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The Three and a Half Cs
(Page of 11)

Post-Boye, the fact that collusive cheating exists in high-level bridge is no secret. There have been some pleasing responses to this terrible state of affairs. Here are three relevant BW articles.

This article details the resolve of many top players to work to achieve a clean game.

Players signing this letter commit to playing bridge with honor and integrity, in the absence of which the very soul of the game is in jeopardy.

Michielsen's article describes the return of Fantoni and Nunes; they were playing (not together) in the 2018 Italian Open Pairs. 

Fantoni came in second and got hundreds of likes and congratulations on Facebook including some from top Italian experts.

This is madness. I find it shocking that they are back playing. It seems that there are people feeling sorry for them because they got caught. How is that possible?

Several top players have agreed that allowing Fantoni and Nunes to play in open competition will ruin our game.

Ms Michielsen has some support. Joe Grue comments:

I will never play in an event that any convicted cheater enters. It's also shocking to me for anyone to actually feel ok sitting down as the partner of a known cheater. Shocking.

We have to show the bridge world that we do not accept this.

This last article discusses how to deal with two vexing topics:

- how authorities should respond when cheats are uncovered

- what to do about placings in tournaments where cheats win a medal

Roy Welland comments:

I admire the great job the ACBL has done with respect to protecting our game and I hope they can continue to show the world how a federation should deal with cheaters. As one of the players that will lose some important titles if the above proposals are enacted, I fully support the adoption of those measures.


The second question, what to do about placings won by cheats, has been discussed in some BW articles. Here is one:

And here is a poll:


There is another topic where official guidance is lacking:

What policy should the authorities adopt regarding the prospect of rehabilitation and readmission of players who engage in collusive cheating at high-level events?


Reading BW comments shows that there a a substantial body of opinion that holds, No readmission. Out for life. Indeed, there is quite something, certainly as far as deterrents go, to be said for this.

 But there are are alternatives, and I think there are criteria for deciding whether a player is a candidate for readmission to the tournament world, and these are The Three and a Half Cs.

1. Confession

After being invited to assist the authorities with certain enquiries, and those enquires making an adverse finding, I think confession is an essential prerequisite for curtailing a suspension.

Here is an example of how not to confess to one's sins.

Following the completion of their rebuttal – Fisher and Schwartz will not only sue Boye Brogeland for financial damages and for slander, they also will call upon every Bridge federation to have Boye and Co. held accountable for their actions and BAN them from the professional Bridge world. “Boye and his posse have terrorized the bridge world and acted as judges, Juries and executioners – they must and will pay the price for their actions – both financially and professionally”.


From what I know of high-level cheating, this first step of confession does seem rather rare. In the majority of cases, culprits remain outraged and in denial, typical signs of socio/psychopathy.

Here is an instance of a confession, from The Lone Wolff:

Opponents began to be suspicious of too many unusual bids or leads that always seemed to be right. Eventually [Sion and Cokin] were watched carefully, first at the Spring Nationals in March, 1979 in Norfolk... and then, a few months later, at the 1979 Grand National Teams finals in Atlanta. Finally, the code was broken. They had devised a simple but ingenious signaling method which involved the placement of their pencils on the table — using this code, they were able to signal information about their distribution, especially the location of short suits.... I got Allan Cokin to confess, persuading him that his future in bridge offered more that way than contesting his guilt. After that, Sion, a classic sociopath, had no alternative but to confess also.The

The ACBL website and the Encylopedia list Sion, Cokin, Weichsel, Sontag and sponsor Sternberg as winners in the Norfolk Men's Board-a-Match Teams.

Getting a confession is doubtless no easy task. High-level cheats are sure to be a tough nut to crack and the authorities will have to have "the goods", and then some. I have an email from a world-class player who, alone with Sion and Cokin in a hotel room prior to 1979, gave a frank and forthright opinion of their skills. Cokin burst into tears, while Sion was determined to find out how much Mr Expert knew.


Here is another instance of "sprung" cheats being in complete denial, and it serves as a an illustration of what normal decent bridgeplayers are up against.

- From Barry Rigal's article, :

... Bertrand Gignoux (a very senior French Director and a very competent player) watched Wladow-Elinescu on as many boards as his other tasks permitted. He observed 31 possible cases where one player or the other had a singleton. In every one of those cases a coughing signal was given which corresponded to the appropriate shortage (including one example where two and four coughs by one player showed both a singleton spade and diamond)

- From :

... a formal committee hearing in Dallas in January 2014 found Elinescu and Wladow guilty of reprehensible conduct. The Disciplinary Commission imposed the following sanctions upon them:

1. Michael Elinescu and Entscho Wladow shall be banned from playing together in any WBF organised championship or competition for life;2. Michael Elinescu and Entscho Wladow shall be each individually banned from playing in a WBF organised championship or competition for a period of 10 years


The doctors refused to return the gold medals and replacement ones were made by the WBF and awarded to USA2


There is no happy ending, as we see here:

The Kölner Landgericht has judged in this case coming to a remarkable conclusion. E/W wanted cancellation of the ban of playing in national tournaments and demanded financial compensation

They have WON


Those so charitable as to advocate an "it's all in the past, let's forget about it" approach to cheats might like to contemplate the raw, naked injustice found in the above article.

2. Contrition

A public statement, acknowledging the truth, accepting the damage that has been done to the integrity of tournament results and, indeed, to bridge itself, is surely desirable. What little I know of the law leads me to think that contrition and remorse are factors taken into account in sentencing in court cases.

Furthermore, I believe this sort of  action - a disclosure of the state of affairs that affects the integrity of bridge - to be of significant public benefit, while it is clear that many administrators think such a policy to be an unmitigated evil. It is fact that "minimise the scandal" has been WBF policy since its creation in 1958. I wrote about the official policy of secrecy some three years ago:

After finishing research for my Blue Team book, I realised that the situation was far worse than I imagined in 2015.


3. Cooperation

The discovery of a cheating pair is an opportunity for the authorities to add to their knowledge-base.

- How long did the pair engage in collusive signalling?

- Who else knew about this?

- What do the players know about other cheating pairs and players?


This last question is of particular importance, for truthful answers will go quite some way to rooting out cheats. Here is an indication that a cheating pair may have some interesting insights:

The New Yorker, 29 Feb 2016:

I’ve watched, also on YouTube, a remarkable video in which Piekarek and Smirnov are playing Fisher and Schwartz in a tournament match, and Fisher appears to catch Smirnov trying to cheat. Smirnov places a bidding card on the bidding tray in an unusual position, and Fisher apparently obliterates the signal by shaking the tray as he slides it to the other side of the screen. Fisher smirks, then writes something on a piece of paper and shows it to Smirnov. Smirnov shrugs, glances at the video camera, and looks around the room.


I have an email from a high-level administrator that says that a top-class pair was, not so long ago, presented with much hard evidence of their collusive cheating. They passed the first hurdle - they confessed. When asked what they knew about other high-level cheating in their region, they refused to answer. Bad dog! No biscuit! And no returning to bridge either, if I were to have my way.

And what of the remaining half a C?

Well, it's a C that I don't regard as an essential requirement for reinstatement, and the C stands for Contribution.

Here is an example, from The Lone Wolff:

... Allan Cokin became a reformed man, devoting himself to expunging the blemish on his record, and has given a great deal back to the game. Prior to his recent bouts of ill-health, he has been much in demand as a coach, and has contributed enormously to the Junior program, pro bono.

This sort of action goes some way to making amends. "Making merit", if you happen to be a Buddhist. Probably a good thing, but I would trade lots of pro-bono coaching for a single true account of what a cheating pair really knows about cheating pairs who have not yet been "outed".

Furthermore, I think sequence is important. First the confession, later, the contribution. An example of contribution without confession can be seen in the case of Facchini and Zucchelli, winners of the 1975 Bermuda Bowl.

That F & Z were guilty of using illicit signals is close to irrefutable. Here is the opinion of Denis Howard, one-time President of the Australian Bridge Federation, World Bridge Federation, ACBL CEO and Chairman of one of Australia’s largest law firms:

What there is of the defense case is weak enough to leave me in no doubt that Facchini and Zucchelli cheated in Bermuda. I submit that any objective analysis of the evidence and of the surrounding circumstances will lead all but the wilfully self-deceptive to the same determination.

There is ample evidence that F & Z were known as cheats in Italy.

The Lone Wolff:

...a highly respected Italian player... went on to describe their [F & Z's] partnership reputation and methods of cheating. Upon further grilling, she elaborated that after this pair were forced to play behind screens … they moved to foot signals under the table.

John Swanson, Inside the Bermuda Bowl:

The Italian Bridge Federation, FIB, resolved cheating incidents by barring the players from entering events as partners, although they could form other partnerships. This had a cancer-like effect whereby new partnerships, which included a player from a previously censured pair, were later themselves prohibited from playing together. Zucchelli and Facchini were descendants in this chain. Both had been barred from playing with previous partners because of irregularities.


Now, the 1975 Bowl really was a disaster. In order for the WBF to stick to its policy of "minimise the scandal" (and to hell with the integrity of results), they had to conceal the six hands where Bruce Keidan reported Facchini and Zucchelli using foot-signals during the Italy-France match on day one. F-Z were found guilty of “severe reprimand for improper conduct”. Once the scandal died down, the WBF took further action:

ACBL Bridge Beat. 01 August, 2012… the WBF advised Italian bridge officials that it would not welcome the nomination of either player to any event it conducted in the immediately foreseeable future.

So there can be no doubt that Italian officials knew the score as regards Facchini and Zucchelli. How did they handle this matter? They ignored it. Recall page one of this article, on Fantoni's return to Italian bridge:

Fantoni came in second and got hundreds of likes and congratulations on Facebook including some from top Italian experts.

That is about what happened to Facchinin and Zucchelli: They were welcomed as heroes and went on to have successes in top Italian events as partners, and tournaments were named after them in Bologna. Even more bizarrely, Zucchelli was appointed coach of the Italian teams in the European Youth Teams in 1988 and 1992. Zucchelli coached Fantoni and Nunes in 1988 and Nunes in 1992. 

Now, while coaching juniors is a meritorious act, one needs the right person for the job. It is my opinion that Zucchelli's contribution should have been declined. Cokin, having confessed to using illicit signals on every hand in his partnership with Sion, was a candidate for a coach.

WBF President Ortiz-Patino:

...national organisations which, through their own weakness, fear, or the laws of their country over which they have no control, are unable to weed out these [cheating] players from their own organisations.

I wonder which NBO he was talking about...

Having confessed, been openly contrite and cooperated with authorities, it may be that, after a period of suspension, a collusive cheat is a candidate for readmission to the tournament world. The merit of such a policy is a matter for public debate. 

But we are still dealing with cheats and readmission can be taken too far. The schedule for the Fall 2014 NABC had the following side-events:

Sun, Dec 30th, 1:00 and 7:30, Allan Cokin Memorial Strati-Flighted A/X Swiss Teams

Wed Dec 3rd, 1:00pm and 7:30pm, Allan Cokin Memorial Stratified Open Pairs

Wed Dec 3rd, 11:30pm, Allan Cokin Memorial Zip Knockout Teams


For me, that was simply de trop, and I wrote an article:

The glorification of a cheat offended others as well, and the events were renamed.


In that article, we see that the ACBL has an Allan Cokin obituary.

There we read:

Former ACBL President Barbara Nudelman said Cokin more than made amends for the ethical violations.

No, Cokin was not guilty of "ethical violations". He was guilty of collusive cheating via illicit signals. It is way overdue to use plain, factual language in this domain.


I can think of another time that collusive cheating was relabelled as "ethical violations"...

There we read a statement from Alex Smirnov:

Josef Piekarek and I are aware of the "whispers" circulating about our ethical conduct, and we are sorry to say there is some truth to them. We regret that in the past as a partnership we committed some ethical violations. This morning we informed our Federation and our teammates, and we have all agreed that the German team should withdraw from the Bermuda Bowl.

Josef and I have voluntarily agreed never again to play competitive bridge together and to take two years off from playing competitive bridge. We hope that after such a time has elapsed, that we might be welcomed back into the competitive bridge playing community.


Yes, "ethical violations". Not cheating at all! Goodness me, who could think such mean things?

Arno Weber made a comment with which I agree:

The statement from Alex Smirnov 'admits' only in the vaguest possible terms to 'some ethical violations in the past', regretting them.I would say (almost) all of us (despite our best efforts) could truthfully make the same statement.


So, in terms of a "confession", this statement from Smirnov has little value. It is my opinion that it simply will not suffice when the topic of readmission is considered.

As well as dubious content, the timing of Smirnov's statement is interesting.

Readers may recall the famous "Third Pair" debate, while Brogeland's research and findings were underway. Fantoni-Nunes and Fisher-Shwartz had been "outed"... but was that the end of the matter?

On 17 Sep, 2015, Sabine Auken wrote an article:

Convinced of the administrators’ unwillingness and/or inability to take measures against the perceived ongoing cheating that has pestered the top of bridge for many years Boye Brogeland took it upon himself to call on an army of enthusiastic experts to get rid of the plague...

I have had several phone conversations with Boye during the course of last weeks’ events. In our initial conversation I learnt that the majority of bridge experts had the same three pairs on a list of pairs they believed were cheating. Just as much as I personally believed the first two of those pairs to be guilty, I also believed and still believe the third pair on that list to be innocent.


Two days later, two articles were posted: Smirnov's faux confession, above, and an apology to Brogeland by Auken's partner Roy Welland.

This morning I learned that my teammates, Alex Smirnov and Josef Piekarek... have asked that we withdraw the German National Team... as a result of ethical violations committed by them in the past...

...we were also aware that there were some rumors regarding our teammates Alex and Josef... I decided that an open conversation with my teammates would be necessary for me to be satisfied of their innocence, I had a talk that lasted well over an hour, discussing the rumors, possible solutions, how much better it would be if they came out in front of any evidence and promising to help in any way possible in case it was needed...

By the end of the call, I was assured that they had no special signaling, no special agreements, and there was no cause for concern.


So Smirnov and Piekarek switched from total denials to withdrawing from the National team over three days. What could have prompted that? Answer: They were shown hard evidence of their collusive signals (bidding card placement being one of them). Their "voluntary" confession was anything but.

David Gold:

They were cheating in Opatijia. I have been shown the video evidence. This confession did not come out of the blue.


Now, I recall the day when Sminov's "confession" was posted. I was sitting in a large house right on the Gulf of Thailand, munching my way through breakfast when I opened the article. Reading the comments, I can across these statements:

Steve Weinstein: I for one have a lot of respect for your decision and look forward to your return in 2 years.

Jeff Meckstroth: I agree with Steve! I have always liked Alex and i applaud his honesty in coming clean. This is a very brave action and I will welcome his return to bridge if and when that happens.

Ishmael Del'Monte: Bravo Alex and Josef!

Richard Schwartz: This was the CLASS thing to do. Everyone makes mistakes.

It was obvious to me what had happened: I had missed some sparkling irony in the comments above, and these comments were witty, satirical follow-ups. It was simply impossible for a sane person to be serious with those statements.

A diligent search did nothing for my digestion and temper, and confirmed my long-held opinion that one can simultaneously be an excellent bridgeplayer and an idiot. Fuming, I launched some comments of my own:

Truly vomitous and incredibly naive....

Did they front up of their own volition and confess all, having realised the enormity of their actions? No, they knew that game was up, shat their pants and are now trying to spin their way to yet more benefit, in the form of a reduced loss.

JM and plenty others are confusing bar-room bonhomie with character and integrity. You can fool some of the people all of the time.


Note, in Smirnov's statement, above, that he and Piekarek have themselves decided what is an appropriate follow-up: abandoning their partnership and a two-year break from bridge. They have not made a valid confession. They have displayed no contrition. Having failed two Cs, no return to bridge, say I.


Finally, what was it like playing against a player that Meckstroth "always liked"?

Artur Malinowski:

I think that so many people are so naively nice to Piekarek and Smirnov because they didn't win as much as the others and because of "poor" Alex played the confession card. I would like to tell you all that I know them for years they are not a nice people and they will do anything for profit and points and they only regret is that they were caught. I had eight years of meeting them at the bridge table, watching them behaving strangely , making weird plays, reporting them to directors and even had a physical confrontation because I called them cheats. Some of my friends called me paranoid and lately Sabine said that I "indulge insinuations". I really hope not to meet any of them at the bridge table for many years and ask my fellow experts to use their silly sympathy and forgiveness somewhere else in life.

There is an aspect of "confession" that I think is important:

That a necessary component of a sufficient confession is the disclosure of all major events in which the illicit signals were used.

We need to know this. We need to know which events have been corrupted. We need to know the depth and breadth of cheating. We need to know who has been teaming-up with cheats. We need to examine this data for patterns and trends. If we see that the top placings of decades of top events have been ruined, we know that more and better policing of the game is required.


To date, I am aware of only one instance where a complete enumeration of the events in which a cheating pair played was given.

From an entry in Cameron French's epic blog on the Sion-Cokin scandal: Bobby Wolff notes in an email correspondence; Cokin admits to cheating in "basically every event they ever played in".

Wolff may well know what he is talking about; he writes here: :

The Cokin/Sion issue manifested itself during my ACBL presidency when Cokin confessed his role of cheating with Steve Sion in front of the entire ACBL BOD in the Spring of 1987 in St. Louis. Then, after signing his confession (drafted by me), it forced his partner to do the same. Both documents were turned over to Jeff Polisner, ACBL Attorney at the time, and were held in his office in San Francisco.”

Other than that, cheats are not exactly forthcoming about their sins; frequently, the response has been one of anger and intimidation. We saw two examples above, with Fisher-Schwartz and Piekarek-Smirnov.

Here are other examples.


Vanity Fair, 29 February, 2016:

Last fall Brogeland received a text that had originated with a teammate of Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes, the Italian pair who, for more than a decade, have reigned as the game’s No. 1 and No. 2 players. Brogeland had also publicly accused them, along with two other top-ranking bridge pairs, of cheating. The message read, “Tell your friend Boye that whenever he needs a wheelchair we have plenty of those in the south.”


The Philadelphia Inquirer, 26 Juanuary, 1975:

The Blue Team wrote to the American Contract Bridge League to demand that it not approve his captaincy and when the American governing bodyignored that plea, Blue Team star Benito Garozzo announced loudly that “if Sheinwold shows up in Bermuda, he had better bring along a hospitalbed...”


John Swanson, Inside the Bermuda Bowl:

Belladonna encountered Burgay in an Italian tournament … [he knocked] Burgay to the floor of the playing area and then emphasized his displeasure with a kick.

And that brings us to the subject of Italy.

Consider this list of Italian world champions:

Avarelli, Belladonna, Bianchi, Buratti, Chiaradia, D'Alelio, Facchini, Fantoni, Forquet, Garozzo, Lanzarotti, Nunes, Pabis-Ticci, Siniscalco, Zucchelli.

It is my opinion that their "wins" resulted from the use of illicit signals. This view was also held, at least by some, in Italy; from Anders Wirgren's review of my Blue Team book:

A second episode, not mentioned in the book, is when Lawrence played a big team tournament in Italy in the middle of the 1970’s. His team managed to reach the final. So did the Blue Team. Before the final started, the chairman of the Italian local club approached Lawrence and said “I hope you win.” and added, “You know that they are cheating, don’t you?”. Obviously, there were suspicions in Italy too.

The players listed above won a total of 113 gold medals, making Italy truly the greatest country of all time when it comes to world bridge championships won by illicit means. There are two other way in which Italian bridge is unique: its handling of cheating players and its policy of amnesties.


First, let's consider the strange case of Antonio Vivaldi and Enza Rossano.

Now, Vivaldi and Rossano won the World Mixed Pairs in 1998. Then, as the 2016 World Mixed Pairs approached, we saw some curious events:

- BW comment, 01 Sep 2016:

Rossano-Vivaldi were selected by FIGB a few weeks ago from among those that did not qualify automatically by the trials.

- WBF announcement, 31 Aug, 2016:

Yesterday, the Credentials Committee of the World Bridge Federation determined that the invitation extended to Enza Rossano and Antonio Vivaldi be withdrawn; consequently they will no longer be eligible to play in the 2016 World Bridge Games in Wroclaw. Rossano and Vivaldi are members of the Italian Mixed Team.

So, on the one hand, R-V were so well-regarded in Italy that they did not even need to qualify by trials, and on the other hand, the WBF declined to allow them to play in the Mixed Pairs at all. Why this extraordinary dichotomy? Was any form of enquiry held in Italy to ascertain what this was all about? So far as I can tell, no

Was this some sort of unfair railroading on the part of the WBF? The evidence is, no... and that brings us the second way in which bridge in Italy is unique: Amnesties.


BW comment, 01 Sep:

According to the memory of a fellow Italian player the story goes like this: They [Vivaldi–Rossano] were sentenced to a 2.5 years suspension. The sentence was appealed by them but the appeal process didn’t take place because the amnesty cleared everything.

Because Italy won the Olympiad in Maastricht in 2000 the Italian Bridge Federation granted amnesty to a number of pairs, including Rossano–Vivaldi. Apparently their reputation in their own country isn’t squeaky-clean.

Now, there may be readers to whom that last statement makes perfect sense. Italy won a world championship, therefore a pair that received the same penalty (30 months suspension) as Buratti-Lanzarotti had their suspension cancelled. Personally, I am unable to follow that reasoning. So let's look at official FIGB statements about amnesties. No doubt that will clarify matters.


What is an amnesty?

Bridge d’Italia, June 1999:

Amnesty is a measure (of general character) related to exceptional events with which the F.I.G.B. terminates an infringement, and if there was a conviction by a final judgment, it terminates the execution of the sentence. The Federal Council has license to grant amnesty and shall state the effective date of the amnesty itself. Regarding pending judgments and infringements covered by amnesty, the judicial body takes a decision not to prosecute. In the event that an amnesty has been granted, it is without prejudice to the sanctions set out in article 3 of Presidential Decree 1576/86 and Article 49 of the Federal Statute.


Why the amnesties?

Bridge d’Italia, March 2003:

At the end of the reports, Counselor Mensitieri proposes the promulgation of a clemency measure, in consideration of both the exceptional nature of the event and the common practice to FSN who win Olympic titles. He (Mensitieri) notes that FIGB had already taken a similar decision for another event of equal importance, the recognition of the Federation as Associated Discipline of CONI. A wide-ranging discussion begins with all counselors, where all aspects of a possible proceeding are reviewed. After holding an exchange of views, all members of the C.F. agree to the promulgation of a clemency measure...

Alles klar, as they say in Germany.


I am not alone in having reservations regarding amnesties.

The Bridge World, January 2019 editorial starts:

In 2013, a national bridge organization quietly issued an amnesty to all convicted and suspected cheats. The motivation for this was unclear. Doubt about the validity or execution of the procedures used to classify players into those categories? Compulsion to offer forgiveness? A firm belief in reclamation of lost souls, or in the possibility of redemption? Desperate need for more entry fees? Unsavory considerations? Regardless, it seems certain that the notion of learning from past mistakes was not honored: For a long time, sweeping things under a rug was the de facto procedure of bridge groups faced with accusations of cheating; very likely this was a major factor contributing to the catastrophic persistence of serious violations and disruptions.

Whatever the merits of amnesties, are you able to think of any reason why "all convicted and suspected cheats" should be off the hook? If such a thing is a good idea, why should it done "quietly"? 


And that takes us to a new topic... NBO policy.

i suspect that many BW members will have been startled at some of the results of bridge organisations when dealing with cheats.


In Italy, it turns out that Fantoni and Nunes were never guilty of any improper actions at all:

Now the Federal Appeal Tribunal of the Italian Bridge Federation (FIGB) has accepted their appeal and lifted the 3-year suspension because if a conviction is followed by an acquittal, then the defendant is innocent.

Any advocate of that point of view is invited to reconcile their position with what they see here:


In Germany, nothing can be done about Elinescu-Wladow, because the WBF had inadequate regulations:

Mike Summers-Smith:

If the newspaper report is complete, the court only addressed the legality of WBF bars against individuals, not against pairs or national bodies. It did not look at the substance of the cheating allegations. Rather, according to presiding judge Jürgen Kühnen, the WBF constitution in no way provides that the WBF can bar individual players ('Vielmehr habe die Satzung des WBF gar nicht vorgesehen, dass der Weltverband einzelne Bridge-Spieler sperrt, argumentiert der Vorsitzende Richter Jürgen Kühnen'). The judge held that "The imposed sanctions were against the plain meaning of the constitution" ('"Die Sanktionen wurden gegen den klaren Wortlaut der Satzung verhängt", stellt der Richter fest').

Here are Elinescu and Wladow in action:


In Poland, nothing can be done about Balicki-Zmudzinski because of some sort of expiry:

The Department of Discipline rules:

1. After analysing the collected material, to acknowledge the undisputed fact of the illegal transmission of information during the play by pair Cezary Balicki – Adam Żmudziński;

2. To refrain from punishing the accused due to expiry of the limitation of the offences referred to in § 11 sec. 2 Disciplinary Rules;

And B-Z strut their stuff here:


In the USA, Lanzarotti was removed from the list of suspended and expelled players because... well, because.

Regulations in effect at the time of Mr. Lanzarotti’s expulsion provided guidelines for factors to consider at a readmission hearing. These are 1) admission of guilt, 2) appropriate written apology and 3) support for readmission from the player’s local bridge organization. Mr. Lanzarotti was unable to meet the first two conditions at the first two readmission hearings, as he denied guilt. However, the committees at both of these hearings thought he had proved rehabilitation.

It is my opinion that the "committees at both these hearings" are a few cards short of a deck. It is not the case that "Mr. Lanzarotti was unable to meet the first two conditions" - Lanzarotti chose not to admit guilt and Lanzarotti chose not to submit a written apology. Those facts alone are surely sufficient for the authorities to decline to approve an application for readmission.

As for the third condition - support for readmission from the player’s local bridge organization - that was, of course, a 110% certainty.

Nick Krnjevic also finds the ACBL's action to be curious:

Given that Mr. Lanzarotti appears to have adamantly refused to admit his guilt until 2018, it is surprising the ACBL has seen fit to place weight on the FIGB's July 11, 2012 report which "rehabilitated" Mr. Lanzarotti because of his “effective and consistent good conduct as shown by positive and consistent facts of repentance”.

Hard to believe the ACBL didn't ask the FIGB how it reconciled Mr. Lanzarotti's stubborn, multi-year refusal to admit guilt with its 2012 finding that he engaged in "positive and consistent facts of repentance".


If one thing stands out from this, it is the desirability of having universal, sound, solid regulations that allow the WBF and NBOs to properly-discipline collusive cheats. While accused individuals and pairs must have fair hearings, administrative bodies must not have their rulings tampered-with by bodies with no knowledge of how bridge works. I know nothing of the law, but the bridge world has lawyers in abundance, and surely the drafting one rigorous set of regulations and procedures for the use of the WBF and all NBOs is not impossible

Sound, strong regulations are necessary, for it is hard to imagine anything more ridiculous than the current situation where non-bridgeplayers make the final rulings on technical bridge matters.

Cheats, Justice, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)

In 2015, a few weeks before the Bermuda Bowl commenced in Chennai, evidence emerged which alleged that Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes (originally from Italy but representing Monaco) were using the orientation of their opening leads to convey hidden information to their partner. Shortly after, Monaco withdrew from the Bermuda Bowl, and in mid-2016 Fantoni-Nunes were expelled by the ACBL and banned from playing by the Italian Federation (FIGB) and the EBL. However, a decision this year by the IOC-mandated CAS invalidated the EBL ban, disappointing many in the bridge community.

Rona seems fatalistic about the January ruling. “Sometimes, the CAS will give us a decision which we don’t agree with.” He isn’t happy about what happened, but he is steadfast in maintaining that Fantoni-Nunes will not be able to play despite the decision. Their ban in Italy still stands and, by the principle of ‘reciprocity’, the pair cannot play in any other bridge jurisdiction - a principle the EBL was quick to remind its member NBOs of after Fantoni competed in a tournament in Barcelona.

Rona is careful to point out that Fantoni and Nunes are not off the hook simply because the CAS ruling was favourable to them: “The CAS did not declare them innocent. The CAS reversed the decision of the EBL because there was not enough evidence. They are, for sure, not innocent!” He also tells me that Fantoni-Nunes appealed a separate ban from the Italian Federation to the Italian Olympic Committee tribunal but the tribunal confirmed the ban, an event which received less press than the controversial CAS decision.


Alert readers will have spotted something strange.

- The interview above (30 May 2018) has Rona saying, "They are, for sure, not innocent!”, and continues, "[Rona] also tells me that Fantoni-Nunes appealed a separate ban from the Italian Federation to the Italian Olympic Committee tribunal but the tribunal confirmed the ban".

- The Altervista article on the previous page (17 July 2018) says, "Now the Federal Appeal Tribunal of the Italian Bridge Federation (FIGB) has accepted their appeal and lifted the 3-year suspension because if a conviction is followed by an acquittal, then the defendant is innocent."

This is a true WTF? moment. What is going on? Are Fantoni and Nunes innocent in Italy and not innocent outside Italy?


There is another aspect of bridge administration that I find perturbing, and it seems that some others do, as well.

Adam Parrish:

One further step I would like to the see the ACBL and other bridge organizations take is to reject the notion of privacy and be open about their proceedings.

Indeed, an article mentioned earlier discusses this matter:


Readers who were born yesterday will be surprised to find that official secrecy is official written policy.

3.5. Books and Records

The books, accounts and records of the WBF, except as may be otherwise required by law,shall be kept at its principal office or at such other place or places as the EC may from time totime appoint. The EC shall determine whether and to what extent the accounts and books of the WBF or any of them, shall be open to inspection of the members, and no member shall have the right to inspect any account or book or document of the WBF except as conferred bylaw or by resolution of the EC.

What good can come of secret decisions by secret committees? There is hard evidence of WBF cover-ups that affect the results of many world championships. Why the secrecy? The time to clean out the Augean stables of top-level bridge is overdue.

Reading BW comments, I see that some members have no interest in seeing action taken regarding past bridge crimes. I don't agree with this - it is my view that it is very much worthwhile to study past actions and remove titles where cheating can be established beyond reasonable doubt. I assert that there is one clear benefit to removing tainted victors from the official record, for it sends a clear message to experts and sponsors:

It doesn't matter how much time goes by, it doesn't matter how much money you have, and it doesn't matter your reputation - in the event of a placing being achieved with the help of a pair that engages in illicit signals, you will lose that placing.

This will go some way to providing players and sponsors with the incentive to do their homework when it comes to selecting teammates.


Here is a sponsor who is in no doubt as to what is right.

The New Yorker, 29 Feb 2016:

After studying the videotapes, Cayne announced that he would drop Fisher and Schwartz from his team unless they were vindicated, and that he would willingly forfeit everything he had won while they were employed by him.

Cayne's approach has my unconditional endorsement. It's my view that all players should willingly and frequently make their repugnance of cheating pairs known, by both word and deed. But all players don't.

Here is an opinion of John Adams:

One thing i've noticed... We don't see a lot of Italians condemning suspected and convicted Italian bridge and soccer players, but rather see them defending their heroes.

The people cheering as the world trade center came crashing down can be assumed to be supportive of the actions that led to it's destruction. If a cheating pair is your hero, or "like a son to you" we might well assume you are supportive of their actions. And if there are few to no Italians acting as critics, then reasonable people might well conclude that in general Italians are supportive. This is not racism. It is a generalization based on limited evidence. Fortunately, one Italian leader can fix this perception by taking an active role in fixing and condemning.

That leader does not seem to be Mr. Rona.


Italy has "form" in this area. When Facchini & Zucchelli returned from the 1975 Bowl after a WBF cover-up that resulted in only a “severe reprimand for improper conduct”, they were welcomed, and had no shortage of teammates for top Italian events. You can check that here:

Clearly, Cayne's views were not popular in Italy.


Time did nothing to tarnish the good name of Facchini and Zucchelli in Italy. The November, 1995 edition of Bridge d'Italia has a special 20th anniversary report celebrating the 1975 Bermuda Bowl victory. No mention of foot-tapping.

You can, if you wish, play in the annual Facchini-Zucchelli Memorial Cup.Here, they are described as "friends and champions":


The Italian "Cheating? What cheating?" attitude continues today. Recall Michelson's quote from page 1 of this article:

Fantoni came in second and got hundreds of likes and congratulations on Facebook including some from top Italian experts.

This is madness. I find it shocking that they are back playing. It seems that there are people feeling sorry for them because they got caught. How is that possible?


Here is an article that allows us to see Italian cheats back in action in a Milanese "International Bridge Team Tournament" in Dec 2018. No shortage of devoted admirers.

In a comment, I noted that Vivaldi and Rossano were participants. Of course, it can only be that the FIGB investigation into their WBF suspension found... oh, wait.


The Youtube video linked in that article is interesting. We see Leandro Burgay, he of the yet-unresolved Burgay Tape affair, being interviewed. Speaking no Italian, I engaged the services of translator.


Interviewer: Leandro, it is good to see you. I am sure you know of a recent book that talks about the tape you made of Benito Bianchi describing the cheating methods used by the Blue Team. Leandro, it is truly tragic that this matter was never resolved and that the FIB findings were never made public.

Burgay: I agree it is tragic. It is a terrible thing that the WBF Executive Committee and FIB President Firpo and the FIB lawyers and Dr Mazza and Dr Tracanella and the Milan court lost their copies of the tape and that FIB forgot to provide the WBF with a final report and that the WBF forgot about their resolution to suspend Italy should an adequate report not be forthcoming. Of course we need to know the truth of the matter. That is why WBF President Rona has asked that I provide him with a statutory declaration, giving a true account of what is on the tape. I am delighted to do this and he will have a it on his desk next week. He has promised to make it public, so the truth is finally known to all.

Interviewer: That is wonderful news! Leandro, all Italian bridgeplayers thank you and WBF President Rona for your integrity and love of the truth!

Burgay: And that's not all! President Rona told me that he is gravely concerned about the assurance that FIB President Firpo gave to the WBF Executive Committee on 2 May 1976. I remember it as if it were yesterday! Firpo said:

"Should the inquiry determine that the tape was authentic and furthermore that the declaration by Bianchi of his cheating with Forquet was confirmed, then the Italian Bridge Federation would renounce all European and World titles won with either Bianchi or Forquet on the team."

Let me tell you, President Rona is aghast at the possibility that a FIB President's promise might not have been kept. President Rona knows that the tape was verified three times, and that is why he is eagerly awaiting my statutory declaration so he may act as quickly as possible, in the event that we must return those 26 gold medals. Italy's integrity must be upheld at any cost! Bridge must be an honest game for one and for all!

Well, I'm going to give up opium. It gives me a headache. Good dreams, though.


Meanwhile, eagle-eyed David Thompson commented in the article:

If you click on the Prize Giving icon and scroll down to 9th place in Group A (team Lanciano) you can see a beaming Gianarrigo Rona and other FIGB officials posing with Fantoni.

Welcome to another WTF? moment. On the previous page, we see Rona said, ""They are, for sure, not innocent!”. What on earth is one-time FIGB President and current WBF President Rona doing?

Now, given this hideous mess, you may wonder what, if anything, you can or should do regarding cheating players who have made not the slightest pretense at Confession, Contrition and Cooperation.

When contemplating this, I think it's worthwhile to keep in mind the real damage that cheats do to bridge.

In 2015, Peter Boyd did some work; he listed NACBs where cheats have done well:

Marc Bonnet did more research:

As did Mike Bell:


And then there are top experts like Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay, Eric Murray, Sami Kehela, Ron Von der Porten, Al Roth, Tobias Stone, Arthur Robinson, Robert Jordan, Sidney Lazard and others who were denied world championships by virtue of the Blue Team's use of illicit signals.*


I think it's clear we have a problem on our hands; after all, it is entirely possible that a strong tournament somewhere has entries from Elinescu, Wladow, Lanzarotti, Buratti, Balicki, Zmudzinski, Fantoni and/or Nunes. If it were to be that they clearly and sincerely took the path of the Three Cs... well, that would be a delight, but, on the evidence to date, they have, and will, prefer to hire lawyers.

What to do? Here are some opinions:


Max Schireson thinks the right thing to do is to enter a big event and stay at a different venue:

I have been struggling with the ACBL's decision to readmit Lanzarotti....

But I just took one concrete action that might help: I cancelled my room at the host hotel. I will pay more for a room that is further away as an act of protest.

As you may know, the ACBL commits to a certain volume of rooms. If less rooms are booked they pay a significant financial penalty. For the Honolulu NABC, this was well into the six figures.

In the long term I want the ACBL to be successful financially, but we need to send them a message that readmitting cheaters is not OK. I think for them to notice we have to hit them in the pocketbook.


Phil Clayton thinks he should enter the event and engage in a form of civil disobedience:

If Lanzarotti was in my section in the Plats in Memphis, I would feel proud to skip the round and take zeroes on the boards I didn't play and/or face sanction from the League for this small act of civil disobedience.


As we saw on page 1, Joe Grue won't even enter the event:

I will never play in an event that any convicted cheater enters. It's also shocking to me for anyone to actually feel ok sitting down as the partner of a known cheater. Shocking.

Erik Sælensminde and Morten Olsen will walk out of an event if they find cheats:


While Brad Craig is walking away from the ACBL:

It has been about a month since I learned of ACBL's decision to readmit an admitted collusive...uh, 'offender'. In a way I'm glad the hubbub has died down because following this topic has been like listening to nails being dragged on a chalkboard. While following the thread (and after some soul-searching) I decided that I would no longer support the ACBL with membership dues, director duties, and through play at my club and at tournaments (my dues are paid up through September). This article will relate how that month has gone.

Mr Craig's resolve and integrity is admirable and I wish him well.


Doubtless there are those who wonder if they can play on with integrity while taking an action that helps with the problem of collusive cheats who have been readmitted via stupid regulations, weak NBOs, asinine decisions by non-bridgeplayers, bullying lawyers and so on.

I think there is something to be done, and that is, use another C.

Send the unrepentant cheats to Coventry.


This term may be unfamiliar to American readers.

To send someone to Coventry is an English idiom meaning to deliberately ostracise someone. Typically, this is done by not talking to them, avoiding their company, and acting as if they no longer exist. Victims are treated as though they are completely invisible and inaudible. The Coventry in the phrase is the cathedral city in the West Midlands


By 1811, the meaning of the term was defined in Grose's The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue:

"To send one to Coventry; a punishment inflicted by officers of the army on such of their brethren as are testy, or have been guilty of improper behaviour, not worthy the cognizance of a court martial. The person sent to Coventry is considered as absent; no one must speak to or answer any question he asks, except relative to duty, under penalty of being also sent to the same place. On a proper submission, the penitent is recalled, and welcomed by the mess, as just returned from a journey to Coventry"


In bridge terms, this would mean:

- No playing with unrepentant cheats, to make either a pair or team.  As in Grose's dictionary, above, the principle is contagious, so:

- No playing with those who form pairs or teams with unrepentant cheats

- No socialising with the parties mentioned above


Clearly, all that is quite legal - we can choose with whom we play, we can choose with whom we talk. And I am optimistic that concerted peer-group pressure would have quite an effect on all but the most hardened of socio/psychopaths. Those that play with unrepentant cheats would soon find that their actions have real-world consequences. Even a psychopath would be disconcerted to find himself limited to entering Individual events.

Now, you may well think that this isn't an interesting proposal; after all, who would want to play with, or team-up with, an unrepentant cheat?

Regrettably, the answer is, "plenty of people."

- In a 1970s Bridge World editorial, Edgar Kaplan recounted how, at some Nationals, he had been button-holed by irate experts who had lost matches to a pair of whom they had the gravest of suspicions. In later Nationals, Kaplan observered that some of the irate players had joined forces with the suspicious pair.


Fulvio Fantoni took part in the 8th International Barcelona Bridge Open [2018] partnering with Miquel Trapé, President of the Associatió Catalana de Bridge (AEB) and event organizer.


- Benito Garozzo teamed-up with Lanzarotti to come second in the 2013 European Open Bridge Championships

- And earlier we saw that, post-1975 Facchini and Zucchelli played extensively in Italy; their cheating in a world championship was no apparent deterrent.


So, I do think public action is required, and the widespread adoption of a form of ostracism may influence players and sponsors. Who knows? It might even have some effect in Italy.


I need a holiday. I see that the official Italian bridge website is advertising something that looks good:

I'll see you there.



* There is a Simon & Garfunkel song that describes the response from FIGB, Bridge d'Italia, and the three surviving Blue Team members regarding my book.

I am sure that if I were to document the cheating by the Dallas Aces during all their world championship wins, the ACBL, the Bridge World, Hamman, Wolff, Lawrence and all top US players would be absolutely silent.


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