Judy Kay-Wolff

The Spingold Revisited

It has often been said that nothing is forever and Bobby and I are a prime example of the vicissitudes of life… especially in the revolving world of bridge. My earliest recollection begins in the mid 1950s fresh out of college… and Bobby reflects upon his first exposure watching his parents playing bridge on a train ride en route from San Antonio to Chicago in 1944 (at age 12). Admittedly, they were lifetimes ago but… oh how they shaped our respective destinies! Mine is a simple glimpse backward into a fun filled ‘dream life’ enveloped by a game I adore (sometimes) which led me into the arms of two incredible husbands. Bobby’s exploits can be found in the record books.

After Bobby and I married in 2003 and migrated from Dallas to Vegas eighteen months later, our lifestyles changed considerably. Our new locale was an entity unto itself. Thus, although Bobby still enjoyed many exciting competitions and successes both here and abroad, our attendance at the NABCs since 2008 only included LV and SF, a far cry from our regular attendance records! However, since the Las Vegas Hilton is hosting our Summer National this July (such a convenient travel-free venue for us), we had planned to drop in and play a day or two and renew some long term friendships! However, there’s been a change in plans.

The other day, his good friend and long-time partner, Dan Morse, telephoned and successfully drafted him for the 2014 Spingold, quashing his earlier ‘social plans’ with me (but I heartily approve)! At breakfast this morning Bobby shared a unique recounting of his introduction to the so called ‘Big Time.’

His Spingold indoctrination was in 1955 (at the tender age of 22), partnered by his older brother Walter (a retired attorney, now 86, living in his native San Antonio) with a young Jimmy Jacoby and J. G. Ripstra (ACBL President in 1957) rounding out their team. They triumphed in their first match, beating a good group from St. Louis, but got their comeuppance in Round Two against the likes of B. J. Becker, Johnny Crawford, George Rapee, Howard Schenkin and Sidney Silodor. Incidentally, that was before six man teams were permitted (but five were) which allowed for some flexibility of partnerships. He vividly recalls Johnny browbeating B. J., although thinking to himself — that B. J. was the better of the two.

Bobby’s appearance in 2002 ended a string of forty four straight Spingold entries in that monumental event (a chain which got off the ground for him in 1959)… capturing ten victories including four straight from 1993-1996, an impressive run! He did play again in 2004-2008 and fit as a fiddle at 81, can be found lacing up his shoes once more readying for Las Vegas.

The Diversity of the Universal Bridge Mind

It has become frighteningly obvious after reading a few current features on BW that our game is facing many issues which have triggered vehement opinions of varying nature .. by both sincere knowledgeable players as well as a few panderers (plus other followers who appear to have questionable knowledge or understanding about the intricacies of the situations).  If you have a few idle hours and are in the market for entertainment and gutsy personal opinions, check ‘em out.

The ‘alleged’ German cheating incident (which has a ways to go before an official determination is made) is of interest to the entire world of bridge and has opened the proverbial ‘can of worms,’ reflecting on past allegations of unethical behavior that transpired decades ago..  

In addition, you will find a hugely controversial blog about the reported incivility of the popular household bridge name, ‘Zia’ .. with many accepting and supporting his candor and frustrations directed at his partner and a host of others who feel he should not be an exception to actions attributed to Zero Tolerance.   It also discusses Zia’s new role as a professional on the team of Madame Lavazza .. but no one is certain when that arrangement was made.. before or after this much publicized happening.

Another article questioned country-jumping and its legal standing .. alluding to Roy Welland’s partnership with the sensational woman player (possibly, in the opinion of many, the best in the world today) .. Sabine Auken, divorced wife of the late Jens Auken.  Apparently, Roy and Sabine (now a well known partnership) won the German Trials, qualifying them to represent that country in the upcoming world competition .. but his eligibility seems to have been challenged and carries with it some major balking points.

Let it be clear, I am expressing no opinions and do not profess to be qualified.  However, if this aroused your curiosity, stay tuned!

 

Coughs, Sniffs, Clicks and Kicks

Whether bridge crimes are perpetrated via the throat, nose, cigarette lighters or feet, it matters not.  Hats off to those who reported and followed up the recent issue involving the alleged wrongdoings of the German doctors.  For years I suffered through the injustices to which Norman and Edgar’s teams were subjected.  Bobby bears witness to it in the early seventies, losing four straight matches (finishing a consistent second), adding to their disappointment the victories which eluded the rightful clutches of deserving others.   And the beat goes on as some top international pairs are still plying their evil trade.   That is not to negate the fact that a few of our own famed competitors have also been guilty of obvious illegal shenanigans to which the public is not privy.    Sadly, some have been victorious in major ACBL events and even a few offenders’  names taint our once sacred Hall of Fame.   The question remains, with proven cheating of the victors, should the second place finishers move up?   The resolution is definitely not a slam dunk as so many others were extraneously affected on the climb to the Finals and it is virtually impossible to determine who would have reigned supreme.  To place the greatest mind game ever invented in such an ugly position is sad and has compromised its elegance and beauty.    Recognizing the cold facts, documenting them and taking official action to permanently and publically ostracize the offenders from the scene would seem to be a promising start.  Hopefully, it reflects a giant step toward elevating bridge to new horizons of which we can all be proud!

LV Flamingo Hotel Sectional

There is much construction going on around the hotel.  Avoid the nightmare we experienced because we were unaware of the parking entrance and had to circle the the building (driving an extra mile or so) before finding it.  Luckily, we came in a night in advance of the tournament.   If you are motoring (especially before game time),  allow more time.  Here is the best way to go:  Cross over Las Vegas Boulevard with The Flamingo on your left and Bally’s on your right.   Go to the first traffic light and turn left onto Linq where you will find the parking entrance.   Armed with this information, it will be no problem.  More .. after I finish my unpacking from last night!

What’s happening in Dallas …

… and I am not speaking of victors and losers. Directives seem to be zooming in on:  (1) suggesting women not use perfume.  Does that mean men are asked to refrain from wearing cologne as well?  Soon one will see printed mandates to bathe daily and wear deodorant.  (2) suggesting players (and kibitzers too?) constantly wash their hands and use sanitizers.  Is this coming from the ABCL or the Board of Health, I ask you?   Soon they will be telling us how deep a woman’s neckline can go or how long a guy’s shorts must be.

To use this new means of transportation called an automobile, how can players (especially locals or visiting motorists) be expected to pay $20 a day for Valet parking (or the generous reduction to fifteen bucks) to self park ?  That, of course, is in addition to card fees, food sustenance, airfares or fuel and toll charges .. plus room rates.  And … one wonders why attendance is falling off.

On another boondoggle .. inquiring minds want to know: What was the matter with the simple old fashioned method of getting on the ACBL site for NABCs and hitting the Daily Bulletin key where the previous day’s result would immediately appear on the screen?  Why all the new rigamarole with cumbersome downloading?  As If playing bridge isn’t hard enough .. now you must be computer savvy to read who did what and to whom!

Guess grouchiness accompanies old age .. but the above is a bit too much to stomach!

“The Outsider”

 

 

The Ides of March

are upon us as we speak.  It is a reminder that the famed date was a turning point in history .. and I believe bridge is in a similar position with changing times but not necessarily for the betterment of the game.   Our successful representation in world bridge competition is lessening as compared to days of yesteryear.  Our organization is zeroing in on membership, seniors and luring people into the game via masterpoint explosions — but doing little about supporting, encouraging and maintaining the magnificence of the high level game to which it also owes its allegiance.   Minimum (if any) attention is being paid to highlighting the top level in universal events.  Just as USA golf, and especially tennis, have been sinking from the incredible early success of their respective sports with other nations overtaking us and our failing to meet the challenge .. so goes the earlier superiority of Zone 2 teams of former years.

Much deference is being shown to promote the ‘enjoyment’ of the game and the standard of play is not the primary objective.  Little is being done to educate the audience to the magnificence and elegance of what world caliber bridge is about.   From what Bobby has observed, we seem to be entranced by getting players into the fold at any cost .. with the result being ‘high card wins’ which means any mediocre level of  play is acceptable .. as long as we attract new members and keep the place/and pace going.

I know it is like beating a dead horse, but shouldn’t the BOD, the Administration and the Marketing Department be going all out to try to get bridge into the educational systems of our zone.  Foreign nations are light years ahead of us as is evidenced by Europe and Asia’s recent performances (especially when competing here in our NABCs).  Social bridge is wonderful.  I am all for it .. but it should not stop there.  I am sure it is a ‘tough sell,’ but as suggested to me by a comment from a reader on another of my blogs, perhaps we should be looking into the concept of  ‘charter schools’ which may be interested in such a project .. especially in the formative years of our youngsters who would benefit by such implementation and acknowledgement of reasoning, logic, numeracy, problem solving and other assets derived from the learning of bridge.  Maybe our organization could be convinced that one of their primary interests should be directed toward bridge education in the schools.  There are several up and coming players who have emerged recently with great potential .. but we need more.  Without the help that is mandatory, bridge will be a slowly dying game especially with relatively mediocre performances in world bridge competition.  Getting bridge into our school curriculum now won’t solve the immediate problem, but if successful, will make an enormous difference in years to come.

Let me close on a high note!  Reports from Atlanta were just sensational regarding the youth tournament held a few months ago .. under the excellent dedication, supervision, expertise, experience and caring efforts of a group headed by Debbie and Michael Rosenberg and Barry Goren who went all out to encourage our younger players to accept the challenge of serious bridge.   Another name that comes to mind is Patty Tucker who for years has given so much of herself in that direction as well.  Also .. plaudits to the private groups around the country with several individuals spearheading the younger set and enticing them to enter the fray by giving beginners lessons.  I know it is taking place here in Vegas as I write and they are getting rave reviews. 

Zone 2 must look ahead to the future of bridge and there is no time like now!

Lost in the Shuffle .. a continuing plea

Much of this was said earlier .. but so necessary! For those serious players who follow the international scene, it has become obvious that Zone 2 has lost much of its stature .. being overshadowed by the bridge heroes of our foreign adversaries. I was privileged to have been exposed to the early greats of our game. The original driving forces of bridge (Culbertson, Vanderbilt, Work, Hazen, Landy, Goren and so many other heralded supporters) would turn over in their graves if they saw the direction in which our once sensational game has been moving. Instead of exerting so much time, money, labor and misdirected efforts (zeroing in on attracting new members with accompanying dues and card fees and deflating the once meaningful value of the earning of masterpoints by lowered standards) .. perhaps our administration should direct their efforts toward lobbying to get bridge into the schools .. AT ANY COST!

To the unknowledgeable general public, bridge is just an entertaining card game and a way to wile away leisure time. Perhaps the time has come for a rude awakening by lighting that proverbial candle under a naive public as well as our educational ministers. We, who have been weaned on clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades know, love and appreciate the majesty, beauty, fun and excitement of the game. True, it has taken on a new twist, with the introduction of professionalism and sponsorship, but as long it is conducted on an ethical level .. no harm — no foul. Just take a step back and compare the innovations and astronomical success and reflected achievement of European and Asian educational programs whose curricula include bridge. As I alluded to a few weeks ago on this site .. over TWO HUNDRED MILLION children in China alone are learning bridge as I write! Enjoyment is only a delightful byproduct. However, consider the other cascading side effects: the learning of logic, reasoning, numeracy, problem solving, etc. .. all great attributes that will serve the students in the practical betterment of their personal and later professional life. If you agree with this premise, please talk to your District Representative or your Delegate to the Board of Governors. Someone has to start the ball rolling! If the reasons above are not a convincing reason to "get bridge into OUR schools" … I don’t know what is!!!

” Flagging ”  and the need for Mutual Respect

Because of modern technology’s ever increasing availability to Internet sites the world over and the need for the subscribers to maintain their composure, it is a necessary evil to control inappropriate, caustic remarks which have no place on an enjoyable and constructive bridge site.  I have seen little or none of this here where I have blogged since 2008, but another venue has found it necessary to properly employ the ‘flagging’ process which allows its readers to place a checkmark indicating any or all of the following objections:  Inappropriate, Offensive, Spam and Other (asking for an explanation).  It also encourages an offended reader to write directly (privately) to the author stating his or her grievance/s in a dignified, polite and tactful manner.    What a sensational improvement to any open forum!!   I noted the announcement under the timely category of Community Guidelines.   I am not certain when this procedure became available to the public, but Bobby and I recently did mention to one of the gentlemen active in the administration that some control must be initiated over incivility as freedom of speech only goes so far.  Hopefully, this upgrade will go a long way toward adding positive vibes in the interest of furthering our wonderful game!  The subject site could offer a marvelous opportunity to improve the game and bring the world closer together, but in my opinion, it was veering off course.

Perhaps the problems that ensued over an extended period of time arose because the several thousand contributors and readers who made up the nucleus of the group enjoyed diverse cultures, standards, histories and methods of dealing with bridge problems, episodes and allied issues.   I, myself, was not a happy camper and had a problem with some of the retorts a while back.  There were several factions of the bridge populace speaking their minds.   Some were justified, respectful and with suitable knowledge and experience; others just vented their spleen with personal reflections and enjoyed the attention.  I can tell you from a close vantage point, I’ve been privy to so many unsavory goings on for close to six decades, beginning in the early 1960′s after I was wed to Norman Kay who passed away in 2002.  Two years later I married Bobby and my exposure became even more eye-opening.  I guess you could say — been there, done that.   Thus, I am no ‘newbie’ to the Mad World of Bridge and little shocks me.

In “The Lone Wolff” published by Masterpoint Press in 2008, Bobby opened his heart to the public, relating the many disturbing incidents he encountered over a span of sixty plus years involving local, sectional, regional, national and international happenings.  As most are aware, he has been bridge-oriented since he was ‘discovered’ in San Antonio as a youth in the late fifties and was taken under the wing of many world class players.   That enabled him to expand his horizons in innumerable directions and he has put his knowledge and experience to great advantage — dedicating much of his life to honoring the majesty and maintaining the beauty of the game .. and not being intimidated by those who feared he stood in their way.  No denying .. there were cobblestones on the Yellow Brick Road.  His adventures engulfed him in administration (up and through the Presidency of both the ACBL and the WBF).    His years of national and international experiences qualified him as both Chairman and Consultant on hundreds (yes, hundreds) of Appeals Committees where his primary consideration was equity — regardless of the wrongful interpretation of some ill-advised or misworded rules or laws.   He has encountered and prosecuted unethical performers and also those who were out and out cheats.   Several were convicted and barred from the game.  Others are still playing.  He has championed the cause against letting one’s biases, prejudices, friendships and politics cloud one’s judgment and is strongly in favor of recusals when obvious (a subject which has been glossed over with closed eyes).  I will not even touch upon his bridge triumphs as few can rival his accomplishments.   Sorry to be blowing his horn so loudly, but a point is to be made.   Bobby has contributed pro bono to our game with every ounce of strength within him .. and then some!   He has nothing to prove!!!!!  His record is out there for your surveillance and speaks for itself.   He is deserving of respect.

Compare his resume with that of the average contributor to the site.  Yes .. no doubt there are a few top notch accomplished players with many scalps on the wall and know their time and place.   Hats off to them!  However, it takes years and years to put it all together and exhibit continuing distinguished performances time after time after time.  Many super up-and-coming players are on their way .. but one must perform for a couple of decades with great consistency before he or she rises to the recognized rank of the world class expert which many strive to be .. but have not yet attained.    However, some of Bobby’s views on occasion were challenged because his critics had no clue from where he was coming and the ugliness, sarcasm and rantings of a select few were despicable.  Sadly, at that time no attempt was made to put a halt to the blathering.   It was a case of ‘anything goes’ and I find it so very consoling and uplifting that stronger stances have been adopted by the management to halt the uncalled-for comments by individuals who are not necessarily qualified to make a call!

I could go on and on about the naivete and misconceptions of the public.  In fact, the Bermuda Incident involving the infamous Foot Soldiers in 1975 is the classic example.   History will credit an unnamed person for discovering and exposing the two culprits .. when in fact, it was Bobby who researched and engineered the entire production and briefed and prepped his unknowing delegate of the facts while on a flight to the tournament.  Because word prematurely leaked out about the net devised for catching the bad guys in the act, the plan was thwarted.   Nothing was officially done though Bobby’s airplane acquaintance brazenly took credit for unearthing the evil doers’ ploys though he had only become acquainted with their sordid background a couple hours before touching down in Bermuda.   The League, the WBF and the local dignitaries did not want a worldwide incident made and hushed it up.   Who could blame them? Bobby never said a word. 

My point??  There is so much of which the public is not aware  .. and yet many individuals spout their mouths off professing to be authorities.  I suppose I am just sick and tired of some bridge players trying to pass themselves off as experts with opinions and views –  without being qualified.   Perhaps it is time for the public to take a step backward and make a reality check.   One must have the background, credentials and integrity to fit the bill.  Otherwise, learn from others better versed.  Inflated egos and need for attention are a huge part of the problem.  Bridge is a wondrous game.   Let all of us join together and keep it that way.

Mutual respect must get back on track and “Flagging” is a great way to start!

A Bridge Departure

At first glance, my caption appears to be the introduction to an obituary of one of our beloved and respected bridge cronies. However, the only relationship to our incredible game is that the cold facts you are about to read below were sent to Bobby by one of his long-time friends – World Class Brazilian Bridge Champion Gabriel Chagas who reigns supreme in our book in another category as well – his unparalleled humor. I’d like to share the following:

Did you ever wonder why there are no dead penguins on the ice in Antarctica ? Where do they go?

Wonder no more! It is a known fact that the penguin is a very ritualistic bird which lives an extremely ordered and complex life. The penguin is very committed to its family and will mate for life, as well as maintain a form of compassionate contact with its offspring throughout its life. If a penguin is found dead on the ice surface, other members of the family and social circle have been known to dig holes in the ice, using their vestigial wings and beaks, until the hole is deep enough for the dead bird to be rolled into, and buried. The male penguins then gather in a circle around the fresh grave and sing:

Group of Penguins

 

 

“Freeze a jolly good fellow.”

“Freeze a jolly good fellow.”

 

 

Sorry, I couldn’t resist!

The 2014 Hall of Fame Election

“Getting the HOF Back on Track” was a blog penned by me in February of 2010 and in my mind, the considerations still hold true four years later.

To my recollection only Kyle Larsen, a few years ago, deservedly earned the distinction of being recognized by his peers. Few recent ones, if any, have joined the ranks. Being so selective enhances the importance of the unique honor.

Following the recent appeals, pep talks, pleas, plaudits, rave notices and efforts to lead the accredited voters to cast a vote for his or her own personal favorites is an abuse of the power of the press and, in effect, employs a bully pulpit to influence the voters. No one has to lead the witness. If the electorate is not competent to make independent decisions without prodding, perhaps they are not qualified to serve,

And… the current urging to allow many more individuals to infiltrate such a revered assortment of bridge icons is like opening the floodgates and diminishing the majesty and elegance of our Ultimate Bridge Society.

I might add I feel that the recent leanings to merge the electees of the Primary Hall of Fame, The Blackwood and the Von Zedtwitz as one big conglomeration is a blemish on the purpose of the original tributes to the BEST OF THE BEST. Others should be celebrated, but it is imperative to distinguish in which realm their contributions made their mark! Understand, the Blackwood and Von Zedtwitz awards are very necessary categories to enable most deserving personalities to receive honors for their sterling impact on our game.

I shall be interested to see the final tabulation!

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