Friday, 15 January 2010

In my previous article the focus was on hard cheating, but now is the time to address the issue of soft cheating at bridge. Although this is far more common than the hard stuff ( which is good news), the fact it goes on all the time in every club the world over is I'm afraid bad news. The softer forms of cheating tend to be either unplanned and opportunistic acts, or ones which are seemingly innocent and inadvertent........but acts which nevertheless provide players with unauthorised information they are clearly not entitled to. Perpetrators here take advantage of fortuitous situations that occasionally crop up during the course of bidding and play. Similarly, perpetrators take advantage of reading the tell-tale signs that their unwitting partners give away ( albeit unintentionally) with their facial expressions, sighs and hesitations. On occasions we see unscrupulous players using their knowledge about the laws of the game to an unfair advantage against unsuspecting beginners. Choosing to capitalise on an opponents ignorance, and unfortunate mistakes, can only be viewed by anyone looking on as taking an unfair advantage. However, the forms of soft cheating which seem to cause the greatest concern are :
  • allowing the opposition to score an incorrect result which is clearly not in their favour
  • inadvertantly overhearing discussions and about a board but not disclosing this fact to your opponents
  • " sandbagging " where an unnecessary pause before playing a card is done purely to persuade the opponent that you hold a particular card
  • " coffee housing " opponents, using improper remarks, gestures, hesitations and the like to confuse or mislead them........such as hesitating with a singleton
  • " fielding " bids when partner is known to psyche
  • asking questions during the auction purely to alert partner as to your holding, or to provide clues as to a possible defence
  • using extraneous or overt actions designed to frustrate or distract an opponent, often involving long stares, card snapping, finger drumming and feigned prolonged indecision over which card to play
  • modifying or with-holding information given to opponents when asked to explain any system bid
  • using your experience and knowledge of partner's mannerisms ( and habits ) to glean unauthorised information

Not all forms of soft cheating have been identified above, and in some cases the definitions provided may not be strictly correct, while others lack fuller explanations. However, the purpose of this second article was to stress the problems this form of cheating brings to the game. Not only is it a major headache for the adminisrators and tournament directors ( to detect and prove ), but it is a major irritant to all those players who play the game with honest intent. In my third and final article I shall attempt to explore the murky boundaries between soft cheating, an acquired 6th sense, and unsportmanslike behaviour.

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