Donna's Behind the Scenes Blog
     I have been approached by several authors wanting to write the story of the German Coughing Doctors.  I am the
one person involved in all aspects of the scandal from start to finish. For a period of time, I was unable to tell the story
until now because there were people involved in the behind the scenes of the scandal that are WBF staff and officials
which were key to outing the Germans.  One of these people have now passed and the others have given me
permission to write about their involvement.  It is now one year after the Dallas Hearing which found the Germans to
be cheating and two and a half years after the Championships.  It is time to tell the story to honor these gentlemen
that were instrumental in breaking the WBF's silence when it comes to cheaters.  It was not easy.  It took a village.  
But we got it done!  

     The year. 2013.  The event. D'orsi Senior Bowl, first presented in 2009, was named for Ernesto D'Orsi who was
Past President of the WBF, Member of the Committee of Honour and Member of the WBF Executive Council.  I first
meant Ernesto in 2009 when his country was hosting the World Champions and I was the NPC of the Nickell Team in
the Bermuda Bowl.  Our team won that year, so it was a particularly fun World Championship.  One of my duties as
NPC is to make sure my players have everything they need to perform their best at the bridge table.  This may be
arranging a piano, a bullet proof car, blue label, a certain type of nut or chocolate...the list goes on.  Ernesto made
arrangements for everything I requested...event the bullet proof car!  From that tournament on, he and I became
close ~ sort of in a grandfatherly way.  I always felt like I had a friend at the World Championships no matter what
team I NPC.  Ernesto left this world in 2015 and it was a sad day for everyone who knew him.  I give you this
background because the German Cheating Scandal was very political and if it were not for my friendship with Ernesto
and the Tournament Manager Maurizio Di Sacco, I seriously do not think that the German Doctors would have been
brought to justice.  

     As Tournament Manager, Maurizio is the person who makes the World Championship happen.  As NPC, I had
many occasions to see Maurizio in action at the NPC Meetings, Appeal Hearings, organizing the set up and take down,
and putting out the fires throughout the two week tournament.  Anyone who knows Maurizio will tell you that he is an
honest and trustworthy individual who loves the game of bridge and he will do whatever it takes to clean up the game.

     As NPC, a lot of my work is done before the Championships begin.  There are 22 teams in the D’orsi Bowl
including two USA teams. There is a 7 day round robin (three matches a day) in which 8 team qualify for the knockout
stage.  It is my job to collect information on our opponents including their convention cards, types of personalities,
etc.  Once I have analyzed and summarized the opponents’ conventions, I pull together defenses to any conventions
we might not be used to competing against.  And let me tell you, even in the seniors events there are some crazy
agreements out there! Since we play all 21 teams in the round robin, I create a guestimate of the number of imps we
“should” get from each team.  I also highlight teams in red that are “dangerous” which means that their talents don’t
match their results.  Of course, the German team was highlighted in red, underlined in yellow and circled in purple!  
You see, there has been whispers for almost 30 years about his pair but no one wanted to take them on.  Well, it was
unlucky for them that it was my team they meant in the finals!

     During the tournament, I make sure my players are in the best mental and physical state to play their best.  
While they are playing, I scout our opponents to watch for various things such as who plays when and in which
direction.  During the round robin, the seeding is blind. But most players have their habits which come out under
stress, particularly at the world championship level. I make notes on the teams that I believe will be in the KO stage
so I will know how to best line up my pairs.  The German doctors always played North/South ~ and now we know why!  

     When not watching live, I usually go into the viewgraph room which has all three event results viewing on big
screens while one Bermuda Bowl match is shown and discussed by the commentators.  This is a very cool way of
tracking your opponents because every board comes across the screen for all 66 teams.  Every once in a while, I would
hear a commentator say, “Wow, look at those German Doctors, they found the only lead to set the contract and no
other pair found it” or “that was some 6
those German Doctors bid, the only pair to find that slam.”  Since it was
looking like my team may meet the German team in the Knockout phase, I started paying attention to these
comments.  Then I actually read it in writing in the
Saturday, September 28th Daily Bulletin on page 6 in a write-up
for the quarterfinals against Indonesia.

     "The German doctors are renowned for their eccentric bidding so it was no surprise to see South take a speculative
view of his hand (at the other 23 tables only China’s Shi and Ju reached 5♣). North’s delightful holdings in the minors
meant declarer had eight easy tricks for three down; –500 and 4 IMPs to Germany."

     My team was now in the semi-finals facing off with Poland while Germany was playing France.  Even though
France was the defending champions (having beat my team in the Netherlands by 1 imp in 2011), I knew Germany was
determined to win this event which meant we were going to meet them in the finals.  Based on all that I had heard and
read throughout the round robin and the first two rounds of the knockout stage, I knew I wanted a monitor on the
German Doctors.  It was the only way to stop them!

     At the captains meeting following the semi-finals, I approached Tournament Manager Disacco and told him I was
not accusing anyone of anything but I wanted a monitor on the German Doctors.  He informed me that he could not
grant that request without proof.  I mentioned the commentators and the bulletin statement but that was not enough.  
Disacco did make the first key statement of the downfall of the Doctors when he said, “The WBF watched this pair
during 2008 and 2009 and we did not see anything.”  That statement haunted me throughout our team dinner as
everyone was discussing our strategy for beating Germany.  It then occurred to me that the WBF did not “see”
anything.  At that moment, I interrupted and said, “Look guys, the WBF did not “see” anything so they must be doing
whatever they are doing by making noise.  So listen.”

     The finals is a two-day, 3 sets a day made up of 16 boards each.  Knowing that the Doctors would not play Set One
(from my scouting reports), the team lined up accordingly and played a solid set finishing down 58-43 after the first 16
boards.  Enter the German Doctors for the final two sets of the day.  At the end of the 3rd segment, however, was the
2nd big statement of taking down the Doctors.  Eddie Wold came running out of the closed room waiving his
convention card.  He said that he listened carefully and noticed that both doctors had coughs but they only coughed at
the beginning of the auction and at the beginning of the play.  He marked his convention card each time they coughed
beside each board number.  He didn’t know what any of it meant, but he was sure they were sending signals with their
coughs.  As NPC, I took Eddie’s convention card to the Director-In-Charge who told me that it wasn’t enough proof for
the WBF to do anything.  Bring him more information.

     Deflated from the DIC’s response to Eddie’s coughing convention card, my team was down 102 to 76 and headed to
dinner. Well, for those who know me, I wasn’t letting this denial stand in the way of fighting for my team.  In fact, by
the time my team finally received our medals, my nick name had become “Bulldog.” All through the dinner, my team
members were convinced they were coughing to send messages and many ways of countering their coughs were offered
up.  Including, offering each of the players cough drops before the set.  Coughing when they coughed. Just out and out
telling them what we suspect they were doing.  We left dinner with no conclusive battle plan against the coughing

     After dinner, I took Wold’s convention card to Tournament Manager Disacco and explained the events of earlier
in the evening.  He said, “Let me talk to the counsel” which I now realize was code for let me talk to Ernesto D’Orsi.  
The bottom line is that the WBF is very political and very money driven.  It costs a lot of money to put on each World
Championship (~ $500,000) and they must be careful to not alienate those who support the Championships.  Perhaps
this is why there were whispers about this pair for over 30 years…but the time had come to end their reign of terror
on the game of bridge.

     While DiSacco went the political route, I took Wold’s convention card back to my computer and created an excel
spread sheet with the 32 hands from Sets 2 & 3 with hand shapes and opening leads.  I then entered Eddie’s cough
marks in the third column.  Sometimes one mark, two marks, three mark and four marks.  Working through the
night (I was one determined NPC), in the early hours of Day 2 of the finals, it was obvious that they were coughing
(shortness or lead) once for clubs, twice for diamonds, three times for hearts and four times for spades.  In other
words, they were cheating on every hand because when they didn’t cough, they held a balanced hand.  When you think
about having just this little bit of knowledge of your partner’s hand, you can make those esoteric bids that the bulletin
editors talked about.  

     I ran (literally ran) over to the playing area with this new found evidence against the doctors and ran (figuratively
ran) into DiSacco and starting telling him that I had worked out their code.  He stopped me and said, “We have
arranged for a monitor and video to be present when the Doctors play today.” He went on to say, “Don’t tell me your
code.  We want our Monitor to confirm your findings.”  And finally, “Don’t tell anyone about the video and monitor.  
Not even your team.  We want to have absolute proof.”  Well, this was tricky, because I knew my team members were
thinking of ways they could counter the doctors while play was going on.  As my team members arrived, I told them I
had figured out the code and that we should not take matters into our own hands.  I asked them to let the WBF do
their job and for them to go do their jobs!

     The Doctors did not play set four and we won back four imps.  I would tell my team members were extremely
distracted by what was going on with the Doctors.  Who wouldn’t be?  There is high stress at the world level without
cheaters coughing their way to a championship.  The Monitor Manolo Emimenti, DiSacco’s “right-hand man” and an
amazing mathematician, was in position.  Cameras were rolling.  I often get asked, why didn’t the Doctors notice the
monitor and cameras?  Well, Emimenti was acting as the BBO operator and there were cameras on all of the top
matches all week long…so to the Doctors, all was well…until they started coughing!

     At the end of Set 5 (16 boards), DiSacco came over to me and said the third key sentence of the takedown,
“Emimenti figured out the coughing code.” Music to my ears.  I said, “Let’s stop the match.  They can’t possibly be
allowed to win the event.”  I was told that this was not possible for two reasons: 1) There was no time to hold a
committee between Sets 5 and 6; 2) The WBF wanted more hands to solidify the proof and finally, 3) It must go
through the process.  Well, I loved the first sentence, “Emimenti figured out the coughing code.” But I could have
done without the rest.  

     I was now allowed to tell my team members that the WBF had convincing evidence that the Coughing Doctors
were cheating but that they must continue to play.  To say the least, my players were distracted and unable to play
their “A” game the last set.  Team USA lost to Germany 172-161 including an unbelievable jump to slam by the
Doctors which was cold. As I watched the final set on my computer, I was sitting with the German NPC (strange I
know) and I started mumbling to myself when they bid this slam something to the effect of “they have to be doing
something to bid like that!” His response was that they always have crazy bidding and sometimes it is good and
sometimes it is bad.  Well, let’s just say way more good than bad!

     The closing ceremonies began a couple of hours after the final board of the Championships.  I was again told that
there was no time for a committee and the medals must be awarded as the results direct.  Time will straighten out the
medal allocation.  Needless to say I was furious about the entire situation.  For those who have never been to a World
Championships, the thrill of winning is unbelievable but they best thing about winning is standing on the center
podium (in front of all of your competitors) with the American flag handing behind you while you sing the National
Anthem.  This was Carolyn Lynch’s first (and only) World Champion Gold (Silver) Medal.  The moment would pass
and she would never have another opportunity to experience this feeling.

     On the way to the Closing Ceremony, I walked by President Emeritus Jose Damiani who stopped to say, “I can’t
believe your team lost to the Germans. How could they play so badly?  Now we have to do something.” There really was
not anything I could say which would be constructive at that time.  In retrospect, I think perhaps if Team USA 2 had
won the match, the German Doctors would still be playing!  But we will never really know.

     At the Ceremony, DiSacco approached me and said, “Your team will be awarded the Gold medal but not tonight.  
The process must be respected.”  Shortly after this exchange, the teams were placed in rows by medal.  The Bronze
Medalist (Poland) sat in the first two rows, then the Gold Medalist (Germany) and finally the Silver Medalist (USA 2).  
The seating was such that I was sitting directly behind the Doctors.  The ring leader, Michael Elinescu turned around,
looked at me and then coughed twice.  His partner, Entscho Wladow coughed twice back in echo.  I got the feeling they
knew I knew and thought they had gotten away with it!  Little did they know…I was not finished with them.

     The three teams walked onto the stage the German National Anthem was playing in the background as D’Orsi
hung the medals around each participants’ neck.  When I leaned over to receive my medal, he said to me, “We will fix

     As I flew home the next day, I watched the videos from Sets 5 and 6 over and over trying to see other ways they
were cheating besides the coughing.  It was clear that Wladow was signaling strength by the way he held his cards after
sorting.  The camera angle was not good enough to see whether Elinescu was doing the same.  I was clearly obsessed
with these two cheaters.  Once home, I wrote up the Formal Letter Requesting Inquiry and Formal Complaint with the
Exhibits.  These documents were submitted to the WBF on October 4, 2013.  

     Meanwhile, DiSacco wanted more evidence and knew the Doctors would be playing in the Cavendish a couple of
weeks after the Championships.  He asked the DIC to track their coughs and compare them with the handrecords.  19
out of 19 hands recorded matched the coughing code.  Corroborating evidence from a separate tournament.  But they
political wheels would soon drag in the mud.

     Two months after submitting the Formal Letter Requesting Inquiry and Formal Complaint, I received a phone call
from DiSacco who said that I needed to do more because the WBF President was not going to take action unless
forced.  I immediately wrote President Gianarriogo Rona an email and said that the story would come out on social
media.  Did he want to the headline to be “USA2 Cheated out of Gold” or “Germans Stripped of Gold and USA2
Awarded Gold Medals?”

     In January 2014, a Committee Hearing date was set for the Dallas NABCs in March.   Apparently the Germans
had not been notified of my Formal Letter of Request for Inquiry until the Dallas Hearing date was set.  I suppose
(and I am just supposing) that the WBF was hoping I would go away…Are you getting the idea of where I got my
nickname, “Bulldog?”

     I emailed the “then” WBF Legal Counsel and offered my support in presenting the case in Dallas.  I knew all of
the evidence back and forth and could help with showing the videos.  He replied that he thought he had this one under
control and that he did not think he needed to show the videos to the Committee.  My jaw dropped as I read the line
where he did not think he needed to include the videos as part of the evidence.  Now, you do not need to be an attorney
to know that the best possible evidence of cheating (or anything else) is a video!  I was being called to testify at the
hearing so I would make sure the Committee heard about the videos!  

     The day of the hearing finally arrived ~ 5 months after the Championships ended.  I arrived early for the hearing
and once again offered to help set up the computer to show the videos and was told again by “then” WBF Legal
Counsel that he wasn’t planning on offering the videos as evidence.  When I was finally called, one of the first
questions they asked was if I had first hand (eye witness) of the coughing during Sets 5 and 6.  My response was “No.”  
However, I did see them coughing on the video at the start of the bidding and the start of the play.”  One of the
Committee members raised an eyebrow and said, “Video, what Video?”  Music to my ears.  I said that I had copies of
the videos from Sets 5 and 6 and I would be happy to show the Committee.  As I was walking out of the hearing room,
Chair Georgia Heth caught up with me and asked if I had a copy of the video with me.  I told her that I had a copy on
my computer and I would bring it down to the Committee.

     Once the Committee shared their final findings, I was told (second hand) that it was a good thing that I was so
persistent with the video because it was the determining factor in finding the Coughing Germans guilty.  Who knows if
this was true or not.  But if true, then what was the “then” WBF Legal Counsel thinking?  Was he told to suppress the
video? We will never know and we can only hope for the best.  

     You would think, “Great! Now USA 2 gets their medals!”  Not so fast.  The Committee did find the German
Doctors guilty and handed down punishment ~ They cannot play together forever and are both barred from bridge for
10 years.  The medals, however, were a different matter which would be decided by the WBF Board in October at the
2014 World Championships (One year after the Letter of Inquiry was filed).
 I have written up “The Fight for the
Medal” in a separate link.  At least the German Doctors now know they did not get away with it!  There are still law
suits going on in Germany in which I am named for allegedly bribing the WBF into trumping up these charges.  I
guess both sides are true "Bulldogs."

     USA2 sends a BIG Thank You to Maurizio DiSacco for stepping up to the WBF officials doing the right thing.  
Without DiSacco and D'Orsi, I truly believe I would not have had a chance to earn the title of "Bulldog."