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Allegations of cheating mostly revolve around the use of unauthorised information, hereafter referred to as UI.

At the table, face to face, UI is all around us: bids are too fast or too slow; partner reacts positively or negatively to a bid or play; somebody alerts at the wrong time, or offers a wrong explanation. (Bridge players are only human.)

Getting UI is not illegal: making use of UI is 100% against the Laws and spirit of the game.

How does this apply to online play?

When clubs were closed by Covid hundreds of players signed up to BBO, trying to preserve their mental health. Many rather enjoyed the opportunity to play from home.

But there was a new way to get UI. There is no limit to the number of BBO user accounts that one person can hold. There are perfectly valid reasons why you might wish to have a second account. They are essential for teachers and useful for Tournament Directors. Or you might wish to have two devices running in order to watch both tables of a match simultaneously. Nothing wrong with that. But if you use a second account to watch your own table (or that of your teammates) that is cheating. If you see all the cards you can play a perfect game – but it is not Bridge as we know it. Why would anyone want to play this way? To look good to your peers or students? Master points? Only the individuals who have done it can answer that question.

This type of cheating is easily stopped by setting competitions to “no kibitzers” which the SBU does for all its events We strongly recommend it to all clubs. As a result self-kibbitzing seems to be on the wane.

Another way to cheat on BBO is via collusion. Partners could simply talk on the telephone and relay information about their hands to each other. Sharing of computer screens is also possible for the computer literate. This is a highly risky strategy: there is an Investigation Panel which can analyse performance and demonstrate statistically that good results cannot be explained by chance. Thankfully allegations of this type of cheating have been low.

Much more common, and still perceived to be a major problem, is playing in the same room as your partner.

It is all too easy to talk to each other, or to compare hands when you have a decision to make, or just to glance at partner’s screen. Even if you sit far apart there will still likely be UI when one of you inadvertently expresses an opinion. Best to play in different rooms, out of hearing distance!

If you think that sort of thing is not important, just think for a moment how damaging such actions can be. You may deprive another pair of a high placing that might make their day. You may even win some money. The whole event has been compromised and the results are corrupt.

The SBU knows that very few pairs actively cheat in this way. But to the small number that do, whether deliberately or not, how about stopping RIGHT NOW to let us all play in a fair competition? If we find you out and take the case to a Tribunal, the consequences for you and your bridge future could be rather severe.

If you think your opponents are doing strange things that seem remarkably successful, inform Iain Taylor (Chair of the SBU’s Investigation Panel) at Iain Taylor

A report to him is not an accusation. It simply brings to his attention something that you found strange that might justify some analysis and may be of interest when combined with other reported incidents. A combination of reports can turn straws in the wind into a convincing haystack. All reports received are completely confidential and the name of the person who makes the report is never divulged, even if the case goes to the Disciplinary Tribunal. If strange but successful actions occur with some frequency, then maybe there is something untoward happening. If it is an outlier, then it will be properly ignored.

To all the co-habiting couples and others who play the game fairly and honestly online, keep up the good work and continue to enjoy the game we know as Bridge.

Laws and Ethics Committee

July 2023