International bridge champions accuse teammates of cheating By Patrick Jourdain, Bridge Correspondent, and Harriet Alexander
Two Israeli men, Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz, have been accused by their team mates of cheating in three matches including the Spingold tournament – one of the most famous of all.
They came together to do battle: an international team of warriors, fighting for glory, honour, and thousands of dollars in reward.
But now that triumphant team of bridge players has been ripped apart by accusations that would, in the words of the whistleblower, “even make a Hollywood movie surreal.”
Quite how they cheated is unclear, but Norwegian bridge professional Boye Brogeland, one of the world’s highest-rated bridge players, said the other four members of the team were handing back three titles they had won together.
“If you have a cheating pair on your team, I believe you should lose whatever Masterpoints, Seeding points and titles you have won together,” said Mr Brogeland, writing on the Bridge Winners forum and rocking the world of bridge with his claims of skulduggery at a top tournament.
“The Schwartz team from the two previous cycles has decided to give up the three titles that we ‘won’ in 2014 and 2015. We believe in a clean game and we love bridge.”
Mr Fisher hit back, accusing the others of being simply envious of their talent.
“Jealousy made you sick,» he wrote on Tuesday. «Get ready for a meeting with the devil.”
The saga began in July 2014, in Las Vegas, when Mr Brogeland’s team triumphed in the Spingold tournament – one of the most famous of all matches.
The six men – two Israelis, two Americans and two Norwegians – then won again in November at the Reisinger, another major tournament, held in the city of Providence, in Rhode Island.
They went on to claim a third title, winning the Jacoby Swiss tournament in New Orleans in March this year.
But on Tuesday Mr Brogeland snapped, and declared war on his Israeli team mates.
“What I am going to write now, I would ask you to take some seconds or minutes to think about,” he wrote in a prelude to the allegations.
“Very soon there will come out mind boggling stuff. It will give us a tremendous momentum to clean the game up, from the bottom to the very top. But it will take courage and it will demand standing up against the powers of the game.”
Mr Brogeland said he knew his allegations would have a huge impact – and that his supporters should be prepared for the fall-out.
“Never back down for keeping this thread public,” he wrote. “Go out, fight the good fight and get things done. Not in year, not in days, not in hours, but now.
“For the future of our beautiful game.”
He then went on to accuse the two Israelis of cheating. He did not specify how they cheated, but said that the others on his team had agreed that the Israelis cheated – and that they would hand back the three titles.
The revelation caused shock among bridge afficionados.
“I am sitting here with my jaw open. Wow,” said Richard Lawson, a bridge player from Minnesota. “Kudos to them for a brave move.”
Geoff Hampson, a Canadian bridge professional who has previously won the Spingold and Reisinger, said: “BRAVO! This can’t have been an easy thing to do, I applaud you all!
“I hope this paves the way for a cleaner game and inspires others to follow your example.”
And another commentator likened the two Israelis on the team to disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.
“I think we have to pay for stupidity also in bridge to keep the game as clean and pure as it can be,” he wrote.
The Israeli pair did not respond to the post.
Earlier this year, when there were rumours in the bridge world that the Israeli pair were using illicit information, Mr Fisher brushed off the accusations, saying “it is the price of success”.
Others online were questioning how the Israelis could have cheated. Bridge players at this level are separated from their partners by screens, and only face the opponent. Matches are watched by a live audience of thousands, and screened live on the internet.
It was unclear what evidence Mr Brogeland had for his accusations.
And in the minds of bridge connosseiurs, it brought back memories of the “coughing doctors” episode, when two German doctors cheated their way to victory, passing information to their partners by well-timed coughs.
After a two-day hearing in a Dallas hotel in March 2014, the game’s governing body declared that Michael Elinescu, 61, and Entscho Wladow, 71, had deployed subterfuge in the shape of a system of coded coughs to win the bridge world finals during a fiercely-contested tournament in Bali in 2013.
The two Germans are currently suing the World Bridge Federation for banning them from the