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(Editor's note: This was originally posted as a comment on another Bridge Winners thread. After several requests from our users, and permission from the author, we have decided to feature it as an article so that it gets more visibility.)


For starters I’d like to introduce myself briefly as most of you probably have never heard of me. Together with Bartosz Chmurski as my partner we represented Poland in several events about a decade ago. We reached the Bermuda Bowl quarterfinals on one occasion, won the bronze medal of the European Championships on another and suffered an embarrassing performance at the Bridge Olympiad. I have never been a professional, though, and recently I have found myself playing less frequently. 


As some of you may know, a few days ago I posted a statement on http://forumbridge.pl/ announcing that I was renouncing my medal from the 2004 European Championships in Malmö (technically a bronze one although the event was won by Fantoni – Nunes so it might potentially turn into a silver one). I have since been asked by many if I was aware at the time that Balicki – Żmudziński played dirty. There are several clues to consider here:

• For 30 years Balicki – Żmudziński kept being the cornerstone of the Polish national team. Early on, however, rumors, gossips and whispers about their game surfaced in Poland and other countries. Some of the allegations were stemmed from the aggressive strong pass system they played but these came mainly from weak, outplayed players. Professionals can tell (and sense) if it is the system doing its job or whether there are other factors at play. Without any recordings, however, the whispers didn’t amount into anything solid.
• Weinstein remarked that cheating always starts at the beginning of the way to the top, never at the end. Absolutely.
• Tremendous job done by Kit Woolsey. Having verified his work I can find no essential shortcomings in his approach.
• In the past decade I played against Balicki – Żmudziński in the finals of the Polish Premier League almost year in year out (winning once, otherwise losing). During these encounters I often had hunches and my teammates did, too. Unfortunately they remained hunches because until last year no recordings were available. After this year’s finals (June 2015) we had an internal discussion in our team and concluded that something was amiss with how they placed their bidding cards on the tray. On one occasion we even made an attempt to distort the distance between their calls but Balicki carefully put the bid back into place which only reinforced our suspicions. Alas Balicki – Żmudziński played almost the entire match on a table without a camera and we didn’t have the recordings to look into. On top of that any accusations made by the losers always feel like sour grapes. That said, lately I brought myself to watch the only recorded segment and it made my hair stand on end. At the table one is focused on the play and I don’t think I actually remember any of the events below but human subconsciousness does have power. Let me invite you to relive the action from the final match of the Polish Premier League.

Here are 9 boards out of the 12 board segment:

Ż has a hand that is below the minimum for the transfer to NT but he makes it nonetheless. Later he goes more and more narrow with his next bids virtually on top of the previous ones so he is able to recover.

 


Passes certainly weren’t narrow but it was hard to take advantage of it because the bidding got high real quick. But the defense is much more interesting. I’d like to ask the doubters to consider if it is OK to put 5 fingers on the table when partner goes into a tank and we happen to have 5 diamonds. It might mean something or it might not but certainly it’s criminal in terms of bridge conduct.



 

Transfer completion is incredibly narrow but what else can be done when you have opened on a 14-count? The transfer itself is also interesting – it is narrow in the top range of the passed hand but the equally narrow 3♣ fits like a glove and clarifies the position.



 

A very interesting hand with a bunch of aspects. First the double – and we all remember Balicki’s statement where he insisted that the upper limit of their overcalls is 17 HCP. True, the double can be explained as an upgrade of the hand which is within the limits of bridge judgment. Then we can admire the second wide pass which makes further bidding a bit easier. The hand barely qualifies for the three level follow-up so it is as narrow as can be.



 

A commercial break, the famous four-finger touch of dummy’s spades.



 

Ż – narrow, narrower, the narrowest, B – first pass is normal, the second one is narrow, once the opponents are in a GF situation, it is not the point count that matters.


 

The widest possible redouble but the hand surely qualifies.




 

Assessing the combined values in two rounds is quite an achievement; but no bid was narrow and the 13 count on four tens was nearly worth a 1NT opening but why take a risk?



 

The fist parade: first the right hand fist and the busy knuckle but the left fist is more interesting because Balicki is unable to reach the table and he must adjust himself on his seat in order to put it on the table. Then the knuckle goes to work again. Do I know what it all means? No, but I no longer care.



To wrap up: I have no proof that Balicki – Żmudziński did any cheating back in 2004 in Malmö but when the pieces of the puzzle suddenly begin to fit and the eye of the camera confirmed what the human eye had seen I understood that this medal (my only one from any serious team competition) is no longer of value to me. It even irks me to have it. Next week I am going to parcel it nicely and return it to EBL.

As for what course of action the other teammates of the four accused pairs should take I am saying it is none of my business. I am only an amateur who enjoys the game of bridge but it seems to me that a big move by the most renowned players would help the WBF/EBL to rip all the titles won by the accused apart.

Let’s wake up in a new era – the era of clean bridge.

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