Cam French

Classical Gas

                                        Classical Gas  


                                     Mason Williams – Classical Gas (guitar solo)



You are a fabulous politician. I was and am a student of political science, love the intricacies of politics and see you issue so many disclaimers, alibis and embellishments, it makes me blush. I think back to Lew Richardson, and smile. 


Bobby Wolff March 22nd, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Somehow my personality prevents me from remaining quiet when I hear untruths (a euphemistic term) about history, particularly bridge history so here goes.

In 1973 or possibly 1974, (you have to be kidding) while playing at the Bal Harbour Spring Regionals in a KO match against a team with Sion-Cokin (SC) on it (and losing) I brought their cheating to light in the form of an appeal to an outrageous lead (incidentally, exotic/outrageous/killing leads were part of their weaponry, even though that was never proved) or l by one of them to a sequence which went 1NT P 3NT at the other table against my teammates Jimmy Cayne and partner while playing with Charlie Weed as my partner. At the time Jim Sternberg (who at that time was sponsoring SC) and who, no doubt to me thought they were innocent, and other than that association has always been before and since a credit to our game, (That “association” is a damn big “other”. Sternberg’s consistent silence, his embrace of denial that S/C even cheated is beyond the pale. So please, don’t alibi for Sternberg. He needs a shake if he can’t believe S/C cheated. Let him peruse the confessions. I won’t deluge the reader with more evidence. Such a position is willfully blind.CF) was, of course non-plussed and a staunch defender of them.

Why “of course?” I suggest it is clear he should have considered the evidence before leaping in to defend and exonerate his hires. He is not Johnny Cochrane. He cast his die with cheaters and in your own words was “a staunch defender of them.” You noted with your friend Bob Saron; that endorsement would entail a consequence. Perhaps, given the overwhelming evidence available he might stand up and do the right thing. Will that happen? Sure. I get the fact that Sterberg and company don’t want to go there, but in a game where ethics are paramount – why can’t they do the right thing?  I just don’t get that.

In my opinion, Sternberg made a hasty and unfortunate choice. He owes it to bridge, not me, not Zeke, not Capp, not you to re-assess that decision. Standing toe-to-toe with confessed cheaters is hardly a viable position. But that is the position he, Sontag and Weichsel have chosen. GL to them.

The ACBL District Director from Florida, Bob Saron, also came to their defense and instead of at least creating suspicion of their actions, I was criticized publicly for bringing what I thought (at least to a sophisticated audience) a slam dunk to at least start the official monitoring.

So let me get this straight. You suspected them back in 1973 or 1974. They weren’t caught until June 1979. Why the gap? Was there any investigation? Did you share your perspectives with someone who might actually DO SOMETHING, versus standing down? Why were the (in Sontag’s words) “the antennae {NOT} quivering”? That strikes me as an awfully long passage of time for cheaters to continue their unfettered contamination of multiple events. You told all of us that their confessions reveal that they basically cheated on every hand they ever played together.

As a sidelight, years later, 1981, I started serving my 2nd term on the ACBL BOD’s (having served briefly in 1963). Bob Saron (who together with his lovely wife Sally were both truly wonderful people) decided to run for ACBL President against Doug Drew (Toronto) and, this being my first election it became clear that Bob was the favorite since he had groomed himself by waiting his turn and was, of course, very well-liked. It turned out that his support of SC, by this time their cheating scandal was old hat, raised its head and he lost the election to Doug ignominiously, never after that to be elected even dogcatcher in spite of being pro-bridge, very bright, a hard worker and together with Sally among the most liked pairs on the BOD’s.

Incidentally, earlier, at the Spring Nationals in Houston my Vanderbilt team played against SC in an early match (this time winning) when Bob Hamman and I became convinced beyond any doubt that they were cheating, but at that time we did not have the material evidence available to prosecute a case.

Incidentally, I am sure you were 100% accurate to be on to them. But if you became “convinced” you must have had some evidence,  hands, leads, bids, exotic defenses that fueled your conviction. If so “convinced”, why stand down? Why not engage some fellow experts to gather the information? How could you allow these cheaters who you were on to – to continue? I confess – I don’t get it.

By the time Robinson-Woolsey (probably with some help) did the deed at the GNT regional finals (sometime after Norfolk) (June at the GNT in Atlanta vs. March in Norfolk, 1979 NABCs, though of course the same pattern CF) and while it was news to many, it was ho-hum to Bob and me. Later the ACBL, with their known legal wimpiness took over and we are now where we are.

No. In the meantime while you were convnced (“old hat”) and did zip, countless others were swindled. As you yourself said, Cokin admitted they cheated on every event they ever played in. And it took five long years from your realization until Woolsey/Martel’s intervention at Norfolk in March (not Robinson/Woolsey, who were part of the solution at Atlanta during the GNTs) to bring this matter to fruition. If Martel and woolsey and company did not intervene – how much longer would this charade continue? Someone had to step up. You had that opportunity 5 years prior.

Only as a sidelight can I relate how since then, Alan Cokin has done everything he can to help bridge (especially with Junior team training) and, at least in his relationship with me, has been a model reformer

I will happily concur that Cokin remains the repentant and redeemed party in all of this. Still, as we can all imagine, some are willing to forgive, but not forget. For example, I know of a top-flight player whose captain hired Cokin to coach their team. This person was very disturbed, and uncomfortable (to be kind) with this arrangement. It was reported that Cokin was great on the theoretical end, but when it came to the hands; the player(s) simply felt he had no credibility. That is, rightly or otherwise a price that he will have to pay. Rightly IMHO.

while Sion continued his sociopathic behavior and has now been barred permanently from the ACBL. If anyone wants to check the truth of my story or my recollections please consult any of the above parties mentioned…….                                       

To be sure, and for a relatively long period of time I have maintained what I have always thought. What happened in Norfolk was indescribedly ridiculous:

1. That SC had not previously been caught.

2. That cheaters and all their possible partners and teammates should be officially erased from any and all tournaments won with the guilty player(s) on their team or pair.

3. That no one should be moved up, because of the several reasons I have listed before, some of which have to do with the uncertainty of who would have won and also the undoubtedly unfair result of “How about all the other tournaments where the cheating pair won and nothing at all was ever done to correct those abominations”. I am not, in any way, trying to be vindictive against anyone who thinks he would have won and is entitled to be named the winner, I am just trying to respect my own view which is to try and be fair and just. (Please keep in mind that my team finished 2d in 4 straight World Championships 1972-1975 to a team which perhaps one day, at least I am hoping, will be part of an official announcement of, at least, prior irregularities). (It won’t happen, you have nothing to fear, sad but true. CF)

If it does happen, I DO NOT think that my team should be moved up. Pity, I do. CF (At least we are both consistent.)

If you are playing in the final, head to head against cheaters (as you allege), even though they have certainly KO’d other teams unlawfully, and you can prove they cheated, why should there not be a lawful winner? Cite the case in any other sport where a major event is played, and no winner declared. It doesn’t exist. We are all alone in this stance of no winner. Maybe we all lose from such a position. I don’t see the upside.

4. The WBF current rule (unless unbenounced to me it has been removed) which I suggested and was unanimously approved, if ever a player or pair is convicted of cheating all of the previous tournaments that guilty player, pair or team, participated in and won, all players on that team will be stripped of their victory(s). My principle reason for suggesting this statute is to basically deputize all possible honest partners and/or teammates to not trivialize the possibility of playing with as partner or teaming up with miscreants. I Love that and applaud you for being a driving force in this regard.

The above comments are made only to try and right possible misconceptions which, while usually trying to be made in good faith, sometimes loses much meaning in the describing and thus the interpretation.


We can all agree to disagree.

But, and it is a BIG BUTT, if I suspected Sion/Cokin 4/5 years before they were caught and I did little or nothing, especially as I was (in Bobby’s case) a high ranking authority with the ability and rank to compel change, launch investigations, execute authority and/or empower the appropriate body to do so I would habe done so. Why did that not happen? Is that too much to ask?


it is the minimum, not the maximum.  

Bobby, I think you doth protest too much.

Please no alibis for cheaters, and I love your WBF rule. When (as if) will the ACBL adopt the same? Quit laughing.

Classical Gas.




bob mcpheeMay 5th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Five years is a long time to allow a pair to continue cheating and say nothing. Rather than rehash that, any OTHERS you may be convinced of?

Danny KleinmanMay 5th, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Reminds me of Alan Truscott’s account, in The Great Bridge Scandal, of how five years earlier Don Oakie had spotted the Reese-Schapiro finger signals (though without deciphering them) and did nothing but pass the information on quietly to director Harold Franklin, who hushed it up. To whom in position to do something about it can bridge players bring their suspicions and their anecdotal evidence of cheating? 35 years ago I brought my suspicions about a pair to the late Max Hardy, the director in charge at a Regional, but nothing was done. To this day, I do not know to whom to turn in such instances. The Recorder System seems not to work, and indeed it cannot work so long as those who report abuses and suspicions receive no feedback from officials indicating what has been done about their complaints.

John Howard GibsonMay 5th, 2011 at 11:37 pm

HBJ from over the pond : Cheating at bridge can be oh so subtle….almost undetectable . Therefore it is almost impossible to prove, since suspicions alone are not enough. Players who hit the jackpot with irregular and bizarre leads will always have an excuse if there is no logical reason for such an inspired choice of card. ” I was just ” punting ” ….” taking a flier “….” looking to create a swing “……” an all or nothing gamble for a flukey top “.

Answers none of which can’t be effectively challenged.

Therefore it is only video evidence that can nail these cheating bastards by revealing ” secret coded messages ” and ” patterns of behaviour in keeping with their choice of leads “. Alternatively, cheaters ought to be targeted for entrapment, by designing cleverly rigged fixed deals ( not duplimated ones ).

These would have to record monitor their lead decisions taken at the tables If their tactical play is consistent, then results given the predicted leads should flag up a 2 out of 4 success rate. However, cheaters of course would secretly signal their way to a 4 out of 4 success. Case against them nearly proved !

Bobby WolffMay 6th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

First, a disclaimer.

While standing behind everything else factual that I wrote, and also to my expressed opinions, it is likely that I was incorrect in my stating of the year that I had the confrontation, in front of an appeals committee during the Bal Harbour tournament regarding a very suspect right on lead by SC while playing my team at that April Regional.

I said that the tournament occurred in either 1973 or 1974, when more likely it was 1975-1977. In trying to remember the year, my mind focused on writing to Bob Saron after returning to Dallas decrying his views on SC and, of course, the appeals committee’s verdict and while doing so, only remembered the office in Dallas in which I wrote that letter. In my recent recollection of time and place I now realize that, while I was in the same office in 1973-1974 it would have been brand new to me then, but in retrospect I considered doing it by secretary (but didn’t), and in those earlier dates I didn’t have one.

At the time of my comments it is likely that I did not realize the importance to some of the exact date of that ill-fated Regional but now realize that in order to understand the time-line of various events it would have been more prudent to be as exact as I should have been.

In reviewing Danny Kleinman’s comment on Recorders and such, it was I, who started the Recorder system within the ACBL beginning in Montreal, 1985. After laboring through implementation and with much help from Assistant Recorders the country over, I eventually turned it over to Bob Rosen, for two reasons. The first one is that I was exhausted from the effort since it required many hours each day, during every National I attended, starting in 1985 and continuing into the mid 1990’s, but a better reason is that Bob did a much more dynamic job than I was doing, was totally dedicated and nothing less than brilliant in his difficult execution, only to be fired by the ACBL President, Cecil Cook, a few years later, because he dared to communicate with the ACBL BOD’s about the shenanigans of one of its members and the findings of the then pure Ethical Oversight Committee before the composition of that committee was officially changed by the BOD’s to be appointed by them instead of by the committee itself, thereby encouraging the politics which I sought to avoid.

Since then Richard Colker did a very credible, though more benign job, as the official Recorder, until he too was fired for what was claimed as expedient reasons and since that position has been passed to the house in Horn Lake wherein, at least as far as I am concerned, it is now representing the long term view of the ACBL and that is a step up on the American Revolution, of essentially “Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes” to “Don’t fire ever”.

In the middle to late 1970’s I had no official position and all I could do was make my views public to people who supposedly were in charge, but in reality like Bob Saron, were not familiar with cheaters and their like, were politicians, and strict rules followers, three examples of lack of confidence producers. During that time and in 1977 there was an incident in Houston at the team trials wherein a pair was accused of cheating while playing against a team I was on and after physical evidence and somesuch was discovered, the finals were abruptly stopped and the event was forfeited to our team. Later, of course, and up to now there has been much controversy as to the proprieties of what was done then and, at least according to some, no substantial evidence in the form of hands was presented. I cannot testify to what was or not presented, only that the other team (or at least one pair) resigned from the ACBL, but that is not what I want to present. Let me present one hand: You hold: J9, Qx, KQJxx, Q10xx being NV vs VUL, and hearing the bidding go 1 Heart by LHO, 2 clubs by partner, 2 hearts by RHO, 3 clubs by you, 4 Hearts by LHO, passed around to you.

The person with this hand said double catching his partner with: Kxxx, Jx, A, AJ10xxx. Luck however was against you and the defensive 2d trick in diamonds vanished when your LHO opponent held: AQ8x, A10xxxx, xx, x leaving your RHO with”107x, Kxx, 10xxxx, Kx an unbelievable +790 was scored up, but that is not the scoop. It is the double by a supposedly world class player with that hand of his while his partner only passed. For those unitiated bridge sleuths and in the comfort of your own living room, never will anyone get a better example of what partnership cheating is all about. True auctions of this kind go on every day and in many bridge clubs around the world, but for this hand to occur in a team trials tops almost anything I could ever say. BTW there were a number of other hands, but that is not the purpose of this rant.

I’ve been accused of being hard to get along with, being arrogant, overbearing, and insulting to others. All true, at least to some respect, but what of the various aspects of the world I live in, at least in regard to bridge and its future? Add to that all the various political correctness concerns of others and the picking of one’s friends based on what they can do for you instead of what can they do for the reason you are friends, like in this case the playing of our great game and its perpetuation as a very worthwhile world wide competitive game.

Do I, like Cassius, “Protest too much”, I really do not think so, rather I obviously am not and have not protested enough, otherwise others would not think I have been derelict in not doing enough rather than doing too much.

And the beat goes on, and while I am getting frustrated in meeting so many dead ends, I will pledge to not give up the good fight until the days comes when I have no choice.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 6th, 2011 at 3:13 pm


It’s time to stop gnawing on the bone. In TODAY’S world, there is much constructive work that can be done — especially at the club level. Norfolk is history.

Concentrate your efforts on helping to teach the newer (and older) players right from wrong. You are experienced. Many of the owners and managers who love the game are more concerned with losing patrons. In a mannerly way, explain about breaks in tempos, gloating, body movement and other such unacceptable practices. Make yourself useful — not wasting time resurrecting dead issues which will never change.

Do something productive!

Judy Kay-Wolff

Cam FrenchMay 7th, 2011 at 10:03 pm


I love your barrages and I noted this one was tempered. Maybe I am just unproductive versus “dispicable”.

BYW I am VERY productive. By day I am a teacher, typically working with mentally handicapped children. Now don’t get out the tissues anyone, it is what I chose to do.

In an economic sense, I am certainly unproductive. I earn a sound wage, but it pales compared to the business sector (which I have engaged) – and I am OK with that.

I do few lessons, only on special consignment should the best bridge teacher in North America – Barb Seagram (Ok, she can share that mantle with Audrey) asks me to help her out while she is off on her fabulous cruises all over the planet. I am white with envy Barb.

(Yes, that’s a hint.)

So Judy, I am unproductive as far as widget makers are concerned. My productivity is measured in smiles, in helping kids take turns, learn the social rules of society, tie their shoelaces, make a pancake, laugh at Mr. Bean and savour the joys of laughter, achievemment and learning.

By night, I agree – I can be a pain in the derriere.

I can be critical. I believe our elite are called to a higher standard and I don’t apologize for that.

Bobby was the one who said he “suspected” C/S in 73/74. Not me. He was the one who called their outing “old hat”.

I only asked why stand down and not do anything? A question I note you both avoided because there is no positive answer. Just what is the answer to that question? I will wager you will not answer. But that too, is telling….isn’t it.

Otherwise we would have seen that answer – instead it is the usual dodge-ball, a game still popular with the kids I might add.

Judy, I have a day job, a teenager, interests other than bridge and my life is full and rich.

Productive? Maybe not.

Then again, maybe just fulfilling. I won’t complain, I rather enjoy it.

As Henry Ford said when caught drunk driving with his mistress – (talk about a double squeeze); “never complain – never explain.”

GL to all. I am nearing the end of blogging.


Bobby WolffMay 8th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I have never questioned your productivity, only your actions and often your manner, which, at least at times, is nothing less than despicable.

In my last blog I recanted mentioning 1973 or 1974 and realized that the timing is more likely a few years later. To repeat, at the time of my mentioning those years, I did not realize that the exact year or years was important to anyone, certainly not to me.

As to your second issue of “doing something about it”, I, possibly more than anyone who has ever been involved in any kind of bridge administration, has dedicated myself to try and right wrongs, which I have considered to say the least, be extremely harmful to the game in general.

In those earlier years I did my best to notify, analyze, discuss, cajole, embarrass, or whatever I hoped would do the necessary things to slay the dragon, but was turned away by all, even wonderful, superior people like the long time lawyer for the ACBL, Lee Hazen 1936-1985 (as ACBL lawyer), who continually wanted a hands off policy for dealing with cheaters. Since then I created all sorts of administrative committees (Ethical Oversight Committee, the Recorder position, Active Ethics as a goal) to name a few and served my time, as you constantly do in the noble teaching, giving your time, and understanding of your, no doubt, lovable mentally handicapped children.

Perhaps you will one day understand how your constant challenges, hateful innuendoes, and final assessments can certainly get under other people’s skin like you have with me. Jealousy and hate is one thing, but allowing yourself to go totally off the wall with lies, exaggerations, and falsely based accusations, is going too far.

In your own mind, you stand for what is right and what is at the very least, justified, but in actuality the other side of your dual personality is hateful. Teacher, teach thyself!

Avon WilsmoreMay 8th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Mr French,

Could you please send me an email, so I have your email address?

I have a small matter I would like to discuss… nothing urgent.

Thank you,

Avon Wilsmore

Cam FrenchMay 10th, 2011 at 1:00 am

Bobby I love your meandering rants and I aplaud your efforts to clean up the game.

In this case, by your own admission, you were “on to them” and it was “old hat” when they were caught.

Well in my mind you can’t have it both ways. either you were “on to them” and did someting about it or you failed to do so. Which is it? I am confused.

Now I am “dispicable” and “hateful”.

I can disagree and agree to leave it at that but you and your beloved just love to pour on the venom.

It saddens me that you stoop to such levels, but I supose that is what a dispicable, hateful person might deserve to suffer.

BTW I certainly am dispicable to some, lovable to a few, but “hateful” – no.

That is not part of my nature. If you want to criticise, try the evidence, not adjectives.

And Bobby I recognize you did many things to clean up the game, that was never in dispute.

This time (by your own admissions) you let us down.

I forgive you.

This one was a tough one to catch. Thankfully Woolsey/Martel and company followed it through and actualy nabbed the cheaters. It certainly wasn’t “old hat” to them.

In fact Woolsey had a tough time believing it when Martel approached him. They were terrified they might be right. And they were not only right, but they when asked followed the protocol (stand down) and later learned no plan was in place to catch the cheaters, they were nauseated. As well they should be.

Please let Woolsey or Martel (or Lewis, Blumenthal) say I am wrong.

You talk the talk.

But you don’t (at least in this case) walk the walk. When you resort to adjectivels like “hateful” and “dispicable” you tell us -all you have crossed over..



ChrisMay 10th, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Should I have reported this hand? I didn’t because I didn’t think it would be looked into, and maybe my suspicions are faulty. This hand was bid by a pair that placed in the top 5 in every 2 session event at a recent regional, so no rookies. Holding





your partner opens 1 club, RHO bids 1 heart, and you find 3NT. LHO doubles, it comes back to you, and you pass. Partner of course comes down with AKx of hearts and the contract can’t be beaten.

Cam FrenchMay 10th, 2011 at 10:32 pm


I don’t understand why “of course” the partner had AKX in hearts, certainly that is unlikely given the auction.

Report what you wish to report.

Perhaps you should mention to a director or recorder your suspicions, assuming they are well founded.


ChrisMay 11th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I just wondered in light of the current topic what my moral obligation is when a hand looks suspicious. If it’s just ‘report if I wish’ then I guess there is no obligation.

Cam FrenchMay 11th, 2011 at 10:09 pm


We all have an obligation to keep the game clean.

If you feel you have seen cheating (not taslking about this hand but in general) then yes, you do have an obligation to notify the authorities.

With enough evidence, they might proceed to build a case against the perpetrators, but if they have no evidence, how can they present a case?

Once is moot. But if 10 people reported suspicious bids against the same pair then the radar might go off.

I will tell you what I always say should be your guide – do the right thing.


John WoodSeptember 4th, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I think the 3NT bid is perfectly reasonable. The clubs look good for 5 tricks with the King of Clubs in partner’s hand, add in the Ace of diamonds and JXX in hearts and we’re up to 8 tricks and partner has only been allocated 8 points! The overcall could have been made on, for instance KXX AKXXX QXX XX.

Of course if you have observed one player blinking a few times, scratch their nose and a couple of coughs then that is another kettle of fish.

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