking the whole major process of evil doing.

Meanwhile the cheats rule wide and clear (witness the Blue Team, Reese and Schapiro and many more, some very American, who have not been included in this name calling). Ron—Judy and I (and I hope enough others, for example Cameron French and quiet crusader types of which Nick appears to be one of them are tired of waiting in the wings, but without help, are powerless to convince dreamy idealists who just hope it all goes away). With Alan Truscott, Jose Damiani, Denis Howard, Ray and Linda Lee, and other brave people as well as Jimmy Ortiz-Patino, now ready to join in, we have a chance and, although you may be very sincere in your “detente” beliefs and only help us in bringing the subject out into the open, but instead, your dogged determination to play by impossible to succeed laws puts paid to the whole process.

It is not that I think that “down deep” you and your cohorts mean wrong, it is just that in speaking up, you may cause some to think, “It is just not worth going through all this just to merely help a game others have left out in the rain to mildew”. Thank God for Cameron French, the Lees, Martha, Pimo and others mentioned who continue to show their aggressive love for our pastime.

We need help from whom we can gather and only hope that learning from our guarded history of the “poisoned flowers” and “wicked witches” encountered will only serve to make us all more determined. Rest assured that we speak only 100% truth of what has happened, although in most cases and over the past many years some of our memories (mine included) have dulled to forget what I think are minor details, the main thrust is only that “illicit despicable cheating has got to be eradicated from our game and for those who play by that creed, without which, we do not have a game worth playing”. Please help us in our quest.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 11th, 2009 at 6:06 pm

To Ron:

You are like a broken record. The intimidation factor is only in the eyes of the beholder — which, in this case, is YOU. With your recalictrant DOG WITH A BONE attitude”, (which obviously you possess), you are encouraging cheating when you criticize the one trying to cut it off at the pass before it emerges. WHAT IS SAD IS THAT “the victim’s LESS THAN HONORABLE REPUTATION (based on past performance) NECESSITATED Alan’s remark. Your attitude is not necessarily protecting the innocent — but rather fostering improper action. Sometimes it

takes bold measures to right the ship — and their reputation earned the admonition.

To Nick:

I have never encountered you in the blogging arena. However, it is a pleasure to have such a prolific, sound thinker aboard who understands the nuances of the avoidance of cheating.

Thank you for speaking up.

Judy Kay-Wolff

Wayne BurrowsOctober 19th, 2009 at 4:32 am

If the pair involved with Sontag were Henky Lasut and Eddy Manoppo as Bobby Wolff claims I am not sure that they have been suspended for cheating.

Phil JonesOctober 31st, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Having read this blog and the original by JKW I am undecided about the guilt of the blue team. However I do not think it was JKW’s intention to convince any reader of the veracity of her accusation. I believe it was simply offloading many years of anger and hurt about a perception held for many years. This is supported by the departure from rational calm contribution to rude and heartfelt insults to anyone challenging her views.

Many people have argued for evidence of the accusation and nothing substantial has been offered, but neither has JKW or BW appeared to really wish to prove the case. Why should they? Perhaps their value system is not the same as those who question their views and proof comes secondary to collective suspicion and the support of others who have experienced the same feelings when playing against players they suspect of cheating. Some of the sources of evidence they offer should well be compelling reads and I will seek out each of them to determine for myself if the case is well supported.

Some have supported the idea of not looking to the past and looking at the present and future prevention of those who choose to use unethical methods to gain advantage and the expense of better players. I applaud that objective and have been involved in this activity, albeit at a far lower standard than that at which BW has played.

I cannot hope to understand the pressures of competing at that level, but at any level cheating is unacceptable and must be stamped out. It can be done, but requires a collective will to do so.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 4th, 2009 at 11:18 pm


I have not checked this site in a while and was not aware of your level-headed appraisal of the situation until today. Dead is dead … as they say. You cannot resurrect the losses from the ashes. When Jimmy Patino’s book, World Bridge History, hits the shelves (sometime soon we hear), according to our two-day meeting with Jimmy before The Lone Wolff went to press, he detailed the Burgay tapes, the actual meeting near some bridge or railway station and how he told the Blue Team not to bother appearing the following year as their credentials would not be accepted.

No one loves bridge more than the Godfather of World Bridge and he has no reason to fabricate such a story — as backed up by those who played against them. I cannot produce the CIA tapes. I am only repeating what Bobby and I heard directly from Jimmy Ortiz-Patino. There is also a significant amount of solid evidence, but rather than fragmenting the different episodes, we want to wait until Jimmy’s book has been released.

Perhaps the only way people could be convinced is if we could hold a seance and invite all the top American players of the fifties and sixties (and early seventies) who would sign sworn statements of how they were swindled in the world championships. Not a soul alive at that time who competed at the high levels was not aware of the situation. But like I said above, dead is dead. What DOES bother me is the deification of the “Exalted Blue Team” by many of the brainwashed, naive, starry-eyed worshippers who believe most of the current day Fourth Estate who refuse to accept the deserved crumbling of an old legend — fourteen straight world championships or not!!!!!!!!!!

I speak from the heart and memories as the fly on the wall, watching but not offering any comment as I was not qualified to judge the pathetic improprieties suffered by the U. S. Teams.

Phil, thanks for writing!


Keith FloydNovember 5th, 2010 at 1:00 am

Hi there bridge-loving hotheads!

I’d like to give the discussion a somewhat calmer Scandinavian view. I’ve also read the other infamous (?) thread that was closed down.

During 50’s-70’s when the Blues seemed to get it right all time (except in Torino 1960) they always had a staunch defender in Swedish bridhe journalist Eric Jannersten, whose books you might have encountered (Precision Club etc). He was a top player in his own right representing Sweden in the EC in 1951 (I think). He dedicates a whole chapter in his memoirs (not available in English I guess: “Med bridge i bagaget”) to “cheating”, simply entitled “fusk och fusk” (= Cheating & Cheating).

My point is: Could a person (top player of sorts) who visited more than 40 straight ECs have been so totally dumb-founded by the Italians’ charms (which they apparently possessed), that he’d be blind for the cheating the Blues supposedly were engaged with?

Jimmy Ortiz-Patino is mentioned a lot. Soon (perhaps already) his book will have appeared. I wonder if the book contains the following hand, bid by himself & Jean Besse as far back as 1956, when the EC were held at Stockholm. The hand is thoroughly described in Harrison-Gray’s excellent book “Country life book bridge” p. 32, article “Talk of the tournament”. There are no names mentioned in Gray’s article but the hand was well-known at the time & duly dissected in the Bulletin. Here we go

(sorry, I dont know how to make diagrams, hopefully someone else could manage better):N dealer, Neither vuln; North (Patino) hand S void H KQJ7 D A84 C AK7643

South hand (Jean Besse)S T97 H A8432 D KT6 C 95. The bidding went:

1C – (No) – 1H – (1S); 3D – (No) – 3H – (No); 6H – (6S) – No – (No); D – (No) – 7H(??) All pass.

It seems that South took the right view at the right time: calling a lay-down grand. But what did really happen during the bidding? Let me cut directly from gra’s book:

“The same applies to case C (case above). As North you hold S void H KQJ7 D A84 C AK7643.

After One Club by you & One Heart by partner, you discover that he has at least a five-card suit, so you bid an inept Six Hearts without investigating grand slam possiblities. East – West make a sacrifice bid of Six Spades and South’s forcing Pass clearly says: “I might have the right hand for Seven; can you bid it?”. Of course you should bid it, in your sleep, but you shirk the responsibility. Why worry? A very slow double of Six Spades works just as well. South will then bid Seven Hearts if his hand is a bit better than it might be on the bidding.” In the articlewe learn that North thought for FIVE full minutes before doubling Six Spades & that South thought for THIRTEEN minutes before bidding Seven Hearts. Gray refers to this as “coffe-housing”. SO is the hand in Ortiz-Patino’s book (if it’s been published as of Nov 2010)?


Ian GrahamFebruary 12th, 2011 at 8:13 am

I think you have convinced me not by your evidence which is too scanty to be convincing but by the strength of your feeling that the Blue Team did cheat. You have also saddened me. I was accused of cheating on the first hand I ever bid in a tournament. I opened 1NT and hesitated after the “no”. The director was called but fortunately the accuser’s partner intervened to say “Dont be silly —-, that is a classic 1 NT opening”

nakedbeachqFebruary 2nd, 2012 at 4:27 pm

zlata naložba avtomobili

Paul SontagDecember 10th, 2014 at 12:44 am

It would be nice to see some of the American suspects, especially from the “Blue Team era”, actually named and not anonymously referred to.

jon killiJune 14th, 2015 at 2:07 pm

i worry when i read the reactions to the mentioning of intimidation.
every one of us gets emotional reactions to accusations, whether these be true or not. confronting a pair who might or might not choose to cheat against you just before the event must lead to high emotional tensions in both parties, but certainly most so in the accused.
the effects of upheaval will diminish the accuseds’ ability to play bridge, at least for this one session. probably the whole tournament.
that the session is won by accuser and partner does not prove a thing.
i agree that Sontag’s intervention before the match was unethical, and slurs himself and worse, his partner by inference.

i am also disturbed by the fact that examples of possible cheating are not chosen from ALL the matches in a particular tournament. the more select the examples, the less i trust the stated opinion.
after all, the italian team, in this case, played against rather more national teams than the american. the pressure of winning must be assumed to be great throughout if a place in the finals is the goal.

observers: an observer chosen should be left to his/her job, telling an observer what to look for is to destroy his/her neutrality, and greatly diminishes the weight of presumed evidence.

smoke from fire is used a lot in this thread, and in the older one. the metaphor does not really cover human psychology, there are so very many smoldering fires about. i suggest that a chemist might find several ways to make smoke, quite without making a fire.

names: why not produce a list of every player alluded to above ? who protects whom ? who accuses whom ?
i found the list of garozzo’s attendances of interest, it weakens somewhat the arguments and/or presumed facts to be listed by Ortiz-Patino.

next to last: one million votes do not make ‘x’ true. even very qualified persons may show group behaviour. very few private persons are in a position to follow up accusations until they are ready for a court case. what an opponent tells me is not necessarily true. that reese left word behind him without substantiated written evidence is difficult to believe. whatever he was, he was rather precise, as far as i know.

last i will mention that you will not find me among the good players. i play reasonably well at club level, and do not aspire to more.
even so, i would like to see even-handedness applied at the top level. i would like to have people to look up to when it comes to the game.

RGJanuary 29th, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Belladonna bid 2C which in Truscott’s words “a decidedly odd decision. Two diamonds would allow for the possibility of introducing clubs later. Two clubs may have been a lucky guess, but it fitted West’s {his partner’s} hand. The Italians had a habit of making lucky guesses.”

well not a very good example. As if GB had the info about clubs why show his hand at the start and start tongues wagging? he would have bid D with alacrity knowing that it would be “very safe” to introduce clubs even at the 5 level.

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