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Elinescu-Wladow were stupid. You haven't found the smart cheats...


The Elinescu-Wladow incident in Bali clearly suggests the need to adopt much more rigorous anti-cheating technology in high level bridge events. I would go so far as to argue that event organizers should abandon venerable pasteboard in favor of an electronic playing environment. Concurrent with this, event organizers should physically segregate players. All of the North’s can play in one room, all of the South’s in another, …

I recognize that most people favor the more traditional game and the use of cards. Balanced against this I would point out three simple facts

  1. Elinescu and Wladow got caught because they were stupid. They combined a highly visible out of band signal with a simplistic encoding.
  2. Electronic transmitters are extremely simple to make. Card counters have been building hardware assists into items of clothing for decades. It is naïve to believe that toe “tapping” is coughing necessary to transfer information in this day and age.
  3. There’s an awful lot of money to be had, both by hiring oneself out to sponsors, winning the Cavendish, or winning cash prizes.

Given all the accusations of cheating that we see bandied about, why do individual believe that these types of hardware assists aren’t in common use?

From my perspective, transition would accomplish facilitate a number of worthy goals

  1. Naïve forms of cheating such as the ones used by Elinescu-Wladow would be eliminated. More sophisticated forms of cheating (say, using an electronic transmitter of some form) would require a more powerful transmitter and be easiers to sweep/detect.
  2. Authorities would have a comprehensive database or every bid that gets made and card that gets play. Catching a smart pair of cheats is going to require careful statistical analysis of the data. (You’ll want to be able to detect situations in which pairs consistently take a position that turns out to be correct). However, this type of analysis requires a lot of data.
  3. It becomes exceedingly cheap to provide comprehensive Vugraph and high quality World Championship Record Books.

Once again, I understand that people like the traditional game, they like playing with cards, they like watching the opposing pair to see whether they hitch, etc.

However, the cost of doing this all is that a smart pair of thieves can rob you blind and the WBF, the ACBL, the Cavendish, etc have no effective controls to stop this from happen.

Moreover, knowing human nature, I’d guess that this is already happening.


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