Game Blotter - A roundup of crimes, legal cases, and when "the law" gets involved with gamesNorth Korea has banned the sale of Mahjong games at street markets. The country has also organized a widespread program to train schoolteachers to combat socially undesirable behaviors, such as drugs, premarital sex, and gambling, among young people. The moves are in response to reports of increasing illegal activity among students. Middle schoolers in Hyesan city were caught engaging in “sexually immoral behavior” and 14 were arrested for playing Mahjong.

Officials in Kobe, Japan, concerned about fueling gambling addiction among the elderly, have banned Mahjong from senior centers. An ordinance, passed unanimously by the Kobe Municipal Assembly, prohibits Mahjong, slot machines, and any games that use “pseudo currency” at public daycare centers for retirees.

A major cheating scandal has rocked the world of Bridge and it involves some of the highest ranked players around the globe. Three national teams, Israel, Monaco, and Germany, withdrew from Bridge’s most important international tournament, the Bermuda Bowl (which is running right now in Chennai, India), after evidence was made public that some players had improperly signaled their partners during games at past events. Major tournaments attempt to prevent such cheating by erecting a screen across the table between partners, as well as underneath to prevent signalling by foot contact (for an example, see the image below). Individuals studying videos on YouTube, however, allege that Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz, who play for Israel, traded signals by the position of their bid cards as they passed them through the screen. Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes, Italians who play for Monaco and are ranked number 1 and number 2 in the world, allegedly signaled through the orientation of their cards as they placed them down on the table. The two players from Germany were not discovered but admitted their cheating and resigned.

Bridge tournament screens

A camera in a pendant under his shirt, a transceiver under his armpit, and Morse code—that’s how Arcangelo Ricciardi was cheating at the Imperia Chess Festival in Italy. The event’s arbiters became suspicious when Ricciardi never rose from his chair, kept his thumb constantly wedged in his armpit, “batted his eyelids in the most unnatural way”, and performed way better than expected for his 51,366th ranking. They asked him to remove his shirt but he refused. Then they sent him through a metal detector, which registered positive. Ricciardi claimed the pendant and box in his armpit were good-luck charms.

In Changde, China, a man was arrested by police for cheating at Mahjong using special contact lenses. The man would arrange to meet people online, reserve a Mahjong room in advance, and switch out the room’s playing pieces with pieces of his own. On the backs of his tiles were marks only visible with the lenses. Before his arrest, the scheme had netted the man more than 200,000 yuan.

Ian Nepomniachtchi appealed his loss in the tiebreak game of the FIDE World Cup, claiming that his opponent, Hikaru Nakamura, had “broken the basic chess rules” by castling on move five with two hands. Though arbiters acknowledged missing the illegal move, they also pointed out that Nepomniachtchi should have stopped the clock at the time. They also refused to grant the appeal, which is not surprising given that at most they probably would have given Nakamura a warning anyway. On his part, Nakamura blamed the mistake on being used to playing by U.S. rules, which do allow castling with two hands.

Back in 2014, when Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion, was campaigning for the presidency of FIDE, a contract he signed with the organization’s then General Secretary, Ignatius Leong, to deliver votes was the subject of some heated debate. Now, FIDE’s Ethics Commission has found Mr. Kasparov and Mr. Leong guilty of violating the organization’s Code of Ethics, specifically section 2.1, which prohibits “any consideration or bribe with a view of influencing the result in a game of chess or election into FIDE office.” The Commission has not yet determined a penalty, though in the meantime, FIDE’s president, and Kasparov’s opponent in that election, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, has suggested that the United States government should prosecute Kasparov for corruption. FIDE’s Executive Board, crediting Ilyumzhinov’s management, has suggested that he run for President of the scandal-ridden FIFA.

Robbers broke in to a Hong Kong Mahjong parlor after closing, tied up its security guard, and stole safes containing HK$1.2 million. One ex-employee has been arrested but the remaining culprits, and the money, remain at-large. Robbery of a Mahjong parlor is unusual as most are understood to be run by the triads.

Former Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng, who is serving a 4 year prison term for accepting bribes, is writing a book on Dominoes strategy.

Countdown, a grocery store chain in New Zealand, is giving out the same Pixar collectible dominoes that Woolworths did in Australia. The premium has been so popular that adult customers have been swearing at children and shoving them out of the way to get at ones they want.

Police in Port Maria, Jamaica organized a Dominoes tournament as a way of establishing closer ties with the community.

The owner of KSL Toys in Northern Ireland was given a 5 year sentence for smuggling drugs inside of robotic fish he was importing from China.

The Supreme Court of India has declared that individuals can not be charged with gambling for playing Rummy for stakes because Rummy is a game of skill rather than a game of chance.

Wealthy Irish businessman, John P. McManus, has sued the United States government to recover $5.22 million dollars of gambling winnings withheld by the IRS. Though his attorney couldn’t recall if McManus had won it playing Backgammon or Poker, he’s certain that a 1997 treaty between the United States and Ireland exempts the money ($17.4 million in total) from taxation.

This would have been the fifth year for Larkin Jones’ unofficial Pokemon-fan party at PAX if it weren’t for a lawsuit by the Pokemon Company. Though he cancelled this year’s party and refunded attendees ticket purchases (the funds from which every year went entirely to pay for the party), the Pokemon Company still demands that he pay $5,400 within 45 days.

French artist Marcel Duchamp carved a set of Chess pieces in 1918 in Argentina. The set was thought to have been lost, with only photographs remaining. More recently, Scott Kildall and Bryan Cera in the United States used those photographs to develop 3D models of the Chess pieces and then uploaded the models to Thingverse for anyone to print for themselves. Duchamp’s heirs, however, sent the pair a cease and desist letter, asserting copyright to the Chess pieces under French law. Though Kildall and Cera dispute the claim, rather than fight it, they simply added mustaches to the models of each piece.

Harris Faulkner, an anchor for Fox News, is suing Hasbro for $5 million over a plastic toy hamster the company named “Harris Faulkner”. The toy is no longer being made but Faulkner (the person) claims that Hasbro “willfully and wrongfully appropriated Faulkner’s unique and valuable name and distinctive persona for its own financial gain.”

The inventor of the military action-figure concept, which Hasbro turned in to GI Joe, is also suing the company. Stan Weston claims that Hasbro has failed to pay him any of the royalties it promised in 1963 (and which he claims add up to $40-50 million). Weston acknowledges that he accepted an upfront cash payment of $100,000 in lieu of larger royalty payments but asserts that Hassenfeld Brothers Inc. (now Hasbro) made an oral agreement to pay him a smaller royalty in addition. Complicating the case is the fact that neither Weston or Hasbro have the original written contract.

Police in Hong Kong recently raided three illegal gambling dens over the course of 2 days. When they arrived at the first, an apartment, gamblers formed a “human wall” in an attempt to block their entrance.

In the U.K., the sponsors of an Exeter-local Monopoly allege that retailers in nearby but rival Plymoth are colluding to ban the game from retail.

As a means of prompting discussion about the refugee crises in Europe, a Danish television talk show suggested the existence of a board game about blocking refugees from entering the country.

Police in Torrance, California have arrested youth Chess coach, Michael Angelo Purcell Sr., and charged him with multiple counts of child sexual abuse. The charges relate to two girls, one under the age of 14, the other under 11, both of whom were receiving Chess lessons from Purcell.

In Sussex, UK, a man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for playing strip card games with young girls.

A tree limb fell on top of some people playing Backgammon in Bryant Park in New York City.

Back on August 9th, four men allegedly beat up and robbed a man they believed was cheating at a game of dice in Hoboken, New Jersey. It’s taken a month but police have finally arrested all four.

In Peoria, Illinois, a man claims an angry mobbed chased him from a dice game to his apartment and then broke down his door. Yet he claims not to know why they were angry.

There were also dice game shootings in Centralia, Illinois; Hammond, Louisiana (with injury to a bystander); and Memphis, Tennessee (where one of the players was killed for winning).

It’s no surprise, then, that neighbors are concerned about dice games taking place in front of a community of homes for foster children in Chicago. Despite attempts by police to catch people playing, the games continue.