The History of Cheating in Bridge (Part 2)
Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 05/31/2016
Level: All Levels
In the previous article, we examined a famous case from 1965.
In this article, we have two cases from the 1970's.
At the Bermuda Bowl in 1975, journalist Bruce Keidan noticed some fancy footwork at the table. The fairly new screens (to prevent partners from seeing each other) didn't go all the way to the floor. Italians Gianfranco Facchini and Sergio Zucchelli were touching each other's shoes under the table in an apparent attempt to relay information. They went on to be known as the "foot soldiers" (humorously also called "the vegetables") and were never heard from much after this event. Now the screens go all the way to the floor.
In 1976, there was a scandal that hit home for me. I was 17 years old and idolized my namesake. A famous Larry Cohen had been winning everything. I had just started attending bridge tournaments and in the hotel, I would often get phone messages intended for him. Before I ever got to meet him in person, I found out about cheating accusations during the 1976 U.S. team trials in Houston. Apparently, he and his partner, Dr. Richard Katz, were sending information by sniffs and coughs. There was never concrete proof, but the consensus opinion is that something nefarious was going on. Lawsuits were filed, but ultimately in 1982 the players were readmitted to ACBL but had to agree to never play together again (at least not until 1984 when they could submit an application request).
This went on to be known as the "Houston Affair" and it has haunted me ever since. History has a way of blurring time and facts. Many people read about the case and have no idea that the Larry Cohen indicted is not me. Edgar Kaplan once tried to differentiate us in match reports by referring to the "other" Larry Cohen as the "wicked Larry Cohen." I've actually met the other Larry Cohen (and played against him) several times and he seems to be a very nice guy. Maybe we can just use middle initials. He is "Larry T. Cohen." I am "Larry N. Cohen." No matter what I do, confusion and suspicion will always follow me.
Footnote: Larry T. Cohen passed away in February, 2017