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Fisher – Schwartz Case: A New Research

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Our attention was drawn to some interesting research from Israel.  According an article posted on the popular Israeli newspaper “Haaretz” two days ago, three experts have stated that they have definitively cracked the ‘code’ that the top Israeli pair, Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz, were using to send illegal signals to each other during the auction. Two of the experts who carried out the investigation, Amir Levin and Nezer Zaidenberg have agreed to talk to us about their findings.

Amir Levin 02Interview to Amir Levin

LC: We have known some time ago about the existence of the “Israeli Dcotors” files written by Amir Levin, Bar Tarnowski and Eldad Ginossar. But in the last days we have known there is also a new research by Levin, Zaidenberg and a third bridge expert… so is there another report?

AL: Eldad, Bar and I are indeed the authors of the “Israeli Doctors” files. They solely relate to coughing allegations. With respect to the “new research” – well, it related only to the board placement issue. But first, it is important to emphasize that Per-Ola Cullin hypothesis was basically correct – Fisher aand Schwartz indeed signal using board placement; the code he suggested is 100% accurate when F is the signaller but we believe we found a correction to the code which solved all hands including “problematic” hands as I will explain later.


LC: Who is the third expert?

AL: He would like to reamain anonymous. And we will continue to respect his wish.


LC: Can you illustrate the full Fisher-Schwartz cheating code you have cracked and the method you have used?

AL:  Yes. First, I will remind you about Cullin hypothesis: Middle – Diamonds; Side – Hearts; On the signaller’s side – Clubs; On the leader’s side – Spade. That is, with respect to the black suits, the original code suggested that it changes dependant who is the signaller and who is the leader. Well, this code is 100% correct only when F is the signaller (most of the times). However, there where some hands when Schwartz signalled that we found as strange….This led as to look and research again and we believe the corrected code is simple – FS were signalling based on the positions of N/W/E/S:
Middle – Diamonds (as Cullin suggested)
East – Hearts (as Cullin suggested)
North (the side where S sits) – Spades (that is regardless who places the board there!!)
South (the side where F sits) – Clubs (that is regardless who placed the board there!!)
Tray stays – well, this is basically all the rest: lead what you wish partner, lead my suit unless you have some other attractive lead, etc.

This helps to explain 2 boards where Schwartz signalled that were originally difficult to explain, in our view:

a) Israel vs Hungary:

Schwartz opened 3SP in third hand holding: QJ10XXX, KQXX, XXX, — ; And later was defending 3NT with Fisher on lead. The video shows him placing the board on his side (North) and instantly moving in to the side, as Fisher leads (East side). Well…a club signal (as Cullin originaly suggested in its code doesn’t make sense of course. Some tried to explain this by suggesting the Schwartz maybe made a mistake – maybe forgetting the contract was 3NT or not signalling correctly and instantly trying to correct that. In fact, we came to the conclusion that Schwartz was merely signalling for a spade lead persuant to our “correction”.

b) Israel vs. Netherlands:

Schwartz against 5CLX held: KQXX, XX, XXX, KJXX. Again he placed the board on his side with Fisher on lead. Again, according to Cullin’s original signal this shows a club signal…some have suggested that asking for a club lead with this hand makes sense as the opponents had shown the black suits. However, we think that Schwartz was merely signalling for a spade persuant to our “correction”. Btw, Fisher led a spade in this hand eventually.

LC: Do you consider the Fisher-Schwartz cheating code definitively revelead?

AL: Yes we do.


LC: Did you inform the IBF, the EBL and other Bridge Bodies about your research?

AL:  Yes. It’s up to them to decide what to do with it, if any.

LC:  Can you tell me somethig about the latest IBF SEC meeting (held on May 29)?

AL:  The meeting was about the leads and board placement issues. A video will be published soon, I guess.

LC: Are you going to publish your research?

AL:  I prefer not at this stage. I said it before – after the Israeli SEC will finish to discuss the issue and will publish its final verdict, I will publish all the material I have (which is very detailed), with respect to the coughing allegations as well as the board placement issue.


dr Nezer ZaidenbergDr Nezer Zaidenberg’s Statement

Dr Zaidenberg is current Docent at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland), Member  of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design and Lecturer in Computer Sciences at the College of Management Academic Studies in Israel.

I asked him some info about his research on Fisher-Schwartz’s cheating code.

“The story is actually very simple.”- Dr Zaidenberg said – “As a scientist I couldn’t agree with the analysis by Woolsey et al. Tests were not blind and IMHO the sample size was too small. The chances to obtain similar results were 1 in few thousands. IMHO this was not sufficient. There are maybe 100 good pairs world wide, and they play perhaps 100 times more than 4 matches every year, so 1 in few thousands translates to a few cheaters every year. We were not at all happy with the analysis. There were several other methodological flaws. For example,  the same set that were used to raise the hypothesis were later used to test it. Just an explanation why this is wrong. Lets say you start pulling cards of a deck and find more black then red cards. You also record the cards you pulled.You raise the hypothesis that there are more black then red cards. You test the hypothesis by viewing the recording you already used to raise the hypothesis. That simply doesn’t make sense!  A completely new set of boards were required to test the hypothesis. So completely new set of matches was required and the matches you used to raise the hypothesis must be discarded. Of course that would mean Fisher and Schwartz were allowed to corrupt more tournaments which would have raised more problems.”

“There were other Bridge problems” –He added – “For example signal for clubs against NT with a void that made no sense! That was simply illogical. We found that the signals were not relative to the player, but to the table. I.e. Near north or near south or near Fisher or near Schwartz. So putting the board far would have different meaning by Ron and by Lotan (far is near Ron if lotan signals and near lotan if Ron signals) that eliminates all problems. We also double check on Polish League, Cavendish, Spingold: The same system holds and scientific method is satisfied. IANAL but that means that EBL verdict is based on incorrect code… But hopefully they will now be barred for life from IBF which means they cannot play elsewhere .”

“Another interesting fact for me” – dr Zaidenber concluded- ” is that they were supported by scientists from CERN (Switzerland) and Weitzman Institute of Technology.”


Laura Camponeschi



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