The bridge world continues to be electrified by the scandal that Janet wrote about last week. Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz (‘F-S’), the superstar players accused of cheating, are part of the Israeli team which qualified to play in the world championships held in China later this month. Now, in light of the accusations, Israel has withdrawn, a move which has been widely applauded.
Meanwhile, Boye Brogeland, the Norwegian international who made his allegations via a specially created website, www.bridgecheaters.com, has received a letter from F-S’s lawyer demanding he make a public apology and offering to settle out of court for a million US dollars.
Far from being deterred, rumour has it that Boye is about to give evidence that another world-class partnership has cheated their way to the top. I’ve heard their names, and believe me, you’ll be shocked. What a wonderful film this will make.
Boye has the backing of almost the entire bridge community; many stars have added their support on forums and blogs; hand after hand has been analysed and endless videos studied. Amongst other things, it’s alleged that F-S indicated weakness by making a noise (coughing, drinking water), and used the bidding boards to indicate preference on opening leads — pushing the board towards the opening leader to show spades, for instance, or leaving it on one side of the table to show hearts.
It’s very easy to cheat at bridge via these sort of signals. But as Boye points out, bridge is such a logical game that it is impossible to do so for long. When experts consistently choose non-logical actions which pay off, other experts get suspicious. No one hand proves anything, but hand after ‘lucky’ hand does. Let me give you three lead problems:
You, North, hold AQ86, 108, J954, A65. East opens 1NT, all pass. You lead? Fisher chose the ♣5. His partner held ♣K10874.
You, North, hold K, KQ4, AK83, KQJ86. Two passes to you, you open a club, East overcalls a spade, partner passes, West jumps to 3♠. You bid? Schwartz passed, despite holding 21 points. It turned out to be a good choice: his partner had a terrible hand.
You, South, hold 542, J9752, 5, KQ65. West opens a diamond, partner overcalls a spade, East doubles, you bid 2♠, West rebids diamonds, partner passes and East bids 3NT. You lead? Fisher chose the ♣Q. His partner held ♣AJxx and his spades were a rubbishy J10xxx.
Nothing proved, of course …but smell a rat?