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John Carruthers: Simplest is best

In a decision announced on February 3, the USBF Board of Directors voted unanimously to vacate the USBF Invitational 1 title won by Team GUPTA because of the finding that Huub Bertens, a player on the winning team, had illegally possessed and used information about other players’ hands . This seems to me to be a bit wrong-headed. In a head-to-head match, if one player/team is found to be cheating, the other team should be declared the winner.

There is ample precedent for this protocol. In 2013, in Bali, when Michael Elinescu and Entscho Wladow of the German Senior Team were found to have been cheating, that team was disqualified and the other participants moved up a spot. Thus, USA was declared the winner and Poland and France were moved up to second and third respectively. Also, in the IOC, when an Olympic medallist has been found to have been cheating, the other competitors are moved up a spot in the standings.

Suppose that, because of the pandemic, the winner of the USBF Invitational I title was to have been the USA1 team in the Bermuda Bowl. Would the the USBF have declined to send a team because the title had been vacated and no one had won? No, either the team finishing second would have been declared to be USA1 and the competition for USA2 would have proceeded as usual. Or, at the very least, the second-place team would have been entered in a subsequent competition where it had a decent chance at representing the USBF in the Bermuda Bowl as USA1 or USA2.

In this situation, the team beaten by GUPTA in the final, ROSENTHAL, should have been moved up to first place, the team beaten by GUPTA in the semifinal (MOSS) should have been moved up to second place and the team beaten by ROSENTHAL (ROBINSON) should have been declared solo thIrd instead of joint third with MOSS. It is a great disservice to these teams to be declared second and tied for third/fourth in the face of Bertens’ cheating.

The situation is a bit different in a multi-team Swiss Teams event or a Pairs event, where the winning (cheating) team affected many more teams or pairs en route to the revoked/vacated championship. The simplest solution is to move everyone up a place, as does the IOC. However, it might be argued, in this day of computer brilliance, it should not be impossible to negate all the boards played by the cheats and determine a winner based on the ‘honest’ boards. The difficulty with that approach is that, especially in a Swiss Teams event, the matchups would have been different without the expelled team. So, simplest is best: move everybody else up a spot.

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John Carruthers

IBPA Bulletin No. 673 February 10, 2021

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