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All comments by Steve Zolotow
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All games are constantly evolving. Over the years the rules and formats of bridge have constantly changed. From rubber games to tournaments, scored at total points, to 4 deal Chicago and IMPs. From virtually no conventions to a plethora of conventions too vast to count, convention cards, alerts, bidding boxes, screens, stop cards etc. Scoring has had some major changes, most recent the replacement 100, 300, 500, 700 etc.for undertricks doubled with 1, 3, 5, 8.
In the initial proposal above, it states talking is not permitted… I think it might actually make social aspects more interesting to allow talking. Imagine how pleasant it would be when you have signaled for a heart and your partner has played something else, to be able to frown, raise you eyebrows and mutter expletives deleted.
I think electronic bridge is the future, but if it proves unworkable or unpopular, there is nothing preventing us from returning to current methods. And assuming appropriate chaperoning could be developed, matches would players in different locations would be possible.
Sept. 18, 2015
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I think it is not a question of pedanticism, but of attention to details. This is the same care and ability to differentiate fine points of grammar that enables you to distinguish between two ostensibly similar bridge situations, but which lead to totally different correct actions. I tend to rush ahead, and then later ask myself, “What was I thinking?”
Sept. 16, 2015
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Absolutely correct, my statement literally states that you don't have the opinion you clearly have. I should have said that I disagree with your opinion, especially the capitalized MUCH. Good grammatical catch.
Sept. 16, 2015
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Michael I'm not sure I agree with your statement that “My opinion is that they are MUCH better than they were in the days of ‘that old black magic’.” It is harder to perform the old tricks, but now there are much better magicians, and as quickly as we devise a way to thwart one trick, they develop a new one. Remember we thought screens would solve everything. Along came the Italian ‘foot soldiers’ methods of toe tapping. So a bottom partition was added. Now we have to find ways to keep information from being passed deliberately (vertical/horizontal, coughs and sniff, pencil position, timing of writing) and inadvertently (hearing a pencil scratch and knowing something is happening on the other side of the screen, speed of leads, discards, bids and passes, etc.)
Sept. 16, 2015
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Now we need to add the titles won by Fisher-Schwartz, the German doctors who coughed and sniffed (and perhaps Josh's third mystery pair) to the statistics. Is it possible that world bridge has been dominated by cheats for at least the five years? Rather a depressing thought.
Sept. 16, 2015
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Of course, I am among those who would love to see the ACBL (at least in its current form) fade away, and bridge clubs return to the days of yore, when some played duplicate and others played for money. Pros had to be capable of winning enough money to survive. Any club could refuse any player it felt was bad for its games.
Sept. 15, 2015
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Step 1 would be for the ACBL and other bridge organizations to attach a policy rider to any application or renewal of membership. Among other things it should state that they reserve the right to suspend anyone or split up any partnership without reason. This avoids the need for the organization to wait until definitive proof is supplied (which may never happen.) This type of provision would have eliminated the current problem pairs at least two years ago. In fact I have seen nothing saying they have been officially eliminated from participation in future event.
Sept. 15, 2015
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I think video is only effective after the fact. Someone has consistently cheated, gotten unusually good results, videos are reviewed and they are outed. We certainly have enough technology available to simply separate pairs into different rooms and play on computers. This would eliminate virtually all cheating methods currently used (as well as insufficient bids, leads out of turn, flashed cards etc.) For those who claim that the social aspect of the game would be hurt, at least N-E and S-W would be able to chat, discuss meanings of bids, or whatever without worrying about conveying information to pard.
Sept. 14, 2015
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I know I've been cheated at poker, backgammon and bridge. I'm so hopeless at chess no needs to cheat to beat me.
Sept. 9, 2015
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Great work by Kit and all the other detectives on the case, but a sad day for bridge (or really game playing in general.)
Sept. 8, 2015
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I strongly disagree with the first point. Accusations should be made public as soon as possible, probably as soon as 3 or more independent players make their suspicions known. There are many reasons why secrecy is totally misguided.
1. More eyes and more analysts will help detect and document it sooner rather than later. (Note the number of major events which Elinescu-Entscho and Fischer-Schwartz won after rumors were circulating, but before anything official happened.)
2. Bridge organizations should be allowed to take immediate actions, such as breaking up the accused pair, temporarily suspending them, and/or making sure that the highest level of security is in effect whenever they play.
3. Players suspected might stop playing with each other or stop cheating sooner rather than later.
4. Sponsors might refuse to hire them pending the results of an investigation, since no one wants to win a title, pay bonuses and then have their title rescinded. There is no reason a guilty pair should be allowed to reap the benefits of their actions.
5. Their opponents would be on guard. They would watch out for strange behavior, avoid letting dummy glance at their hand, make sure that trays and boards can’t be used as transmitting devices.
Yes, some innocent players will be accused. But isn’t an open accusation better than the tangle of innuendo and rumor that is a result of secrecy? I would expect that honest players will quickly develop a history of getting good results with a variety of partners. Weinstein, Levin, Zia, Hamman etc. all have long histories of victory with a variety of partners. Even Meckstroth and Rodwell, who have played together in most major team events for a number of years, have won a variety of titles playing with other partners, including clients.
There also has to be a procedure for handling cases where definitive proof of guilt never surfaces. If two excellent players are using a sophisticated system, the code may never be broken. Do we really think that a group of experts, who examine a series or results and find them suspicious, is definitive? Advanced statistical analysis would be necessary to determine if the evidence is sufficient. How many flips would have to occur before you were confident a coin was slightly biased? Remember there will be situations where the pair is way ahead or way behind. Who is to say how large these margins have to be before hands played aren’t examined?

Sept. 8, 2015
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For some unknown reason, the ACBL, which is represented as being a membership run organization, is obsessed with time. Take a typical National Pair game. Now that systems, alerts and explanations are often more complicated, it is possible for a round to take substantially longer than the time allotted. Bathrooms are often located far from playing areas. Rather than allowing a little more time per round or longer breaks, the directors start to hover and threaten slow play penalties. Then after being rushed through the session we arrive at a dinner break that starts before restaurants are open and lasts longer than anyone wants. Obviously it makes sense to allow more time for bridge. The more important the event, the more time should be allowed, if necessary. I personally would prefer going to the European style in which there is an hour break between sessions, perhaps starting a little earlier, but definitely finishing much earlier. This allows a leisurely dinner at an appropriate time.

In the specific case being discussed, there is no excuse for not allowing teams to finish all the boards they are entitled to. If some form of punishment for slow play is to be given, then penalize a player, team or even both teams in some future event. Perhaps 1 IMP for every 15 minutes behind schedule.
Aug. 29, 2015
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Another suggestion that will never be implemented: In team games, no pair should be allowed to play with the same partner more than two thirds of the time. Thus a player who plays 2 quarters must play each with a different partner. If the play three quarters, then at leas one must be with someone else on the team. If they play all four, then only half can be with one partner. This has several benefits:
1. Makes cheating more difficult.
2. When suspect pairs results with another partner are reviewed, do they still perform well. If not, easier to spot suspicious pairs.
3. Puts more emphasis on playing bridge (card play and judgement,) and less on developing complicated systems.
4. Increases social aspects of the game.
Aug. 27, 2015
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I earlier stated that a pair becomes suspect because its results are better than its perceived level of skill. I think there is an easier way to single out probable cheaters. Examine a bunch of ordinary hands, especially those in which one of the suspects is declarer. Take a hand where he played 4 Spades and made 5. Then study his line of play, card by card. Then compare his line with that taken (or recommended if they didn’t play the hand) by some top players. If the suspect periodically makes slight technical errors that Meckstroth, Zia, Levin, Rosenberg or any top player wouldn’t make, there is a reasonable possibility that he has something else going for him to achieve such good results. If his good results are always achieved with the same partner, then it becomes much, more likely that they are up to something. Then, and only then, start to look at unusual actions, which prove to be extremely successful.
Aug. 27, 2015
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When selecting the set of hands in which unusual actions by the suspects produced good results for submission to your superstar panel for evaluation, be sure to include an equal number of hands by non-susupected players. For example, use 10 hands by suspects and 10 by non-suspects. If the panel decides that 70% of the hands played by both must have involved some illegal exchange of information, then your results are essentially meaningless. If it decided 70% of the suspect hands, but 20% of the non-suspects hands, involved illegal exchange of info, then there is a fairly strong presumption that they are guilty.
Aug. 27, 2015
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Identifying Potential Cheaters: I think the thrust of this thread starts with what should be the final step. It recommends a procedure that should only come after a simpler first step. A pair becomes suspect because its results are better than its perceived level of skill. I think there is an easier way to single out probable cheaters. Examine a bunch of ordinary hands, especially those in which one of the suspects is declarer. Take a hand where he played 4 Spades and made 5. Then study his line of play, card by card. Then compare his line with that taken (or recommended if they didn’t play the hand) by some top players. If the suspect periodically makes slight technical errors that, say, Meckstroth, Zia, Levin or Rosenberg wouldn’t make, there is a reasonable possibility that he has something else going for him to achieve such good results. If his good results are always achieved with the same partner, then it becomes much, more likely that they are up to something. Then start to look at unusual actions, which prove to be extremely successful.
This thread suggests doing this first (instead of it being done last.) For this to be done effectively, one would have to examine all situations in which an unusual action was taken (never a black and white decision,) and then see if the success rate is far greater than normal. Also that this unusual success can’t be ascribed to better judgment or table feel. It also requires panels of top experts (many of whom will not be impartial) devoting a lot of time and effort to evaluate these situations.
Aug. 27, 2015
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I think that there should be much more transparency starting at an earlier phase of the preceding. Certainly the accusers, committee members and charges should be available in advance of the EOC meeting. This would allow other potential accusers to step forward with their story (think Bill Cosby) and potential witnesses for the defense to muster exonerating evidence or testimony.

Unless the committee feels that their decision is clearly incorrect, and leaves them or the ACBL open to a law suit, they should be encouraged to discuss exactly what happened and disclose the facts on which their ruling was made.

Nothing that occurs within the ACBL should be anonymous or concealed from the members. Aren't we entitled to know how our representatives vote on any issue that might be important to us? This would allow us to re-elect those whose views align with ours and against those with whom we disagree. Many people have expressed an interest in knowing how the decisions are made. For example: The computer software decisions, the appointment of the housing-travel agency, the location and schedule nationals, etc. I have never heard a convincing explanation of why we can't have a European style schedule. Earlier start, short break between sessions, and evening off for drinking and dining.
Aug. 23, 2015
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One more strike against the intrusive nature of the ACBL.
Aug. 22, 2015
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How many qualify for next round?
Aug. 22, 2015
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In the early days of bridge, psychics were much more common, especially by a pair or team trying to create a big swing. I think an early version of Kaplan-Shienwold or Roth-Stone or some other popular system included controlled psychs. I have forgotten the details, but I'm pretty sure they (the controls to catch the psych) became illegal at some point.

Likewise, forcing pass systems had a period of popularity, some success and were barred. (Of course, as we saw with the Cayne-Schwartz match, forcing passes later in the auction are definitely legal, and either must, may or shouldn't be alerted, and the protocol changes when screens are in use.)

I also don't understand why transfers over very weak NTs aren't legal (assuming this is still the case.)
Aug. 22, 2015
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