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Bridge and the Blue Team

#1 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2009-October-05, 09:17

Interesting thread going on at Judy Kay-Wolffs' blog

http://judy.bridgeblogging.com/?p=272

Bobby Wolff is laying some interesting cards on the table. From my perspective, the most interesting is the following claim that in 1976 Jamie Ortiz-Patino barred the entire Blue Team from competing in World Championships.

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With what has been written up to now and will soon be completed, I am intending to mention the Burgay tapes and from them the long term President, Godfather and cofounder of the WBF (1958) Jimmy Ortiz-Patino in 1976, after he confirmed the authentication of the tapes with the American CIA and together with the Executive Council of the WBF barred every member of the Blue Team from ever participating again in the World Championships these episodes will be covered and soon released in his book, World Bridge History. He relented on two occasions (1979 and 1983) and I, as Chairman of the Credentials committee, relented in 2005, but only in the Senior Bowl. I recently interviewed Leandro Burgay during the Shanghai WC in 2007 together with the current totally honest coterie of Italian champions who volunteered so much new (at least to me) information, all corroborating what, as you say many people have known for years.

Alderaan delenda est
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#2 User is offline   Gerben42 

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Posted 2009-October-05, 10:43

And why would the CIA be interested in some card game? The real question is: If the Blue Team cheated, why were they allowed to play again?

Either there is proof, then bar them, or there is no proof, then stop making allegations.
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#3 User is offline   vincit 

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Posted 2009-October-05, 11:13

The CIA was interested in this matter because the Blue Team was suspected of having some Weapons of Mass Destruction in their Arsenal.
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#4 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2009-October-05, 11:46

Gerben42, on Oct 5 2009, 07:43 PM, said:

And why would the CIA be interested in some card game? The real question is: If the Blue Team cheated, why were they allowed to play again?

Either there is proof, then bar them, or there is no proof, then stop making allegations.

For what its worth, here's my response to Wolff's post

Mr. Wolff:

Thanks for the courtesy of a reply.

The information that you are supplying about Jamie Ortiz-Patino’s book is interesting, to say the least. If the Executive Council of the WBF barred all members of the Blue Team from ever competing in a World Championship, this would represent a truly remarkable piece of data. It will be interesting to see just what Ortiz-Patino puts on the table…

From my own perspective, I have a few immediate follow-up questions

• When the WBF Executive Council barred all members of the Blue Team from ever competing, who precisely was covered by this ban? (The membership of the Blue Team changed dramatically over time. I’d be interested in understand who said penalty applied to)

• Did the WBF Executive Council specify why this ban was put in place?

• Why was the sanction relaxed in 1979, 1983, and 2005? Equally significant, were there any occasions when members of the Blue Team wished to compete in a World Championship but were barred from doing so?

• Is the WBF willing to confirm these claims? I understand why the WBF might not being willing to do so. I don’t believe that a refusal by the WBF to confirm said claims necessarily invalidates Ortiz-Patino’s description. If, however, the WBF were to official confirm these account it would lend a lot more credibility to what Ortiz-Patino is saying.
Alderaan delenda est
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#5 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2009-October-09, 07:57

As Terence Reese pointed out after the 1965 Buenos Aires allegation, when rivals accuse you of cheating, they adduce several kinds of evidence:
  • Eye-witness evidence. eg Some claimed that R-S hand-signals corresponded to heart-holdings. This kind of evidence is most compelling if
    • The code is cracked before all the observations are made (as claimed in in the R-S case)
    • The organisers appoint independent observers (in the R-S case, some were biased)
    • Observers are told what to record but are not told the the code. (unfortunately, in the R-S case, observers were told the code).
    • Observers agree on their findings (Sammy Kehela disagreed with the others).

  • Intrinsic evidence eg where a Bridge-player makes successful choices that are anti-percentage on the legitimate evidence available to him. In the R-S case this evidence is inconclusive at best.
  • Quasi-objective ancillary evidence. This is what intrigues me. For example: Alan Truscott's "Dear Me" letter. Also, before the R-S case, Alan Truscott alleges that the pair had a bad reputation and had been chucked out of London clubs for cheating. Strangely, although Reese and Schapiro are now dead, no new evidence seems to have come to light (eg club minutes or other evidence of cheating).
In this last category, but more damning -- and central to the case against top members of the Blue-team are Leandro Burgay's Tapes. Allegedly these record indiscretions by Benito Bianchi. According to Bobby Wolff, Jaime Ortiz Patiño persuaded the CIA to verify their authenticity and the Italian Bridge Federation were then given the originals for safe-keeping.

There must be a reliable transcript that we can read. If the Italian Bridge Federation disputes the authenticity of the transcript, they can simply cite their original. A few facts would be a welcome respite from empty speculation.

Bridge organisations do not seem to have improved their handling of such allegations over the past 50 years.
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#6 User is offline   Rossoneri 

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Posted 2009-October-13, 03:58

Indeed, bridge organisations still need to do more work on handling cheating allegations.

Reading the post, I have seen nothing more than a bunch of unsubstantiated arguments, name-calling and hand-waving. I have no idea if there was indeed cheating or not, but the contents of this post and the way the author has conducted herself in the comments section does leave me terribly unimpressed.
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#7 User is offline   Trinidad 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 08:27

I wish that this blog full of unsubstantiated accusations would be enough for a disciplinary suspension for the Wolff family. I think accusing players of cheating without substantiating your claims is a lot worse than holding up the text "We didn't vote for Bush".

Rik
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#8 User is offline   jjbrr 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 08:42

Judy gave the names of many people you can talk to concerning this issue. It's safe to assume, Rik, that you talked to some/all of them? What did they say? I'm eager to learn about what you've found in your extensive research.
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#9 User is offline   awm 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 08:54

I think the frequency with which charges like this get tossed around is due, at least in part, to the policy that cheating allegations be investigated, tried, and punished "behind closed doors." This is justified by trying to protect players' reputations. However, it has some notable effects.

The policy is such that:

(1) If top players were investigated for cheating and found guilty, we would not hear about it. We might hear about a ban (without explanation) or even that might be kept quiet.

(2) If top players were investigated for cheating and found innocent, we would not hear about it.

(3) If top players were accused of cheating, we might hear about the accusation (if the accuser chose to make it public). However, making such an accusation is considered to be bad form (even if it's true).

The upshot is that these random rumors about people float around, never to be proven/disproven because all such discussions are secret. It also creates the impression that nothing is really being done about cheating.

Honestly I am not that interested in protecting a cheater's reputation. If the person is innocent, having WBF declare their innocence in public will help their reputation more than letting rumors float around for decades unanswered.

Then again, maybe there are so many high profile cheaters that revealing their identities will make the game of bridge itself look bad. This would be a sad state of affairs.
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#10 User is offline   ArtK78 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 09:34

It is interesting to note that there does not seem to be any denial of the accusations being made by any of the surviving members of the Blue Team. I would think that if anyone would be offended by such charges, it would be them.
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#11 User is offline   TMorris 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 09:39

Maybe - like a lot of people - they think that something that is purported to have happened over 40 years ago is not actually that relevant nowadays - apart from helping to sell books of course.
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#12 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 10:27

jjbrr, on Oct 14 2009, 09:42 AM, said:

Judy gave the names of many people you can talk to concerning this issue. It's safe to assume, Rik, that you talked to some/all of them? What did they say? I'm eager to learn about what you've found in your extensive research.
Those making gratuitous and damning accusations should provide supporting evidence. There is no onus on doubters to do their job for them.

ArtK78, on Oct 14 2009, 10:34 AM, said:

It is interesting to note that there does not seem to be any denial of the accusations being made by any of the surviving members of the Blue Team.  I would think that if anyone would be offended by such charges, it would be them.
A dignified silence is the best anybody can manage, in such trying circumstances. As Terence Reese complained, it's impossible to prove that you're not cheating.
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#13 User is offline   Trinidad 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 10:36

awm, on Oct 14 2009, 04:54 PM, said:

I think the frequency with which charges like this get tossed around is due, at least in part, to the policy that cheating allegations be investigated, tried, and punished "behind closed doors." This is justified by trying to protect players' reputations. However, it has some notable effects.

The policy is such that:

(1) If top players were investigated for cheating and found guilty, we would not hear about it. We might hear about a ban (without explanation) or even that might be kept quiet.

(2) If top players were investigated for cheating and found innocent, we would not hear about it.

(3) If top players were accused of cheating, we might hear about the accusation (if the accuser chose to make it public). However, making such an accusation is considered to be bad form (even if it's true).

The upshot is that these random rumors about people float around, never to be proven/disproven because all such discussions are secret. It also creates the impression that nothing is really being done about cheating.

Honestly I am not that interested in protecting a cheater's reputation. If the person is innocent, having WBF declare their innocence in public will help their reputation more than letting rumors float around for decades unanswered.

Then again, maybe there are so many high profile cheaters that revealing their identities will make the game of bridge itself look bad. This would be a sad state of affairs.

Where did you get the idea that these things happen behind closed doors?

Reese and Shapiro were determined to have cheated in Buenos Aires. It was made public and the punishment was left to the English Bridge Union.

Facchini- Zucchelli were suspected of cheating in Bermuda. They were found guilty of 'improper foot movements', but not of cheating.

Buratti-Lanzarotti were found guilty of cheating. They were banned from playing and their ban was published. All the circumstances around the case were discussed widely, also here on BBF.

So contrary to what you are saying, all these things happened out in the open...

If the Blue Team had ever been convicted of cheating, why on earth would it be kept hidden? Conclusion: They have never been convicted of cheating.

Rik
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#14 User is offline   jjbrr 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 11:58

nige1, on Oct 14 2009, 11:27 AM, said:

Those making gratuitous and damning accusations should provide supporting evidence.

I'm glad we agree, Nige. Condemning the evidence in the book is quite the accusation without any supporting evidence. Which is what I asked for. What's the problem?
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#15 User is offline   jdonn 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 12:01

nige1, on Oct 14 2009, 11:27 AM, said:

ArtK78, on Oct 14 2009, 10:34 AM, said:

It is interesting to note that there does not seem to be any denial of the accusations being made by any of the surviving members of the Blue Team.  I would think that if anyone would be offended by such charges, it would be them.
A dignified silence is the best anybody can manage, in such trying circumstances. As Terence Reese complained, it's impossible to prove that you're not cheating.

Especially for him!
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#16 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 12:26

awm, on Oct 14 2009, 04:54 PM, said:

I think the frequency with which charges like this get tossed around is due, at least in part, to the policy that cheating allegations be investigated, tried, and punished "behind closed doors." This is justified by trying to protect players' reputations. However, it has some notable effects SNIP
I agree with awm that cheating investigation procedures can be greatly improved.

Trinidad, on Oct 14 2009, 11:36 AM, said:

Where did you get the idea that these things happen behind closed doors?  Reese and Shapiro were determined to have cheated in Buenos Aires. It was made public and the punishment was left to the English Bridge Union. SNIP
Trinidad repeats a common misconception about the R-S case.

WBF Official Statement, on Buenos Aires,1965, said:

"Certain irregularities having been reported, the Appeals Committee fully investigated the matter and later convened a meeting of the Executive Committee of the World Bridge Federation. The Captain of the British team was present. As a result of this meeting, the Captain of the British squad decided to play only K Konstam, M Harrison-Gray, A Rose and J Flint in the remaining sessions and very sportingly conceded the matches against North America and Argentina. A report of proceedings will be sent to the British Bridge League".
Notice that the WBF make no mention of cheating, guilt, or even the names of the accused. Thus the WBF (aping Pontius Pilot) remitted the case to the BBL, who conducted a thorough investigation. Foster, Bourne, Priday and Hiron exonerated R-S after a ten-month long enquiry that heard all the witnesses and examined the evidence. Amusingly, R-S lost 23 imps on the hands adduced to "prove" they cheated. Many of my friends are still convinced they did. They may be right but the evidence is flimsy and the WBF procedures were farcical.

Trinidad, on Oct 14 2009, 11:36 AM, said:

Facchini- Zucchelli were suspected of cheating in Bermuda. They were found guilty of 'improper foot movements', but not of cheating. Buratti-Lanzarotti were found guilty of cheating. They were banned from playing and their ban was published. All the circumstances around the case were discussed widely, also here on BBF. So contrary to what you are saying, all these things happened out in the open...
IMO, all these cases were botched too. As were all the ACBL cheating investigations Sion-Cokin, Katz-Cohen and so on. However I doubt that such investigations can be conducted in the open. Please enlighten us how, awm.
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#17 User is offline   Trinidad 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 15:25

I agree that the Reese-Schapiro case wasn't handled properly. Opinions are still divided on the matter.

In the case of FZ and BL, the procedures were as open as they can reasonably be.

The ACBL has an entirely different problem: As soon as they catch an American pair cheating and suspend them, they will be sued. Therefore catching cheats in ACBL land is like walking on eggs. But the WBF doesn't have that problem. If anything, the ACBL has the problem. If an ACBL (/USBA) pair would be caught cheating in a WBF event and the WBF suspends them, the ACBL will have to follow that suspension. As a result, the ACBL will be sued.

In this case, the discussion was about the Blue Team. Their alleged cheating would have taken place mainly in WBF events. There, the law suit problem doesn't exist. There is no need to keep anything secret and things are not kept secret either.

Rik
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#18 User is offline   hanp 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 16:08

Didn't Shapiro write a letter that was made public after his death in which he admitted that they did indeed cheat? If so, it is perhaps time Nige1 chooses new heroes to quote. If not, could someone remind me what I am confused with?
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#19 User is offline   jdonn 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 16:17

It is impossible for a sane person to read both Reese's and Truscott's books on the incident and not be certain Reese and Shapiro cheated, period.
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#20 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2009-October-14, 16:24

hanp, on Oct 14 2009, 05:08 PM, said:

Didn't Shapiro write a letter that was made public after his death in which he admitted that they did indeed cheat? If so, it is perhaps time Nige1 chooses new heroes to quote. If not, could someone remind me what I am confused with?
What is Hanp struggling to remember? Perhaps ...

At the Foster-Bourne enquiry, Ralph Swimer (British captain but a witness for the prosecution) produced a letter (Reese called it the Dear me letter). In the letter Swimer wrote that Schapiro had tearfully confessed to cheating, in Buenos Aires. Or maybe this ...

Independent, on Wed 11 May,2005, said:

David Rex-Taylor, a publishing executive from Birmingham, claimed yesterday that the episode which ended Mr Reese's international bridge playing career was part of a disastrous experiment to prove that cheating was possible in the card game invented by British civil servants in the Raj.
Mr Rex-Taylor said: "He confided that ... he had been planning to write a highly-researched, in-depth book on cheating at cards and other indoor games and activities, commenting that cheats should be pilloried and their methods exposed."
The alleged confession was greeted with scepticism by senior figures in the bridge world, a game which is estimated to have four million regular players in Britain, making it the most popular participation sport after coarse fishing.
I hold no special brief for Reese and Schapiro. They may have been guilty but the case was not proved to my satisfaction. They are dead, so cannot defend themselves. I might defend Hanp too, were he accused of cheating on what I regard as inadequate evidence :)
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