Cam French

Drive Up

                                                                 Cars – Drive

Dear Bobby and Judy,

Your inflammatory remarks about Sami’s testimony before the Bourne-Foster Commission motivated me to explore your allegations.

In Canada’s Bridge Warriors (forward by Bob Hamman available through Master Point Press) Roy Hughes published a story on this theme written by Sami in the Kibitzer 8/1965. Sami’s tone was neutral, laying out the charges, and he explained his reasoning thusly:

“Other evidence aside, I doubt that the charges will be borne out by an examination of the hands. Reese and Shapiro did not perform any magic with the heart suit, nor were their general results of a caliber to indicate any evidence of collusion. On the other hand, consider a couple of examples where they would certainly have done better if they had known each other’s heart holding.”

He then shows a couple of hands to bolster the argument. Of course Truscott does the same to justify his opposite stance.

I note what Sami didn’t say. He didn’t say they were guilty or innocent or what he personally felt. Note he was correct about the hands failing to provide conclusive proof as presented to the rather lengthy (60 sessions over 19 months) to the Commission. That does not mean the Commission was correct,  I mean OJ went free for God’s sake, people make mistakes. History (and in no small part due to Reese) has a more focused lens looking backwards.

Hughes continues “The story was – and I had heard similar rumors before in Toronto – that Reese and Shapiro did indeed send the signals about the heart suit, but didn’t receive them! It had been intended as a stunt to so how easy it was to cheat in a World Championship, and was to be written up by Reese in a book shortly after.” Some stunt. (This “story” was the gist of what Reese later admitted to David Rex-Taylor.)

Now whether we want to believe that or not, that was the gossip swirling in the expert circle. The evidence runs both ways. Maybe they only peeked at their partner’s hands when vulnerable, or behind in a match, but not to ever take advantage of a very blatant signal seems to me nothing short of incredulous. Truscott and company were right – they were unlawfully communicating – so to what extent is moot. I don’t buy the “didn’t use it” blarney because it is human instinct to look at one’s partner  – remember this was a decade before screens and thus, even inadvertently once in a while one must have been sorely tempted to take advantage of the code which we only now know for a fact existed. Maybe Reese stared only at his cards, all of Truscott’s hands showcase Shapiro’s wild actions.

 The Foster Inquiry and the BBL find Reese and Shapiro not guilty as charged. The WBF is asked to review its judgement. In 1967, the WBF declares – again unanimously – that it still considers Reese and Shapiro guilty of cheating during the 1965 world championships. Indeed, it’s possible that Reese and Shapiro are not guilty. What does that say about the various people  who give evidence for the prosecution? It must have been a gigantic conspiracy, including fabricated observations, notes and meetings. An American conspiracy with Becker, Hayden and Truscott in charge. Gerber, too, went along and perjured himself. And how about the Englishmen Butler and Swimer? Were they in cahoots right from the start or were they ignorant, only to jump at the chance to vent their spleen at the pair? Swimer, for one, went to extreme lengths in fabricating evidence. He invented Shapiro’s confession, wrote it up, and mailed it. Just in case there would ever be a court case in England. What a wonderful piece of anticipation. The president of the American Contract Bridge League, MacNab, and legendary American player Waldemar von Zedtwitz were members of the conspiracy; they, too, declared to have seen the signals over an extended period. All these people have put their reputations in jeopardy, just to put one over on these arrogant Englishmen. The other possibility is that all these people were simply telling the truth.

(from Evert V. to Boris S. 25 years of cheating in bridge; by Onno Eskes)

How many people were duped by Reese? Too many, including his own partner (“the evil man made me do it”) was apparently muttered (and recanted) by Shapiro to NPC Ralph Swimmer in reference to Reese. Nonetheless Reese came clean prior to his death, handing off his confession to David Rex-Taylor asking him to reveal it only after the passing of both him and Shapiro. The fact that Reese may have been “successful” in duping Sami and other witnesses (and the British Commission who did not render a guilty verdict) speaks more to Reese/Shapiro and the system of justice than it does to Sami. I suspect they used it on certain hands (and as the story goes) didn’t use it on others for the express purpose of denying a bullet-proof case to the prosecution. So they had hands on both sides of the evedentiary ledger. And they were caught and exposed. I think we all know by now “bridge justice” is an oxymoron. 

The truth is painfully easy.

1) They cheated through unlawful communication.

2) They had sufficient hands where an unlawful agreement about the heart suit would have led to a superior result.

3) So I suugest that either they did so deliberately to add to the other side of the leger or they did not use them on some occasions. So, Kehela’s statement about the hands was correct. He knew and everyone including the Commission found that there were indeed atypical hand signals, but that the hand evidence was less than compelling.

We are of the opinion that in this case the same standard for conviction must be applied as in criminal proceedings (i.e., beyond a reasonable doubt). The circumstantial evidence gives rise to doubt, however. There is no indication of cheating evident in the auction or the play. We find the direct evidence, however strong, not conclusive in view of the forementioned doubt. Consequently, we do not consider Messrs. Reese and Shapiro guilty of foul play during the tournament in question.” 

In other words, they were signalling, but the hands, as in the evidence, runs both ways. What if Reese/Shapiro deliberately created some poor results around the heart suit? I mean really – who could have predicted that?

Truscott said this about the verdict:

“To the astonishment and indignation of many, including all the Americans, Sir John and his colleague found the case against Reese and Shapiro not proven. They said that the evidence of the deals created “reasonable doubt” in spite of “direct evidence as to the exchange of finger signals, strong as it is“. Some called the verdict a whitewash.” 

I suspect Sami’s testimony was his honest perspective, no more – no less. And few had a better vantage from which to form an opinion. Some hands supported the cheating theory, and others invalidated the same. Although Sami and I are not on a first name basis, his name and reputation transcend the game and speak for themselves. To suggest that he was anything less than truthful is unwarranted and unjustified without proof. I say to you – because your fixation with the signalling denied you the ability to look at the hand evidence objectively.

Yes they were cheating. Sadly the hand records fail to prove that.

Pursuant to your request I tried to contact him, to no avail. I would love to have him weigh in. I wouldn’t count on it – not his style.

Like Charles Barkley said when OJ got off – “I know one thing; if I ever kill anybody – I know who I’m gonna call.” He was referring to Johnny Cochrane of course, and maybe Reese/Shapiro had a Cochrane in their corner, I don’t know.

Then Judy wieghed in with this:

I have learned in the last number of years to never question Bobby’s honesty, his judgment or his incredible ability of recall, especially in historical bridge happenings as to what was involved. 

If anything, he downplays (emphasis added) his opinions and tries to rely on the facts. (JKW)

Judy, that really that takes the cake. Bobby is a man of strong, inflammatory opinions. He downplays nothing and relies on an emotional, frenzied vocabulary littered with !!! and CAPITALIZATIONS.

 I cite one example of “downplaying” his opinions.

Yes, that spirit of the game means that even if the team feels that it would be better off if this team or that team could be eliminated by their team not playing up to their capabilities (and so felt justified in throwing that part of the competition), it would, in truth, be thought of rather, as a treasonous, despicable act and subject to severe discipline by the administration.

One more.

Furthermore, when I reported to you about the Kehela appearance in the Foster Tribunals you spoke of libel before you even checked it out. Were you trying to show your friends how patriotic you are or were you just joining them with your theatre of the ABSURD! (Emphasis not added)

I, years ago, while still back on the East Coast (decades before Bobby and I married) had heard about Sami Kehela’s sudden decision to support his mentor, Terence Reese, by testifying for the defense at his Tribunal in London.  In fact I have a recollection of Gerber being the U. S. Team’s Captain and Kehela, the Coach. In spite of what Sami had himself uncovered during the tumultuous events in South America in 1965, he did a 180 degree turn and directly contradicted himself.  Bobby later filled me in on his reasons and tried to convince me not be so hard on him since all people are unto themselves and often dance to the beat of different drummers.

As for Sami’s “sudden decision to support his mentor” you feel it necessary to bolster an already feeble argument with “sudden”, “his mentor” and “180 degree turn” “contradicted himself” and blarney like “Bobby later filled me in on his reasons and tried to convince me not be so hard on him since all people are unto themselves and often dance to the beat of different drummers.”  Fill us in before slinging the mud. Let’s hear it. Drive up. I march to a different drummer – is Bobby going to convince you to go “lightly” on me because of that? Come on. You two march to the same drummer. And hey – that is OK. I don’t march, don’t fall in line nor toe the line. And that is OK too.

The truth is you have no idea why Sami testified the way he did, or at least if you do you failed to share it. But if you stop to think about it maybe – just maybe he testified according to his beliefs. Why is that so hard to accept? Or do you need to fabricate innuendo to justify your perceptions of his motives?

No Oliver here. No giant conspiracy. Just an expert testifying, talking about what he knew, saw and heard and bearing witness accordingly. The fact that you disagreed with his conclusions led you to the point where you feel the need to belittle, ridicule and insult him. And guess what – some take offense to that. I do.  I lack the chutzpa to speak for Sami. I can only imagine how he might feel.

“Spirit of Competition is what life is all about and Grantland Rice is 100% right in his pronouncement. Perhaps some of us should try to live up to some of these philosopher’s expectations.  I now understand better (emphasis added) why Sami Kehela testified for Reese-Schapiro at the Foster Tribunal. Hark! Alice in Wonderland has taken over the world!!!!! (an “understated” BW)

Well I confess I don’t “understand better”. I don’t understand it at all. Alice in Wonderland? I admit I don’t follow that analogy either. I guess I don’t understand why you can cast the first volley of stones and not support your position with a shred of evidence or even a coherent explanation. Alice in Wonderland has taken over the world!!!!! What the hell does that mean? In English please.

Perhaps the truth is simple. He saw finger signals, good results that might support that and poor ones that might refute the same. He told it as he saw it.  Something you have an affinity for and might stop to imagine that others do too. Please note that Sami Kehela said “I doubt that the charges will be borne out by an examination of the hands” and that is not testifying for anyone. That is an observation that proved prophetic. If you want to say otherwise – as you have, please drive up. No one is anointing Kehela or ERM or Edgar or Tobias or anyone as untouchable. With allegations like “180 degree turn” and “now I understand why” and “Bobby later filled me in on his reasons” and “Sami Kehela’s sudden decision to support his mentor, Terrence Reese”, them’s fightin’ words, even in Texas – understated they are not.  

Back them up or apologize.

Both of you.

The signals were eventually proven, a successful corrlelation to hand records was not. Let’s remember the essence of the testimony:

“Other evidence aside, I doubt that the charges will be borne out by an examination of the hands.”

I am not wagering the family farm on that being forthcoming.

I am certainly prepared to do no less should you produce a convincing archive, as in evidence. Otherwise, the respect that I and others still hold for you is gone. Long gone.

I recall Judy has “lost all respect” for me and Bobby has questioned my motives, patriotism and friendship. I have never questioned your integrity, your entitlement to a stance, your experience, your insider’s status. I respect that. I don’t call you are your views “dispicable” or “disgusting” and it wouldn’t cross my mind to question your patriotism or the fact that you believe what you say.

i get the fact that you resent cheaters wiggling free, and escaping the penaties for their crimes. We all despise that. And we all lose when we cast stones without evdidence, without proof. Accusations to integrity need (and by our laws), demand a higher standard.

I do question your allegations about Sami “changing his testimony”, his alleged “180” and the “only to suit his mentor”, and I believe we are all owed some answers. If not answers, how about evidence?

Didn’t think so.  

Please – drive up.





BOBBY WOLFFMay 12th, 2010 at 2:36 am

All I am going to tell you is what I believe:

1. Eric Murray and Sami Kehela are two of the biggest credits to ever play the game of bridge, both as people and as bridge players. They should be first ballot Hall-of-Famers on every Bridge Hall-of Fame which will ever exist.

2. Reese and Shapiro cheated at bridge and had been cheating for many years before Buenos Aires in 1965.

3. Later, in 1981 Reese was forbidden by the WBF to be Captain of the British team for the Bermuda Bowl held in Rye, NY (because of his cheating).

4. Kehela, after being coach of the USA team in Buenos Aires and being called to gather the evidence before accusations were made, did so and that evidence was used to stop the play, have the British forfeit, which they did willingly and went home. Ralph Swimer, their Captain, was directly involved with the investigation, was convinced of their guilt, but rapidly became a social outcast when he returned home.

5. Later, Kehela went to England and testified to the innocence of Reese and Shapiro at the Foster Tribunals. Sami, having been born in Iraq, migrated to England earlier and Reese was his bridge mentor. Any feeling person can understand what happened. Most humans differ from each other and usually have varying value judgments, much of which can usually be based on emotion. Although some may disagree with this or that, what they do is up to them!!!!

6. The spirit of competition in bridge, as in all other major competitions, to me, demands the attempt to win, by legal means, in whichever way the competition directs. That would mean with the lineups chosen, with the bridge played and whatever it took to give that player, partnership or team their greatest chance for success. Sure there are extraneous factors like sickness and other incapacities which could enter, but in the absence of extreme circumstances the main caveats apply. Without that morality as a backdrop, many competitions have been corrupted in various ways. When the match to be played will have a significant effect on the final outcome. the above truths are even more self-evident. Again, others may disagree, but competition is what makes all games interesting and without which, most would not be worth our time. However one looks at it, he or she should understand what we are doing when we do not comply. BTW, people who have cheated while playing at high levels at bridge should also be made to realize the terrible injustice they have done to all the honest players out there.

7. Yes Cokin and Sion likely cheated in Norfolk and their team went on to win the event. I believe that their team victory should be vacated, but other finishing teams, 2d on down should not be moved up because of the uncertainty of who would have won without the cheating. Again others may feel differently, but the above is how I feel.

8. It is nothing less than shameful what has happened in the bridge world through the many years of which I have been present. Our leading administrators have been overly fearful of law suits and consequently much of our history has been skewed. My goal is to try and create a legacy of honesty and reality in what has happened so that the mistakes we have made will not be repeated. One person cannot do it alone, but needs the help of others who not only feel likewise, but want to get involved to that end. As of now, it is hard for me to be optimistic that help will ever arrive.

Cam, from your armchair in Toronto you have various opinions. It seems to me, that wherever something takes place, whether it be Norfolk, Buenos Aires, England or Monte Carlo it might help you to be present before you start challenging the facts.

I started to read your blog which caused this reply, but, to be honest, I stopped, probably in mid-sentence, because listening to what you are saying and how you are saying it, is just too painful for me to accept. The people who I would like to hear from are the ones who could add first hand knowledge and fill in the blanks to the details not ones who exhibit grandiose proclamations without knowing anything.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 12th, 2010 at 2:55 am


Sorry, but I, like Bobby, stopped reading your unending diatribe in mid-stream. I just didn’t have the time, interest or ambition to see it to its conclusion. However, I did catch your last line. Don’t hold your breath.

You are like a dog with a bone. First you spend more than a year harping, harping, harping on the ’79 Norfolk issue which had been dead and buried over quarter of a century and now you have become the self-appointed Chief Investigator of the Reese/Shapiro/Kehela defense. No wonder Sami didn’t want to get involved with you. Your blathering preceded you. I suggest you find something more constructive to do with your time. Get a life!

Judy Kay-Wolff

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