Join Bridge Winners
Breaking the Code
(Page of 17)

Since Boye brought the Fisher-Schwartz scandal to the world’s attention, I have been going over VuGraph matches looking for more incriminating hands. They aren’t hard to find. A few days ago I received a phone call from Peter Bertheau informing me that Per Ola Cullin had broken the code about opening leads, and it was time to shift my focus to verifying his findings by analyzing video of their matches. Per Ola discovered that F-S were using the tray and board to indicate preferences on opening lead. Leaving the board on the tray indicates no real preference of lead (or preference for the opening bidder’s suit if his partner is on lead). Specific suit leads are requested by taking the board off the tray and putting it in a certain place on the table.

Spades: The board is pushed toward the opening leader.

Hearts: The board is placed on one side of the table.

Diamonds: The board is placed in the middle of the table.

Clubs: The board is kept on the side of the non opening leader.

Now that I had something concrete to work with, it was time to put it to the test. I decided to analyze a 15-board segment from the 2014 European Championships. I chose one F-S played against Helgemo-Helness of Monaco, since I thought that would be entertaining. There were dubious actions on all but three of the boards.

I found evidence to support my previous discoveries of ways they are conveying information, mostly during the auction.

  • They make audible signals (such as coughing and drinking water) to indicate weakness. This usually happens only when partner is in the auction, not when both of them are passing. 
  • They convey length in partner’s suit after they have shown weakness based on the speed at which they bid: slow means no support, while bidding fast shows support. 
  • When they are declaring, they can ask partner to find out about the trumps for them (see board 12).
  • As declarer they can indicate that they have a problem, so dummy can get up from the table and try to help.  

 

Board 1

West
106
AK10653
J3
AK7
Schwartz
Q984
7
A842
10653
East
AKJ32
Q42
97
Q94
Fisher
75
J98
KQ1065
J82
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
1
4 West
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
4
J
K
0
0
1
A
7
2
8
0
0
2
6
3
Q
9
2
0
3
4
J
K
2
0
0
4
10
Q
A
5
2
0
5
K
7
6
4
2
0
6
6

At 8.54 Fisher quickly takes the board off the tray and puts it in the middle of the table to ask for a diamond lead. Poor Schwartz has A842 and feels he can’t really lead a diamond on the first board against Monaco when he has a completely normal club lead. So he thinks for 1.5 minutes and at 10.29 eventually makes the normal lead of a club.

Helgemo makes 7 and at the end of the hand at 11.59 Fisher looks very surprised. After looking stunned and annoyed at 12.12 he leans under the table to talk to Schwartz for about 7 seconds complaining about something he did, or as we know, didn’t do. At 12.30 Fisher again says something to Schwartz and waves his hand as if to say "Why?"

 

Board 2

West
65
Q864
J952
1075
Schwartz
9
J52
K86
J86432
East
Q32
K7
Q10743
AK9
Fisher
AKJ10874
A1093
A
Q
W
N
E
S
1NT
4
P
P
P
D
2
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
2
K
A
3
1
0
A
6
9
2
3
2
0
K
5
2
3
3
3
0
A
2
6
3
3
4
0
3
Q
5
7
0
4
1
5
6


Shortly after passing the tray at 12.55, Schwartz takes a loud drink of water at 13.07; you can clearly hear the water bottle.  This occurs while Fisher is thinking over what to do over 1NT.

Fisher ends up declaring and the board finishes without incident.


Board 3

West
AQJ74
QJ986
Q6
K
Schwartz