in the recent World Championship in Buenos Aires, its seventh world title in a
row, was overshadowed by the sorry news on the final day of the tournament that
Great Britain's leading pair, Terence Reese and Boris Schapiro, had been
accused of cheating. Although both Reese and Schapiro have emphatically denied
the charges, British Captain Ralph Swimer, on hearing the evidence, conceded
his team's matches against Argentina and the U.S.
What follows are
firsthand reports by two men who were involved, John Gerber, captain of the
U.S. team, and Mr. Reese, one of the world's great players.
My part in the
drama in Buenos Aires began on Friday afternoon, May 21, when B. Jay Becker, a
member of my team, told me that he had strong reason to believe that the
leading British pair, Terence Reese and Boris Schapiro, were cheating. Becker
had become suspicious of the British pair early in the week and had spoken
about the matter to his partner, Dorothy Hayden, and to Alan Truscott of The
New York Times.
Britain had just
started the day's play against Italy, and fortunately Reese and Schapiro were
in the pit, a playing area surrounded by a temporary grandstand. It was the
only spot where the players could be seen in action. The other three tables of
play were closed to the public.
After I had
watched a few deals I was convinced that Reese and Schapiro were "playing
piano," using a scale of four notes. On every deal they would put one, two,
three or four fingers firmly behind their cards, in full view of each
As captain of the
U.S. team, I clearly had to report these facts to Robin MacNab and Waldemar von
Zedtwitz, president and president emeritus of the American Contract Bridge
League. Both men watched Reese and Schapiro play and observed the finger
signals in action.
On a series of
five deals I noted on the back of a scorecard the number of fingers shown by
each player. Later I found that Mrs. Hayden had kept a similar record, which
covered almost all the deals in the session of play. Subsequently this record
proved to be of great significance, although at the time we had no idea what
these figures could mean.
During the second
afternoon session Reese and Schapiro did not play together, but that night they
did, not in the pit but in one of the closed rooms. Von Zedtwitz had the right
to enter the closed rooms, and again he watched the signals in operation.
At 9 a.m. the
following morning I had a call from Truscott, who told me that the code had
been broken, and half an hour later he was in my room with a full explanation.
At 4 a.m. he had gone to an all-night restaurant with Becker and Mrs. Hayden,
and together they had compared the finger movements as noted by Mrs. Hayden
with the official records of the deals being played at the time.
The key to the
code was the heart suit. Whenever a player held one heart, one finger was
showing. When he held two hearts, two fingers were showing, and similarly with
three and four hearts. Two fingers spread meant five hearts, three fingers
spread indicated six, and so on.