“Zero Tolerance against Cheating”: Interview to WBF Head Tournament Director Antonio Riccardi (Italy) run by Laura Camponeschi for Neapolitan Club.
Laura Camponesch; The FIGB Tribunal recently sentenced two Italian players for cheating online, during a RealBridge tournament. Why is this important?
Antonio Riccardi: This is the first verdict which acknowledges illegal behaviour in online games. It is important because it demonstrates the Italian Federation’s commitment to take online bridge seriously. In its rules and regulation, the Italian Federation clarifies its zero-tolerance policy for bad behaviour and everything encompassed by the definition of online cheating. Cheating online may seem easier than face to face, but at the same time it is easier to patrol online, pursue the suspects and minimise retaliations. Hands are recorded so we can assess whether a suspicious play was a mistake, a stroke of luck or cheating. Online tools improve our ability to fight cheating, because we can better analyse hands and avoid witch-hunt.
LC: What do you mean by “witch-hunt”?
AR: We have recently witnessed accusations made on the basis of insufficient evidence, because not enough hands were analysed. For instance, when you look at ten hands and spot a suspicious one, this is not a representative sample. Any analysis must be based on a large number of hands and we must ask players to explain their decisions. I can show you many instances of strange online plays which are simply misclicks that landed on their feet.
LC: I think players at this point must be aware of the fact that the Italian Federation takes online bridge seriously.
AR: The update to the WBF Disciplinary Code (updated November 17th 2020) made this verdict possible. This enabled the Italian Federation to formally recognise all tournaments played on RealBridge as long as they are supervised by a qualified TD. We are not playing behind a nickname anymore and do whatever we want: each player has a membership number, and they can be identified and sentenced if needed. The Federation took this decision because the pandemic stopped us from playing face to face. It took longer than we would have liked, because we were hoping the pandemic restrictions would end sooner. Now we need to agree rules on the penalties / fines for those who cheat. The Italian Federation is taking a clear stance on this.
LC: Why did the Federation choose RealBridge?
AR: It is the best platform available. Not only can we monitor online cheating well, but also it resembles face to face bridge as closely as possible. Compared to other software, RealBridge makes you feel like you are at the table, looking partner and opponents in the eye, and enjoying the social interactions. Moreover, it has tools to analyse and check hands after they have been played, so it is a good tool to fight online cheating.
LC: As an international TD, what is the correct procedure to raise and assess cheating?
AR: I do not believe in self-proclaimed tribunals or scandals in the press. We need to go through the official tribunals: first, check a significant number of hands; second, discuss the suspicious hands with the players. An accusation on social media may be baseless and yet damage someone’s reputation, even though no tribunal was involved. In any justice system, everyone has a right to defend themselves and to appeal the verdict: however, when the official bodies are not involved, players cannot defend themselves or appeal.