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Is eradicating cheating a top priority of the World Bridge Federation?

During the past couple of months, we have seen a group of world-class bridge players -- and others -- put in many hours, and a tremendous amount of hard work, in order to expose cheating in our wonderful game.  This story has broken into the mainstream news media, with Newsweek, CNBC, and British newspapers reporting on it, among others.

Most players seem to be saddened and disappointed that it turns out that the game has been soiled by cheating for years.  Top, world-class bridge players between the ages of approximately 40 and 65 years old have probably had at least one-third of their bridge careers damaged irreparably by this cheating.  Among the players for whom there is strong evidence of cheating are the #1 and #2 players in the world, who have been playing together for 13+ years.

The American Contract Bridge League CEO has made a statement "count us in" regarding stamping out cheating.  As Yehudit Hasin (I believe) said, we need to wait for action.  I completely agree.  We have not seen steps taken yet by the ACBL.  However, at least we have a strong statement being made.  That's a start.

Meanwhile, let's look at what's happening with the World Bridge Federation.  Following the withdrawal of 3 European teams from the Bermuda Bowl because of (alleged) cheating by a pair on each of those teams, we have the revoking of the credentials of one Polish pair.  The WBF does not reveal the reasons for the actions of the Credentials Committee.  Meanwhile, Boye Brogeland, who has led the effort to uncover cheating, states that there is evidence that Balicki and Smudzinski did cheat in Opatija in the 2014 European Championships, which qualified 6 teams for this year's Bermuda Bowl.  We also have posters on BW now, such as Gonzalo Goded, who state that they have begun to look at the evidence Boye has provided, and that they clearly see evidence of cheating by Balicki and Smudzinski.

Now, someone has sent me a private message on BW as follows:  "2016 Wroclaw Poland WC.  Major sponsor -- the sponsor of the Polish team here in Chennai."  As Ed Reppert commented on BW:  "My interpretation:  The 2016 World championship is scheduled to be held in Wroclaw, Poland.  The sponsor of the Polish team currently in Chennai is also a major sponsor for the 2016 WC.  WBF doesn't want to upset that sponsor, because he might then withdraw his sponsorship of the 2016 event, so they're letting his team play in Chennai."  That interpretation makes sense to me!

So, here's my conclusion, based just on using logic and common sense:

The WBF doesn't really care about stamping out cheating.  Oh, sure, all things being equal, they would rather have no cheating.  But, listen to the statement of the WBF General Counsel -- it was along the lines of:  We hope that the Bermuda Bowl is clean, just as we hoped the European Championships was clean.  What the ???  Are you kidding?  That's hardly reassuring, given that the 2014 Opatija tournament was most definitely not clean.  It was dirty.  Hardly reassuring.

The WBF almost certainly did the bare minimum possible regarding the Polish team.  IMO, they were given evidence that Balicki/Zmudzinski cheated in Opatija.  So what do they do?  Revoke that pair's credentials as quietly as possible, then tell the Polish Bridge Organization that they can bring in a new pair!  Wow!  That was some punishment, huh?  Hardee-har-har.

The WBF administrators appear to be a bunch of spineless, political jellyfish.  All this great work was done leading up to the Bermuda Bowl.  Disappointed as we bridge players were about the embarrassing cheating scandal, we saw a bright torch shining at the end of a dark tunnel.  We saw a chance to really clean up the game, and have a better future.

Perhaps it is time to have some new brooms sweeping through?




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