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All comments by Laura Woodruff
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'Simmer down' is almost as patronising as ‘Smile - it may never happen’.

I made a serious comment. I also made a serious reply to your comment. If you don't like my suggestion, you are at liberty to say so, and we can have a sensible discussion about it. But please don't pretend to be ‘playful’ with someone you don't know. The only effect is to deter me from ever commenting in this forum again.
Nov. 14, 2018
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What does that mean? I'm not willing to name the people who thought it a good idea, on this forum, without asking them first.
Nov. 14, 2018
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Various people thought it a good idea, but it was not taken up.
Nov. 14, 2018
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Nov. 14, 2018
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When this scandal first saw the light of day, and the EBL had to scramble to invent a procedure for dealing with it, I made the following suggestion which obviates the need for special procedures:

Extend the jurisdiction of the Chief TD (and deputy) indefinitely, so that allegations made retrospectively can be assessed for prima facie merit, investigated (using expert advice if required), and ruled upon in the same manner as allegations which arise during the tournament.

The subsequent actions and any appeal procedures would be as for the tournament itself, because they would be for the tournament itself.

There might be a statute of limitations - say, 10 years after the event - so that accusations made decades later could be dismissed without investigation.
Nov. 14, 2018
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Thank you, Tomasz. I don't know why my vugraph archive search didn't work.
Oct. 1, 2015
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John, we certainly need the BBO files. I haven't been able to find them, and the video is more or less meaningless without them.
Oct. 1, 2015
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I've never understood why the tray can't be left on the table - I certainly prefer it. Whenever I've played with screens and the opponents have insisted that the tray be removed, I've told them (politely, of course) that if they want it removed, they will have to remove it themselves.
Oct. 1, 2015
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Thank you for your time and effort. I was already convinced, but if I hadn't been I would be now.
Oct. 1, 2015
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Sorry, Ed, I hadn't got as far as Boye's comment. I was making a general observation.
Sept. 27, 2015
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In a previous discussion about the cheating scandal, Eugene Hung as moderator posted the following:

“Remember, any use of the words “you are <negative adjective or noun>” is a personal attack and will be removed from our site.”

That seems to be a good rule. It's perfectly possible to make your point without being offensive.

On the substantive point, it seems possible that there may be evidence that B&Z have been cheating; but that that evidence does not relate to the 2014 European Championships. The other teams withdrew because the evidence of cheating DID relate to the 2014 European Championships, and their qualification for the Bermuda Bowl hence appeared to have been obtained by cheating. If Poland qualified honestly, even with a pair in respect of whom there is evidence of cheating in other competitions, there is no reason why they should not remain in the tournament.
Sept. 27, 2015
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I thought they were Monegasque, not Italian :)
Sept. 23, 2015
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I play online too, but it's a different game.
Sept. 17, 2015
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Peg, it may be illogical but to me there is a difference between playing with a pack and playing electronically. I find it much more difficult to work out the hand layout unless the cards are actually in my hand.
Sept. 17, 2015
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Thank you, Sabine. A word from you is worth a hundred from me, so perhaps someone, somewhere, will listen.

The anecdotes about cheating in previous eras and the discussion about whether players should withdraw from, or be barred from, forthcoming events are all well and good. They don't move us very far forward, however. Perhaps someone with standing would be kind enough to start a new discussion on the general points I have raised. Then we might hear some constructive suggestions as to the mechanisms the WBF, EBL etc. should put in place for dealing with this and future incidents.

It is quite wrong that an individual player such as Boye should have to stake his reputation, endure barely-veiled threats, and move his family into safe accommodation in order to expose systematic wrongdoing at the highest levels of the game. We do not expect victims of burglary to publish their losses and suspicions in the newspapers in the hope of finding other victims of similar burglaries and then bringing the perpetrators to justice. That's what we have police forces for. The bridge authorities need a police force and a workable system of courts, judges and juries.
Sept. 16, 2015
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I don't think you're right on either point.

We may have our grizzles about the junketing and speechifying of the bigwigs in the EBL and WBF (and goodness knows, I've spent enough hours listening to people who overestimate their importance droning on in execrable English, or even good English spoken with an impenetrable accent), but most of the members of the EBL and WBF committees work hard at a job none of us would want. They know that the credibility of their events is crucial to their existence: how many NBOs would want to spend the entry fee or subsidise their players for a meaningless competition? Certainly those of us who have to spend our own money on travel, hotels and sometimes even the entry fee itself would be voting with our feet if we thought that cheating was rife and that the EBL condoned it, or at least turned a blind eye.

We should not underestimate the real difficulties the Zonal organisations face in processing allegations of improper conduct. The international bridge world is a relatively small one; most of the top players know each other and the officials; but it would be impossible in a game of such complexity to find competent and impartial referees, investigators and judges from outside the expert game (cf. the enormous problems courts face in fraud trials, where the jury cannot understand the evidence but the only people who can understand it are insiders who by definition lack impartiality).

It is clear that the WBF should have foreseen the present scenario, in which evidence of wrongdoing from multiple zones and types of event is collated by players who then have no valid forum in which to present it. Boye's solution is probably the best that could be found as things stand, but it is not entirely satisfactory - it allows all and sundry to judge the case on the basis of selective evidence and without the benefit of hearing the defence's case; and furthermore reduces to zero the pool of expert potential jurors who have not already formed an opinion. That is not fatal to a fair hearing, but it's far from ideal. The WBF sadly did not foresee the problem, nor did the EBL or any other body with jurisdiction, but now that it has been forced upon their attention, they will have to do something about it or be seen as impotent fools.

Meanwhile, I completely disagree with your assertion that “The expert and professional community are the sole beneficiary” of a clean-up. We all benefit from the exposure of cheats, because however humble the level of our participation we all need to believe that our successes, and other people's, are on merit rather than the product of cheating. If cheating is allowed to go unpunished at the top of the game, it will go unpunished at the bottom, because the same penalties must be applied to everyone, as the Laws apply to everyone. Selective enforcement amounts to licence for the professionals to fleece the rest of us, so it is in everyone's interests to expose the cheats and consign them to bridge oblivion.

If you think that cheating at the top is irrelevant to those of us nearer the bottom, consider that professionals and internationals have to get their practice in somewhere. I've played against some real hotshots in quite lowly events, and although the prize money in Britain is insultingly small, I still object to having it stolen from me by experts with no ethics. In other countries, and in privately-organised events, the prize money can be substantial, and its theft by cheats not to be taken lightly. Professionals who cheat are also defrauding their sponsors (who are actually their employers, though the pros don't like to think of it in those terms). However rich the sponsor, he (or she) deserves to get what he (or she) pays for, rather than team-mates who have gained their reputation by cheating and who, when caught, are quite likely to drag their sponsor down with them.

Let me make it clear that I am not a professional player, nor do I wish ever to be paid to play or to pay anyone else to play with me. While professional bridge exists, however, it will always attract the cream of the crop, and because it does, and because the cream of the crop also form a significant proportion of international players, we need the authorities to keep the professional game as clean as the game the rest of us play.
Sept. 15, 2015
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I have read the whole of this lengthy discussion with interest. Aside from the comments about systems, carding methods and technology, there seem to be two common threads:

A: why were these pairs not caught, or outed if you prefer, sooner, given the evident suspicion which top players have harboured for years about their ethics?

B: why haven't the Zonal authorities or the WBF done something about either the suspicions or the allegations?

As someone who has played international bridge but is neither a professional nor in the top rank (nor anywhere near it), so has experienced the conditions of the events in question but has no personal interest in the outcome, it strikes me that the answers to these questions are as follows:

A: it is almost impossible to bring cheating to the attention of the authorities by any formal means. Accusing another player of cheating is the bridge equivalent of Unparliamentary Language (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unparliamentary_language for those unfamiliar with the arcane and eccentric rules of the British parliament), and is likely to lead to censure, suspension and the libel courts. Only a player at the very top of the international game would be able to make such an accusation and be taken seriously; anyone else will be told to mind their language, or possibly get a punch on the nose if they accuse another player to his or her face. A rank-and-file player who accuses a professional or international player is unlikely ever to play serious bridge again.

It's hard to see how this problem can be overcome. We don't want wild and unsubstantiated accusations flying around, nor do we want every player who loses a match to be able to instigate a tedious, time-consuming and damaging investigation. Nevertheless, some mechanism needs to be put in place whereby serious accusations based on robust evidence can be investigated, even where the evidence covers a range of different events at different levels and in different countries. Perhaps we could look to professional bodies such as the Law Society and British Medical Association for examples of protocols for assessing whether an accusation is simply sour grapes, or whether it has merit. Sanctions against frivolous or vexations accusations would deter the sour-grapes variety (but should be applied with caution so as not to prevent non-expert players from raising legitimate concerns).

B: The WBF and EBL Codes were drafted before it became common or routine to video matches. It would have been impossible before videos to catch cheats retrospectively, so the Codes wouldn't have needed to take account of incidents of reprehensible conduct which were not reported during the event (when they would of course have been dealt with by TDs). The difference between the coughing doctors and the Fischer/Schwartz case is that the doctors were caught during the event itself, so the WBF could award itself jurisdiction because the disciplinary process was initiated during the event. (I'm not sure that the Code really allows for the WBF to take action anyway, but it was at least arguable that it did.)

In the Fischer/Schwartz case, no charges were laid during the event, so the EBL is in a position of being asked to deal with an allegation which until fairly recently it could not have considered. The allegations also cover more than one event under more than one jurisdiction, so really the only organisation which can deal with the entirety of the evidence is the WBF. Unfortunately, as noted above, the WBF has no provisions for dealing with incidents which occur outside its own events, if at all.

The WBF and Zonal Codes are in urgent need of revision to take account of modern technology. The WBF should hold an emergency meeting to revise its Code in the light of video technology and the possibility of retrospective charges covering more than one Zone (of course the Zonal Organisations should also revise their Codes to take account of charges covering more than one NBO). Whether the WBF and ZOs could apply this revised code retrospectively is another matter.

One possibility which occurs to me is that the Chief TD of Euro 2014 should refer these accusations to the EBL on the basis of the video and statistical evidence already in the public domain. I think then the EBL would be able to say “Yes, this is something we can deal with”. I can see that it might be reluctant to take action based on the complaints of individual players, because then it would have to look at all sorts of gripes and half-baked accusations from people with a grudge; but a referral from the Chief TD of one of its own events is a different matter, surely?

Even if the WBF, EBL etc. cannot change their Codes fast enough
to take account of the current batch of accusations (after all, such changes will inevitably require lengthy discussion and wide consultation), surely it would be a simple matter for them to add a codicil to the Codes to the effect that the Chief TD of any event held under their auspices may, upon receiving evidence not available during the course of the event, or not susceptible to speedy and robust scrutiny and statistical analysis such as to allow of its being considered during the course of the event, consider such evidence as if it had been submitted during the course of the event; and, if he or she considers that a prima facie case has been made out which, if proved, would lead to a player or players' being disqualified from the event, refer it for retrospective consideration by the Disciplinary Panel of the EBL or WBF?



I apologise for the length of this comment, but it seems to me that no one has yet tried to address the very real problems which face both players and the bridge authorities in dealing with systematic and long-term cheating at the international and professional level of the game. Perhaps at least my comment will start a fruitful discussion among those responsible for enforcing the Laws.
Sept. 15, 2015
Laura Woodruff edited this comment Sept. 15, 2015
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I wouldn't go that far, Eugene. The use of “you” is obviously not always offensive, but rephrasing comments to avoid it certainly helps to keep the discussion impersonal.

(Eugene has now explained that he meant specifically “You are <negative epithet>…”. Although I was half joking when I made the suggestion of avoiding the word “you”, I can see now that it would prevent a lot of the acrimony which has been a feature of this discussion.)
Sept. 8, 2015
Laura Woodruff edited this comment Sept. 8, 2015
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It seems to me that commenters might apply their fine minds to writing in such a way as to avoid upsetting people; we might then be able to enjoy an interesting and fruitful discussion without wincing at every other comment. It's perfectly possible to make a telling point without rudeness or hostility. Careful avoidance of the word ‘you’, except in the phrase “I agree with you”, usually does the trick.
Sept. 7, 2015
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Very good. I shall offer Earl Russell's advice to the intemperate and hate-filled commenters on Facebook posts about refugees.
Sept. 7, 2015
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