1. Law 73B2 of the Laws of Duplicate Bridge states as follows:
The gravest possible offense is for a partnership to exchange information through prearranged methods of communication other than those sanctioned by these Laws.
2. The WBF has established a Disciplinary Code that has application in the case of reprehensible conduct. Reprehensible conduct includes ‘. . . illicit actions or behaviour . . . including violations of the Laws of Bridge, cheating . . .’ The existing code was established in October 2011; a new code was approved in October 2015 and comes into effect on 1st January 2016.
3. Additionally the WBF has issued guidelines to Zonal Authorities and NBOs for the imposition of sanctions for players that have admitted or been found guilty of cheating. The guidelines are intended to achieve consistency in both approach and application to such matters.
4. Historically, complaints have arisen by virtue of suspicious actions taken at the table. Those were usually investigated without notifying those suspected of wrongdoing; that then enabled monitoring to take place and to gather evidence against them. The information obtained would then be studied and analysed and, if appropriate, an expert would be enlisted to provide an opinion as to the likelihood of improper methods being used. With advances in technology and extensive video broadcasting becoming economically viable, many followers of bridge view players participating in top-flight competitions. Concerns over some players’ methods, and suspicion of them using improper methods, has led to a flurry of analysis with accusations of cheating against certain partnerships being publicised via the Internet and on social media sites.
5. Consequent upon allegations being made, 3 Federations withdrew their teams from the Bermuda Bowl World Team Championships held in Chennai. The bridge playing community generally has supported the method used to focus attention on a perceived problem of cheating and claim justification by the resulting team withdrawals.
6. The WBF is rightly concerned that the present method used to “out” alleged cheaters has been utilised without those so accused having been given an opportunity to have the matters dealt with in accordance with any recognised due process. This is contrary to the norms associated with natural justice and the right to a fair trial before a competent tribunal. The majority of the accused players all participated in a zonal qualifying event. The Zonal Organisation and some NBOs have instigated investigations into those players accused of wrongdoing.
7. A proposal has been made for a panel or commission to be established for the purpose of receiving complaints/concerns with regard to potential improper actions being taken by a partnership. A panel of expert players would be selected from amongst the High Level Players Commission with a task of providing a preliminary view based upon an analysis of the suspicious circumstances measured against the accepted probabilities of success.
8. The process previously used by the WBF first required there to be a complaint made during play and for a discreet monitoring process to be undertaken. The method was greatly enhanced with video coverage that enabled greater scrutiny of players’ actions.
9. A potential concern is that it could encourage a proliferation of complaints and the possibility of some being ill founded or based on malice. It is imperative that potential evidence that might be collected is reliable and admissible. Provided adequate safeguards are put in place, there is no reason to doubt the provenance of such evidence. The evidence generated would be the basis for pursuing a charge of reprehensible conduct and ensuring a fair process where those accused are given every opportunity to challenge the case against them.
10. The purpose of the proposals is to eradicate, as far as is possible, collusive cheating. This is where a partnership has discussions and makes arrangements to convey information other than by fair means and those permitted by the Laws of Duplicate Bridge.
What safeguards are necessary?
11. It will be necessary to ensure some safeguards are put in place. All members of such a Commission and any panel of players, that is sought to make use of, should be required to enter into a confidentiality agreement. It is not appropriate for such members to discuss the work that they undertake with bridge players that are not part of the Commission.
12. The role of the Commission should be clearly defined and should act within any terms of reference that are determined for it. Its task should be to demonstrate whether or not a prima facie case exists against any partnership and for the matter then to be prosecuted by the appropriate authority; this may be the WBF, a Zonal Authority or a NBO.
Subsequent action taken
13. A meeting took place with the High Level Players Commission last night. The proposals above were discussed and accepted as a positive move forward to address the current problems. It was agreed that the members of the Commission would enter into a confidentiality agreement to ensure that matters under discussion remained and were discussed only within the group; outside transmission of any details was not acceptable.
14. A dedicated secure email account will be established for members of the group. Details of complaints will be submitted on a pro forma sheet accessible via the WBF website.
15. It is anticipated that the group will be fully established to deal with complaints at the beginning of next year to coincide with the implementation of the new Disciplinary Code.
David R Harris
World Bridge Federation
9th October 2015