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BZ Signals and Codes Explained
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Watch this video for 20 seconds (until 1:09:14) and see what you see. Look at B. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdT-J-U68o0&start=4131

Now, watch again, but this time I will tell you that if B touches his chin it shows an ace, chest is a queen, a tap with right hand is clubs, a tap with left hand is diamonds. You see clubs, ace, queen (left hand), then it is repeated, clubs, 5 fingers, ace, queen, points to his RHO, diamonds, 4 fingers, ace, queen. All in 20 seconds. Netherlands Board 7. B's RHO has 73 Q10 AQ84 AQ643. There is a small crack in the screens that B used earlier to look at his RHO hand. B has signalled 9 of his RHO's cards. Bridge is an easy game.

On March 6, an anonymous 22 minute video was posted on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJyhhuy8WVM, alleging that BZ used gestures to transmit information about honor cards (AKQJT), suits and length in suits.  

To test this allegation, a group of volunteers looked at the first 3 matches from EBTC 2014 (Denmark, Netherlands, Israel). We found 180+ examples of the alleged signals. See http://www.bridgescoreplus.com/data/bz_investigation/ for the data. There was a very high correlation between the signals and the alleged cards and we were able to create a database of the various signals. We used these 3 matches to help clarify what the signals are, particularly the suit signals, and what they mean.  

Look at http://www.bridgescoreplus.com/data/tmp/bz/9_signals.html for a description of the codes as well as some video clips of the signals.

This is part of the BZ code as it is known so far (LH=left hand, RH=right hand):

Ace: Rubbing chin or underneath chin with hand.

King: Z: Rubbing nose or forehead with hand. B: scratch/touch top of head.

Queen: Scratch/touch chest around nipple area with hand. Either hand, either side of chest.

Jack: Scratch crotch.

Ten: Scratch side of face.

Nine: Finger to the neck? (This is alleged - probably not enough video to confirm so we have not been tracking)

Clubs: tap of right hand. Can be single or double tap. Fingers are on table. Hand is normally on table with knuckles under hand. Can be subtle movement.

Diamonds: tap of left hand. Can be single or double tap. Fingers are on table. For B, if his hand is close to the table edge, and he is holding his cards, this is diamonds, even if fist is rotated slightly. Hand is normally on table with knuckles under hand.

Hearts: tap of right fist. Fist rotated 90 degrees from the club signal. Hand is normally extended away from edge of table, knuckles pointed towards partner. Rotating the fist from flat to 90 degrees is also the signal. Sometimes making a cup shape with the fist instead of tap.

Spades: tap of left fist. Fist rotated 90 degrees from the diamond signal. Hand is normally extended away from edge of table, knuckles pointed towards partner. If B is holding his cards in his left hand, then a tap close to the table edge is diamonds, extending the fist away from the table edge is spades. Sometimes making a cup shape with the fist. Same signal as hearts but different hand. B normally holds his cards in his LH so can be slightly different.

Finger signals: These are used to show length (current count) in suits. Can be confusing when signal is made for an opponent and made around same time that opponent plays to suit.

The signals from the first three matches are grouped by player at http://www.bridgescoreplus.com/data/bz_investigation/ Watching several of the signals in a row makes it easier to understand what the signals are.

We then asked volunteers to crowd-source the match against Turkey looking for these pre-defined card and suit signals.

General notes:

1. B is more animated than Z, makes more signals, or at least, we have been able to record more of B's signals at this point.

2. The camera angle makes it easier to see B's gestures than Z.

3. Finger signals are hard to see. It is sometimes unclear from the camera angle if BZ are showing 3, 4 or 5 fingers.

4. Far more signals in the first couple of tricks than later in hand.

5. We believe this is only part of the code. There are many other mannerisms noted.

6. Sometimes signals will be repeated. You can never be 100% sure you partner saw them.

7. Suit signals are a conversation. Sometimes they ask, sometimes they tell, sometimes they do both. Asking in a suit, and getting no response, typically means no honor cards in that suit, or it is possible that partner did not see the signal. We believe there may be some responses to show count outside of fingers (e.g. worthless doubleton).

8. Suit signals can be very subtle. A small change in the hand is all that is needed. This is a well practiced routine.

Let's look at the match against Turkey, and see what we see - 4 boards per page.  I am going to track how many specific cards we can see shown in each board. The maximum probability of a player holding a card is 0.25 - the probability goes down as more cards are played.

Turkey match.

The BBO data is http://www.bridgebase.com/tools/handviewer.html?bbo=y&linurl=http://www.bridgebase.com/tools/vugraph_linfetch.php?id=34209

I am using the data from crowd-sourced volunteers at http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bz-match-against-turkey-ebtc-2014-crowd-source-volunteers-wanted-to-watch-videos-and-record-gestures/ There may be more signals that were missed.

We only asked volunteers to look for suit and card signals.

Board 17 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=12m12s

Contract: 2. B leads K.

B hand: 42 Q6 KQ10983 A93

Z hand: Q865 1073 J654 K7

12:25 B taps RH (asking in clubs)

12:26 Z rubs his nose (king). Z has K.

12:36 B taps his cupped LH (asking in spades)

12:40 Z scratches chest with RH (queen). Z has Q.

Z is showing king of clubs and queen of spades. Z has both. 

Tracking: 2/2 cards correct (K, Q)

Board 18 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=17m39s

Contract: 1NT. B leads 10.

B hand: Q96 106 74 AKQJ103

Z hand: AJ107 K875 953 84

17:41 Z twists left wrist (asking in spades). Could be argued that this is a natural position, however B responds immediately. It is also possible that B is showing a suit as camera obscures his left hand.

17:42 B scratches chest (showing queen). As there is some ambiguity with the video, I will not state that this is a signal. B does have Q.

18:22 B cups left fist (spade)

18:23 B scratches left chest (queen), as he comes down with his hand, he shows 3 fingers (3 spades). B showing he has Q.

18:24 B shows right fist (hearts)

18:25 B scratches right cheek (ten)

19:11 Z makes small gesture with RH (asking in hearts). Z probably wants count.

19:12 B moves his right hand to show some number of fingers. This is obscured by camera. Initially we thought this might be a tap but watch the video in slow motion.

19:12 B scratches right cheek (ten) showing 10.

B shows Q and 10. The contract is 1NT. B will take the first 6 tricks and wants his partner to know his hand so his partner knows what to discard.

Tracking: 2/2 cards correct (Q, 10)

Board 19 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=28m46s

Contract: 4. B leads A.

B hand: AJ42 Q6543 A7 83

Z hand: 10983 9 QJ109843 4

No signals.

Tracking: 0/0 cards correct.

Board 20 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=34m0s

Contract: 4X. B declares. Lead: 3.

No signals.

Tracking: 0/0 cards correct.

Board 21 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=38m0s

Contract: 4. Z leads 4.

B hand: A86 KJ852 985 72

Z hand: J5 64 10764 AQ863

37:50 Z asks about clubs. No response from B. B has no honor cards in clubs.

38:00 Z asks about clubs. No response from B. B has no honor cards in clubs.

38:00 B taps with RH (clubs) Asking in clubs.

38:06 Z rubs chin (ace) and chest (queen) then shows 4 or 5 fingers. Usually difficult with these videos to see if 4 or 5 fingers are being shown. Z has AQ863.

38:16 B taps LH (diamonds). No response from B. B has no honor cards in diamonds.

Tracking: 2/2 cards correct.

Board 22 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=43m0s

Contract 3. Z leads J.

B hand: 65 A32 KJ9432 J8

Z hand: J108 J854 A87 A42

42:56 B taps LH. Hard to spot. Asking in diamonds.

42:59 Z chin (ace). Z has A.

43:04 B taps RH (clubs). Asking in clubs.

43:07 Z chin (ace). Z shows A. Z has A.

43:10 B tap RH (clubs)

43:10 B crotch (jack). B has J.

45:41 B taps LH (diamonds). This is trick 6. Z is on lead, just won with A. Z plays A.

45:54 B taps LH (diamonds). Please continue in diamonds. Z leads another diamond.

46:05 B rubs chin (ace). All other aces have been played. B is showing A. He has A.

Tracking: 4/4 cards correct. (A, A, J, A)

Board 23 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=49m35s

Contract: 3. B leads A.

B hand: AK82 J4 64 AQ986

Z hand: Q105 873 983 KJ105

49:50 Z turns left fist. Asking in spades.

49:58 B shows 4 fingers. Possibly 3 as the little finger is separated from the other 3. B has 3 spades left.

50:45 B RH fist (hearts). No response from B.

51:16 B RH fist (hearts).

51:16 B crotch (jack). B has J.

Tracking: 1/1 cards correct. (J)

Board 24 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=57m16s

Contract: 7. B leads 5.

B hand: 9 106542 K5 108653

Z hand: 10742 J97 J932 Q7

57:30 B possibly tapping with RH (clubs). Camera obscures.

57:50 Z taps with left hand (diamonds)

58:18 B taps with LH (diamonds)

58:22 B taps with LH (diamonds), Makes some gestures with his right hand. Unknown signal.

58:29 B taps with RH (clubs)

58:37 B makes curled L fist (spades)

58:41 B makes curled R fist (hearts)

58:58 Z taps with left hand (diamonds)

58:59 B taps with LH (diamonds). Twiddles fingers. Rubs head (king). B has K.

59:04 B taps with RH (hearts). 4/5? fingers. Looks like 5. B has 5 hearts.

59:07 B scratches R cheek (ten). B has 10.

59:10 B taps with RH (hearts). 4/5? fingers. Looks like 5.

59:14 B scratches nose, but not normal signal. Ignored.

1:00:03 B curls L fist (spades)

1:00:18 Z hand to chin or cheek? Video jumpy - can't tell.

1:00:52 B right fist (hearts)

1:01:28 B curls L fist (hearts)

Tracking: 2/2 cards correct. (K, 10)

Board 25 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=69m12s

Contract: 5. B declaring. Lead 8.

B hand: AJ1043 - AJ10532 K6

Z hand: Q6 AJ642 Q964 Q2

1:09:36 Z peeks at LHO cards. LHO has: K852 Q10 K7 109854

1:09:38 Z taps left fist (diamonds)

1:09:40 Z wipes nose (king) and points at LHO. LHO has K. Wipe is longer than normal.

1:09:43 Z finishes with touching cheek (10). This is considered a false positive for the moment as LHO does not have 10.

Tracking: 1/1 cards correct. (K). 1 possible false positive (10).

Board 26  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=74m40s

Contract: 3NT. Z declaring.

1:14:53 Does not seem if B has seen LHO or RHO hand.

1:14:53 B touches nose

1:15:06 B touches cheek (ten)

No noted signals.

Tracking: 0/0 cards correct.

Board 27  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=80m10s

Contract: 5. Z declaring. Lead Q.

B's LHO: A98 75 AK64 J654

1:20:24 B possible peek into LHO hand.

1:20:25 B chin (ace). Does something with his RH, obscured by camera. Not recorded as signal because cannot tell suit.

1:20:32 B good peek into LHO hand.

1:20:33 B taps RH (clubs). Then 4 fingers. His LHO has yet to play to trick 1.

1:20:38 Repeat of 4 fingers. Same time as B's LHO plays to trick 1 (club was led). B's LHO has 4 clubs.

1:20:41 B shirt moves. Cannot tell from angle if B has scratched his crotch (jack) or his chest (queen). B's LHO has J but not Q. Not recorded as signal because cannot tell.

1:20:57 B extends L hand in fist (spades). Quick.

1:20:57 B scratches chin (ace). B's LHO has A.

1:21:37 B taps LH (diamonds).

1:21:37 B scratch chin (ace), then head (king). B's LHO has A, K.

1:21:51 B top of head (king). Left hand obscured by camera.

1:21:59 B scratch chin (ace)

1:22:42 Z scratches crotch. Z is declarer. We will assume that this is not a signal.

1:22:45 B makes fist with RH, then flat, then taps, then fist again, then flat.

1:23:49 B makes LH fist

1:23:56 B picks nose or points at cheek. Unclear.

Only recording the clear signals.

Tracking: 3/3 cards correct. (A, A, K)

Board 28 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=86m0s

Contract: 4. Z leads A.

B hand: 96 KJ976 95 QJ94

Z hand: J4 43 Q8643 AK105

1:26:10 Z taps RH (clubs)

1:26:12 B shows 4 fingers, touches his chest (queen) and might then rub crotch (jack). The crotch is hard to tell, but chest and 4 fingers are clear. B has QJ94.

1:26:19 B puts RH in fist (hearts). Shows 5 fingers. B has 5 hearts.

1:26:20 B taps RH and repeats the tap (clubs)

1:26:31 Z wipes nose (king). Z has K.

1:26:48 B cups RH (hearts), then shows 5 fingers, repeating that he has 5 hearts.

Tracking: 2/2 cards correct. (Q, K)

Board 29 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=91m30s

Contract: 3NT. B declares. Lead 7.

Z's LHO keeps his cards up.

1:33:53 Z makes some possible signals. No apparent suit signals.

Tracking: 0/0 cards correct.

Board 30  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=106m17s

Contract: 6NT. B declares. Lead 7.

Claim when dummy hits.

Tracking: 0/0 cards correct.

Board 31  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=109m56s

Contract: 4x. Z leads J.

B hand: A873 9654 K1087 10

Z hand: - J1073 AQ653 AQ54

1:50:05 B taps with RH (clubs). Makes a movement with thumb. This is the suspected singleton signal. As this was not defined when Turkey was examined, I have not included this as a signal.

1:50:08 Z wipes chin (ace) and chest (queen) then some number of fingers (4 or 5, most likely 4). Z has AQ54.

1:50:13 B taps with LH (asking in diamonds)

1:50:14 Z wipes chin (ace). Z has A. Does not appear to show queen though Z's LHO obscures part of Z.

1:51:29 B taps with left fist (spades). Asking. Z laughs. No other obvious response from Z. Z is void in spades. If there is a signal, this is how we would start to track a signal for a void.

1:51:38 B taps with left fist (spades) and shows 4 fingers. B has 4 spades.

1:51:42 B taps with left fist (spades). Presumably asking again. Z leads to next trick.

Tracking: 2/2 cards correct. (A, Q)

Board 32 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-16jlQb22r0&t=117m0s

Contract: 5x. B declares. Lead 8.

Z is dummy. He shakes hands with both opponents and walks off.

Tracking: 0/0 cards correct.

Summary:

We used 3 matches to create a hypothesis on card signals. We defined the signals, then asked volunteers to look at the Turkey match, focusing for the obvious card signals (AKQJT) and suit signals.  

There are 21 signals of a particular card. In all cases, the card was in the hand. The probability of having a card in the hand is, at best, 0.25. The chance of this being random is at least 1 in 2^42, or 1 in 4,398,046,511,104.

It is clear that BZ are signaling at a minimum honor cards (AKQJT), as well as suits. It is certain that they are making other signals (e.g. fingers to show length) as well, not all of them are known, some are suspected but need more validation.

Their code is logical and consistent. An example is suit signals which are orthogonal.

Status:

We have only used 4 of the 14 available matches from EBTC 2014 to create and validate the hypotheses. I will post the boards from the next match (Romania) to allow others to publicly validate the hypotheses along with the signals. The easiest set to test is the honor cards (AKQJT) and suits. The other signals - fingers, thumb are harder to verify because of camera angles. This will still leave 9 of the remaining 14 matches for the various NBOs to validate the codes.

Thanks:

Thanks to the anonymous person, or group of people for cracking the code. I believe they are based in Poland, but I do not know who they are. I understand that they want to remain anonymous. Lots of us, myself included, spent a lot of time looking at this in late 2015 but although lots of us saw signals, and some correlation, no-one was able to correctly crack the code. Who would have thought crotch=jack? (Someone already shared the obvious English language joke). Thanks to the original anonymous crowd-source volunteers who meticulously time-stamped the first bid and opening lead. You have saved everyone a huge amount of time in research. Thanks to the volunteers in the last week who watched the first 3 matches see http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bz-people-and-their-strange-mannerisms. Thanks to Eugene for allowing the investigation to take place publicly (I checked before this started that it would be OK). Special thanks to several anonymous tips in the last week (you know who you are) for steering this investigation in the correct path. You saved lots of time. I suspect that the Polish investigation is much further along and some individuals have been sharing data for us to validate. All I've done it to take the data from others, stick it in an Excel spreadsheet, then convert to HTML. I was stunned by how many signals were in the first 3 matches. 

What next?

There are certainly more signals. I think there is a group in Poland who are cataloging them all. I heard EBL may be discussing this next week. PBU has suspended BZ. I think there are some legal time clocks that may stop PBU from investigating EBTC 2014; I don't know if the time has expired for any PPL matches. We have not used any data from PPL to validate these hypotheses.

One final thought: if BZ were able signal this well, how was anyone able to beat them? In EBTC 2014, BZ were 20th in Butler rankings with a score of 0.19. http://www.eurobridge.org/Repository/competitions/14Opatija/microSite/ButlerOF.htm (P/S had a Butler of -0.26).

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