Say it ain’t so … bridge cheating

      4 Comments on Say it ain’t so … bridge cheating

The top ranked player in the world, my former hero, has been accused of cheating along with his partner on the bridge team of Monaco. The evidence seems overwhelming and I am heartbroken. The full article is here:

EBL monaco vs englandThe foreign press has picked this up but not the U.S. Press
Click here for the UK Daily Mail article

This news comes only days after a top Israeli pair was outed for cheating, reported in Israel:
click here for the Ynet news article

The bridge details are at the Bridge Winners web site in the first
The Videos Speak article.
So how does this relate to bridge teaching? I think it is extremely important to bring up the topic of ethics when teaching people to play this wonderful game. There is so much inadvertent cheating among beginners that it is best to explain at the start what is expected.

I often begin by saying something like, “You are not allowed to know that your partner liked your lead because they smiled or that they hated it because they frowned; so learn how to signal with the cards you play, not how you play them.” I tell the tale of a player told her opponent that since her partner was leading with her left hand, it was a singleton. Obviously this is illegal and not part of the game.

Then I tell stories about famous past cheating scandals which brought about the use of screens in international play. Next there was a pair exchanging foot signals below the screens so that the screens had to be extended all the way to the floor.

Another thing I tell them is that “Bridge is not poker; you do not try to fool your opponents with your mannerisms or tempo, that is not part of the game and is considered cheating.”

To illustrate this last point, I tell the story of how Terence Reese got a two way finesse right by starting with another suit where he held KQJx in his hand opposite A109x in dummy. He led the J and his left hand opponent (LHO) hitched and fumbled. So next he crossed back to his hand and lead the J in the two way finesse suit; when LHO played low smooth as silk, Terrence knew he had found the queen. What that lady did is called “coffee housing” and is also forbidden but far too many club and “B” players do this.

If you find yourself fumbling or hesitating inadvertently then I suggest you say something like, “Sorry I was not ready” or “Sorry I was thinking about that last hand.”

Then there is the problem of taking advantage of partner’s huddle. I usually wait until the end of the beginner course or even a more advanced course for this one. I explain it by saying something like, “You have a close choice as to whether to take a bid or not and your partner took a long time to pass. Now you know it is right to bid but the rules say your bid has to be clear cut.” This also explains the “skip bid please hesitate” after a preempt to them.

I also offer my personal strategy which is to look at the cards in the dummy, not at my partner and to make every effort to keep an even demeanor and tempo. Not always easy when your bridge partner is your spouse.

Say it ain’t so, Fulvio …

4 thoughts on “Say it ain’t so … bridge cheating

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    I think there are a couple of careless items in this article. Perhaps it was rushed into print.
    1. Reese’s given name is TERENCE – one ‘R’.
    2. The story about finding the queen is not an actual occurrence; it appears in one of his books — PLAY BRIDGE WITH REESE. (or is it PLAY THESE HANDS WITH ME? — I’m not sure)

    Also you wrote: “Bridge is not poker; you do not try to fool your opponents with your mannerisms or tempo, that is not part of the game and is considered cheating”.
    Not exactly — it is considered unethical and improper, not cheating. What’s the difference?
    At a duplicate game, if an opponent does this and you are fooled into getting an inferior result, you call the director (a kind of judge, or referee) and if you are correct, he adjusts the score, taking away any advantage.
    Real cheating, as described, is of such a serious nature that sponsoring organizations discipline the players.

    1. Kitty Cooper Post author

      Paul –
      Thanks for the correction on Reeese’s first name. The way I recall it, he was reporting an actual event on his looking for the queen play but you could be right.
      What I am discussing is teaching beginners not to “coffee house” as we call it. That is not to use mannerisms meant to fool the opponents. Unethical and improper are better descriptions but for teaching purposes, I call it cheating to emphasize the seriousness of the offense.


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