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Cullin formed the following hypothesis about how Fisher-Schwartz signal for opening lead:

The partner of the opening leader always controls the tray if they are on defense.  If he has no preference, he leaves the tray where it is.  If he has a preference, he removes the tray and places the board on the table.  The placement of the board signifies his preference as follows:

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.

Here is a board-by-board breakdown of what I observed from the video of the Israel-Norway match in the 2014 European Championship.  This was a good match to illustrate, since Fisher-Schwartz were on defense 10 of the 16 hands.  I will be adding in information from other matches when I get the chance.

I think it is very important to observe not only what Fisher-Schwartz are doing when they are giving a signal, but what they do when they are not giving a signal.  This gives us a comparison against their normal behavior.  A change in mannerism may be an indication of what mechanism they are using for signaling.

For example, I noticed the following:  When the final pass was made on Schwartz's side of the screen, he and his screenmate would scoop up their bids and then Schwartz would shove the tray over to Fisher's side.  This is all routine -- everybody does this.

Next, Fisher and his screenmate would scoop up their bids.  Again normal.

What would happen now with most pairs would be that either the tray is left alone, maybe a slight shove into the center of the table, or perhaps it is picked up at that point.  But with Fisher something very unusual happens:

When Fisher was on opening lead, he would always give the tray a big shove to get it to the other side of the screen.  This wasn't a little shove.  It was the type of shove one would normally make during the auction when the tray is being moved to the other side.  Apparently he felt he needed to do this so Schwartz would be able to remove the tray and give the lead signal.  This happened only when Fisher was on opening lead.  Under other circumstances, he would either do nothing or pick up the tray himself.

Another point:  On all of the 6 hands where Fisher-Schwartz were declarer, Fisher was the one who removed the tray -- even when the tray landed on Schwartz's side of the table.  There is nothing unusual about that -- in fact, it is normal for one member of the partnership to be the designated tray remover. But what is very important to notice is that on all of these hands Fisher placed the board right in the center of the table (the normal board placement).  On the hands where Schwartz was on opening lead, Fisher never placed it there unless giving a diamond signal.

I'm sure there are other changes in mannerisms which can be spotted by careful watching of the videos.  When a consistent pattern is found, that will be an indication of a signal being given.  It wouldn't surprise me if Cullen was able to break their code by first noticing such changes in mannerisms.

I will construct a table showing what I observed on each board.  I don't know how to construct pretty tables in the article, so we will have to live with my ugly table.

Column 1:  Board number

Column 2:  N or E, designating whether N-S or E-W is the declarer.  Schwartz was always North, Fisher South.

Column 3:  The player (F or S for Fisher or Schwartz) on whose side of the screen the board was after the bids were scooped up.  This would be the opposite side of the screen from the player making the final pass.

Column 4:  The player who is the partner of the opening leader, and thus would be giving the signal.  This is applicable only when FS are on defense.

Column 5:  The player who picks up the tray

Column 6:  The suit which I personally would have signaled for (N for no preference).  If there is a question mark, that means I wasn't sure.  Applicable only when FS are on defense.  

Column 7:  The suit for which a signal is observed.  Applicable only when FS are on defense.

Column 8:  The time on the video when the tray is picked up.

Board Declaring side Player with board last 3rd hand Player who takes tray Kit's signal Player's signal Timestamp

17 E F S S H? H 10:40

18 N F F 23:50

19 E S F F C C 30:50

20 N S F 36:27

21 N S F 43:59

22 N S F 57:06

23 E F F F H H 1:07:44

24 E S S S H H 1:12:05

25 E S S F X X 1:18:30

26 E S F F S? S 1:21:50

27 E F S S H H 1:27:58

28 E F F F C C 1:30:57

29 E F F F H? H 1:37:23

30 N F F 1:42:34

31 E F S S H? N 1:48:02

32 N F F 1:51:54

 

The following pages contain my comments on each board.  These are my observations and opinions, not facts.  The table above has all unquestionable facts, except for my opinion of what would be signaled for and my observation of what signal was given.

Charlsen
K102
Q1052
1093
A96
Schwartz
65
KJ873
54
KQ107
Hoftaniska
AJ4
A9
QJ76
J832
Fisher
Q9873
64
AK82
54
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
XX
1NT
P
P
P
D
17
1NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
2
3
9
2
0
1
1

Board 17:  (Note: this board was incorrectly recorded in BBO vugraph but a commenter found the correct deal; see comments.)

East is declarer in 1NT.

Fisher is on lead.  The tray was on Fisher's side of the screen after the bids were scooped up, and Fisher shoved the tray over to Schwartz's side of the screen -- the pattern I noticed when Fisher is on lead and the tray ends on his side.  

What followed was very interesting.  At 10:40, the East defender grabbed the tray before Schwartz could get his hands on it.  You can see Schwartz reaching for the tray but being a little slow.  However that didn't stop Schwartz.  As East was pulling the tray in preparation for lifting it, Schwartz took the board out of the tray.  That is a very unnatural thing to do.  Normally the player who removes the tray is the one who places the board back on the table.

The board was placed in the heart signal position.

What Schwartz should signal for is unclear between a heart or a club.  But a heart looks like a reasonable choice since it is a 5-card suit.  

Fisher led a heart. 

 

Summary: A heart signal was observed, and third hand might reasonably signal for a heart lead with this hand. (Running total: 1/1)

Charlsen
QJ65
83
Q1096
J85
Schwartz
73
AKQJ5
K5
7643
Hoftaniska
1082
10762
84
AKQ10
Fisher
AK94
94
AJ732
92
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
4
P
P
P
D
18
4 North
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
1

Board 18:  Fisher-Schwartz declare.  At 23:50, Fisher removes the tray, and places the board in the center of the table.

 

Summary: No signal was given since F/S were declaring.  (Running total: 1/1) 

Charlsen
A9
KQ73
AK103
982
Schwartz
872
10942
QJ5
J107
Hoftaniska
KQJ43
J65
2
6543
Fisher
1065
A8
98764
AKQ
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
P
P
D
19
2 West
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
1

Board 19:  The operator apparently missed the auction.  For West to be declarer at 2 with South being the dealer, I would guess the auction went:  1-1NT-P-2;P-2-P-P;P.

Schwartz is on lead.  The tray is on Schwartz's side of the screen after the bids are picked up.  

At 30:50, Fisher removes the tray.  Note how Fisher's hand is hovering over the tray while waiting for the bids to be picked up on the other side.

Fisher places the board close to him.  That is the club signal.

With Fisher's hand he clearly wants a club lead.

Schwartz overrides and leads a diamond anyway.  That is logical.  Schwartz holds QJx of diamonds and J10x of clubs, and leading a club from that hand after partner opened 1 would look very strange.  In addition, a diamond is probably right even knowing that partner prefers clubs.

 

Summary: A club signal was observed, and third hand clearly wants a club lead.  (Running total: 2/2) 

Charlsen
842
J9743
73
432
Schwartz
K
KQ102
J1082
KJ107
Hoftaniska
A965
8
AQ4
AQ965
Fisher
QJ1073
A65
K965
8
W
N
E
S
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
20
3NT North
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
1

Board 20:  Fisher-Schwartz declare.  At 36:27, the opening lead is made so quickly that Fisher doesn't have time to remove the tray before the screen is opened (West opened the screen).  When Fisher does remove the tray, he places the board in the center of the table.

 

Summary: No signal was given since F/S were declaring.  (Running total: 2/2) 

Charlsen
KQ98
KJ7
A10
KQ73
Schwartz
10
Q1083
J72
J10542
Hoftaniska
65
652
KQ8654
98
Fisher
AJ7432
A94
93
A6
W
N
E
S
P
3
3
X
P
P
P
D
21
3X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
2
8
A
3
1
0
6
Q
4
9
0
1
1
7
J
5
7
3
2
1
2
Q
10
6
0
2
2
A
2
4
3
0
2
3
10
7
Q
9
2
2
4
K
3
8
J
0
2
5
3
5
5
4
1
3
5
10
6
9
7
1
4
5
3
2
A
J
3
5
5
4
9
8
8
0
5
6
K
10
5
J
3
6
6
A
K
Q
6
3
7
6
N/S -500
13

Board 21:  Fisher Schwartz declare.  At 43:59, Fisher removes the tray, and places the board in the center of the table.

 

Summary: No signal was given since F/S were declaring.  (Running total: 2/2)  

Charlsen
9532
J4
9753
AJ6
Schwartz
A8
965
62
K108542
Hoftaniska
K74
A832
AQ84
97
Fisher
QJ106
KQ107
KJ10
Q3
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
P
D
22
2 North
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
Q
5
8
3
1
0
6
2
A
7
1
2
0
2
7
Q
A
0
2
1
J
6
3
K
3
3
1
3
J
K
9
1
4
1
10
4
10
6
1
5
1
9
A
7
4
2
5
2
A
10
3
2
2
5
3
8

Board 22:  Fisher-Schwartz declare.  At 57:06, Fisher removes the tray, and places the board in the center of the table.

 

Summary: No signal was given since F/S were declaring.  (Running total: 2/2) 

Charlsen
AKQ108753
Q
QJ98
Schwartz
92
J9432
AJ105
K7
Hoftaniska
J
KQ6
K8762
A654
Fisher
64
A10875
943
1032
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
23
6 West
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
4
10
Q
0
0
1
A
2
J
4
0
0
2
K
9
2
6
0
0
3
Q
2
6
5
0
0
4
J
K
A
2
2
0
5
7
3
Q
A
1
1
5
6

Board 23:  Schwartz is on lead.  The tray is on Fisher's side of the screen after the auction is over.  At 67:44, Fisher removes the tray.

Fisher places the board in the heart signal position.

Fisher clearly wants a heart lead.  The opponents are in a slam, and his whole hand is the ace of hearts.

Now comes a surprise.  Schwartz has a very reasonable and probably normal heart lead even without a signal.  Instead, Schwartz chooses to make a very risky underlead of Kx of clubs.  Why did he do this?  Perhaps he missed the signal, although from looking at the video the signal seems to be very clear. Perhaps he simply had a flight of fancy.  We will never know.  

This was the only board from the set where the actual lead appears to be in complete conflict with the signal.  

 

Summary: A heart signal was observed, and third hand clearly wants a heart lead.  (Running total: 3/3) 

 

Charlsen
8542
Q107
K83
A102
Schwartz
3
AJ643
962
QJ53
Hoftaniska
AKQJ
82
AQJ7
K86
Fisher
10976
K95
1054
974
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
24
3NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
10
J
2
1
1
0
3
8
K
7
3
2
0
9
Q
A
6
1
3
0
6
7
4
4

Board 24:  Fisher is on lead.  The tray is on Schwartz's side of the screen after the auction is over.  At 72:05, Schwartz removes the tray.

Schwartz places the board in the heart signal position.

Schwartz definitely wants a heart lead.

After 90 seconds of thinking, Fisher leads a heart.

Boye asks the question:  What do you think was Fisher's reason to lead a heart?  This looks like a very unfair question to me.  The heart lead is quite reasonable.  I know that I would lead a heart unless my table feel told me that LHO was stretching for his 3NT call.  I am probably in the minority of experts here, but I would bet it is a sizable minority.  Questioning the heart lead from a bridge point of view is simply out of line.

Boye then asks the question:  Why did it take him 90 seconds to do so (which the video confirms is the case).  That is a much more meaningful question. We have all seen this position a thousand times.  This is not an auction which involves some deep inferences to be drawn.  Any expert will lead either a heart or a spade, but whichever they choose that choice will be made in a matter of seconds.  Yet Fisher, who normally leads fairly quickly, took a huge amount of time before leading the heart.

I would guess his thinking was as follows:  The spade lead is the normal and obvious lead (which it isn't, of course).  If I lead a heart quickly and strike the gold I expect to strike,  that will look suspect.  So I will take a long time before leading the heart, which will look less suspicious.  In fact, the long huddle had the opposite effect.  If he had found the heart lead in normal tempo attention wouldn't have been called to the hand.

 

Summary: A heart signal was observed, and third hand clearly wants a heart lead.  (Running total: 4/4) 

Charlsen
J953
7
KQJ976
Q9
Schwartz
Q
AQ1042
A10
AJ873
Hoftaniska
AK1086
KJ98
2
K62
Fisher
742
653
8543
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
P
P
D
25
4 East
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
7
A
8
1
1
0
A
2
4
9
1
2
0
3
6
5
Q
0
2
1
3
Q
A
2
2
2
2
K
4
5
2
2
2
3
5

Board 25:  Fisher is on lead.  Fisher makes the final pass.  At 78:30, he scoops up his bids as does his screenmate.  In the following order and in one motion, he then bangs open the screen, pushes the board across (Schwartz and his teammate haven't even picked up their bids yet), and tables his opening lead.  He held a 3-3-4-3 Yarborough, and Schwartz had opened the bidding 1.

Fisher's lead was a heart, of course.  He could see that he would always be leading a heart regardless of the signal, since anything else would look super-suspicious if it hit gold.  So he acted in a way which prevented his partner from giving a signal.

 

Summary: No signal was given. The auction and opening leader's hand made it clear that a heart must be led.  (Running total: 4/4)  

Charlsen
A3
AQJ852
J10843
Schwartz
75
QJ8732
94
A95
Hoftaniska
J862
A965
K73
72
Fisher
KQ1094
K104
106
KQ6
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
3
P
5
P
P
P
D
26
5 West
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
8
10
A
0
0
1
5
4
K
6
2
0
2
A
4
3
7
2
0
3
2
K
4
5
3
1
3
10
A
9
3
0
1
4
3
9
7
6
1
2
4
6

Board 26:  Schwartz is on lead.  The tray ends on Schwartz's side of the screen.

At 81:50, Fisher is quick to grab the tray and remove it.

It isn't totally clear that Fisher would want to give a signal, but if he chooses to do so it would definitely be for a spade.

Fisher places the board well over on Schwartz's side of the table.  This was the only signal we have for a spade lead this set.  The hypothesis about the spade signal had been something different, but I'm pretty sure that what I am seeing here is the true spade signal.  Others can perhaps verify or discredit this by looking at other videos.

Schwartz leads a spade.  It is his normal lead.

 

Summary: A spade signal was observed, and third hand clearly wants a spade lead.  (Running total: 5/5) 

Charlsen
K7643
1093
K85
AJ
Schwartz
1095
KQ8642
A3
53
Hoftaniska
AQJ82
A
J1096
Q82
Fisher
J75
Q742
K109764
W
N
E
S
3
P
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
P
P
D
27
4 East
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
3
Q
A
2
0
1
Q
4
3
5
2
0
2
A
6
K
9
2
0
3
J
7
4
10
2
0
4
J
Q
K
A
1
1
4
5

Board 27:  Fisher is on lead.  The tray ends on Fisher's side of the screen.  He shoves it over to Schwartz's side.

At 87:58, Schwartz removes the tray, and places the board in the heart signal position.

Schwarz clearly wants a heart lead.

Fisher leads a heart.  From his hand any of his 3 suits could be right, but a heart probably wouldn't be the popular choice.

 

Summary: A heart signal was observed, and third hand clearly wants a heart lead.  (Running total: 6/6)  

 

Charlsen
J975
108
KJ74
Q52
Schwartz
A4
Q9654
9653
A4
Hoftaniska
K1086
AK2
A82
J103
Fisher
Q32
J73
Q10
K9876
W
N
E
S
2
P
P
P
D
28
2 West
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
3
6
2
1
1
0
4
10
K
5
3
2
0
7
Q
4
J
1
3
0
5
2
Q
K
0
3
1
9
A
6
2
1
4
1
3
8
10
J
0
4
2
5
4
K
3
2
4
3
7

Board 28:  The operator missed the auction.  From looking at the hands and watching the video, I believe the auction was:  P-P-1-P;1-P-2-P;P-P.  At any rate, West is declarer in 2.

Schwartz is on lead.  The tray ends on Fisher's side.  At 90:57, Fisher removes the tray.

Fisher places the board well on his side of the screen, which is the club signal.

It isn't totally clear, but Fisher probably would want to signal for a club lead.

Schwartz leads a club.  The club lead IMO would not be a popular choice from his hand.

 

Summary: A club signal was observed, and third hand may want to signal for a club lead.  (Running total: 7/7) 

Charlsen
AJ3
AQ982
KQ875
Schwartz
Q984
J
AQ10864
A2
Hoftaniska
K102
754
K5
J10943
Fisher
765
K1063
J9732
6
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
2
2
3
3
3
P
3N
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
29
5 West
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
4
3
Q
0
0
1
7
A
3
6
1
1
1
2

Board 29:  Schwartz is on lead.  The tray ends on Fisher's side of the screen.  At 97:23, Fisher removes the tray.

This one is a little confusing.  Initially Fisher puts the board in the center of the table, the signal for a diamond lead.  After about 10 seconds, he moves the board over to the heart signal position.  Two seconds after he does this, Schwartz makes his opening lead.

It isn't totally clear what Fisher should be signaling for, but most likely it would be a heart.

Schwartz led a heart.  That looks like a very dubious lead on his hand and the auction.

 

Summary: A diamond, then heart signal was observed, and third hand may want to signal for a heart lead.  (Running total: 8/8) 

Charlsen
Q92
7
954
KJ6543
Schwartz
A1087
A86432
982
Hoftaniska
543
K9
KJ1062
Q107
Fisher
KJ6
QJ105
AQ873
A
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
4
P
4NT
P
6
P
P
P
D
30
6 North
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
A
3
2
3
1
0
Q
7
2
K
2
1
1
9
10
4
3
3
2
1
3
4
4
2
1
3
1
8
10
5
5
3
4
1
7
5
6
6
1
5
1
9
Q
J
6
3
6
1
A
8

Board 30:  Fisher-Schwartz declare.  The tray ends on Fisher's side of the screen.  At 102:34, Fisher removes the tray, and puts the board in the center of the table.

 

Summary: No signal was given since F/S were declaring.  (Running total: 8/8)  

Charlsen
AJ2
A865
Q
AKJ53
Schwartz
Q6
Q10432
A932
82
Hoftaniska
K1084
J7
KJ876
Q7
Fisher
9753
K9
1054
10964
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
31
3NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
Q
A
8
1
1
0
2
K
4
5
2
1
1
4
3
J
Q
1
2
1
3
J
10
6
2
2
2
Q
4
3
2
2
2
3
7
6
A
8
0
2
4
6

Board 31:  Fisher is on lead.  The tray ends on Fisher's side of the table.  

At 108:02, Fisher shoves the tray to Schwartz's side.

Schwartz does nothing for a few seconds.

Fisher then does the following in quick succession: Leads face down, opens the screen, removes the tray, places the board in the center of the table, and turns over his opening lead.

Schwartz had a hand on which I would have signaled for a heart lead.  But it isn't clear, and giving no signal is quite reasonable.

 

Summary: No signal was given.  Third hand may want to give no preference for a particular suit.  (Running total: 9/9) 

Charlsen
Q93
J109
964
10543
Schwartz
52
A753
AJ83
Q86
Hoftaniska
K6
Q842
KQ52
K72
Fisher
AJ10874
K6
107
AJ9
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
P
1NT
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
32
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
A
2
6
1
1
0
2
6
J
Q
0
1
1
9
A
5
7
1
2
1
5
K
A
3
3
3
1
10
9
3
2
3
4
1
5

Board 32:  Fisher-Schwartz declare. The tray ends on Schwartz's side of the screen. At 111:54, Fisher removes the tray, and places the board in the center of the table.

 

Summary: No signal was given since F/S were declaring.  (Running total: 9/9)  

 

 

Conclusion

This is a lot of work, but I think the end result makes it worth the effort.  In 9 of the 10 defensive hands in this set, third hand was able to give his partner a signal by the position of the board.  (On the 10th hand, opening leader led before any signal, since he knew from his hand and auction that only a heart was a reasonable choice.)  In all of these hands, the signal was reasonably to strongly correlated with the contents of the hand. I am hoping that other Bridge Winners readers will put forth the effort to do the same thing for other matches which we have videos of Fisher-Schwartz.

It isn't sufficient to demonstrate that when Fisher-Schwartz are on lead the partner of the opening leader is always the one who removes the tray.  They will agree that this is true, saying that they do this intentionally. The opening leader is concerned with his opening lead and doesn't want to be bothered by removing the tray, so his partner does the job. This argument sounds rational. In order to build a solid case we must make it absolutely clear that the signals are being given. This can only be done by going through every board in detail as I have done here.

It is very important that we get this right. We must build an air-tight case here, one for which there cannot be any possible doubt even for a person who isn't a bridge player. This is the way we will clean up the game. Boye has gotten the ball rolling, and it is our job to complete his work.

 

References

The URL for the BBO record of the match is:  

http://www.bridgebase.com/tools/handviewer.html?bbo=y&linurl=http://www.bridgebase.com/tools/vugraph_linfetch.php?id=34336

The URL for the full video of the match is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuztBesThD4

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