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All comments by Max Schireson
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Do I think forfeiting a title is punishment enough?

Absolutely not. I don’t see forfeiting a title earned by cheating as punishment at all.

Is taking away Rosie Ruiz’s Boston Marathon win a “punishment”? Absolutely not - she didn’t win the Marathon, she didn’t even run the whole race. Similarly cheaters didn’t win - they weren’t even playing bridge, they were just pretending to. If your teammates cheated, you didn’t win any more than if you won based on a fabricated scoresheet from the other table. Which is what effectively happened, because bridge wasn’t being played there.

My proposed accountability would be for team captains, whether they are sponsors or not.

The fact that someone happens to employ some professionals should not have any bearing on discipline against them. If a sponsor directly cheats, he gets the same punishment as anyone else. Same for lesser violations, including this one.
May 6
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Gary,

I haven’t thought through all the details, but in some cases yes. I understand why many might not at first like the idea, but let me explain.

Let’s take what I think should be a clear case, but I am sure will be controversial and many won’t agree. Say I hire a team - or organize it without paying - for a series of major events.

Say that a pair on my team is convicted of collusive cheating while playing on my team.

Say prior to that there had been no disciplinary action against that pair, and I had no actual knowledge of their cheating.

I believe that the game would be better and cleaner if I were held partially responsible and by default faced a serious (but less than the actual cheaters) punishment, such as suspension for a year, despite my lack of knowledge of their cheating.

Why:
1. I believe I could have known, if I had bothered to ask - and if I could have known, I should have known. To my knowledge in all cases of collusive cheating convictions the expert community has at least strongly suspected the cheating pair. If someone can give me counter examples, I am open to changing my view
2. I believe I bear some moral responsibility for their methods when I hold someone else accountable for results. I can’t just say “if you want the money you better win” and then act innocent and surprised when they crossed some line to win. And no, I don’t think that me giving lip service to how they get them - “go win and don’t cheat” absolves me.
3. I think a policy like this would change behavior. People might check players out more thoroughly hiring them. Certainly it would be harder for convicted cheaters to find teams.

I can think of plenty of players that I would feel 100% confident I could hire with next to no risk - which I define as much lower than the risk that you or I would be wrongly convicted of cheating when we absolutely aren’t.

I can also think of some players that I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole; that said I am not playing with them anyway. For a lot of players in the middle, I would have to ask around.

There is absolutely precedent for holding the people at the top accountable; for example CEOs and CFOs have to certify financial statements they don’t themselves prepare. I think this is a good thing.

I don’t think I should be accountable for a pick up team; if I am looking for teammates and decide to play with some other pair I don’t know in a similar situation, that’s different.

I also think that it might make sense that in unusual situations I might not be held accountable, or have a lesser punishment; those situations would include some combination of:
1. The cheating conviction is truly a surprise to the community
2. I made a meaningful effort to ensure there was no cheating going on in my team; the clearest case is where the team itself identifies and reports the cheaters
3. I am a first time offender (as responsible captain)

There are a lot of complexities with this that I don’t have answers to. For example, if I am responsible, should I be able to ask the recorder if there are a lot of issues reported about a pair I am considering? Should I, with that pairs permission, be able to review the issues? I don’t even know what right I have, or should have, to review issues recorded about me, so I definitely don’t know what the answer should be here.
May 6
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JoAnn,

I think this is a good idea.

I also think team captains should be responsible to some extent for their team members (probably excepting pick-up teams).

The first time that regular teammates are convicted of cheating the captain should be suspended for a year. Second time 5 years, third strike expelled.
May 6
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I spoke to a few top players who feel strongly about these things and whose opinions I respect.

The general feeling I got was that Lanzarotti was “not worth it”. Not everyone had the same views on every point so this is my attempt to summarize what were a variety of nuanced positions:

1. Process: Lanzarotti served a long suspension already and was readmitted by the ACBL, vs challenged the ban in court. Players seem to give more deference to a bridge organization readmitting a player (even if they disagree with the decision) than a court overturning a ban.
2. Circumstances: lots of other factors that made Lanzarotti not as bad:
- less damage (fewer events won)
- longer ago
- believed to be cheating but only convicted of abuse of UI, vs detailed cheating methods exposed
- not seen as a real expert by some (which perhaps made it feel like less of a betrayal??)

As to the welcomed back, I don’t have a strong opinion. I have spoken to one player who I respect deeply on these issues (and I think the community does as well) who I think believes deeply in rehabilitation and that once someone has served their time they get a clean slate. For the most part I don’t share that view but I respect it.

I think is important for all of us to accept that people who abhor cheating and strongly want a clean game can have different views of any specific situation… ranging from boycotting events to refusing explicitly to play against certain pairs or players to just sitting and thinking when against them and never actually playing to playing against them but being rude or difficult to welcoming them back after a decade plus to making signs or wearing pins etc. Also they may handle different players differently, based on their perception of “how bad” they are… and their views might evolve over time as they consider the best way to clean up the game.
May 4
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One difference is that the players I talked to felt much more strongly about FN and FS than LB.

Most of the blame surely goes to the ACBL. However since we all know that bridge leagues don’t always make good decisions on these issues, I place some responsibility on any party that made Gary feel like he couldn’t follow his conscience. I am not saying Gary had an obligation to not play, but I don’t think anyone should have felt forced to play if they didn’t feel comfortable.
May 4
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Gary,

We all have different circumstances and I understand how having a contract to play could make you feel like it wasn’t your decision. Further I don’t think that we should be getting into a mindset where anyone who does play against cheats is criticized for doing so.

That said, I think that going forward written contracts should include provisions for situations like this. I hope that anyone hiring pros would find more of the top players willing to join the team if they knew they would not have to play against at least some list of cheats (which Lanzarotti might or might not have been a part of).

Speaking personally, if I hired someone and we hadn’t either covered the issue in a written contract or discussed it explicitly, I would not expect that my contract trumped that players feelings about who they could and couldn’t play against and I would a) have no issue with their decision not to play and b) feel obligated to communicate this to anyone (partner or teammates) that I had hired in case they felt uncomfortable raising the issue with their employer.

While I don’t feel like we should be criticizing players for choosing to play against someone because these are complex issues where well intended people can differ, for that same reason I think it is wrong to require a partner or teammate to play against a cheater unless the situation has been previously discussed and they have agreed to do so. It may be within their legal rights in the contract, but it’s not right.

Sorry you were put in that situation.
May 4
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It is similar in form to what I described but IMO very different in substance.

Here opener passed a forcing bid with a 10 count, perhaps downgrading the CK when LHO bid clubs (and also perhaps failing to value their stiff club…). I am not saying that’s a good idea, but I can understand why someone would be worried about getting too high and with no space to involve partner in that decision just taken a view. (Not one I would take; no reason we can’t be cold for slam).

In the case I described, opener passed a forcing bid with a hand that would be accepting a game invite. That is a whole different kettle of fish IMO, and suggests extraneous information.
May 4
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Maybe a 37 year old brain for writing, but let’s not curse him with an old brain for learning bridge!
May 4
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I think a repechage to create a small number of lucky losers from day 1 of a 3 day pair event could be interesting.

That said I am not sure how to react to the juxtaposition of
- Making it to the Soloway quarterfinals then being above average on day 2 of the Blues to arrive at the final of the Blues is unfair because you didn’t play all 3 days of the Blues
- player at all who didn’t enter the Blues at all despite no conflicting major event earning their way to day 3 of the Blues by playing well in a one day pair event with a highly variable field that realistically will be on average weaker than day 1 of the Blues is no problem - except people can’t agree about whether the day 1 entry fee needs to be made up.

Should I laugh or cry?
May 4
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Sabine and Roy,

Thank you

1. For your courage to make a difficult decision, and to announce it publicly, even in the face of possible discipline.

2. For finding what strikes me as a workable solution to two thorny problems:
- outright refusal to enter the event does less to provoke a decision by the authorities while ensuring the protester doesn’t get to play
- draws a clear line about which players are unacceptable to play against

I had struggled with Lanzarotti, because many had said he wasn’t worth it. You have given a clear dividing line.

I had also struggled with not entering, because I thought it would have minimal effect (other than on me and my partners/teammates!) unless many others did the same. You have solved both.

I think you have helped provide a practical framework to implement “say no to cheats”.

I am not planning to be in Turkey but will follow your example if the situation arises.
May 3
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Chris,

I see declarer play averages on the common game website and pianola.

While they are imperfect:
1. When I play with Debbie on average hers is higher than mine.
2. When I play with a mentee on average theirs is less than mine.
3. The stronger my partner, on average the better my declarer play score - because I am less often in stupid contracts.

So I think they are somewhat helpful, though not perfect.
May 2
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One good rule: if you don’t have an agreement for what a jump means in a forcing auction, don’t make it. Why bid 3N if you are not 100% sure it’s right? How can possibly be sure that 3N is right?

If I had no agreement and thought 2S was game forcing I would start with 2N and give partner a chance to further describe their hand.

I see it exactly opposite what you described: I need a good reason to jump to 3N and take away space for my partner to explore for slam while communicating nothing.
May 2
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Agree that if they are adjacent it’s worse (and neither is ideal); for many players at the club it might not be obvious at first glance that adjacent spots can’t make a difference.

To me it’s not clear that dummy’s spots should be considered for adjacency for falsecarding purposes, especially if the spots aren’t tiny.

For example if I have 75 with 6 in dummy, if I play the 7 LHO can rule out layouts where RHO would have signaled with the 5 if they had it, but if I play the 5 it might not be 100% clear that RHO would know they could afford to signal with the 7 from all holdings. Bump all the spots up one pip and the issue becomes harder.

In an ideal world perhaps you are right that I shouldn’t think about this, but it would be far from the worst sin committed at a club game, and still nothing like thinking in fourth seat with a small stiff.

I do take your point that sometimes you gain more from the think about the falsecard or signal than from the falsecard or signal itself.

Edit: typo
May 2
Max Schireson edited this comment May 2
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@Michael,
I don’t think the law is clear about the boundaries of a bridge reason.
My personal view is that playing a card that makes it harder for opponents to know what’s going on is a bridge reason.
I think I agree with you that deciding how to signal is not a bridge reason, even if that’s a bit inconsistent with my view on falsecarding.
I could be convinced that either (or both!) of my positions on those issues is wrong.

All that said, even if you feel very strongly that falsecarding is not a bridge reason - I think if declarer had paused to figure out which spot to play from 2 small would be very different from what actually happened.
May 2
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@JoAnn,
Per Robb’s comment and others it sounds like there is jurisdiction for serious ethical issues. I don’t know exactly where that line is drawn, but it’s roughly the line I would try to draw myself as a player to get involved with issues in club games. I think a pattern of this type of extreme coffeehousing or a pattern of somehow knowing partner has a subminimum for their forcing bid would qualify.
May 2
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@Ray,
Thanks. I believe these types of behaviors, if deliberate and repeated, would be serious breaches of ethics so this seems like an appropriate use of the recorder process. (Of course the first would only qualify if the player was passing based on information from partner, not just taking a view for no particular reason.)
@Jeff and Michael,
I agree that some have bad habits. We do have some local directors who emphatically explain the Laws and their rationale and what is improper about certain behaviors, which I think helps. I suspect that there are a handful of players who have heard these explanations enough that ignorance is not the issue; it is those situations I am most distressed by and believe most need to be recorded.
May 2
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I thought the recorder could keep track of issues that arose in any context from players in that unit, and if the pattern of issues merited discipline then a unit could get involved?

Also I believe the national recorder can investigate cheating anywhere (but not other minor issues?)
May 2
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Because the individual in question is very unpleasant and I was playing in a new partnership and didn’t want a big ruckus at the table that might throw off my focus.

Given all of that, I felt like recording it after the fact was just as good, and less disruptive to the flow of the game.

Also my gut feeling with this player is that it is beyond a conversation with the director during the game, he needs a more serious conversation and I didn’t think that calling the director to the table would increase the odds of that occurring. Of course I could be wrong.
May 2
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On principle can’t really “like” a comment about that type of change driving you away, but I sympathize.
May 2
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Vegas here I come?

I think my wife would prefer Portland among the Unit 373 and D20 locations.

The two of you give me hope that we can get it working here.
May 2
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