Bridge & Cheating in the New World
By Alex J. Coyne © Great Bridge Links
It’s been possible to play bridge online since the 1980s when home computers first became available. Great Bridge Links owner Jude Goodwin remembers playing online bridge when one needed to install a ‘unix box’ and play was green text on a black screen. OK Bridge was one of the first innovators and there were thousands of people from around the world playing at any given time. “It was phenomenal,” Jude remembers.
Since then the platforms and robots have come a long way. But the lockdowns and isolation brought about by the Covid-19 Pandemic in March 2020 led to a massive surge in innovation and participation. Today across the world of bridge, the game is played entirely online.
Online play has been wholeheartedly embraced and welcomed. Clubs are able to continue to run. A recent online charity game in Main CA was able to raise $158,000. Bridge is suddenly way more accessible. At the same time, however, so is cheating.
A darker underside was lurking and came to light in July 2020 when Michal Nowosadzki confessed to be cheating. He was cheating using a method known as ‘self-kibitizing.’ You play using two or more accounts and are thus able to ‘kibitz’ yourself, or other hands, and so know what cards your opponents and partner are holding. Michal’s confession, whether it was given by force or blackmail or plain old ‘love of the game,’ started a landslide. Here we are, six months later, and much has changed. To his credit, Michal has since invested considerable time in support of efforts to administer a clean game.
We can’t possibly go over everything in one short article such as this, but we wanted to share links and resources that have come into being over the past half year. Today, there are many places to play online where the kind of cheating Michal describes is no longer possible. Tactics such as a ban on kibitzers, kibitzer delays, enhanced policing and more have helped. Bridge organizations around the world have devised their own ‘cheating policies.’ The World Bridge Federation recently published its own Disciplinary Code that is “taking full notice of the aberrant and unacceptable behaviour of cheating and unethical behaviour in bridge.” And groups like the the Bridge Standards Working Group (BSWG) continue to work to “provide strategic guidance on the evolution of bridge technology and provide insights on the needs of the bridge community.”
A Chance to Clear the Air
Recently, in a letter to the bridge community on Bridge Winners, a group of Sponsors to Bridge Professionals has reached out and made an offer. To cheaters who have been denied entry in tournaments. And to those who have been accused of cheating and denied entry in tournaments. The writers of the article are offering cheaters a Chance to Clear the Air and Start Over – a kind of step up and take your punishment then rejoin the bridge community approach. We’ll see how this works out, but if you’re reading and thinking this might be your chance, the deadline is Jan 21, 2021.
An Finally, A Bit of Levity
Of course, with each announcement of a cheating conviction, often involving high ranking and well known players, the blogosphere goes wild with discussion. David Caprera, on Bridge Winners, recently posted a recap of of Reactions to Cheating Convictions which will make you smile.
Here then are some of the resources we’ve gathered.
The Credentials Advisory Team (CAT)
The Credentials Advisory Team (CAT) advises online bridge events affiliated with ALT, OCBL, and Bridgehouse when they believe a player should not participate in their events due to suspicions of ethical misbehaviour.
Current (2021) members of CAT are Boye Brogeland, Roger Lee, Sabine Auken, Joe Grue, Brian Platnick, and David Gold.
Read interview by Christina Lund Madsen with David Gold here ->
Several players have commenced litigation against CAT and its members. To read more visit their Legal Fund Go Fund Me page here ->
Find a list of Anti-cheating policies from organizations around the world.
Visit here to view at Neopolitan Club ->
The ACBL Anti-Cheating Commission
The ACBL Anti-Cheating Commission was founded in 2016 to combat and investigate instances of cheating within bridge. Members of the ACBL Anti-Cheating Commission include Marty Harris, Eric Laurant, Brad Moss, Eldad Ginossar, and others.
The WBF’s Disciplinary Code
The WBF shares the indignation of the bridge community, taking full notice of the aberrant and unacceptable behaviour of cheating and unethical behaviour in bridge that, whenever and wherever it occurs, causes great harm and threatens the both the image and the fairness of our sport.
Click here to read the WBF Disciplinary Code ->
The EBU: Online Ethics Investigation Group
The English Bridge Union (EBU) has set up their own Online Ethics Investigation Group.
52 Entertainment & BBO: Combating Cheating
The 52 Entertainment and BBO wish to remind the bridge community that all players using its platform submit to its conditions of contest which clearly prohibit any form of cheating and demand respect for the rules of bridge as well as good behaviour in all areas of the game.
The Independent Bridge Standards Working Group (BSWG)
The Bridge Standards Working Group (BSWG) is an independent, self-governed, non-profit standards group.
Membership in the BSWG includes online bridge platform operators, technical experts from National Bridge Organizations (NBOs), experts in data formats, and developers from the community.
The BSWG will work to provide strategic guidance on the evolution of bridge technology and provide insights on the needs of the bridge community. Most of their work is being done on Discord and Google Groups.
See a full list in this Bridge Winners article ->
WUC Mindsports Online Regulations (PDF)
For more about mindsports as a whole, which includes the game of bridge, see the WUC Mindsports Online Regulations for how potential cheating is being approached in other online tournaments.
Articles On Cheating
Cheating in esports and bridge has been widely covered in press releases, blogs, and other news websites.
Neopolitan Bridge – follow a lot of the individual stories on this comprehensive news site.
EuroBridge: Revelation of cheating at online bridge events
Great Bridge Links: A look at cheating (Note, this is pre-pandemic)
Greenwich Times: Online card games can get out of hand
ZDNet: Kaspersky launches anti-cheat solution for pro e-sports tournaments
Larry Cohen: Bridge articles on cheating
Neapolitan Bridge Club: Anti-Cheating Policies
The New Yorker: The cheating problem in professional bridge
Vanity Fair: Is the world of competitive bridge rife with cheaters?
The Washington Post: Why esports betting could curb cheating