Cam French

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused Soundtrack – Do You Feel Like We Do (Peter Frampton)



To state that the posting about this incident caused controversy, well that under-states the patently obvious. See for yourself.

U wrote:

(note: part of U’s statement contains his reporting of the events as recounted by Björn Åström. For the unabridged edition please see the comments section in What’s Goin’ On. )

First let me say that I do not in any way defend the Germans; they were certainly not victims.

My initial comment was more meant to provoke the thought than suggest anything else. I’m not friends with the Germans (I played the 1990 Rosenblum in Geneva myself). I just felt that the label of victim for Zia was so off base that I wanted to suggest that if that was true than the Germans must be “covered” as well.As for which felony is most severe, Zia was caught red-headed, in-the-act by opposing NPC and didn’t “cop” while the Germans were informed the day after. That they had known the error the same day, after scoring up, is news to me. (Bobby Wolff wrote of it in The Lone Wolff and the sentiment at the event was one of the Germans ridiculing their opponents’ scoring abilities.)

Btw, FYI it has been suggested that Zia’s revoke wasn’t unintentional. Some Swedes on site 1983 thought so…….but let me say that revokes are rare by world class players (not unheard of, Sementa revoked as declarer in 3NT a couple of years ago, costing his team an Italian teams championship) and even more so when defending a doubled part score in a World Championship – and that turns out to be the only way to beat the contract! 

This is published here with  permission of Björn Åström translation by me. {U} Some additional thoughts about sportsmanship and more from Björn is omitted.

This begs some observations. Zia claims in the editorial that ”I did revoke but wasn’t aware of it until some subsequent trick.” This isn’t true AT ALL according to Björn. Zia just claimed the remaining tricks FACE DOWN, thereby basically depriving the opponents a chance to check the validity of the claim without questioning HIS honesty (i.e saying “show me your cards” implies mistrust). This type of claim is something people sometimes do, but seems like it’s in violation of some bridge law (I don’t know the law well enough to point out which one). Doing that and ranting off when getting called is really depictable. How do you feel about that, Bobby?

What would then be a proper reaction when the opposing NPC calls attention to the fact? Fury? How would Bobby Wolff react?

Zia over ruffed and just claimed the last two tricks, immediately turning those down as winners, without showing them to anybody.….Everybody of course assumed honesty and that his last two cards were winners in another suit. That was, for a fact, not the case. I had seen his hand, knew his remaining cards and saw what happened. It’s beyond all doubt that he deliberately cheated. (No, it isn’t).

I immediately pointed out that he made a mistake and that it should be corrected. Zia broke out in profanity and rudeness, among other things saying I had nothing to do with it and should “shut up”. Zia’s behaviour did not exactly indicate innocence or remorse. (Granted such behaviour is beyond the pale.) This begs some observations. Zia claims in the editorial that ”I did revoke but wasn’t aware of it until some subsequent trick.” This isn’t true AT ALL according to Björn.

 I must say, as did Bobby, these observations cast a grim palor upon a great player and our game.  


Richard Grenside November 19th, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Has anyone considered Law 81C especially 81C3?

“The Director’s duty and power normally includes the following, to rectify an error or irregularity of which he becomes aware in any manner…”etc. etc

Did the intervention by the Swedish NPC negate the director’s power?  So again does the rule above supercede or yield to the rule about third party interference? Which reigns? 


Law 62

Correction of a Revoke

A player must correct his revoke if he becomes aware of it before it becomes established.

In this case the revoke was established so it could no longer be corrected.

Herein is the dilemma. Why does the law only specify that the player must correct his revoke before it becomes established? 

Why not say a player must notify his opponents immediately upon realizing his revoke?

Part of Proprieties 1 reads as follows:

The guiding principal: The side that commits an irregularity bears an obligation not to gain directly from the infraction itself;

In the case the offending side clearly “gained directly” through the irregularity. They defeated a contract destined to succeed. They knew that and withheld that information from the non-offending side.

At present (thanks to a legal opinion) we have this:

Law 72 CURRENTLY reads as follows,

72. B. Infraction of Law

1. A player must not infringe a law intentionally, even if there is

a prescribed rectification he is willing to accept.

2. There is no obligation to draw attention to an infraction of law

committed by one’s own side (but see Law 20F for a mistaken

explanation and see Laws 62A and 79A2).

3. A player may not attempt to conceal an infraction, as by

committing a second revoke, concealing a card involved in a revoke

or mixing the cards prematurely.

Does the law 72B (2) (no obligation to draw attention to an infraction by one’s own side) supesede “the guiding principal that the side that commits an irregularity bears an obligation not to gain directly from the infraction itself”?

Lawmakers – which is it? Own up or shut up.  No wonder there is confusion.

Law 72B3 is just plain silly. If I don’t turn my last two cards up, am I “concealing” my revoke? Let’s revise that law to state the goal clearly.  Like: A player must inform his opponents as soon as he becomes aware of the revoke by himself or his partner. Period, end of story, alibi, confusion. It isn’t that tough.

Bobby Wolff put it well:

“He {Edgar}  is no longer with us, but whether he would be or not it becomes necessary for our current individual world-level and best and brightest players to always play by the highest standards available, if for no other reasons than to set role model examples of what our game is about. Yes, sometimes it hurts to do so, but no pain, no gain and worse, no leadership. Not doing so will result in confusion and more importantly, will turn our marvelous game in the opposite direction to what we all want to aspire. Bridge used to be known as a “Gentleman’s game” with all the trimmings. Let’s not lessen that wonderful nickname and rationalize away our responsibilities.

Silly me, like Bobby I thought the foundation of the game was based upon sportsmanship and fair play. Nothing confusing about that.

Linda’ comment

“The rules seem quite clear to me. The only “wrong” thing would be to revoke on purpose. You have no obligation to draw attention to it. It would be too confusing if we all start operating under another set of rules based on being sportsman-like. (emphasis added)

This is clearly at odds with Bobby’s opinion and makes it clear we aren’t all singing from the same hymn book. And that’s a good thing because it showcases the disparity of opinion and thus – the confusion within the laws.

Wolff again.

With my vision of how the laws should read, it would be better put, for example, to say concerning Law 72, B2: There is usually not an obligation to disclose a violation against oneself (such as a revoke), but if the violator realizes that by so not doing, a possible significant skewed result may occur, then it becomes at least a moral obligation to so disclose. In other words if one decides to not disclose it, with the skewed result, which may occur, and then recorded, is not a specific violation of the laws, but it is nevertheless an unnecessary blight on the game itself.


David Turner

My thoughts:

It seems clear that we need a new, simple code whose guiding principle is equity and sportsmanship. I propose an unofficial “experts’ agreement”: regardless of the laws “fess up to a revoke as soon as you become aware of it, and call the Director”. Anyone disagree? We can let the Laws catch up in due course.

Writing, dialoguing and debating this episode, unfortunate and sordid as it may have been will be for naught if we cannot learn something from it. Please note this was never intended to be an examination of anything other than the confusion within the rules.

That is what TBW was referring to. We should laud my friend David Turner’s “expert agreement” idea, but what of those experts who disagree? Better yet, change the damn rule so clarity trumps ambiguity.

Linda feels the laws are clear.

72.B There is no obligation to draw attention to an infraction of law committed by one’s own side (but see Law 20F for a mistaken explanation and see Laws 62A and 79A2).

But this conflicts with

Part of Proprieties 1 reads as follows:

The guiding principal: The side that commits an irregularity bears an obligation not to gain directly from the infraction itself;

So which is it?

Door #1: No obligation to draw attention to an infraction by one’s own side?


Door #2” An obligation not to gain directly from the infraction itself?

Door #3; Dazed and confused, that is where we are now.

Let’s keep our eye on the ball here. This is not about Zia’s reaction or the Swedish NPC’s intervention though granted – they make good copy. The Swedes obviously and justifiably see this through their own lens, and it is not rose-tinted but blood-splattered. Jeff and TBW have expounded about the contradictions and lack of clarity imposed upon the player leaving them in “untenable predicaments.” Even the dialogue of the commentators sustains the fact that there is ambiguity.

Ross’ example about Keith Balcombe is telling.

During this year’s Canadian National Team Trials, we were playing an important third day round robin match against one of the pre event favorites. We had just bid and made a vul 3NT which rated to be a clear 13 imp pick up.

Declarer, Keith Balcombe, at the conclusion of the hand, called attention to an accidental revoke on his part – one that had made absolutely no difference to the outcome of the hand.

The director was called; an adverse ruling was made; we pushed the board and lost the match by a few imps. This was at a time when VP’s were very precious – in fact the next day it took an almost bizarre confluence of favorable circumstances in the last match of the round robin for our team to eke into the playoffs.

Virtue was rewarded but it sure didn’t feel that way until the very end of the round robin. Some would say Keith exhibited the highest form of “Active Ethics” – but rather we feel he was just doing what he was supposed to do by calling the revoke on himself.(After the fact others speculated that a “win-at-all-costs team mate” should quietly have tucked his cards into the duplicate board and gone on to the next hand)

So in this case, Keith who confessed an irrelevant self-committed infraction and just to show how much we appreciate that the director assigns “an adverse ruling”. What the hell does that say to the state of the union? It tells me the rules need adjustment. Congrats to Keith and shame on the rules which punish disclosure.

David Turner’s analogy of the Zia case was

From a strictly legal perspective, I think the original incident was analogous to the situation in law where a criminal goes scot- free because of a technical error by the police. The kibitzer thought he was doing the right thing, but the moment he spoke up, he prejudiced the situation beyond recovery, from a strict Laws perspective.

So one confesses and is skewered by the laws. Another does not and the case is contaminated by a third party and the offender walks into the sunset without repercussion. You gotto love that. Is this what the Laws intended?

If I fail to realize my revoke and simply put my cards (without showing them) back into the board – am I hiding them as in Law 723B?

A player may not attempt to conceal an infraction, as by

committing a second revoke, concealing a card involved in a revoke

or mixing the cards prematurely.

Or am I oblivious? And another thing while we are taking potshots at rules – why does a third party’s interference negate the infraction? I get the fact that kibitzers should be seen and not heard but what if my buddy or NPC discloses my revoke? I guess it didn’t happen. Hmmmmm….


I should say so – my head is spinning and I am only on my first Chardonnay. A lot of readers weighed in with insightful comments, although I thought the thread veered off course. The question remains, how can we amend the rules to minimize uncertainty and illuminate lucidity?

The rules are clear to some and clearly ambiguous (an oxymoron if there ever was one) to others.

TBW editorial stated “Adjust irregular occurrences by equity.”

I can imagine no better resolution. Please – lawmakers, address this issue. Add clarity and consistency to the rules.

So there is no confusion – sooner better than later would be preferred.

If You Could Read My Mind (Love)



                       Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind



I play with a group of friends of varying levels on the odd Friday night. This time there were three seasoned players and one not so.


Our rubber bridge rule is – if a hand is passed out and no part score is on the score sheet then the hand is goulashed. After the deal was tossed in a spectacular deal was generated.

One veteran opposing the other two stared at this lovely collection. None vul.



Seasoned goulie players look to find a fit and will often open with a shorter suit (even with 7-4 for example) and we call that, especially as an opening bid the “goulie game try.”

The auction was spirited.

 S        W         N         E

1H       2NT     4H       6D

7H       Dble     P         P


Well – will you or won’t you? Admit it, you would, so would my grandmother. Declarer redoubled, as KXX in hearts would likely suffice. Alas, it was not that easy.

The ace of spades hit the table and declarer saw:





Shit!@&^%$#!!!!! was all he could say – but he said it out loud.

But such was not to be so easy. If it was, this hand would not be so wonderful.

So, given that your LHO bid 2NT, is it likely that he is void in trumps and Kx in the pocket?

It seemed reasonable to assume the answer was yes, and thus there was only one way to reach the dummy. Look at the layout again.


                                   (N) Dummy











Declarer ruffed the opening spade lead, led a low club and ruffed with the jack of hearts. East pitched the AD!

The 9 of hearts was led and East followed with a low heart. Give that a thought for a second. Now the hand is a complete claim.

This is in the same class of hands as Terrence’s “anti-discovery” play.

Obviously you rise with the ace and prepare to chalk up your plus.

Alas, East, that SOB has given you the Grosvenor Gambit and (deliberately) failed to over-ruff from Kx!

He knew from your very telling bidding (and his hand) that the only thing that mattered was the king of hearts. So he sought to throw you bait, knowing full well you would grab it hook line and sinker. Who wouldn’t take the bait?

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Grosvenor it was a gambit written up by Frederick Turner in TBW whereby the opponent gives you the opportunity to make the hand, but as you can’t believe he played so stupidly, you naturally assume he didn’t. This was the perfect opportunity.

This was a real deal from a home game. Look for Grosvenor opportunities. Especially in team games, when pulled off they drive the opponents nuts. As well they should.

Some of the facts (but not the hand) may have been altered to protect the guilty.  🙂



What’s Goin’ On?

Motown Marvin Gaye – What’s Going on



Did I read the 11/2010 editorial correctly?

The November editorial in The Bridge World (TBW) spoke to an issue apparently long simmering within our game’s elite.

To see the whole editorial please get a subscription at, cite me as you impetus for buying and I am confident TBW executive editor Jeff Rubens will shower me with tangible gratitude.

The short story is this:

Pakistan vs. Sweden 1983 Bermuda Bowl

With three cards remaining, Zia reneged while defending a doubled part score. A game would have made without the revoke.

TBW: “After the score was entered, the Swedish NPC who was kibitzing called attention to the revoke. The Director ruled that the result should stand, because the infraction was first mentioned by an outside person. Sweden chose not to appeal, and the result turned out to cost it a place in the semifinals.

The Swedes seethed with anger as demonstrated by this observation (concurred to by the editorial writer Stig Werdelin) made by the Swedish captain:

“This was the most disgusting situation I have ever experienced at the bridge table.”

Werdelin confronted Zia 15 years later and

“….much to my surprise he defended his behavior and expressed his belief that when representing one’s country in an international event, every team member has a duty to try to win, no matter in what way – though whether he referred to taking legal advantage of the rules or to revoking and taking one’s chances with the tournament authorities was not clear to me.”


Zia feels today that Werdelin misunderstood or misrepresented his words. “What I said to Stig was that one should give total commitment; I did not suggest bending the rules. I imagine that he misunderstood my reaction.”

Apparently there is confusion now (and certainly confusion then) if you believe Zia (and I do) and TBW as to what the correct procedure is or should be for a player who discovers to his horror he has revoked. Jeff Rubens told me (and he might know) that TBW has done several editorials on the theme of where rules put players in untenable situations.  Perhaps TBW does not carry the flag like it used to, or lawmakers are paralyzed, indifferent or maybe – they don’t see the rules flawed. Others do.

If Jeff thinks they are, and Zia says they are, then that should suffice for the bridge community to say – a la Marvin Gaye “what’s goin ‘on?” 

What I don’t get is – if one has been “confused” since at least 1983 and “there is serious disagreement even now over what the rule is or should be” then when, if ever are the elite going to say – what the hell are the damn rules?

Jeff and TBW are adamant:

“As we have pointed out repeatedly, players are sometimes put in positions where following the requirements required to win under the rules (compounded in this case by obligation to others) conflicts with personal ideas of how the game ought to be played. In these situations, any course that a player follows will be subject to criticism; the victim controls only who does the criticizing indeed, at times one’s team mates will not speak with a single voice about what action should have been taken.”

Let’s look at that. I see the point but I find that argument tough to swallow on a couple of grounds.

1) The situation is hardly “compounded” by others, there is always a partner, often team mates and that is the standard package. The law is the law regardless of how many (2/4/6/7) have a vested interest in the outcome.

2) If there is a “requirement to win”? This is a concept – can you say dumping? – that TBW has not consistently endorsed, in fact Edgar explicitly stated the opposite: if it is in your best interest to win the event to lose a match then the rules are at fault and do so {dump} to win the event. That said, clearly no “requirement” can ever supersede the laws. Yes I know Bobby Wolff and others have an issue with dumping, but let’s stay on track.

3) …”at times one’s team mates will not speak with a single voice about what action should have been taken“; that’s what an NPC is for.  Disagreement may speak to the clarity of the rules or merely the philosophical approach enjoyed by different players.

4) That “any course that a player follows will be subject to criticismmay be plausible. That said, if a player is chastised by partner or team mates for following the law at the expense of winning I guess that comes with the territory. Get more ethical team mates.

Following that logic, (see or The Lone Wolff for more on the below incident)  recalling the 1990 Rosenblum Cup semi-final match of Canada vs. Germany. The Germans allegedly knew the correct score and in their desire to win, versus sportsmanship let alone “restoring equity” suppressed the same and eventually prevailed. The Germans, presumably motivated by their “requirement to win” made more than one observer nauseous. Bobby Wolff in The Lone Wolff said he “was sick to his stomach”.  Although the win was upheld on appeal, this was a tainted victory to many, but a trophy on the mantelpiece for a few Germans. The team collaborated and made every effort to deny the fact that they had (to be kind) danced within the rules. Clearly the laws, if properly enforced on this occasion (and certainly that is open to debate) failed to restore justice let alone equity so perhaps said laws need a swift kick in the derriere where they allow offenders to profit from their felonious actions. Wolff entitles this chapter Losing team Wins! and calls it “one of bridge’s darkest moments.”  He adds  “However, in a society that tends to honor winning more than morality, the corruption created becomes overwhelming.”

Zia sure started remorseful with “Even after all these years, I remember the incident with regret and remorse.”

If he was not at fault, why does he feel regret and remorse? Answer, because he is an ethical player and his unfamiliarity with the rules (or the apparent confusion of the rules) prevented him from doing what his heart told him was the right thing to do.

He continues…”I did (emphasis his) revoke but wasn’t aware of it until some subsequent trick. I now (emphasis added) believe that the correct procedure for a revoker who subsequently discovers his error to stop play and say I have revoked. “ (Indeed, that is NOT the case so today Zia remains confused about the correct procedure.)

Let’s look at that for a moment. Zia became “aware of it {at} some subsequent trick.” So during the hand, before its completion, he realizes he has revoked. What should he do?

The answer is not that tough. To do nothing is to abdicate one’s responsibility to the spirit of the game as no one should gain through an irregularity by one’s own side, an outcome prohibited by law and common sense.

Zia: “I was unaware of the correct procedure then and there is serious disagreement even now over what the procedure is or should be.”

Pardon me but I have some trouble with that. I whipped out the rule book to have a peek. My source is the Encyclopedia of Bridge 2001 edition. This is what it said:

Law 62

Correction of a Revoke

A player must correct his revoke if he becomes aware of it before it becomes established.

In this case the revoke was established so it could no longer be corrected.

Herein is the dilemma. Why does the law only specify that the player must correct his revoke before it becomes established?  Why not say a player must notify his opponents immediately upon realizing his revoke?

That such is obvious to some that a player might draw attention to his irregularity ASAP is apparently “misunderstood”.  Therein is a void that must be addressed. At least Zia and Jeff think so.

Law 64

Procedure After Establishment of a Revoke

And more pertinent to this incident the rule book also says: 

(d) There is no trick penalty for an establishment of a revoke if ….

iv) Attention was first drawn to the revoke after all players had abandoned their hands and permitted the cards to be mixed together …This rule provides incentive not to confess to one’s revoke.

NB: When any established revoke, including one not subject to penalty, causes damage to the non-offending side insufficiently compensated by the law, the offending side should, under Proprieties 1, transfer additional tricks so as to restore equity.

What a thought! But as the spectator mentioned it first, for all intents and purposes the revoke never happened. Certainly “equity” got lost in the shuffle, to the chagrin of all. At some point the rule makers might revise the following:

Correction of a Revoke   

A player must correct his revoke if he becomes aware of it before it becomes established. (this is the law now)

To say this:

A player must inform his opponents as soon as he becomes aware of the revoke by himself or his partner.

Part of Proprieties 1 reads as follows:

The guiding principal: The side that commits an irregularity bears an obligation not to gain directly from the infraction itself;

In the case the offending side clearly “gained directly” through the irregularity. They defeated a contract destined to succeed. They knew that and withheld that information from the non-offending side.

At present (thanks to a legal opinion) we have this:

Law 72 CURRENTLY reads as follows,

72. B. Infraction of Law

1. A player must not infringe a law intentionally, even if there is

a prescribed rectification he is willing to accept.

2. There is no obligation to draw attention to an infraction of law

committed by one’s own side (but see Law 20F for a mistaken

explanation and see Laws 62A and 79A2).

3. A player may not attempt to conceal an infraction, as by

committing a second revoke, concealing a card involved in a revoke

or mixing the cards prematurely.

Does the law 72B (2) (no obligation to draw attention to an infraction by one’s own side) supesede “the guiding principal that the side that commits an irregularity bears an obligation not to gain directly from the infraction itself”?

Lawmakers – which is it? Own up or shut up.  No wonder there is confusion.

Law 72B3 is just plain silly. If I don’t turn my last two cards up, am I “concealing” my revoke? Let’s revise that law to state the goal clearly.  Like: A player must inform his opponents as soon as he becomes aware of the revoke by himself or his partner.

It would be nice if the behavior required by the rules matched the moral action, which is to restore equity.” (Zia)  Indeed.

“Aplogetic or not, Zia was not at fault-he was a victim.” (TBW)

Wow. This sounds like Johnny Cochrane’s opening salvo. I don’t see a lot of empathy for the Swedes in this editorial and casting Zia as “the victim” is a stretch.

As much as we might empathize with his situation Zia was not the victim. The Swedes were the victims as they were the non-offending side. You can’t have two victims in one case. Or can you? TBW thinks so, as apparently the rule is ambiguous. I suggest experts and all of us follow our hearts which tells all of us what to do in precarious situations. I also suggest the rule makers address this now. But I am not a lawyer, and a lawyer will tell you otherwise.

Perhaps Zia might go to his NPC or a valued friend, or to the C&E committee to determine what he should do next time.  I think if Zia or any player of like stature didn’t know – then they should have known. I am confident the president of the ACBL, or WBF or the Chair of the Rules Committee would pick up the phone if a player of the stature of Zia/Hamman/Martel/ Rosenberg called and said – “We got a problem, let’s see if we can fix it.” I mean we have had a 25 year window here, let’s get it right.

I don’t want to pick on Zia, I know he is an ethical player and clearly he and others share a disconnect with regards to the laws in these circumstances. Let’s address their concerns.

At the end of the editorial it concludes:

“The 1983 incident should have been a sufficient clue, and it has been reinforced many times. Wake up rulesmakers! Make everyone – players, officials, spectators, janitors – responsible for correct procedure. Adjust irregular occurrences by equity. In short cut the (# censored #)!!”

“The 1983 incident should have been a sufficient clue, and it has been reinforced many times. Wake up rulesmakers!” (TBW)

Clearly that has not happened. So how do we enact change? (Not “move forward” – I hate that expression.) Time for those who feel change is warranted to step up and say so.

I have talked with rule-makers, experts, and Jeff at TBW while trying to sort this out. Could Zia be the “victim” as he failed to declare a revoke?

This is a coin with two sides and one razor-edged precipice dividing them. The Swedes were the victim in this case, and as Zia was the cause of that, he cannot share that mantle. He merits empathy, but he and all of us have a obligation to do the right thing. Forget Zia for a moment, imagine being denied a semi-final spot in a world class event because someone revoked against you and it was not disclosed. Presumably given the stature of such an opponent, one would not ask them to face their cards at trick 11/12.  That is a victim.

What should any player who has revoked do in these circumstances? I am sad to report that the rules do not ask a player to point out his own infraction, in fact they state today: “There is no obligation to draw attention to an inadvertent infraction of law committed by own’s own side….” This is the complete opposite of golf where a player is expected to call a penalty upon himself, such as grounding his club in a hazard. In golf failure to declare such a penalty means expulsion from the event.

Should the offending player own up,? Should they confess – “I revoked”, as soon as it becomes apparent. Some would say no more, no less, even if the rules don’t specifically say as much; it must be the right thing to do. And yes, let’s change the rules to explicitly say so. Make it easy. I love paint by number. Why put a player in such a spot where the rules themselves are contradictory?

Surely no one believes that the rules were designed to allow players to profit from thier own irregularity. Clearly for some they are not sufficiently clear, and hopefully with the prodding from Jeff and TBW, Zia and postings like this will help rule makers to realize changes need to be made. We need a few more from the expert realm to speak up in kind.  Of course that assumes they share this perspective. On va voir.

If Jeff and Zia feel there is a problem, that’s enough for me. Let’s cut Zia some slack and hold silly and contradictory rules in contempt until such time that they are revised. Zia in a way – was a victim, but so were the Swedes, and so is our game. Let’s change that.

TBW editorial stated “Adjust irregular occurrences by equity”.

I can imagine no better resolution. Please – lawmakers, address this issue. Add clarity and consistency to the rules.

We don’t feel like waiting another 25+ years.

And just for laughs – what’s goin’ on to change this?



Hard To Handle

The Black Crows – Hard To Handle


Look at this hand.

First board of the event:

1) AQ109765 AQ72 82 –

Three clubs from partner, 4H on your right (all vulnerable) – you to call. Consider your options.

For what it is worth you are an expert at an all expert table.

You try (or maybe not) 4S which is doubled and all pass. You make it and chalk up +790.

Early on in a different event:

2) 4 10986543 AQ74 A    (all vul.)

Four clubs (by none other that John Crawford) on your right. You to call.

The person holding these cards elected to call 4H, doubled by Tobias Stone on your left. Declarer bought a helpful dummy

K82 K K1063 Q9754 

and finished +790 in 4H*.

Dealer: E














 J95         KJ108632





♣ A


The weird part is, Dorothy Hayden played these two hands from the same deal sitting in different directions!

When she went to the director after board 5 realizing something was amiss (after all, here you are playing the same set of boards from a separate tournament (six weeks later and 3,000 miles away)  the directors claimed she was mistaken, and this could never happen.

As it turned out when she came back to the card police, more convinced than ever after board 7 she discovered:

“…I found the entire directing staff in chaos. It seems they had really believed me the first time and had been doing some hectic checking during the last ten minutes ….they had been  dreading my return like the plague. With four rounds of the session already completed, there was no way to reshuffle the boards. Finally, as the only sensible solution, I volunteered to go back and play the rest of the deals as honestly as possible.

“You might think it would be fun to play boards you have seen before. Believe me, it isn’t. “ In the end she scored 158  and “they magnanimously allowed us to keep this score without penalty!”

“Suppose we had scored 220?……. They had decided to roll it back to 170 equivalent to the average plus awarded for fouled boards.”

That is why the 4S* hand (first board of the event shown above) was so sweet because she did not yet recognize the hands so it was one of the few untainted results and she made +790 sitting both directions on the same deal.

it takes a consumate professional to do just what she did. Apparently no one else at this event caught on. Not all would go to the directing staff- in fact there is a hand on record featuring the infamous Boris Shapiro where he pyched one club on a flat piece of garbage (and if recollection serves, even rebid 2C!), with the hand on his left holding 6 good clubs and a fine hand. The expert opponents managed to make it to 3NT in spite of Shapiro’s tactics. Then a bridge sleuth discovered that Shapiro had played this exact hand some time earlier, holding the real hand with clubs. How many others from this set did he recognize? Perhaps Ray is right, once a cheater……..

Dorothy ends her story with ……

You may have heard the story about Rixi Markus, leading British woman player. After a team game she was asked what her result was on a certain board. ‘I made game in both roomswas her classic reply.

Hard to handle indeed.



I Believe in Miracles


Hot Chocolate – I Believe in Miracles


Ray Lee wrote under the title Shades of Gray:


I’ve stolen the title for this blog from a forthcoming MPP book, which just happens to be a novel revolving around cheating at bridge, the difficulty of proving it, and the conundrum of what to do with the culprit(s) when it is finally proven.  I wanted to comment on an incident in the New Orleans Spingold, which has already been the subject of much discussion and controversy on various bridge forums.

First, the deal in question:

You are playing the round of 64 in the Spingold against a much higher seed.  You start the second quarter about 40 behind, and this board comes up early on:

♠ –  ♥ A x x  ♦ A Q x x   ♣ A K Q 7 x x

You are red against white, and RHO opens 3♠. Your call.

No, this isn’t a quiz; that was just to give you a moment or two to think about how you might proceed.  What happened at the table was the holder of this hand, Howard Piltch (a professional player but not a top-ranked expert), bid 6♦.  This was a dramatic winner when dummy hit with essentially king fourth of diamonds and out and both minors behaved well.

There’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing on the forums, but let me try to distil it at least into what is undisputed in terms of further facts.

1) At no stage did Mr. Piltch claim that his bid had been a mechanical error or some other kind of accident.  His partner claims it was a ‘state of the match’ attempt to generate a swing.

2) The boards were dealt at the table, apparently with all four players present.  Mr. Piltch made only one board of the eight, which he remembers as being Board 8 (not the one in question).

3) The director was consulted at some stage by the opposing team, but did not change the table result.  The opposing team did not lodge an appeal (they won the match by more than 100 IMPs) but did express an intent to pursue the matter in a Conduct and Ethics hearing.

This, you will I’m sure recognize, leaves many questions unasked and a great deal of information ungathered, which makes the whole ‘Was he or wasn’t he?’ discussion somewhat academic.  So I’m not going to go into that at all.  However, there are some possibly new points that are perhaps worth making here.

First, since this was a dealt board, and had not yet been played at the other table, presumably the only direct cheating method available would be introducing a stacked deck.  Lest you feel this is unlikely, let me mention that there have been at least two well-proven cases of deck-substitution in the Toronto area alone.  One of the perpetrators, after being banned, later showed up playing on OkBridge – using two different user accounts and playing in partnership with himself, incognito, to improve his rating. Once a cheater…

Second, how much evidence is required to convict a player of cheating?  This is where bridge courts separate from real life.  Alan Truscott (in The Great Bridge Scandal) remarks that it’s very difficult to prove cheating from hand records, but that it is possible to prove the reverse.  Terence Reese, in his apologia Story of an Accusation, understandably argues that the hands tell the tale in either event.  Reese was of course famously acquitted after a judicial hearing presided over by a non-bridge-player, who applied the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard to the case.  Allan Falk, an expert bridge player and also a prominent Michigan attorney, wrote a fascinating essay for the MPP edition of TGBS, in which he points out that nowhere except in criminal courts is this standard applied.  Elsewhere, in both sports tribunals and real life (and O.J. Simpson’s first two trials are a well-known example), the test is ‘preponderance of the evidence’.  So too it is (or should be) with bridge.

Third, and perhaps most interestingly, is the issue of whether Mr. Pitch’s past record should have any bearing upon people’s willingness to believe him guilty of some kind of wrongdoing in this instance.  The question of prior record is another where we needs must part company with criminal procedure.  The previous convictions of the accused are not revealed in court until a conviction has been recorded, and are taken into consideration only for the purposes of sentencing.  However, in bridge, one instance alone is rarely enough to convict.

Arthur Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  So when the disparity in ability between players is great enough, the lesser mortals will find it difficult to understand how the experts get to the right spot, and make brilliant leads and plays, apparently ‘seeing through the backs of the cards’.  Eventually the experts may even be suspected of cheating.  ‘Strange’ bids too can attract accusations, yet bidding is far from an exact science (look at any magazine bidding panel, and you’ll see 30-odd experts all arguing vehemently that five different bids are each the only correct action).  So much is ‘style’, or even table feel.  It is when actions deemed ‘unusual’ work out a high percentage of the time, or when a player finds the brilliant lead on just too many occasions, that antennae start to quiver – and when probably something is indeed going on. Any single occurrence may mean nothing – a lucky guess, an opponent flashing his hand, a flight of fancy that happened to work, or some such.  It is the multiple, as these incidents repeat themselves, which begins to make the case – and since we so often play against different opponents, it takes a while for anyone to notice.

Thus we have the ‘Recorder’ system, and the ability to look at a player’s track record of unexplained incidents, a record that taken as a whole may add up to an unappetizing picture.  As one forum poster put it, “If I were a judge in a bridge matter and the facts as presented came before me to make a ruling without revealing the identity of the 6♦ bidder, I would be highly doubtful that there could be any innocent explanation of the events that unfolded.  And, if I was told that the person who bid 6♦ on this hand was the person who is being discussed above, that would end all doubt for me.”

In the words of Ian Fleming, ‘Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action.’


Cam French (wrote) August 16th, 2010 at 7:56 pm


A fascinating synopsis.

I recall a famous hand where Sidney Lazard (I think) made an identical call (6D) with a like disparity in the minors but could infer from the auction that partner probably had diamonds. See:

Cam French » Blog Archive » Eye in the Sky.htm.

I know Kehela and others recalled the hand, as it developed its own legendary status.

I have met Howard but I don’t know him personally. One thing wasn’t clear to me from your posting. You suggest previous incidents, and if that is the case, IMHO yes, they should be showcased for all to see. As Falk stated, “beyond a reasonable doubt” is a criminal threshold, the League and sanctioning organizations should have their own.

For example a C&E committee, unlike a jury need not be unanimous.

Does Howard or his partner have some prior conviction?

Is that relevant? (Yes) You raised it, I can only ASSume (at my own risk I guess) that you had a damn good reason for doing so.

The state of the match and as you said, even prior or subsequent actions should be looked at. If he was up by 40 against a “superior” team, we would look askance. Down by 40 to a superior opponent certainly adds fuel to his position.

I don’t think I for one will be drilling Meckwell by playing down the middle. They will do that and let me drill myself. Such is the nature of the beast.

The clear inference was that Howard had been convicted (or accused?) of some cheating in the past and thus this is evidence of more of the same. Is that the case?

I think in this case, the action is certainly swingy, when given the problem I thought I would double and convert (the likely heart bid from partner) to clubs, presumably at the five level. 6D is wild, but hardly evidence of cheating. Given the opening 3S bid partner is marked with some distributional shape. The question is could be 3-7-1-2 or the like? The answer is of course yes, and why would you convert with that?

He bid wildly, bought well. Coincidence or crime – you tell me. I feel the history here is of utmost importance. If we were talking bigger names (say Zia or Moss renowned for their off-beat bidding) no one would give it a second thought. Their record of standing tells us what we need to know.

I think we all want cheaters and their benefactors outed and sanctioned. Not sure the glove fits here.

Perhaps someone can find the Lazard hand. Perhaps we can hear from experts, or committee members. And I think we all deserve to know any past history, including one of like wildness under analogous circumstances.

Like Rixi, I rarely find myself down at the half to an allegedly “superior” team. On the rare occasion when that should occur, I confess to swinging, some said wildly. Is there any other way?

Great story.




For some strange reason my above comment posted on 8/16 (the twelfth in queue) after Ray’s original only five days earlier somehow quashed further discussion of Ray’s posting and the questions we all raised. What happened to the dialogue? MIA.

Here are two points of query.

Does Howard or his partner have some prior conviction?  Is that relevant? (Yes) You raised it, I can only ASSume (at my own risk I guess) that you had a damn good reason for doing so.

Third and perhaps most interestingly, is the issue of whether Mr. Pitch’s past record should have any bearing upon people’s willingness to believe him guilty of some kind of wrongdoing in this instance.  The question of prior record is another where we needs must part company with criminal procedure.  The previous convictions of the accused are not revealed in court until a conviction has been recorded, and are taken into consideration only for the purposes of sentencing. Have a couple more observations about this hand.

Like the forbidden fruit, no one wants to go there.

Will Howard have his attorney on speed dial should anyone hint at impropriety? Certainly Ray’s story raises more questions (and deservedly so) than it answers. If the opposing team brought it to the attention of the director (and they did), then certainly there is a whiff in air. I recall one incident in The Lone Wolff (thanks to a prompt from one in the know) that painted Howard in less than a flattering light when it came to ethics. That’s a little smoke. Where’s the fire? Is there any?

I don’t pretend to know but the other thing I find so interesting about this is the lack of comment from within the expert realm.

Is this the dog that did not bark in the night? Yes, and with good cause.

It is well-known (or presumed/assumed) within the elite that Howard tilts one way or the other? I suspect so, but I have no proof to validate that.

In the words of Ian Fleming, ‘Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action.’

So is this happenstance, coincidence or enemy action? The reader can only wonder as so many allegations remain unaddressed, merely hinted at.

I also know from insider reports that Howard is engaging and controversial, and by that I mean he can be charming and can alienate a certain constituency with his abrasiveness. So he rubs some the wrong way. So what?  As someone who can be as soothing as sandpaper on an open wound, that doesn’t bother me. It would trouble me to know there were prior bad acts or other tangible evidence withheld that would allow the reader fuller information before making an informed call.

Where are the experts on this? Is this issue toxic waste? (Yes) Only Bud Hinkey (Howard’s partner) and Bobby Wolff weighed in apart from the usual suspects and staffers. What does that say? Does this have the wafting stench of a garbage truck or is it just a lucky shot – an inside the park home run? The truth is precious few (and I am not one of the chosen in this case) have the requisite intimacy with this incident to comment with first-hand knowledge. But certainly there are a lot of experts who have encountered Howard on many occasions and thus have insight to offer.

One thing I have discovered, like Woodward and Bernstein in All the President’s Men is that there are many more people who are willing to speak off the record and precious few willing to speak on the record. One of my best friends told me Sion confessed “it was the money – honey” and my friend was (sadly) unwilling to go on the record.

As Collateral Damage (or probably any controversial story) would never be written without insider knowledge- with the assistance of those who have a compelling reason to be off the record- I guess unidentified contributors are a necessary evil. I recall Ben Bradlee (in All the President’s Men) decrying – “when the hell is someone going to go on the record on this story?” He was justifiably angered at knowing the sordid truth, but lacking the public accreditation to proclaim as much.  

I submit the expert community knows a lot; certainly more than they are offering in the public domain – not just about this case, but about many others. As with the Blue team, certainly many (Sheinwold, Stone, ERM to name but a few) held strong suspicions. But no one stepped up to perform the necessary due diligence to prove it. Today due to legal/insurance reasons, sponsorships, alliances, friendships, discretion (it is the better part of valour) or just plain cowardice, few want to see their names in print tethered to a problematic story. And really – who can blame them? I don’t. Unlike diamonds and just like divorce (believe me, I know) – getting involved in such tarnished incidents is the gift that keeps on taking. As Cokin said to me through a third party – and he was right – “what is the upside?” There is none, so why speak out and risk the inevitable slagging into the sewer?

The only reason Kenny Gee, Ken Warren, or Wayne Timms (I cite fellow Canadians) or anyone was convicted of cheating was because someone stepped up to the plate. Sometimes that was a player, (typically expert), sometimes a director, and at least in one of the above cases, a partner. Who wants to face Doc Halliday in the 9th inning with a no hitter in progress? Not me. “No upside.”

Cheating (and I am not weighing in on this Howard case because I lack the requisite knowledge to give a sound opinion) must be outed. If our experts can’t lead the way, be that by vindicating people and incidents like this one, or adding to the archive of evidence – either way, experts need to show the way. As Sontag noted “the expert’s antennae quivers.” The rest of us are left guessing at how tainted the game really is.

Predictions – always precarious but I predict precious few weigh in on this to add insight into this case. A few might say I have the right idea, or a dog with a bone, or like peripheral comments. Precious and few will be those who talk the talk, name names, times, dates, and share their inner thoughts on the record. Wanna bet? That is a shame as I think Ray raised several interesting points which merit exploration.

I sincerely hope that those in the know will share their perspectives in a forthcoming fashion. But we all know cheating is the bastard child that just won’t go away. And we don’t want to talk about it, for all the obvious reasons. The trouble is until we face it, deal with it meaningfully and harshly, engage the experts and rank and file – then we allow a few to despoil our game. This game belongs to us and I for one hold those in contempt who corrupt the game we love.

I hope Howard, his partner; their opponents and the expert community come forth to shed light on their unique perspective of this hand. Not holding my breath – nor should anyone.

 But hey – I believe in miracles.



To the bridge community, if you wish to communicate on this forum, please do. If you prefer the privacy of off the record; email, phone or other, I can be reached at:

RESPECT (Ode to Aretha)


Aretha Franklin – Respect

To: Cameron French

Since your last schizophrenic outburst to me (and especially Bobby) some months ago, we made a pact never to get involved with you or your theories, as we never know when you are going to go off the deep end.

Judy Kay-Wolff


Well thanks for that update Judy. It was a different tune when I wrote the below, from you and your beloved….the praise was effusive. Let the reader judge.


Stealin’ (When I Should Have Been Buyin’)

by Cam French on October 8th, 2009

Ode to Uriah Heep

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

Her words on her blog:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is this for a pattern?

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

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

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

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

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

The auction proceeds (at both tables)

LHO     Partner         RHO      Belladonna/Schenken

1H          P              1NT           ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bobby Wolff had this to say:

“In each of the four tournaments, according to the Burgay tapes (released in 1976 and authenticated by the United States CIA), every Blue Team member was wired to the teeth (emphasis added) (for more particulars please read The Lone Wolff and be sure to get the upcoming World Bridge History, authored by Jaime Ortiz-Patino to be released this October at the World Championship in Beijing). As an aftermath of the Burgay Tapes, Jimmy barred every member of the Italian Blue Team from ever appearing in another World Championship, although he relented for two particular Blue Team members in 1979 and again in 1983.  (this is from an essay called The Lone Wolff Howls posted on my blog at .)

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

Alfred Sheinwold thought so.

John Gerber thought so.

Tobias Stone said so and was suspended.

John Crawford said so and was suspended.

Burgay said so and was suspended.

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

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

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


Axx Qx


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am waiting with bated breath.

CF/Toronto 10/09


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


Bobby Wolff


_ JUDY KAY-WOLFF October 8th, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Dear Cam:

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


Dear Judy and Bobby,

It is clear to me that we have similarities and differences. That one day I am “EVERYONE’S HERO!” and the next a “schizophrenic” may speak more to you than it does to me. Why Judy has to resort to insults and pejorative adjectives sadly says it all.

I don’t agree with everything Bobby has said, specifically how “going back” (at Norfolk) was “too painful”, but he articulated his position and I respect that. I guess herein lies the difference – I can respect alternative opinions without agreeing. A character flaw perhaps does not allow me to call others “cruel”, “schizophrenic” and assign other demeaning attributes.

Judy, your problem is, anyone who disagrees with you becomes an enemy – one to be ridiculed, cut down to size through verbal abuse and innuendo and dismissed as ignorant. I can cite other examples, but I see no reason to belabor the point.

Oddly some think that disagreement and dialogue are, as Martha might say “a good thing.” And I think they are right.

No one doubts for a second that Bobby was instrumental in trying to clean up the game, after having been torched one too many times. That does not mean we will all line up like sheep to agree with whatever he (let alone you – or ANYONE) has to say. We all have to make that call for ourselves, and while name-calling and belittling may work for you, it says more about you that you might care to admit.

I give you one example that was controversial, at least apparently from your (Judy’s) perspective. Bobby was too clever to wade in, seeing quicksand ahead versus terra firma.


96 Tears

by Cam French on April 7th, 2010

Stranglers – 96 Tears

Judy was name-dropping and recently published a favourite letter she received from our beloved Eric Rutherford Murray.

I have an anecdote, again, credit to Roy Hughes from Canada’s Bridge Warriors.

Now I know “Stoney” is one of Judy’s favorites, and obviously she has some fondness for ERM too. According to Hughes, this yarn “provided Murray with one of his favourite stories.” I submit it in the spirit ERM reveled in it, pure, unadulterated joy. Stoney’s reaction is merely the cherry on top. You be the judge.

Murray held:  Jxxx K109xx 6x 5x

Kehela (the dealer) passed, Crawford bid 1D and “intuiting that it was time to introduce a diversion, Murray doubled for takeout.”

The auction:

Kehela   Crawford     Murray      Stone

Pass           1D           Dble!        Rdble

Pass            Pass         1H           2NT (see that bid!)

Pass            3NT         All pass.

Opening lead: 8H.  This was the layout:





Kxx                                     Jxxx

8xx                                     K109xx

Qxx                                    xx

Qxx                                     xx





“Dummy played low and Murray inserted the nine, losing to declarer’s jack. Stone crossed to the dummy and took a finesse through Murray. Kehela won the trick with the queen he wasn’t supposed to have and played another heart to dummy’s ace. Stone then took another finesse through Murray. Kehela produced a second queen that he couldn’t possibly have. A third heart allowed Murray to cash out the suit whereupon Stone started screaming “This idiot. This moron. Who would ever dream that anyone could make such an ignorant bid?”

One man’s ignorant is another man’s brilliance. Stone was never famed for being the proverbial “kinder, gentler”, but here, he went postal. Therein lies ERM’s true joy, his ploy would have been for naught against lesser opponent.

Perhaps in his old age they both might look back with a fresh perspective after all they say time heals old wounds.

Judy Kay-Wolff April 7th, 2010 at 11:36 pm


Putting aside my warm feelings for both Eric and Stoney (from whose apartment Bobby and I just returned an hour ago), I fail to see the humor in posting a hand like this — even decades after the incident. In fact, I actually view it as cruel and offensive. Had Eric, with his shenanigans, ended up going for a number: (1) I doubt whether Sami or their teammates would have found it amusing; (2) It would not have appeared in “Canada’s Bridge Warriors;” and (3) It would not have given you fodder for your blog.

The funny thing about the characters involved — my Norman could have been on either side, having played on teams with Stone and Crawford as well as Murray and Kehela. Sorry, but if tales like these amuse your readers, I must have no sense of humor and consider it in very poor taste. To make a ninety-one year old bridge icon the butt of your joke is truly disgusting!

Judy Kay Wolff


You obviously took strong exception to this old Stoney yarn, an ERM “favourite” where he was imaginative and Stoney took the bait, hook, line and sinker. All of us would have played as did Stoney, but his vitriolic outburst  – calling the bid “moronic” and ERM  an “idiot” was made in anger and added fuel (and certainly humour) to the fire. At least just about everyone but you seemed to think so. The world says funny and you say “offensive” and “disgusting”. What does that say?

You saw “someone who could not shine Stoney’s shoes” (great line btw) and just about everyone else saw it as did its perpetrator  ERM – funny. That doesn’t mean we are right and you are wrong but it does typify how you have issues with those who dare to disagree. And of course, you failed to address Stoney’s breach of proprieties, as if he enjoys survivor’s immunity. Just for laughs, how you would you feel if any player had the same tirade against you, calling your bidding mornic and you an idiot? You and all of us would be aghast, and deservedly so, and quickly call the director if it wasn’t a friend on speed –dial. Stoney can get away with that because of his lofty status? If you say so. (no, because back thenm, that was the norm, and ERM and Sami understood the setting and reveled in Stoney’s tirade. ) Walk a mile in another’s shoes. And all for repeating a story I am “disgusting” and you find it “offensive”. Well, that is why some like chocolate and some don’t. Beauty, taste and humour are individualistic.

These comments were typical:

John Thomas April 19th, 2010 at 5:51 am

Thank you for the amusing story. Only goes to remind us that even world class players are human, which some seem to have forgotten: like the comment about ‘cannot shine the shoes’. That comment just shows that the commenter is a snob (there, I said it), which is pathetic. Add to that the arrogance and it is also irritating (even to some random, clueless and lowly person like me). Kudos to Cam in dealing with this in a polite manner. IMO, people who don’t find this amusing ought to get their heads checked.

Ron Lel April 19th, 2010 at 6:32 am

I also find this story very funny and am sure that Tobias Stone would now as well. This is the second time that Judy’s fame has spread to rgb.


By the way, I have never met nor even emailed John Thomas or Ron Lel. They had their opinions, as do you or I or the rest of the universe. That said (as John noted) the insults do not serve your case, but do they make for a more interesting if not humorous read.

This is the point. Try to make your point with logic and reason. When you succumb to rhetoric, insults and ridicule you debase your thesis. Bobby may use exaggeration, hyperbole and other literary tools but he does not lower himself to name-calling. There is a lesson herein, and as a teacher, I hope I have communicated the point to you with decorum and respect. I confess (as I did to the first principal who evaluated me) that it is difficult to criticize someone and leave them feeling positive. But you seem to see criticism as a personal affront, so I won’t count upon you learning from this.

My comments are not made from anger or malice. – it doesn’t bother me, in fact I rather enjoy it. Being called “cruel”, “disgusting” or “schizophrenic” speaks to you, not to me but if it makes you happy – so be it. I confess, I love a little satire and humour. After all, no one better than you could know that a writer who you once confessed

Your unexpected masterpiece left me speechless…”

Personally  Your call,  I will still respect you in the morning. I am not asking for respect. That is earned and is a personal matter. If you want to accrue it from your audience, consider the high road. But then again, we do love those rants.   🙂



Turn Your Lights On

Big Sugar – Turn Your Lights On

Dear Bobby,


 I just re-read your chapter LOSING TEAM WINS from The Lone Wolff.  It was another in a long line of sad legacies where a team undeserving of victory, nonetheless enjoyed the same.

For those unfamiliar with the case, buy The Lone Wolff or accept this brief synopsis. This was a world championship event, semi-final match between Canada and Germany.

: All players recorded down 6. (doubled/non.vul)

: Someone called out (the players were under severe time restraints) “1100”.

: This was true under old scoring, but not under the new scoring in effect at the time.

: The real score was -1400.

: The difference was a matter of win/loss.

: The mistake was discovered a few hours after the match, but well before the next round started.

: A committee ruled (after hearing from both sides) that the result stood, so 1100 meant a German victory.

: Bobby states the committee voted along geographical lines and the strong anti-American bias (in this case a burden shared by Canadians) caused the Europeans to vote for the Germans.

You quote the German team letter wrote in part:

“We as a team would have preferred to be eliminated early rather than gain a berth in the final as a result of the tragedy that took place.”

You write:

“Pardon me, but that statement leaves me sick to my stomach. If the Germans were so distressed by the turn of events, and so regretful that they had been declared the winners when they actually lost, why didn’t they step forward and say Canada should play in the final? Do they believe the organizers of the tournament would have refused to let them make such a magnanimously sporting gesture?

 No Bobby, they held no such fantasy. If afraid of anything, they feared the committe members concurring with such a gesture, so that could never happen. Little wonder you (and many of us) are nauseous at such a miscarriage of justice. Rumor had it (and you quote it in your book) the Germans celebrating, ridiculing their opponents for their failure to catch the mistake and reveling in their Pyrrhic victory. If this wasn’t (and you state as much) a sad day for bridge justice, I don’t know what is. My question is, as the committee’s should have been, “what is the lawful correctional period?”

It should have NOTHING to do with Americans or Germans or Europeans or Canadians or anything but the laws and what is the allowable correctional period? Is that so hard to fathom? Has the rule been modified, to add clarity and certainty so that such a travesty cannot repeat itself?  As you note, it is a sad day when the rules and those charged with enforcing the same fail to restore justice. Worse yet, when the players involved hide behind those laws. Shame on them and you’re right – it should make us all “sick to our stomachs”.

On a like note, I might add that David Sacks on 3/79 did report an irregularity well within the appropriate correctional period. Of course his application was cast aside, and all further efforts from team mates and others were blocked, thwarted and would never see the light of a committee, let alone justice.

So here we have two easy, clear cut cases where losers/cheaters won, and our system of justice validated the same. Gotta love that, or get used to being sick in the stomach. I for one am tired of being sick, and hold in contempt those players who hide behind feeble laws and any sponsoring n that enables the same.

Just for laughs, how would any of us feel if we lost a National event to cheaters, especially when you had appealed in time? (Tell that to Zeke/Capp and company.)

Or failed to advance to the final of a world class event because of a scoring mistake, which was caught, albeit too late for some…..(Tell that to Kokish/Mittleman and company.)

Walk a mile in those shoes.

Have the laws been amended to prevent such miscarriages from recurring?  If not, someone better turn the lights on, before we go down this sordid road again.





Eye in the Sky

Alan Parsons Project – Eye In The Sky


This deal was shared with me by an executive member of TBW magazine. If you don’t already have a subscription, go to

and subscribe. Your (bridge) world will never be the same.


Sidney Lazard held this hand as South , vulnerable vs. not in 1954, yes back before some of us were born.


     A3   8   AK92   AK9832


             N           E         S          W 


               –         1C        P        1S

               P          P!        2N      3H

               P          4H       ?  



Once East failed to reply to his partner’s forcing response, the gig was up and it was clear to everyone the he had psyched.

When West continued brazenly with 3H, followed by East’s raise to 4H South could logically infer as follows:

: West has at least 10 major suit cards.

: East has a poor hand with 4/5 clubs and 4 hearts.

: North therefore is marked with modest values and at least 5 diamonds.

Accordingly Lazard leapt to 6 diamonds! Think about that for a second, it is a remarkable call.

As one in the know called it “This was surely one of the top inferential bids in the history of the game;” Indeed it was. The play was swift and merciless.

This was the hand:


aler: S




















♣ AK9832



1)     HK;

2)      HA ruffed.

3)      DK

4)      DQ

5)      CJ-Q-K.

6)     Run trumps reducing to 5 cards, with the lead in the dummy.







              KJ                                     9

              Q97                                    –

               –                                        –

               –                                      10765








For the last 5 cards, East must keep 4 clubs (else ruff out) so can’t keep 2 spades. Then (marked) club finesse, king clubs, club ruff to squeeze West between the majors.  

Eye in the sky indeed.

Please bear in mind that the inferences available on the above hand are hardly analogous to the Piltch hand.

This story is as sweet as mangoes, the new Orleans story is more like cod liver oil, of foul odour and a bitter aftertaste. More on that later.




Sweet Emotion

Aerosmith – Sweet Emotion

Congrats to Team Diamond for their sensational victory at the New Orleans Spingold.  From the ACBL’s Daily Bulletin

captain and his partner, Brian Platnick.
The other members of the team are Fred
Gitelman, Brad Moss, Geoff Hampson and Eric
Greco. Meltzer’s team was Kyle Larsen, David
Berkowitz, Alan Sontag, Fulvio Fantoni and
Claudio Nunes.
Meltzer’s lead was forged mostly on a
vulnerable slam bid by Fantoni and Nunes about
midway through the final quarter. The Italians bid
6♥ missing five trumps to the K-10 and an ace,
but on the lie of the cards the slam could not be
defeated and Meltzer gained 13 IMPs.
The match was relatively even from there, and
Meltzer had a seemingly comfortable lead with two
boards to play.
On the penultimate board, Greco and Hampson
got to 2♠ on a 5-2 fit and managed to bring it home
for plus 110.
At the other table, Sontag made an aggressive
bid after Berkowitz had passed his 1♠ opener and
Gitelman balanced with 1NT. Sontag ended up
playing 3♠ doubled, going down three for minus
800. That cost 14 IMPs and put Diamond into the
lead. Diamond gained 1 IMP on the last board to
win by 3 IMPs.
The same team won the Jacoby Open Swiss
Teams in Reno in March, giving Diamond and
Platnick their first North American championship.
The other members of the team now have 41 major
titles among them, including two wins each in the
Diamond started the final strong, winning the
opening set 34-11 and taking a 70-43 lead at the
halfway point. Meltzer won the third set 53-8,
however, and led 96-78 with a quarter to go.
Diamond regained the lead early in the fourth
set but fell behind after the slam swing before
collecting 800 to surge ahead for good.

With two boards to go in a tight Spingold Knockout Teams match, the Rose Meltzer squad had a 12-IMP lead over the John Diamond team and looked good for the win. A disaster on the next-to-last deal turned the match around, however, and Diamond emerged with a 118-115 victory – the first win in the event for the captain and his partner, Brian Platnick. The other members of the team are Fred Gitelman, Brad Moss, Geoff Hampson and Eric Greco. Meltzer’s team was Kyle Larsen, David Berkowitz, Alan Sontag, Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes.

Meltzer’s lead was forged mostly on a  vulnerable slam bid by Fantoni and Nunes about midway  through the final quarter. The Italians bid 6♥ missing five trumps to the K-10 and an ace, but on the lie of the cards the slam could not be defeated and Meltzer gained 13 IMPs. The match was relatively even from there, and Meltzer had a seemingly comfortable lead with two boards to play. On the  penultimate board, Greco and Hampson got to 2♠ on a 5-2 fit and managed to bring it home for plus 110.  At the other table, Sontag made an aggressive bid after Berkowitz had passed his 1♠ opener and Gitelman balanced with 1NT. Sontag ended up playing 3♠ doubled, going down three for minus 800. That cost 14 IMPs and put Diamond into the lead. Diamond gained 1 IMP on the last board to win by 3 IMPs. The same team won the Jacoby Open Swiss Teams in Reno in March, giving Diamond and Platnick their first North American championship. The other members of the team now have 41 major titles among them, including two wins each in the Spingold.

Diamond started the final strong, winning the opening set 34-11 and taking a 70-43 lead at the  halfway point. Meltzer won the third set 53-8, however, and led 96-78 with a quarter to go. Diamond regained the lead early in the fourth set but fell behind after the slam swing before collecting 800 to surge ahead for good.

Dealer: S






















S                W               N                 E

Sontag      Moss      Berkowitz     Gitelman

1S               P                P                 1NT

3H              P                3S                P

P                Dble            All pass

The great thing about this hand was it involved so many key decisions. All players had critical options which in the end would determine the fate of the match. Remember this is the penultimate hand, team Diamond down by 12 IMPS at this point.

Firstly Sontag had to decide whether or not to open a forcing club. (Greco did in the other room.) The commentators noted how he could get both suits in economically, and not fear club preempts by opening one spade. I like that decision though it is close, it is a hell of a nice hand.

Moss had an easy pass and Berkowitz elected to pass too, remember he is facing a limited opener. Now Gitelman shone under the spotlight with his hair-raising 1NT balance. This gave Sontag a chance to get his second suit in and (as commentator Kit Woolsey suggested he might stretch given his failure to open one club) and he elected to try 3H. Moss in atypical restraint chose to pass and the focus turned to Berkowitz. Some commentators suggested he might pass, before it got ugly. There is some merit to that, but it seems easier seeing the bad spade split to mention that. Berkowitz took his false preference to 3S. No doubt if he had passed, Gitelman would be hard pressed to find another call.

When 3S came around to Moss, there was much commentary on whether he would or should double. Larry Cohen mentioned that Zia said it would be nice to be allowed to know the score at this point, as that would certainly aid in decision making for all involved. Moss applied the axe, led a diamond, got in the his KH, switched to the JC and tapped the south hand. Now South had to lose control and eventually finished three down for -800. This combined with 2S (+110) making in the other room, gave Diamond a much needed 14 IMPs, and they eked out a victory by a measly 3 IMPS.  Note every participant played a critical role, if Sontag had not jumped, if Moss had not doubled, if Berkowitz had not taken false preference, if Gitelman had not balanced; all of these decisions combined for a perfect storm.

And of course, it may not be fair to single out one hand, but the Daily Bulletin did that, I thought we deserved to see the whole hand and the story therein. It is a pleasure to bear witness to bridge at the top, and these teams provided one of the more spectacular matches in recent history. This was an incredible battle, skin-tight and a credit to all.

Congratulations to Fred and his team mates.

Sweet emotion indeed.


Under Pressure

Queen (and David Bowie) – UnderPressure

(click on the above for musical accompaniment)



From my point of view there are only 2 bones of contention:

1. The 45 year old Reese-Schapiro fiasco including the Foster Tribunals.

A. All of the particular discussions have documented evidence.

Next time, please be more specific. There is “documented evidence” of UFOs. Ask Fox Muldar. I guess being a teacher and evaluating a student’s effort bestows a bias upon me. The students can’t say “it is documented” or “well-known” or other like alibis. They need (as do we all) to butress their arguments with accredited sources. Nothing less is acceptable. Does Harvard accept “documented evidence” without seeing it? Of course not. And neither should we.

B. What Sami Kehela’s reasons for after gathering and presenting prosecution’s evidence, then choosing to testify to Reese’s proposed innocence at the Foster Tribunals will probably forever be a mystery and thus unsolved. Rather than debate why, let us accept his decision and go forward.

2. Canada’s role in International World Championship Bridge Competition contesting the Bermuda Bowl from the period of the middle l980’s (the time Canada, by beating two other small countries, now only one, was granted a cherished entry into the Bermuda Bowl) till at least the middle l990’s and even continuing up to the present (2010), but on a more sporadic basis, has been also documented, showing ineffective teams with predictable results of finishing at or near the bottom.

Bobby Wolff

My “bone” with #2 above is not that Canada fared poorly, but that somehow through misfortune or design(?) we did not always send our best. Sometimes ERM/ Sami or Mittleman/Graves  were not on the team because they had failed to qualify. I fail to see why they or anyone should be anointed because of their pedigree. And if our National champions did not perform on the world stage up to our, your or perhaps their own expectations, that is a disappointment. It is not a crime and it is certainly not as you infamously labelled it –  “shameful”.  As you know, ERM was a successful attorney, counting upon his profession to support his passion. Perhaps on occasion he chose not to abandon his client in mid-trial for a bridge championship. Precious few, especially years ago before the rampage of professionalism could afford to be full-time pro-players. They had other careers and bridge played second fiddle. And of course once professionalism blossomed players from around the globe (Zia/Pakistan, Rosenberg/Scotland, Alder/UK, Fallenius/Sweden, Hampson/Canada to name a few) emigrated to the “show” – and that is America. And that, as Martha says – “is a good thing”. No one is complaining, just shining a little light on the historical record.



Dear Bobby,

I apologize for printing that laudatory email you sent me.

You were right, it was sent to me privately and I would have done better not to publish it. My mistake.

…”..we both, being crusaders for bridge improvement…..”

I can see how you feel that way, although with Collateral Damage I considered myself an investigative reporter, telling a story after researching the archive of information.  The notion of some form of restorative justice was a hope quickly dashed upon the rocks by Bob Hamman. He told me early on, that wish was Fantasy Island. He was of course, right.

It seems somehow we both have gotten of-track. If this were a newspaper – we would be on the op-ed pages, you Charles Krauthammer, me Nicolas Kristof. Lately with the attacks on Sami and the Canadians many including me – took offence. It is not crusading. Like you, I yearn for positive reform. Like you, sometimes I don’t soft-pedal and allow some emotions to sear the text. Like you it evokes sentiment, not always positive. And that is OK, it comes with the territory when you write about sensitive issues.

I just finished re-reading Truscott and Reese and what a contrast in perspective! Knowing now what we did not know back then casts a new light on it all. You are right of course that Sami did testify for the defence at the Foster-Bourne Commission.. You state:

What Sami Kehela’s reasons for after gathering and presenting prosecution’s evidence, then choosing to testify to Reese’s proposed innocence at the Foster Tribunals will probably forever be a mystery and thus unsolved.

Sami hardly “gathered” let alone “presenting prosecution’s evidence”,  and you need to be more judicious (as does Judy) in your choice of words. Would it surprise you that your good friend Jaime Ortiz-Patino testified along the same lines as Kehela? Did he “support his mentor” or do a “180”? Or did he call it like he saw it?

Allow me to solve the mystery. It isn’t that tough.

According to Truscott, who I think most parties would agree is the foremost authority on the matter:

In Buenos Aires Kehela was informed of the code by team USA Captain Gerber, with Hayden, Becker and Truscott in tow and watched all of 10 hands without taking notes. At the time he felt the finger positions were of significance. After reviewing all the hand records, he failed to see a sufficient correlation between the cards and the signaling system. It is that simple. No mega-conspiracy here. No Oliver atop the grassy knoll.

Any unbiased observer might appreciate, and this was attested to by several notables at the time including Franklin, Flint , and WBF executive Jaime Ortiz-Patino and others that if they were cheating, which the fingers signals clearly suggest, the hand records fail to support that position.

More than a few felt that the hand records and abhorrent results should out-weigh any visual memories of apparent signalling.

A provocative example: USA76

Reese             Shapiro

KQ7                  984

AJ852               64

Q93                  J762

82                     Q543

1NT    (Dble)      P          (P)

2H      (Dble)       all pass

Result: 5 down -900 (old scoring)

This example would suggest no pre-agreement about the heart suit length. Of course Truscott raises other cases favorable to his side. And he was right that there was signalling. The trouble is and was, aligning the signals with the hands and results.

Truscott writes:

“Several photos show Reese and Schapiro varying the number of fingers in front of their cards. When a pair is cheating, it will usually be obvious from their bidding and play – the so-called technical evidence. But a clever pair will not do anything very unusual.

And the technical evidence in Buenos Aires is not clear-cut”. (Emphasis added.) Those are Truscott’s words. Do you hold him in the same contempt as you and Judy verbalized about Sami?

By all accounts, Reese and Shapiro played poorly, well below their usual standard. How can that be given their signals? Perhaps, as Reese declared in his apparent confession that they did not intend to use them. Granted – a big leap of faith is needed to buy that blarney. Citing just for you:

One thing the hand records point to is they certainly did not use them to maximum effect. Maybe, just maybe it is exactly like Reese claimed, they signaled and never intended to harvest the fruit of their poisonous acts. I submit sometimes they did (typically with some of Shapiro’s wild psyches) and sometimes they did not.  I do think it is crystal clear from the archive of evidence that being Truscott’s records, Reese’s declaration and the observations of Hayden, Becker and Truscott that there were signals exchanged. It is also clear, that the hand records fail to support the same. Truscott says so. I can’t imagine a more compelling witness. That was the essence of all defence witnesses, and in the end the commissioners (Foster-Bourne) found that:

“the direct evidence as to the exchange of finger signals, strong as it is, cannot be accepted because of the reasonable doubt ….{with regard to the hand records} ….we find Messrs Reese and Shapiro were not guilty of cheating at the event in question.”

I said it before and I will say it again. Judges and juries (just ask OJ) make mistakes. If you read into the above verdict you will find what you need. They were signaling, and they failed to take advantage of it sufficiently to prove their guilt. Maybe that was by design, and certainly they fooled a lot of people. The glove did not fit – so you must acquit.

I wonder if others who retain their poisoned gains have the respect for the game to come clean, even after death. When you think about that act from Reese – to have his confession and explanation published, it was quite remarkable. Interestingly, Truscott doesn’t buy it, and I can’t say I blame him. It is full of holes, and no one can verify Reese’s revisionist history.

We all chafe at the thought of cheaters. Worse yet – successful ones grate on us like sandpaper on soft pine for those who retain the fruits of their crimes. Bobby and I dare say ERM, Sami, Gerber, Mathe, Stoney, Edgar, Norman, Capp, Zeke and the list goes on – know this better than most. Truscott was right – there was clear cut cheating. Maybe that is a testament to Reese/Shapiro taking advantage of their system consistent with Reese’s explanation. Why the hand records fail to reflect that was part accident, a bigger part design. It was a shameful episode from which few if any heroes will emerge.

As for the Canadian free ride and “shameful” international record, I suggest we agree to disagree. You will never get me or many others to believe that national representatives, regardless of nation, did not do their best. I will agree that stronger teams might have emerged, but our qulaifiers are not appointed, they win that nomination by merit. Call us old-fashioned.

With your consent, I consider the matter closed.

The truth is we were all swindled and I am sure few feel that pain more acutely than Sami.