Cam French

Enter Sandman

                     Metallica – Enter Sandman


     Enter Sandman is the song that blares out when Mario Rivera comes in to close it out.

Watching the CNTCs recently reminded me of the extensive and grueling length of championship events. It is extraordinary, which is why of course most enter six handed. I was privileged to be a commentator on Vugraph during the final session. It was a fabulous event to watch. The lead changing hands and the match exceptionally close. Ross Taylor noted that his team was ahead after 96 boards, only to lose the final segment and the event. Ross of course was not complaining. My point is that at any given cut off point any team can win. The higher the number of boards favours (sic) one party.

We all understand in a Swiss match of 7 or 8 boards, anyone can win. Shit – I beat Barry Crane in a 7 board Swiss so David beating Goliath is hardly unheard of in a short session.

Over 128 boards – not a prayer.  If you happen to be leading Meckwell after 64 boards – is that not sufficient evidence to prove you deserve the title? Why just 128 – why not 32, 50, 64, 100, 180 or 256? How many is enough? Where did 128 come from? I would interested in knowing how the expert community feels. I do know many complain about the length of the events, but has anyone ever consulted within the expert community to determine a consensus? I would expect the higher up the food chain – the more such a player would prefer extended length. And like Baron, it has a corollary.

Is it tradition? (no)

At one time, the Spingold was a double elimination event, usually lasting nine or 10 sessions. It was scored by International Match Points and was restricted to players with 100 or more masterpoints. (Source-Wikipedia)

Why and when was it changed? I know the Spingold/Vanderbilt et. al. have the same 128 board format – which clearly favours the “superior” team. If I was on the superior team, I would sure prefer that format. However, on the off-chance you or I were an underdog (tough as it may be to believe) against the likes of Fred, Zia, Martel, (and in my case many of lesser rank), who wouldn’t prefer a shorter match?

That change (to 128) cannot have been an accident, it was by design. It seems to me that 128 boards in some ways is akin to 120 minute NFL football game or an 18 inning baseball game. It provides the favourite a home field advantage. I suspect the law-makers and decision makers being of the elite rank deliberately installed this format to mitigate the Cinderella factor. And why not? Who does said format favor? We all know the answer to that.

My questions are assuming the final for a major event:

1) Is 128 too long?

2) Does 64 suffice?

3) Is 32 adequate?

3) If yes or no to 1 ,2 or 3 – what number is best? Why?




Remember Bud Fox in Wall Street screaming at Gordon Gekko – “how much is enough Gordon??????”

Of course Gekko doesn’t see it in that light, but it is a fair question – how much is enough?







So Hard Done By

                        The Tragically Hip – So Hard Done By



From: Robert S Wolff

Sent: Friday, February 12, 2010 8:47 PM

To: Cameron French

Cc: kay

Subject: Re: Kind Words


 Hi Cam,

 To merely just thank you for your kind words would not begin to do justice.

We, being kindred spirits, know or at least should know, feeling alone while espousing a spirited cause.  While the lonliness doing that might suggest that no one else agrees, in reality it, especially in current bridge related disputes, merely indicates that few in the middle of the storm can afford to agree because of the fear of personal and financial retribution. Such is now the norm in our corrupted professional bridge scene.

The ugliness will not last forever, but surviving until it abates is testing.  Is it worth it?—probably not. So will we surrender? Not even a blip on either of our radar screens!

Judy and I know we have great friends and total believers.  You are right at the top of our trenchmates.

Thanks for your special countenance.





Bobby – I hereby grant you the right to revoke any and all nice things you might have said about me. Like you – I have a passion. As far as I can tell, (talking as a writer) I owe no one, and if I agree with you or whoever, I reserve the right to disagree down the road too. That is the way it has to be.

Unfortunately the latest diatribe from your beloved was so far out in left field – I could no longer control myself. Forgive me, for I may have sinned. 

Judy – you are in a league of you own. When will you provide one shred of evidence to support any your allegations? You better skip to the end – reading those you disagree with is just not your cup of tea. Then you can spew forth hostile words, and say “get a life” and imagine that the reader does not just accept your word as a given.



Judy Kay-Wolff May 22nd, 2010 at 11:03 am writes:



Apparently Bobby had responded to your comment long after I had retired for the night. He was far too kind to you.

I guess that is a crime. Sorry Bobby – we are charging you with “excessive kindness”. (The good news is – you are unlikely to be convicted.)

So let me show how petty, mean and vindictive someone can be.

Since this was your first time blogging, I suggest in the future you get your facts straight.

Is that a fact or an opinion? And whether or not it is Michaels’s first time blogging is moot. He has been around the block, coached our National Ladies Team, played in World Championships and acquits himself with decorum – something you might learn from.

Bobby was talking about the eighties and nineties and you are philosophizing about recent times.

“Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”


Bobby was born in Texas but has resided in Nevada for the last five years. Your reference to Texas BS couldn’t be farther from the truth. Bobby has never been guilty of BS as he shoots straight from the hip and has damn good aim. Ask anyone who knows him.

I vote with Michael on the Texas BS – and though I didn’t ask – people, connected ones like former team mates,  BOD members, friends, associates even more than one former President of the ACBL have all said the same to me. The message – Bobby is (surprise) not as pure as the driven snow and in fact is a manipulative, scheming SOB who has left a trail of enemies in his wake. One referred to Bobby’s “scorched earth policy”, another saying his psyche “snapped” when thrown overboard by Nickell and company. So your following sentence is hyperbole – hardly “fact”. Certainly his politics, if not personal and private actions have made enemies. Now no doubt some cheaters he helped boot (and re-admit) are on the enemies list, but so are former friends, team mates, associates, players, BOD executives and a barrage of individuals offended, mistreated, lied to, betrayed…I guess that is how one makes enemies.

He is more qualified to judge this subject than anyone in the world (emphasis added) as he has served as President of both the ACBL and WBF, being active since the sixties — maybe before you were born. I have no clue. (editor’s prerogative)

whom you are or your age.

And that speaks to knowing the “facts” I suppose.

There is no doubt Canada had great representation with Eric and Sami in the sixties and seventies when I first came on the scene, welcomed on U. S. teams by my late husband, Norman Kay and his partner, Edgar Kaplan.

I have news or “facts” if you prefer. Oddly neither American nor Canadian teams are anointed. Even back in the day, ERM and Sami earned their way on, often through pairs trails and were welcomed by most team mates as able competitors. Your choice of words “welcomed” would be better served with “qualified for North American Championships” (as they were known), not appended for their charming personalities.

No pair ever better represented their country as a partnership both in talent and ethics.

Which is why I guess you took great offence to the ERM “Stoney” yarn and ranted on and on about Sami’s “180 turn” about his testimony for his “mentor” at the Foster-Bourne committee. Your words ring hollow.

Unfortunately, they had other barriers to overcome.

What might those be? The partnership of Kaplan/Kay and/or others who qualified? Evidence please.

Drive up and say so, name some names; no better yet throw a tantrum, slag me.

My answer – screw the laws, (emphasis added) the rules and the unyielding, less-knowledgeable directors and re-write the format to reflect justice and equity.

You just have to look at the above and either laugh or cringe.

Oddly, the rules were designed to restore equity, and society not just bridge is founded upon laws. Without laws there can be no justice. So as for “screw the laws” – how about just the ones you don’t like – and which ones might they be? Too bad every director does not have Solomon-like wisdom and once he sees you (or Bobby) at the table – announces a verdict in your favour before bothering with any facts – heck- screw the laws! You must be right.

And while we’re on the subject of tired yarns, this “dog with a bone” grows weary of your whining about all your real or imagined directorial transgressions. Get over it. You imagine that you are the only one in the bridge universe who has had an adverse ruling, and of course, it was a gigantic conspiracy of malicious and vindictive directors/players/administrators and enemies. You make Oliver Stone sound like a conspiracy buff, and all against you and Bobby. Tired, old, passé.

The ruling against Bobby (as presented by you) is ludicrous. So what?

David Sacks asks for a committee when cheated out of a National title for a hand by the cheaters and does not get his even get his day in court! Tell Zeke and Capp next time you see them how offended you were or are you? Nah – it’s just a tired tale by a “dog with a bone”.

In baseball, umpires make mistakes, as they do in hockey, football, soccer and in life. Pilot error and navigator mistakes can result in air and marine disasters. Human beings make mistakes. Directors and by extension committees make mistakes. You are not alone, ask Fox Mulder.

Why is it so hard for so many to hear the real truth and accept what happened? How would I know or even begin to be sure that corruption occurred? All I do know are the results and sad though it may be, Canada’s bridge administrators should be ashamed for not getting more competent players (doing whatever it took) to get it done…

I think Michael and Fred (and I in the past) have addressed this. Those who represented our nation (Canada) did so through this archaic system we call “qualifying”. Like democracy, it’s not perfect and sometimes EOK, Silver, ERM, Gowdy, Kehela, Sheardown, Elliot, Mittleman, Gitelman, Graves, Molson, Baran, JC, Hampson, Wolpert did not prevail. So sue us – and get over it. Talk about a dog with a bone – you have the cajones to call it a disgrace. Well you were partly right – it is a disgrace the way you malign our representatives. The bottom line is – whoever emerged out of this country did so because they earned the right to do so.

For years, Bobby fought to have the Canadians field their best players in the International Events instead of filling the chairs with the lesser lights that included several political figures.

What a crock of crap. That sounds like our senators and parliamentarians hijacked the event to suit their needs. Maybe Bobby was right – our best did not always prevail. Meckwell doesn’t win every event. Neither does Hamman, or Zia or Fred or anyone. So what? Are there any names of “politicians” you can put forth? Maybe you should check some facts, name some names, and produce some evidence before shooting your mouth off. Na, you just prefer to quote Bobby’s resume as evidence. And as impressive as it may be – that is not evidence.

Fred, if he ever gives up bridge might join our diplomatic corps. He soft pedals delicately but if you read him you will see he feels no “shame” nor should he for our national representatives. So bury that bone. It’s over, Rover.

I will wager Michael and Fred and most Canadians will agree with this – whoever represented our country did so the old fashioned way – through qualifying and did so with pride. There is no shame in not winning at the world level and we do not share your anger nor feel the “shame” you seem to feel we so richly deserve. Get over it. 

I ask the Canadians – are you “ashamed”, like Bobby Wolff of our international representatives?

And I ask the others – should we be ashamed as Bobby claims?

(I will insert here that murray and Kehela were 2ND in three Burmuda Bowls (66/67/74) and World team Olympiads (1960, 7th, 1964, 4th, 1968, 3rd, 1972, 3rd) representing Canada. )

As for the laws – well Judy you can “screw them” all you like. Hope it makes you happy.

Now – I want my bone back.




Drive Up

                                                                 Cars – Drive

Dear Bobby and Judy,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The truth is painfully easy.

1) They cheated through unlawful communication.

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

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

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

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

Truscott said this about the verdict:

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

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

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

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

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

Then Judy wieghed in with this:

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

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

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

 I cite one example of “downplaying” his opinions.

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

One more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back them up or apologize.

Both of you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Didn’t think so.  

Please – drive up.







Humour, like art or music is a subjective thing. Some love Boccelli,


others prefer U2 (

or something in between. I dare say in bridge humor is subjective too. I love reading Eddie Kantar, Phillip and Robert King and Victor Mollo because they make me laugh. These morsels did too.

Would you open with: ♠ AQ93 ♥10873 ♦AJ86 ♣4?

Would Al Roth?

The answers are of course yes and no. 

According to Roy Hughes again (soon I will be asking for royalties for pumping his great book) “A greatly agitated Al Roth gave his views on the Canadian bidding methods to Edgar Kaplan.

“You may admire their contracts and results, admonished Edgar, but never, never under any circumstances inquire how they got there!”

Charles Goren reported the following conversation…….

”This one gave me a problem,” said Eric. “I pick up: ♠ AQ93 ♥10873 ♦AJ86 ♣4. What do you open?”  he asked Roth.

“You can’t open,” said Roth.

“Well,” said Murray “I opened one heart.”

Roth winced. “Then Sami said two diamonds,” continued Murray.

“Don’t tell me you bid two spades on that rubbish,” said Roth.

“No, I didn’t think my hand was that good” said Murray. “I said three diamonds. Sami tried four clubs, and I almost cue bid my spade ace, but instead I said four diamonds and Sami carried on to five.”

Roth looked even more unsettled. Here are the hands, rotated for convenience.         





Rapėe                                                                          Lazard

KJ85                                                                               1072

J954                                                                                 A62

7                                                                                      Q42

Qj52                                                                                 K983                                           






Sami played the hand well…..and Murray had hardly finished explaining when Roth said “I know that hand. We played it, and what I don’t understand is that anyone who can play bridge with somebody who bid that hand the way you did.”

“Oh” said Murray. “Well what did you play the hand in?”

“Two diamonds, making seven,” said Roth, as he stalked away.”

The author notes Murray and Kehela were the only ones to reach five diamonds.

Edgar was right; don’t ask how they got there.



Sami Kehela reported that he was chatting with Garozzo and Forquet when the latter “abruptly” interrupted to ask:

“Who, in your opinion is the best bridge player in the world?”

I thought I had an answer to that one.

MURRAY” said I.

Fool,” said he. It is Forquet. And the second best? ”

“Murray?” I ventured less confidently.

“No. It is Forquet. And the third best is Forquet also.”


Fool indeed…. 



Kehela had tongue firmly in cheek when he wrote up this hand and the ensuing dialogue.                  





 XX                                                                            J9X

KJX                                                                            A97XX

AQ8                                                                          J19XX

J97XX                                                                        X                       





South         West       North        East

The Man    Rubin     Kehela     Feldesman  

Pass             Pass         1♠             Pass

2♣                dble         2♠             Pass

3NT           All Pass


There are some who might consider South’s second bid a little forward, but it was a clear cut call for “neck or nothing Murray”. West led a low club and it was only a matter of minutes before Murray realized that it would not gain to let this lead come around to his hand. In a flash it came to him that his best chance for ninth trick – providing the spades behaved – lay in the king of diamonds. Assuming a nonchalant air he called for a low diamond from dummy, losing the king to the ace. West unsportingly switched to hearts and the defence quickly took nine tricks in the red suits.

“One down?” offered Mr. Rubin facetiously.

 “No, we made it,” said Mr Feldesman.



As Reader’s Digest says, laughter is the best medicine.  



Loving You Ain’t Easy

                     Michel pagliaro – Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy


Judy wrote:

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!

…. The gist of it was that I felt it was tasteless and downright cruel to recant that story about a bridge icon like Tobias Stone. Most of the world’s bridge populace (writers, authors, columnists, so-called experts or wannabes who blog or comment) don’t and will never play well enough to have shined Stoney’s shoes in his prime. Besides, just like all of us, I am sure there are countless Cameron French bridge atrocities you would not want to see publicized on a world bridge site. It was you, not I, shooting below the belt, and I felt it was totally indiscreet — and perhaps one more example of the Canada v. U. S. undercurrent which seems to be the prime subject of your recent offerings.

I don’t share your mean sense of humor and I really don’t give a rat’s ass if it were written by Roy Hughes or J.C., but history has shown that such action soothes the egos of those who inwardly feel inferior — but by attempting to make others look smaller — resultantly enhance their own image (from their personal vantage point). Shame on you for picking on a ninety-one year old revered Hall of Famer who was brilliant, ethical and played by the rules!______________________________________________________________________________

BOBBY WOLFF   April 10th, 2010 at 12:03 am   


Hi Cam,

It is not my intention to take a side in the flap about Murray v. Stone mainly because, assuming there is pent up emotion about many things in competitive bridge, including either saving face or being extra careful about hurting feelings, one would have to be a psychological magician to avoid some of these conflicts while blogging.

{Or a husband, and I think we all understand that this dialogue started with what I felt was a humourous story, not any of the peripheral issues you discuss below. But you asked for answers, I will comply. I hope you (and Judy) will do the same in kind.}

HOWEVER, perhaps you can explain to me how others, in this case your Canadian (probably but not for sure) friends who in one blogging breath accuse me of contrived traits from here to izzard, without any real knowledge of anything, except that perhaps they think it fashionable. Then when presented with the facts, which they KNOW are true, either clam up or vanish. Then when the case of Canada on the international scene is documented for them to have finished as my blog said they did for all those years and furthermore learning how weak their teams have been, with weak playing bridge politicians preempting spots on the team, all in spite of being blessed with the most favored position in the whole rest of the world (largely due to my original influence) and then investigating (which should be easy for them) but never commenting or, of course apologizing for standing around doing nothing, but only readying themselves for the next fictitious accusation. As an aside, can you imagine how embarrassing those putrid finishes were for me to accept (and for well over a decade) since I was a representative of Zone 2.

As I am sure you especially are aware, I could pursue these sad character traits with them until eternity but why should I? It is hard to imagine how they could have any self-esteem left, but my nose tells me differently and I suspect tomorrow it will continue to be business, as usual.

Then when I see you and Judy exchanging ugly emails about at least perceived differences in interpretation on reporting bridge, it gets very hard to stomach. At least your back and forth is based on differences in degrees of bridge reporting, not outright untruths, contrived motives and downright absurdities without ever responding to Canada’s shameful international past.

Furthermore, when I reported to you about the Kehela appearance in the Foster Tribunals you spoke of libel before you even checked it out. Were you trying to show your friends how patriotic you are or were you just joining them with your theatre of the ABSURD!

The end result is that I am thoroughly confused who you are. Very recently I thought you and I were good friends with you realizing that, when I relate a bridge happening it is with full knowledge of telling the truth. Evidently you do not feel that way and perhaps it is bcause of who your bridge friends really are. If you still feel differently, I would appreciate you informing me what I have told you which wasn’t 100% true.

Sorry for the unpleasantness, but when you start questioning my integrity, I take it seriously.






Every human being floats, so to speak, in an invisible sea of mental complexes-be they that of inferiority or superiority. An inferiority complex is like a delicate wound that never heals completely, and at the Bridge table, it is especially apt to be irritated  because other social beings are present.

Ely Culbertson

 (This and the below quote are taken from The Devil’s Tickets, by Gary M. Pomerantz.)



Dear Bobby and Judy,



I agree our perceived and real differences deserve to be aired. Thank you for inviting discussion.

I have difficulty much of both essays, like failing to address a few simple questions and making unfounded allegations starting with, for example “who you and your friends are”………

Anyone who has posted here has NEVER run anything past me, asked for an opinion or consent or posted whatever they want except for, by and of themselves. I have never met Jeff Smith, although I know of him; nor Blair – no idea what country he might live in. David Cravioto and David Turner are life-long friends (which I conceded happily) and we do not agree on much.

I think your anger comes from Mr. Richardson, who I have met but we don’t talk, meet, play bridge or fraternize whatsoever. I think he spoke from his heart, with emotion and anger, as sometimes we all do. I do, you do and he did. For example, he perceived (and he is hardly alone) of your dislike of Canadians and Canadian bridge as published in your book and above. You reacted with anger, proclaiming yourself (as Zone 2 rep and the architect of our cake-walk passage to the international theatre) as Canada’s best friend. The fact that this coin has two sides does not make one side superior to the other; that is for the reader to assess. Whether you or I like it or agree or disagree is moot – it is a matter of perception.

I will give you a better example. Sontag sits down against his opponents (not you of course) and tells them what he expects and what he  or will not tolerate at the table providing an ethics lesson. You and Judy saw this Sontag spiel as “leveling the field” and a somehow all but a courageous act. Many of the rest of us saw it differently, as a flagrant attempt at bullying and showing complete disregards for the Laws and spirit of the game. You saw an expert player exercising self-defence against cheating; others (me included) saw arrogance and intimidation. let’s be frank – he is not giving that speech to you, Meckwell, Martel or Helgemo. It is a matter of perception.

Different strokes for different folks. (Maybe I need a new song, Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone.)

As for:

HOWEVER, perhaps you can explain to me how others, in this case your Canadian (probably but not for sure) friends who in one blogging breath accuse me of contrived traits from here to izzard, without any real knowledge of anything, except that perhaps they think it fashionable.

I can’t explain why any contributor said what they said beyond this – it was their opinion and they chose to express it. I can’t explain when you are asking me about apparent insults, when this is about a funny story as told by Eric Murray. Now if you imagine like Oliver Stone that this mastermind has somehow coerced or collaborated with those who spoke – well, you give me too much credit. Like Bigfoot a great legend, just not a lot of substance there.

As an aside, can you imagine how embarrassing those putrid finishes were for me to accept (and for well over a decade) since I was a representative of Zone 2.

No sir,  I can’t imagine. So what – less than world class teams finished with modest results? Ain’t that a shame? With all of your assistance, we should have strolled to the final, with title in hand. Sorry we let you down.

I did notice that you and Judy played avoidance with the language and innuendo issues (shoe-polishers, disgusting, mean, etc.) , and instead turned the tables to me, my motives, my character, my honesty, my co-conspirators, “friends” some of whom I am yet to meet!

Sometime (frankly too often) it is as if disagreeing with you and Judy is so wrong as to be dismissed outright and with derision. I point to the tone of the language “despicable, disgusting, mean”. You both have strong opinions, but no one, not even the Wolff family has a monopoly on the truth.

Judy’s history lesson notwithstanding, my experience (no lesson here, I resist although I am a teacher) tells me an angry, agitated and desperate person uses insults, innuendo, threats, hearsay and fury to bolster a weak argument. I have tried to steer clear of the Rush Limbaugh game plan.

When asked would one feel the same if ERM’s “victim” was Belladonna or Garozzo, what is the answer? Well the rest of us, and you and Judy too know that all too well. Why silence?

When asked how can a hand be mean? Avoidance, dodge and tackle is the non-response.

When asked if the “victim” was 21 or 31 or 55 or deceased – would it then be OK?  What answer?

How can anyone make so many (mean/disgusting….) disparaging accusations and then when asked for clarification play possum?

When asked if “moron, idiot and ignorant” are part of the Laws – silence.

You can’t have it both ways.

If you (or more fairly Judy) want to dive into the mud and slag the dirt, then be prepared to answer to justify your accusations. You can throw as much crap against the wall as you like – but at the end of the day the reader looks to facts, not unsubstantiated and baseless accusations. Granted, most of these are from your beloved, but you seem to be picking up the torch.

Can we not agree to disagree without descending to Karl Rove politics of slander and innuendo?

We have agreed on many things, and we have disagreed on many others. We chatted briefly about the women’s sign in China. To the unfamiliar, I am not elaborating. To be frank, I thought you exploded with wrath, and given your way might have had them drawn and quartered before sundown. I felt like applauding their patriotic act. You considered it treasonous. Both positions were at the polar end of the spectrum, and neither of us was right.

When I got your response, I felt the passion, and in spite of what seemed to me to be excessive anger, I came to see how you saw it. I learned from you. In the end, cooler heads prevailed, and I think we all learned a lesson, that this was neither the time nor the place. Another lesson, some learned better than others is that free speech is not a trained dog that rolls over on cue and once in a while it needs to run off the range. Cowboys don’t like that. Libertarians do.

And although you and Judy answered none of my questions, I tried to answer yours. Perhaps you can extend me the same courtesy. Let’s remember, this was about a funny (not for one) Eric Murray story. It is not about Bobby Wolff, or me or Stoney. You, come back to you.

At least your back and forth is based on differences in degrees of bridge reporting, not outright untruths, contrived motives and downright absurdities without ever responding to Canada’s shameful international past.

Well thanks. As for Canada’s “shameful international past”, well…beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I suspect others, starting with Canadians might beg to differ with your assessment.

Why is it that Canada can kick the world’s butt at hockey or curling, but gets hammered in just about every other venue? Well, this may be tough to accept, we have one tenth America’s population and for a start – that gives her ten times more candidates to draw from – be it track and field  (like Carl Lewis/Marion Jones), or baseball (like McGuire/Canseco/Clemens and Bonds) or soccer or tidily-winks. So what? We don’t whine about our lowly status, and in bridge our best, yes even Murray and Kehela playing with your compatriots were never quite good enough to capture a World title. This much I know – every competitor who represented this country did so to the best of their ability. That evokes pride, but you feel our accomplishment level “shameful”. I beg to differ.

One measly example: Murray and Kehela’s record, I only include the highlights.

Bermuda Bowl, representing North America

1966. St. Vincent   second

1967  Miami          second

1974  Venice         second

World Olympiads representing Canada include two third place finishes, one fourth, one seventh.

World Open Pairs and Rosenblum Cup; fifth, fifth, third.

We might call America foreign soil, there they (M/K) only have three Spingolds, a Vanderbilt and qualified twice for the International Team Trials.

Now maybe on occasion some upstart teams dethroned them when it came to Canadian team Trials, and sometimes they were added by compatriots. I suggest that the modest partial listing of accomplishments above is anything but shameful.

ERM used to brag that he knew more national anthems than anyone, always a bridesmaid, never a bride. And you know what – that is OK. We have had great teams compete, and lesser teams do so too. Our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967. Is that shameful? Leaf fans think so. But life soldiers on. What about the Cubs – and the curse of the goat? The shadow of The Bambino looked down upon the Fenway fateful for almost a century. Sometimes the favourite wins and sometimes Cinderella prevails. Maybe our talent level wasn’t quite good enough, especially facing cheaters. Sorry.

I certainly feel proud, hardly “ashamed” of my fellow citizens for their international bridge accomplishments. You felt that Canada did not field its best players for many years and the results were predictable. Well, the problem is again – the rules. Not counting the fact that you feel we have been cheated by the Blue Team for decades. Perhaps “shameful” might apply better to cheaters than to competitors who gave their all and were swindled out of titles.

I begged George Retek and Jonathon Steinberg to allow my handpicked elite team of Murray and Kehela, EOK and Silver, and anchor pair – French and Schmo to represent our country.  They explained that for some silly reason our champions were neither appointed nor anointed. They had to qualify through competition and somehow our team, though clearly superior, was too often knocked out. I thought that very unfair and in direct conflict of your wish that we field the strongest possible team.

You see incompetence. We see competition and accomplishment. Different lenses.

Furthermore, when I reported to you about the Kehela appearance in the Foster Tribunals you spoke of libel before you even checked it out. Were you trying to show your friends how patriotic you are or were you just joining them with your theatre of the ABSURD!

As for the above, you are right that I had not checked it out. I am doing so right now. I have sent private mail (the old-fashioned way) to Sami. Will keep you posted. And, no – I wasn’t trying to join the theatre nor prove how patriotic I am. Is that how you demonstrate patriotism? I don’t even know them – let alone know whether or not they are Canadian. But it is funny of you to say so. I am calling Oliver right now for the movie – Conspiracy Kingpin.

The end result is that I am thoroughly confused who you are.

As Popeye says – “I yam who I yam”. 

Very recently I thought you and I were good friends with you realizing that, when I relate a bridge happening it is with full knowledge of telling the truth. Evidently you do not feel that way and perhaps it is because of who your bridge friends really are.

My friends are granted this wonderful thing – the ability to speak for themselves. What anyone has said here was at their own behest. And should a friend, or an acquaintance or a stranger agree or disagree – so be it. With friends, one does not jump to conclusions nor ratchet up the rhetoric and innuendo, not counting the adjectives. And just to clarify, the vast majority of people who posted on this thread are not my friends, and spoke independently of me.

If you still feel differently, I would appreciate you informing me what I have told you which wasn’t 100% true. 

What I have tried to do is this – explain that we all come from different backgrounds and viewpoints. You have a unique standing given your decades of experience. Still, you and Edgar disagreed on “dumping”, and I dare say within the bridge community (not just those at the top) there are a multitude of issues – from conventions to cheating that are seen differently. Roth-Stone versus Cohen-Bergen, four or five card majors, weak or strong no trumps and that is but the tip of the iceberg.

Sorry for the unpleasantness, but when you start questioning my integrity, I take it seriously.

With all due respect – I think that is the best line in your reply. I think you should take it seriously, and I respect that.

I respect it by trying to answer your questions and allegations.

I respect by not diving into the word dumpster with belittling adjectives.

I respect it by explaining friends can agree to disagree and still be friends. If my wife tells me she just bought stunning lingerie from Victoria’s Secret for $800 I might not agree, but I hope I will respect and love her just the same. 

Judy wrote:

Your lengthy explanation and continuing pride in being the “messenger” of such an “amusing” story has caused me to lose all respect I ever had for you. Perhaps I should be blaming Eric Murray as well. Some people derive pleasure at the expense of others. That is not my creed and I pray I never change.

I am saddened that you feel that way, but I respect her right to say so. I hope I do change or more accurately evolve, as a player, writer, father, husband and citizen. Hopefully for the better, but that remains to be seen.

I confess I am so low as to pull this out.

 Hi Cam,

When a person is right, he is right, and you are that person.

(Bobby Wolff)

Now granted, that was a different context. I am still the same person, maybe just as right, maybe not. Somehow, overnight I hope I did not morph into a “cruel, mean, despicable” person. Judy may as well have said – when we agree you are the cat’s meow. When we don’t  – well the vindictive speaks for itself.

Then this shot across the bow.


You miss my point completely. It has nothing to do with giving the hand to experts. I am not interested in anyone’s critique of the auction or play. It was strictly Mr. French’s insensitivity to making an aged bridge legend the goat of his tale. Maybe that provided pleasure for him. I found it offensive. I have a great sense of humor — but this exceeded my limits. His tattered “Norfolk” mission has gotten to be old hat so maybe this is his new theme — poking fun at others publicly. Whatever floats one’s boat!


 Well, Judy – you make me laugh, you really do have a good sense of humor. I am sure you missed Jeff’s point and mine as you felt he missed yours. No one was a goat. As for my “tattered Norfolk mission” – please tell that to your good friend Zeke who suffered for three decades before the truth was revealed. I may have belabored the point, but I see it this way – just making up for lost time.

And you know what – I think we need people to say Kenny Gee’s punishment was a joke, that when cheaters who are allowed to retain unlawfully won titles it represents a stain upon our game and that maybe our system of justice needs a makeover. So,” tattered” or not – no apologies here for telling a story.

And no – there is no “new theme”. Sorry to disappoint. My canoe floats quite well thank you. It allows me to sneak up on those largemouth bass, one of my preferred species.

To end this on a positive note, I quote with some modest modifications to the text.

“As is well known, the author, writer, player Bobby Wolff   has certain well defined views….. This does not mean that those holding opposite views will be excluded from the presentation in this magazine.

Quite the contrary is true. It is in the crucible of conflict that the truth is proven.”  

 Ely Culbertson






 PS. You are quite right to take offence to alleged assaults to your integrity. That is why “mean, disgusting, shoe-licking”, well you get the point) disappoint – no – insult me. If that wasn’t an assault upon integrity, please sign me up for some Nevada desert -soon to be home to an upscale subdivision.

















96 Tears

                                  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 sumbit it in the spirit ERM reveled in it, pure, unadulterated joy. Stony’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.

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood


                         Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

                           (Click above to play the music)


You are a member of team Great Britain, in Monaco, 1976 Bermuda Bowl fighting desperately for a medal.

With one match to go and the gold medal within reach (20 VPs available per match) the standings are:

Italy  645

Brazil  634

Great Britain  629

As the team presently in third place, you will need some luck from other countries, specifically the opponents who face Italy and Brazil.

Your squad wins handily and awaits the verdict of the others. Only a gold medal or silver medal is at stake – nothing serious. You find out that Canada (though well out of contention) was playing Brazil. That is good news as Murray/Kehela were well known as anchors for an always tough contingent. Brazil scores an easy triumph, and then it comes out that Canada sat Murray/Kehela in this match. It meant nothing to them – and everything to you. Are you disappointed, upset or enraged?

Was it ethical of Canada to sit its star pair under these circumstances?

Would it be ethical under some circumstances? 

Ponder that for a moment and put yourself in the shoes of the aggrieved.

it is difficult to imagine what circumstances might justify such a decision. Surely fatigue, or business committments or some other modest alibi does not do justice to the moment. It turned out though, the Canadians had a very compelling justification.

Out of contention early, the other four members of the Canadian team had requested to play against the Blue team, as Kehela/Murray had many times before and the others may never see a like chance again. That request was granted. So someone considered it might be fairest to align against Brazil the same foursome that engaged Italy.

Did it soften the blow? I doubt it. But it demonstrated that unlike dumping (which is another fetid kettle of fish) that sportsmanship was alive and well at the upper echelons of the game.

Were Canada’s actions ethical? I will wager Brazil thought so, probably Italy too. Maybe the Brits, well known for their sense of “fair play” (Reese/Shapiro notwithstanding) may well have reconsidered given all the facts. Knowing that extra little morsel about the line-up vs. Italy makes all the difference. One second I sit high on above with a disparaging perspective. The next, I am gazing back with admiration.

You be the judge.




This is adapted from an account by Roy Hughes in Canada’s Bridge Warriors available through Masterpont Press.

Collateral Damage VIII


                       Give It Away Now

                                            02 Give It Away

                                                                     (click to hear the music)


When cheaters infest our game, we all suffer a loss. A loss of face, of faith and a scar etched upon our collective psyche that should serve to remind. And it is not just the cheaters that offend but their partners, team mates or sponsors who collaterally tarnished – are invariably cast into a less than favourable light.

Cheating in bridge is not like cheating in baseball. In baseball you try to feign the fact that you caught the ball, when it hit the turf or that you tagged the runner when really you missed. Of course in baseball they don’t call it cheating; it’s part of parcel of the game. It’s “anything for an edge” also known to us aficionados as “Billy-Ball.”

Bridge is different, although hardly unique. In bridge ethics and etiquette are woven into the fabric of the game. It is against the laws of the game to be rude to your partner or opponents. Private agreements when withheld from the opponents are unlawful. And the worst crime is of course is “unlawful communication” which is a lawyer’s euphemism for cheating.

In golf, a player is expected to call a penalty on himself, if for example he touched the ball with his wedge prior to blasting out of a sand trap. Golf enforces ethical acts as it is not only expected, but demanded. A player who signs a wrong scorecard, even one to his detriment (73 vs. 72) is disqualified from the event. Bridge players are expected to be held to a like standard, but some don’t see it that way.

Somehow in bridge we have never grappled successfully with cheating. We have our rules, committees and lawyers, but it is the bastard child which keeps knocking at the door long after we thought we were rid of him. With one hand out – he will never go away. How do we rid ourselves of this reoccurring nightmare?

Sadly, I doubt cheating will ever go away. Deterrence won’t work, since cheaters, like shoplifters never imagine that they will get caught. And should they, well the penalties (just ask Kenny Gee) are minimal, more face-saving than punitive. My sense is we need to start over and assess the state of the union.

For one, we need to change the culture of the game. How do we do that? I think we launch from ground zero and re-examine how we cope with it. For starters, if we treat it as a petty offense, well it is bound to be seen as such by cheaters and the bridge community at large.

In The Bulletin of August, 1979 ACBL President Leo Spivak writing about Sion and Cokin said:

 “Prearranged Improper Communication. The gravest possible offence against propriety is for a partnership to exchange information through prearranged methods of communication other than those sanctioned by these Laws….… gets an important message to the members of the American Contract Bridge League, namely, that we shall vigorously pursue any breaches of the proprieties or instances of cheating that are brought to our attention.”

If President Spivak was correct, and he is – then the “gravest possible offence” cannot be dealt with anything but the harshest possible sanctions. Slaps on the wrists just don’t cut it, though Kenny Gee, his partner and team mates and hordes of others might beg to differ.

Professionalism has entrenched itself – it is not running away. And as Edgar predicted it would be “an inducement to the unscrupulous.” Most of us not at the pinnacle do not derive our livelihood from the game; it is a fabulous hobby, a recreational treat. Our professional players need to lead the way by shunning and outing cheats. We call our bridge experts professionals not mercenaries because with professionalism comes an onus, a responsibility to comport oneself with the highest standards of their vocation. Here is an idea – if you are not 100 % convinced of your partner or teammates’ legitimacy, play with someone else.

And should you (as a player) discover or suspect that your teammates or partner is cheating, do the Spike Lee – The Right Thing and help the authorities gather evidence to exonerate or convict. You owe that to the game, yourself, and the rest of us. Then you voluntarily renounce all Masterpoints, titles, victories you have accrued with said partners or team mates. You distance yourself from a leper. Is it ethical to retain unlawfully won titles? Of course not, but were Kenny’s partners and team mates stripped of their ill-gotten gains for the same period he was? (I don’t pretend to know, but I doubt it while hoping so.)  

This may sound revolutionary but it isn’t. Is it not incumbent upon all players to play the game in a lawful and ethical fashion? Of course – so why on earth would world class champions like Peter Weichsel and Alan Sontag cling to an unlawfully won title? The answer is – because they can. Our rules were circumvented, our ethics breached and in this case (Norfolk 1979) there is absolutely zero doubt that this title was accrued by the unlawful actions (ok, cheating) of their team mates Steve Sion and Alan Cokin. (For readers not acquainted with this story please see

When Collateral Damage was published, it fostered a wide range of dialogue within the expert community. One Nickell team member asked Mike Cappelletti “how much are you paying that guy Cam French?” The answer is – not enough, in fact nothing at all.  Mike I am sending you a big bill. Please pony up. One Bridge World executive member mused to me somewhat cryptically “people are talking.” I think Martha says it well with “and that’s a good thing.”

The victims in this case, (Cappelletti/Feldman/Hann/Hoffner/Jabbour/Sacks) were both horrified and pleased. They were aghast to discover that the League had lied, abused their fiduciary trust and thwarted their attempts to claim that which was justly theirs. They were happy to see their story in print and welcomed the fact that the bridge community might learn of their case.

Some closely affiliated with Sontag were naturally perturbed and responded with venom and malice. He is by all accounts (unlike his then partner) a charismatic, fun loving, popular individual. Some tried to have me booted from the ACBL, the CBF and BBO employing the age old tactics of harassment and intimidation. No one criticized (in print anyway) the accuracy or fairness of the reporting; It was the messenger that dared to call a spade a spade. What does that say?

One sentiment conveyed to me through a third party was “who in the hell does he think he is to impeach the reputations of superstars like Sontag and Weichsel?” To that I answer simply – if Eddie Kantar or Michael Rosenberg or Phillip Alder had written CD – would the outrage be the same? OK – don’t laugh, we all know the answer. And sometimes when an outsider gains access to the inner sanctum, their perspective does not correlate to those so cloistered. And by writing a story, that invariably will cast characters in a spectrum of light; some will shine, others will pale. That is a judgment the readers must make for themselves. There was never any intention to impeach anyone’s reputation. Some might call that a collateral effect.

Peter Weichsel and Alan Sontag were approached (by players with loftier standing than me) to ask if they would care to renounce the title accrued through their cheating teammates before I said so in print. I wanted them to have the opportunity to comment. Weichsel feigned indifference – and said ”‘go to the ACBL.” Sontag’s answer is not suitable for reprint. That sent a message, and it is crystal clear.

Of course it would be nice if some of our elite players came out and endorsed the fact that team mates of convicted cheaters should renounce all gains accrued through unlawful means. Maybe they don’t feel that way – how about voicing an opinion? Can I name names – sure?

 Bobby Wolff, Barry Rigal, Andrew Robson, and Phillip Alder (I pick those because they are at the pinnacle of bridge journalism, as well as enjoying a world class rank as players) who might stand up and say something. At least Bobby has made is feelings clear calling the past “too painful” and having the cajones to explain why. See for details.)  And perhaps it is not really fair to single out those players; after all there is a rather extensive bridge community most of whom seem to prefer public silence.

I learned that Zeke Jabbour is held in esteem by experts everywhere. He is considered the ultimate professional (ranking 18th at last peek on the all-time ACBL Masterpoint holders) and he did not merit such respect on simply his handsome face and charming personality. It is his ethical decorum, his reputation for fairness and congeniality and his ability to draw the best out of his (often client) partners. Even though he knew he was swindled at Norfolk, he has always maintained that said episode was not about his team but about the game and how (can?) we learn from it. Personally – I would like him to stand up like the newsman in Network and scream “I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” That is not his agenda, nor his style. Maybe some of his friends might step to the podium.

Expert players should be leading the way. Some do, advocating ethics and backing up their words with actions. One episode comes to mind here in Toronto where a young aspiring player suspected his partner of bringing his own pre-dealt hands. I guess he saw one too many transfer the threat and squeeze the opponent type of hands.  But it led to the cheater’s conviction, aided by the authorities who were able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that yes indeed, our perpetrator was bringing his own home-cookin’ to the table (always first to arrive so he could “shuffle” in a team game) and insert his hand into the set. Sadly, too many covet their ill-gotten gains thumbing their noses at the heart of the game – fair play.

I hope the partners and team mates of Kenny were stripped of the same awards he was. Better yet, renounce them voluntarily as they were unlawfully won. Maybe we could all learn from this.

Anyone want to step up and renounce their unlawfully won awards? To Alan Sontag, Peter Weichsel, and Alan Cokin I ask – do you really want an unlawfully won title associated with all your other fabulous accomplishments?

If so – why? Why validate and profit from the efforts of cheaters? Is that really what you wish to say? Please Joe, say it ain’t so.

That is for you to decide. Maybe it is time to do the Spike Lee and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Give it away now.

Mieux vaut tard que jamais.



You Really Got Me

                             .The Kinks – You Really Got Me 

                                       (click on link for the musical accompaniment)


I love a good psyche, or a play or bid that demonstrates creativity in a unique and imaginative way. Recently I was the victim of a conspiracy between my RHO and my partner, who took the bait, hook, line, rod, reel and sinker. It was a perfect storm of duplicity, and I said that with admiration. Victor Mollo explored some of these like ploys in The Finer Arts of Bridge. A worthy read.

All vulnerable, imps, allegedly an expert game.

You hold:   3  K1083  AK103  K1097

You hear your partner in first chair open one heart. RHO passes, what is your call?

There are many choices including Jacoby 2NT, a splinter, 2 clubs, and 2 diamonds.

I don’t like two clubs because I fear a later lead-directing double if we reach six. Personally I think it is easier on partner, and auctions in general if you establish trumps and your general and type as early as possible, hence I would vote for Jacoby 2NT.

And you?

Bet you didn’t do what this person did. They chose to call one spade on their singleton! Of course psyching a higher ranking suit comes with extra risk, that you won’t be able to curtail your partner’s enthusiasm and control the auction. Look how things went from there.

 N       E     S     W

1H      P     1S!    P

1NT    P     2D   P

2NT    P      3C   P

3S       P     4NT   P


Now my partner holding: J106 AQ  Q4  65432 might have reflected that he had a better hand for poker than bridge. Seduced into believing that he had an apparent trump trick with his J1064 of spades, he decided to help my opening lead skills by directing me, with a double of 5hearts.

To my mind it is a silly double, reflecting a dire impatience and a profound lack of expertise (people do it with crappy holdings all the time), and this case, it may keep them out of their apparent slam in spades. If they get to 6 spades, and you feel the urge, you can certainly double that which will in all likelihood direct dummy’s first bid suit – hearts.

Well, a funny thing happened on the road to lead direction. To my partner’s horror, the auction proceeded Redouble, pass, pass back to him. He passed, and found himself on lead, and his queen of hearts not so favorably positioned.

N       E     S     W

1H      P     1S   P                                                                                                                        

1NT    P     2D   P

2NT    P      3C   P

3S       P     4NT   P

5H     Dble Rdble  All pass

The opponents quickly chalked up 1600 (a rare number) and the gloating started. I didn’t chastise or even comment to my partner, he was reeled in and too greedily grabbed the bait. South cast a spell and it worked brilliantly. I stayed at the table (we were drilling them before and after this result) and we had a nice game.

They would have bid and made a small slam anyways, so the loss should not have been so severe. Alas several NS pairs elected not to bid a slam missing the AQ of trumps and we paid the full price.

I love fishing, and once in a while – you catch a lunker. South nabbed a big one, but he should be careful, next time his partner might hang him by his own petard.  

The north hand held: A2  J9542  J52  AQ8 which played well opposite

                                   3  K1083  AK103  K1097

with the red queens onside and the jack clubs falling singleton.

How Long Has This Been Goin’ On?

How Long Has This Been Going On?

The ACBL amended the Disciplinary Code of Conduct so that when cheaters are discovered to have won an event, the title may be stripped from them. If so those below them in the standings do not advance in rank.

Now think about that for a second.

You have a vacant title, and no one is deemed worthy to have won the event?  I saw Tommy Lee Jones tell Clint Eastwood in Space Cowboys “every race has a winner and I’m winning this one.” Granted, Hollywood cliché, but pertinent to the theme.

Isn’t it strange that no one at the ACBL would say when this amendment was passed?

The justification for this decision is that the cheaters have tarnished the whole field – so who is to say what the outcome might have been had the cheaters not played? I think we all get that. This resolution strikes me as throwing the baby out with the bath water. What the powers to be in bridge don’t get – is that they are a party of one, adrift on an ice floe. This “solution” merely compounds the problem and satiates no one, save the cheaters. No wonder they don’t want to say when.

My good friend David Turner put his endorsement of the rationale this way:

Hi Cam,

I’ve been reading this saga with interest, and offer herewith my requested comments:

I don’t think vacating the title is a cop out, and consider it the proper move in this case. {Sadly, in this case, the title was never vacated. CF} A bridge team of 4 event is not auto racing or horse racing (where a disqualified winner is automatically replaced by the 2nd place finisher).

To illustrate my argument, suppose that the *direct* effect of Sion/Cokin’s cheating was zero against Hann’s team, but their “inspired play” cost the 3rd place finisher two full boards in the final (and maybe 2 more in the qualifying, to take it to ludicrous extremes). Who should be declared the event winner in that case? I can see no reason to conclude that Sion/Cokin’s cheating caused the 2nd place team to come second instead of first; it may have even caused their rank to be *inflated*!

Nope, to me the right solution is to vacate the title, cancel any trophy engraving and Masterpoint rewards for the winners, and close the case. In my example above, that would be manifestly unfair to the 3rd place team, but at least it avoids rewarding the admitted cheaters with the championship title. Events only have winners if they were conducted fairly and according to the rules. (emphasis added)

David – I have known you for 30 years and still love you. The fallacy of your conclusion is easily proven. You said:

Events only have winners if they were conducted fairly and according to the rules.

Horse-shit. Every non-bridge event (yes even many a bridge event) have winners, regardless of the ethics, actions, cheating, doping or whatever the transgressions of the participants. I think what you might have meant to say was non-offending bridge players cannot win in a tainted event. Would Joseph Heller laugh or cry?

I think what the jurists sought to achieve was bridge nirvana – perfection. A lofty if aunattainable goal. And if cheaters have competed, the event has been tainted, no doubt. So no winner – they didn’t win fair and square, so no other contestant can claim victory. We get that principle; the trouble is its collateral effect leaves the title bereft of a champion and despoils the event for all. Is that really what we want?

Now let’s look back at Norfolk for a moment. Team Sternberg still retains the title of BAM Norfolk 1979, despite having two (subsequently convicted) cheaters on their team. They later confessed and evidence was accrued (by Woolsey, Martel, and friends.) to document the cheating at this event. So in this case, there was indeed a “winner”; albeit a tainted one, but one nonetheless. Sontag, Cokin, Sternberg and Weichsel cling to that like Fred Biletnikoff to a Kenny Stabler pass. So our rules (or more accurately, the political whim of enforcing them) allow for an admitted cheating pair to retain the title – but no one else? The paradox therein is mind-numbing.

Bobby Wolff said this about Norfolk:

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, nor should there be in anyone’s mind, that Steve Sion and Alan Cokin as a partnership, cheated in Norfolk during the 1979 Fall Nationals and especially during the Board-a-Match Teams which they won, playing on a team with Jim Sternberg, Alan Sontag and Peter Weichsel. What else is new? Since the pair had been cheating for years before that and whatever their finish, whether it be in Nationals, Regionals, or Sectionals, (maybe even in club games), it totally distorted the final results.

Kit Woolsey writes:

“There is no dispute that Sion and Cokin were cheating. And there is no question that they were doing so in the BAM event, since that was the event where we gathered the data from which we were able to break a piece of their code. It is simply a political issue…. You don’t need to build more evidence. The facts aren’t in question”.

The code was broken at Norfolk, but that was a Pandora’s Box, best left untouched. Or so the League posited itself. Obviously events have winners whether or not they were conducted fairly. How many titles did the Italians, Reese-Shapiro, the Manoppo brothers, Ken Gee win unlawfully?  The list go on, how many have we stripped? Again, the sound of silence are deafening if you want an answer to that? I’ll give you one – precious few.

The legal (or is it something else, like political will) preclude the possibility of revisiting history. Like Satchel Paige said – “don’t look back.” Maybe that is the black hole in the rules. Don’t look back, we won’t like what we see so we cannot and will not go there. How is that for justice?

Bobby Wolff proposed to the WBF that all titles and masterpoints accrued by convicted cheaters be stricken from their record retroactively for as long as they played as a partnership. This applies to team mates as well. The WBF adopted this motion – which begs the question – why hasn’t the ACBL?

The ACBL can amend its rules and carp from the podium, but at the end of the day – cheaters have (and continue to) retain their unlawfully won championships. Why? The answer is – the bark doesn’t correspond to the bite. The ACBL talks the talk, but the walk is cut off at the knees. Here is the talk – and it goes back a while, but the song remains the same.

In The Bulletin of August, 1979 ACBL President Leo Spivak writing about Sion and Cokin said:  “Prearranged Improper Communication. The gravest possible offence against propriety is for a partnership to exchange information through prearranged methods of communication other than those sanctioned by these Laws….… gets an important message to the members of the American Contract Bridge League, namely, that we shall vigorously pursue any breaches of the proprieties or instances of cheating that are brought to our attention.”

What does it say to the membership, when “the gravest possible offence against propriety” goes unpunished, unrecognized and the perpetrators retain the fruits of their crimes? Sadder still, the League enabled the same. It should be an affront not just to the everyday rank and file, and the elected Board members and the executives we hire to manage our game. Is it? Or, because it was a long time ago, and we don’t want to go back there, let’s just let it slide. There are only two options, do something or do nothing. As Red said in Shawshank, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Of course every event in every sport deserves a winner. Everyone enters a tournament, championship or competition to win. Sure, it is nice to see old friends but at the end of the day, especially at the upper echelon of any game or sport, it is about winning. To stage an event and have the winner stripped of their title, and leave the title vacant; well that is an affront to the entire field. It may be politically correct (and/or solve some legal issues) but as a pragmatic solution; it stinks. The solution to elevate the second place (and others) up in rank isn’t perfect. Perfection was out of reach thanks to cheaters who contaminated the results. But it is logical, has precedent and prevents the cheaters from stealing the whole event from everyone. It is the best of a bad lot.

Imagine another event or sport where there is no winner or a title vacant exists. If Dale Earnhardt rams the race-leader Jeff Gordon, knocking him out of the race, causing a ten car crash and is deemed to have violated the rules, someone (maybe not Earnhardt or Gordon) still wins the race. Is the whole field compromised? I will wager more drivers that just race-leader Jeff Gordon thinks so. Yet, there is a winner.

If an Olympic medalist pees into the bottle and a positive test result ensues; he or she is stripped of their medal and those below advance in rank. There is a winner, it may not be the gold or silver medalist, but someone (hopefully with clean urine) will inherit the podium.

The point being, every championship has a winner. You don’t compete to lose. And you certainly don’t compete to lose to cheaters and then discover there is no way to win. Let’s advertise that. That will surely draw the paying customers.

I invite anyone to cite a case in any sport, from luge to weightlifting, from 100m dash to poker, where a winner was not declared. Some bridge hot-shots imagined that their game was unique, and therefore “new rules” (apologies to Bill Maher) apply. Someone somewhere imagines that bridge is the only game in the universe where cheating corrupts the event to the extent there can be no winner.

All that said, we all share a common goal, setting the record straight and ridding the game of those who would breach its moral, legal and ethical standards. What I don’t get is why the laws provide those cheaters with a second artificial victory? Let’s look at some other sports and see how this compares.

Gaylord Perry uses his emery board (or more famously Vaseline) to doctor the baseball. His team is ahead when he is nabbed in the seventh inning. Do we replay those seven innings? Not a chance. Can his team still win? You bet. Were the results up until that point adversely impacted? Of course. The consequence, right or wrong, just or otherwise is that he is tossed and his team continues with one fewer player who has already made his contribution to the cause. Is this a perfect solution? Hardly, but it allows for a winner.

Horse racing has been known to have a cheat or two. That might happen through bumping, illegally impeding another’s progress, adjusting the weight or through doping. In any case, winners are disqualified and others advance in rank. Yes, even if the one horse bumps the two horse and the seven horse wins – there is still a winner even though other participants in the field were adversely impacted. The same holds true every format of racing, yachting, motorcycling, and virtually every vehicle you might imagine. Oh, I forgot, bridge is in a class all its own; a party of one.

News flash.

If all other sports can declare a winner, even in a tainted event – why can’t bridge?

Personally, I would rather see an imperfect winner than allow cheaters to deny all competitors the opportunity to win.

What if I enter a bridge event, cheat – but don’t win. After the Spingold final, I approach the director and confess that I won my first four matches, dispatching the number 1/2/3/4 seeds to the sidelines (before being KO’d in the fifth) through cheating.

Do the winners still win? Haven’t I through cheating artificially altered the results? Therefore (given today’s consensus) have I tarnished the event to the extent that no winner can be ascertained? If my friend’s David Turner’s utopia – events only have winners if they were conducted fairly and according to the rules.  In this scenario I have corrupted the process, and therefore no winner? Come on. I didn’t win, but I corrupted the process, and every event deserves a winner.

Of course, in a perfect world, the ACBL would pass Wolff’s motion, and cheaters would be stripped of their unlawfully accrued gains. But this predator has no teeth, it barks but the bite is like what Lou Pinella called “being bitten by a stuffed panda.” (Lou was talking about a slow, nasty Geoff Zhan changeup.)

Certainly it would be “sportsmanlike”, probably conform to the mantra of “active ethics” for those who unlawfully won titles to renounce them. But hey – what the heck; you didn’t win them but you may as well keep them. I hope they give you as much pleasure as you denied their rightful owners.

Cheats desecrate the game. What did Kenny Gee forfeit after claiming mental instability for his flagrant cheating? See this link for one perspective.

This incident was not 30 years ago. This was yesterday in bridge chronology. So why, in spite of all the blarney, do the suits in Memphis treat cheating with kid gloves? Granted the BOD extended the puny penalty recommended by the Conducts and Ethics committee. Good for them, but why does the wheel go round and round? Remember the tune… (I thought it was 10cc but it was in fact Ace): How Long has This Been Going On?

Until our experts, (like those in the C&E Committee), the BOD and most importantly, the bridge public reacts in outrage to this sacrilege upon our game – the song remains the same.

It really isn’t that tough. Adopt Wolff’s motion. [1]

Appoint a District Attorney for the Cheating Task Force

Give them some bite, prosecute cheaters, and strip them (and their team mates) of all unlawfully won titles and Masterpoints, publish the hearings, the sentence, and the evidence.

And if you want to amend our by-laws, do that. Banish cheaters or least impose some meaningful penalties that send an unmistakable message.

If we look back on this from whence we started, it was about cheaters destroying an event for every contestant. Whether or not we will ever agree on advancing non-offending teams, we can all agree that cheating is cancer upon the game needs some radical chemotherapy. A little slap on the wrist, and “don’t do it again” is insufficient sentence for this crime.

OK, Mr. President, I bring this to your attention.

I ask you to adopt Mr. Wolff’s motion.

I ask you to refer to the appropriate ACBL committee the issue of consideration of stripping the title from Team Sternberg of 3/79 at Norfolk. All you have is expert testimony, a timely appeal, signed confessions – will that suffice?

I await your vigorous pursuit of this breach of propriety.

I invite any reader to comment therein.


[1] Bobby Wolff proposed to the WBF that all titles and masterpoints accrued by convicted cheaters be stricken from their record for as long as they played as a partnership. This applies to team mates as well.