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Catching Cheaters

I don’t think it is so hard to catch cheaters at the top level. It always starts with “whispers.” All the well-documented cases (where there was eventually proof) started that way. Clean pairs need not worry—there isn’t “whispering.” I’ve played hundreds of boards against the top pairs with nary a concern. They make the right shift when they should (good bridge logic/expertise). They get things wrong when they have no reason to get them right.

Yet, when a top pair gets too many things right, their peers take notice. Whispers start and then boards get recorded and discussed. If the pair in question is really clean, they should be able to explain their actions.

A panel of players with multiple national championships, good ethics, and good analytical skills would be able to analyze data and draw the right conclusions. (No ACBL officials, board members, or directors unless they are “top-100” bridge analysts). The pair in question gets to provide their complete case. If on Board 3, they shifted to a club (when the indicated expert play was a spade), they could say why they did so. On Board 8, if they led a heart (when no expert would do so), they could explain. They could also show that on Board 14 they balanced aggressively and it was wrong. (State of the match matters: they could not cite a wrong “guess” on Board 60, up by 120 IMPs.)

If on dozens of relevant deals an expert player makes repeated extreme bids/leads/plays and has no rational bridge explanation, something is wrong. If they are unexplainable actions (“non-expert bridge”) then something is fishy. A world-class player (capable of winning Spingolds) might make an egregious error (perhaps one or two in an entire week). It is not possible for such a player to make 10-15 of those inexplicable plays in a week. Really. Beyond a reasonable doubt. And if you think there is a 0.0001% chance it could happen, and then the same thing happens at the next tournament, then it is 0.0001% x 0.0001% – which multiplies out to “impossible.”

This isn’t akin to a lucky lead and some mathematical simulation – “well, it can happen 6 times in a row based on pure odds/luck so it is 63:1” This would be a Spingold Champion making multiple inexplicable bridge plays (“lucky” errors that hit partner). Such players aren’t able to honestly win multiple National Championships.

To the lawyers: Let’s use common sense here. First of all, when a player enters the event, they need to waive any rights to sue. They have to concede their rights in such matters. If an expert panel finds suspicion and bars them, so be it. No legal recourse. The pair in question gets to present their case –and explain every single deal in question. I don’t think it is possible that an esteemed expert committee with dozens of deals of evidence could get it wrong. This is not a “slippery slope” or opening a “can of worms” (which I’ve read in other posts). Innocent pairs need not worry.

With proper evidence submitted and a qualified panel, justice should soon follow.

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