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USA – Spain Incident: Official Spanish Team Statement

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The Spanish Team has relesead the following official statement, concerning the USA – Spain Incident in Wroclaw:



I. The Facts:

1. The first day of play (4×16 boards), the match Spain vs. USA developed in a normal manner with no kind of incidents.

2. During the dinner of that same evening (10th of September), a player of the Spanish team shared a deal (board 30 / 2nd segment) played during the second segment against K. Bathurst and J. Lall. It was quite surprising to see that East took no action during the bidding even after partner’s opening and on top of this didn’t lead partner’s suit.

fig 01

3. On Sunday the 11th of September, after these facts a member of the Spanish team decided to spend some of his time analyzing deals played by Bathurst–Lall, using BBO archives having been broadcasted 11 matches with this pair previous to the challenge against Spain. He then decided to check the archives on the American Trials, and while he was going through the Spingold his time expired. In total he analyzed over 400 boards played by the pair.

Here are other 2 examples found in this tournament:

click here »


fig 02

click here »


fig 03

4. The analysis concluded that Bathurst-Lall opened 100% of the deals in which they are NV in third seat (after 2 consecutive passes). Not finding a single deal where the pair passed.

5. The team discussed the situation over the phone and decided to gather in the playing area to inform the TD’s on their findings. At 16:00 the team presented the findings on the boards and Bathurst-Lall’s CC to the only available TD: Slawek Latala, and our desire to file a complaint. We expected that the WBF would contact us for a hearing with the USA captain. Such thing never happened, and we were never given the opportunity to make any complaint. Director told us that he would inform the Chief TD, and left.

6. During the next hour, nothing happened, nobody asked us for anything, nor questioned, and the organization never filed the complaint. We were ignored by the organizers until it was time to start the match (5th segment).

7. When the match started, our Captain asked Mr. Antonio Riccardi what verdict had he reached based on our findings. He answered in a very angry manner that we had to start to play and told us that we would have an answer in no less than a month.

8. At that point, we had the feeling that the only thing organizers wanted us to do was to sit, play, lose and leave. Nobody attended our complaint and our situation was completely ignored. As if in a way they only wanted to get rid of us. The incompetence of the TD’s and organizers and the lack of an official response, made the Captain of the Spanish Team, refuse to play the 5th segment until some sort of precautionary measure was taken such as lining up another pair that wasn’t Bathurst-Lall or playing the standard CC recognized by the WBF.

9. The TD’s continuously ignored our petitions and informed us that the Spanish Team would be penalized due to the delayed start of the match. At this point the Spanish Captain asked his players (who already were sitting) to stand up and leave because we were not going to play. It is very important to emphasize that this decision was taken as a response to the TD’s passiveness with the ongoing situation.

10. The Chief TD informed the Spanish Team that the sanction would be of aprox. 1IMP per minute and that if the delay would surpass 40 minutes the team would lose by Walk-Over and in this way expelled from the competition. However an auxiliary TD suggested our Captain that the Spanish Team should wait a little, because something could still happen.

11. In the meantime, appeared the president of the WBF, Gianarrigo Rona, in the playing area who after talking with one of the Spanish players, met with the TD’s Antonio Riccardi and Max Bavin.

12. After that brief meeting between the WBF president and the TD’s. Max Bavin informed our captain on Rona’s commitment to assemble the appropriate committee and to deliver a quick resolution, promising that we would get probably an answer this same night or, in any case, before the tournament had concluded. He also informed us that the Spanish team would be penalized.

13. The Spanish Captain instructed players to finally begin playing the 5th segment. Which they did immediately.

14. The TD’s took the decision that the first 6 deals would be hand dealt for security reasons (they had been broadcasted on VuGraph).

15. During the match, TD Max Bavin informed the Spanish Captain the final verdict taken by the WBF committee:

-The penalty of 32 IMPs for delayed start, had been changed to 10 IMPs for disobeying TD’s instructions to sit and play.

-The facts presented against Bathurst-Lall’s methods would be examined by the organization later on, but in no case it would affect the results of this tournament, and in the best case scenario it would be taken as a CC’s mistake, applying an adjusted score to the boards played.

II. OUR ARGUMENTS (Which we have never been given the chance to expose.)

When a partnership opens in third position not vulnerable every hand disregarding hand strength, according to law 40.C.1 it constitutes a partnership agreement and not a psyche. It is not necessary to open 100% of the cases (like we have found here), just opening enough for partner to be aware of the possibility is enough to constitute a partnership agreement according to the rules.

The agreement on opening hands at the 1-level with less than 8 HCP constitutes a HUM system according to the rule 2.2.C of the WBF system policy.

The use of a HUM system during this tournament is forbidden according to the rule 3. Category 2 from the WBF system regulations.

Therefore we have all (not only our team) been playing against opponents who use forbidden methods and not knowing which is the resolution or sanction for this kind of behavior.

Even in the scenario were the frequent psychic bids in third position are not considered a partnership agreement, it constitutes a serious lack of disclosure on the convention card according to the Appendix 4 (page 11) on the WBF system policy point 2.

Furthermore, looking at the statement from WBF on pag 9 of the 1st bulletin, a partnership can be forced to play WBF’s standard convention card when its own card and appendixes are found unsatisfactory. If we had been given the opportunity we would had asked one of the following solutions for this partnership: a) to stop playing until they would fill their convention card properly in order to prepare the right defenses against their gadgets or b) to play the WBF’s standard convention card for the remaining segments. Both option excluding the possibility of opening 3rd seat NV with <8 HCP.

Besides this we would have asked to adjust the score of board 30 of the 2nd segment to 3NTX (or XX).


A) We did not know the procedure to follow in order to handle this kind of situations (and we still don’t know them). The Spanish Team took what seemed as the most logical decision of referring it to the TD’s and wait for a hearing before the game started.

B). It is important to know that the Spanish team’s decision refusing to begin the match was a protest towards the organization as a consequence of the feeling of helplessness that its behavior caused us, and in no case was related or intended towards the USA Team nor its components.

C). We also want to mention clearly that the organization behavior was totally inappropriate and we make them fully responsible for this whole unpleasant situation. Nobody told us what was going to be the decisions and/or solutions applied for this kind of situation.

D) We are aware that many other international pairs consider these kind of methods (continuously opening very light in 3rd seat) licit and have been using them in this Championship in a regular manner. Even if this agreement is being widely used it shouldn’t be considered legal in this kind of competitions. Not until they don’t change the rules and allow all the players to do the same and prepare their correspondent defences.

E). Lastly would like to clarify that after the recent “witch hunt” that has been ongoing in the bridge world, we would like to emphasize that the Spanish team has never accused (or suggested) that the USA pair were cheating; on the contrary, we have always had a great amount of respect towards them and their game.

We simply complained that they were playing an illegal method for this Championship, perhaps due to lack of knowledge of the rules of this competition. Besides their convention card wasn’t properly filled.

All these reasons in our humble opinion justify the Spanish complaint.

PS: We don’t want to conclude this document without formulating the following questions: 1) What would have been the USA Team reaction if they would have discovered a Spanish pair using illegal methods, and the organization had ignored his claims? 2) Would have the WBF reacted in the same way if the claim was from the USA Team rather than the Spanish one?


Extract of the regulations applicable to the facts alleged by the Spanish Team


Page 2:

2.2 HUM Systems

For the purpose of this Policy, a Highly Unusual Method (HUM) means any System that exhibits one or more of the following features, as a matter of partnership agreement: (…)

c) By partnership agreement an opening bid at the one level may be made with values a king or more below average strength. (…)

Page 4:

3. Systems allowed at WBF Championships

In relation to the aspect of Systems to be allowed at WBF Championships, the events will be divided into three categories:


Category 2: Specific Teams Championships as decided by the WBF Rules and Regulations Committee: The use of HUM systems is prohibited

Page 11:

Appendix 4: Psychic bidding (Revised August 2002)


1. A player may deviate from his side’s announced understandings always provided that his partner has no more reason to be aware of the deviation than have the opponents. Repeated deviations lead to implicit understandings which then form part of the partnership’s methods and must be disclosed in accordance with the regulations governing disclosure of system. If the Director judges there is undisclosed knowledge that has damaged the opponents he shall adjust the score and may award a procedural penalty.


(Bottom of page 9)

WBF standard convention cards

Players will be forced to use standard WBF convention cards if their own card and supplements are found unsatisfactory.





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