By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative
cheat: to prevent someone from having something that he or she deserves or was expecting to get.
he first known use of the distasteful “cheat” word was in 1590, but 25 centuries ago the Greek tragedian Sophocles (496-406 BC) proclaimed: “I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” Before professional bridge, I suspect. Fast forward to today and cheating among the international elite in our game, as detestable as that sounds, is, unfortunately, a fact of life in the fast lane . . . but we’re not alone.
World Famous Cheaters
Global Corruption: The sports scandal du jour: FIFA soccer.
Hot Air Gate: Alas, Golden Boy Brady (the one with the golden wife) is accused of deflating that image.
Presidential: FDR, LBJ, Dwight D., plus Marilyn’s beaus JFK & RFK, and of course Monica’s William Jefferson Whitehouse.
Dirty Tricks: Watergate’s “I’m not a crook!” Tricky Dick and his comedy cast of the ‘70s, and Bridgegate’s “She lied to me” C. Christie taking bridge hesitations to another level.
Scandals in the Game
nd then, buried near the back page, accusations of cheating by bridge’s big boys; the world stage’s dirty laundry, similar to Monica’s spotted dress. A recent international scandal was the revelation of the two “German Doctors” being stripped of their gold medals in World Bridge Federation (WBF) competition after being caught using a prearranged system of coughs to indicate certain card holdings. The “Mucinex Coup” we’ll call it.
Before that one was the 1975 Bermuda Bowl’s “foot tapping” communication under the table used by an Italian pair to describe their bridge hands to each other. Amazingly, a coffee table was put under the table to stop the footsie shenanigans, and the pair was allowed to continue! The “Sole Searching Coup?”
Terrence Reese and Boris Schapiro were the dominant duo in British bridge circles when they were accused of using finger signals in WBF competition at Buenos Aires in 1965. They were cleared in Britain, but not here. The “Give Him the Bird Coup?”
Homeland Transgressions & Accusations
magnative cheating is not foreign to our own borders. Our scandals go back to the 1930s when a dealing accusation broke up the famed Four Horsemen of Willard Karn, P. Hal Sims, David Burnstine and Oswald Jacoby. Somehow, that choice of cheating remains very popular as at least three of our professional players have since been caught manipulating boards by moving key cards from one hand to the next – as difficult as that may seem.
One very prominent bridge executive was accused of fouling a hand by turning an ace “face up” before passing the tray to the companion table in a teams game. The one who faced the ace had just gone down in an aggressive slam. The “Face Lift Coup?”
A U.S. expert went to bed one night in 1975 during the Houston International Team Trials, seeking rest before playing the next morning’s big match. When awakened he was told his teammates had been sent home amid allegations of cheating. The accused pair successfully sued ACBL, and was reinstated.
Another American pro/expert pair was accused of using a code based on where they placed pencils on a paper pads to describe their hands. They were banned, later reinstated, and later yet, one was kicked out . . . for cheating! The “No Pen-alty Coup?”
There is more. Makes me proud we annually donate $225K to support our troops’ global travel. And send another hefty $165K each year to WBF for a phony “membership,” allowing our teams to compete in some world competitions. For a great read on WBF scandals, and an insightful tour of the world championships, pick up a copy of our own John Swanson’s Inside the Bermuda Bowl.
One More: The Coup D’takeover
he real ACBL is more than 90% the clubs – all 3000 of them. Yet, as I’ve stated in the past, most motions dealt with by my national board of directors are geared to pleasing less than 1%: our experts/professionals and their tournaments. Much to their chagrin, we recently passed a board motion to charge a fee for NABC+ sessions that use bidding screens. I guess they expect us to pay the required $13K in extra equipment, extra space, extra directors and extra labor the screens require. Why need screens anyway? The answer: cheating. The motive: lots of money and fame.
Bidding screens are intended to prevent the use of illegal codes and/or inflections. No cheating, no need for screens. Our vote on screens may have prompted a group of the unhappy elite currently attempting a silly takeover of league governance, asking us to step aside and let them run ACBL. I sense a coup d’état without facts or reason. Not to worry, it’s too far to the right to fly – I guess.
No Crying, No Cheating
ust as there’s no crying in baseball, there is no cheating in club bridge. Who would taint the camaraderie and friendly atmosphere we enjoy at home with such dastardly deeds? That we’ll leave to the upper echelon. And their screens.
“If you cheat me, you ruin my day!” (Is that a Clint Eastwood?)
Peace, my friends.