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Tuesday 19 November 2019

Star players 'coughed' way to victory in bridge game

The two men were banned from partnering each other in future WBF fixtures
The two men were banned from partnering each other in future WBF fixtures

Cahal Milmo

IN the words of the World Bridge Federation, it was "reprehensible conduct" of the highest order. By dint of carefully timed coughs, two German doctors cheated their way to the pinnacle of this most genteel of card games.

After a two-day hearing in a Dallas hotel last week, the game's governing body declared that Michael Elinescu, (61), and 71-year-old Entscho Wladow (pictured) deployed subterfuge, in the form of a system of coded coughs, to win the bridge world finals during a fiercely contested tournament in Bali last year.

In a ruling that demolishes the image of bridge as a high-minded pursuit unsullied by trickery, the WBF found the Germans, both medical doctors, had broken law 73B of the card game, which states: "The gravest possible offence is for a partnership to exchange information through pre-arranged methods of communication."

The pair now face the ignominy of being stripped of the gold medals they won against American opponents in September. They have also been banned from playing any other WBF fixture together for life.

But rather than draw a line under an inglorious episode, the disciplinary hearing has sparked further strife after the German Bridge Federation (DBV) said its two-star players were considering an appeal.

In documents addressed to the WBF, the DBV insisted that, far from cheating, its two team members had fallen foul of the humid Bali weather and ineffectual air conditioning.

Ulrich Wenning, president of the DBV, wrote: "It has to be taken into consideration that – in consequence of the climatic conditions in Bali and the very low regulated air conditioner – almost every participant of the tournament was affected for health reasons, which caused that there were permanently sounds of coughing in the tournament hall. "The DBV said that Dr Wladow, in particular, suffered from an asthmatic cough and the conditions in Bali were therefore "extraordinarily irksome". In a further letter, the body said its own investigation had found no evidence of cheating.

To add to the strained relations between the German bridge fraternity and the WBF, the two doctors refused to travel to Dallas to attend the hearing, claiming they would not receive a fair trial because both the presiding chairman and the WBF prosecutor were Americans. (© Independent News Service)

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