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Classic 2015 IBPA Editorial by John Carruthers

THE INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE PRESS ASSOCIATION This Bulletin is published monthly and circulated to around 400 members of the International Bridge Press Association comprising the world’s leading journalists, authors and editors of news, books and articles about contract bridge, with an estimated readership of some 200 million people who enjoy the most widely played of all card games.  Bulletin No. 609 October 1, 2015

BULLETIN Editor: John Carruthers Address all IBPA Bulletin correspondence to: JOHN CARRUTHERS1322 Patricia Blvd., Kingsville, Ontario, N9Y 2R4, CANADA Tel: +1 519-733-9247email:

I found this gem of an Editorial by John Carruthers from October 1, 2015. Three years later, and it is hard to be optimistic that any significant lasting progress has been made. One step forward, two steps back. Neither the WBF nor the ACBL inspire any confidence on the "Cheating Files".

That we see photos of Fulvio Fantoni smiling and being welcomed as he participates in European tournaments, with no less than WBF President Gianarrigo Rona in some of them, is truly disheartening.  That the ACBL has readmitted Massimo Lanzarotti as a member in good standing (no probation) and refuses to remove masterpoints & titles won by teams with convicted cheaters on them is tragic.


The opinions expressed here are solely those of the editor do not necessarily represent those of the IBPA Executive or its membership.

Bridge organisations do a pretty good job of protecting their players against unusual bidding methods. The problem is not the methods themselves, but the fact of their unfamiliarity to the opponents. Given enough time for preparation and enough play against the methods, opponents will eventually become competent against them and lessen their effectiveness. This is true even in World Championship play, where certain methods (called “Highly-Unusual Methods”, HUM for short) are forbidden in short matches and allowed in longer ones. There are exceptions to this ‘protection’ of course: Australia and New Zealand spring to mind, where virtually anything goes as regards system. And since that’s what their players are used to, no one seems to mind.

Where bridge organisations do not do a good job of protecting their clientele is in illegal communications between partners. Bridge, like one or two other sports (golf and tennis may be the only others, and tennis is doubtful these days), depends to a large extent upon the honesty of its practitioners. Events over the past couple of years have alerted us to the fact that there are pairs abusing the privilege of playing bridge at the highest level by employing illegal signalling. Without exception, bridge organizations do not have reliable procedures in place to catch cheats. It is time to remedy that.

The 1965 Buenos Aires fiasco should have remedied it a half-century ago. Reese/Shapiro were convicted by the WBF and banned from further play; the Foster Commission (in England) whitewashed the whole affair and exonerated them, using British legal standards to determine guilt. The Sion/Cokin affair in the USA served as a further alarm that something needed to be done but, again no action was taken. Every bridge organisation takes the view that: (a.) “If we don’t do anything, it will all go away,”and (b.) “We need the players to start any process.” The IOC did the same until the drug problem became endemic and they had to create WADA. Surely, the time is right for the WBF to do the same.

The first job for bridge organisations operating at the highest level should be to ensure the integrity of their events. Cycling didn’t do that, weight lifting didn’t do that – does anyone really care who wins their events now? Bridge is headed in the same direction unless action is taken, and taken now!

Furthermore, the bridge organisations must develop procedures such that the players need not complain to be afforded protection. Do we insist that the victims of crime complain for the police to spring into action?

One of the risks run by bridge organisations in allegations of cheating is that of civil litigation by the accused against their accusers. Typically, civil litigation does not have the high standard of proof required by criminal trials. Perhaps it’s time to turn the tide: sue those convicted. Surely there are players and teams whose livelihoods and reputations have been lessened by the cheaters’ successes. So, as in real life, have the victims sue the criminals. These days, we can adapt Samuel Johnson’s pronouncement about patriotism to litigation: “Litigation is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Let’s change that.

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