Sunday, March 6, 2016

"A cheating scandal in the world of professional bridge."


Boye Brogeland, a Norwegian player, became convinced that Fisher and Schwartz had made prescient bids and plays that they couldn’t have found with skillful sleuthing alone. “Bridge is such a logical game,” he told me. “When you do a lot of strange things in a very short period of time, and those strange things are successful—it just doesn’t happen.” He spent hours studying records of hands that he and his partner had played against Fisher and Schwartz, and concluded that they had been cheating. “I just didn’t know how they were doing it,” he said. (Fisher and Schwartz have denied all the allegations.)

Brogeland is in his early forties. He has blond hair, much of which often seems to be sticking straight up, and a more athletic build than most of the world’s best bridge players. (At major tournaments, the relatively few players who look as though they’ve spent much time outside tend to be the smokers.) Brogeland had been a teammate of Fisher and Schwartz during the two previous tournament cycles, on a six-player team sponsored by a retired American businessman.


In 1975, two members of a later version of the Blue Team were caught signalling under the table with their feet; they’ve been known ever since as the Italian Foot Soldiers.

An American player told me that the Blue Team’s cheating might be considered an inevitable consequence of Italy’s unusual card-playing culture. In briscola, a popular trick-taking game, one of the objects is to surreptitiously pass information to your partner, without being observed by an opponent.