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On the Actions of Administrators
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Regulars will recall the record-breaking input of Mr Sorin Lupan, whose exciting commentary over a two hour period led him to being banned from posting at Bridge Winners. What a hero! Able to get up Greg Humphry's nose in a single bound! Truly impressive. I was certainly eager to learn more about this remarkable person! 

BW comments revealed his travails with the Danish Bridge Federation, where his railing at having to play against "whores and bitches" led to an unfortunate suspension. Erik Saelesminde and Boye Brogeland are cheats and f... Norway! F... Norway! That led to an expulsion by the DBF in 2005.

I did a little digging and what caught my eye was his impressive result in the Epson Worldwide Pairs on the 8th of June, 1990, discussed here:

Heading a field of about 88,000 were two Danish players in Copenhagen, Soren Godtfredsen and Sorin Lupan. Their 88 percent score, based on instant match points, was so remarkable, far exceeding any previous score in this or any other comparable event, that it was deemed necessary to verify it before issuing the official standings.

Of course that result must be true and correct because the authorities say so. Strange, then, that Bill Jacobs wrote in a BW comment:

Ron Klinger wrote an article in Australian Bridge magazine which point-blank accused them of cheating.

Greatly puzzled, I moved on to something more mundane: the lesser placings in that event. Again from the NYT article:

The runners-up playing in Beijing, with a score of 84 percent that would have won in any previous year, were Wan Li, chairman of the National People's Congress, and Rong Le Di, an executive of the National Sports Federation. Two other Chinese pairs took third and fourth places worldwide.

Now that perturbed me more than somewhat, primarily because I am unable to find that anyone at all found this worthy of closer examination. It just passed on by as a regular result and I don't think it is. 

At the time Wan Li was Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and, at his passing, government flags were set at half-mast. You can read about him here:

So, taking time off from his official positions, Wan Li has a score "that would have won in any previous year". And at a time when China was a most modest force in world bridge, third and fourth place are also taken by Chinese pairs.

Clearly, a world-wide event may well have had high placings rigged in order to toady to Chinese officialdom and no one says a word about it. 

Now what I want to discuss is not so much this probably-fabricated outcome, on a par with Kim Jong il, who according to official North Korean state media reports, routinely shot three or four holes-in-one per round of golf, but the actions of bridge bodies and administrators. My own experience with bridge officialdom has led me to conclude that their firm belief is that bridge players exist for the benefit of administrators and very serious matters are addressed, ignored or covered-up according to their fiat.

As I write this, entrants to the 2015 Bermuda Bowl are dropping like flies, and I think that how bridge administrators react to "issues" is of vital importance to bridge.

Here is an example of how not to respond to a crisis:

Who knew that Kafka was English?

Melanie Manfield has a view regarding Mr Harris' comments with which I agree: apology or acknowledgement that the system in place has failed; failed to the extent that one pair has worked its way up to the #1 and #2 positions in the world, and that major titles and event placings have been won through cheating.

In other words, he is continuing the pattern of not disclosing, being in denial, and saying that the status quo is just fine, thank you very much.

Now some people think that the best thing to do is to leave the current scandal to the authorities.

Kit Woolsey:

The cases [the Boye group] are in the hands of the proper authorities, and they can take care of them.

Given the track-record of the past, recent and otherwise, I cannot subscribe to this. I think that one of the best things that could happen for bridge, especially in these troubled AB (After Boye) times, is that there is far greater transparency in how it is that administrators deal with, shall we say, unfortunate circumstances. How we ensure that everything is above-board is to have frequent and open discussion of what it is that administrators do. And above all, administrators have to relinquish their love of secrecy.

Some other people think that the authorities are not as competent or transparent as perhaps they could be.

Bobby Wolff:

In regard to the hushed up nature of the many bridge cheating crimes, Jimmy Ortiz-Patino for one and most of the WBF administration as well as the ACBL chief lawyer, Lee Hazen, were very much against scandals in bridge since they thought those admissions would bring shame to our game, causing others to never contemplate playing it

Allan Graves:

A lot of the inhabitants of NBO boards are , I think , unprepared and unqualified for the responsibilities they have taken on.

Matthias Berghaus, on the tasks faced by bridge administrators

What is needed is a will to fight the situation we have, That has been lacking in my NBO for quite some time.

Piotr Lopusiewicz

Boye, again, many Polish players see our NBO as big part of the problem. It's very unlikely that they act in a sensible way and it's even more unlikely they conduct a fair investigation. Whatever happens please make sure someone from outside sees the evidence and decides what to do with it. Be it the public, some independent committee or whoever else. Our local bridge needs as much cleaning as the international one and it won't happen if the evidence is never brought to light.

So how justified is it to expect prompt and appropriate action from administrators? Let's see how they managed a real-life problem from 2003.

Bobby Wolff:

That was the year Fantoni and Nunes won the Montreal Open Pair World Championship in which Zia and Michael Rosenberg were very much in contention most of the way. In the Summer of 2003 (when I officially met Judy in Long Beach, CA) my group lost a Regional KO to the F/N team. After several ‘unusual incidents’ occurred during the contest, I approached the then-Recorder (for many years a close friend) and reported my misgivings. I sensed strong vibes of cheating and wanted the Recorder to make the alleged culprits aware of my suspicions although I had no official capacity. He listened respectfully and then dead silence followed. When next we met, I inquired as to what happened. He alluded to speaking with them but refused to share any specifics .. leaving me with the casual assurance: ”things will be o.k.“ I replied candidly that he was being wildly optimistic and he reminded me that I had no official capacity as he was the ‘active Official National Recorder’ and urged me to step back. I reminded him that F/N were on a spectacular run and success has a way of escalating and focusing on blazing more noteworthy trails and achieving higher world rankings; however, I was rebuffed and advised that we would have to ‘just wait and see.’ In regrettable hindsight, I heeded his advice.

So we see that much of the Fantoni - Nunes scandal could have been stopped dead 12 years ago.

I guess "things will be ok" refers to the afterlife.

Now let's look at some more examples of the workings of official bodies after they have been called upon to give judgment following a "doubtful occurrence".

While In the Well, Bobby Levin wrote:

The Verona incident was simple-We came 2nd-the Chinese pair [Fu - Zhao] that won played 8 [sic. Really 6] boards against their countrymen in the final session which is an absurdity. They averaged over 98% on those boards and the things that happened on those boards were without concience [sic]. They beat us by 1/2 a board. The organizers and leaders that be from all over the world wanted no part of this controversy, although they were aware of everything.

The matter is discussed in detail here:

As usual, there are a range of views.

Zenko Daniel

There is miniscule chance to get four near tops in a row, then multiply that with a miniscule chance that it will happen not on any random day but exactly on a day when you are in contention for a world championship, and then multiply all that with even more miniscule chance that it would happen precisely against your countrymen. Luck is a lady indeed.

Steve Bloom

Did  [the throwing of a match] happen in Verona? It sure looks like it.

And then there were the assertions that there were very good reasons why the other Chinese pairs averaged 3% against the winners:

It was a good time to relax, they were very tired, they were fuming, they were thinking about other boards, strange results are more likely at the end, they were shooting....

Oh, and there was an incorrect claim.

Greg Morse:

On board 28 there was an incorrect claim. The declarer thought his heart J was a diamond J, and claimed 11 tricks in 4 spades. When the opps (Fu and Zhao) objected, rather than calling the director, they worked it out themselves and agreed to down 2. The score was entered automatically, (Bridgemate or similar I presume) so was never reviewed by a human.Of course a Director should have been called, but wasn't. TBW attributes this to cultural differences in China

Cultural differences. Right.

I don't need to start quoting laws; we all know what's what in that regard. All except  Fu and Zhao, who, despite many years of world-level play before 2006, did not know, or forgot, about law 9. You can see their record for yourself.

Now maybe the results were all quite reasonable and Bobby Levin is nothing but a sore loser (strangely, the "all Americans are sore losers" brigade seems to be a little quiet of late). The way to stop people like me grumbling is to release the report of the enquiring body.

So where is the report? Why can't we see it? Because administrators don't want us to, is why.

Next item on the dossier...

... also from 2006 in Verona, this time the Women's Pairs:

Zhang - Gu. vs Wang - Zhang.

Board 1, NS score 100%

Board 2 - NS score 100%

Board 3 - NS score 85%

Just 95% over three boards.

Board 1 is so horrifically egregious that I reproduce it here


2NT by East. A Low club lead.

In the Men's Pairs "3% scandal", some Fu-Zhao apologists make a big deal about the false claim explaining things away. To them I offer a deal:

For the hand above, I will give you a lead out of turn and a penalty card. I'll throw in a bonus revoke! Let's see you get anywhere near ten tricks, let alone the eleven tricks recorded. 

That's right, ELEVEN tricks in 2NT.

Give in? Of course you do.

Now either this is a hopelessly (after the 1990 scandal I cannot bring myself to use "manifestly") incorrect score that is displayed all relevant WBF records or we have something seriously rotten on our hands.

No secret report this time, the matter was just ignored.

But why?

There may be some who think the three China-related matters discussed are obviously all quite kosher and why all the fuss, you deluded nitwit. Maybe it's time for a story.

In the early 70s, an American team, Jordan - Robinson, Truscott - Truscott, came to Australia to play some exhibition matches. The captain was Alfred Sheinwold.

It came to pass that there was an appeal, and Sheinwold was asked his opinion as to the merit of this appeal.

AS: Yes, yes, I see. Very interesting. Well, in America we have a word, a technical term, to describe this sort of thing. I don't know, perhaps you don't have this technical term in Australia. Perhaps it's only used in America.

Sheinwold was asked what this word was.

AS: The word is, BULLSHIT!

Let's take a look at some events from Italy:

1. The Gerber Letter.

From :

...a little known incident that occurred at the time Gerber [NPC, US Bermude Bowl team] arrived at the Grand Hotel Bilia. An anonymous letter written in Italian was delivered to him. He secured a translator, but after the first paragraph was read to him, he asked the translator to stop; to deliver the letter to Italy’s captain, Carl’ Alberto Perroux and to explain that Gerber had listened only to the first paragraph.

The writer had accused the Blue Team of cheating. Perroux, after reading the letter to his team, suggested that the match be played with screens running across the tables (this was 12 years before present-day screens were employed) — but Gerber would have none of it.

A source who was close to Gerber has told me that Gerber knew a little more - the letter said that the method of cheating involved the positioning of the cigarette in the ashtray. How Sionesque!


Let's consider that matter in conjunction with:

2. The Burgay Affair

According to the 1979 World Championship Book:

Leonardo Burgay ... claimed he taped a phone call he made to Benito Bianchi .... According to Burgay, Bianchi made statements concerning illegal signals used in Venice in 1974 by the Pietro Forquet-Bianchi partnership. Burgay claimed Bianchi stated that the signals were transmitted by means of the cigarettes they were smoking. A year and a half later, this matter still was not resolved to the satisfaction of the World Bridge Federation. The WBF imposed a suspension on the Italian Bridge Federation -to take effect after all other avenues were closed -because the WBF believed the IBF had not properly investigated the Burgay tapes matter.

This is a description of the matter:,5459116&hl=en

There is a lot more detail here:


With both Gerber and Burgay we have:

- Italians documenting Blue Team cheating methods

- The method was cigarette placement in both cases

- Cover-ups by the Italian authorities

- The evidence vanishes


But what is really of interest is this: We know Bianchi lied. He initially denied any such phone call, only later admitting that there was. He then claimed that the call was a purely hypothetical discussion of how one might cheat. Now maybe that is the case and maybe it isn't. And there is one way to find out:

Release the evidence. Stop hiding it from the bridgeplaying public

Either the tape is a real confession of cheating or it's a discussion of a pretty weird "hypothetical". Still, no law against weird conversations.

Of course, there is a remote chance that the IBF will tell us that the Gerber letter is lost. And who knows, maybe the Burgay tape is lost, too. And goodness me! Perhaps the transcript can't be found either. What a coincidence!


Still, there are some other steps that could help:

- Forquet and Garozzo know what was in the Gerber letter. They can issue a statement regarding the content of the letter.

- Leandro Burgay could make a statutary declaration, stating what it really was that Bianchi said


Meanwhile, news from an alternative universe:

In 1973, a second group of American experts disclosed the cheating methods of the Dallas Aces. The ACBL once again took no action as Ira Corn held the both statements for further examination. Hamman, Lawrence and Wolff have, to this day, said nothing other than that they cannot be bothered to grace such statements with a reply. For more than forty years every American administrator thought that was quite normal and none of them did anything about it.

EDIT: I have received a PM pointing out that there may be someone who supposes that the above paragraph refers to real actions by the Dallas Aces and ACBL administrators. I am asked to clarify the matter. I find it hard to believe that any reader could be so incredibly thick, but then again, the Great Bell Curve is a wonderful thing.

To remove any possible doubt, I state that the paragraph makes no reference to any real-world actions of anyone.

Time to look at how US administrators operate in this universe:

Bart Bramley:

20+ years ago Bob was the National Recorder and I was one of 4 or 5 assistant Recorders. Over a period of about twelve months Bob noticed that there were several complaints about one player and decided to act on the accumulation of evidence. This is how the Recorder system is supposed to work. The problem was that the player was a member of the BOD, and, moreover, was potentially going to be President of ACBL. Bob convened a meeting of all Recorders during the next National, and we heard direct testimony from the player. We, the Recorders, decided unanimously to submit a report to the ACBL Board. Bob drafted a letter, which we all signed. Bob sent it to the current League President, with instructions for it to be distributed to the whole Board. But when Bob realized that the distribution had not occurred, he himself sent the letter to the rest of the Board.

We were not on a vendetta against the player. Rather, our primary motivation was to prevent a potentially embarrassing situation for the Board and one of its members, by stopping a problem before it got worse.

The reaction was not what Bob (or any of us) had hoped for. Instead of honoring our intent, the Board (through the President) brought charges against Bob for “abusing” his position as Recorder. A hearing was held at the subsequent National, and the result was that Bob was fired as Recorder. In support of Bob I immediately resigned in protest, as did several other assistant Recorders.

Bobby Wolff:

Mr. Rosen was victimized by our esteemed Board of Directors when the EOC unanimously found a future Board Official guilty of a heinous bridge impropriety and when Bob appealed to the BOD to reverse their ridiculous, self-serving decision, not only was his plea declined, but he was handed his walking papers as well.

Jeff Meckstroth:

I can attest to the statements about Bob Rosen. At the time he was the chief recorder for the ACBL. The other national recorders were myself, Bart Bramley, John Sutherlin, and Dennis Clerkin. All 4 of us resigned our positions in protest of the TOTALLY absurd ousting of Mr. Rosen.

Pat Mizell

More than a few years back, I got involved in bridge politics and was privy to some conversations that most don't hear. In the President's Suite at a major tournament a international player I knew quite well came to a member of the ACBL Board of Directors who was standing next to me with the following news-he had broken the code of a well known pair who had been under suspicion for a long time and was ready to file a formal charge of premeditated cheating. The Board of Directors member gave him a very simple answer–“they are friends of mine and if you ever utter one word about this I'll see that you are ruined”


Yuck. Still, there are signs that the ACBL is on the improve:


To return to the matter of secret and hidden files, we can look to that hardy annual, the 1979 Sion-Cokin affair. The facts do not relect well upon the ACBL.

A complete account is here:

Incredibly, the ACBL still refuses to hear a timely appeal from the 1979 Men's BAM Teams... they simply dare not let the facts come out.

Gary Hann, commenting on BW recently:

...a portion of my recent E-mail, sent before the proof came public on F-S and F-N:

“We would like to have the entire ACBL Files on both Sion and Cokin (from the beginning of their ACBL membership), which, among other material, should contain:

*The Lawsuit, including Deposition Transcripts.*Any and all settlement negotiations including final settlement, if any.*Any signed Confession Letters.*Any restrictions or probation on either or both.*Any and all Committee Reports.

Of particular interest is the purported Cokin confession, apparently saying that ”they cheated on every board from the beginning of their partnership“.

We would also like our Appeal heard, while it was primarily based on ”we know we wuz robbed“, we had nothing more substantial at that point, but apparently others did. This horse is decidedly not dead, since the Appeal was timely and has never been heard.”


More secret files hidden by administrators. Disgraceful.

Of course, nothing like that could ever happen in Australia, could it?

According to the Australian Bridge Federation (ABF) website, Jim Borin "was born in London and... worked in the diamond industry before coming to Australia in 1961".

This is a euphemism; he stole diamonds and wrote bad cheques until the heat got too great and he had to flee England. Pity. They should have kept him.

He formed a partnership in Sydney with the late (and great) Don Evans. They agreed to try to play for Australia in the upcoming 1964 Olympiad in New York.

The Australian team was to be decided by a panel of selectors who would pay close attention to the results of the Butler Trials that had just been held. The winners, by a big margin, were Don Evans and Jim Borin, over Seres - Smilde and Cummings - Howard. Even so, Borin - Evans were not a certainty to meet with the selectors' approval. Jim decided to remove any doubt about his place on the team by bribing Charles Hickman, one of the selectors.

Well, it worked insofar as his place was no longer in doubt. He was caught red-handed and booted off the team. Australia went 5-handed with the players mentioned and, but for CIA intervention (or so some informed sources believe, and no, I am not joking), they might have made the semi-finals.

But just as well Borin was not there; members of the English team in NYC said that they would have refused to sit down against JB as he had bounced too many cheques in London clubs.

Jim Borin went on to have a long and dishonourable bridge career in Australia; I have a lot more on him that I might write up another time, including an amusing account of the tsunami of bouncing cheques he unleashed across Sydney and his hasty departure to another state while being followed by the police until they arrested him for burglary.

But what has this to do with administrators? Well, the 1964 Borin scandal is detailed in a file held by the ABF.

This file is labelled "Never To Be Released".

Why can't we see it? Because administrators don't want us to, is why. Just another cover-up.

Of course, 1964 was a long time ago. Nothing like that could happen much later, could it?

The 1998 Playoffs for the Australian Open Team were quite exciting... the final went down to the wire, with Team A winning by 2.5 imps.

However, Team B (of which I was a member) had been fined 2.5 imps for an inadequate explanation. A look at the CoC showed that there were circumstances under which the fine was to be excluded from the final score. Several times during the final day my team members asked for clarification about what happened if the margin of their loss happened to be 2.5 imps or fewer. The Tournament Organiser laughed heartily at their wit and refused to answer.

After the final scoreup there were white faces and red faces and much kerfuffle. No ABF official would approve the result. It was not a tie and not a win by either team. Nobody would say why and a letter I received from an ABF legal advisor was 100% hot air. The ABF ended up ordering a second Playoff final.


No matter.

What is really intriguing is that there is a file on the whole affair. It is held by the ABF. And guess what? It, too, is labelled, "Never To Be Released".

Why can't we see it? Because administrators don't want us to, is why. Just another cover-up.

Some time after, I asked a senior ABF official why the file was sealed? It was the Playoff for the Australian team, FFS. What was it that they didn't want people to see?  He giggled, shook his head and ran away.

I have my own idea as to why efforts were made to prevent my team winning and it has nothing to do with anyone on my team. There is the vaguest of clues on page 1 of this article.


But wait! There's more!

On the opposing team was Malcolm Mayer, an Auckland, New Zealand resident. He had signed a declaration for the ABF stating that he had lived in Melbourne, Australia long enough to satisfy the residency requirements. Long before the Playoffs started it was common knowledge that he had signed a false declaration; he lived in Auckland, not Melbourne. Indeed, he had told his mates about it and thought it was a great joke.

I thought long and hard about what to do and decided that I would try to beat him at the table rather than have his team disqualified.

My team won the second playoff. I walked away from scoreup and went to the Tournament Organiser.

AW: Is it true that Malcolm Mayer signed a declaration saying he lives in Melbourne?

TO: [laughing] We all know he lives in Auckbourne.

So the ABF ran the Playoffs knowing that they were in possession of a false declaration from a participant. I wonder if that made it into the secret file!

Anyway, Malcolm will not be playing tournaments for a while. He is in jail for multi-million-dollar fraud.


But wait! There's more!

On the 1st March, 2011 I emailed the ABF Secretary. In part:

I am aware of two instances in which the ABF made rulings and then labelled the documentation "never to be released".

The first was the background to the selection event of 1964, after which Australia fielded a team of five players at the the Olympiad of 1964.

The second was the ruling that a second playoff was required in 1998.

1. Are the facts behind these rulings still "never to be released"?

2. If they are still secret - why is that so?

3. Does the ABF have any other files that are marked "never to be released"?


I got a reply; in part:

You raise some very interesting questions - the answers to which, I am not privy as I was not involved with the ABF Management Committee at either times. You have however tickled my curiosity. You can rest assured that I will find out and give you an answer soonest.


You'll never guess what...

To conclude our look at how administrators have handled matters in the past:

1. I ask you to recall the statement by Bobby Wolff on page 2, where we see that had the Recorder paid any attention at all to what he was told, Fantoni-Nunes would have been stopped in 2003. He didn't do it; just another cover-up.

Beyond disgraceful.


2.Adam Parrish writes on BW:

One further step I would like to the see the ACBL and other bridge organizations take is to reject the notion of privacy and be open about their proceedings.

Reject the notion of privacy.

We can only hope.


I suppose now is the time that some might trot out the old Santayana line about the lessons of history and being doomed to repeat it. But I prefer the opinion of Mr Punch:

History is something that never happened

Written by a man who wasn't there

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