Bridge: Experts NOT up for a challenge (World Bridge Championships interrupted)

They’re in Italy, March 28-Apr 9. Four primary championships: Open, Women’s, Seniors, Mixed. 24 teams started each event (each with 1 team from each of 22 countries plus 2 US teams; lots of overlap but not the always the same 22 countries in the others). 7 days of round robins reduced it to 8 quarterfinalists in each. Quarterfinals, Semi and Finals are each 96 boards over 2 days (finals might be more boards, but definitely 2 days).

Quarterfinals started yesterday, and today…

All matches suspended, due to Covid. No matches today. Unclear what will happen (last I checked). One possibility is much shorted quarterfinals (only 16 more boards, instead of the scheduled 48 more) and possibly shortened semis. That would finish Sunday as planned. OTOH, they may not even be able to pull that off.

(Also starting yesterday was a 15 session Transnational Teams swiss (single event; no women’s seniors, etc) Certainly many players eliminated in the round robin phase were in that. (Not sure if players not in the round robin could enter; certainly players did not need to stick with their previous team or even their previous partner. Partner switches even if allowed would be rare.) It’s also suspended today, don’t know if it will resume.

Both US open teams made the quarters. One trails Hungary by 11 after 48 boards; the other trails Norway by 17.

One US women’s team made the quarters. It trails Turkey by 102. That’s a huge margin even if 48 boards remain. If cut to 16 remaining, no chance.

Both US Seniors teams made it. One leads India by 7. The other trails Denmark by 29.

One US Mixed team qualified. It leads Latvia by 32.

The two US teams that did not qualify are in the swiss, with at least some personnel changes. The team calling itself USA 1 Women was third after day 1. The team calling itself USA 2 Mixed was fifth. It looks like there are 29 teams. (Looks like, with 29 in the standings after round 4, and 14 matches plus one bye listed in round 4 results. Round 5 (the last scheduled round yesterday) results show 13 matches plus 1 bye, and list 28 teams in the standings. :crazy:

Update: Play will resume tomorrow, with more boards per day than originally planned, but the four elimination events will still finish on Sunday. With the compressed schedule the semis start the same day the quarters end; the finals start the same day the semis end. Hence much less time to prepare for your next opponent.

All players must pass covid tests to play. No indication what happens to a team if only 3 (or fewer) pass. Some teams could get a substitute of their own nationality to the location in advance, if the substitution would be allowed.

The Swiss has been cancelled. Too many teams withdrew. I’m surprised they didn’t let it continue regardless of how many teams withdrew.

It’s been forever since I played maybe 5 games of Bridge.

I have no idea how cheating could be avoided in this situation, any examples? I could blink slightly harder with one eye than another, arrange my cards in one direction instead of the other. I’m surprised there can be a world championship. (other than being fully blinded from your partner, which maybe is how they do it? No idea.)

They have been addressing that for years, somewhat successfully. (For the very top level events, including top level in many single counties, US included.) During the bidding, there is a physical screen partitioning the table diagonally. Each player can see only one opponent, not his own partner. There is a small hole in the center of the screen (at the bottom, just above the table). Players bid on paper, and the bids are passed through the hole after both players on that side have bid.

The screen is raised during the play (maybe even before the opening lead, or maybe right after). So you can see all the other players during the play.

That makes cheating during the bidding FAR more difficult. There had been some issues with cheating during the play (including, for example, how a player oriented cards on the table as he played them - those were players at the world championship level) but my impression is that most people think there are relatively few cheaters.

Also, card play is somewhat more standard. If a player (at the upper levels) makes a clearly unusual play, and is right, it will be noted. If it happens too (very subjective) often he’ll be studied more carefully. Not guaranteed, but a consideration. (The players who were signally by orientation of played cards were first noted by their unusual results. Then review of film (serious events are videoed) indicated how.

A far bigger problem is trying to stop cheating when people are playing online, as much of the competition is in COVID times. Potentially a player could pick up his phone and call his partner during a hand. Earlier this spring, and hopefully again this weekend, I’ll be playing in an event where the entire time I’ll be on zoom with one of my opponents. Certainly we could tell if either of us got a phone call. It’s not that important an event, but they are taking some precautions.

Ah, so they do get really intense with it. Interesting.

I’ve been invited to some similar card competitions, but just local stuff at a brewery or something. I refuse to trust some 50 strangers in full view of each other to honor-system it.

I probably wasn’t as clear as I should have been about screens. They are rarely used, but are always used at the most serious events. They are occasionally used at lower level events at national championships.

I’ve never played with screens, but Numbers Nerd (who regularly posted on the AO) certainly has. I think 4sigma (from the AO) has, and probably Klaymen (from the ao) has. All of those would have been in the “lower level events at national championships”, in that the events they were in had limited upper limits, so that none of the US players at the world championships would have been eligible.

(Last year Klaymen was perhaps at the screens level of an unlimited event that did include several of those players now at the world championships. His team finished 18th of 24, where 16 teams would qualify for the single-elimination phase, which in a normal year would certainly use screens. Maybe the 24 team level would have. But last year was not normal. That entire event was online. So I’m sure serious security while he played was in effect. I just don’t know what.)

I’ve been close to screen level twice in those lower level events (limited events that world championship competitors wouldn’t be eligible to enter). One year we got to the 16-team single-elimination phase, but that year screens didn’t start until the round of 8. The next year screens started in the round of 16, but we were eliminated just before the single elimination phase.

By the way, another “anti-cheating” mechanism that is almost universal in events now is bidding boxes. You never say your bids. You have a set of cards, organized efficiently, and just pull out the relevant card. It does prevent a pair from agreeing that you’ll say three no-trump forcefully if partner had better pass if he knows what’s good for him, and three no-trump much less forcefully if you’re doubtful.

Trying to signal partner by inflection would definitely be cheating, and would be relatively rare even in the absence of bidding boxes, IMO. But they are still popular with players, because even if not trying to convey a message, partner might still be able to draw some conclusions from how a bid was said (and very hard for a bidder to say all bids in exactly the same tone.) Rules prohibit you from taking any action based on partner’s tone, but almost impossible to enforce, and tough for the partner who is trying to comply. (“I think my partner’s tone suggests passing, so rules tell me NOT to pass UNLESS it is the only reasonable action with my hand. Without the tone, I think I would pass, but is anything else reasonable?” Much better not to hear partner’s tone, and not have to worry about that.)

It sounds pretty sophisticated, and I don’t know Bridge. Wondering if they enforce a precise time that the bid expires, so I can’t bid in 2 seconds versus 8 and have that affect the other player.

Although if bids are sequential and there’s an opponent between you, maybe that circumvents it (or gets excessively meta anyway.)

With screens, you only know the total time spent by the two players on the other side. In many cases, especially when a player who has already passed once or twice in that auction, passes again, which player probably spent the time. I don’t think there is any concern that pairs would try to communicate, in a screens environment, by time taken to bid. In the World Championships, even 8 seconds would be unusually fast for a bid.

In these World Championships, there have been formal complaints related to time to bid, but NOT AFAIK alleging cheating. Just as I referred to basing actions on partner’s tone, it is against the rules to base actions on partner’s timing. Anyone can think for a long time, even several minutes, before bidding, and that is fine. BUT partner cannot take action based on that timing. If your partner takes a long time (or acts unusually quickly), you cannot take an action suggested by that if you have a reasonable alternative.

E.g., if the opponents bid 4 hearts, and partner thinks a long time and passes when the auction suggests perhaps he was thinking of bidding 4S, you cannot then bid 4S unless you have no reasonable alternative.

Or if the opponents bid 4 hearts and your partner doubles very quickly (presumably expecting to set it), you cannot pass if you have a reasonable alternative. (Often you would not.)

At that level, complaints based on action too quick are virtually unheard of. Complaints about not taking a reasonable alternative after partner’s slow action less common but happen from time to time. In those cases, there is never an accusation that the player delayed in order to send info to his partner, just that the partner took inappropriate action after the delay. (Such a complaint can be justified even if the action partner takes is what he would have done with normal tempo, but there was a reasonable alternative that the tempo should have forced him to take.)

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I’ve played behind screens several times, and in general it is more fun. If you make a mistake, you don’t have to see partner glaring, and vice versa. And I remember one auction (I was fourth to speak, and RHO was my screenmate) that went 1C-P-P-2S-3C-3S-6C-P-, and then a very loud “J---- Ch----” from (if I recall right) Bart Bramley on the other side when the bidding tray went back under the screen.

The one challenging thing with screens is that forgetting your agreements can be more costly than in a regular game. Your screenmate gets an explanation from you, the other opponent gets a non-matching explanation from your partner, and the opponents end up not being on the same page not only for the rest of the auction, but even on defense. (Imagine if they play first signal count when you break a suit, but one of them was told declarer had shown precise length in that suit and the other one had not been. An appeal based on this decided the outcome of the Reisinger back in 2005 or so–whichever one near that year was in Pittsburgh.)

Results of the Quarters, for US teams.

Bermuda Bowl (open) - one team (intact) beat Hungary 191-144. The other team (missing two players, and using a substitute for 16 boards) lost to Norway 175-116. The two who didn’t play were a regular partnership, and conceivably one was healthy but would not fit with those who were.

In the Women’s the US was chrushed by Turkey, 241-116, and withdrew before the final 16 boards. Without being positive with only 2 sessions played today, I gather one member was unavailable, since only 5 played, one in an unfamiliar partnership.

One US D’Orsi Trophy (seniors) team used only 4 players in the last 3 sessions, so likely 1 or 2 were Covid-positive. Those 4 were 2 regular partnerships. They lost to India 150-146.

The other US Senior team lost to Denmark 183-152. All 6 members played.

The US mixed team beat Latvia 212-185. They used a substitute pair in the first two sessions today. For the last session today they used only one substitute. They had started using substitutes yesterday. Even though they had 4 team members healthy enough to play today, they absolutely needed at least one sub since the healthy players were 3 male, 1 female and it was a mixed team event.

The Mixed team sub who played the last 3 quarterfinal sessions today, and also some yesterday, is (as I would expect) playing the first (and only) semifinal session today. She (Amber Lin) is not as clearly World Class as the other players. A 2019 Princeton grad, she has done very well in some major US team championships, but not finished first or second. (Anyone who has qualified for the last day of the BAM teams has done very well. She’s also won the open flight of the Grand National Teams for a very good district, but did not make the knockout phase at the Nationals.)

ETA: and her results at these championships suggest she is World Class.

Latvia is really pissed about the results and is complaining. There is at least some validity to their complaints, but there’s little chance anything will change: the semifinals are being played, without Latvia.

In addition to their complaints about the first substitutions (which had little validity except that they had inadequate time to prepare to play unfamiliar opponents), they now are complaining about the switch before the last semifinal session (when the original team member came back.) Rules aren’t in terms of substitutions, but replacements. So Chris Williken (the original member) had been replaced by Kevin Rosenberg (the new male), leaving a team of 2 original males, 1 replacement male, 1 original female (or maybe still 2 original females, even though only one was healthy), 1 replacement female. Then apparently Chris Williken could not replace Kevin Rosenberg (who was able to play), and per Latvia’s interpretation of what happened, maybe correct, he replaced the unhealthy female who had not been replaced. Problem, per Latvia: that meant the team was 4 males and 2 females, and rules specified 3 and 3. I don’t understand enough about what happened or the conditions of contest to know if that was a violation.

Other serious part of the Latvian objection, which certainly seems to be valid. Since Chris Williken had been replaced for testing positive, he absolutely should not have been able to play in session 6 of the quarters (about 48 hours after the positive test) even if he had subsequently tested negative.

Very interesting, but no one expects anything to come of it. The US team is playing today, with Chris Williken and Amber Lin as a pair in each session, and after 4 sessions (3 today) of 6 in the semis, US Mixed leads Italy 128-100. A nice lead, but far from a sure thing.

US open team leads Switzerland by 27 at the same point. Some margins in other events are larger, but there are two semifinal matches where the lead is only 6.

Netherlands leads Norway by 88 in the other open semifinal. Probably not enough for Norway to concede before session 5, but if Norway still trails by 88 with 16 boards to play there’s a good chance of withdrawal before session 6.

Mixed lost 5th segment by 4, so still led by 23 with 16 to go, then won last segment huge (by 49; since trailing Italy may be taken lots of gambles). So they’re in the finals, against France. They’ve started strong, up 26 after 8 boards.

They’re the only US team in the finals of an event. Men’s lead after 4 was apparently only 20, they lost all of that and 10 more in segment 5, then lost segment 6 by 38, so they are out.

:sad: Even though don’t remember ever hearing her name before these World Championships (I must have seen it in some bridge magazines), I was pleased that Amber Lin was doing so well as a late fill in. Most likely she won’t be playing in the rest of the finals, since one of the sick original women’s players has recovered and is playing the current session of the finals. OTOH, the current session is session 2, and Amber did play in session 1 (the first session of the finals today), which the US won by 2 imps.

Italy (the team the US Mixed beat in the semis) also protested the substitution/replacement history of the US team, and requested that Italy be granted the spot in the finals. Appeal was rejected.

In the finals, US trails France by 9 after 2 of 6 16-board segments. They should gave kept using Amber Lin. j/k. I’ve watched some of the boards online on BBO, and the original team member Dana Berkowitz is doing fine. Unfortunately let a 5C contract make that could be defeated easily (seeing all 4 hands) and was defeated at the other table, but her defense could have been right. Neither Dana Berkowitz nor Amber Lin would be there if they weren’t excellent players.

News flash: Segment 3 is just starting, and Amber Lin is playing.

ETA: bonus news flash: Dana Berkowitz is also playing, at the other table. That means the other female (an original team member) is sitting out this set. I think most would recognize her as a stronger player than either Amber or Dana, but partnerships matter. My impression is that the two males who are playing are stronger than the male who is sitting out.

Segment 3 over (and today over). Mixed team trails by 21. A shame that the hand where the French played 2S in both rooms, going down in both (one on a misunderstanding, playing a 4-1 fit) was not vulnerable.

Also that France had a misunderstanding (I think, but possibly not) and played a 6S doubled sacrifice in a 5-3 fit instead of a 6H doubled sacrifice in a 5-5 fit, but still gained imps, in fact the same imps they would have gained in 6H doubled. 6S doubled could have been set more than it was (but not enough compensate for the 6D slam that had been bid and would have made), but the East defender could not expect the French declarer, who had not supported hearts, to have 5 hearts.

Final 3 sessions tomorrow. In the Opens, Netherlands leads Switzerland by only 1.6 (fractional, since there was a 1.4 imp carryover.) In both Womens and Seniors, the margin is in the 40s. Originally all four events were supposed to have a playoff for third, but none of those are being played.

Now after segment 4 US mixed team trails France by 25. Bermuda Bowl (open) Switzerland now leads by 14.4. Both the others got slightly tighter, but difference still in the 30’s.

Amber Lin did play segment 4, not playing segment 5 (US now trailing by 29 with only 3 boards left in segment 5)

Mixed starting segment 6 (final) down 37. Amber Lin not playing. 37 is still the second closest margin. Bermuda Bowl only 2 apart (which is really 1.4 or 2.4, I don’t know which)

Final results:

Open: Switzerland over Netherlands by 3.
Womens: Sweden over Turkey by 83.
Seniors: Poland over India by 43.
Mixed: France over US by 36.