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All comments by Fred Gitelman
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Paul - IMO It is not good for bridge for BBO to spend time, money, and energy worrying about this issue instead of other FAR more important issues that our game faces, improvements to the software that would benefit the 100s of 1000s of average bridge players who log in to BBO every single day, and continuing to develop creative, fun, and stimulating new ways to play and watch bridge.

Sorry if I didn't make that clear in my previous post.

In case you didn't notice, bridge has seen healthier days and it is not going to be easy to change that. I would personally like to see BBO (and ACBL and…) seriously focus on the future of our game. IMO everything else is just a distraction.
Dec. 10, 2019
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Paul - there is also something to be said for listening to people who do have a clue.

What you would like to see is effectively impossible. How is BBO even supposed to know that, when a vugraph broadcast starts and a player named “Fantoni” appears, that it is actually Fulvio Fantoni and not some other Fantoni? What if the operator, intentionally or not, spells his name incorrectly?

Maybe BBO should tell all tournaments that they must send in scans of all the passports of vugraph players so BBO can contact their respective National Bridge Federations to find out if they are convicted cheats, contact Interpol to find out if they are convicted child molesters (do you want such people on vugraph?), etc… Probably just a few $60K per year employees would be enough to handle this task. If the system worked well, it might not be necessary to delay vugraph broadcasts more than a few days while BBO staff verifies the identities and credentials of all vugraph players.

BBO could even hire a Chief Ethics Official (subtitle on business card: navigator of slippy slopes) to decide which specific bridge and non-bridge crimes should be punishable by banishment from vugraph, which NBOs should be trusted, if BBO should respect decisions by the WBF, various Olympic-related organizations, and various courts of law. No doubt BBO could find a highly-qualified person who would charge only $200K or so per year to do this job.

About good-of-bridge: I like to think that BBO is good for bridge. I am quite sure that upwards of 99% of BBO members would rather see BBO allocating resources in areas other than this one. I would hope we would get most of the remaining 1% as well if they actually understood the issues involved.
Dec. 9, 2019
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I remember very clearly the incredibly positive response we received when BBO first announced (in 2001) its policy regarding vugraph: any tournament is welcome to use the software and receive tech support for free.

Please note I am no longer an employee or an owner of BBO, but I am grateful that, to the best of my knowledge at least, the new owners and management have not changed this policy or tried to monetize vugraph by charging fees to broadcast or watch.

The suggestion that BBO should get involved in background checks on those who appear on vugraph (1000s of players from 100s of tournaments and dozens of countries every year with literally zero advance warning of which specific players will appear on vugraph at which times) is completely absurd to me in terms of logistics, business, and good-of-bridge.
Dec. 9, 2019
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Nicolas - I may be dense but I don't think you have provided a satisfactory answer to Shawn's question. Is the following really the best you have?

“At some point there will be the first honest pair. It is unfair to that pair to be grouped with the cheaters.”

Sorry but I don't buy it - I am willing to bet that the first honest pair would find it more unfair to have to continue to play bridge against cheaters that only you are aware of.

If you are trying to protect yourself legally, I can understand that, but you do say:

“Legally I could publish all the data I have.”

I have made a real effort to understand your motivations. I have even read your book along with many BW posts by you on this subject. It still doesn't make any sense to me, especially given that you are so careful to illustrate the limitations of statistics. If I am confused by your refusal (thus far) to name names, probably others are too.

Can you please clarify (ideally in a short post) what is motivating you to keep this information to yourself? Please be clear as to what extent (if any) you see this as a business venture.

Sorry in advance if you have already been clear on these points and it is my reading comprehension that is lacking.
Sept. 15, 2019
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I have played the Iceland tournament at least twice (and I think I won an event there in the mid-1990s, maybe the teams with Mittelman, Forrester, and Zia).

Great tournament in an amazing place! I have a vivid memory of getting off the airplane and thinking “Welcome to Planet Neptune” - you have to see the scenery to believe it.
July 29, 2019
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>Would you consider (if nominated) being a Director in the MSC?

As much as I am a fan of TBW and MSC, it is hard to imagine me wanting to do that. So far I am enjoying having almost no responsibilities to anyone other than myself and Sheri (and our dog). For now at least I suspect I will actively avoid taking on new responsibilities.

If I do more bridge-related writing or programming in the future (no plans but certainly possible), it will be “just for fun” and certainly not involve any ongoing commitments to anyone.

All of that being said, I have only been retired for a few weeks and much of that time was spent at the NABC. I would not be shocked if I have a change of heart about such things before too long (though I would bet against it).
July 29, 2019
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In 1990, at least as far as regular people were concerned, the Internet (and CD-ROMs and Windows and web browsers and e-mail) did not even really exist. Fax machines still represented cool tech. I believe that most people did not own a home computer yet.

Our friends thought we were absolutely crazy to start a bridge software company - they saw no market. And it is not as if we were confident that we would be successful from a business point of view; we were young, just wanted to create, and hoped it would all work out.

BBO was originally little more than an unfocused experiment. The original version of the software was written in the last week of the year 2000. One week may not sound like much to write such a program, but we had some of the pieces already and I was a very fast (and very undisciplined) programmer at the time.I had a tendency to spend all of my waking hours writing code. Aside from that, the 1-week program I wrote was buggy and unstable.

Uday volunteered to fix the badly-broken original version of the network-related code in BBO toward the end of 2001. He insisted on not getting paid. Shortly thereafter Sheri and I offered to make him a full partner in the BBO project provided that he stuck around. Uday accepted (and is still sticking around) even though none of us had any plans at that time to turn BBO into an actual business. As I recall, we made no effort to make any money through BBO until mid-2004.

Since then Uday, aside from running the company since 2008 or so, has done much of the hard work and far more than his fair share of the crappy work. He is the (largely) unsung hero of this story.

I am not sure what I am going to do with myself now, but I very much doubt it will involve playing more “serious bridge”. Of course I still love the game itself, but I have no real interest in trying to collect more trophies and medals and there is no amount of money that would get me to play professionally again. Sheri and I might start going to more tournaments in attractive places (St. Moritz and Australia's Gold Coast come to mind).

So, unless perhaps Sheri if asks me really nicely one day, I don't see any an attempt to win a Bermuda Bowl in my future.

It's all good. This is what I want.
July 29, 2019
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I had never met Gillian before yesterday, but I was super-impressed by how well she handled the pressure (in terms of her poise, how pleasant she was, and her play). She will be in the winner's circle soon.

Her partner (and yours) Joe Grue is a complete delight to play against regardless of the results. He is a real credit to the game.
July 22, 2019
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Sorry have not had time to read all the comments - maybe someone has mentioned this already..

How about if people who have been on vugraph a lot volunteer to allow their stats to be made public?

I volunteer.
July 21, 2019
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Thanks everyone! Sheri and I really appreciate the post and all the kind thoughts :)
July 16, 2019
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Sorry for the off-topic post, but Bobby's mention of the Macallan tournament reminded me of this story that some might enjoy…

I played against Boris (and Irving Gordon?) in the 1996 Macallan. A man who seemed old enough to appear in the last scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey was kibitzing. After the round someone told me that the old man was Reese whom I had never met or seen before but whose writing I loved.

I approached Reese, shook his hand, introduced myself, and told him how much I enjoyed his books. I don't think he heard a word I said.

Reese died the next day. That was strange.

I later became friendly with Boris, but he only mentioned “1965” once - he asked me how old I was, evidently did some subtraction and, with a smile and a wink, told me that the year I was born (1965) was not one of his favorites.

As I recall, Pietro Forquet and Omar Sharif, two other legendary players I had never met before, also played in the 1996 Macallan.
July 9, 2019
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I hear you, but your outlook might be different if you knew why the second appeal was dropped…

The Donn Team basically decided to accept a “self-serving statement” from one of the members of the Fleisher Team as being the truth. It was the sort of statement that, as I understand it, TDs and ACs are supposed to largely ignore. It is not at all hard for me to imagine that a reasonable AC might have ruled for Donn, thereby swinging the match, largely because of the AC's refusal to accept the self-serving statement in question.

Team Donn thought it was important to do the right thing, even though they knew that doing so would eliminate any chance that they would win the match and even though they were less than enchanted with some of their opponents at the time. Especially if you consider what a momentous win this would have been for Team Donn (and the $-potential involved for the pros on that team), they really deserve a lot of credit in my view.

This incident gives me some hope. Evidently there do exist some top-level bridge players who care more about what they see when they look in the mirror than they care about winning.

If there is a way forward without radically changing the rules, it would help a lot if this sort of attitude were to become contagious.
May 20, 2019
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“Jeopardy Star” does not say it all - James is Superman.
May 8, 2019
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And don't underestimate the power of the Dark Side!
May 8, 2019
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The way I see it: making a serious effort to create doping rules that make sense for bridge would be very complicated. It would certainly require significant outside expertise. It would certainly never end (new drugs, new drug tests, new science). It would likely entail significant ongoing expense that would certainly be bourn by the players. It's rules would be imperfect and in some cases largely subjective. It might postpone the time until the next travesty of justice but would not prevent it. The embarrassing headlines would not end, the privacy of our best players would continue to be invaded, and all players would continue to be inconvenienced, some significantly.

(I don't know anything - if a qualified person wants to tell me that some of the above is wrong, I will take his/her word for it).

Perhaps most important… Reformulating the doping rules tries to solve a problem that may not even exist and, if it does exist, is very small compared to the other problems that bridge faces today (IMO).

So I think it would be best for the powers-that-be to not waste time, effort, and money on this particular distraction. Just give it a complete miss (at least for a while), and instead try to focus on the things that matter.
March 13, 2019
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WADAgate
March 12, 2019
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Bobby - I was not trying to blame you for anything and I am certainly grateful for your numerous contributions to bridge over the years, especially the thorny ones.

You said: “although I did not offer my opinion, and FWIIW I agree that it likely causes more harm than possible good for the future”.

You have now offered your opinion. Thank you. Please continue to say this loudly and clearly. My sense is that some of the people that matter will listen to you.
March 12, 2019
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Bobby - No doubt the WBF's motives were honorable and perhaps not totally foolish, but the results speak for themselves.

As far as I am concerned, the WBF has one and only one important purpose: to run the yearly World Championships.

A look back through WBF's history suggests that they have failed badly in this regard - the vast majority of the 60 or so WBF Open Team Championships have been tainted. You know this better than anyone.

A few years ago Boye and company offered some hope that things might finally change for the better and, for a brief while, they actually did. I don't recall any serious problems in 2016 or 2017 and 2018 was looking good too until the WADA incident happened. Now Orlando will go down in the record books as tainted. Thanks Olympics!

And while the damage produced by the CAS has so far been limited, let's just say that the community of high-level players doesn't exactly feel confident that our current leadership will manage to keep the criminals out for long. Thanks Olympics!

And it is beyond shameful that the bad guys (and their teammates) still have their titles, medals, and masterpoints. I doubt we can blame this directly on the Olympics, but it needs to be mentioned in any discussion of WBF history and leadership.

Can you honestly say you are proud of this organization, Bobby Wolff?

The subsidies you refer to are only “necessary” because the WBF has done such a good job of destroying its own brand. That makes it rather more difficult than usual to find corporate sponsors who might otherwise want to pay to put their names and logos on the WBF's product.

Imagine if, way back in the 1990s, the WBF had decided to invest in technology and security instead of the Olympics. What a different world it might be today.

Yes, I realize hindsight is 20-20 (even though there were plenty of vocal I-told-you-sos from the start). I am all for forgiving mistakes, but first there needs to be a change of direction (or a change of leadership if the current leaders won't alter course).

It is not helpful when one of our most distinguished players and leaders doubles down on the mistakes of the past. This is about the integrity of the game, not money. You of all people should be one of us, not one of them.
March 12, 2019
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The very need to ask the question seems wrong to me.

Why should the viability of the World Championships as a fair and meaningful event be compromised for
the sake of fundraising purposes?

This is not something that should be for sale. The price doesn't matter.
March 2, 2019
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Optimistic view of what will happen next:

At some point whatever “fees” WBF is paying IOC for recognition of bridge will not be enough to compensate for the negative publicity.

IOC will cut bridge loose.

We will be free!

Pessimistic view of what will happen next:
March 1, 2019
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