Fantoni and Nunes cheating scandal

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Fulvio Fantoni (2014)
Claudio Nunes (2014)

Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes are professional bridge players originally from Italy, but since 2011 playing for Monaco. In 2015, they were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world respectively.[1]

In September 2015, they were publicly accused of cheating by orienting a played card to show a missing high honour (Ace, King, Queen) in the led suit at the European Bridge Championship in 2014. Three separate investigations were conducted, one by the Italian Bridge Federation [it] (FIGB), one by the European Bridge League (EBL) and one by the American Contract Bridge League.

On March 19, 2016, the FIGB banned the pair for three years. The FIGB hearing also investigated cheating by Fantoni and Nunes against Italy in the finals of the Bermuda Bowl in 2013 using the same method. Fantoni and Nunes appealed this ruling to both the FIGB and the Italian Olympic Committee; the appeals were rejected.

On July 18, 2016, the European Bridge League (EBL) banned each from play for five years and as a partnership for life.[2]

On July 26, 2016, the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) expelled them from their league and stripped them of all related masterpoints, titles, ranks and privileges.[3]

The players' appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the EBL ban resulted in a judgement in their favour in January 2018.[4] However the FIGB and ACBL sanctions remained in force,[5] and the EBL publicly stated that they were still barred from all EBL events at least until April 2019 [6] However the Federal Appeal Tribunal of the FIGB subsequently lifted the players' suspension from FIGB events.[7]


In Italy, cheating allegations and hearings related to the game of contract bridge have three stages of proceedings: 1st – Italian Bridge Federation (la Federazione Italiana Giuoco Bridge, FIGB); 2nd – Federal Court of Appeals (Corte d’Appello Federale); 3rd – Italian National Olympic Committee (Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano, CONI) under its Sport Guarantor's Committee (Collegio di Garanzia dello Sport).

As a member of the European Bridge League, the Monaco Bridge Federation is subject to its disciplinary procedures.

Previous allegations[edit]

The "black-out" deal[edit]

On May 1, 2015, during the Italian Open Teams Championship, Nunes made a defensive play which enabled him and Fantoni to defeat opponents' slam contract by three tricks. The play, and the rapidity with which it was made, were considered sufficiently unusual for the deal to be referred by FIGB to the National Sports Judge for adjudication. The charge was transmission of unauthorized information. The judge, a lawyer by profession, heard evidence from witnesses of fact and expert evidence from bridge players. Nunes said in his defense that he had had 'un momento di "obnubilamento"' (English: a moment of clouding) or '"black-out"'. On June 12, 2015, the judge handed down a reasoned written decision in which he addressed both the facts and the law. He concluded that illegal transmission of information had not been proved and acquitted Fantoni and Nunes; no appeal was filed.[8] The Italian proceedings have been summarised in English.[9][10]

Card orientation signals[edit]

Maaijke Mevius, a Dutch amateur bridge player and trained scientist, noticed a correlation between horizontal or vertical orientation of the cards played by Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes and their honor holdings in the suit. In brief, the hypothesis was that a card played vertically signaled the presence of an otherwise unknown honor card (A, K or Q) in the suit, and that a card played horizontally denied it. In September 2015, Mevius emailed the evidence to Boye Brogeland, who, after consultation with Ishmael Del'Monte, Australian bridge professional and Vice-Chair of the WBF High Level Players Commission,[11] and American player Brad Moss, decided to issue an ultimatum to Fantoni, a personal acquaintance of his, to come forward with a confession before the findings were published. No such confession was made.

On September 13, 2015, American expert Kit Woolsey published an article on the Bridge Winners website demonstrating a statistical proof of Mevius's hypothesis.[12] The allegations were reported both by official bridge organizations [13][14][15] and in mainstream media.[1][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25]

Monaco withdraws from 2015 Bermuda Bowl[edit]

Monaco was to be have been represented at the 2015 Bermuda Bowl in Chennai, India by a team consisting of Fulvio Fantoni, Claudio Nunes, Geir Helgemo, Tor Helness, Franck Multon and playing captain Pierre Zimmermann. In recognition of the controversy caused by the public allegations against Fantoni and Nunes, the Monegasque Bridge Federation decided to withdraw from the Bermuda Bowl 2015 "in order to preserve the interests of bridge and so that the event may be played with the greatest serenity." On September 16, 2015, the World Bridge Federation announced that Monaco would be replaced by Denmark.[26]


FIGB Hearings: On March 19, 2016, the Italian Bridge Federation (FIGB) issued a three-year ban against each player.[27][28] On June 10, 2016, the Corte d’Appello Federale upheld the decision.[29][30] On July 19, 2016 Fantoni and Nunes submitted an appeal to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) against the FIGB ban,[31] which the CONI eventually rejected on October 4, 2016.[32]

EBL Hearings: On July 18, 2016 Fantoni and Nunes were banned from all European Bridge League events by its Disciplinary Commission for a period of five years, and banned from playing as a partnership for life.[2] The English Bridge Union (EBU) report of the EBL ruling of July 18, 2016 includes a link to a YouTube video made by EBU website designer Michael Clark "showing the incidents taking place", focusing on Fantoni's opening leads.[33]

ACBL Hearings: During the summer North American Bridge Championships held in Washington, D.C., the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) held a three-day hearing regarding the accusations made against Fantoni-Nunes.[34] On July 26, 2016, the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) announced that the ACBL Ethical Oversight Committee had unanimously found that overwhelming evidence established that Fantoni and Nunes had engaged in collusive cheating. In consequence, the latter were expelled from the ACBL and stripped of all their ACBL masterpoints, titles, ranks and privileges. Further, their partners and teammates were subject to mandatory forfeiture of all masterpoints, titles and ranks earned during the four years preceding the final of the 2015 Spingold Trophy.[3] On July 29, 2016, the ACBL clarified and corrected that announcement: forfeiture by partners and teammates applied only to events in which they had played with Fantoni or Nunes, and only to the four years preceding the date of the decision; namely, July 24, 2016.[35] Partly due to the Fantoni-Nunes case, the ACBL created a permanent anti-cheating committee.[36]

Court of Arbitration for Sport and EBL and FIGB reaction: On April 26 and 27, 2017, the Court of Arbitration for Sport conducted a hearing, Fulvio Fantoni & Claudio Nunes v. European Bridge League (EBL).[37] In January 2018 the Court of Arbitration for Sport published its judgement on the players' appeal. It found in their favour, saying that "the majority of the Panel concludes that the exchange of information through the Code has not been proven to its comfortable satisfaction and rules that the appeal filed by the Players shall be upheld".[4] The EBL clarified that the pair were still barred from play at least until April 2019. It is considering making changes to its rules on eligibility for future EBL championships. In the light of the CAS verdict, the Federal Appeal Tribunal of the FIGB subsequently lifted the players' suspension. Fantoni and Nunes have said that they do not intend to play together in future.[7]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Walters, John (September 23, 2015). "World Rocked as Top Players Challenged". Newsweek. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "European Bridge League Disciplinary Committee ruling regarding Fantoni and Nunes, July 2016" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-01-10. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  3. ^ a b "Report of the ACBL Ethical Oversight Committee" (PDF). Daily Bulletin. ACBL. 88 (5): 1. July 26, 2016.
  4. ^ a b CAS 2016/A/4783 Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes v. European Bridge League (EBL) Retrieved 3 February 2018
  5. ^ Townsend, Tom (March 27, 2017). "Bridge Hand". The Daily Telegraph. p. 28.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ a b "Update on Cheating Cases". English Bridge. English Bridge Union (278): 39.
  8. ^ "IL GIUDICE SPORTIVO NAZIONALE, Avv. Tommaso Toniolo nel procedimento n. 37/15 Reg. GSN contro i tesserati FANTONI Fulvio (FNV001) e NUNES Claudio (NND004)" (PDF). FIGB (in Italian). June 12, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2016.
  9. ^ "Claudio Nunes' Black-out". Neapolitan Club. June 12, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2016.
  10. ^ "Nunes' Black-out (2): Verdict". Neapolitan Club. June 15, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2016.
  11. ^ "The High Level Players Commission". World Bridge Federation. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved July 22, 2016.
  12. ^ Woolsey, Kit (September 13, 2015). "The Videos Speak: Fantoni-Nunes". Bridge Winners. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  13. ^ "World's Top Players Accused of Cheating". Welsh Bridge Union. September 17, 2015. Archived from the original on August 12, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  14. ^ "World's top players accused of cheating". English Bridge Union. September 21, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  15. ^ Aubry, Yves. "Communication from the President" (PDF). European Bridge League. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 9, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  16. ^ Low, Valentine (September 15, 2015). "'Dirty Tricks' deal bridge a huge blow". The Times. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  17. ^ Jourdain, Patrick; Freeman, Colin (September 20, 2015). "Bridge cheating scandal grows as top German players admit 'ethical violations'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  18. ^ Iyengar, S. K.; Saldanha, Ajit (September 20, 2015). "The Bridge Column: Monkey Business in Monaco". Bangalore Mirror. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  19. ^ Kelly, Kate (September 23, 2015). "Former Bear CEO Jimmy Cayne at center of bridge scandal". CNBC. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  20. ^ Ewashkiw, Malcolm (October 2, 2015). "Cheating scandal rocks bridge world". Belleville Intelligencer. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  21. ^ Gupta, Vinita (October 8, 2015). "Bridge cheats tarnishing the image of the sport". Times of India. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  22. ^ Chartier, Claire (October 18, 2015). "Le bridge en eaux troubles". L'Express (in French). Retrieved July 23, 2016.
  23. ^ Colapinto, John (February 29, 2016). "Is the Competitive Bridge World Rife with Cheaters?". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  24. ^ Owen, David (March 7, 2016). "Dirty Hands: A cheating scandal in the world of professional bridge". New Yorker. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  25. ^ Keri, Jonah (March 9, 2016). "Tricks, Tics and Taps: The Cheating Scandal Rocking Professional Bridge". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  26. ^ "Monaco Bridge Federation: Monaco withdraws from 2015 Bermuda Bowl". September 16, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  27. ^ "TRIBUNALE FEDERALE" (PDF). FIGB (in Italian). March 19, 2016. Retrieved July 23, 2016.
  28. ^ "Fantoni & Nunes: Italian Feberation's judgment". Neapolitan Club. April 6, 2016. Retrieved July 23, 2016.
  29. ^ "Registro Sentenze CFA Figb – 2016" (PDF). FIGB (in Italian). June 10, 2016. Retrieved July 23, 2016.
  30. ^ "Fantoni-Nunes:Outcome of the Italian Appeal Court". Neapolitan Club. June 19, 2016. Retrieved July 23, 2016.
  31. ^ "Fantoni & Nunes: New Appeal". Neapolitan Club website. July 20, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  32. ^ "Italian Olympic Committee rejected Fantoni-Nunes' Appeal". October 4, 2016. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  33. ^ "Fantoni-Nunes banned by EBL". EBU. July 19, 2016. Retrieved July 23, 2016.
  34. ^ American Contract Bridge League (September 2016). "From The CEO". Bridge Bulletin: 9.
  35. ^ "Report of the ACBL Ethical Oversight Committee" (PDF). Daily Bulletin. ACBL. 88 (8): 1. July 29, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  36. ^ American Contract Bridge League (September 2016). "New Anti-Cheating Commission Appointed". Bridge Bulletin: 36.
  37. ^ "List of CAS hearings". TAS/CAS Tribunal Arbitral du Sport/Court of Arbitration for Sport. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 26 & 27 April 2017 CAS 2016/A/4783 Fulvio Fantoni & Claudio Nunes v. European Bridge League (EBL)