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Players accused of dirty dealings

The summer break is certainly here — the excellent Bermuda Bridge Club website has more on what is not happening than is! On that, there will be no Friday afternoon games until September 4 and the next Club Championship is in mid-September! Always a tough time for a Bridge addict!

Before I get onto the hand congratulations to John Burville and Ruskin Cave for a plus 70 per cent game — 70.5 per cent in fact on July 9. Well done!

Something a little bit different this week. A report on a potential cheating scandal in Bridge. It’s a little bit different in that I don’t usually report on this stuff in the column, but also a bit different in that international Bridge is so much cleaner now than in the ‘70s and ‘80s that this is an unusual occurrence.

Back then hardly a month would go by without some pair being accused of “UI” — unauthorised information! Hand signals, the famous “foot soldiers” at the 1975 Bermuda Bowl at the Fairmont Southampton, voice inflections, cigarettes being used to pass information — the list goes on and on. I played against a number of pairs who were “up to something” and the atmosphere at the top level games was not great.

Nowadays things are way better at every level. At the Club level bidding boxes and “active ethics” has helped a lot and at the top level the introduction of diagonal “screens” was a stroke of genius and now one does not see or hear one’s partner throughout the session — something my Mixed Pairs partner Jean Johnson used to enjoy when we played internationally as it seems that I can look a bit miffed when things don’t go well!

So to the hand — the names of the players involved is all over the Bridge media but I will only refer to them by their position as they were in fact cleared by the sports judge in the Italian courts — the hand arose in the Italian Bridge Championship.

Dealer South E/W Vulnerable


S 863

H 1063

D 6

C QJ10954

West East

S AK102 S Q5

H 82 H AKQJ975

D KJ943 D Q8

C 63 C K8


S J974

H 4

D A10752

C A72

The bidding was interesting, and not very good!

The Bidding:

South West North East

Pass 1 D 2 C 2 D *

Dbl Pass 3 C 4 C

5 C Pass Pass 6 H

Pass Pass Pass

* The 2 Diamond bid showed Hearts!

The one bid that I totally fail to understand here is North’s two Club bid.

How on earth can partner make decisions at this level when you can overcall with that hand and then on another hand make the same 2 Club bid with what most players would have, something like Axx, Qx, xxx, AKQxx ... that is beyond me and I’d love to see some more sequences from this pair to see how they manage this apparent “bid with 13 cards” approach.

Anyway, now to the cause for the complaint ... the defence! South led the Ace of Diamonds against the Slam and at trick two, after seeing the nebulous 6 from partner continued with a Diamond instead of trying to cash the Club Ace ... ruff! Now the Queen of Clubs through and the contract went down three!

It all looks more than odd though I don’t think it is totally outrageous. South may have decided that since he could see 20 points between his hand and dummy that East must have the missing Diamond Queen to justify his slam bid, not unreasonable though still a bit suspicious. The East-West pair reported this to the directors and the incident was tried in the courts.

South’s explanation was that he “had a mental blackout” believing declarer to be void in Clubs and as a consequence he was “incapable of thinking properly and mechanically continued with a Diamond”!

Poor baby ... especially given that he and his partner are ranked number one and number two in the world rankings! I think he would have done better by saying nothing!

Anyway, the judge stated that he had “verified that the behaviours described by South are commonly acknowledged in psychology where they are referred to as cognitive closures”. Hmmmmm.

So for East to be void in Clubs North would have to have 8 Clubs to the KQJ10xxxx ... at favourable vulnerability he would surely have bid 4 or 5 Clubs instead of two?

All very strange and I guess the courts will hear about “cognitive closure” a lot more often in the future! At least South didn’t double!