Judy Kay-Wolff

A FINE LINE …

Today I read a Nascar incident where a driver was ‘bumped” from racing for an unapproved incident.  The exact report was “Busch was parked for Saturday’s Nationwide race and Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas after wrecking Ron Homaday, Jr. under caution.’   Why is it that an organization like Nascar has the guts to take a public stand on wrongdoing while the ACBL closes its eyes to “dumping’ (yes, dumping – not GIVING YOUR ALL) in an effort to not try your best to win a match or a board as your opponents’ success will in the long run affect you affirmatively.   It is similar to not putting in your best lineup to potentially allow your opponents to move ahead of someone whom you were rooting against in your own best interest.  There should be stringent rules on wrongdoing but it is a hush, hush subject as the sport or game will get a bad name.

Good for Nascar.   Maybe the ACBL should start thinking about opening their eyes to what often goes on under their own noses but refuses to acknowledge it.   Discussing deliberately dumping is a NO! NO! and it has happened on more than one occasion to allow the dumper to get the edge but it is a seldom talked about subject.


12 Comments

Stuart KingNovember 6th, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I guess the biggest problem is how do you detect it let alone stop it! I agree that it is a bad thing to have teams intentionally ‘dumping’ as you put it, but how can you ever prove that was what was happening, a opposed to someone being tired or a team deciding to rest its best players for a more difficult match in the near future?

What would you suggest to try and fix it?

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 6th, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Stuart:

If you can’t give 100% of yourself at all times, you should not be playing. The majesty of the game should come first and foremost. There are dozens of times where playing softly or your best affects the outcome of the pair or team you are playing against. That is why (especially in money events), it is carefully worked out in advance whom you play and when (as you may have bet on a pair or team).

I remember an episode where Norman and Edgar were playing in a pair game and before the last round a pro who happened to be playing with a good client of Norman’s casually but meaningfullly said, “We have a very good game and a chance to win — so go easy on us.” Were those words necessary? Of course, it mattered not. Norman always played his hardest.

There was also a frequently-talked about incident from a world championship around 1976 where the Maple Leafs did not play their world renown best pair (Murray/Kehela). It was a round robin with Canada against Brazil and Italy against possibly Greece. The team that won by the most was declared the winner. Italy who was ahead won by a small margin but Brazil blitzed Canada and, emerged victorious. So, yes, there are ways to accomplish your mission — in an obvious or not-so-obvious way.

And by the way, if people have suspicions, today there are cameras, monitors and recorder slips so caution can be taken.

PaulNovember 7th, 2011 at 1:50 am

Blame the tournament organisers who create events where dumping can be to your advantage. Players who take advantage of these situations, if following the rules, are being perfectly ethical.

Proving dumping is also considerably more difficult than you imply. Just watching China take 67 imps from Italy over 7 boards in the Bermuda Bowl quarter-final shows this.

The answer is to fix the conditions of contest so that dumping is not rewarded. Then you just have the cheats to look for.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 7th, 2011 at 7:02 am

Paul:

Ah, there’s the rub — “the organisers.” but it is like fighting City Hall.

Unfortunately, there are too many politicians involved and too few true patriots of the game. With our present methods of election or selection, it is hard to swing the tide and this will always exist. And then there erupted professionalism to put the icing on the cake. Whether or not the bridge world is aware, we are in a sad state of limbo, where the primary objective is “me, me, me.” The majestic game of bridge is in second place.

Concerning cheats, when Bobby was actively on the scene, he did one helluva job to have them removed — either for a long period or indefinitely. As to the rules, with no one nearly as dedicated as Bobby who gave forty years of his life to the honor of the game (and is still trying — to little avail) — cheaters are given little slaps on the wrist to avoid publicity. I remember someone caught doing someting unscrupulous(without a doubt) and he was given a two year suspension. A famous, wimpy Hall of Famer, came to his rescue and got his sentence reduced from twenty-four to six months. The ACBL was, and still is afraid, of law suits and they walk on ice to stay away from the courts although they have the evidence to justify their action. This is modern day bridge — at least here in America.

Thanks for writing.

Judy

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2011 at 8:32 am

Hi Stuart and Paul,

To directly try and clarify your special questions let me attempt to write the following.

First, with current technology now in use (used in Veldhoven at the just completed 2011 World Bridge Championship) everything at every table is taped so that it is possible to correlate the hand records with behavior behind the screens (always in use) to do what I think what would be the beginning of a “telling” story of the physical goings on at a particular table during a suspicious hand.

The investigator MUST be a very good bridge player, able to understand the workings of a criminal bridge mind, when that person needed help on defense or in the bidding, incidents which do not always occur on every hand, but rather perhaps only an average of one or two hands in each sixteen board set.

That same investigator needs to have time to put together a convincing story (like in a complicated murder case with motive, time and place), which will at least put the cheating scent paramount in his head, but never falling victim to prematurely making up his mind, until all the evidence, perhaps discussing the particular situation with another top bridge player as to what could be going on in a bridge player’s mind at that time.

This investigator needs to be dedicated to ridding cheats from our game, at the cost of hard and contentious work, proving his point. I could go on and on to certain specifics, but every case, depending on the original evidence is usually quite different, but, in my position and during my tenure when it was done, there was no doubt in my mind and when that happens the cheaters go quietly and prefer to get it over with rather than publicize themselves so that everybody in the loop is also thoroughly convinced.

Next, yes Paul it up to the Conditions of Contest (COC) to write it in such a way to try and keep from tempting marginal active ethics followers from straying from the pack and that is what you are basically questioning.

For the answer, let me make two points, first long ago, perhaps when because of Harold Vanderbilt in 1927

converting Auction Bridge to Contract Bridge it soon became known as “A Gentlemans Game”. A simple statement but meant in a very straightforward way. Because bridge is one of the very few competitions which are played by partnerships (not individuals or players who are closely watched by referees and officials for violations of the rules) and that stricture puts the burden on the partnerships themselves to not convey unauthorized information (UI) to each other, but, at least up to now, without officials close by at the table to rule immediately on non-compliance.

Therefore it has developed that the player himself must, in order to preserve his own credibility, police himself into matching his opponents in being actively ethical at all times.

The above caveat then further extends to other rules in that tournament such as what you speak about, not doing what almost everyone would immediately realize as not being a part of our gentlemans agreement. In all competitions such as round robins, played in almost all of our major money and TV filled sports such as football, baseball, soccer, basketball and hockey wherein it is well known to try ones best at all times and not succumb to sleazy tactics such as helping opponents win. Of course, TV keeps much underhanded in tow, by the simple solution of so many people being able to watch and hence form their own opinions.

As of yet, bridge is not blessed with such protections and therefore more is expected from its participants. NEVER, should anyone say in public, although in the recent past much has been discussed, that since the rules are such to do everything legally possible to benefit your own team, it should be basic common sense that the previous statement should be interpreted whic includes playing one’s hardest at all times.

True, the immediate above can be used as an excuse for poor CofC writing, but bridge again is in its own special environment and sometimes everything necessary cannot be conveniently and perfectly spelled out in its entirety.

JeffNovember 9th, 2011 at 7:10 pm

All this talk about better behaviour in other sports ignores the fact that things similar to what you describe as “dumping” do occur in other sports. After the Yankees clinched this fall, they expressed an interest in keeping the Red Sox out of the playoffs. They were playing the Red Sox sole competition for the wild card spot in their final series, and they lost all the games in that series. Did they dump these games, or was it simply one of those things that happens in competitive sports, particularly when they might have been resting their best players for the playoffs?

Bobby WolffNovember 10th, 2011 at 7:15 am

Hi Jeff,

You bring up a situation, that because of its topical nature I followed with great interest. Russell Martin, the Yankees new catcher (last season) made several remarks about how much he hated the Red Sox, but still, even though your facts are correct, seemed to be playing very hard in that series, although the Yankees used many of their also ran pitchers in their last game, being ahead but (I saw the game) there was plenty of evidence that they were trying hard (it is likely the league office was watching).

And how about the Phillies who went into Atlanta with all Atlanta needing was to win one of the three games to get into the playoffs, but the Phillies with nothing to gain won all three games thereby knocking Atlanta out, allowing St. Louis in and then we all know what happened from there.

What conclusion should we get from all the above goings on? I would give all teams a passing mark in what could not only be called baseball sportsmanship, but also competitive necessity for all forms of sports, including bridge. At least to me, teams played hard, although resting their players, mostly pitchers for their own best interest, still playing hard and doing their best, especially Russell Martin at the end.

Fans are two way swords, like the saying goes about men not being able to live or not live with women. Ay, there’s the rub in sports. The answer is to have the active ethics to play hard and not show significant evidence of not, but at the same time doing the best one can, under those circumstances of not going beyond a certain point. Again I would give all who played important baseball games at the end of last season a totally clear and present passing one.

But what about Joe Paterno incident in both what happened and his role? Was he treated fairly or were the board regents and trustees trying to use him to prove how caring they were, enhance their own reputations by their swift and embarrassing punishment, and possibly even add in the fact that perhaps Joe had used up his value to Penn State so it was nothing, by him being immediately fired. but win, win for them?

No doubt what happened was off the charts horrible, but what should the line be on what is legal and notso. That case touches on the difficulties in dealing with children and their predators, mental sickness, inside relationships and its human elements, specific responsibilites and in some ways what the world and especially our beloved country is currently dealing with, politics to the extreme.

It leaves us with poor innocent children, some of whom may be severely mentally maimed for life, a football hero whose rest of his somewhat iconish life will be not worth living, a many times criminal whose future is as black as can be, a group of college politicians who may be thought of capitalizing on public opinion to be heroes to some, and to all thinking people a terrible sadness about humankind.

Until someone emerges in our great country with the overall leadership to set a role model for all, to be, like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion, a genius in all forms of relationships and dealings, and a caring but resourceful individual, we, as a group of people, will continue to dwell below a level which this country (except perhaps during civil war times) has never sunk.

Sorry for the long windedness but the subject is compelling to me.

Thanks for your opinion.

Stuart KingNovember 10th, 2011 at 7:16 am

‘Dumping is actually quite common in sports. For instance in football (soccer) the champions league is first played in 4 team groups where everyone plays each other twice, if one team has done particularly well and has already qualified they often put out a weakened team to rest their best players for later on in the competition. While those players will probably play as well as they can (or close to it, as they want to remain in the team!) the team clearly isn’t the strongest possible.

I guess one way to try and reduce it might be to keep the results of the matches a secret. That way no team knows how well any other team is doing and so can’t pull punches.

I would also agree with Paul somewhat that the competitions should be designed in a way to prevent it, such as a striaght knockout tournament, or double elimination. Basically anything where your results effect only you.

I don’t think you can blame a team for trying their best to win the competition (i.e. resting key players when they know they have qualified), but I agree that Canada not playing their best squad (or playing badly) when they knew they were out does feel wrong as then the team who has preformed the best might not necessarily advance overall as then it depends on the order you played each team.

Bobby WolffNovember 10th, 2011 at 8:17 am

Hi Stuart,

You bring up an interesting analogous situation directed at soccer and its conditions of contest.

My take from my experience of bridge administration and conditions of contest writing is direct and can only be explained by what I think.

Without round robin play (and that pertains to most of the big moneyed, TV watched, major sports around the world including baseball, basketball, American football, soccer, and hockey) not to mention bridge, the scheduling is almost impossible to do it, even passably.

What then are we left with? Simply put, and when one thinks about it, the result may add to the glamor of the game, round robins should bring out the best in the participants, not the ones whose competitive instincts serve as a detriment to the game if they even consider the prospect of not playing their best in order to gain advantage.

The playing and competitions in sports should immediately raise the feelings in all players what they owe to the game itself and that is simply to play one’s best (at least try) at all times and any variance from that should be thought of and disciplined as such as being against the best interests of the game. Terrence Reese, at the time a great writer and perhaps the best player in the world, once had at the beginnings of one of his books the following quote, “There is a demand nowadays for people who would like to make wrong appear to be right”.

Unfortunately that quote has only grown in stature since he used it, with the end result of some of the more inexperienced of us starting to think there is some positive substance in being one of those who is included.

Delving deeper, unless we wipe that possibility off the face of the earth, all competitions where it exists becomes a plague on humankind which (if you excuse the pun) cannot be dealt with.

We, as human beings, cannot fall victim to bromides which for all practical purposes makes whatever competition worth talking about, totally impotent, with its only advantage to some, of making it easier to win.

I wonder what Rudyard Kipling, while composing his off the charts great poem, “IF” would have said about dumping? One thing for sure would be is that if one engages in it in any form, the last line, “And what is more you will be a man, my son” would be to change man to cheat.

John Goold (JRG)November 18th, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I read many of the arguments about “sportsman-like dumping” (or similar phraseology) many years ago in “The Bridge World”. The arguments for it tend to have an “if it’s legal, then it’s alright to do it to increase one’s chances of winning overall” aspect.

But I’ve never been convinced. I simply cannot believe it is fair for a team to be knocked out of contention because another team decides not to try its best against some third team. It’s just not fair and I’d like our game of bridge to be better than that.

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