In 2010 Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz, Israeli bridge players in their early 20s won the Junior and Youth team championships. As a result, they were selected to play in further tournaments with the worlds top players.
During the next few years they always finished at or near the top.
Major tournaments attract thousands of entrants but the arrival of new young talent is celebrated – older players worry the game is ageing.
Good young players stand out as, unlike chess, there are no prodigies – the game is experienced-based. The longer you play the better you get. When you’re young you don’t walk in and suddenly start winning events. Yet Fisher and Schwarz were holding their own – having ‘Sherlock-like’ intuition.
A Norwegian player Boye Brogeland became convinced they were cheating. He set up a website called Bridgecheaters.com and posted videos from the team championship at which F&S had won. The search for evidence became an international collaboration.
|A Swedish player Per-Ola Cullin noticed F&S made exemplary opening leads. (a bridge player who played the ideal opening lead on every hand would be like a tennis pro who never missed a first serve).
At tournaments, after bidding, the bidding tray and duplicate board needs to be moved before play. The pair sitting North-South always does this and F&S always wanted to sit N-S.
It turned out that on hands where N-S ended up as declarer and dummy they cleared the board and tray in the usual way. But when they were defending; meaning one of them would take the opening lead, they were wildly inconsistent, moving both the box and tray in different ways and positions to signal what they wanted led.
The charges against F&S (although still only allegations) led them to be dropped from the team. They are unlikely to compete again and certainly not as partners.