Cam French

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

Ode to Eurythmics

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

(click on the above for music)

Note: Readers would be well served by reading prior entries from Ray Lee, Ron Lel, Bobby Wolff, Judy Kay-Wolff and others on this topic.

As Ray Lee reported:

Afterwards he {Sontag} 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.

To Bobby Wolff and Judy Kay-Wolff I am going to turn your argument around for a moment.

Imagine for a moment Alan Sontag had given you as his opponents his “preamble” before a critical match? How would you feel? Think about that for a moment.

Perhaps it is where one is looking from that shapes one’s perspective.

Bobby said:

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.

I think that’s a great idea and I am going to try to find a middle ground between Ron Lil’s surly “disgusting”  versus Judy’s laudatory (Medal of Honor? – I don’t think so) positions on Alan Sontag’s apparent behaviour.

Bobby continues:

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.

Well, if that’s true and let’s say it is – what does that say to the members? Make up your own rules because we can’t help you? I take Bobby at his word but that statement frightens me. Where is the leadership? MIA. Why the dearth of direction, planning, investigation and results? That is the battle cry here from all of us.

He continues with:

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 guilty players off scot free than God forbid challenge, let alone convict, one questionable pair.

If I might – that’s over the top. I think I see his frustration showing through. Judy and Bobby have watched 50 years of injustice pass them by and they should be angry. Maybe some of the other swindled parties should step up and share the podium. It’s almost as if he is so nauseated at the state of justice – well, like the Lone Ranger he’ll ride into town and clean up the mess. All I can say is “good luck” but cleaning these stinking stables starts with the ACBL and sponsoring organizations. Then they invite the expert community to galvanize a serious effort to identify and prosecute cheaters. It must come from the top on down, a concerted effort with educating members, training directors and becoming a League mandate, not the personal agenda of any one individual.

Is having a monitor a right for all bridge players? It would seem so. And although Bobby’s antennae was clearly quivering against his far eastern opponents, he let them off lightly explaining it as this:

(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.

Was his “promise” not to cheat against this team?  Did that apply to other matches? I think the Martel formula (see below) might have worked here, and then (theoretically) they would be caught and outed. Having him stand down from his telegraphing against one team hardly seems to do justice to his apparent crime.

Was it a “level playing field” or was it Sontag’s superior skill why he carved up the opposition like a Christmas turkey? At last peek Sontag ranked 16th on the all time list for Master points. It is no secret he is one hell of a player but he has got to be having some sugar-sweet dreams if he thinks that his pre-match “preamble” served to “level the card table”. (I interpret that mixed metaphor as “playing field”). I have a news flash. Cheaters cheat. Cokin confessed in writing (to Bobby Wolff) that he and Sion “cheated on basically every hand they ever played together.” Cheaters could be playing any of us and all they really care about is winning at any cost. One thing for sure – Sontag wouldn’t be laying any “ground rules” if he had zero suspicions about the players at his table. Why would he?

I would expect him to welcome his peers with war stories and warm greetings. What about those of us who aren’t his “peers”? Does Sontag bestow upon us his pre-game preface? Do we get to see a laundry list of what “he will and won’t allow” us to do?

Sontag can say that and get away with that because of his lofty rank. Most of us wouldn’t dream of saying it to anyone. I’ll wager neither Judy not Bobby has said such, even if in their hearts they might have wanted to. And I think we need to recognize the agony they have suffered and their frustration at a total lack of governance. My question is  – why aren’t more experts angry? When will they step up? Do Judy and Bobby have to carry the mantle for all? That said, there is a line and Sontag crossed it.

Would Zeke Jabbour say what Sontag said? Zia? Roth? Kaplan? How about Paul Soloway? Grant Baze?

I don’t think so.

Why not? The answer – because it’s not legal. And it is not right.

Turn the table. If I sit down at Sontag’s table and recount his same “ground rules” to him – what would he do? I would expect him to scream for the director and demand to have me thrown before and Conducts and Ethics committee as I implied some impropriety was going to happen before it did. A preemptive strike! And he would be right as such allegations could be hardly sustained before they had happened.

Judy laments the extent lesser teams will subvert the law to beat a superior team. I think we can all lament those who defile our laws regardless of rank. I look at good players cheating with the same disdain I hold for the experts. (OK, maybe a little more for the experts.) The rank is moot. I get the fact that everyone wants to win and beat up the better players. Such is the nature of any game. You can bet no baseball player wants to be the next out in a no-hitter and every single NFL team tried to stop New England’s and Miami’s run at perfection. We all love to beat the Yankees. The thrill of sport is dog versus favourite.

The annals of bridge history suggest that cheating has permeated every level of the game, including its highest ranks. That is one reason why we need expert vigilance. We need experts to police the experts. We the masses rarely get to play them except as cannon fodder on the opening round of a knock out.

Perhaps unknown or forgotten by the elite is that intimidation by expert players has long been rampant and for some old-timers part of the game. Sontag expected to drill these players anyway. Such remarks constitute intimidation, plain and simple. Judy and Bobby don’t face the same intimidation (if any) that us canon fodder does. It just doesn’t come their way. I will bet my bottle of Louis Roed Cristal 1.5 L Champagne that Sontag never dreams of giving that speech to Weinstein, Wolff, Kay-Wolff, Garner, Hamman, Rodwell, Katz, Zia, Martel, Standby, Meckstroth, Rosenberg, Robson, Rubin, Moss, Greco,  Weichsel, Helgemo, Helness, Balicki or Gawrys or countless others. No, he saves it for the precious few who deserve it, the convicted or do the merely suspected get this speech too?

If Sontag or anyone else suspects cheating, they should follow the protocol. Chip Martel did so (30 years ago) and helped nab and convict cheaters Cokin and Sion. What is the protocol?

1) Alert a few trustworthy expert players. (If Woolsey/Jacobus/Martel/Lewis/Blumenthal are available, consider them.)

2) Watch the perpetrators; look for mannerisms and clues to their means of unlawfully communicating. Compile hand records, evidence, break the code.

3) Get video, alert the authorities.

Sontag’s heart-warming “ground-rules” preamble served Sontag. It did not serve the game. In fact, it may have alerted their opponents that they were under a cloud of suspicion. What about the other teams who go on to play this team of apparent cheaters in the same or future events? If these players ran off several consecutive whippings against good teams – what then? What if they or other reinstated cheaters win? Who, if anyone launches an investigation? Where does it start? It starts with our experts doing the right thing.

So what if they were convicted – how long do we rub their noses in it? Judy’s pissed (and so is Bobby – I won’t speak for Sontag) because the lax laws allow for readmission of convicted cheaters. Are we supposed to smile nicely and pretend we don’t know? Yes and no. As pathetic as it is – and it is pathetic  – we are hamstrung by our own silly rules.  When Wolff goes on to state:

“If players, experienced or not in International Play, do not protect themselves, verily they will not be protected.”

If he is right – then no wonder people are angry. If a monitor is a right – great – use it should you feel the need. When we amend the laws to boot cheaters forever, well – we won’t face this horror show will we? That’s what we’re all angry at – but that does not entitle Alan Sontag or anyone else to stipulate:

“a number of actions he would not allow them to employ (including inconsistent placement of their cards on the table on defense, etc.).”

How about if anyone suspects cheating they just go to the authorities and say so?

Or is that too tough? Yes in this case because Sontag’s match hasn’t started yet so he explains his home-brewed “new rules”, unfamiliar I am sure to all but a select few. Intimidation, plain and simple. What would you call it? A courtesy?

Is intimidation cheating? No. Is it unethical? Well the rules state:

74.A.1. A player should maintain a courteous attitude at all times.

74 A.2. A player should carefully avoid any remark or action that might cause annoyance or embarrassment of another player or might interfere with the enjoyment of the game.

Telling someone before the match about your expectations you have for them like an

“…itemized a number of actions {one} would not allow them to employ (including inconsistent placement of their cards on the table on defense, etc.)”

might be a source of annoyance or embarrassment. Certainly I would expect any player, guilty or innocent to have their God/ACBL given right to “enjoyment of the game” infringed upon getting that speech before the start of play. That violates the letter and spirit of the laws. So it should not be said. Period.

Paul wouldn’t say it. Grant wouldn’t say it. As for most of us, it would never cross our minds.

The truth is Bobby and Judy and probably Alan are sick and tired of being cheated. When do we tilt the card table back to the victims? How do we achieve that? When do we, as members say – enough is enough? Write your BOD member, not me. But let’s be clear, this has gone on far too long. Maybe sweet dreams of change can serve us all. For the record I applaud JKW and her beloved for thrusting this issue out into the open. If we can learn from our mistakes, and address this bastard child cheating, it will serve all of us. That is the goal here. Healing. Change. Enforcement. A level playing field (or card table) for all.

As a side note I should report that I sat as a kibitzer (on BBO) at Sonty’s table a few months ago. Before he had an opportunity to greet me I realized he was trying to figure out how to disconnect me! That puzzled me as I thought we were long time pals. I suspected he was double-booked and wanted me to pinch-hit for him at another table with one of his clients. I departed before seeing the completion of one hand and visited another regular. To show his appreciation Sonty air-freighted a bottle of Louis Roed Cristal 1.5 L Champagne and some Russian caviar to my winter home on Marcos Island with a kind note of thanks.

Now that’s a greeting we could all get used to. I think I’ll send him a copy of Bill Maher’s New Rules. Sometimes, we can all use a laugh.



BOBBY WOLFFOctober 11th, 2009 at 7:39 pm


After reading your blog, I want to say that I think you are about as right as a person can be and for all intelligent reasons. You not only are right in your conclusions, but also on target about all the myriad psychological influences.

All I can add is a few things to think about:

1. When one has thought about it, discussed it, wants to address it, and feels it deeply, but never individually experienced it, he is perhaps 95% qualified to write about it, but he has to go the extra 5% to, if for no other reason than to know all there is to know. With that extra 5% he would understand, especially (if he possessed the competitive instinct of a bridge warrior) to not tolerate being cheated. With that, goes the unmistakable knowledge and horror of having to sit there and realize, like possibly the blacks did in my beloved country the first half of the 20th century and the Jews did during the reign of Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, that there is no one to turn to for help. All available have had their bodies snatched for whatever reasons, and the reasons, at least in their thinking, are many. I feel I need to give this disclaimer since realistically I am not comparing the absolute abomination which those 2 above world events caused, compared to the much less important matter of bridge, but I guess I wanted to try and indicate my personal passion for our game.

When writing my blog about Alan Sontag, I first described his actions at the table as “vulgar display”, but then thought better about it, since I realized his, realistically and especially in his own mind, lack of options. I do not love Alan Sontag more for what he did, but rather love the powers that be less for putting me, him, and so many others in such an untenable position and all for their own off the charts, cowardly and selfish reasons.

2. It is time that we follow Cam’s heartfelt feelings to require our leaders to come forth and lead. Not just lip service to let “George do it” but real leadership with strong law enforcement including enough money to finance deterrents, proper training from some of the very few who know what to do, and strict laws which may, if we do it right, make if very difficult for anyone to succeed if he still attempts it.

3. The IBPA should take a leadership role in this sordid subject. If they are aware of what they should be aware, almost every nationality has indulged in this horrible chicanery at one time or another. Until they, and other visible bridge entities do much more than they have done. We are effectively born dead and never will succeed.

4. It is high time that bridge lovers, whether leaders or even wimps, come forward and demand action which obviously covers making our past history, transparent for all to see, even for the ones who have clouded vision and are almost impossible to convince.

Thank you Cam, and leave it up to a bridge lover like you, not a super world class player, to lead the way.


JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 11th, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Cam: Your dissertation was from the heart — but it is obvious you are overlooking some major issues:

1. We are lacking leadership, at least here in the USA. The average ability of the Board of Directors, is far from expert and they are not equipped to deal with the problems at hand. The Silodors, Kaplans. Sanders and Murrays are gone from the Board and few knowledgeable, fair-minded people are capable of rising to the occasion. There have been known cheats on the Board — but that is neither here nor there.

2. To chair a Committee is not necessarily an indication of expertise (although in some cases it may be) — but is usually a popularity contest and represents the old “I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine” concept known as the old Spoils System. Similarly, wearing a badge that says Director does not necessarily qualify one to handle these delicate situations.

3. You mention some great names who may be super in the field of legitimately helping police the sport. BUT — try getting them to commit! We’ve been there — done that. Bobby has spoken to many top level, certainly qualified, players who would be perfect for the job begging them to pick up the gauntlet — but NOBODY wants to get involved and spend the time or risk other people’s wrath, like some of the bloggers who have identified themselves.

4. So, those who are qualified want no parts of the task and those who would be willing — are not only not necessarily qualified, but also have the wrong attitude. Getting the ideal system in place is wonderful — but much easier said than done.

5. Because professionalism has taken over the game (and most top players, of necessity, are beholden to their sponsors), it may become a sticky subject for them to get involved. What can they gain? Rather, they would have a lot to lose in the way of sponsors and other professionals who are possible teammates who do not show the way with superior ethical reputations.

6. About Alan Sontag, perhaps because he had no guaranteed recourse and protection (and certainly the administrators way back then were far from ideal judges), he did what he thought he had to do. He tried to save his own hide before it was put in a sling — considering it “any port in a storm.” It is sad that those poor “intimidated victims” whom everyone knew were not ‘kosher’ were not banished earlier — and even to this day (thirty+ years later) are still on the scene. Shame! Shame!

You are pursuing the impossible dream. Good luck!

Riki TikiOctober 11th, 2009 at 9:31 pm

I am sure there is no love lost as Sontag (and Weischel) were involved in your much publicized pet peeve (The Norfolk Incident) which should have no bearing on the case at hand, but I am sure it is still gnawing at you, so I do not think you are totally impartial regarding Sontag.

Cam FrenchOctober 11th, 2009 at 11:51 pm


You got it all wrong. No gnawing – not true (for me at least) about no love lost. Invited them both to my 25th wedding anniversary party on Marcos Island.

We agree to disagree about Norfolk. I think he should give up an unlawfully won title, he thinks having cheating partners at the other table does not diminsh the integrity of the title and that he should keep it.

I wonder why, with all his fabulous accomplishments – he doesn’t toss this one back.

Ask him, not me. Let us all know what he says.


Ron LelOctober 12th, 2009 at 5:07 am

“Such remarks constitute intimidation, plain and simple.”

Totally agree Cam. That is exactly the point I was trying to make. Leave it up to the authorities to deal with and don’t act like a vigilante. Just one minor point, I am surprised that Bobby, who is a proponent of active ethics, would support this bullying. I would have had Sontag up before the TD so fast his ears would have sung.

By the way, I have played against Henky Lasut a few times in the South West Pacific Teams and have never witnessed any untoward behaviour.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 12th, 2009 at 6:24 am

“The authorities,” you say? Authorities, acccording to whose standards? What deems them to be authorities and just how qualified are they to handle potential cheating? They may be fine quoting chapter and verse from the Rule Book, but adeptly handling potential cheating is a horse of another color.

If you want to know what intimidation is, I can tell you a story close to home. In the mid seventies, my late husband’s team was facing Bobby’s team in some major event. Johnny Crawford asked Norman (who was sitting off that session) to kibitz Bobby to make him nervous (he didn’t know Bobby too well). Norman was appalled and of course declined to be part of Crawford’s attempt at intimidation. I heard that story thirty-some years ago from Norman and was reminded of it tonight by Bobby.

With all due respect, I dare say Bobby has a bit more experience at handling these situations — probably more than anyone in the bridge world and over a longer period of time. He is familiar with more dossiers on cheaters and Recorder Slips than you can shake a stick at. Bobby feels if you anticipate an about-to-arise siutation, it is better to confront the individual tactfully (one on one) making one’s feelings clear than wait until an incident develops and have to be dependent upon a random director who is not capable or skilled coping with the anticipated situation. Handling cheating is an art and few directors (especially in those days) were trained and qualified. Alan made his point and avoided the anticipated shenanigans which were bound to take place.

It happened against Bobby and after two boards against the same countrymen, a monitor was suggested — so why should Alan expect anything different from individuals who had track records. Alan might not be your favorite person — but be assured he wasn’t born yesterday! Besides, if you are honest players, why would you be intimidated by something you would pass off as idle chatter?

Wake up and smell the roses — or perhaps lilies is a more appropriate aroma in this instance.

Peter GillOctober 12th, 2009 at 8:14 am

I’m pretty sure that one of the players in the pair who opposed Sontag has never been convicted of nor apprehended for anything untoward, although his partner has. Cam, so the pair in question is merely suspected, not convicted. At one time, I thought I had played more boards against this pair in international bridge than anyone else in the world, mainly at Far East and Pacific Asia events, so I am not exactly an outsider with no knowledge.

The main reason Sontag’s team won the 16 board session 62-2 imps is that Rose Meltzer and Grant Baze had a huge session at the other table. It’s all there on the internet, for anyone to see, under Shanghai in 2007. If Meltzer – Baze score up with Jill Levin – Jill Meyers from the Women’s Final, they win the segment 68-9. If Meltzer – Baze score up with Helness – Helgemo from the Open Final, they win the set 71-10. If Meltzer – Baze score up with Wang Wenfei – Yi Qian Lu from the Women’s 3rd place playoff, they win the set 65-2. It is not as if Sontag at the other table to Rose Meltzer had a particularly good set after his comment.

At the start of an all-European match in Beijing last year, a player made similar remarks to their opponents, along the lines of: “I will not tolerate any of your antics; and will not hesitate to call the Director if you do anything shifty.” The match passed without incident. I think the comment was OK.

I have just been re-reading various write-ups of the Appeal in which Judy was the victim. Google has put parts of The Lone Wolff online, which made this easier to look up. Being so badly treated there should have the effect of making Judy look unfavourably on bridge administration in general. In my opinion, the Directing staff and AC volunteers in Shanghai are more capable than is suggested in the comments above.

The authorities (Directors) in question in Shanghai were: Max Bavin (England), Richard Grenside (Australia), Antonio Riccardi (Italy), Anthony Ching (HK), Bernard Gignoux, Rui Marques (Portugal), Jeanne van den Meiracker (Nethlds) and Matt Smith (USA), very different from what you get in the ACBL. The Appeals Committee was people like Bobby Wolff, Dan Morse and a few others. I disagree with Judy’s suggestion above that these people are unsuitable for handling potential cheating. They were the people to whom Sontag could have left the decision-making.

Peter Gill

regular member of Australia’s Open Team.

Ron LelOctober 12th, 2009 at 9:37 am

Agree with Peter,

Henky has always been a gentleman at the table. So has Eddy for that matter. By the way, there ae a number of explanations for the Manoppo Brothers’ leads and not all fo them have to do with cheating. Not everyone agrees with the article by Ron Klinger, referred to by Bobby, “Eenie Meenie, Miney Manoppo.”

JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 12th, 2009 at 2:27 pm

To Peter:

I was under the misapprehension that the quote from Ray Lee about Sontag happened some thirty years ago and for that I apologize. All my assumptions were based on that! It certainly changes the complexion of the scene — with competent, trained WBF directors. No doubt that cast (with Max Bavin at the helm) was more than competent. However, perhaps a few decades ago, I would have had little faith in their ability to handle similar situations. As far as Bobby being on that particular Appeals Committee is untrue. Bobby for several years now has not served on or headed Appeals Committees because his hearing has gotten so bad.

I am sure everyone has either praise or tales of woe concerning the suspected talked-about violators. Peter seems to think they are as pure as the driven snow. Why then, regardless of the clean slates that are being offered in their defense, did Bobby (after funny stuff on two hands against him) suggest a monitor (for which they apologized and guaranteed it woud be smooth sailing from then on). Nothing beats first hand experience. Seeing is believing.

And, by the way, where there’s smoke there’s fire so in my mind there is little difference between suspicion and conviction. When there is a great deal of conjecture, it is usually not a figment of everyone’s imagination. This is true in the old days, when fear of scandal prevented individuals from taking action or the authority’s refusal to recognize what was actually happening. Today, much more is being done (cameras, monitors, etc.) to clean up the game and thank god for that much.

BOBBY WOLFFOctober 12th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

To All,

Internet communications have made the world wonderful. Internet communications have made the world dangerous and ripe for misunderstandings. These two conflicting statements are probably both true and it is important to realize the good and the awful.

When I talk about the general abilities and effectiveness of bridge tournament directors in both the WBF and the ACBL I have no choice, but to talk about generalities. In truth, I am sure that in the ACBL and particularly the WBF there are potential leaders and very knowledgeable TD’s and members of the staff. However, because of the careful instruction from on top, that alone would result in very little wiggle room, if any, for any of the TD’s or even chief TD for that matter to emerge showing great leadership. In the beginning, chief TD’s like Al Sobel, Harold Franklin and some others, whose names I never knew (from around the world), exerted their intelligence and force of personality to right wrongs, discourage cheating, and subjectively make the game better and less crooked. In our present setup there is probably either no room or certainly less room for the present TD leadership to exert itself. Having said that and assuming my description is reasonably accurate, potential TD blame becomes non-existent. For that misunderstanding, I sincerely apologize to the current TD leadership.

Since internet blogging is only a sometime thing, everything that needs to be said, and there is so much, no one will ever begin to believe it, will never cover all the bases, leaving some victims moaning their plights.

I generally agree with Peter Gill’s recent blogs with a couple of housekeeping objections.

1. Even though I was thrilled to be named Chairman Emeritus of the WBF Appeals Committee by the generous WBF Executive Committee at the recent Sao Paulo tournament I should explain that because of my almost total lack of hearing (90% deaf) I no longer will be able to serve what I thoroughly enjoyed doing in the past.

2. Until some aggressive, independent knowledgeable soul emerges from the ash (and there are several prospects) the WBF will be treading water, still overly fearfull of law suits, not wanting to be so subjective in determining investigations as to risk possible hurt feelings if, in fact, nothing sinister can be proven we, in my opinion, will never get there from here.

3. While your statistics were interesting concerning Sontag’s probable not special winning session following his suspected intimidation before his session started, it really, at least to me, is not the real topic, since whether the intimidation worked or not, the subject was whether he or anyone should ever do such a thing. Truthfully I would never have expected an experienced pair like Henky and Eddy to ever be subject to anyone trying to intimidate them.

4. Cheating (whether proven, merely possible or even likely) is in itself a blight on our whole game, and whether some like Ron or Anon who do not want to believe it, is not like the tooth fairy, and does exist. Furthermore, it exists right here in River City and in No Trump. To cast the popular finger against it ever happening plus the Australian article by Ron Klinger about the known subjects was so well done and so explicit that anyone who doesn’t believe at least most of it, should turn in his believing in the infallibility of human nature bridge badge, at the first available desk.

5. I agree with your somewhat veiled suggestion that Alan Sontag’s diatribe is OK if done at the right time and for the right reason, not to secure advantage, but to protect oneself against their opponents violently (if you will) taking their own advantage.

6. Ron, being a bleeding heart is a lovable quality, but, at least to me, you and your cohorts have carried it past its welcome. However, I would like to keep you available to call on to cheer me up, when I later go off my rocker and murder a few people, or worse, cheat them at bridge.

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