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All comments by Jonathan Steinberg
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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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Update: As of December 12, 2018: http://web2.acbl.org/discipline/CurrentlyUnderDisciplineList.pdf

Lanzarotti is no longer listed as being expelled nor is he under probation. Appears to be a member in good standing. Disgraceful.

As usual complete silence from the ACBL Board or the Chair of the Appeals & Charges Committee.

More bad news: Georgia Heth has been reappointed by incoming ACBL President Russ Jones to be the Chair of A & C in 2019.

Clearly the cheaters are back: Lanzarotti in the ACBL, Fantoni in Europe, will Steve Sion be the next to return? Thanks (NOT), ACBL
Dec. 13, 2018
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Update: As of December 12, 2018: http://web2.acbl.org/discipline/CurrentlyUnderDisciplineList.pdf

Lanzarotti is no longer listed as being expelled nor is he under probation. Appears to be a member in good standing. Disgraceful.

As usual complete silence from the ACBL Board or the Chair of the Appeals & Charges Committee.

More bad news: Georgia Heth has been reappointed by incoming ACBL President Russ Jones to be the Chair of A & C in 2019. Clearly the cheaters are back: Lanzarotti in the ACBL, Fantoni in Europe, will Steve Sion be the next to return? Thanks (NOT), ACBL
Dec. 13, 2018
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment Dec. 13, 2018
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Update as of December 12, 2018: http://web2.acbl.org/discipline/CurrentlyUnderDisciplineList.pdf

Lanzarotti is no longer listed as being expelled nor is he under probation. Appears to be a member in good standing. Disgraceful.

As usual complete silence from the ACBL Board or the Chair of the Appeals & Charges Committee.

More bad news: Georgia Heth has been reappointed by incoming ACBL President Russ Jones to be the Chair of A & C in 2019. Clearly the cheaters are back: Lanzarotti in the ACBL, Fantoni in Europe, will Steve Sion be the next to return? Thanks (NOT), ACBL
Dec. 13, 2018
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment Dec. 13, 2018
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Melanie, YES, correct, 100% accurate. She wears two hats.
Dec. 12, 2018
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A player cheating on his own can be many different things which is why we have committees, a CDR code and each case is judged on its merits. So many factors: age, experience, pro or amateur, extenuating factors, previous convictions, etc. Penalties range from Censure to Expulsion with lots in between. Plus there is an Appeals process. Neither decisions nor penalties are taken lightly.

BUT IMHO, a player who with deliberation and very much forethought and effort, cold deck hands (prearranges a deal in a shuffled board Swiss match) is just as guilty as a PAIR using signals. The critical point is that this planned cheating, not a spur of the moment unplanned act of insanity.

Committees have great latitude in deciding the appropriate punishment. For a college kid, a suspension of “x” number of years might be appropriate. For World/NABC Champion bridge player(s), expulsion.

Expulsion should be permanent. Do something else with your life but not at the bridge table.
Dec. 12, 2018
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Bob, it may be easy to break into someone's home and steal something. And get away with it! But professional thieves keep on doing their work… until they get caught and multiple robberies are solved.

So it is with convicted cheaters. It takes a long time to collect enough evidence and get a conviction. “First” offense is a bit of a joke when it comes to the most serious and most vile cases of cheating – pre-meditated and deliberate. By professional bridge players who should uphold the highest (not the lowest) standards.

In 2005 the ACBL expelled the “cars”, Andrea Buratti and Massimo Lanzarotti). That same year they won the Spingold on a team captained by Richard Schwartz, and the Cavendish Invitational.

The well publicized 6D hand may have been the mistake that convicted them but to believe it was a one-time incident…

Bobby Wolff made several comment on my original post announcing the readmission of Massimo Lanzarotti. Here is one of them:

Bobby Wolff
Bobby Wolff
Before L-B had been officially convicted of cheating, they were thought of as BIG POISON, so much so, that I, as National Recorder, when they were coming over to the USA and playing with the Dr. Gerald Sosler team in the three Nationals per year kibitzed (every hand they played at their table) by Richard Colker who watched them and gave them a clean bill of not cheating, at least while he watched. They also did not do well as a team, (not having any high finishes) at least up to their expectations.

However, except for that enterprise, AFAIK they were not watched in other places but I heard that, while playing in the Cavendish Invitational they also were monitored every board, by professionals and although there were reports filed when I asked to get a copy of the report was denied by Bob Blanchard, in spite of being asked to send the report to me, by Bob Hamman. They refused and then allowed them back at that event (the rumor had it that they brought along some Italian backers who upped the ante bidding on certain pairs).

While I cannot corroborate what that report showed I was very disappointed to not receive a copy in spite of my (and Bob Hamman) asking them to send it to me.

Perhaps the time has come for the victims to strike back against being totally disadvantaged and likely preyed upon.

Are we now ready to start another cycle of the same????
Dec. 7 · Flag · Like · 3
Dec. 12, 2018
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Randy, expulsion is reserved for the most heinous transgressions. It is the “bridge” equivalent of First-Degree murder. Not 2nd or 3rd degree, not manslaughter, not theft, assault or B & E.

There is a reason why the ACBL CDR has a variety of punishments available from Reprimand, Censure, probation, suspension…

Expulsion is reserved for the select group who well deserve it. They do NOT go to prison, they retain their freedom to live, work and play… but not in the bridge world.

Expulsion should be permanent.

I believe it is unfair to bring up the MP and ML cases. They do not come close to the threshold required for expulsion.
Dec. 11, 2018
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