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An "offbeat incident"

I sent the following response to The Bridge World's Editorial concerning Mr. Passell's "offbeat incident." Linda and I really have not gone public about this (other than discussing it within our circle of bridge friends); we decided to let the ACBL's proceedings take their course. I was hoping this thing was put to rest, but it seems that The Bridge World has opened it up again.

I am publishing this here partially because the editor of The Bridge World says that the letter is too long to be published in his magazine. I won't shorten it because I want to say everything I have to say on this incident one time, and one time only. This will probably be my last words on this subject, unless someone wants to take us up on the offer we made in the last paragraph in my letter.

 

To the Editor:

I suppose the one thing about “editorials” that certain journalists like is that they can pretty much ignore the facts and write whatever they wish to justify their opinion. And when you can use an Editorial to justify the actions of one of your friends, that’s even better. Responsible journalists at least take the time to find out the other side of the story before dismissing it, but apparently you did not wish to bother to take the time to do so before publishing your editorial about Mr. Passell’s “offbeat incident.” Let me state upfront that the version of the story that you printed bears little resemblance to what actually happened. I know this because my wife, Linda, and I were the other pair at the table that day.

I was hoping this thing was finally done. Linda and I have said little publicly about this until now, but I am tired of being accused of being either a buffoon or a liar.

Let’s examine your version of the story. The boards that we were using were the old fashioned metal boards. When is the last time that you saw a card come out of one of these boards? You can throw one against a concrete wall and I doubt if you could get a card to come out of it. Ok, let’s just suppose that a card came out and everybody was too oblivious to notice it except Mr. Passell. According to your own version of the story, the card was face up. Given that the hand in question had just been played, how is it possible that a player of the stature of Mr. Passell did not remember which hand the card came from…especially since the card in question was the key card (Jack of Spades) in a hand he had just gone down in? Given that the match consisted of 8 boards, what do you suppose the odds are that a card came out of the one board where we had a strong positive position, and the cards that were misplaced were the key cards in the hand? When the board was played at our table, Mr. Passell’s pair could make a vulnerable game in either major while we had a minus 300 save in 5D. We took the save and Mr. Passell bid 5H, got doubled, and went down one. So a likely scenario for the board is that we would gain 11-13 imps as long as our partners did not bid 5 of the major. This hand was the only possible big swing for our side in the eight board set. With the 2 cards switched, 4H or 4S had no play, and 5D doubled would go down only one. I’d be happy to give you the whole hand, but based on your article you apparently would have little interest.

This is what really happened that day. Mr. Passell kept the boards for the round propped against the table leg. Numerous times during the round, he would reach down to handle the boards – at the time we thought the boards kept falling flat on the floor and he was just reaching down to put them back against the leg. (I’ve asked some friends who have played against Mr. Passell and they confirmed that in a team match leaning the boards against a table leg was typical of him.) Linda asked him several times why he didn’t just put the boards flat on the floor and he responded that he liked them leaning against the leg. We figured this was just some habit. At the end of the match, Mr. Passell immediately picked up the boards from the floor and gave them to us to take to our table as it was a round robin. He did not put them on his lap, he did not put them on the table. Thus, he did not have any opportunity to count the cards in any of the hands. After the match was over, we approached Mr. Passell and told him there was a problem with a board. His response was that some cards (not “a” card) had come out and he had put them back in as well as he could. Besides, he said, you won 2 imps on the board. And that’s when Linda and I - not Mr. Passell – went to the director. The tournament director told us our recourse was to file a player memo explaining what happened and so we did.

No matter how many times we go over it, we can come to no conclusion except that Mr. Passell switched 2 important cards in one of the boards in our match. I can only guess at his motivation for doing this…although I have a couple of pretty good guesses. And it does not surprise me that because he is “Bridge Royalty” and we are just plain old ACBL members that people are more likely to listen to his version than ours – especially when he repeats it often enough and we haven’t really said anything publicly about this. The only time we have spoken of the incident outside of our own circle of Bridge friends is when we testified at the ACBL hearing. I think it is worth noting that the members of the committee that heard our testimony and ruled against Mr. Passell were Blue Ribbon Flight A Bridge Players.

By the way, I agree that the ACBL’s ruling wasn’t right. If I or any other normal member of the league did what Mr. Passell did, I expect he or she would have been kicked out of the league or at least suspended for more than a couple of weeks.

Perhaps you should ask yourself what could our possible motivation be for falsifying this? Is it because we wanted to be vilified and called cowardly (among other things) on sites like bridgewinners? We certainly aren’t concerned about the results in some random Bridge Tournament, and we certainly had no negative feelings whatsoever about Mr. Passell before this incident. In fact, until that day I had a great deal of respect for him and his accomplishments.

We came back to bridge for the challenge and enjoyment after we retired. The bridge players who know us know of our honesty and integrity.

For the rest of you here is my challenge. If the Bridge World or someone with deep pockets would like to pay for it, allow us to take a polygraph concerning this incident. At your expense, we’d be willing to travel anywhere in the country to do this. We’d also like Mr. Passell to agree to the same thing, but that’s not imperative.

Marvin E. Darter

K110520

North Port, FL

 

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