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There were a couple oddities from the 1955 Bermuda Bowl. I know the answer for one of the hands since it was reported decades ago. If anyone can shed some light on the other, I am curious as to what happened or might have otherwise explained the table actions.

After winning the first four tournaments, 1955 was the first loss by USA in the Bermuda Bowl. The victors were four admirables from Great Britain, plus Terence Reese and Boris Schapiro. The NPC for GBR was Reginald Corwen and the event was held as a head-to-head match in New York City. 224 boards were played.

Reese & Schapiro would later be front and center in a cheating scandal in the 1965 Bermuda Bowl. Often referred to as “The Buenos Aires Affair", it was neither as exciting nor enjoyable as the title might imply. The essence of the charges was Reese & Schapiro were signaling their heart length with their fingers. This was proven to the satisfaction of all observers at the time. Including officials of the WBF, the British team captain and the head of the British Bridge League.

Problem solved.  Then events went wobbly afterwards. An official inquiry back in England, presided over by two men with many titles - but none of them in bridge - found Reese & Schapiro “not guilty”. Demonstrating that the problem of dealing with bridge cheats is not limited to sports courts.

Oddly, the first bridge boycott - an officially sponsored boycott, mind you - was held in support of WBF convicted bridge cheats in an effort to get Reese & Schapiro reinstated. England refused to participate in the 1968 Bridge Olympiad and later the WBF blinked. A compromise of sorts was later reached between GBR & WBF.  Both Reese & Schapiro were reinstated.

Schapiro would later compete in the 1997 Transnational Teams and the 1998 World Senior Teams. He played in the 1990 World Senior Pairs partnering with Jean Besse and won that event in 1998 with Irving Gordon.

Reese would later be with the 1976 bronze medal team representing GBR. I specify “with” because I seem to recall he was NPC. The WBF lists seven members, but all classified as players. (Which cannot be right). Reese was also honored as NPC of the silver medal European Championship team from Great Britain in 1981.

History’s Verdict (?)

There are bridge players who supported Reese and Schapiro as innocent in Buenos Aires. The list of defenders includes the venerable - perhaps volatile and certainly voluble - Rixi Markus. This fact is also curious, given that Rixi, years before Buenos Aires, caused quite a stir by publically accusing Reese & Schapiro of cheating. Her charges were even reported in the bridge press. This was a time when such matters were supposed to be, and nearly always were, addressed behind closed doors.

Given the evidence and the subsequent other events that came to light, I find it strange that anyone could come to any conclusion other than Reese & Schapiro cheated. But if some believe otherwise, I suppose I might find consolation that far more people believe that the moon landings were staged.

The evidence for lunar subterfuge was uncovered by guys sporting metal hats, living in tents outside the perimeter fence of Area 51 on their mission to gather evidence proving that it Roswell is, in fact, an alien space port. And while NASA and Disney might be able to fool like a million Russian scientists, nothing gets by these guys.

However, if someone could construct a scenario where the proposition of the integrity of NASA and that of Reese & Schapiro were linked, then guess what? Those moon rocks are fake.

Talking to conspiracy theorists is either amusing or frightening depending on one’s viewpoint. They will tell you ET has visited us from at least 1.3 parsecs away, but we humans have not reached the moon. A hundred million times closer. To this challenge, they will reply: “and that is why the aliens crashed in New Mexico, their spaceship ran out of fuel”.

There will be more to follow about Reese & Schapiro. The 1965 case is interesting and important from the standpoint of what is required to prove cheating. Especially since there are, or certainly were, some doubters. Though it was pretty clear to me after reading “Story of an Accusation”, that if that was Reese’s defense, he was guilty. One now hardly needs to hear to whole story from others. And that whole story is damning.

In any event, for the sake of naysayers, let us just "assume" for now that Reese & Schapiro cheated in 1965. The next question would logically be whether they cheated in the 1960 Olympiad? Britain was second to France by a narrow margin in this World Championship.  It was also the first WBF sponsored championship event.

The answer is there are certainly examples where the only reasonable explanation was that they had to have knowledge of partner’s heart holding. The most glaring was a hand where Reese held a 5-6 count with AJ10 seven times in spades.  It was a perfectly normal 3 preempt in first seat.  But perhaps not the best choice if one knew your three small hearts fit partner's six-bagger.  Reese opened 1.  Schapiro responded two hearts. Reese rebid 2. Then Schapiro apparently had a Fantoni-Nunes moment of forgetting not to reveal what he was not supposed to know. Holding the world's most perfectly normal 3 rebid, Schapiro jumped to 4 holding a stiff spade and KQ empty sixth of hearts!

For reasons that are not recorded, and not easy to comprehend, Schapiro failed in the sensible contract reached at this table with his otherwise impossibly amateurish bidding - had they been legitimate.

The next question becomes what about 1955 when Britain won?

Bermuda Bowl, 1955

The record indicates that there were plenty of important hands from 1955 when Reese and Schapiro clearly had no idea of the other’s heart length. But had they known, that would have been a very powerful edge. Interesting.  Though having possible motivation by itself is meaningless.

However, the best relief I am willing to put forth after review of the hands from 1955 is that Reese and Schapiro may not have cheated all that much.

It should also be noted that while Reese partnered only with Schapiro in 1955, Boris also partnered with both Kenneth Konstam and Jordanis Pavlides.  The other two GBR players were Leslie Dodds and Adam Meredith.  It was common at the time to switch up partnerships. The Americans did that throughout the match as well.

Background

Truscott reported that just before World War II, Crawfords barred Reese and Schapiro from playing poker at the same table.

Collusion between two players at a poker table gives them considerable advantage over other players. Poker is supposed to be every man for himself. Two against one is unfair.

Legitimate houses such as Crawfords are always on the lookout for cheats. In poker, the central question for a player at almost any point in a poker hand is: "does he have it?". This becomes the central signal between colluders. Poker is more a betting game than a card game. It is the juxtaposition of math and psychology. When two players gang up against one, the loner is easy prey. The victim can no longer bet effectively when the other two know whether their partner has it or not.

The most common strategy is to whipsaw the victim. One can never safely call an opposing bet because the cheating confederate is free to raise. Possibly followed by re-raises. There is never a call if the cheats will not allow it. The converse is soft play. If the partner has a winning draw, tread carefully and do not drive him out of the pot with a bet. In short, there is no such thing as “pot odds” against conspirators.

For those familiar only with tournament poker on TV, live cash games are quite different.  The table is not short-handed.  The blinds and antees are low and never change.  There is plenty of motion but scant action.  For a professional, the success of a day's work will come down to one or a couple of hands.

The online world of collusion is slightly different. Conspirators are free to communicate extensively via the phone. (As can be done on BBO, for example.) A legitimate house - like BBO, but I am not willing to vouch for poker sites - cannot detect the communication but it has the complete data record history that might reveal a pattern of cheating.

In live poker, the communication is necessarily limited. So by its very nature also nearly impossible to detect the signal. In addition, the player who is whipsawing or soft playing will likely fold his hand before a showdown - assuming the hand even gets there. He could have had his bets. No one will know the cards. Most collusion cases are not completely provable. But the card room has the authority to take preventative action.  They often will do so based on suggestive information.  Sometimes based on just player suspicions because one needs to keep the customer's happy - even if they are wrong.

So how was this discovered? And was Truscott reporting mere suspicions, or did they really cheat? YBTJ.

Oops

One of the poker conspirators is going to lose money to partner. This is the result of involving himself in pots for no reason other than to benefit his cheating conspirator. The losses to a partner are wins for the other. It is a joint bank and they settle up.

An alert clerk at Crawfords noticed that a check from Reese to Boris that Schapiro was cashing happened to be exactly half the amount of the difference between Reese’s and Schapiro's poker winnings for that day.

A subsequent review of their records showed that this happened on other occasions. In each case, Reese’s check to Schapiro was always half the difference of their poker results that day. After this discovery, Crawfords would no longer allow them to participate at the same table.

As an aside, for those players who complained that Reese and Schapiro could not have been so stupid as to be so blatant, consider how stupid it was to cash Reese’s checks at the only place in the world Boris should absolutely not.

No messy legal proceedings were initiated. Perhaps because the “coincidence” would not have convinced some Sir Something-or-other of chicanery.  (Foster perhaps?) Or worse, perhaps the matter would be referred to a sports court. (Yeah, like that will work.) Or maybe the English are just too damn civilized.

We Yanks are not. Heck, I am such a ruffian that I even spell it with a "z". Our time-tested, American Old West solution to cheats was to shoot the varmints. In Tombstone, that is what would have happened. But after all the patrons of the saloon shot the blazes out of the cheats, we Yanks do believe in making it all official and legal.

They would have called for the sheriff. Explained that Reese and Schapiro’s argument escalated and then they shot each other. The officer of the law would look down at the corpses and inquire.

“Forty times?”

“Well, they never did like each other much.”

Thus would conclude the American version of The Foster Inquiry. We believe in happy endings.

The importance of the poker cheating should have further implications than Truscott suggests. Truscott’s take on this poker episode was that it demonstrated that Schapiro was the more “reckless” of the two. That and there is obvious evidentiary value of prior bad acts. These are usually inadmissible as direct evidence in a court of law but valued in the court of public opinion.

Truscott never linked poker to Rixi’s charges and I think that connection is important.

Bluffs & Psychs

A psych is always explained as a bluff in poker to non-bridge players. The hope in both games is the opponent(s) will believe the bluff. The fear and danger in bridge is that partner will.

Rixi Markus alleged that Reese & Schapiro were “wired”. Specifically, she claimed they always seemed to know when the other psyched. Psych bids were commonplace back then. Markus could be quite animated. But no one ever doubted her brilliance. She was apparently bothered by the fact that there were two things in the UK that no amount of research could uncover. One was the Loch Ness monster and other was any hand where Reese of Schapiro were ever hoist by one of their own frequent psych bids.

It is extremely difficult to make a case stick where the only evidence is that no evidence exits. Not surprisingly, after the brouhaha subsided, nothing came of her charges. Having no real case and given that Rixi was never known to be either shy or reticent in vocalizing her opinions, the tempest likely blew past quickly as soon as players tired of the gossip element.

Certainly some situations like the Gardener NT overcalls R&S employed have a measure of built-in safety. In other cases, “psychic controls” is not the answer. A psychic control exists only for an extraordinarily powerful responding hand that would fear a psych bidder would otherwise pass.

There is another item that would be missing from the record. If anyone has an example supporting the legitimacy of R&S, please post it. (Also any pics of Nessie.) A psych bidder is expected to pass later in the auction. This will sometimes complicate matters for responder when the first bidder is pushed out as a result of the opponents competitive bidding.

The bridge question becomes the same “does he have it?” question in poker. I showed a few examples in another article where the American psych pair became hampered by the possibility that a subsequent pass was simply a natural action of being pushed out at level. Partner needs to tread carefully in such a situation and often, the result is that for the sake of safety, the pair under competes.

This happened a couple of times to the American pair in 1957 and one can conclude from this evidence that they were operating completely above board.

Rixi might also have been bothered that R&S never seemed to be encumbered by the possibility of a psych by partner.

These situations would be simple to signal if a pair wishes to cheat. That signal would convey the same simple, critical information a colluding poker partnership would need to transmit. It answers the problem of “does he have it?”

Bearing this in mind, here are two curious hands from 1955. One has been previously reported and I know the answer. The other is quite curious. If anyone can shed light on the matter, I would be very interested.

Bermuda Bowl, 1955.  Board #161

Put yourself in Schapiro’s shoes. No one vulnerable and you as dealer in the North. Your opponents are Al Roth and Milton Ellenby. You hold:

Q2  Q1062  Q74  9854

On this board, Boris elected to open just a wee bit light with 1. So I will impose this psych bid on you. East passes and partner responds 1, P-?  Do you pass or continue psyching? If you are to continue the subterfuge, what is your rebid?

Boris elected to rebid 2. Annoyingly, partner rebid 2. If he had rebid 2 it might have escaped a pass or even a raise. Now you must pass.

It appears that Schapiro’s actions were quite remarkable. But don’t take MY word for it that Boris took some insane position without illegal information. Just ask Boris!

Question: “Hey Boris, you hold Q2  Q1062  Q74  9854, 1st NV. What is your call?”

Boris: “Pass”

Question: “Are you ever bidding?”

Boris: “Maybe only when partner makes me”.

Question: “With a forcing 2 rebid?’

Boris: “No, with an SOS XX”

Confused? Here is the answer.

This was the entire deal. THE FIRST TIME it was played.

Bishop
KJ643
A9
J62
Q10
Schapiro
Q2
Q1062
Q74
9854
Mathe
5
K84
A95
AKJ762
Reese
A10987
J753
K1083
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
P
P
XX
P
2
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
65
3NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0

In apparent defiance of all odds, it was also the exact deal when it appeared three days later on January 14th as board 161. Possibly proving some sports court judges contention that math is unreliable. More likely proving that the probability of getting the exact same hands is 100% if the cards are never reshuffled.

No one shows up with boards numbered 161 or even 65. Bridge uses sets of boards numbered from 1 to 32 for teams. The sixty-fifth and one hundred sixty-first board will both read #1 on the physical tray. Dealer is North. No one is vulnerable. All boards where shuffled and dealt back then.  Your know, like the ACBL does for most of their biggest events like the Vandy and Spingold.

The same situation of a repeated hand once happened to Al Roth. When he called the TD to explain that he had played the hand before, the TD accepted his claim only when Roth was able to provide the spots for the other three hands. I recall reading about this some thirty years ago. The writer naively penned: “no one was ever able to explain this remarkable situation.”

Duh.

The only other rational explanation is that the hand was cold-decked for fun to see if a player would still make the same call. Though I suppose if one is sitting on the Foster Inquiry or a Sports Court, and anything less than infinity seems equally probable to them, that it is just yet another coincidence that the board number not just identical, it is the same tray and cards.

I imagine Boris was quite miffed that “that evil man” (his later alleged words) partner of his rebid 2 and not 2. After all, real players bid majors. This could have led to a contract of either 4 or more likely 3 which neither opponent could double. Seven tricks would be available for a tidy pickup.

Whereas Al Roth acted correctly and honorably, if anyone wants to make a case that Boris did not realize exactly what had happened and was random and not trying to take advantage, be my guest. There is plenty of comment space below and I shall send the winning submission a nice piece of colander headgear. Yes folks, win your very own, high-quality, hand-crafted, Faraday cage helmet and prevent Big Brother - and hopefully me - from ever knowing what you think.

(Disclaimer: does not allow players to tell TD that they "could not know what partner’s tank meant because he had his chapeau of seclusion on.”)

Back to this deal. If knowing the whole deal and playing it anyway and playing it to take advantage of this knowledge is not cheating, what is?

The only positive is that Boris obviously had a very good memory.

Note that there is no way of knowing whether Reese & Shapiro were employing some “I don’t have it” signal for the repeated psyches on this board. If Boris recognized the deal, he could act unilaterally because he knew partner’s hand. It seems to me that Reese probably did not recall the hand because 2 would have worked much better than 2.

I wonder if Boris later complained Laughing

BTW, on Bd#161 after Boris passed 2, East reopened with 3 and Roth bid 3NT.

Fancy Fielding? Y.B.T.J.

IMO, the fielding in this hand - assuming the record is correct - is as good as anything the great Ozzie Smith managed on the ball field.

Reese
J2
KJ9842
Q986
2
Mathe
86
Q63
A10732
AJ6
Schapiro
109754
10
K54
10875
Rosen
AKQ3
A75
J
KQ943
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
2
X
P
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
206
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

I have no explanation. If the record is wrong and Reese overcalled 1 and not 1, then Schapiro still is not remotely close to a X. If the recorded 1 bid by Reese is accurate - and it likely is-  choosing a X with 5-card support and zero defense or values is somewhere between random and suicidal. An otherwise possible jump to 4 by Boris would have resulted in -1,300 (old scale) with best defense.  However, the hand is so dangerous - just 3 tricks for E/W in spades, that ANY spade raise by Schapiro would have been fatal.  Remember, penalty doubles in those days!

Unless the partnership is wired, I have no other explanation. Do you?

You be the judge. My view is that Riki Markus was incorrect to support Reese & Schapiro after 1965. Especially when it appears to me that she got it right the first time.

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