From the very beginning of this saga, there has been an alarming willingness by some players to make insinuations and accusations without any factual basis. They claimed to be seeking justice for the second place pair, and called on me to "do the right thing" but I'm not sure their attacks had anything to do with Michael Cornell and Ashley Bach.
The justification, which was admitted to by some, was that I had been critical of the Polish team's decision not to withdraw from the 2015 Bermuda Bowl after having learned of compelling evidence indicating one of their pairs had cheated during the qualification. Three other teams had already withdrawn for similar reasons, two of whom could have made the same argument that nobody had actually been convicted yet.
Poland was the only team to justify their participation with the logic that the team itself had not been forbidden to play by the WBF, and only the pair in question had been "dis-invited." To view it another way, they elected to play based upon a strict interpretation of the rules, not by what most people believed was "the right thing."
There has been much talk about how we should avoid making generalizations with respect to countries. I often agree with that as a principle, but in this case, it is essential for me to discuss the country along with the behavior of the players. That is because not all countries take the same approach to fair and ethical play. In short, some actions that are considered standard for players in some countries, would never be considered by players in others.
I was troubled by the actions of many of the Polish pairs we faced on the final day, and not for any reasons relating to bridge skill. Sabine and I started the day in a virtual tie for first, .08% behind the leaders, one other pair close behind (the poster of the original thread), then nobody else for almost 3 percentage points. We probably all felt we had a decent chance of finishing with a good result that day.
There were 50 boards left to play for Sabine and I, the first 42 would be against pairs from Poland. Things started out in a troubling manner and as I slowly discovered as the day went by, had only been a sign of things to come.
On board 21, which was our first of the day was played on BBO, below is a link to the hand record, I was unable to find the video, but it's probably online somewhere.
After a Flannery opening, we were defending 3Cx, a heart was led to the king, and a (count) diamond was returned. Before following suit, the declarer huddled (with xxx) which resulted in our both assuming he held an honor. This cost us a trick after I won and returned a heart which was followed by a spade switch that would have been necessary if declarer held a diamond honor. The extra undertrick turned out not to matter much in the scoring, but hesitating (with nothing to consider) is both unethical and illegal, sadly it was not the only time we encountered that approach to the game.
On the last round of this 10 board set, our opponents came to the table 5 minutes late. We were all slow on the first board, me more than them (I got us a zero after mis-guessing the layout) then board 30 continued the pattern of complete disregard for fairness, or for the clock.
Our opponents did well in the bidding to reach 3NT instead of 4H and were destined for a good score, all they needed to do was not do something stupid in the play. After a small diamond lead, diamond back to the Q, A and another diamond, The declarer now, despite having arrived very late, took several minutes "guessing" which finesse to take for the overtrick, the safe one that would still result in a good score if it lost, or the unsafe one which would result in a bottom if it failed. He took until 8 minutes after the round was finished before quickly playing the last few cards (then took the obvious finesse.) This extreme lateness resulted in a slow play penalty warning to both pairs (they were out of contention.) We got a bad score which was mostly their good bidding, and partially our own fault on defense, but had we not been so rushed, pulling the wrong card during the blitzed end position might not have happened. We saw that same running down the clock "strategy" many more times that day.
Almost none of our subsequent rounds started without at least 3 or 4 minutes already missing from the clock. The round against the poster of the original thread was typical for the whole day. We had already called the director due to the lack of opponents. We were then told that they had gone to the wrong table. Okay, people make mistakes, but I became a little more cynical about this after reading in another post that while our opponents were bidding the hand at the wrong table (already minutes late) that the pair originally scheduled to play at *that* table were also nowhere to be found.
In stanzas 3 and 4, we were subjected to a late start in almost every round, not due to our own slow play, but from a combination of our opponents arriving late to the table, followed by a pace of play that demonstrated a complete disregard for fairness or rules. Twice when starting with 11 minutes (instead of 17) we were lucky to have a fast auction, like 1n-3n, I remember feeling relieved that we might have a chance to get caught up, only to wait 3 full minutes for the opening lead, this by the pair who had already arrived late.
My frustration at never having time to declare, not to mention playing the next board, all while trying to fight for a world title grew with each passing round. We were trying to stay calm and focused, but doing so was very difficult.
Many of our opponents during the final day had no convention cards, and when they did, sometimes they were filled out in Polish. Almost nobody alerted their Polish club auctions, okay, we know we're playing in Poland and you can just assume or look at their card. But more than once, the combination of no CC and the time pressure resulting from what seemed like deliberate slow play often resulted in our being forced to give away information by either asking about the auction, or being left in the dark.
This is not the way bridge is meant to be played.
During the 3rd set, one player (I don't know his nationality) answered his phone at the table, then returned the phone to his pocket after the call. This to me summed up the attitude towards the rules of bridge on that final day.
It was disappointing for me to witness such a total disregard for the rules and ethics of bridge by so many players, and even more troubling to hear from others the more cynical thought that it may have been a deliberate attempt to insure we were not given a fair chance to win the Open Pair Championships.
I know I am not alone in my judgment on this subject of ethics. I have two stories to demonstrate my point:
A friend, while playing with a world class Polish player, won an ace at trick one, then paused before switching to a singleton instead of firing it back immediately. The partner then ducked assuming was a doubleton, and apologized later saying he simply wasn't used to that.
During the finals of this tournament, while relaying a (similar) story to a WBF official about a slow switch from a doubleton which was subsequently ducked, his response was "Everybody does that" That's pretty a pretty sad commentary on bridge ethics.
I know of at least one player who refused an invitation to play in the World Team Championships due to his opinion of the ethical standard in Poland. And while it is true that Boye's boycott was in protest of the actions taken by the Polish Federation, not for ethical standard of the players, but sadly one must consider that sometimes the overall approach to winning and ethics comes down from the top.
I know this post is very negative and many will find it highly offensive no matter where they are from, and that is understandable. But despite what some might think, or how it may appear, I don't have an agenda against Poland, or any other country, but if issues like this go unsaid, the game will continue to suffer.
Plus... it's free!