By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative
“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.” –Ursula K. Le Guin (1929- )
urely you’ve heard by now, but just in case you missed it, last month high level bridge was shocked with explosive accusations and admissions of cheating scandals involving several of the world’s leading international pairs. On the eve of the World Bridge Federation (WBF) premier tournament – the Bermuda Bowl (this year held in Chennai, India) – a courageous whistle blower named Boye Brogeland of Norway shocked the global bridge community with searing allegations of improper table behavior (cheating) at the highest levels by several pairs of Europe’s very best players.
The damning charges were first posted on Bridge Winners, and quickly blanketed Internet social media. Then major media and international publications Newsweek, The Times of Israel, England’s Daily Mail and The Telegraph, along with Canada’s Intelligencer.ca – plus CNN, CNBC, NPR and Facebook, all followed suit, publishing the charges made by Brogeland, one of the world’s highest rated bridge players himself.
His indictments are backed up with amazing videos used to uncover the sophisticated communication codes the pairs devised to transmit specific hand holdings. If you haven’t seen them, it’s really worth time spent to do so online.
• The Telegraph reported: “... German bridge partners Josef Piekarek & Alex Smirnov confessed to ethical violations.”
• The Daily Mail Sept. 28 reported, “... The world’s top two bridge players have been caught cheating in games at the highest level, it was alleged ... Italians Fulvio Fantoni, 52, and Claudio Nunes, 47 have won all the world’s top titles together.”
• The Times of Israel, Aug. 29: “... Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz were named and shamed by teammates Boye Brogeland, Allan Graves, Espen Lindquist and Richie Schwartz ... who handed back three prestigious NABC titles won together.”
The Israeli Bridge Federation quickly withdrew its team from the Chennai Bermuda Bowl, replaced by Sweden. Monaco followed suit, replaced with Denmark, and France replaced Germany. Poland had two world class players eliminated almost at game time of this, the World Bridge Teams Championships – with no explanations or charges reported. Poland did not withdraw, added a substitute pair, and won it all.
The European Bridge League suspended Smirnov-Piekarek following their confession.
Intrigue, Scandal or Crime?
ounds like a Michael Connelly novel – replete with mystery, scandal, threats, denial, high level finance, international intrigue, creative cheating codes, and, finally, denial, remorse, confession and self-imposed punishment. Wow.
If the accusations are factual – and they’re backed up by those stunning videos of sleight-of-hand systemic codes – surely the qualifying team trials were tainted. So, who really should have been invited to the world championships in Chennai?
I highly recommend you not take just my word, but access the following links to enlighten you on these fascinating cheating allegations at the highest of all bridge levels.
Or just Google any of the following: Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz, Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes, or Josef Piekarek and Alex Smirnov, for a wealth of documentation on Mr. Brogeland’s heroic revelations. YouTube and bridgewinners.com post terrific exposés with revealing visuals and opinions.
Party’s About Over
couple of issues ago I published this column on documented International cheating scandals of the past. Little did I know then the roof was about to blow, but it did. In my opinion the paste is now firmly out of the tube on such disgusting misconduct, and cannot be returned. It has filtered into our homeland as many European pros – including some of the accused above – are hired by sponsors to compete in our NABCs. Even some in our regionals, bringing up some tough questions:
• How long has this been going on, unfettered? • Did officials know?
• Why was the bridge world slow to discover such malfeasance?
• How can a single person who cared (Brogeland) uncover so much others couldn’t, or wouldn’t? • What guarantees have we now for the future?
• How many of our NABC event victories are tainted by these pairs?
What’s at stake? Newsweek quoted Bob Hamman, “... Top players earn anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000 ... it’s a bumper crop of cheaters this year.”
My League on a White Horse
s a source of pride, I can now report that following the unveiling of these world bridge travesties, ACBL has taken immediate and decisive steps to avoid any such chicanery here. CEO Robert Hartman did not hesitate to devise and post his initial league response on Bridge Winners, serving notice such will not be tolerated here on our home turf. He is also forming a blue ribbon task force, enjoining outside experts to reassess ACBL’s current role regarding unethical behavior: “Ours is a reactive rather than proactive posture,” he said.
Robert reported that, while in Chennai, European Bridge Organizations asked him for our help in solving cheating. And President Suzi Subeck, reported that following the eliminations of the accused perpetrators this Bermuda Bowl was played under an atmosphere of comfort and security. Nice, encouraging starts.
Peace, my friends.