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All comments by Jonathan Steinberg
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It does seem incredible that the ACBL would offer some sort of sweetheart Regional At Sea deal to someone they wanted to kick off the ACBL Board (2014 - a 5 year deal). Frankly, it is incomprehensible to me. No one has given me any reasonable explanation for what was done. Many blame the late ACBL League Counsel Peter Rank. Difficult for the dead to respond!

Equally incredible to me is why the ACBL believed they could break agreements/contracts with both Blakely and Gidwani and not have to pay damages. What kind of legal advice are they getting?
March 2
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If the ACBL were a restaurant or clothing store… and they had to raise its prices due to gross mismanagement, we could take our business elsewhere. But if we want to play competitive duplicate bridge, we have few choices. The ACBL is a monopoly. It is a sad state of affairs.
March 2
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The rather dry litigation report does not reveal much information. I would like to emphasize, for the record, that the Bruce Blakely case does NOT refer to allegations of cheating or unethical behaviour at the bridge table. Totally different issues.
March 1
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I have been impressed with your responsiveness and ACBL Pres FB page (sorry, I'm not on twitter). Many of your goals such as Strength of Field (SoF) for masterpoint awards are a must. The current system is a shambles – stand alone Open Pairs pay little; if there is a Gold Rush – even if only 3 tables, awards dramatically increase. Best is an A/X, Mid-Flight & Gold Rush. Same number of players and identical SoF but huge differences in awards. You have informed me that single session club championships will be capped at 8 points starting 1/1/2020. It's a start.

Your goal to dramatically reduce the size and expenses of the BoD is admirable but many have tried and failed in the past. I wish you the best of luck.

The ACBL must stop writing off huge sums of money, be it failed technology projects, poor hotel contracts with huge subsequent penalties, overpaying CEO's with poor contracts… leading to subsequent court battles to assess final settlements. It is a path to bankruptcy!

The ACBL needs members. It also wants them to attend tournaments. The concept of price elasticity suggests that the 20-25% across the board entry fee increases at all NABCs starting in Las Vegas will lead to many players saying they can no longer afford to attend. Why would a Regional player want to pay more for a hotel and $40 a day in entry fees at an NABC. Far better to attend any District 7 Regional with less costly hotels, awesome hospitality and $24 a day entry fee. Why would a non professional husband/wife pair want to spend $240 in entry fees to play for 2 days in the NABC Mixed Pairs?

Wouldn't it be more logical to raise membership dues a buck or two every couple of years rather than hit them every session they play bridge at an NABC. NABCs are awesome but they may soon be out of reach for all but the pros and the wealthy.

May The Force Be With You in 2019. Good luck!
Feb. 19
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Which is an excellent reason why Mr. Blubaugh has not responded. He was suspended a few days ago and his comment removed when he basically posted a threat against me that was flagged!

The sad history of cheating at bridge can be found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheating_in_bridge which focuses on World Championships and high level cheating. It barely scratches the surface and omits many “Regional” players who cheated including the infamous Dan Requard & Moses Ma (USA) and from Canada the late Pat Roy, Wayne Timms, Ken Warren and many, many more from North America and abroad. It is indeed very sad.
Note that when Requard was readmitted he was put on permanent probation.

See: https://www.nytimes.com/1984/07/31/nyregion/five-bridge-players-taken-out-of-play-cheating-suspected.html

In the matter of the request for full readmission from Dan Requard, ACBL # L712249:
Effective March 7, 2007.
1. The geographic limitations previously imposed on Mr. Requard are removed.
2. He may now play in all ACBL sanctioned events for which he is otherwise eligible including the NAP and GNT.
3. Mr. Requard remains on permanent/indefinite probation.


My best wishes to everyone for a Happy and Healthy New year to you and your loved ones. May 2019 be a much better year than 2018 was!
Dec. 31, 2018
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The obvious and simple solution if someone has a physical handicap that prevents them from shuffling cards in ACBL Swiss & KO matches (without seeing who is dealt the Ace of Spades!) is to NOT shuffle. Whether your fingers were bitten by a hog, you have arthritis or any other condition that would prevent a fair shuffle, you don't shuffle. Other players and Tournament Directors are more than happy to accommodate players with special needs. Mr. Blubaugh was a professional bridge player. All professional bridge players must be held to the highest standards of conduct & ethics.
Dec. 26, 2018
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment Dec. 26, 2018
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Gary, very quickly (leaving for Charleston, SC awesome New Years Regional :), it was always a struggle getting the Board to pass progressive legislation. Usually took several meetings(sometimes years – see raising senior age from 55 to 60). Equally so regarding “sensitive” issues. I always argued for transparency and publishing the results of A&C hearings. It was an endless battle. Do we wait until the appeals process is over? Do we print in Daily Bulletin, monthly magazine? How much do we say or not say?

The ACBL Governance structure with a 25 member board of local politicians from Districts of hugely varying sizes has proven to be ineffective. It doesn't work. Which is one of many reasons I fear for the future.

In my opinion the last ten years have seen no improvements; in fact, perhaps worse. As you mentioned the BoD turning down it's own task force report and motions from the BoG – but the Board has always ignored the BoG except to use it as an excuse to get an extra day or two free room and per diem.

Time to play bridge. Happy New Year!
Dec. 26, 2018
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From Wikipedia Cheating in bridge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheating_in_bridge


John Blubaugh, 2000: Suspension, denial, and legal proceedings

“The American Contract Bridge League made a brief announcement about a conduct matter during the recent Spring Nationals in Kansas City, Mo. It said that John Blubaugh, a bridge teacher and professional player from Bowling Green, Ind., had been suspended for 18 months and placed on probation for five years after that.”

— Excerpt from NY Times article by Alan Truscott - April 2, 2001
The league said it had evidence that Blubaugh had given his partner a specific card when he was the dealer at several tournaments. League officials had taken videotapes that were used by the Ethical Oversight Committee and the league's board in deciding the matter. He denied the charges and said that his shuffling appeared clumsy because of an accident years ago that damaged the nerves in the hand.

He sued the league for $3 million in damages, claiming that the suspension was wrongful and had effectively ended a career in which he hired himself to weaker players for tournament play. The Court granted summary judgment against him; this was upheld by the Circuit Court of Appeals, and Blubaugh was not granted certiorari by the US Supreme Court.
Dec. 25, 2018
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Randy, yes, Rona was reelected in Orlando. There were three candidates: Rona, Al Levy and Yves Aubry from France. I had always found Yves very responsive when I asked him questions and very positive on many issues, including the cheating file.

Nonetheless, despite history, Al Levy received but two votes on the first ballot. Embarrassing since ACBL had 5 representatives. I don't think Yves did a hell of a lot better. In the runoff, Rona was easily reelected.

Not much hope for change. See smiling Rona in Italy with his friend Fulvio Fantoni. Ugh!
Dec. 25, 2018
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Yes, Robert Hartman! Shocking but true!
Dec. 25, 2018
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Full disclosure, John. While I served on the ACBL Board, you were expelled. You have attempted numerous court battles against the ACBL, all of which have failed. You have not played bridge for decades. You are not exactly an unbiased source!
Dec. 25, 2018
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Given what we know today, why would anyone (unless of course they are being paid and/or are cheating) want to bless any WBF event with their presence? The fix is in, it has always been in. From the Blue Team to the Cars to Fantoni/Nunes and many, many more from around the world. Although it does appear that the Italians have excelled at cheating better than most (politically incorrect to say this? Tough).

But the one indisputable fact TODAY is that with Gianarrigo Rona (turned 78 in November) as the WBF leader, what's the point? His photo on the Italian medal podium with a smiling Fulvio Fantoni should have been condemned by the entire bridge world… but it wasn't. Not even a peep from any of the ACBL's representatives to the WBF. Disgraceful. (Fantoni in blue sweater near the left; Rona, on the far right).

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10161267227935444&set=pcb.10161267263120444&type=3&__tn__=HH-R&eid=ARDLCuP7vR-xq9E66O9o5gjoFm4iF4wJUZAsMKFBpYZgUaycYV8gWdXy3dwaZwvNqjlR8gi0ANWqDHRB

And unless you believe in the tooth fairy (perhaps Santa would be more appropriate for today), don't expect the current ACBL politicians to do a damn thing.

Bottom Line: Nothing has changed in more than 50, 60, 70 years. At the World Championship level, the honest players have zero chance to prevail.
Dec. 25, 2018
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Please… this topic has been discussed on numerous separate threads… many (count me among them) would be horrified at the thought. It would not be the same sociable game we all love and enjoy. Others believe it is the way of the future, perhaps reserved for later rounds in World Championship events.

One can debate endlessly but few opinions will change.

Let's not hijack this post which is on the topic of the ACBL's truly awful decision to readmit Massimo Lanzarotti as an ACBL member in good standing
Dec. 23, 2018
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Michael, you wrote “..I’d rather a few cheats go unpunished than that innocent players get hung out to dry by a pack mob howling for blood…”. Noble sentiments indeed but not very original. I'm not a trained lawyer as you are, but is it not a cornerstone of the American justice system that “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”? (William Blackstone, 1760's) See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackstone%27s_ratio

But the game of bridge is not the “real world” or the criminal justice system. I certainly agree that it is better for some guilty to escape rather than an innocent man be sentenced to death or years of imprisonment. The ACBL does not do that.

All the ACBL can do is expel someone from membership in the ACBL. The convicted persons are free to live, work, play, love, even enjoy the game of bridge in an informal setting. Hardly comparable to imprisonment or capital punishment. That the standards for conviction under the ACBL CDR are and MUST be lower than the standard of proof required in the real world criminal justice system is a given.

Please don't misinterpret me. I am not advocating expulsion based on rumour nor suggesting that I don't care if the innocent get thrown in with the guilty. Not at all. But I am realistic. I am unaware of a single ACBL player who has been wrongly expelled. Could it theoretically happen? Of course. Anything is theoretically possible but…

The thing about cheating is that “first offense” is meaningless. One does not get caught until the cheating has gone on for a long time, poisoned the game, attracted attention, surveillance, and finally enough evidence for a conviction.

Expulsion for a first offense is appropriate for some (for example professionals with a track record of amazing success). But not for others (a college kid with little experience and less success). There is a reason for Committees to have wide latitude in imposing discipline.

Under the current regulations, an application for readmission is permitted, but it is by no means guaranteed or mandatory. Further, “The Board of Directors may impose such conditions upon readmission as it deems appropriate.” That there were NO conditions imposed upon Mr. Lanzarotti and that there was no consultation with the expert bridge community before the decision was made was disgraceful on the part of the A&C Committee.

IMHO, it mandates that the ACBL Board should wake up and make the changes that must be made. Certainly not reappoint the same individual as Chair of the A&C (seemingly a lifetime position).

Which raises my final point: is it not worthy of discussion if the Chair of the A&C Committee should also serve on the WBF Executive Council with similar responsibilities? Is there a conflict of interest? Are there differences between the WBF disciplinary code, the European disciplinary code, the Italian Bridge Federation standards and those of the ACBL? Most definitely.

I invite you to watch this interview with Georgia Heth from the 2015 World Bridge Team Championships in Chennai, India. October 3 2015.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Jq3ohSo9kQ
Dec. 22, 2018
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I see no compelling reason that demanded the A&C Committee to readmit him as a member in good standing with no probation. Hell, didn't they refuse his request twice before?

Of course it was “legal” to readmit him. It would also have been “legal” to refuse to do so and/or with strings attached (probation).

Those who sat on the panel chose not to consult with the expert bridge community, the ACBL's own Anti-Cheating Committee. They make a poor decision, they deserve to be criticized and even replaced rather than applauded as the Chair is reappointed for yet another year!
Dec. 22, 2018
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An ACBL Board member told me he wished he had known my feelings before the Board voted. But how could he have? ACBL members are not privy to what cases and decisions may be forthcoming from Appeals & Charges.

It is the sheer ARROGANCE of the Appeals & Charges Committee to believe they could make such a momentous decision – readmitting an expelled player (Spingold winner, Cavendish Invitational Winner – a magnet for cheaters – World Class player) without any consultation with expert bridge players, with its own anti-cheating committee, with members of the ACBL Task Force on Cheating (whose recommendations were ignored) that is so disturbing. And yet Ms. Heth was once again reappointed to Chair the 2019 ACBL Appeals & Charges Committee.

The decision to readmit was made one month ago (give or take a day or two). Now the ACBL releases a statement one month after the fact… surely as a result of the public pressure, not any desire to inform the Membership.

Much too little, far too late.
Dec. 19, 2018
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Indeed, I for one, will be most interested to see the teams and partners Mr. Lanzarrotti plays with when he next attends an ACBL tournament. In the past, Steve Sion had no trouble finding partners and teammates right up until his third and final conviction for cheating. Have times changed? We will certainly find out.
Dec. 19, 2018
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Do you really think the report was voluntarily posted on Bridge Winners? I have no doubt it was extreme pressure from the bridge community (and perhaps even some of her Board colleagues) that led to today's public announcement
Dec. 19, 2018
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Randy, Suspension is for a set period of time (maximum of 5 years). Expulsion, by ACBL's definition at one time, meant a MINIMUM of 5 years suspension after which the player(s) could apply for reinstatement. There was never any guarantee that the request would be granted and often it took more than one request before re-admittance. There was a minimum period of time required between requests.

The player requesting re-admission had to fulfill several criteria including genuine remorse, an admission of guilt as to his/her past cheating, letters of recommendation from ACBL officials/unit boards, etc,

Sometime re-admission was a multi-year process. For example, he/she could only play at the club level, then within his unit/District for a set period of time. Then more latitude as time passed.

There was ALWAYS a period of probation – usually lengthy –attached to any expelled player who was readmitted.

Important note: This is how it was 10-25 years ago when I was on the ACBL Appeals & Charges (A&C) Committee. The CDR is a living document. It is constantly being revised & updated. It can (and does) change at any and every meeting of the ACBL Board of Directors.

Every case is different and Committees usually have wide latitude in the penalties imposed. What was said over and over again when I served was that Committee decisions had to be CONSISTENT and not jump all over the place. It was critical to keep proper records of past discipline to refer to.

In the last decade, the CDR has undergone multiple changes. You can review the latest version online but I reemphasize it is constantly evolving.

What is disturbing in my mind is the new “negotiated settlements” for ethical infractions. Suspensions without any follow-up probationary period. Readmitting an expelled player – Massimo Lanzarotti the most recent example – as a member in good standing with no restrictions! He is not listed as being under probation. All of the above would have been unheard of 10+ years ago.

Some of the decisions that have come from the ACBL A&C Committee have been very disconcerting to me. How the courts would view them is open to conjecture.
Dec. 17, 2018
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Very well stated, Frank. Thank you for posting. It is always a pleasure to read an articulate comment that is not from one of the “regulars”. I'm looking forward to the Memphis NABC. Perhaps I'll get a chance to see you and say hello.
Dec. 16, 2018
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