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Truimph or disaster?



Revelations that a dedicated team of experts has "broken the code"  -- or at least part of it -- apparently employed by Fantoni and Nunes, in addition to the mass of evidence supporting accusations of cheating against Schwartz and Fisher have been applauded by the bridge community in general, and the Bridgewinners community in particular.  There's no doubt -- even among those like me who insist that operative decisions must be taken by national, regional and international bridge organizations according to their rules and procedures -- that discovery of apparent illegal signaling methods is a major accomplishment, something that should be applauded by everyone who loves the game.

The double impact of the two separate but related scandals, however, raises some serious questions about its impact on the future of organized bridge.  I'd like to pose a few questions that need answers.

1.  What impact do the scandals have on the wider game, played in clubs and tournaments around the world by hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who enjoy the competition and the social milieu?  Will the revelations, which really affect a relatively small cadre of world-class experts who play in the Spingold, the European, Asian (Asia-Pacific?) and South American championships, mean something to those people who go to the local club game or tournament, pay their dues to their NBO and never have the wildest dream of playing in the Bermuda Bowl or the Cavendish?

2.  How will it affect people who might have had an interest in learning bridge, attending seminars, taking bridge cruises, buying bridge books?  Will they slowly but surely start looking for other leisure-time activities, ones that are not stained by cheating at the top?  Many people stopped following bike racing after the Lance Armstrong revelations, for example.  Will they do the same about bridge?  (I'm sure it had no effect at all on bicycling as exercise, which is an entrely different thing.)

3.  Will they begin to look more closely at what happens at their local clubs and tournaments, which are clearly rife with the passage of unauthorized information through hesitations, gestures, facial expressions and who knows what else -- things that have up to now been accepted as part of the game, but may be looked at in a vastly different light.

4.  What about the newly retired generation that has been targeted in marketing efforts by the ACBL and other NBOs?  Will the new stigma (World Champions apparently cheat, maybe everyone does) dissuade them.

5.  And young people.  The success of a younger generation (which Fisher and Schwartz and others exemplefied) might have attracted a new generation of players.  Will they now look elsewhere, assuming (incorrectly, but that's not the issue) that bridge is only for old people and cheats?

These questions should be addressed quickly by the organized bridge community.  Bridge history will determine whether the outcome turns out to the the triumph many people are calling it, or an unredeemable disaster.





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