Judy Kay-Wolff

MENTAL TELEPATHY?

I have never gotten my kicks from playing bridge on line but I know many people who love it! Perhaps one of the turn-offs is the multi-faceted opportunities one may have in the privacy of his or her own computer space (without monitoring or hidden cameras) to perform the impossible and consistently ‘guess right’ (reading partner’s cards without error).   The use of the word CHEATING is frowned upon and considered a no-no in certain quarters but I defy anyone to rationally explain what you are about to read.

This was reported by a reliable expert to have happened ON LINE!   The expertise of the reporter is not the issue and the result is immaterial, although I must add the defense understandably slipped — misconstruing the opener’s holding when he bid again in the face of an original pass from responder.   The facts have been documented by "movies" and preserved  — downloaded as evidence. It occurred Monday night on BBO. Board 4, Both Vulnerable, Dealer West. The screen names of all the participants are on record.

Here is the bidding and the Opener’s and Responder’s hands:

N    E    S   W

–    –   –   1S

P    P!  2H   P

2S  P!  3H  3S

X   P    P     P

THE EAST HAND HAS NOT BID YET!!!!!!!!!!

     DUMMY (EAST):

K9X

XX

KQX

QJ87X

    DECLARER (WEST):

A7XXX

AX

JX

A108X

Food for thought …..

1) Can anyone JUSTIFY HOW THE EAST HAND CAN PASS (originally and throughout) HOLDING 11 HCP AND A FIT (K9x)?;

     AND ….

2) Can anyone JUSTIFY WEST BIDDING AGAIN AT THE THREE LEVEL WHEN PARTNER DENIED 6 HCP?

A CASE OF CLAIRE VOYANT? I just can’t buy that! I REST MY CASE!


44 Comments

PaulOctober 16th, 2008 at 4:34 am

I know better than to use the “C” word, so let me see what I can come up with instead after reading your blog…Where do I begin? Horrifying, Deplorable, Sickening, Appalling, Naive, Unbelievable, Mind-boggling, Diabolical, Disgraceful, Dishonest, Defenseless, and Atrocious…anything I forgot?

Raman JayaramOctober 16th, 2008 at 1:00 pm

I learnt my early bridge when I was about ten years old – the two-and-a-half tricks for opening and the one-and-a-half tricks for supporting – variety. Those days I used to do precisely what the BBO example’s East-West did, but with a difference. I did out of inanity, stupidity, ignorance and my own inconsistent behavioural pattern. Never out of intrigue.

Intrigue, these days, has become a part of even a top class player’s ‘strategy.’ We are slowly losing the pristine romance of a great intellectual pastime. The more examples, like the BBO one, I come to know of, the more afraid I am that we will never be able to restore the glory of the game.

I am, however, delighted that I am in the exalted company of people like Judy as far as my approach to the game is concerned. But the nagging feeling is that Judy and I are probably ‘out of time.’

And today, I am in even more exalted company. Bobby Wolff just lost out on the IBPA BOTY Award. I lost out in 2006!

DavidOctober 16th, 2008 at 3:04 pm

I suspect you have merely stumbled across a pair of beginners.

Before free online bridge came along, if you wanted to learn the game you had to get someone to teach you how to play. Nowadays there may be people playing on BBO who just logged on to see what it was like, and who have never been taught how to bid. It’s no use asking them why they pass 1S with 11 HCP, because they don’t know what points are.

If a pair really wanted to cheat, they would not get very far doing it in such an unsubtle way.

JudyOctober 16th, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Responding to David — IF you are correct, let them get their basic training somewhere else before they test the waters of On Line Bridge. Counting up to 13 should be part of the process.

M BlumenthalOctober 16th, 2008 at 11:08 pm

If they are beginners they should kibitz until they got an idea of the game before they jump in to play. Of course, they could read a book about the game also. My parents played auction bridge which is the forerunner to Contract. When my aunt was at our house we had four and played a couple of times. Still I really had no clue as I volunteered when three people in my college student union asked if anybody knew how to play. Soon after I was declarer they quit and walked away I heard one say he had never said to his friend he never had seen a hand played so badly. I resolved to get better. I studied and became good.

Danny KleinmanOctober 17th, 2008 at 1:38 am

Some years ago, Bobby Wolff had a “rule of coincidence” covering auctions like this one, finessing entirely the issues of unauthorized information and cheating. No favorable result achieved via compensating substantial errors, one partner underbidding grossly while the other partner overbids grossly, should be allowed to stand … without anybody having to allege or prove cheating.

DavidOctober 17th, 2008 at 2:31 pm

I agree that sitting down at a table is not the best way to learn the game.

But if a pair of novices does sit down and play, they have not done anything wrong. We should not treat them as if they have.

EverettOctober 17th, 2008 at 7:54 pm

If beginners weren’t involved, the auction is certainly unusual. My only thought is that without disclosing the fact, perhaps they were playing a system of weak openings and only 1C shows a good hand.. a hand good enough to investigate or force to game with the East hand.

pimoOctober 18th, 2008 at 4:06 am

Wow! David, that’s frightful simple, sorry, but if that’s what your argument, defense? is, idiocy! Everett, get in line behind him. I play a club system, so my hand can have 15 HCP’s( that is code for high card points, which does not include added credit or count for distribution). Everett, the best part of your blog is that statement: “my only thought is that without disclosing the fact”

Barbara SeagramOctober 18th, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Do we have any idea who these two players were? Surely the powers-that-be at BBO can check this out. If they are not beginners, then they should be warned and monitored or evicted from BBO for a spell. The action East took is incomprehensible. Same goes for West.

If they are beginners, please know that many teachers teach beginners and send them to BBO so they can practice. I tell my students to check out the student/beginner/novice sections but this is NOT an easy site to navigate and they do find it challenging to get to the right tables. If they are total beginners, then the action may be understandable. But even a new player learns right away that they must respond with 6 + points so none of this makes any sense.

Please report this to BBO police. I hear they are good at dealing with these things. Something smells bad here.

Barbara Seagram

Toronto, ON Canada

Fred GitelmanOctober 19th, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Very long (and largely unedited – sorry) post follows…

As one of the people who runs BBO and as regular reader of Judy’s blog, I have some comments about this. First let me present some facts that probably most of you are not aware of:

1) On a typical day we know there are about 200,000 logins to BBO.

2) We think that about 100,000 different people log in to BBO at least once per day, about 250,000 different people log in at least once per week, and about 500,000 different people log in at least once per year.

3) The reason I say “we think” in 2) whereas “we know” in 1) is that people who log in to our site do not have to identify themselves. Some people have more than one user ID.

We can identify people’s computers – that is what the estimates in 2) are based on. But some people have more than one computer and some computers have more than one person so it is hard to know for sure how many active members we actually have.

4) I do not have recent statitistics on the number of hands that are played every day on BBO but the last time I checked it was a large 6-digit number.

5) All of the above numbers have been growing steadily throughout our 7-year history. If you were to graph any of these numbers over this time period you would see a almost eerily steady almost-straight line that went from zero to the numbers that exist today. Hopefully this trend will continue for many years to come 🙂

The reason I am mentioning all of this is to suggest that it is absurd to condemn online bridge (not that I am suggesting anyone is doing that) or to draw any general conclusions about online bridge (ditto), due to what happened on a single hand.

I have no doubt that if, for example, you looked at every hand that was played in every ACBL-sanctioned club for a long enough period of time such that your sample added up to the number of hands played on BBO in a single day, you would find many hands that would be just as suspicious as this one (which I completely agree is highly suspicous from a pure bridge point of view).

Would you conclude from a such a sample that something was inherantly wrong with the way bridge is played in ACBL clubs? Of course not. Probably your first guess would be that you simply stumbled into a novice game. If you had a lot of imagination you might think that perhaps you don’t understand the system that the pair in question was using or that somehow the facts that you had received were not correct. But of course it might also occur to you, especially if you are naturally suspicious about human nature and the character of your fellow bridge players, that maybe at least one of the players in question was cheating. I say “at least one” because it is entirely possible that the player that passed throughout was an innocent novice who has not learned how to raise yet and that his/her unscrupulous professional partner made a good guess at the end based on “body language”.

Cheating exists in online bridge, just like it does in every other form of the game. It is arguably a lot easier to cheat online than it is in ACBL clubs (for example), but it also happens to be a lot easier to detect cheating in the online form of the game. That is because we do have accurate records of every bid that has ever been made and every card that has ever been played on BBO. When suspicious activity is reported (this happens all the time) we can (and do) look at a lot of hands that the player(s) in question were involved in. In general I think it is fair to say that even when strong players cheat, they are really dumb about it and invariably give themselves away due to their own stupidity.

Something else you should know: we do not have to wait for suspicious activity to be reported. We can (and do) use statistics to identify players who rate to be cheating. We can see, for example, that Mark Lair averages something like 58% on the boards he players in our ACBL-sanctioned matchpoint games. When our daily reports indicate that a player we have never heard of has been averaging 64% in the same field over an extended period of time, that raises a seriously red flag.

The correct action to take if you think someone is cheating on BBO is definitely NOT to post the suspicious hand on a web page that the general public can see. Instead you should send a report to us by e-mailing: abuse@bridgebase.com

The reason that posting such records publicly is a bad idea is because, even if you smartly leave out the names, it not especially difficult to figure out who was involved. That is because the same records of every hand, bid, and card, I referred to above are available not only to our abuse department, but also to anyone who cares to look (visit http://www.bridgebase.com/myhands if you are curious).

I will not go into detail as to how one would go about attaching specific unnamed BBO user IDs to specific hands, but this can be done without too much trouble. That being the case, it could reasonably be argued that posting such hands, even with the names left out, is really just a thinly veiled public accusation of cheating. We all know that such actions have no place in “real bridge” and we are trying to teach our members (who are generally not very experienced players) that this is not appropriate in online bridge either.

Please understand that the purpose of this post is to help educate as opposed to admonish. Of course I know that Judy did not intend to publicly accuse anyone of cheating. In fact, Judy strikes me as the sort of person who has unusually good intentions and who genuinely cares about the future of our game.

I genuinely care as well. That is one of the reasons I created BBO in the first place and why I have insisted on keeping basic access to our site (as well as access to things like vugraph) free. That is also why we spend well over $100,000 per year on staffing our abuse department with quality people that work very hard to help keep our site clean. It is also why I spend significant amounts of my own time on the distasteful activity of get personally involved in looking at records of likely cheats. It is necessary to have bridge experts do this to make sure that innocents don’t get convicted because of suspicious activity on a small sample of random hands and, that when we do convict, that we are certain the people in question are cheating “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Part of my job is to make sure that the rights of innocents are protected and that the search for cheaters does not turn into a witch hunt.

All of that being said, despite our efforts and the technology at our disposal, cheating in online bridge is not going to go away any time soon. There are simply too many people and too many hands for us to have any hope of catching all of those who cheat on our site.

But let’s try to keep this in mind: although I was not alive to witness it, I am under the impression that both Judy’s current and former husbands were members of the first generation of bridge players who came to believe that what we now call “active ethics” is an important and necessary part of our game. As I understand it, bridge existed for several decades before that in which most players even at the highest levels turned a blind eye to things like taking advantage of partner’s hesitations and body language. This was simple considered to be “part of the game”.

I have been alive long enough to know that, for a long time, extremely rude behavior at the table was once tolerated as well. In the 25 years or so that I have been playing bridge, there have been noticable improvements on that front.

Online bridge is still in its infancy and I expect it will take many years before most online players understand that things like cheating and rudeness are just as reprehensible in the online form of bridge as they are in the “live” form.

Of course I am not happy about that on several levels including selfish ones like the amount of time and money I have to spend in the likely futile (for now) battle against the bad eggs in our rather large egg basket.

But the way I look at it, accepting the fact that online bridge will include an uncomfortably high level of rude players and cheaters until the game matures is a relatively small price for all of us to pay for the tremendous potential that free online bridge has in terms of making our game more popular than it is today.

It may turn out to the be difference between life and death.

Finally let me say that I think those of you who claim things like “people should learn to count to 13 before playing the bridge” are seriously missing the point. It is impertative that we make it as easy as possible for people interested in our game to jump in as quickly as possible and see just how much fun bridge can be, even if you haven’t yet learned when you should raise the suit that your partner has opened.

I hope this (very long – sorry!) post has helped some of you to gain some addition perspective on what the world of online bridge is really all about.

Keep up the good work Judy – I really enjoy reading your blog.

Fred Gitelman

Bridge Base Inc.

http://www.bridgebase.com

Fred GitelmanOctober 19th, 2008 at 3:02 pm

A rather important typo in my post above:

The number of hands played daily on BBO is a large 7-digit number (ie several million) as opposed to a large 6-digit number as I posted above. I should know better than to make such long and edited posts before I have had my morning coffee 🙂

Fred Gitelman

Bridge Base Inc.

http://www.bridgebase.com

Ray LeeOctober 19th, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Linda and I stopped playing bridge on OkBridge some years ago because cheating was rampant and in many cases unsubtle. We attributed that to the Lehman rating system, to which people paid inordinate attention. It was amusing to see some unknown pair both with a max 75 (I think) rating while players like Soloway and Garozzo could only get theirs up to 68 or so 🙂 BBO is much, much better — partly because there is no rating system, and partly I’m sure because of the kind of efforts Fred describes (another problem with OkBridge was that no-one did anything when you reported an incident). I agree with Fred — I doubt there is more cheating on BBO than in a real-life tournament, and there may well be much less.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 19th, 2008 at 9:48 pm

RESPONDING TO FRED GITELMAN (BBO)

I would like to preface my remarks by reiterating what I have told Fred Gitelman on several occasions. In my opinion, he has succeeded more than anyone in the world in the last decade at promoting bridge and introducing and exposing our game to people all over the globe. For that he should be decorated with bridge awards similar to the Congressional Medal of Honor and The Purple Heart for suffering the trials and tribulations of pursuing a new concept and continuing to improve and upgrade his amazing ideas – moving full speed ahead. He is my hero and I appreciate all his time, energy, genius and brilliance dedicated to the game of bridge on the internet. In that arena, he has no equal! I also want to express my gratitude to him for expending so much time responding to my concerned blog ‘Mental Telepathy” explaining to me the pitfalls and controls in place.

Notwithstanding the above, I am not comforted by Fred’s honest retort to my distress, stating “… despite our efforts and the technology at our disposal, cheating in online bridge is not going to go away any time soon…..” Everything Fred alludes to with some of the old time stars ‘helping each other’ and that is was ‘part of the game’ is not unfamiliar to me. No one can be proud of that, but there is nothing we can do in retrospect. Today we have cameras, videos, recorders, zero tolerance (although no one seems to be able to pinpoint the exact structure and restrictions involved) and other safeguards of which I am probably unaware. In a controlled ‘live’ setting, greater security exists.

My conclusion is that without bridge-related protective measures in cyberspace, we must assume the subject bidders of my blog were either beginners or cheaters.

If they are relegated to the first category and really had no clue, maybe they should be seeking their own level of play until they improve and have mastered the rudimentary knowledge of what constitutes a response. That is little enough to ask.

If, however, it can be proven they are not newcomers to the game, can you conjure up another explanation other than the dreaded ‘C’ word? If not, that is where the Bridge Police have their work cut out for them!

Whatever classification they fall into – no one can deny that the auction did not faintly depict the game we all know (and I used to love). There is no resolution. Just Grin and Bear It!

Danny KleinmanOctober 19th, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Fred may have taken hours to write his comment, but he did not take even a few minutes to look up the deal in question on http://www.bridgebase.com/myhands. There he would have found the names of the two players involved, and he could have looked to see the other boards that the pair played in online tournaments at BBO on just the same day (October 13). He would have seen that both explanations can be true, i.e. that two beginners could be cheating.

I did, and I saw overwhelming evidence that this was so. Here are just a few of the most egregious examples:

(a) Opener bids 1C and rebids 1NT over a 1S response. Responder then raises to 3NT. Opener has a balanced 19 HCP, responder has 8 HCP.

(b) Opener bids 1S with a good 6-card suit. After the next hand bids 3C, responder raises to 3S on a doubleton queen.

(c) One partner holds S-A105 H-AKQJ D-J64 C-AJ2 and sees RHO open a Weak 2S in second seat with both sides vul. Instead of entering, perhaps with 2NT, perhaps with a double, he passes. “Right!” The other partner has S-K8 H-1083 D-10853 C-10543.

(d) This time the same player sees RHO open a Weak 2S in first seat with neither side vul. Holding S-AQJ H-Q632 D-AQ983 C-7, he doubles. What? Mightn’t his partner have a five-card club suit? Yes! After a 3S raise, partner is looking at S-65 H-A85 D-K72 C-KQ1094. So, what does partner bid? You guessed it! Four diamonds.

(e) One partner holds S-108 H-1062 D-A9642 C-A98 and passes the other’s 1S opening with both sides vul. The auction goes 1S-p-p-double-p-3NT-p-p-p. What should the player lead? The player in question makes the worst possible choice, the ace of clubs, and continues clubs when opener follows with the 5 of clubs.

What is opener’s hand? You guessed it! S-K9762 H-QJ4 D-Q C-KQJ5.

(f) On favorable vulnerability at IMPs, the dealer has S-J10876532 H-4 D-6 C-A93 and opens a Weak 2S. The bidding continues with a takeout double by LHO, a jump to 4H by RHO, 4NT (presumably some form of Blackwood) by LHO, a 5D reply by RHO, and a jump to 6H by LHO followed by two passes. Take the save in 6S on favorable vulnerability? No; that would be a mistake, but an understandable mistake that a beginner might make. However, the player doubled. Might his possession of the ace of clubs be the unpleasant surprise facing his unwary opponents? No, they had all the aces and kings except the ace of clubs. The unpleasant surprise was partner’s heart holding, H-Q10975.

(g) Anything wrong with reaching 3NT on this pair of hands (both vul)? Well, no. Unless it is reached, as it was, via:

S-K10 S-A643

H-AK3 H-QJ106 p-1C-p-1H

D-96 D-K875 p-1NT(!) -p-2NT (!)

C-AQJ963 C-8 p-3NT-p-p-p

(h) How about reaching 2H on this pair of hands (none vul) after an opponent opens 1D? The auction seems almost normal:

S-KQ98 S-J65

H-AK53 H-Q62 1D-p-p-double

D-98 D-Q764 p-1H-2D-2H

C-432 C-KQ9 p-p-p

The only question seems to be, “Why not reply 1NT, instead of 1H, to partner’s takeout double?”

Well, there’s an answer to that. I deliberately omitted mentioning which of these two hands was held in second seat and which was held in fourth seat. It was the partner with the weak 3=3=4=3 hand who made the balancing takeout double and then bid again … and the partner with the normal takeout doubling hand who passed in second seat, bid only 1H in reply to his unpassed partner’s takeout double, and then passed after receiving a raise.

Fred GitelmanOctober 19th, 2008 at 11:49 pm

Quote from Danny Kleinman:

Fred may have taken hours to write his comment, but he did not take even a few minutes to look up the deal in question on http://www.bridgebase.com/myhands. There he would have found the names of the two players involved, and he could have looked to see the other boards that the pair played in online tournaments at BBO on just the same day (October 13). He would have seen that both explanations can be true, i.e. that two beginners could be cheating.

End of quote

Actually Danny, you have no idea how I spent my day. I actually woke up at 6AM (usual for me), started making coffee (usual for me), and while I was waiting for the coffee to brew I had a look at the posts on some of the web sites I follow (usual for me).

When I saw that Judy had made a post that I considered to be dangerous, I spent roughly 30 minutes writing my response largely in an effort to try to ward off this danger (not usual for me). Evidently, after recovering from the shock of reading your post, I was right to be concerned.

You have no idea whether or not I subsequently investigated these matters further and this is not something I am willing to do discuss here because I, unlike you, fully understand the damage that public accusations of cheating can cause to the fabric of our community. But you have gone one step further in your ignorance – you have publcly tried and convicted a pair for cheating. Well done! I suppose you would really enjoy it if we set up a video feed so that the whole world could watch as Danny Kleinman, the self-appointed Czar of the world’s not-so-secret bridge police, publicly beheaded this pair as well.

Clearly either you did not read my post very carefully or you think that the type of behavior you are engaging (which my post was trying to prevent) in entirely proper (or both).

Apparently you are sufficiently full of yourself that you think you are qualified to act as judge, jury, and executioner, for any pair that is suspected of cheating. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you are right and that you really are an outstanding bridge analyst as well as a keen judge of human nature. Don’t you see that it doesn’t matter? What if a lesser player or analyst saw a session that you played, didn’t understand many of the successful bids and plays you made, and wrote up the “evidence” that you were cheating on a public web site?

Would that be a good thing? Would it be good for bridge if this type of behavior happened all the time? I assume you answered “no” to these questions. So what gives you the right to do this sort of thing when it is BEYOND OBVIOUS that this should NEVER happen?

Can you really be so blinded by the evidently massive size of your own ego to see where behavior like yours leads?

You should be ashamed of yourself and you most certainly should know better.

I have nothing more to say on this subject. If you still don’t see the point then you truly are blind.

Fred Gitelman

Barbara SeagramOctober 21st, 2008 at 4:51 am

Let’s all take a deep breath. Enter The world of Duplicate Bridge 101. The first lesson we learn is that it is a serious offense to call anyone a cheat.

If we play against someone in a bridge club and consider that their actions are questionable (i.e. we believe they are possibly cheating) then we must go quietly to the director or club owner and tell them our concerns one-on-one. It is now up to that person (in charge) to deal with the problem. We may (once again quietly) check with the director or club owner and see that they have not forgotten, but we must leave it in their hands. We may not accuse someone directly or discuss this matter with other players. The basic premise is that someone is innocent until proven guilty. Investigations follow quietly and privately.

We all know this. It is a basic fact that we cannot call someone a cheat straight out in public.

So, it follows that we cannot stand up in a bridge club (public forum) and shout out that # 6 NS cheated on Board # 16 against you. And (if it was a team match) that they cheated on 8 consecutive boards agaianst you and did well. It would not be okay to do so simply because you did not say that it was John Brown who committed this deed….Players present could always check the game file record. It would thus be the same as calling them by name.

I ask you then: How is it any different to be discussing this pair on a public forum such as http://www.bridgeblogging.com ? How can this be condoned? It is illegal action. We simply may not do this. The owner and founder of http://www.bridgebase.com (Fred Gitelman) has asked that any questionable bridge bids or results be reported to abuse@bridgebase.com

That, then, is the correct way to address these concerns. It is wrong to be publicly going on and on about them.

If I own a bridge club and someone comes to me quietly about a player’s questionable actions, it is now in my hands and I take over. For many years (30) my husband, Alex Kornel and I ran the largest bridge club in Canada and the fourth largest in North America. Any concerns were directed to us as the owners. We investigated. We did not tell everyone that a full-scale investigation was taking place. To do so would be to announce publicly that we thought there was some evidence of guilt. The North American way: Innocent till proven guilty.

Don’t all of you think that Fred Gitelman knows what he is doing? He is running the most successful on-line bridge playing site. Players with questionable records/integrity have most likely been on his radar screen long before any of us noticed. Trust him. Trust his staff. They are not just letting matters slide. They are watching at all times. They act on these matters. Help them by reporting matters to abuse@bridgebase.com. Talking about these matters in this public forum (www.bridgeblogging.com) merely alerts such players to the fact that they will be watched. Why would we want to do that?

Put this to rest now. Stop this thread. Enough is enough. Trust that all is being taken care of.

Barbara Seagram

Danny KleinmanOctober 22nd, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Responding to Barbara Seagram:

[My comments are in brackets.—DK]

“Let’s all take a deep breath. Enter The world of Duplicate Bridge 101. The first lesson we learn is that it is a serious offense to call anyone a cheat.”

[Unless the person so called is a cheater. Is it a serious offense to call Reese and Schapiro, or Sion and Cokin, or the “Vegetables” and the “Racecars,” cheaters? It is not an offense at all.]

“If we play against someone in a bridge club and consider that their actions are questionable (i.e. we believe they are possibly cheating) then we must go quietly to the director or club owner and tell them our concerns one-on-one. It is now up to that person (in charge) to deal with the problem. We may (once again quietly) check with the director or club owner and see that they have not forgotten, but we must leave it in their hands.”

[The one person or two persons in charge? Certainly not, unless you believe in autocracy. Bridge history offers a prime example. As Alan Truscott reported in his book on Reese-Schapiro, Don Oakie did that after observing their finger signals in Turin, five years before they were exposed as cheaters in Buenos Aires. Oakie’s suspicions along with his evidence got buried politely by Harold Franklin. Quietly checking with a director would not have gotten the job done of exposing Reese and Schapiro as cheaters even then. It took Dorothy Hayden, B.J. Becker and Alan Truscott working together, telling each other their observations and suspicions, to get that job done. Can you imagine a director taking the time and making the effort that these three did? If so, I’d like to meet that director and pin a medal on him.]

[I’ve had some experience going through narrow official channels when I’ve had suspicions of unethical behavior (as distinguished from the blatant cheating of pairs named above). A complaint filed at a national tournament against two moderately known “experts” got nowhere, not even a reply from officials saying why they thought my complaint was unjustified. A complaint made personally to the late great Max Hardy when he was chief director at a regional did not result in any follow-up, though I learned many years later from Judy and Bobby Wolff that one of the famous players I accused was known by the bridge cognoscenti to have cheated. A complaint about an unnamed pair of experts (one a world champion) I observed at a regionally was referred to the late great Edgar Kaplan, who wrote a letter to me condoning the behavior (a secret system). We cannot have confidence in secret procedures conducted by one person, no matter how gifted or illustrious, and outcomes that are kept secret.]

“We may not accuse someone directly or discuss this matter with other players.”

[To suspect is not to accuse. To accuse is not to convict. To have presented evidence is not to have proved. To discuss suspicions with other players is a necessary safeguard against error. First, to confirm observations. “I don’t know what to make of what I saw. Mrs. Jones touched her ring finger while Mr. Jones was contemplating his opening lead. Mr. Jones then led a diamond from jack-fourth, instead of a normal heart.”]

[Well, maybe the person who suspected the Joneses was mistaken. Maybe touching the finger was accidental, or a nervous mannerism. And maybe the analysis was mistaken. Maybe a diamond lead was normal, or even automatic, given the auction and the hand that Mr. Jones held. Opinions from others the observer trusts are certainly in order before the observer comes to the director with his suspicions.]

“The basic premise is that someone is innocent until proven guilty.”

[This is a principle of jurisprudence, not epistemology. Innocence or guilt is a fact that exists before the verdict of innocence or guilt. However, punishment of the accused must wait until after the verdict. Suppose you are attacked by a thug with brass knuckles, and you can clearly identify your assailant. The thug is guilty in fact. You know it, and so do any witnesses to the attack. What is yet to be determined in the legal system is the nature of the crime (battery, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder?) and the sufficiency of the evidence to convict and punish the accused assailant. And despite the safeguards of the legal system, errors do occur: innocent persons have been convicted, guilty persons have been acquitted. A “not guilty” verdict absolves the assailant from punishment, but does not mean that he is innocent in fact.]

“Investigations follow quietly and privately.”

[Sometimes yes and sometimes no. We see in the media reports that a suspect has been arrested or indicted in a criminal case. Sometimes the suspect is named, sometimes not. Sometimes the report mentions evidence in the case, sometimes not. We are left as readers of the report to judge the strength of the criminal case, knowing that we have neither seen all of the evidence nor any of the exculpatory evidence that may be presented at trial. Though some of us may jump to premature conclusions, those of us who are wiser will withhold judgment until we know more.]

[Moreover, sometimes investigations are quashed, aborted, or never undertaken at all. For example, what ever happened to the investigation of the murder of Barry Crane? Was it the private business of the Homicide Squad and the district attorneys in the San Fernando Valley? Is there no place for a “muckraking” reporter to conduct an investigation outside of official channels?]

“We all know this. It is a basic fact that we cannot call someone a cheat straight out in public.”

[Not a fact at all. Even when the offense is a criminal offense to which legal procedures apply, we can and should identify the crime and the offender. Otherwise a person who is being attacked could not cry out, “Help! Murder!” nor could a witness to robbery cry out, “Stop, thief!” to summon help.]

“So, it follows that we cannot stand up in a bridge club (public forum) and shout out that # 6 NS cheated on Board # 16 against you. And (if it was a team match) that they cheated on 8 consecutive boards agaianst you and did well. It would not be okay to do so simply because you did not say that it was John Brown who committed this deed….Players present could always check the game file record. It would thus be the same as calling them by name.”

[There’s a difference between shouting and whispering. There’s also a difference between reporting events, e.g. “Declarer revoked when a spade was led at Trick 10, then turned his remaining spade over without displaying it at Trick 13,” and stating a conclusion, e.g. “Declarer tried to cheat me by deliberately concealing his revoke.” There’s also a difference between naming a suspect and narrating suspicious events without identifying the suspect even though diligent research (e.g. by examining courthouse records) could yield his. If “John Brown” is innocent of a crime, he has a good complaint against anyone who names him as the suspect, not against someone who says that a suspect has been arrested. I can identify the pair whose dubious actions I reported on Judy’s blog only by screen name; I have no idea who the two players are, nor even if they are two players rather than one player with two computers and two screen names. And please note that any reader of Judy’s blog is free to form his own conclusions. Did the pair cheat? Were they innocent beginners making typical beginners’ errors that sometimes turned out well? Was one of them drunk while the other let his pet hamster click on his mouse? Judge for yourself, and decide whether you are confident enough of that judgment to state your conclusion to others.]

“I ask you then: How is it any different to be discussing this pair on a public forum such as http://www.bridgeblogging.com ? How can this be condoned? It is illegal action.”

[Illegal? Not at all. Since when is discussion illegal? Why even if the worst case hypothesis about the unnamed players is true, that they were communicating information about their hands to each other, their actions, though immoral, were not illegal.]

“We simply may not do this. The owner and founder of http://www.bridgebase.com (Fred Gitelman) has asked that any questionable bridge bids or results be reported to abuse@bridgebase.com

That, then, is the correct way to address these concerns. It is wrong to be publicly going on and on about them.

If I own a bridge club and someone comes to me quietly about a player’s questionable actions, it is now in my hands and I take over. For many years (30) my husband, Alex Kornel and I ran the largest bridge club in Canada and the fourth largest in North America. Any concerns were directed to us as the owners. We investigated. We did not tell everyone that a full-scale investigation was taking place. To do so would be to announce publicly that we thought there was some evidence of guilt.”

[To say that there is some evidence of guilt is not to say that the evidence is sufficient or even mildly persuasive. The evidence may be flawed, or the preponderance of evidence may be exculpatory. Nobody is saying that the suspected players should be punished or barred prior to a thorough and judicious examination of all the evidence and a verdict by the governing body, which is indeed the management of a bridge club or the ACBL or the directors of a website like BBO.]

“The North American way: Innocent till proven guilty.

Don’t all of you think that Fred Gitelman knows what he is doing? He is running the most successful on-line bridge playing site. Players with questionable records/integrity have most likely been on his radar screen long before any of us noticed. Trust him. Trust his staff. They are not just letting matters slide. They are watching at all times. They act on these matters. Help them by reporting matters to abuse@bridgebase.com. Talking about these matters in this public forum (www.bridgeblogging.com) merely alerts such players to the fact that they will be watched. Why would we want to do that?

Put this to rest now. Stop this thread. Enough is enough. Trust that all is being taken care of.

Barbara Seagram”

[To repeat: I do not believe that secret procedures with secret outcomes can be trusted. Not if an elite committee of ACBL bigwigs like Lew Mathe, Don Oakie, Lou Gurvich and Lee Hazen (those who made the deal with Katz-Cohen in 1977) conducts them, not if I conduct them, and not if a wonderfully gifted player like Fred Gitelman conducts them. And I am shocked that instead of doing the work that I did to discover whether the players involved in the deal that Judy posted were indeed innocent beginners, Fred wrote a personal sarcastic and slanderous diatribe against me.]

[An aside about the Katz-Cohen accusation. Mathe and Oakie, the main investigators on whom the ACBL relied, were mistaken, but they were not to blame and neither should have been a defendant in the lawsuit that followed. The ACBL messed up by accepting as conclusive the allegations and evidence of the investigators. Gurvich and Hazen should have said, “Thank you, Lew and Don, for your efforts. Now we’ll have a committee of uninvolved experts evaluate the evidence you brought us.” The three different processes (suspect, investigate, judge) should be neither confused nor combined.]

Fred GitelmanOctober 22nd, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Quote from Danny Kleinman:

I am shocked that instead of doing the work that I did to discover whether the players involved in the deal that Judy posted were indeed innocent beginners, Fred wrote a personal sarcastic and slanderous diatribe against me.

End of quote

Excuse me, but you were the one that started the “slander” (which you repeat here) when you asserted that I was somehow negligent in my responsibilities to investigate a disturbing matter that had been brought to my attention. I was defending myself against these charges. Probably I should have controlled the extent of my sarcasm, but frankly I think you deserved it.

I will repeat and clarify. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY THIS TIME:

You have NO IDEA if any of the following states of affairs may or may not exist:

1) Perhaps the pair was already under investigation

2) Perhaps I have been conducting a personal investigation as a result of what I read here

3) Perhaps I instructed some of the very able people I work with to investigate as a result of what I read here

Your basic argument seems to be “if one perceives that the system is broken then one has the right to take the law into his own hands”.

As far as that is concerned, I still have nothing more to say.

Fred Gitelman

Janet RobertsonOctober 22nd, 2008 at 10:23 pm

WOW! this sounds a lot like the controversy that arose after the “I didn’t vote for Bush” incident.

It seems to me that everyone is entitled to his own opinion but that we should also respect the opinions of others and their right to express it.

Bridge is truly a microcosm of the world. Where has the tolerance for other views gone?

Bobby WolffOctober 23rd, 2008 at 11:42 pm

AN OVERALL REFLECTION OF RECENT ONLINE BRIDGE COMMENTS

While I was initially reluctant to inject my ideas into this volatile discussion, I think the subject matter is far too crucial to ignore – considering the long-range consequences to the game. I respect the parties involved, acknowledging their sincere beliefs and good intentions, but rest assured what you are about to read is the benefit of almost six decades of first hand-experiences and emanates strictly from my heart!

The ugliness of overt cheating in bridge by the devilish rascals, who either have their fingers in the till or are merely making a mockery of our game, has been thrashed around often with many solutions proposed. Sadly, ever since I came upon the scene, these issues were discussed behind closed doors and usually in hushed tones – with unsatisfactory results. Its resolution (or rather failure of resolution) has unquestionably earned the dubious distinction of consistently being the worst handled conundrum to ever plague our game. Please follow my reasoning as we examine its history.

Every group with common interests shamefully has its dark side – whether it be bridge, sports or business. In almost every form of competition other than bridge, you will find on-site referees, umpires, specialized officials and negotiators. To this group, add home office administration, government bureaus, films, tapes, truant officers, general police forces, military tribunals, religious bodies, recovery facilities, prisons, Mafia procedures — plus parents, relatives and friends who expend a certain amount of their lives attempting to heal the mentally ill. Many of these formats of enforcement agencies work and are successful in keeping the culprits in tow and restricting the would-be culprits to a minimum of damage. In any event, if one would ask anyone over twenty years of age to describe all the cheating he has witnessed in his or her young lifetime, the listener would be held captive for what would appear like hours. It is not a pretty scene and we must deal with it!

From my personal perch, cheating at bridge seems to be worse than anything else. Why? Everyone who is learning or has ever completed Bridge 101 soon realizes (or perhaps SHOULD realize) that total honesty is the only important prerequisite. Bridge, being a partnership game, has strict rules and regulations about what constitutes legal and illegal partnership communication. Based on that concept — without acceding to the basics, the players are left with NO GAME TO PLAY. Almost, if not all, other competitions have referees on the scene, ready to administrate and cry foul at any and every opportunity. The physical participation is in clear view of players and officials every moment of regulation game time. Bridge has no requirement (an impractical possibility) to have even one official present, much less a referee or such other observer or mediator. The players are expected to behave properly and I’ve always believed that is the prime reason why bridge was nicknamed, “A Gentleman’s Game,” though hundreds of official dossiers in the files of the ACBL exist based on proven, well founded official accusations and actual convictions — making it a rather controversial, challengeable and ludicrous epitaph! Even such historical confrontations such as duels to the death, involving deadly weapons, had their rules of morality.

Because of the above, it has also been ingrained in me (and I hope many others) that when one sits down and dons his bridge cap, he agrees to play by the standards set by our creative forefathers who conceived the principles of the game. It logically follows that since other games have referees hired specifically to see that rules are observed and violators not be given advantage, that bridge is at a loss because of the impracticality and financial impossibility of such safeguards. Players are held to certain standards and officials simply intervene when a player goes ‘over the line.’ Simply put, everyone knows what is expected of them and the morality issue is non-existent unless there is suspicion of despicable practices like dumping or trying to alter the final score when wagering is involved. Similarly, bridge has standards of its own.

At the fear of “overkill”, here is a prime example of just how strongly I feel about the beauty and majesty of our game. Beginning in my early youth through adulthood (and even as I arrive at the gates of old age), I adore animals. The much-publicized behavior of the Atlanta Falcons football player, Michael Vick, was distressfully painful to me. As you know, he was convicted of sponsoring (and probably being personally involved) in the inhumane process of exploiting, torturing and killing innocent dogs. Shockingly, in my mind (though it is a crime of the highest order) it equates morally to one who cheats at bridge. It is NOT that I love animals less, but rather that I love bridge MORE! Perhaps it sounds callous – but it certainly drives my personal values across to the reader. (Just for the record – if given a choice, I would much prefer to have Michael Vick as a friend who might have only a single aberrant personality defect, rather than a bridge cheat who cannot even be loyal to a game he purports to enjoy)!

Finally, let us address another well known national scandal that flooded the headlines – the cheating schemes at our military bastions (West Point, Annapolis, and The Air Force Academy). Rampant cheating when discovered at a small unheard of community college is bad enough – but when the hallowed names of United States military institutions of world renown are smeared (and deservedly so), it affects the breach of trust and casts shadows of doubt about the future of our great country.

My above references were not without purpose. Let us examine how, in my opinion, they have a great bearing on the manifold heightening bridge problems of the 21st century with its wealth of improving technology and never-ending modern conveniences.

Lee Hazen, a mentor of mine, was a great man and a superior human being. He was instrumental in founding the ACBL in the middle 1930’s, was its first company lawyer and also privately (out of his own pocket) helped fund the very early years of the ACBL and keep it afloat until it could earn its own keep. He served the ACBL for approximately fifty years until his forced retirement around 1985. Well into his eighties, I can still envision him dashing into the middle of busy Broadway traffic after attending a show, hailing a taxicab for the benefit of the people in his party. He was an amazing gentleman and I was one of his biggest fans.

Lee had a likeable, terrific personality, was a wonderful (top drawer) bridge player, had a beautiful and loving wife (who happened to be the oft-cited “Sylvia” of B. J. Becker newspaper column fame), was super intelligent and enjoyed a reputation as a first class attorney.

Having said that, I take grave issue with how his leadership affected the future of bridge, bringing it to the stage we are presently witnessing. Lee created and innocently set and nurtured the precedent we recognize today as the prevailing ACBL policy — blindly adopted for the handling of convicted bridge cheats. The ACBL, because of their fear of lawsuits in those days, merely requested that the cheating partners not play together anymore. Furthermore, such a tender slap on the wrist had a worsening effect on the bridge atmosphere. Each member of the partnership that was ‘broken up” by the League could now “make like a tree” and branch out with a new partner, geometrically increasing the number of cheaters. Thus the trend gained momentum rather than being slowed down or abated. Because of Lee’s enormous compassion for those less talented and fortunate, his leniency tended to not discourage miscreants – but because of such a mild reprimand, emboldened them to change partners and keep dancing – but to a different beat.

Putting oneself in the mindset of a cheater, it is not hard to realize that if one can rob several banks and then, after getting caught – come out of it with hardly a scratch, why not go for it again? The gratification garnered from their misdeeds is far greater than the severity of the punishment.

All of this is leading up to my conclusions directed to Fred Gitelman and his supporter, Barbara Seagram. Yes, Fred has created a spectacular company, BBO, one which brings unparalleled happiness and free entertainment to thousands, enabling them to play on line (especially beneficial to those who have difficulty traveling or situated too far from local bridge clubs), but also to the high-level players being able to practice and to so many others who savor watching his wonderful vugraph presentations of the highest level events. I speak from personal experience as I have both practiced on BBO and enjoyed watching world class events from across the ocean.

Fred is also a top-level player himself and, above all, a highly ethical one, who is continually introducing so many positives to the game itself. In 1995, in Beijing at the Bermuda Bowl, his Canadian Team dominated and, for the whole event was unquestionably the best team there, but as so often happens in competitive events, lost out to a lesser team which was very lucky to have even made it to the Finals.

I am about to make what will be construed by most as a radical statement – but no doubt in the best interest of the game. What I am suggesting is that (certainly contrary to Fred’s lawyer’s probable advice), he not wait until every ‘I’ is dotted and every ‘T’ is crossed to blast obvious cheaters or others who are trying to make a travesty out of the game in his magnificent venue of bridge online. In all my considerable years on the recording scene, I NEVER (not one, single solitary time) ever prosecuted anyone who was not a cheat – NOR DID I EVER accuse anyone of such an unpardonable sin without certain unmistakable knowledge of something awful going on. Speaking from my own vantage point, if the subject hands have been reported accurately, there is not one iota of doubt (not even .0000001%) as to exactly what was happening — right here in River City. I am NOT attempting to run BBO’s business — only trying to evoke the proper and well-directed hatred toward the miscreants who, like cockroaches, never accomplish anything worthwhile for themselves, but do succeed in ruining the bridge experiences of others.

From what I understand, Barbara Seagram has devoted much of her life to glorifying and improving bridge. She ran the fourth largest club in North America in Toronto and one which many knowledgeable bridge players claim, at least during her reign, to be the best run club on our continent. That is quite an admirable achievement and only dedication and unceasing hard work can justify such an assessment. Her devotion did not end there –for after selling her club, she continues to be very positively connected to bridge teaching and administration and her opinion is worthy of respect and consideration.

This tome would be nowhere near complete without a glowing description of a relatively unknown GIANT in the world of bridge. His positive accomplishments are too lengthy to list – not only in bridge circles but as a celebrated backgammon author and authority as well. For my purposes — suffice it to say — his name is Danny Kleinman, from Los Angeles. His credentials need no elaboration.

Danny has unselfishly labored for the good of bridge, being careful to stay in the background and never seeking the limelight, but nevertheless leaving a gigantic positive mark in its development. I met Danny several years ago and he has helped me in many bridge investigations. He was my appointed detailer who was extremely conscientious in creating dossiers for many of the culprits who got caught in our bridge nets, helping to rid the game of some parasites who preyed on the unsuspecting. Whatever I lacked in the overall process, he effortlessly supplied. My impatience was corrected by his attention to detail. Some of my opinions which lacked polish were tempered by his objectivity and fanatical desire to establish overall and complete justice. When he spoke, I listened — if for no other reason than who would not want to benefit from the words of a very knowledgeable, intelligent man who loved bridge as much as I did and NEVER compromised the truth. Plagiarizing Shakespeare’s words about Brutus, “His life was gentle and the elements so mix’d in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!”

Thank you, Danny! You are very much appreciated.

claire tornayOctober 24th, 2008 at 6:20 pm

I am in awe of what I read today. Initially, I did read Judy’s original post – but then gave it no other thought. My impression of Judy is that when she gets “wind” of something, she is like a dog with a bone – she won’t let it rest until it’s all done. [I refer to the time she and Jane received a reprimand for following through ona poorly handled ruling, committee etc. The entire issue is documented in the LONE WOLFF]. But for this topic, Judy just smartly dumped it out there for us to see. And, oh boy,has there ever been any issue on which bridge players; multi-talented as they are, don’t have a ton to say?

I think we should be delighted to have a venue such as this one in which we can exchange our thoughts. It allows us to do so without necessitating our getting together to convene and then discuss. HOWEVER, that having been said, in my opinion, it is totally out of order to strike out at one another – regardless of what opinions we express on the issue. I think the purpose is to examine the topic, suggest a methodology, and then to integrate what others say. Only by expanding the process, can any of us learn and grow.

On the specific issue of “suspected bridge irregularities” on BBO – I too have an opinion. But, if I am only stating mine, I have not listened to the input of others. From the posts which precede mine, I have learned what steps probably were undertaken [while still protecting the possible guilty parties], as well as thoughts on how the policing might be done in the future as well. I also read clearly how some think it SHOULD have been done, or how it OUGHT to be done in the future. I think that only by truly hearing each other can we benefit.

Both BBO and this venue are huge plusses for us as a bridge community. I commend you both — FRED & JUDY for providing us with these arenas to share both the good and the evil.

And I also commend Danny for his clear and dogged desire to express his point of view.

However, we are all trying our best to express what we think. Let’s not be critical of each other. We are privileged to live in a country where we can disagree and still be safe to do it again.

Fred GitelmanOctober 24th, 2008 at 8:39 pm

For those of you who have claimed “it is OK for everyone to express his/her opinion”, no offense intended, but I don’t think you are thinking clearly about this. Really there are 3 issues:

1) Is it OK for anyone to have whatever opinion he/she wants?

2) Is it OK for anyone to express their opinions publicly?

3) Is it OK to anyone to act on their opinions?

I would answer “yes” to question 1) even if the opinion was something like “Cannabalism should be allowed”. If I knew someone who had this opinion I might not choose to invite him/her to my house for dinner and I might suggest that he/she see a psychiatrist, but as far as I am concerned all people should be free to think whatever they want.

I would answer “it depends” to question 2). It certainly depends on the nature of the public place. For example, it is not appropriate to loudly express *any* opinion in a movie theatre (because you will ruin the movie for everyone else). It could also be argued that one should not express some particular opinions in *any* public place. For example, there are anti-hate speech laws in many (all?) Western countries that prohibit people from expressing certain types of opinions in public.

The answer to question 3) is obviously “it depends”. Going back to the “Cannabalism should be allowed” example, clearly it is not not OK to act on this opinion. For an example closer to home, how about “Strong Pass systems should be allowed in ACBL club games”. Sure it is OK to have this opinion and sure it is OK to express this opinion in many public settings, but if you act on this opinion by playing such a bidding system in an ACBL club, you deserve to get into trouble.

The matter for which some of us apparently have differing opinions is this:

“It is OK to publicly express opinions that amount to allegations of cheating in bridge.”

To answer the above questions for this opinion:

1) Of course it is OK for anyone to have this opinion (or any other opinion for that matter).

2) It is fine to express this opinion in an appropriate public setting and this is certainly such a setting. If Judy did not want people to post bridge-related opinions here she would not have allowed people to post comments to her blog in the first place.

3) I do not think it is OK to act on such an opinion.

Here is why:

If it was OK for any bridge player to publicly accuse any other bridge player of cheating (and/or to publicly present “evidence” of such), many innocent people will be hurt.

Furthermore, I cannot buy the argument that is OK for only some people to do this or that it is OK only if the allegations in question are deemed by some people to be sufficiently damning. Going down such paths amounts to walking on some truly slipperly slopes.

I have to admit that I think it so obvious that this is true that it is hard for me to imagine that any thinking person could disagree.

It should perhaps be noted that when I receive PRIVATE reports of cheating allegations on BBO, my response is very different – I express gratitude to the person in question for their interest in helping to keep our site clean (and for their candor). But whether a cheating allegation comes to my attention through private or public channels, the matter is treated a private from that point forward. Even the person who reports such incidents to me privately is not kept informed of what happens.

That is why I refuse to explain what (if anything) I have done or will do about this particular matter (sorry).

Fred Gitelman

BeckyOctober 24th, 2008 at 9:36 pm

Wow! I leave MPP and my bridgeblogging duties, and look at what I miss!!

I don’t have an opinion (but if I did, sorry, but I fall on the side of Fred…it isn’t so much an opinion but accepting that in the online world we have to take some bad to enjoy all of the good…great even).

Fred, you just gave me some GREAT, SUPER, AMAZING stuff to take back to the office with me. It was a great exercise in injecting yourself into the dialogue and making sure that everyone is clear about how you operate your website. Many kudos to you.

Ray LeeOctober 26th, 2008 at 10:11 am

I’m with Bobby on the wimpy attitude of the powers that be to cheating. For me, it’s just too easy to cheat at bridge, and so the only possible way to deal with convicted cheaters is with a lifetime ban. That doesn’t happen in ACBL-land until someone is caught more than once — which they almost always are.

In a recent Canadian example, some suspicious observations were reported to the President of the Canadian Bridge Federation. However, there were no hand records kept from the tournament involved; CBF does not retain any copies. The CBF concluded it could take no action. We do not even have any kind of recorder system to start a file on this pair.

I think everyone is just too scared of lawsuits in North America, and the result is that cheating goes on. Too many ‘minor’ pros undoubtedly resort to some kind of underhandedness in an effort to maintain their standard of living. The rewards are too great and the downside is almost non-existent. Sad but true.

Gary M. MugfordOctober 27th, 2008 at 12:57 am

I read the blog entry last week before the comments hit the fan and remember sighing … and then not thinking about it all that much. I only revisited the post due to Judy’s emailing this week. I’m an admirer of Bobby’s and wanted to read his retort. That’s when I found his wasn’t the only entry I hadn’t had the chance to read.

A good part of why I don’t play bridge regularly these days is due to blatant cheating. I quit a local club when the club owner refused to deal with a regular member who scored tops and bottoms all night long, every night. He’d always finish a point or two of within average. He was always great on the second board of rounds. I merely asked that she station herself close to the person’s table for awhile and watch as he played quickly and then listened intently for the results of the second board being played at the table behind him. She didn’t want to lose a customer. But ended up losing one anyway. Me.

I picked up with a partner to get ready for a big event a couple of years ago and got into a good run of practicing on BBO. We entered one of the one-an-hour 10-board tournaments. As it happens, we won the event. We DID play the second-place pair, who hailed from Bulgaria, I believe. On one of the hands, I played and bid so poorly that a top was assured for them well before the final cards were played. With nary an second entry to the board, the no-trump playing declarer cashed the ace from ace-small facing KTxxxx. Then she continued the suit. I held the QJ9x and was so disgusted with myself for earlier mistakes that handed her the contract, that I didn’t split. Despite a losing double-finesse being the ONLY way to go down in a contract unlikely to be bid and made elsewhere, the declarer played me for the brain freeze and inserted the ten. That gave her the same top she already had. But it enraged me to the point where I stopped playing BBO too.

And I’m the poorer for it.

Sure, I think I’m still right about not playing at the local club (the owner is no longer involved, but the principles remain). But I don’t hold Fred in the same light. Partially, it’s due to numbers. I don’t think it’s POSSIBLE to completely police the world. There’s also the fact that the pair we played against COULD be innocent, merely bad players or that the declarer mis-clicked. Their standing at the finish line suggested that might not be the case, but it is possible. There’s also the fact that I contributed to the disaster in several non-documented ways. So, I should NOT have responded as I did.

But darn it, cheating does cause me physical and mental stress. I can’t abide it when I see it and it DOES affect my desire to go back for more. While I can’t blame Fred and BBO, I almost have to take a wait-see attitude to see if the situation does get addressed. I don’t KNOW the solution, or I’d tell Fred and be a happy member of the occasional half-million. I respect Bobby and Judy and the others who try to rail against the source of our unhappiness.

There was a guy who cheated and bullied his way to club domination over the years. He and his partner hardly ever placed above average at tournaments, but he had excuses aplenty. What I could NEVER figure out was why he cheated. HE knew he hadn’t won, so what was the payoff for the cheating? He certainly didn’t get any respect from any serious local players, and even the little old ladies were more put off by his boorishness than in awe of his wins. So why did he do it? I don’t know.

In big-time bridge, the answer is money. But I will wager dollars to doughnuts that the cheats there started cheating when there was nothing on the line, other than the angry stares of the local club players. Until we can answer the question of how players START cheating, and why, cheating remains a part of our beautiful little game.

Sorry Bobby and Judy.

kathy deaconOctober 27th, 2008 at 9:34 pm

I consider myself to be an intermediate bridge player (probably more like mediocre in fact) and in an effort to improve my game and reach the lofty height of “advanced player” I joined the Beginners Intermediate Lounge through BBO. This club provides mentors to the likes of myself and I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to Linda Lee as my mentor, I found my way to this blog through a link on Linda’s blog and have had a most interesting weekend reading all the relevant blogs as well as the biographies and the history of the players who were accused of cheating in a Bermuda Bowl Tournament, of which I knew nothing. (Much more interesting than any fiction I have read recently).

Some years ago I read an anecdote by a bridge teacher whose name I have forgotten, the writer’s mother was an avid bridge player in the days when hats and gloves were de rigueur for an afternoon of ladies bridge. Evidently his mother and her partner cheated regularly and never gave it a second thought, the story goes that the ladies would signal if one opened the bidding with the statement “I’ll say one heart” it meant she had 4 hearts, if she opened the bidding with the statement “I bid one heart” it meant she had 5 hearts, the same for the other suits.

Many questions have been raised about cheating through these blogs, a lot to do with why people cheat, but more to the point in my mind is how to circumvent the how. A week or so ago I was playing on BBO with a group of ladies, it was a fun table and I didn’t suspect for a moment that anything was amiss until one of the ops messaged to the other “is your webcam turned on?”

Somewhat taken aback I thought surely they can’t be cheating and then dismissed the thought because I reasoned that the question would not have been asked for all to see if that were the case, I am sorry now that I didn’t say something. On line cheating is not so obvious as finger signals or opening statements in bidding but so far no one has offered a solution, would it be so difficult to find an answer with the collective brain power and resources out there among all these dedicated bridge players (including Bill Gates)? Is there an answer in computer science and progamming?

Re the why, I doubt that even the cheaters themselves would be able to say why, given their aparant capacity for dishonesty and self deception, I believe one answer to that question is…because they can. It is hard to understand the why, however, I believe the paradox here is that those who win by cheating are just losers. How can obtaining a high score by cheating compare in any way with the satisfaction of getting a top board by honest bidding and playing better than anyone else!! And it did happen to me once :))

As a fairly old lady I feel I can say please kiss and make up guys, you are far too smart to be quarrelling publicly, it is so beneath you. And really at the end of the day aren’t we all on the same side? I for one am very thankful to be able to play on BBO, I do have lots of fun there and have met some great people (as well as a few jerks and weirdo’s) not to mention I need it to try to help me hold on to the wits I have left for a few more years. So thank you Fred Gittleman for BBO and your excellent series on Learn to Play Bridge, Linda Lee for taking on the challenge of being my mentor and Barbara Seagram for your books and teaching material, you are all such excellent players and teachers and my hero’s.

kathyOctober 27th, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Sorry Fred, misspelled your name.

ChrisOctober 31st, 2008 at 11:05 am

Addressing Kathy’s Comment

This is not about kissing and making up. We don’t

need a marriage counselor but rather someone who

in a timely fashion can assess the problem and deal

with it effectively.– weeding out the individuals who

are not playing by the rules . The sooner the better.

If stronger measures had been taken years ago (in all

bridge venues — not only online bridge) , we may not

have been faced today with the charade that brought

it to our attention in the first place. Hopefully, it is not

too late to move forward.

Bob LafleurNovember 2nd, 2008 at 11:26 pm

Wow, what a dust-up. As a long time bridge player of moderate ability, but fierce commitment to ethics, I would like to thank Fred, Danny, Bobby etc. for their contributions to the game. It is unfortunate that people who have done so much for the game should be in conflict. With apologies to Danny, I must align myself, at least partially, with Fred in this dispute. As former district recorder I learned that a public execution was not the way to deal with every problem. I would have been much happier had Danny supplied the results of his research privately, and had Fred not questioned Danny’s motivation.

Golf like bridge is known as a gentleman’s game, and also like bridge, is normally self policed. There will always be those who are somehow fulfilled by cheating to get a good score. Our discussions should focus on the general problem and what we can do about it, not on the specifics of one pair and how BBO might have handled that problem.

Judy’s comment about limiting newer players to novice or non-expert games is not a good solution. When most of us started, all we had was the open game and we learned by getting clobbered. Today with all the stratified, flighted, and bracketed games, people can acquire thousands of points without ever playing against national level players. Encouraging newer players who are willing to try open games is worth the price of the occasional fix. There are more than enough players who only want to compete in protected games.

Thank you Judy for opening this dialog. While we may not agree, the exchange of opinion is good for the game.

Bobby WolffNovember 4th, 2008 at 2:33 am

AN OPEN LETTER TO FRED GITELMAN FOR WHAT I CONSIDER TO BE THE BETTERMENT OF BRIDGE

First let me reiterate what I have said previously. I, like many others, hold you in great esteem for your incredible accomplishments with BBO and everything else which you bring to life and to the bridge table. Unfortunately, the Bridge Puppeteer has chosen not only to create a conflict between us about how to deal with cheaters — but also to take out of context whom the two of us actually are. I am confident that you, after reading this blog, will understand what I am trying to do and say.

Let me begin by explaining what has happened recently in my world regarding unfounded accusations. When I returned from the 2007 Fall Nationals in San Francisco, I began to hear tales about ‘certain cheating’ by a relatively unknown Chinese Ladies Team who won the Women’s BAM at the NABC in San Francisco by an unprecedented eight boards. It seems that at least one of the ladies from either the Second or Third place American teams playing in the same event complained about the Chinese cheating — alluding to text messages, electronic devices and possibly other means. The same woman while still at the SF site, called her ACBL District Director (who had returned early from the West Coast tournament), explaining the circumstances which purported to be someone finding a Blackberry in the ladies restroom. The rumors flourished and expanded to many of our largest and most sophisticated bridge playing communities and even extended to Australia, where Paul Marston, the owner and editorial writer for Australian Bridge, published the following statement regarding that San Francisco tournament: “Our girls finished 15th in the women’s BAM. An unknown team from China won by a staggering eight boards. I heard from a reliable source that the team is being investigated for the possible illegal use of mobile phones. The ACBL takes video footage to be used in cases like this.”

Cutting to the chase, I contacted ACBL CEO, Jay Baum, and other top administrative officers in Memphis. Not only was any official recognition of such an event denied, but I was further advised that no evidence was presented and no alleged cheating claims were made! NO TAPES, NO VIDEOS, NO BLACKBERRIES, NO UNUSUAL HANDS OR RESULTS, NO ACCUSATIONS, NO NOTHING! I followed it up with the ACBL BOD, USBF and even the ITT (chaired by Mike Becker).

While the ACBL BOD and the USBF had heard either nothing or very little about the accusatons, they both declined to write any denial or request to Paul Marston to publish a retraction. Mike Becker acknowledged that he had heard about it, investigated on his own, and then after admonishing at least one of the complainers, cautioned everyone not to discuss it further or give credence to the ugly rumor. However, neither Mike, nor anyone in Memphis, initiated an offer to write to Australian Bridge demanding a retraction. In total frustration, I contacted a responsible person on the BOD requesting that Marston be asked to print a retraction — which he did — in the following month’s publication of Australian Bridge.

Meanwhile, the ‘SF cheating saga’ continued for months. I, for one, would not have relished being the object of a widely circulated rumor — and be in the shoes of the Chinese women — especially after a popular bridge magazine (in their own part of the world) published such an indicting blurb!

Is this what our country is about? Or, even more pointed — is that what our country HAS BECOME? For the record — I have no idea if there was ever any truth to those rumors. However, almost a year has passed. I would like to think — if there was some basis for the whispers, evidence would have been presented and if proven to be correct, appropriate steps would have been taken to punish the guilty. If, indeed, it was merely spouting off at the mouth or embarrassment for being outdistanced by such a huge margin, I am ashamed that our rumormongers were responsible for the humiliation of the Chinese women. You can’t have it both ways!

Fred, trying to sum up my feelings as briefly as possible: I (like you) am very conscious of overreacting to accusations without substantiated evidence, and would not begin to pursue anything merely on a whim. However, if in the case of overwhelming indicting behavior, I (possibly unlike you) have learned that the culprits MUST be disciplined and making it known to others is only one of the possible means of accomplishing this end. I so abhor how our forefathers dealt with cheating and all I can do is try and prevent those types of practices from continuing. I am not suggesting (nor have I ever felt the need to tell you) how you should run your business. But — I am suggesting that the publicity generated from following up on unequivocal outright cheating (or even behavior which makes a travesty of our game) is very necessary. The public will appreciate your attention to such matters, realizing that they too some day could be the target of such unsavory practices.

No one likes to be sued for anything (because of the attached costs and unpredictable results) but, to acquiesce merely for convenience and safety, is beneath the dignity and quality of a first class human being like yourself — and I would never dream that you wouldn’t honor your responsibilities.

When I wrote The Lone Wolff, I included many revolting and shocking episodes, which from the perpetrators’ standpoints, were certainly down-putting and no doubt regretted they had been detailed. However, if I had adopted a very conservative positiion (which all lawyers would recommend), the book would never have been written as it would have served no purpose. Since all episodes were 100% true in substance and in fact, I bared most all — in the hope it would serve the best interests of the game. You are in a similar (and even better) position with the celebration of bridge cyberspace — thanks to you.

Being a trailblazer with your project, and as witnessed by this blog, you will from time to time encounter other similar conundrums. Your character and manner are unchallenged — both serving as testimonials and justifying people’s faith and trust in you to do what is best for the game!

Good luck and be assured that I wish you nothing but green lights and blue skies.

Your friend,

Bobby

Fred GitelmanNovember 5th, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks very much for your letter. I truly appreciate it that a person (perhaps the one and only living person) with your wisdom and experience has taken an interest in helping to ensure that I do what is best for bridge and bridge players.

I never wanted all of the responsibility I have or all the attention I receive as a result of inadverently having created a monster (that for the most part is a good monster). Really I am just a computer programmer and a bridge player. I would much rather devote my time and energy to writing software and playing cards. But here I am and it looks like I am going to have to get used to it. Receiving support and advice from so many of my fellow bridge players from all over the world, especially those at the top, does make it easier.

It is also the case that your compliments mean a lot to me. I will never forget the first time I sat down to play against you and Hamman in the 2nd last segment of the 1995 Bermuda Bowl Final. As I am sure you will recall, your team started that segment with a significant lead, but my team managed to land a series of blows (at least some of which were the result of undeserved good luck on our part and, as I recall, none of which were due to clear mistakes on the part of your partnership).

I had already been a serious student of the game for many years so of course I was not the least bit surprised by the great bridge skill that you exhibited throughout this match. But two things really stuck with me as a result of my experience of actually playing against you:

1) I was REALLY impressed by your tempo in the bidding and especially on defense.

2) I was REALLY impressed by how well you dealt with adversity. You just kept on fighting and showed no signs of distress despite a series of unfortunate results.

Since that time I have enjoyed some success as a player, but I am realistic enough to know that I will never quite be in your league. However, I do like to think that I am capable of exhibiting 1) and 2) above. Ever since that time, I have tried to do exactly that. Thanks for setting such a good example for me!

I have also long been an admirer of all that you have accomplished for bridge away from the table. I am definitely a believer in your battle to keep germ warfare out of the bidding and to come down hard on players who play complex systems, screw them up, and effectively ruin the game for everyone. Unfortunately we seem to be in the minority as far as such issues are concerned. Hopefully the world will see the light one day. I am trying to do my part, but I find it frustrating that so many bridge players don’t want to listen.

And finally, thanks for writing The Lone Wolff. You said plenty of things that needed to be said. Some of these things I knew already, but your book contained a lot of (wide!) eye-openers for me as well.

To summarize: Receiving compliments are always nice, but they are especially meaningful when they come from person with your credentials!

Regarding the matter at hand…

Let me just say for now that I do not disagree with anything you have said. You have definitely given me something to think about and to discuss with my partners. Even before this thread surfaced, cheating has long been an issue that (unfortunately) we have had to deal with all the time. I am far from certain that we are handling this in an ideal way, but I can assure you that we are paying attention, that we are open minded about the possibility of improving our policies and procedures, and that we really do care about doing the right thing.

I really do appreciate it that you also care about this.

Thanks again and best regards,

Fred Gitelman

Robb GordonNovember 6th, 2008 at 1:23 am

I saw something in Fred’s last missive that strikes a nerve and compels me to digress from this thread:

“I am definitely a believer in your battle to keep germ warfare out of the bidding and to come down hard on players who play complex systems, screw them up, and effectively ruin the game for everyone. Unfortunately we seem to be in the minority as far as such issues are concerned.”

I have repeatedly raised this issue with the ACBL Laws Commission. Now that is almost certainly the wrong venue, but it is what was available to me. No, Fred you are not in the minority. There are plenty of us at all levels of the game who are sick and tired of “convenient” forgets. There ARE ways to regulate this, but to do so we need people from the ACBL Board firstly, and Competition and Conventions Committee secondly to stand up and do what is right.

I suspect you could get about 95% of the masterpoints (if not 95% of the members) in our own District 17 to sign a petition. Why won’t the powers that be do something?

Let the people who play disruptive and destructive methods take responsibility for full, complete and correct explanations that MATCH the actual hands!

Robb Gordon

Janet RobertsonNovember 6th, 2008 at 11:15 pm

Judy, Fred, and Bobby –

Well done. You have tackled a difficult problem and handled it like ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the forum, and above all, thank you, Fred, for such an amazing website.

Mark LombardNovember 7th, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Well,

After spending the better half of this morning reading and considering the various points of view expressed here, I will bet dollars to doughnuts that Danny gets the last word.

Thanks for a thought-provoking read, all!

Richard WhiteheadNovember 9th, 2008 at 5:32 am

I’m a fairly good player, but not in the level of some of the people posting here. But there’s maybe one little perspective I can supply.

I think in real-world bridge, “organized” cheating (systems of finger signals or such-like between partners) is actually very rare. The illegal and unethical behaviors like listening to the discussion at the next table, or failing to explain bidding methods properly, are distressingly more common, but these can be addressed within the clubs, and I hope directors and club owners do try to do that.

In the on-line world, the biggest problem is that there are instant-messenger programs that can provide a private communication line between partners. So no special signalling system is required: if the two of you are so inclined, you can talk privately before and during the bidding and the play. This means that (I’m sure) this sort of cheating is much more common on-line than off.

However, I’m with Fred in that you need to be really careful about voicing suspicions. Someone mentioned that they left OKBridge because of the rampant cheating there. I played on OKBridge for several years, and never came across a pair that I thought was cheating (or if they were they weren’t very good at it). I let my membership lapse earlier this year because of the rampant accusations of cheating. After the second or third time -I- was accused, I’d had enough. I’ve -never- cheated at bridge, not once in the past forty years. But there are some people who can’t believe that you can sometimes be lucky or good (or both), and they are quick with the innuendo or the outright accusation.

Bobby WolffNovember 9th, 2008 at 10:35 pm

RESPONDING TO RICHARD WHITEHEAD

Thanks for your provocative response dealing with an insidious problem. Your personal reflections and experience were very enlightening and have a profound bearing on a very touchy subject.

Yes, you have suggested a serious and cruel aftermath which, at least in my not-so-humble opinion, is often a malicious byproduct of the overall travesty of general cheating at bridge. The human condition, being what it is, and in the defensive (embarrassed) mode after losing at anything, is to search out and relegate blame to another. What better copout is there but to deflect attention from the INJURED and assume the role of the ACCUSER!

And — what more effective entry to the niche of human distortions than to assume the cause of a coterie of malcontents. Prime examples in other sports are: ‘Kill the UMP;’ ‘The referees were on the take;’ ‘They pre-filmed our legal private football hand signals.’ In poker, you’ve heard: ‘There were confederates in the same game, cheating us.’ In golf and at many levels (from the duffer to the professional) — ‘ I’m sure he often improved his lie.’ In the Olympics — ‘Nationalism has no bounds with the judges.’ In all competitions — ‘Bribery has resulted in Team X sailing away to victory.’ Or how about the far-reaching affects of the steroids controversy concerning our national pastime — not to overlook the accusations against Lance Armstrong. Finger pointing is not uncommon in our society!

In the USA, we have lived through turbulent times revolving around the administration of justice — or perhaps more aptly said — the mis-administration of justice! We don’t have to go far to recall history-making headlines. Just start with “Say it ain’t so, Joe” (the 1919 reference to Shoeless Joe Jackson who apparently was guilty of improprieties in the Black Sox Scandal) — continuing with the horrifying point-shaving escapades in college basketball during the middle of the last century, Pete Rose’s gambling (especially betting on his own team’s games) — up to the present day conflicts involving the rogue NBA referee — and even touching on the peculiarly motivated acquittal verdict by the O. J. Simpson Jury over a decade ago.

From my perch, much of the above sums up where we stand today. Instead of overly obsessing on not doing anything for fear of touching on one or more innocent people’s rights, I believe the disease is worth acknowledging, acting upon and searching for the cure — not cowering under the table and hoping it either vanishes or someone else finds the antidote. We CANNOT remain idle or dormant and just hope it disappears. As long as miscreants try and find a way to beat the system, thereby ruining what is otherwise a pleasant, very necessary outlet for our competitive instincts, it is, at least to me, a compelling reason for battling the entrenched foes and — if you will — “March into Hell for a Heavenly Cause.”

Sure we need to be careful. Sure we need to be sensitive. But — what is even more certain is that we have to stand up and fight! Maintaining the status quo is not the solution.

From your description, it appears you have been a totally innocent victim — not merely the result of cowboy justice. Isolated instances like yours are unfortunate but a small price to pay (easy for me to say) in the overall endeavor to clean up the game.

While we are on this subject, how many of us who have been really beaten up by the current economic downturn and the unprecedented collapse of the stock market, think it might have been caused, even ever so slightly, by nothing more than American financial greed by those who made fortunes? Vibes from the new administration seem to indicate that we may be on the road to finding out.

Thanks for affording me (and hopefully others) the incentive and opportunity to express my feelings on a very crucial and timely subject.

Ray LeeNovember 10th, 2008 at 2:40 am

I remember of the more blatant examples of cheating I saw one time on OkBridge: an opponent, who needed 3 tricks from AKQ10x opposite a singleton to make his contract, finessed the 10 and bring the suit home for two overtricks. This was in 3NT where he was going down if the finesse lost. I reported this to the powers-that-be, and was told that there was no real evidence to support their taking any action. While I was on OkB (at that time pretty much the only game in town) I saw clairvoyant opening leads, auctions that made no sense (except for the final double dummy contract), and brilliant switches. And by the time I’d had enough, I was seeing this stuff about half the time when I didn’t know the opponents personally. The very last time Linda and I played on OkB, we quickly became convinced our opponents were operating (they were a couple of no-names with maximum Lehman ratings) so we decided to try something. For the next four deals, we made ridiculous bids, psyched, did all kinds of crazy things to disrupt the opposition bidding. They ignored us — and everything we bid — and simply came out at the five-level or whatever they had to do to arrive at their best contract. After that session, we’d had enough, and we never went back. As I said before, my experience on BBO has been very different. Undoubtedly there are those who cheat on BBO, but I suspect Fred is actually more prepared to take action than OkB ever was, and I know he has the statistical tools to analyze the results and catch cheaters.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 10th, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Ray — The OK Bridge experience playing with Linda that you shared was absurd.

One simple question: How often do you think easily-explained situations (need I say more?) such as yours would occur (and what would be the frequency of other always-on-target bids,

‘lucky’ defensive maneuvers or brilliant dummy play) — IF REAL NAMES WERE USED????? I have no doubt we would see a sharp Reversal of Fortune.

Richard WhiteheadNovember 10th, 2008 at 9:15 pm

I think I should make the point about clairvoyance and easy explanations.

I joined a table with three strangers (strange to me, anyway). The second or third hand, as the auction progressed, it became obvious that my partner and me could make at least 4 spades, maybe 6 or 7. However, my partner (who held the stronger hand) basically bailed out on me, refusing to take captaincy of the auction. At the five level after a cue bid, I was faced with what was essentially a guess: 5, 6 or 7? I chickened out and stopped at 5 spades.

You guessed it. 7 spades was not a ridiculous contract. 6 spades was an excellent contract. Due to bad breaks, eleven tricks was the limit of the hand. The table owner demanded an immediate explanation how I had known to stop at 5 spades, or else he was going to report me to OKBridge for cheating. What was my easy explanation for this situation? What was I supposed to say to him? He wasn’t about to believe “lucky guess”.

Too late. You hesitated for four or five seconds before typing your reply, and I don’t type very fast either. By then, the table had closed and he wasn’t on-line any more.

I reviewed the hand on the OKBridge website. If anyone’s bidding was dubious, it was my partner. At one point, he really only needed to know how many aces I held, and he was in a position to use Blackwood and find out. Since he didn’t do that, I later was in an impossible situation, not knowing exactly how good his hand was and if his suit was solid (it was), and if there really was a likelihood of 12 tricks.

Do I think anyone was cheating at this table? Not really – I think my partner just didn’t know what he was doing. Was the accusation of cheating unnecessary and toxic to the game? Absolutely. I reported my accuser to OKBridge, and maybe they can get him to keep his accusations private between himself and the authorities.

But that was the end for me. I had run into innuendo a couple of times before. Being flat-out called a cheat was too much. I don’t play on OKBridge any more.

Richard WhiteheadNovember 10th, 2008 at 9:35 pm

Sorry if that last post sounded bitter. It was, but that wasn’t what I was trying to get across.

The thing is, most of us aren’t dealing with videotape and careful analysis of past records. Most of us are dealing with rumor and innuendo and stupidity. I don’t mind experts with integrity undertaking careful investigations. I do mind if their activities promote an atmosphere where the ordinary player feels that every table is a minefield of unethical activity that he should expose at the first hint of a bad result.

Bobby WolffNovember 11th, 2008 at 2:22 am

CHILDISH ACCUSATIONS

Richard’s recounting of his ugly experience on line is not an issue that I want to get into in

depth, but I will say the following:

Discovering cheating (as opposed to ‘bridge judgment’) is a very complex subject. Before accusing someone of such a heinous crime against the game, he or she should be 99% sure it was happening. Such an allegation cannot be judiciously based on one hand alone and would be irresponsible and subject to laws against slander — and mean-spirited as well.

For you to be called a ‘cheater’ or merely an implication that you were thought to be guilty of same must be based on a series of unusual bridge happenings — not one isolated board. Though the actual hand was never presented, I do not need to see it to already determine that your outspoken opponent had already gone over the edge — and by a significant margin. It has more to do with deportment at the table.

Perthaps bad blood had crept into your on line relationship caused by an earlier situation — which is not at all unusual in fierce competition. People react differently to adverse results.

Many cannot contain themselves after ‘being fixed’ by the opponents and adopt an immature attitude which seems to be what was evidenced here.

All my bridge life I have been a crusader to eliminate as much actual cheating from our game as I can. I am not a psychologist and certainly not equipped to deal with either gloating winners or, in this case, bad losers. Your situation should have been avoided but cannot be compared to the hand originally cited in Mental Telepathy which was substantiated by eight additional grotesque boards played the same day by the same pair.

James HamiltonJanuary 4th, 2009 at 3:30 am

SADDEN AND WORRIED

I am a 63 year-old beginning bridge player who has just finished Audrey Grant’s book on bidding. I am currently not knowledgeable enough to understand all the bidding conventions, but did notice that some of the bidding documented by Judy Kay-Wolff and Danny Kleinman did not make sense to me. What saddens and worries me is the level of concern and frustration given to this discussion about cheating. This indicates to me that it is a major and long-term problem, and there was no indication that anything has been or maybe could be done to materially change what is going on. I hope I am wrong. Maybe as a beginner this problem will not affect me. Is there any indication that cheating is being reduced?

ChrisNovember 11th, 2009 at 11:11 pm

[To James]

Play bridge with friends and family.

Befriend those strangers whose play and table comportment agree with you, and develop those friendships into regular partnerships and competition.

Keep a record of those you did not enjoy playing with, and avoid playing with them in the future.

As far as high-level and tournament play, you are better off doing those in person, I would imagine (and leave online bridge as a recreation or training ground.)

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