Judy Kay-Wolff

Great News from Las Vegas Unit 373

I just learned that the bridge tournament which was originally canceled for this coming October has been rescheduled due to the giant efforts of Co-Chair persons Jan George and Bob LaFleur. I’m at a tournament as I write and don’t have access to my regular computer. However, here is the vital information:

The LAS VEGAS DAYLIGHT SECTIONAL will be held on Thursday, October 22nd; Friday, October 23rd; Saturday, October 24th.

Starting times will be 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Location: The Donald W. Reynolds Scouting Resource Center located at 7220 South Paradise Road, Las Vegas.

Plenty of on site free parking!

Events include Bracketed Knockouts, Stratified Opens, Stratified 299ers, Compact Knockouts, Stratified Swiss Teams, etc.

As soon as I am able, I will arrange for the exact schedule to be posted on this site.

See ‘ya there!!!

How Fate Affects One’s Destiny!

Reflecting upon comments from my last blog above about Hans and Henry Bethe, it gave me great pause for thought.

As some of you may recall, my reference to Bridgeblogging.com and our contact with the Lees stemmed from my fortuitous discovery of a half-drafted script high on a dusty shelf in Bobby’s Dallas apartment soon after we were married. When I questioned what it was and why it was abandoned, I could not accept his lethargy that would cause a unique little known tale of our game’s history to die a quiet death. Thus, I took it upon myself to resurrect it. It was unquestionably my best bridge decision ever!

It took close to five years of editing, re-editing, and inspiring Bobby to pick up where he left off .. a real labor of love .. but very exhausting and time consuming. After such a tedious, often frustrating effort was completed, we embarked on finding a publisher. We didn’t know where to begin. Our good friend Larry Cohen pointed us toward Master Point Press.

It turned out to be a perfect match as Ray Lee with his generous time and patience worked incredibly well to get “The Lone Wolff” on the shelves.

However, it did not end there! Little did we know that Linda and Ray Lee were behind Bridgeblogging.com — a new bridge-oriented attraction on the Internet. One day soon after, Bobby and I awakened to an invitation to pen our individual columns .. Bobby’s being a presentation of his Aces on Bridge newspaper Column (now produced by Uclick) which two weeks earlier appeared in over one hundred newspapers universally. The column began in 1982 .. some thirty-three years ago!

My subject matter on this site was very divergent from his as I still don’t (and never will) profess to be an expert. I leave that for other dreamers. My collection of contributions flashes back to 1955 when I became exposed to the game as I happened upon four head cases screaming and throwing cards at each other under a beach umbrella one summer at Columbia University. When questioning their actions, as told before, I was informed they were playing bridge. That was almost six decades ago .. and if that isn’t fate .. I don’t know what is! Of course, through marital fortunes, I was exposed to the greatest bridge players both home and abroad .. and I have always threatened to follow Bobby with “The Lone Wolffess.” Oh, the tales I could tell!!

Fate played an even bigger role in my life in 2002 when Norman Kay, my beloved husband of thirty-nine years, passed on after a three year battle with cancer (of which most of the bridge world was unaware). The day following his funeral, an unfamiliar voice on the other end of the phone offered heartfelt condolences as he was a good friend of Norman’s and shared his zest for the sporting world. I was shocked when he introduced himself. For over four decades at the NABCs, “the caller” and Norman would regularly exchange stories of their shared love of baseball, football, basketball, hockey .. whatever!!! However, his general indifference and cold attitude toward yours truly didn’t win him any medals or masterpoints as he never acknowledged my existence though I crossed paths with him frequently when kibitzing Norman in big league competition. Need I go any further? Shockingly, I must confess Bobby Wolff wasn’t the cold fish that he portrayed. The following year he began an unceasing computer courtship. We exchanged notes back and forth daily (to which I can testify by boxes of voluminous emails in our storage room) and in 2003 we married and honeymooned in Vegas and I left Philadelphia for Dallas a few months later.   Eventually we returned to the scene of the crime and have enjoyed life in Las Vegas ever since!

Some may consider these happenings as mere “coincidences.” I gratefully look upon them as fate!

HENRY BETHE PASSES ON

I just learned of the passing of one of of bridge’s greatest fans and promoters.  I met Henry at a tournament at the Americana Hotel in New York in the 1960s and he was kind enough to play with me as a rank beginner in a side event while Edgar and Norman were thrashing it out with the big boys in a more serious venue.  Although he prided himself being the son of Hans Bethe, celebrated Physics Nobel Laureate who was involved with generating the atom bomb, Henry enjoyed his own calling .. and contributed tirelessly for many decades in a myriad of areas .. all for the enhancement of our beautiful game.   He will be sorely missed.

MEMORIES …

This blog is certainly a departure from the norm, but hopefully a welcome change of pace from the everyday grind.  In most venues of competition, certain memories loom larger than others .. whether they be sports, politics, bridge .. whatever.  There are some delightful ones we cherish — and others we choose to forget.  In our unique game (especially for old timers who have spent an eternity at the tables), those recollections are unending.  Bobby and I have been enjoying recounting some personal ones which I will share later on.  They have not necessarily taken place at the table .. but akin to the game. I’d love to hear what emerges foremost from your bridge archives!  Don’t be shy!  Who’ll start off?

The Passing of a Friend

I just learned from Mike Whitman that yesterday Don Krauss passed away quietly after a gradually debilitating illness. I met him in 1971 when he was partnered by Lew Mathe on a team with Norman and Edgar and John Swanson and Dick Walsh who (unsuccessfully) represented Zone 2 in Taiwan. Coincidentally, that event was captured by The Dallas Aces — a six man team which included a guy by the name of Wolff. After Edgar passed away in ’97, Norman retired from the active bridge scene and in our newly acquired spare time, we would take frequent trips .. often to California where we would catch up with Don, Eddie and Yvonne Kantar and Hugh and Min Ross. Until the last few years Don and I stayed in touch and then suddenly we lost contact. If I had to describe Don in a few words .. I will always remember him as one of the most uncharacteristically ‘sweetest’ bridge players and human beings I had been privileged to call a friend. My thrill of thrills, alluded to before, was what started out to be a routine lunch date with Don and a fella he thought we would enjoy meeting. I am far from an idol worshipper, but having Don arrange for Billy Wilder to join us for luncheon was an unforgettable afternoon.   Not only was he an amazing producer and film writer (and so much more) ..  but so down to earth .. and perhaps the most modest individual for a man of his stature. It was quite an experience.

Rest in peace, Don. You were special!

As the World Changes…

…so do many aspects of our game. Sites, travel convenience, accessibility, costs, vacation time, other recognized tournaments, etc. all have major impacts on the success or failure of our assemblages .. be they Sectionals, Regionals, Nationals or World Championships. I can speak from experience living here in Las Vegas since 2005. Read the rest of this entry »

The New York Times Bridge Column — Alas, No More!

I was shocked to receive the following announcement (and request) from the American Contract Bridge League concerning the legendary New York Times Bridge Column:

We’re saddened to announce that after 80 years in print, the New York Times decided to cancel its regular bridge column. Throughout the years the bridge column has served to enhance players’ game knowledge while also introducing bridge to a much wider audience. Written by Phillip Alder for the last decade, not only was the column enjoyed by bridge players local to New York, but by tens of thousands more across the country and around the world.

If you read and enjoy the New York Times bridge column, we implore you to write an email or make a phone call expressing your disappointment with its removal. Bridge columns have appeared in newspapers around the world for decades. Let’s show the New York Times their readers still find value in intellectually challenging columns.

To make your thoughts heard, please call or email the Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, at public@nytimes.com or telephone (212) 556-7652. Ms. Sullivan acts as the independent voice of the Times and has the power to express our community’s outrage about the removal of the bridge column. Letters to the Editor are also welcomed and can be sent to letters@nytimes.com. These should be between 150-175 words for the best chance of placement.

I know of dozens and dozens of avid bridge players who are quite distressed by the shocking announcement and I am in favor of our unification and banding together to advise The New York Times of our disappointment with their shocking decision!!!! Hopefully, they might reconsider… as many have already canceled their subscriptions in protest.

On a more personal note…

Until I got involved in bridge, my only attraction to the NYT was the intrigue and frustration of trying to complete their legendary crossword puzzles. However, by 1960 I realized that the disheartenment and exasperation of solving their puzzles (especially on Sunday) equated to this newfangled game to which I had just been introduced and am still challenged by — some fifty-five years later. Albert Morehead was the writer at that time but was soon succeeded by Alan Truscott whom I later got to know and adore (as we had a common love for trivia… and he was quite sensational… as was his wife, Dorothy Hayden). I was a faithful reader of Alan’s exciting bridge tales and to this day hanging in Bobby’s Trophy Room is a framed article published around the time of my marriage to Bobby featuring a hand I declared although to this day I claim it was a fantasy.

When Bobby and I moved to Vegas, our life became so involved with a myriad of activities (including editing and having ‘The Lone Wolff’ published by Master Point Press), I found little time for bridge columns other than Bobby’s Aces on Bridge, the rights for which he purchased in 1982 from the Estate of Ira Corn (creator of The Dallas Aces) and it is still going full blast some thirty-three years later. The AOB has a strange twist. Although it is published in over a hundred newspapers universally, it is always available to his readers whether you live in Lower Slobbovia or Timbuk2… as long as you have access to the Internet. After a two week delay, his AOB column appears on this site courtesy of MPP and each day Bobby responds to the many questions and comments of his loyal readers. The array of hands are a conglomeration from international tournaments to local happenings and the intrigue never stops. Regardless of how good you are, there is no end to how much more there is out there!!

In any event, in the interest of the future of Bridge, please contact The New York Times and register your dismay for their recent about face!!! Thank you.

JKW

“ Real ”  Bridge Over Troubled Water

Forgive my referencing the popular Simon and Garfunkel title, but I can think of nothing more appropos than our worsening situation here in Zone 2. I cannot speak for other administrations, but I do want to share sincere facts and concerns of a writer, Barry Senensky, who made contact with me on my site for the first time a day ago. With his permission, here are his feelings verbatim:

Thanks for following up with me. I really appreciate it. First a little background on myself:

I am one of the younger bridge players (I turned 60 last year-which I believe puts me around the 10th percentile in terms of age). I have been an ACBL member for over 40 years. I am an actuary and have my own small business (with 5 employees) which focuses on building predictive models for the insurance industry. Many of the large US and Canadian life insurance companies are my clients. I live in Toronto. My district director is Paul Janicki.

Over the last few years I have become very concerned/interested in the future of bridge and while I have not “run any numbers to prove it” believe that membership/attendance at tournaments is likely to “fall off a cliff” sometime within the next ten years.

I wanted to do something about this, so at the start of this year I reached out to ACBL president Suzi Subeck suggesting that we develop a series of question and answer columns together for the bulletin discussing the various strategic challenges facing the ACBL and the boards position on these issues. My theory was that if the membership became more aware of the issues, something might come of it to improve the situation.

Suzi was semi-open to this idea but the editor of the bulletin vetoed it (saying that the bulletin was not for this purpose and that if Suzi said something incorrect he would have to edit and he didn’t want to be in that position — reasons that in my opinion made no sense). Suzi was not going to challenge him (again something that made no sense to me as she was the President of the Board and he was an employee of the ACBL), so the articles did not happen.

Subsequent to that, I corresponded with Suzi and Paul Janicki about my view that membership is likely to fall off the cliff in the next ten years or so. Suzi indicated that everything was fine with membership levels and she would let me know if there was a problem. Paul Janicki responded differently saying the board knows there is a problem with membership (and the extent of the problem) but it is being addressed and under control.

Paul provided me with a report that is produced quarterly for the board on membership levels. The report was very basic and really did not provide the metrics on membership that a well run organization would want to assess where they stood. In particular, the information on distribution by age of new members and new member continuance of membership after one year (40% do not renew their membership after the first year) was not available. After reviewing the report, I reached out to Suzi and volunteered that if they could provide me with information on new members, I would do a 10 year projection of ACBL membership using sophisticated actuarial software that I license (taking into account the age of members and continuance rates that vary by age and years of membership). I would do the projections for free provided that they agree to publish the results on the ACBL website. I also indicated that the projections would be done using assumptions agreeable to the ACBL board and that the ACBL board would have full rights to audit my calculations. Suzi agreed to this and put Paul Janicki in charge of making it happen. Well, it is two months later now and I am still waiting for Paul to do something on this initiative. When he does respond to my e-mails (which isn’t often), he indicates that he is very busy with other board matters which take priority and will get to this when he can.

The response I have received from Suzi and Paul has only increased my concern/interest in the management and future of the ACBL. While browsing the ACBL website, I found financial statements for 2013 that indicated that board expenses were $625,000, which equates to 25,000 per board member. So I asked Paul if those were the expenses of the board members and he indicated that they were. To me, this seems quite excessive for volunteers. Especially in this day and age when most entities are dramatically cutting down on their expenses either by shrinking overhead or technological advances. So I asked Paul if he would consider taking a motion to the board proposing reducing board expenses to $300,000 a year (still a large amount by my thinking) and using the freed up monies to reduce card fees at Nationals by $2.00 per session. Paul indicated he would not support this and thought that the expenses of the board were appropriate. I asked the same question of Suzi and have not yet gotten a response.

In conclusion, feel free to use whatever I say on your website and I would be more than happy to discuss any of this further with you.

What I have learned over the last little while can be summarized as follows:

In my opinion, the ACBL board has close to dictatorial power, is not focused on the important issues (and arguably does not have the skillset to do so). Much of the long time membership and the younger pros are aware of these issues, but feel either that they are powerless to do anything or are not motivated to do something about it. In my opinion, the only hope for the ACBL to survive long-term is for a group to emerge and take control of the board (by winning elections for director in enough districts). This group would run on a platform of transparency and fiscal constraint and would have as a top priority the development and implementation of a strategic plan to bring North American bridge back to health.

(I am only the messenger, but thought this would be of interest to all bridge lovers who constitute the dues paying membership. JKW)

Your Opinion Please …

How would you judge the equity of one ‘couple’ (by legal documentation or association) simultaneously holding five (5) ACBL Unit positions between them? Tournament Chair and Board President, Assistant Tournament Chair, Partnership Chair and Chair of Section Top Awards. I kid you not. It is akin to the Queen Mother holding court. Egotism, megalomania and nepotism at its finest! Has anyone experienced anything similar?

What is a BRIDGE GURU????

If you question twenty people, no doubt you will receive twenty different opinions. However, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition (as applicable to our game) is “a person who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular subject.” Knowledge and experience are the keys to the bridge kingdom. Having survived six decades on the hearing end of these rants, I firmly believe the bottom line IS MOST CERTAINLY the two components mentioned above: KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE. It doesn’t take much observation to prove my point. Just casually meander down an aisle after the completion of a hand or round … and listen to the falsely expounded personal emphatic opinions of the fallacies of partner and/or opponents … either solicited or otherwise. I have witnessed it at our table as Bobby clenches his teeth, bites his tongue and restrains himself from getting involved. Besides out and out cheating, my pet peeve is know-nothings espousing their dogmatic views as if it were gospel. There are many present day young up-and-comers who eventually may rival the greats in bridge history … but it may take decades of practice, comeuppance, putdown by the true experts and the proverbial black eye or two. In a widely read publication, I recently viewed a critique of an auction by a relatively young, naive enthusiast which sent Bobby through the ceiling. I had to calm him down with a couple Cabernets to prevent him from going bonkers and publicly exposing the ineptness and ridiculousness of the confidently analyzed hand. Last evening, having dinner with a lovely local couple (and the gentleman being a successfully proven peer of Bobby’s), Bobby presented the hand that riled him beyond description. It obviated the failure of the young assessor to recognize the huge elephant in the room which totally obfuscated his intended point. Our guest patiently awaited the punch line of Bobby’s tale as the analysis was beyond reality and so off target. When told, he shook his head in disbelief as it was so embarrassingly beyond absurd.

A lesson to be learned: Until you have the scalps on the wall (whether in playing, directing, authoring or analyzing) … don’t be too hasty and foolhardy to advertise your inexperience, naivete and lack of understanding to the high level bridge community before you (yourself) are confidently qualified to pass the litmus test!!!

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