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Showing the Joker
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As mentioned, I've been working on a project.  Much of the project has involved research into bridge matters, old and new.  This research has uncovered facts that lead to some questions that I find interesting. 

Here are some edited extracts from a lengthy thesis, soon to be published.  The thesis concerns itself with two subjects:

- An examination of many hands, actions and results

- The actions of administrators, discussed over several chapters

We had a cursory look at some hands in the "Showing" series of articles.  Now we take a brief look at the doings of administrators.  It could be that someone has more information about these matters.

1958: Tobias Stone.


The 1958 US team that played in the Bermuda Bowl in Como, Italy was:

Alvin Roth – Tobias Stone, Johnny Crawford – B J Becker, Sidney Silodor – George Rapée

It didn’t take long for problems to emerge at the 1958 Bermuda Bowl.

The New York Times, 3 August 1958:

On the first day, an American referee noticed that one of the Italian players held his cards high during some hands and low during others. There seemed to be a pattern, it was said —high for good hands, low for poor ones. After the day's play it was ruled that the cards must be held below the surface of the table, Thereafter, [Stone’s attorney] Mr. Rogge said, Mr. Stone called the attention of tournament officials several times to the fact that at times members of the Italian team were not abiding by the new rule…

Mr Rapée, another member of the team, sent a strongly-worded letter to the League on Friday saying that Mr. Stone's conduct at the tournament was only a vigorous attempt to prevent the cheating the United States team was convinced was taking place… (My emphasis)


Stone’s outburst caused quite some friction and he was banned from playing upon his return to the US.

Bridgeport Post, 15 March, 1959:

League directors informed Stone he is excluded from all league sanctioned tournaments pending a hearing in Chicago on charges of conduct unbecoming a member.

Stone declined comment, but his attorney in New York city said he would seek a court order in New York state supreme court Monday to restrain the league from barring Stone until it gives him a hearing.

After that tournament, league directors accused Stone of discourtesy toward the Italians and barred him from international play for a year. Stone responded by filing a $250,000 defamation suit against the league.


Tobias Stone disputed this.

The Mad World of Bridge, Jack Olsen:

Stone answered back: “You can ask every member of the board to state specifically what I did that was unbecoming, and not one of them can tell you. I was tried and convicted without any specifications… The directors voted eleven to nine against trying me on the charge of accusing the Italians of cheating, and came up instead with this vague accusation of unbecoming conduct.”


Curious, then, that the ACBL acted only against Tobias Stone, given this:

Salt Lake City Tribune, 3 August, 1958:

Herman Rogge, attorney for Stone, said he had presented at the closed hearing a statement in which the six members of the US team said that it was their opinion that the Italian team had cheated during the tournament. (My emphasis)

The signers of the statement were [US team members] John R. Crawford and Sidney Silodor of Philadelphia, Alvin Roth of Washington, DC, and B. Jay Becker, George Rapée, and Stone of New York.



What does the ACBL have on file regarding this incident?

In particular, does the ACBL have the statement signed by all members of the US team, or the letter written by George Rapée?

1963: The Gerber Letter


The 1963 Bermuda Bowl was held at the Billia Hotel, St Vincent, Italy. The result was very close; one of the few times the Blue Team was in danger of losing when not behind screens.

Sports Illustrated, 1 July, 1963:

In an atmosphere of hysteria, tears, laughter, a near fistfight* and endless bickering, the Italian bridge team won the world championship last week for the sixth straight time, playing on home grounds and beating teams from the U.S., France and Argentina. It was a cruel defeat for the U.S. team, which led Italy by 21 points with the end almost in sight. Then, within the space of a few hands, everything fell apart. The Italians took an 18-point lead and, in the final session in the early morning hours bridge players know so well, they played the equivalent of a basketball freeze to hold the lead and win.


The event has also been written up in the Bridge Encyclopedia as having “the greatest act of sportsmanship in bridge history.” What happened?

The New York Times, 26 June, 1963:

One by one the six players on the Italian team stepped up, and each gave his trophy to one of the players on the United States team. Whether spontaneous or rehearsed, the gesture was totally unexpected to the Americans, and several of them, along with many who were present at the victory banquet, wept.

The background for the gesture was an anonymous letter Mr. Gerber received at the start of the tournament. It was written in Italian, which he cannot read, so he called for one of the staff interpreters.

The first paragraph of the letter announced that its writer was going to expose dishonest practices of the Italian team. At this point Mr. Gerber stopped the interpreter and refused to hear any more of the letter. Mr. Perroux, however, read the entire letter to his team and officials of the Italian Bridge Federation. (My emphasis)


The Story of the Blue Team, Bridge d’Italia, May, 1995 (translation):

The non-playing captain of North America was Gerber… Arriving at the hotel, Gerber finds an anonymous letter waiting for him, which says that the Blue Team was cheating… Gerber, a gentleman from Texas, delivers the letter to Perroux… Perroux… immediately called a press conference with Italian and foreign journalists and representatives of all the present nations. At the lounge of the Billia (the hotel hosting the Championship) the captain [Perroux] read out the full text of the letter. (My emphasis)

... How many people wanted to shake our hands?... I will mention only one: Eric Jannersten, the Swedish secretary of the International Bridge Press Association…


I wrote to Eric Jannersten's son, Per, asking if he knew anything about this incident.  He was in St Vincent at the time and recalls his parents discussing the Gerber Letter.

Now here is a funny thing: Eric Jannersten wrote an account of the 1963 Bermuda Bowl for the British Bridge World magazine; he covers each of the nine days of play. You can read it here:

But there is not one word about the Gerber Letter in Jannersten’s article.



If the letter was read aloud to “foreign journalists and representatives of all the present nations”, why is there no further mention anywhere of what the letter said?

Is it the case that the authorities directed journalists to be silent on this matter?

Presuming "representatives of all the present nations", to include ACBL officials, does the ACBL have a file on this?

Does FIGB have a copy of the letter?


* Eugenio Chiaradia attempted to assault spectators after failing in 4XX and was dismissed from the Blue Team mid-tournament.

1975: Facchini and Zucchelli


Gianfranco Facchini and Sergio Zucchelli of Bologna suddenly appeared on the European bridge scene in 1974 with a series of extraordinary results. The three big money pairs events they won were the Sunday Times Pairs, the Coupe d'Or Cino Del Duca and the Monte Carlo Open Pairs.

The First 50 Years of the World Bridge Federation, Ortiz-Patiño:

... Facchini and Zucchelli had been conspicuously successful in big-money pair events in Europe, notably those open to players of all levels of ability including the famous Cino del Duca tournament, which they had won with two unprecedented 70% back-to-back sessions. This had not passed unnoticed in the United States, where even the dispassionate Edgar Kaplan had referred to them as “the hottest pair in Europe”, a term with special meaning for his readers.


The Lone Wolff, Bobby Wolff:

… he [Zucchelli] laid down the ace, subsequently losing a defensive trick that even the rankest of beginners would not lose. I was standing next to a highly respected Italian player who seemed to be familiar with the top European bridge community. I asked her later, “Why did he make such an awful play?” to which she replied, “He probably doesn’t know any better.” She then went on to describe their partnership reputation and methods of cheating. Upon further grilling, she elaborated that after this pair were forced to play behind screens… they moved to foot signals under the table.


At the Table. Bob Hamman:

We wondered how the Italians could be leaving Forquet at home while allowing these bozos to play [in the 1975 Bermuda Bowl]


Inside the Bermuda Bowl, John Swanson:

The Italian Bridge Federation, FIB [later FIGB], resolved cheating incidents by barring the players from entering events as partners, although they could form other partnerships. This had a cancer-like effect whereby new partnerships, which included a player from a previously censured pair, were later themselves prohibited from playing together. Zucchelli and Facchini were descendants in this chain. Both had been barred from playing with previous partners because of irregularities.


New York Times bridge column, 23 January, 1975:

According to Garozzo, Facchini and Zucchelli were the outstanding pair in the recent Italian trials [for the 1975 Bermuda Bowl] …


Bruce Keidan, a strong bridge player and noted sports journalist, was in Bermuda to cover the action for the Philadelphia Enquirer. The tournament organizers were short of monitors, and Keidan was asked to assist in that role with a match in Round One: Italy vs France.


Inside the Bermuda Bowl, John Swanson:

[Keidan says] Play begins… Both Italians sit very close to the table… The thing that I notice about the French pair is that they are studying their opponents, both during the auction and after the screen curtain has been drawn… And now it happens... on the third board of the night. It is Zucchelli's turn to bid. I am looking down at the recorder's sheet on the table in front of me. Suddenly I see Facchini's right foot move forward, press down on Zucchelli's left foot, retreat. Then reach out again and repeat the procedure.

I am incredulous. I have been playing tournament bridge for years. I have kibitzed virtually every top American expert. I have seen players accidentally brush their feet together beneath the table. But I have never seen anything as precise as what has just happened. I tell myself it must have been an accident. And then I feel nausea welling up inside me, and I am fighting not to let my feelings show.... I am forced to admit to myself that it was no accident...


Oswald Jacoby wrote a column about this.

Bridge Pros Stoop to Amateur Signals. Mt Vernon Register, 31 Jan 1975

Here is one of the hands that caused all the ruckus. It is from the world championship bridge tournament in Bermuda and the accusations of cheating have hit the front pages of major newspapers throughout the country. This hand is from the first night of competition, Friday, Jan. 24....

The monitor that night was Bruce Keidan, a correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was the first official to recognize any irregularity. He noticed Facchini tap his partner firmly on the toes during six of the 16 hands played. Three other officials noted similar movements on the following day. (My emphasis).

4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

... Zucchelli opened the 10 of spades, a most unusual lead in view of his club holding.... A club lead, on the other hand, permits South to take the first trick with his ace and dump the lone spade loser from dummy on his king of clubs, giving declarer an extra trick. On this hand, the Italian team only picked up one IMP... If North held one more spade, the different leads could have spelled the difference between making the contract and being set...

It was on this hand and others that the World Bridge Federation resolved that Facchini and Zucchelli be severely reprimanded for improper conduct in respect to Facchini’s moving his feet unnaturally and touching his partner’s feet during the action and before the opening lead. Starting Jan. 27, boards were installed beneath tables to prevent foot signalling for the remainder of tournament play.

… I do not believe the many inspired leads could have been made merely from the bidding which took place on the questioned hands. The questioned hands were those where officials witnessed foot signals. Time and again the leads were unusual and just what the partner would “order’’ if he were permitted to do so.

The Anatomy of a Scandal, Dennis Howard, ex-ACBL and WBF President:

The qualifying rounds of the Bermuda Bowl began on Friday night, January 24. Bruce Keidan, a reporter with The Philadelphia Inquirer, offered to monitor one of the first-round matches and was assigned to the game between Italy and France. He was to testify that on board 3 Facchini's right foot moved forward and pressed down firmly, twice, on Zucchelli's left shoe. “There was absolutely no doubt in my mind it was intentional,” said Keidan, “apart from everything else, what do you do if your feet are planted firmly on the floor underneath a table and someone steps on them? You move them. Zucchelli's never moved.”

Five times more, during the 16-board session, Keidan claimed that Facchini's feet made contact with Zucchelli's. (My emphasis)


Now, we see that Keidan stated that he saw foot signals during board 3. Jacoby’s deal, above, does not give the board number, but we see that South dealt and both sides were vulnerable. Matches were of 32 boards and Facchini-Zucchelli did not play the second half. Therefore, we are looking at board 7. Now we return to Keidan’s at-the-table observations.

Inside the Bermuda Bowl, John Swanson:

[Keidan:] Three boards pass without incident. Then comes board 7… Zucchelli on opening lead. Before he leads, Facchini’s left foot shoots forward and presses down once on Zucchelli’s right foot. Seconds later, Zucchelli leads the spade 10.


Inside the Bermuda Bowl, John Swanson:

Our team watched the vugraph match… What did Zucchelli lead? The 10! The tournament was only seven boards old and there was confirmation of what we already knew had to be. Facchini and Zucchelli were cheating. But how?


Now, board 3 and board 7 (Jacoby's article, above) do not appear in the World Championship book or in the Daily Bulletins. Keidan said that he observed foot signals on six boards.



What are the details of the other five boards?

What does the WBF have on file regarding Keidan’s testimony?


The WBF held a hearing into all of this. Ortiz-Patiño was present.


The First 50 Years of the World Bridge Federation, Ortiz-Patiño:

... in the absence of any concrete proof against the Italians I felt I could not vote that they were cheating... the feeling seemed to be that the evidence, as presented, was not sufficiently conclusive, nor did it justify the expulsion of the pair from the tournament.



Jacoby’s column showed a link between an illicit signal and a suspicious lead on board 7. On what grounds did the WBF hearing conclude there was, in Ortiz-Patiño’s words, an “absence of any concrete proof against the Italians”?

Did the WBF deliberately suppress the details of the six boards?



ACBL Bridge Beat, 1 August 2012:

… the WBF advised Italian bridge officials that it would not welcome the nomination of either player to any event it conducted in the immediately foreseeable future



If Facchini-Zucchelli were banned from entering future events, why did the WBF hearing allow them  to play in the 1975 BB Final?


 Logan Daily News, 27 January 1975:

The World Bridge Federation called a meeting to consider the accusation and temporarily rescheduled the match for this afternoon. However, the Italian team said it would quit the tournament if the two players were suspended…


The Lone Wolff, Bobby Wolff:

 The Trial lasted until Monday afternoon... I remember being seated next to Jimmy Patiño, who expressed his thoughts about minimizing the scandal…


 The Anatomy of a Scandal, Dennis Howard:

What there is of the defense case is weak enough to leave me in no doubt that Facchini and Zucchelli cheated in Bermuda. I submit that any objective analysis of the evidence and of the surrounding circumstances will lead all but the wilfully self-deceptive to the same determination



Did the WBF cave in to pressure from FIB (Italian Bridge Federation)?

Did the WBF put “minimizing the scandal” above the integrity of the 1975 World Championship?

1976: The Burgay Tape


In February 1976, the Italian Bridge Federation (FIB) held trials in Rome for the upcoming world championships to be held in Monaco. Leandro Burgay and his partner, Adriano Abate were in contention going into the last round. According to Burgay:

- The results of the last round were never announced

- The scoring was rigged to exclude his partnership

- Giorgio Belladonna and Benito Bianchi apologized to him for what happened

The next day Leandro Burgay called Benito Bianchi and had a lengthy conversation. Burgay enquired of Bianchi how Burgay might have done better. According to Burgay, Bianchi described the cheating methods used by Forquet, Bianchi, Belladonna and other players. The methods involved the use of cigarette positioning and head movements.

This call was taped by Burgay, who was, at the time, in the insurance business. The next day, in late February 1976, Burgay went to Professor Luigi Firpo, President of the Italian Bridge Federation. Burgay handed over a copy of the tape.

Burgay also relayed a message to Ortiz-Patiño via Pietro Bernasconi: That if Ortiz-Patiño would meet with Burgay, Burgay would play the original tape to him.

Ortiz-Patiño discussed this with WBF Secretary Andre Lemaitre and decided to meet with Burgay.


The First 50 Years of the World Bridge Federation, Ortiz-Patiño:

I drove to the Italian end of the Mont Blanc Tunnel and, in the Restaurant Mont Blanc, listened to the original tape. This contained none of the splicing effects which apparently he had added to the version submitted to the WBF in order to lure Bianchi into admitting to the conversation.

I understood the tape well and was in little doubt of its authenticity, the background noises and such like being thoroughly convincing. The tape was recorded on a Sunday and indeed one could hear church bells sounding on the tape. In places, my jaw literally dropped. The media would have loved it: smoke signals, pauses, commonplace words with coded meanings - all these came into the picture. How, I wondered, could we defend our championships from ridicule in the light of this? ... Burgay told me his partner had gone into hiding.


So we see that Ortiz-Patiño is in no doubt about the genuine nature of the tape. He is concerned about “defending our championships from ridicule”.

My thesis covers the acrimonious exchanges between the WBF and FIB in detail; the WBF demanding a comprehensive enquiry and a report. Years go by; FIB never does either. I have uncovered further facts that are very concerning indeed. After some 850 days, the WBF shifted from demands and threats of suspending Italy from world events, to this:


The First 50 Years of the World Bridge Federation, Ortiz-Patiño:

We all felt thoroughly convinced that the WBF and FIB could go forward together in the spirit of reconciliation. The WBF was now able to write to the new FIB President withdrawing the threat of suspension.


But FIB never made a report of their findings.  So what was the impetus behind this "reconciliation"?

I think that serious questions arise from this. For the moment, we will consider just two aspects of the Burgay Tape affair.  

1. Was the tape a fabrication?


The First 50 Years of the World Bridge Federation, Ortiz-Patiño:

Earlier in my career I had been of some help to the CIA, who had the best resources in the world for this kind of thing. Confident that they would be happy to return the favor, I sent them the tape. Back came the message: ‘The tape is genuine’.


New York Times Bridge Book, Alan Truscott:

[the FIB’s] designated expert, Signor Bacicchi, reported to the federation that the tape was authentic.


Associated Press article, May 2, 1976:

Burgay also produced the testimony of an expert that the tape had not been manipulated.

…the authenticity was attested by a FIGB examination … there was a document attesting it… I [Leandro Burgay] gave [Ortiz-Patiño] a copy of the FIGB's document attesting the authenticity of the tape…



If the tape was not a fabrication, how to explain this?

Encyclopedia of Bridge, 7th edition, Cheating Accusations:

According to the tape, Bianchi explained how he and Pietro Forquet had used cigarettes to convey signals during the Bermuda Bowl in 1973 and 1974. The case came to the attention of the WBF, but nothing ever came of it because it was never proved that the tapes were authentic. (My emphasis)

If the tape is authentic, may we conclude that, in the words of the Encyclopedia, something will now come of it?

2. Does a transcript or copy of Burgay’s tape exist?


We see that, at one time, there were many copies of the tape floating around.


 New York Times Bridge Book, Alan Truscott:

February 1976…Burgay… walked into the office of… the President of the Italian Federation and gave him… an audiotape.


The First 50 Years of the World Bridge Federation, Ortiz-Patiño:

Burgay… made copies of the tape, depositing 4 of the originals with a public notary…


Associated Press article, 3 May, 1976:

Italian lawyers who are also bridge players have been asked to investigate the matter for the Italian Bridge Federation. They have completed their examination of the tape


Agence-France Press article, 10 May, 1976:

The tape is in the hands of an Italian magistrate…


NYT News Service, 19 June, 1977:

Burgay said that he had handed [the original tape] to a state court in Milan.


The Lone Wolff, Bobby Wolff:

The tapes were delivered to the WBF Executive Council in 1976 before the Bermuda Bowl in Monte Carlo.  (My emphasis)


Associated Press article, 2 May, 1976:

Although the contents of the tape were never made public, world federation officials said they revealed a cheating system…  (My emphasis)

FIGB made 3 more copies of the tape in the presence of Dr Tracanella and Dr Mazza.



Does the WBF, EBL, FIGB or ACBL have a copy of the tape?

If not, what happened to the copies held by FIB and the WBF Executive Council?

If they were destroyed, who authorized this, and why?

If they are "lost", under whose care were they kept?


Most interesting of all is, "Why, after more than two years, did the WBF suddenly cease its vigorous and emphatic demands for a report with findings from FIB?"

I think I know the answer to that question.

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