Judy Kay-Wolff

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!!!

Non-stop at the Trop

Returned late Friday night from what appeared at first to be our Bridge Swan Song at the Las Vegas Tropicana. “Wrong again!!” as you will read below. It was an exhausting five day adventure but many more positive aspects than negative. The rooms reserved for players were adjacent to the bank of elevators which led to the playing site. They were roomy and convenient to reach – besides well lit. Many of us participated three sessions daily in our chosen venue but I must confess entering the fray at 9 a.m. was a bit much for this old bitty. The second session began at 1:15 p.m. and if one survived, the last encounter was at 7 o’clock. I did suggest (especially for those Las Vegans who were commuting) that the games should begin at 9:30 and start the afternoon session BEFORE 1:30 (as planned) because a two and a half dinner break is far too long. This will be taken under consideration.

The choices of dining spots (fast foods, coffee shops, buffets, high end dining … whatever … ) were superb!!! You name it, they have it! But even better than the venues available was they catered to locals who were staying at the Trop. With a special card (Trop Plus) your dining tab was reduced by 50%. You didn’t have to gamble to enable you to enjoy this special accommodation. The room fee (which included a resort fee) included complimentary WiFi. The hotel picked up your WiFi charge and I had both a laptop and iPad with me. Manna from heaven. The pool was lovely … but few had time to catch their breath … or even gamble. The action was continual!

Here are the plaudits…

To the Board of Directors – Unit 373 and other affiliated Unit Members from Jane Rubin…

Please bear with me as I have much information to share with you, but I promise it ends with a happy surprise.

Firstly, I want to thank all of the volunteers who have been with Bruce and me since we started running these tournaments under difficult conditions. Charlyn Johnson, Jane Ahnger, Jacque Brickey, Gary McGough, Karen Kimes and Leila Huff have stuck with us through thick and thin without question of loyalty, and have all been exceptional in the work they have done for the tournaments, and for the Unit. In addition I want to thank those who began with us; Tom and Sue Grue who were not only the treasurer/s, but also my right hand at completing so many various tasks at the tournaments including the I/N Program, and Mike McClain who taught me so much about the supplies, equipment, storage shed and set-up. I also want to thank our newer volunteers including Ed Matulis who has taken on the role of Supply/Equipment Chair, with eagerness and gusto, along with the help of Hy Chansky. Our new Treasurer, Chris Hahn, and I/N Chair, who was previously Liz Hamilton, and is now Gordon Fast, have also been outstanding in their efforts and dilligence.

Secondly, I want to thank my husband, Bruce, whom I believe has been maligned by a few, but has certainly been appropriately respected and appreciated by many. Although he isn’t at many of the meetings, I want everyone to know what he has actually accomplished behind the scenes and the amount of money he has saved the Unit. When we first took over the tournaments, we were thrilled with the one tournament that was held at the Riviera, but soon learned that Ballys along with their ill-advised contracts as well as the Flamingo, would be more of a challenge. Caesar’s properties were difficult to work with at best. Bruce soon, with the Board’s approval, entered into a contract with the Tropicana that was for ten years. It included a high number of guaranteed room nights, as he used the number our predecessor used before us. The first disaster was the Sectional in the Spring of 2014, at the Flamingo in which the Linq was opened the same day, and our players had difficulty parking and entering the play site only to find a non-working escalator. Due to the difficulties we encountered, Bruce was able to negotiate the amount we owed for room night shortfall to less than 50%. Better than that, Bruce also was able to eliminate our entire amount due to the Tropicana for room night shortfall after the Fall, 2014 Sectional, even though contractually they had the right to move us into the room that they did. Best of all though, due to the new Board’s request, Bruce did the impossible and procured a mutual release of our ten year contract with the Tropicana with no financial liability to the Unit — “unheard of”!!! He also renegotiated the contract for this past March, 2015 Sectional at the Tropicana, with slightly over half the room night guarantee from the prior contracts, for the same amount of space. Now comes the coup de grace – we still had a room night shortfall that ended up being 43 nights. (The final count was only 300 room nights achieved). In theory we owed over $4,000 for just the attrition. Bruce went back to negotiate and once again, was able to receive a release from any room night short fall liability. We owe them nothing for the shortfall!!! In addition, they are happy to have us back next spring with a similar contract to this past one, if the Board agrees.

Finally, it has been my (and Bruce’s) pleasure to serve the Board and the Unit members as Tournament Co-Chairs under the most extreme circumstances. I wish you all the luck in the future, and am anxious to attend upcoming tournaments as merely a bridge player.

Respectfully,
Jane

When I catch my breath I will share some exciting hands and plays produced by our teammates. In my book, it takes four to tango!

Onward and upward. Looking forward to our next bridge soire this summer. Details to follow.

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES?

Being in the bridge world for what seems like an eternity (and with the availability of the Internet), we have all been privy to reading about devastating bridge issues .. some true, some not.  It was difficult to fathom the 1.9 ACBL computer programming debacle which has dominated several sites .. mainly Bridge Winners .. but sadly it appears to be true.  Recently I heard indistinct negative ramblings about an icky million dollar pension fund brouhaha and then overheard non-discernible dribs and drabs about it at a tournament this past week — hopefully with no basis for concern.  It would be comforting to have someone in authority officially deny both the alleged rumor and amount.

DEPARTING FROM THE NORM

Though I am far from a philosophic individual (to which Bobby will readily attest), I was mesmerized this morning while shopping when I happened upon five beautifully presented colorful wall hangings with marvelous (anonymously inscribed**) words of advice.  Each had a captivating one-word title accompanied by a brief explanation.  The applicability between real life and bridge moved me so much, I wanted to share them with you.
SUCCESS:  "Success is a journey, not a destination."
QUALITY:  "The race for quality has no finish line."
CHANGE:  "A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn."
EXCELLENCE:  "Many times the difference between failure and success is doing something nearly right or doing it exactly right."
TEAMWORK:  "It is a fact that in the right formation, the lifting power of many wings can achieve twice the distance of any bird flying alone."
The commonality of these realistically presented truisms with our challenging game I considered almost eerie .. as success in bridge as well as happiness in our everyday lives share the same common denominator.  Forgive my sentimentality, but it really struck a cord.
(**)  Since writing the above, I researched the origin of all five, although I claim no authenticity regarding the original authors.   My findings were:  Success (attributed to Arthur Ashe and others); Quality (undetermined); Change (Helen Keller); Excellence (Edward C. Simmons); Teamwork (unknown).  If any of you quotation buffs can add (or correct) anything, I would love to hear from you.

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