Burning bridges: countries refuse to play Italian ‘cheats’ in European bridge tournament

European bridge teams have refused to play against Italy after the country included an alleged cheater in their roster.

Qualifying matches for the European Champions Cup are currently being played, with each of the 30 participating European countries having to play against each other.

However, every participating country has refused to play Italy due to the presence of Fulvio Fantoni, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Scotland was the first country to refuse to play against Italy, and the other countries soon followed.

Italy’s professional Bridge team is boycotted by other European countries during a qualifier for including alleged cheat Fulvio Fantoni, 57, (pictured) in their team

The anger surrounding the 57-year-old’s entry into the qualifiers stems from allegations of cheating leveled against him and his 2014 European Championships partner Claudio Nunes, 53.

In bridge, two teams of two players compete against each other, with partners not knowing the strength of each other’s hands.

At the time, however, it was claimed that the pair, who were the top two players at the time, had placed their played card in such a way as to give the impression that they were missing one of the high cards, such as an ace, king or queen.

The case against the pair deepened when Dutch player Maaijke Mevius saw a pattern appear between whether Fantoni and Nunes would place their cards horizontally or vertically – in an attempt to indicate the presence or absence of a high card.

The anger over the 57-year-old's participation in the qualifiers stems from allegations of cheating made against him and his partner Claudio Nunes, 53, from the 2014 European Championship (stock image)

The anger over the 57-year-old’s participation in the qualifiers stems from allegations of cheating made against him and his partner Claudio Nunes, 53, from the 2014 European Championship (stock image)

Simon Barb, of English Bridge Education and Development, said at the time: “Only very good players can get away with cheating – and only other top players can catch them.”

Nunes initially tried to claim that he was temporarily blacked out during the alleged incident, but an investigation into the incident led the European Bridge League (EBL), the Italian Bridge Federation (FIGB) and the American Contract Bridge League to blame them. found.

The pair were banned from playing in 2016, but after they appealed the decision a year later because communication between them had not been proven, the couple’s ban was lifted.

However, The Telegraph reports that one entrant to this year’s qualifiers said: ‘It’s outrageous. There is a widespread belief among members of the bridge community that he should not have played.”

Nunes (pictured) initially tried to claim he was temporarily blacked out during the alleged incident, but an investigation into the incident led to the European Bridge League (EBL), the Italian Bridge Federation (FIGB) and the American Contract Bridge League found them guilty.

Nunes (pictured) initially tried to claim he was temporarily blacked out during the alleged incident, but an investigation into the incident led to the European Bridge League (EBL), the Italian Bridge Federation (FIGB) and the American Contract Bridge League found them guilty.

Italy now faces missing out on both major leagues if the other countries maintain their boycott – as they will not receive any qualifying points.

None of the countries have officially refused to play against Italy as doing so would lead to their own disqualification, instead missing out on matches due to procedural errors such as forgetting to provide a draft.

Italian captain Alberto Forcucci said of his team’s boycott earlier this week: “The shameful boycott against the Italian national team continues. This behavior hurts a small amateur bridge organization that co-hosted the event with the Federation, with the limited amount of resources available to them.

“Nor does it respect all the amateur players who like our mind game and who were chosen to represent Italy as a reward for winning the Team Championships in 2019.”

He explained in the statement that Fantoni’s inclusion came only after Italy’s original sixth player had to drop out due to work commitments.

Forcucci added: “All players should condemn the boycott, those among the international bridge community and bridge professionals who refuse to compete with a team of amateurs.”

Despite the boycott, a member of the EBL claimed that Italy could still get a qualifying spot based on their previous form.

However, they acknowledged that this could be complicated as this particular situation has never occurred before.

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