This is my first report about the German Coughing Scandal - replaced by a longer piece for the SBU news available here.
I was very surprised when someone told me that they'd seen a story about Bridge in a newspaper. Of course, it was the cheating scandal, where the German Senior Pair of Michael Elinescu and Entscho Wladow have had their gold medals from last year's world championship removed, for coughing to each other to give special signals. They have also been banned from World Bridge Federation (WBF) events for life as a pair, and for ten years individually.
The German team. Wladow then Elinescu are on the far left.
I've been looking into this. It was an impressive investigation by the WBF, and I am satisfied the German pair are guilty.
Here's a summary of their coughing code. There's two opportunities to cough. Firstly, you can cough once you've got your cards and before the auction starts to show a void or singleton, using this code:
|1 cough||Club shortage|
|2 coughs||Diamond shortage|
|3 coughs||Heart shortage|
|4 coughs||Spade shortage|
Secondly, just before your partner makes the opening lead you can cough to indicate which suit you want lead, with the same code as before.
Apparently, there's long been a suspicion of this German pair. They are known to be not especially ethical, and have in the past for example just said they "can't remember" to defend themselves in tricky situations. They were investigated in 2008 and 2009 with no conclusion. The USA team wanted them monitored for this final, but the WBF refused. So one of the USA team, Eddie Wold, took it upon himself to discreetly note down on his scorecard when the coughs occurred, so he could later match this up with the hands they had. After showing this evidence to the WBF, they agreed to install video cameras (which happens often anyway, so isn't too suspicious) for the next two segments of the final. Based on this, they've been convicted, in a hearing which just happened in the USA.
Here's all the relevant links I've found, if you want to find out more:
- Summary from The Telegraph Newspaper here.
- Initial Request from USA for this pair to be investigated, including Spreadsheet matching coughs to hands here.
- Full technical report of the WBF hearing here.
- Video feed of the final here.
- Rebuttal from German Bridge Union here.
- Article from a few years ago subtly implying the pair is up to something here.
The initial request from the USA also has several further allegations, suggesting a more complicated cheating code involving how they pick up their cards. The rebuttal from the Germans is interesting, and points out that sometimes the coughs don't match the alleged code. I watched a bit of the video myself. It makes for very dull viewing, and as you can't actually see the cards you can't work out if the coughs are matching or not. I did notice one bit though where Elinescu is on lead and Wladow doesn't cough at all.
One things for sure - there'll be plenty of gags next time someone accidentally coughs at the bridge club!
Read my full report here.