Cam French

Collateral Damage Epilogue 1

                               01 Please Release me 


Bobby Wolff wrote:


“Let the record show that I think the winners of that ill fated tournament in Norfolk, 1979 should be forever erased and excluded from recognition.”

(for the unenlightened that would be Sternberg, Sontag, Weichsel, and two convicted cheaters Cokin/Sion stripped of an unlawfully won title)

(new readers see Collateral Damage at )



Dear Bobby,


Wonderful words.

A treat to see for many while an embarrassment for a precious few, as well it should be.

Wish we had heard them earlier and certainly in greater numbers but great to hear them nonetheless. Thank you. I wish more had your cajones to say the same. Precious and few are those who dare to speak out. My guess is that as a victim of cheating, you have stronger feelings about it than many. I could be wrong. But I haven’t seen any movement, action or calling from within or without to echo your words and my sentiment that the unlawful winners of 3/79 be stripped of the title. Even worse, the unlawful winners cling to their ill-gotten gains like barnacles to the side of a ship.

Why is that?

And let’s be frank, Alan Sontag and Peter Weichsel are superstars in bridge with an otherwise unblemished record of accomplishment so few are those who want to alienate two elite players. No one blames those stand in silence and fewer still are surprised at the lack of inertia on the part of the league.

Friends of theirs have been very vocal in response to Collateral Damage in private and some in public. Rose Meltzer called me “sick” (on OKB) for daring to write about her beloved Sonty. Imagine that I am “sick” because I dare to criticize one of the game’s great players by asking him to renounce an unlawfully won title.  Another “flashy” expert player told me he would have me booted from the ACBL, OKBridge, BBO and everywhere else as some of his pro dates had withered because of me, and he wasn’t even on the team! I will tell Rose this – should Sonty stand up and say, “I want nothing to do with the title of 3/79” I will be the first to say – Congratulations.  And thank you for taking the high road. Somehow, I don’t expect I will have the chance to say those words. I hope I am wrong. Release me.

None of us enjoy Survivor’s immunity from criticism in life or in this game. It comes with the territory. And you know and I know, the kibitzer knows and my mother knows that if Phillip Alder, Barry Rigal, Michael Rosenberg or Eddie Kantar wrote Collateral Damage, the venom directed at the author would be a lot less toxic. Let’s shoot the messenger?

How about a couple of our game’s greatest players step up to the plate do the right thing? Is that a novel, old-fashioned, revolutionary or simply bold thing to ask? You tell me.

The truth is sad and sordid as the league has no reason to drag the skeletons out of the closet; and in fact plenty of reasons to hide them.  We get that. And why should they come clean? As Cokin said to me through a third party – “there is no upside” and he was right. Looking back as Bobby noted is “too painful” and he too was right because you have League officials conspiring to deny a title to the lawful winner thereby embracing the unlawful one. Going back there to disinter those skeletons is not an option. Too painful indeed. I (and certainly Zeke/Capp and team mates) have no interest in pouring salt in the wound. Losing a National title to cheaters is painful enough, let’s as Zeke told me – move on past the pain and blame.

Perhaps there is a way to look back and not drag the league by the ankles through the briars; minimize the embarrassment, look at healing versus apportioning the blame. If we leave the lies, the anger and the blame behind, could we do the right thing?  We should or could be looking at setting the record straight. Of course Norfolk is but one in the crowded field who qualifies for a look back, just ask Bobby about all those Blue Team victories. But Norfolk has the virtue of an iron-clad case, expert eyewitnesses, documented evidence and signed confessions. Sadly the surviving Blue Team members (like the Sternberg team) prefer silence and denial versus coming clean. Model it on Nelson’s Healing Commission and look forward while addressing the past and leave the blame behind.

And let’s not let the league off without a challenge. I ask my representative Paul Janicki to explore options. Without assigning blame, can we look back and say, this time we made a mistake and we want to address that?

Let’s call a spade a spade. What is the downside? Does Dr. Sternberg want his bonus money back? He should recoup it from the cheating pair for sure, but what is there to recoup? The trophy sits atop his mantlepiece so why ruin a good thing? The easiest way, certainly taking the league off the hook would be for Cokin, Sternberg, Sontag and Weichsel (or some combination thereof) to step up and say, “this title was unlawfully won and we want nothing to do with it.

Why not do that? I just don’t get it. Enlighten us.

Why would anyone cling to an unlawfully won title? Throwing it back is not a sign of guilt, but rather an act of courage, of leadership, of ethics. And I know, from private correspondence that both Sontag and Weichsel share all of those attibutes. I understand Cokin has become a coach of standing and respect.

Please release me let me go; as I don’t love you anymore

To live our lives would be a sin; release me and let me – love again.

The time has come. Let”s heal.

Release me, release yourselves and let us love again.




David SacksJanuary 24th, 2011 at 5:26 am

It would be refreshing to have the record set straight.

This was my second East of the Rockies National. I did not know Sion or Cokin, and held Songtag and Weicshel in reverence as the next generation of bridge.

When Sion made his outrageously strange lead against my 1NT contract, I thought it weird but I was not yet that vested in National competitions. But when I asked Paul Soloway about the hand that I had lost my first National Championship on, he would not even let me then tell him the hand. He told me to immediately report it to the tournament director. THOSE ARE THE FACTS.

I later came to know that Sion/Cokin were decoded and caught at that event. We had tried over the years to get a hearing but never could.

But I agree with the author, how esteemed world champions can fail to renounce that win is beyond my moral comprehension.

Actually , for years , I thought that after

Sion, Cokin were exposed that the title had been vacated and I often told people that I had come in second in a National Event that no one won.

I still refer to my team that way, though the official record still states otherwise.

Ray LeeJanuary 26th, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Part of the problem is that you can’t simply award the event to the ‘runner-up’. A friend of mine told me some years ago that he and his team had been leading the event until he played against Cokin and Sion in the final session — scoring 0 on three boards (BAM of course). There’s no fair way to do anything except scrub the whole thing, which I guess no-one wants to do.

Cam FrenchJanuary 26th, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Hi Ray,

I hear that.

We may have the same friend, he is a Toronto area expert, editor, publisher and I heard the same from him.

I am not asking that Capp and company be annointed winners, even though they obviously deserve as much.

How would anyone feel if cheated out of a National title, to lose by less than 1 board (it was BAM scoring) and not win? I don’t pretend to know.

I am asking that the unlawful winners give up the title. of course, I do not expect as much because they have no reason, apart for the obvious doing the ethical thing to do so.

And I guess that it what saddens me, Zeke, Capp, Hann, Feldman, Hoffner, Sacks.

Why cling to it? There can be no bad time to do the right thing.

As I said in the posting, that takes an act of courage. I hope it is forthcoming but I have no reason to believe it will.

And I note, that the COD was changed AFTER this event to not allow players to advance in standing (unlike the Olympics and most other sports) when cheated. Lovely.

Let’s note for the record:

: Team Hann was cheated.

: They filed a timely appeal.

: The League knew they were cheated.

: The cheater’s code was broken at this event.

: The League failed to investigate or gather any evidence.

: Five expert players including Chip Martel, Mark Jacobus, and Kit Woolsey cracked the code and later testified to that fact.

: Signed confessions sit in Jeff Polisner’s office (as disclosed by Bobby Wolff)

So there is no doubt in Bobby Wolff’s mind, Kit Woolsey’s or Chip Martel’s that the rightful winners were cheated.

: The ACBL worked hard to close ranks, deny the truth and thwart the aggrieved from obtaining their right, thereby validating cheaters.

: So our “new rules” do not allow rightful winners to claim their trophy. OK.

Do they allow the League to strip unlawful winners of the title? Yes.

Will that happen? Sure. As if.

The question no one wants to answer is why won’t the unlawful winners stand down?

Why can’t Alan Sontag and Peter Weichsel stand tall? They are fabulous players and ethical individuals. Of that there is no dispute. Which makes me wonder……

Will someone explain that?


Ron FeldmanJanuary 28th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Let me put things into perspective, from my own personal view. First, let me confirm that David Sack’s posting herein is correct. The bridge hand that precipitated the entire Norfolk debacle was reported promptly to the ACBL tournament director in the manner described.

For nearly thirty (30) years my teammates and myself had to live with the unfortunate circumstances regarding the Norfolk Men’s Board-A-Match Teams. Then, out-of-the-blue, as a fluke, Cam French heard about the situation through the sister of Zeke Jabbour’s wonderful wife, Sharon. None of us knew Cam French. He contacted the members of our team and asked us to provide him with a chronology of events. Then, unexpectedly, he persistently kept digging into the past by interviewing bridge players who might have some further information which might bring to light what happened during the time/date of our event, and afterwards. His efforts unexpectedly revealed some surprising things that none of us on the team were aware of previously. The ACBL was aware of this situation, and disseminated communications to the members of the team after the event, and to the media, that we learned about thirty (30) years after the event, that omitted a key item, which was the ACBL did learn at Norfolk that the exact element of our team’s protest was that a highly unorthodox opening lead was made during the final round of the event, a Board-A-Match teams, in which our specific team played the eventual declared winner’s of the event’s team…and, lost that particular Board to that specific team, and lost the event by less than a Board to that team. In other words, direct cause and effect. Let me take this a step further; but, in a different light.

What I don’t like about “blogging” (which is why I don’t blog, and have never blogged to this date), is that it can get “personal”. Any “personal” remark regarding the Norfolk matter in my mind is “chalk on a blackboard”. Here is the point. Let’s go back to “reality’ of that last session of the last event of the Men’s Board-A-Match in Norfolk in 1979. Put yourself at the table. You and your bridge partner are playing with one of the hottest bridge pair teammates over the past few years, and your Sponsor client is sitting out of that last session, meaning you are fielding your best team, in your own mind. You are leading the field by 3.5 boards (this is not a misprint). There are five (5) rounds to go. Then, “your team” runs into “our team”. Forget about the bridge hand and the opening lead here. Think about it. Why, when the vulnerable opponents have stumbled into a no-trump contract and you have a six-card semi-solid suit headed by the Ace, Jack, Ten, and an outside Ace, would you ever not lead that suit? How could you ever explain this to your teammates? Would they ever play with you again, once you shared with them what you had led?

Now, for nearly thirty (30) years), the ACBL presented to the members of our team and to the media that they had no knowledge that the bridge pair that was making the opening leads were doing so at Norfolk in Spring 1979. Then, Cam French came along, and spent a year or two in which one day by an innocent question and answer exchange, he discovers that the ACBL did know that the cheaters were cheating in the Spring 1979 Norfolk Men’s Team event. So, the only conclusion that I could personally draw, which turns out to be I believe the same conclusion of my teammates is that the ACBL knew that our team had been cheated, yet; they elected to take the stance (in written communications) that they had no such knowledge.

Now, here is where Cam French and I differ. I don’t see this situation as “personal” on any level. The important thing to me is the following: Members of ACBL are paid Members that pay annual subscription dues. To me, ACBL members should be able to have the “trust” that the organizing body that conducts the officially sanctioned bridge tournaments in the United States will protect them from cheaters. So, when the ACBL is made aware of a situation where there is a prospective situation of cheating; and, then, it is verified that the purported cheaters have indeed been cheating, they have a responsibility to disqualify the cheaters. There are no sports to my knowledge that disqualify competitors that do not result in a changing commensurate in the overall standings of any event, whether that be track and field, swimming, or car racing. I had previously lamented that when it became evident that the ACBL, in my mind had initiated a “cover-up” by not disclosing “what they really knew at the time”, that it reminded me of a passage from the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis: “If Government becomes a law breaker, it invites contempt for the law, it becomes a Law unto itself, it invites anarchy.” Don’t get me wrong. The ACBL has provided all tournament bridge players with the opportunity to make life-long friends, and enjoy playing the game of bridge. And, I served on the ACBL National Conduct and Ethics Committee’s for over ten (10) years, having Chaired numerous committee’s after National events that sometimes ended at 2a.m. in the morning. I also served on their National Goodwill Committee. The point here is that I don’t view myself as an evangelistic zealot who wants to impugn the integrity of the ACBL, as since the decision makers who catalyzed the current situation where our team has been cheated out of a National Championship are long gone. Maybe, there is a chance, although the odds are as bleak as making a small-slam in a 4-2 fit with three other finesses, that some members of the current Board Of Directors will recognize that perhaps, the folks who ran the ACBL in 1979 made a mistake. And, that the proper thing to do is to take the high ground—because in doing so, it simply says, “We want to show our ACBL members that we will protect them against cheaters, when they are cheated in the events that they are paying us to play in, as we employ tournament directors to conduct these events in a proper manner.”

Let me share a final note. As my time is limited these days to my daily business in running my own company, my contributions here are subordinate to real life ventures that help people, companies, and organizations on a daily basis. And, because they appreciate my efforts, their satisfaction trumps everything else as a priority in my life, outside of my family and health.

Bobby WolffJanuary 28th, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Hi Ron,

First I appreciate your comments and have enjoyed hearing that first of all, your eye health seems to have improved, and perhaps just as importantly you are on a right-on path to continue to be a worthwhile contributor to your family and thus to society in general.

Second, the ACBL veered directly off course when they opted to sweep all aspects of cheating under the closest convenient rug and many years ago vowed to never right this habit, which in itself has greatly diminished our game. Whatever reasons they had for it, and others, particularly lawyers, mostly agree with the dangers of getting involved.

All well in good for them, but it leaves you and whoever else thinks differently, mainly me and many others with a terrible void in what otherwise would certainly glorify bridge for being the greatest competitive game ever created.

Being careful about dealing with slippery subjects is one thing, but totally capitulating to that evil will never be understood by some, and looking at it objectively is nothing short of disgraceful for all those with that view.

What about rectification of our errant wimpy past? Yes that is possible, but it would take probably more than the ACBL is interested in. Yes, bridge is worth it, but if all their time is taken up by catering to our novices and geezers (of which I am very much of one) yes they may save our game for at least a few more years, but living on borrowed time is not what I wish for this unbelievable form of mental exercise and scintillating competition.

Until our administrators learn to wake up, smell the coffee, reward honest bridge excellence and punish all forms of willful wrongdoing we will never get out of the batter’s box. Competent and consistent tournament directing is part of the equation and can serve a very useful purpose into cleaning up the game, but first our TD’s MUST be taught how to catch a thief and concentrate on administering our laws so that the game, not special interests benefit.

Are we a long way away? Most decidedly yes, but can we get there anyway? Also yes, but many have to come forward and first admit that our efforts are now pointed in not only the wrong direction, but also with the wrong purpose in mind. Without that first step it is very unlikely to have any chance to really save our game.

Perhaps Ron, your coming out of retirement will help snap us all out of the lethargy we have fallen into. Time alone will tell.

Granted th

Ron FeldmanJanuary 30th, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Bobby, in reality, when it really comes down to it, in regards to accomplishments in tournament bridge, is that if you are well respected by your bridge partners and bridge opponents for your bridge playing ability, that trumps any individual tournament result.

That being said, all bridge players have the right to expect that the ACBL will act responsibly and fairly in handling situations of any parameter in regards to its paying Members.

While I have a lot of responsibility these days outside the arena of tournament bridge, I still have my enthusiasm for the game of bridge, as well as helping people (who want my help…rather than need my help). After all, if you can’t be appreciated for trying to help people, then; you have to move forward…even though you might run into a “different Circus” with “new Clowns”. You stil have to “keep going”…

In this case, persistence beats resistence. It seems everyone here wants the same thing…in a broad sense. Thank you for acknowledging in your remarks that you appreciated my thoughts.

MichaelFebruary 6th, 2011 at 11:28 am

It makes no sense to me that when you eliminate a cheating team/pair/individual you don’t move everyone else up one spot.

What do you do if the team/pair/individual was ineligible for the event (Say a LM wins a NLM event)?

I agree that eliminating the cheaters and having everyone else move up one spot doesn’t guarantee that the results are as they would have been without the cheaters, but it is obvious to me that it is closer than no adjustment.

In a perfect KO where the cheaters win the event, sure it is possible that the team they beat in the semi-finals “should” have won the event. But even in the “original” places that still means something is “bad” as this team that was the strongest non-cheaters were 3rd with a weaker team 2nd so that inversion is there in the original places too. Moving it up to 1st and 2nd (with 2nd the “stronger team”) is no more or less fair then leaving it with 2nd and 3rd (with the 3rd place the “stronger team”).

Bobby WolffFebruary 8th, 2011 at 11:40 am

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the food for thought,

While from my own perch, I really have no, or at least very little opinion, to what should be done in the event where cheaters win a tournament, however your synopsis needs to delve a bit deeper.

What if the 1st round loser in a pure KO event to the cheating team was actually the strongest team, not likely, but certainly possible?

If that example doesn’t do it for you, please consider the skewed nature of round robin (or almost) B-A-M teams, as actually played in the bridge world. As has been mentioned before, cheating players, pairs, or whole teams, while practicing their evil art(s) do not win every board, far from it and sometimes when partner illegally signals for a certain lead and his partner complies perhaps, on that specific hand the more normal lead turns out to take an extra trick.

My main point, hopefully expressed with all the emotion I can gather, is that all of us need to gather our forces: bridge intelligence, law enforcement, absence of politics, aggressive pursuance, all adding to the love of the game, and together do away with cheating from the face of the earth (or at least give it a completely honest effort).

Anything less is not acceptable, and what has happened for all these years with legal fears from wimpy lawyers which has, among other defects, led to laughingly reduced sentences for even convicted cheats, friendships born out of private agendas, let George do it mentality and “since I am not really involved I will not participate and besides all it will lead to for me is to make enemies”.

If any of the above sounds familiar is because it all has contributed to where we stand today.

Zeke Jabbour would be signalled out by me as one of the very best individuals in contributions to bridge writing and to the game itself as well as being a superior human, and by coincidence he was a member of the 2nd place finisher in Norfolk, 1979. But if, because of that fact, I fell victim to doing flips to try and get his team declared the rightful winner, I truly believe that I would be falling into one of those agenda people I talk about. Norfolk, 1979 nor World Championships of 1972-1975, all of which my team failed to win, are not what is overall important, but rather the complete commitment to eradicate the evil monster, BRIDGE CHEATING, from our presence. Let our emotions go in that direction, get it done, and at least have my children , or more likely grandchildren, at least the ones who play bridge, be able to rejoice in that necessary success.

Cam FrenchFebruary 8th, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Hi Bobby.

I love your emotion and anger – it sears the text, as well it should.

I think what David and Ron spoke to is something we have all somehow forgotten. What do we say to those who were swindled?

Tough luck?

Suck it up?

As Ron said the League owes all its members a committment to fairness, and it has by definiition a “fudiciary trust”.

When that bond is broken, that promise worthless, now what?

Your stolen championships are certainly a wretched stain upon the game. But these cases lack to this day, clear evidence and (certainly better) confessions from the guilty.

Zeke’s case has eye-witness experts who broke the code AT THIS EVENT. They filed a timely appeal. The appeal was never granted, the committee never called and in fact the reverse, the League sought to bury the evidence. And just to make things worse, once alerted, they failed to gather evidence that would have solidified their case.

All of this is exposed in CD so I don’t want to belabour the point.

And of course, Jeff Polisner is sitting on signed confessions who as Bobby noted “basically they admitted cheating in every event they ever played together.”

So let’s go back a step.

We have serial cheaters, caught dead to rights (at the same event and a later event, not by the League, but by vigilent players), Worse, we have a League who lied, denied and concealed the truth.

We have world class players who are unable (or more accurately unwilling) to throw back unlawfully won title(s).

And a League, in spite of all evidence, steadfastly refusing to do ANYTHING.

And I will confess what ticks me off about this more than anything. I sent Bob Hamman a note about three years ago and he called me from Texas.

He said – it is a great story, and it deserves to be told but if you imagine that anything will ever change, you would be wrong. No justice will ever be served in this case.

And he was so right. Of course he knew the dynamic (as did Bobby and a select few) and thus I conclude this case is entombed in amber, never to see the light of justice.



David SacksFebruary 12th, 2011 at 6:53 am

Lee and any one else regarding the standings of the Norfolk BAM:

The final tally had us over 2.5 boards ahead of the third place team. Even if another team had been cheated and managed to win all three boards, if our score was also adjudicated, that other team would still have been only second.

But as I posted earlier, even if we were not moved up to winning (which I believe we did) we should still be second in an event that has no legal winner of record.

Cam FrenchFebruary 18th, 2011 at 11:28 pm


To my knowledge, and I cite the ACBL and the Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, the unlawful winners retain the title and your team is second.

Yes you should be second (or more accurately first) in an event with no legal winner of record but the winner of record remains Sternberg, Sontag, Weichsel, Cokin, Sion.

The ACBL does not wish to revisit that for obvious reasons.

So, as much as you deserve the title, I doubt that will ever happen. As Clint said in Unforgiven – “deservin’s got nothin’ to do with it.”

And in this case, your merits however strong will never be judged, adjudicated or even reviewed.

It is too painful for some, and you and your team mates have been designated as Collateral Damage.

That is the harsh reality.

I wish it were otherwise.


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