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Is this suspicious? possible cheating?

#1 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 11:57

This hand from a BBO club game has been brought to my attention:



Most people at the club play a weak NT as do this EW pair, and the almost unanimous score (apart from a 2 contract at one table) was 1NT by South making anywhere from six to ten tricks. This East opens 1NT on a nine count shutting South out of the auction, which happens to make because the diamonds run thanks to a 3-3 break, two black aces, and the defence can only cash a limited number of hearts. Their +90 is a stonking top.

EW are a married couple and are not beginners so they have the capability of looking at each others hands. This hand didn't come up against me (so I am not in a position to report it), but if it had, would it be reasonable for me to make the director aware that the East bid is suspicious?
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#2 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 12:06

I see no legitimate bridge reason for 1N.

I’d report the hand

By itself it’s nothing more than a curiosity, since people are allowed todo strange things, and indeed the game would be very different otherwise. However, if they are illegally communicating, which is merely a possible this stage, there will, if people take note, be a series of suspicious actions.

Note that they wouldn’t know if diamonds split, absent self-kibitzing, and -200 would be a mp disaster
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#3 User is offline   LBengtsson 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 12:57

what happened on other hands that they played? bidding 1NT weak at red/white opposite a passed partner in 3rd seat with 9 high points does look suspicious to me, and probably >99% of most other players. period.
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#4 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 13:07

Anecdote is the singular of data.

Someone made a bid
It worked
Someone else didn't like it

If you can present a pattern of evidence, great
If you don't want to invest time / effort in doing so... Well, that's fine as well.

But posting random /isolated hands doesn't lead anything good or even interesting
Alderaan delenda est
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#5 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 13:08

View PostLBengtsson, on 2021-September-04, 12:57, said:

what happened on other hands that they played? bidding 1NT weak at red/white opposite a passed partner in 3rd seat with 9 high points does look suspicious to me, and probably >99% of most other players. period.


I haven't looked at other hands but they finished second with 60.4%, not that this implies anything in itself.
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#6 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 13:38

Hm. What does whether they are beginners have to do with whether they have the ability to self-kibitz? Also, self-kibitzing wouldn't show how the diamonds break, would it?

That said, while I think there's too much paranoia about this kind of thing, I'd still report it unless the TD/club management is known not to do anything with such reports (in which case there's no point in reporting it).
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#7 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 13:47

View Postblackshoe, on 2021-September-04, 13:38, said:

Hm. What does whether they are beginners have to do with whether they have the ability to self-kibitz?


Because beginners are more likely to do strange or seemingly irrational things through lack of experience, so things like this could be attributed to that, and so I would be inclined to give a beginner pair far more slack when it came to something like what happened here*. An experienced pair should know better, therefore very strange actions online that happen to work perfectly by a partnership who live together raise more of a question mark.

*Example of what happened against me once against a pair of beginners in a F2F club session:
1 P 1 P
2 P P P

2 was a top for them. Opener had 4-4 in the minors and a weak NT hand. The room were opening 1NT and going off. 2D was cold.
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#8 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 13:54

It seems your answer to my question is "nothing, but beginners are more likely to do strange things than non-beginners". Fair enough.
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#9 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 15:05

View Postblackshoe, on 2021-September-04, 13:38, said:

Hm. What does whether they are beginners have to do with whether they have the ability to self-kibitz? Also, self-kibitzing wouldn't show how the diamonds break, would it?

That said, while I think there's too much paranoia about this kind of thing, I'd still report it unless the TD/club management is known not to do anything with such reports (in which case there's no point in reporting it).

Self kibitzing does allow one to see all the hands. One self-kibitzs by logging on under a second identity and then kibitzing…jibs see all 4 hands

I think, and I have reasons for this belief, that most collusive cheaters in online club level games are speaking to each other.I think that a lot of couples playing from the same home find it hard to resist sometimes ‘helping’ partner…and this morphs, via the notorious slippery slope, into increasingly egregious behaviour


None of that is to say that this hand is strong evidence of anything. But a self-kibitzing opener would know for sure that he had 7 tricks.
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#10 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 15:32

"Sorry I lost concentration, for some reason I thought partner opened 1" there are lots of possible explanations, need to look at a lot more than one hand.
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#11 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 16:07

Look at it the other way.
What are the odds of NOT finding a hand that looks a bit unusual during any tournament.
I'm a terrible Bridge player, and I have it on expert advice that I know absolutely nothing about the game.
But sometimes, I get a good result, and it surprises me as well.
What doesn't surprise me is that I sometimes get a good result even when the opposition is stronger than me.
I've played in many Club games and seen (relative to the others) weak pairs win - it happens all the time.

If you read this forum as your only source of information about Bridge, you could easily conclude that it is the consummate game of skill and that because all the cards are dealt, the score that wins is entirely due to the difference in the relative ability of the individual players. This is, of course, ridiculous.
The variance associated with skill level is sufficiently smaller than the variance associated with random factors.
This leads to the psychological phenomenon of intermittent positive reward, which reinforces participants interest. Can you imagine how many players there would be if you were docked masterpoints when you failed to do the 'right' thing? Nobody would play.

One reason this happens is that the scoring system in Bridge is not held to an external standard.
If you take a normal exam (in mathematics where there is a 'right' answer), then your result is judged against an external truth.
Bridge is also a maths exam. There is also an external truth (the par score from the double-dummy), but the results aren't normed against this; they're normed against the 'truth' that everyone else believes in.
One enjoyable result is to make an accurate sacrifice, but this relies on enough other people succeeding and enough other people failing.
The outcome (score) has absolutely no relationship at all to 'truth'.
This approach to statistics is a self-licking ice-cream cone.





non est deus ex machina; även maskiner behöver lite kärlek, J'ai toujours misé sur l'étrange gentillesse des robots.
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#12 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 18:58

Quote

Is this suspicious?


Questionable enough to make a note about it to see if a pattern develops. If you see a hand where responder has a normal game forcing hand opposite 1NT, and they don't bid game when opener has psyched like this then it gets beyond suspicious.
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#13 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 19:46

View Postmikeh, on 2021-September-04, 15:05, said:

I think, and I have reasons for this belief, that most collusive cheaters in online club level games are speaking to each other.I think that a lot of couples playing from the same home find it hard to resist sometimes ‘helping’ partner…and this morphs, via the notorious slippery slope, into increasingly egregious behaviour


I have "seen" this although I don't know if they are speaking with each other, or just sitting next to each other so they can see each others screens. I was checking a suspicious pair as part of N Hammond's anti-cheating opening lead project. Turns out I know this one pair fairly well as they play in my neck of the woods, and have even played one of two live team events with them a few years ago pre-Covid.

Socially, they're very nice people and friends of one of my partners, but I would rate their game as decent club players, intermediate+, certainly not expert. They fairly frequently underlead aces on opening lead, sometimes underleading AK with no compelling bridge reasons. They "always" found partner with the king or a void, or when underleading AK the queen. And when they lead unsupported aces, partner has a singleton or void.

Occasionally one of them would misclick a bid and they would make a miraculous recovery in the next few bids to get back on track.

One of the more memorable misclick hands.



Opening 1 bidder actually had a prime 18 HCP and was supposed to rebid 2NT, but bid 1NT by mistake which showed about 12-14 HCP since they play strong NTs. No problem. Responder rebid 3 with a ratty 5 card suit and 8 HCP. What's the problem?

Another one:



South has a normalish hand with 6 OK clubs and 12 HCP. North shows ~7-10 or so. Looks like a partscore hand, except???

North actually has a 16 HCP opening 1NT. I know exactly what happened because it has happened to me playing with robots. You look at your hand and say to yourself that's an opening 1NT. And if you aren't paying attention, you click 1NT before it registers to you that there's already been a bid.

South has a panic attack seeing that partner has misclicked. Bidding 2 couldn't be faulted, but South really panicked and rebid 2NT showing a big hand. Most Norths would breathe a sigh of relief at not being left in 1NT, and would probably just bid a slam (16 HCP opposite 18-19 for a 2NT rebid). Fortunately, this North was able to just find a raise to 3NT since slam didn't have a chance.

A final misclick hand



Looks pretty routine, right? Except North actually had long hearts should have bid 2 to transfer to hearts. South had 4 spades and 3 hearts. South has no choice but to accept the transfer to 2. After North shows a 2 suiter with 3, South still has no choice but to return to spade holding 4 spades. After North shows 5-5 or better, South should still have no choice but to bid 4 holding 4 of them. This time, South couldn't hold kayfabe and passed 4 rather than accept a terrible result in spades.

They are unbeatable in competitive auctions. They always find a decent fit at the right level when they balance even on the occasions when they have to balance in the 4 card suit instead of the 5 card suit, and make world class penalty doubles all the time.

Somewhat surprisingly, they only "average" in the low to mid 60% range.

Yes, they have been reported to the National Recorder, but it's been months with no action.
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#14 User is offline   LBengtsson 

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Posted 2021-September-04, 23:09

The word I cannot see in this thread = maybe I missed it? - is MIS-CLICK. If I had a dollar - I will settle for a krona also :) _ for every mis-click in online bridge I would be millionaire :) :) :)
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#15 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted 2021-September-05, 01:58

View Postjohnu, on 2021-September-04, 19:46, said:

Somewhat surprisingly, they only "average" in the low to mid 60% range.


That is a very high average for a non-expert pair in a club field. At my club the only pair who averaged 60+% during F2F bridge was the best pair in the club who would be classed as experts. Even if you play perfectly with full knowledge of the hand layouts you are going to get occasional bad boards because sometimes the opposition find the perfect action, and your score on a board is dependant on pairs you have no influence over. For example, if in a competitive auction you bid to 3H, your opponents bid 3S, you can make nine tricks in hearts, the opponents can make nine tricks in spades, you are getting a bottom if the field is allowing you to play in 3H no matter how much knowledge of the unseen hands you have.
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#16 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-September-05, 13:32

View Postjohnu, on 2021-September-04, 18:58, said:

Questionable enough to make a note about it to see if a pattern develops. If you see a hand where responder has a normal game forcing hand opposite 1NT, and they don't bid game when opener has psyched like this then it gets beyond suspicious.

You are missing the point. After a 3rd seat WNT, it is very rare to bid game and if you do it is being done on distributional grounds. Honestly, I would be happier with this psyche if missing the A. It makes it less likely that we are down against nothing. It is not a completely unknown gambit in Acol land, particularly for Benji pairs who do not have a w2 opening available. I would not personally have opened 1NT on this hand but I have a certain admiration for a player that is willing to take the risk involved. Of course, it is not 100% certain to have been a psyche but a 3rd seat 1NT with a weak hand, a long minor and 2-3 cards in both majors is such a well-known ploy, it would hardly be a huge surprise.
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#17 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2021-September-05, 14:50

View PostGilithin, on 2021-September-05, 13:32, said:

You are missing the point. After a 3rd seat WNT, it is very rare to bid game and if you do it is being done on distributional grounds. Honestly, I would be happier with this psyche if missing the A. It makes it less likely that we are down against nothing. It is not a completely unknown gambit in Acol land, particularly for Benji pairs who do not have a w2 opening available. I would not personally have opened 1NT on this hand but I have a certain admiration for a player that is willing to take the risk involved. Of course, it is not 100% certain to have been a psyche but a 3rd seat 1NT with a weak hand, a long minor and 2-3 cards in both majors is such a well-known ploy, it would hardly be a huge surprise.

Obviously responder can't have a game forcing hand opposite a weak NT if a passed hand or they would have opened (barring some very distributional hand that was passed for various reasons). It should have been obvious that I was talking about a 1st or 2nd seat opening.

If you are limiting this to 3rd seat openings, then one warning sign would be responder not competing with a clear cut competitive bid that is likely to go down too many when opener isn't close to the agreed range.
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#18 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2021-September-05, 16:58

View PostAL78, on 2021-September-05, 01:58, said:

That is a very high average for a non-expert pair in a club field.


I needed to put a smiley face on that comment. In live games I would expect this pair would probably average in the mid 40% range at best and to almost never have a 60% game.
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#19 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2021-September-05, 18:12

View Postjohnu, on 2021-September-04, 19:46, said:

I have "seen" this although I don't know if they are speaking with each other, or just sitting next to each other so they can see each others screens. I was checking a suspicious pair as part of N Hammond's anti-cheating opening lead project. Turns out I know this one pair fairly well as they play in my neck of the woods, and have even played one of two live team events with them a few years ago pre-Covid.

Socially, they're very nice people and friends of one of my partners, but I would rate their game as decent club players, intermediate+, certainly not expert. They fairly frequently underlead aces on opening lead, sometimes underleading AK with no compelling bridge reasons. They "always" found partner with the king or a void, or when underleading AK the queen. And when they lead unsupported aces, partner has a singleton or void.

Occasionally one of them would misclick a bid and they would make a miraculous recovery in the next few bids to get back on track.

One of the more memorable misclick hands.



Opening 1 bidder actually had a prime 18 HCP and was supposed to rebid 2NT, but bid 1NT by mistake which showed about 12-14 HCP since they play strong NTs. No problem. Responder rebid 3 with a ratty 5 card suit and 8 HCP. What's the problem?

Another one:



South has a normalish hand with 6 OK clubs and 12 HCP. North shows ~7-10 or so. Looks like a partscore hand, except???

North actually has a 16 HCP opening 1NT. I know exactly what happened because it has happened to me playing with robots. You look at your hand and say to yourself that's an opening 1NT. And if you aren't paying attention, you click 1NT before it registers to you that there's already been a bid.

South has a panic attack seeing that partner has misclicked. Bidding 2 couldn't be faulted, but South really panicked and rebid 2NT showing a big hand. Most Norths would breathe a sigh of relief at not being left in 1NT, and would probably just bid a slam (16 HCP opposite 18-19 for a 2NT rebid). Fortunately, this North was able to just find a raise to 3NT since slam didn't have a chance.

A final misclick hand



Looks pretty routine, right? Except North actually had long hearts should have bid 2 to transfer to hearts. South had 4 spades and 3 hearts. South has no choice but to accept the transfer to 2. After North shows a 2 suiter with 3, South still has no choice but to return to spade holding 4 spades. After North shows 5-5 or better, South should still have no choice but to bid 4 holding 4 of them. This time, South couldn't hold kayfabe and passed 4 rather than accept a terrible result in spades.

They are unbeatable in competitive auctions. They always find a decent fit at the right level when they balance even on the occasions when they have to balance in the 4 card suit instead of the 5 card suit, and make world class penalty doubles all the time.

Somewhat surprisingly, they only "average" in the low to mid 60% range.

Yes, they have been reported to the National Recorder, but it's been months with no action.



I help out the AcBL in this area.I can tell you that it takes considerable time and effort, by several people, to build a case that can be properly put before a judicial body (a body within the ACBL, not an actual court).

There are, I gather, only a few volunteer analysts such as myself, and I suspect (but do not know) that there have been many reports to look through before assigning cases to the analysts for preparation of a comprehension written charge/brief.

I won’t go into details, partly because I am only part of a chain of people involved in any one case, and partly because I do have an obligation to remain mostly silent. For example, I would never comment on any player/pair I was assigned, nor discuss any actual hands

However, I think I can safely say that the behaviour you have described appears consistent with behaviours observed in pairs who have been charged and disciplined. However, any investigation will be slow, and few will ever know about it, or it’s results, until and unless discipline is handed out. Even then details will likely never be made public.

So while I have no idea who you are discussing, and no idea what, if anything, is happening, I can tell you that the lack of apparent action is not proof that nothing is being done.
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#20 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2021-September-05, 19:30

View Postmikeh, on 2021-September-05, 18:12, said:

So while I have no idea who you are discussing, and no idea what, if anything, is happening, I can tell you that the lack of apparent action is not proof that nothing is being done.

First, thanks for volunteering to help the ACBL.

While the pace is slow, it does look like the ACBL has disciplined more members since the start of Covid than anytime in history. Having full hand records with bid by bid, play by play detail makes it easier to find the patterns of cheats, with the possibility of some computer based screening to locate suspicious players.

That being said, it would be disheartening for the uninformed players to find out that a small percentage of their opponents have been cheating them for months or more than a year, have been reported, and are still cheating, months afterwards. And some of the penalties are only 6 months, way too short IMHO. I don't know if a 6 months penalty is some kind of plea bargain for accepting guilt, but still to short. And there is reportedly a huge backlog of cases to be investigated.

If I was the bridge czar, I would take a relatively quick look at the suspicious hands. If the hands strongly suggest cheating, I would notify the players that they are under investigation and that penalties for confirmed cheating after that date would be subject to much more severe penalties than before the warning. Hopefully the suspect players would either stop playing, or stop cheating. The games would get a lot cleaner a lot faster.

If the players stop cheating at that time, their results won't be as good which will be more negative data points for them. If they continue to cheat after being warned, there will be more cases of cheating to be detected. The obvious and fatal problem is that I am not the bridge czar.
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