Judy Kay-Wolff

ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR .. (Revival of my blog of 2/26/09)

Because of the frequency of posting, blogs come and go and I rarely check Comments over a month old.   Most people say what they have to say and move on.   However, at lunch with Bobby yesterday I learned that a Comment was posted on 5/3/09 to the above blog and had it not been for Bobby, I may never have seen it.

To facilitate the current commentary, I present the following:

COMMENT FROM ROBB GORDON (5/3/09)

I agree with Judy and Bobby and many others that some of these things SHOULD be alertable. But when the sponsoring organization makes a policy that such things are NOT alertable, then to alert them is technically a violation of proper procedure. Rather than do this, if I am the declaring side, I make sure the opponents are aware of any negative inference before the opening lead.

I don’t think we should get into the business of making up our own rules when we disagree with the existing rules, even if we are clearly right!

RESPONSE FROM BOBBY WOLFF (5/06/09)

Hi Robb,

If I would be asked, “Who, in the current bridge world, is the closest to your own views on the most important conundrums confronting and perplexing us today, especially pertaining to the high level game?” your name would be front and center on my relatively very short list.

Having said that, I hold at least a slightly different view on your last paragraph of your May 3rd blog. Since nothing less has worked, and over a very long period, yes I think that if we were clearly right we should start a crusade of disagreeing with the existing rules and taking our own actions, if for no other reason than to call attention to WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE!

Through the last half of my rather long life the saddest event for me to contemplate is how the lawyers and judges in Nazi Germany, during the 1930’s and early 1940’s, blindly followed the laws dictated by an obvious madman, despite no doubt, being specifically trained in exactly the opposite way.

There is a time to love, a time to die, and perhaps most importantly, a time to stand up to what one believes and go to the death to get it done.

MY OWN TWO CENTS (FROM JKW) (5/07/09)

For forty years during my marriage to Norman Kay, I always saw the sunny side of the bridge street.   Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil.   Enter Bobby Wolff in 2003.  I spent 24/7 editing and seeing The Lone Wolff to its conclusion and publicationI defy anyone to cite another individual in the history of world bridge who has been a greater advocate of protecting the honor and active ethics of the game — insisting on going all out to preserve its integrity and majesty — at any cost!

It was not until I got involved with TLW that I began to catch a glimpse of the real world of bridge in all its gory, capped off by my infamous appeal (TLW, An Appeal to Remember, Chapter 20, pages  217-227).   I was appalled by the ineptness of the directors and the lack of knowledge of the ‘exalted’ Appeals Committee, particularly when the following day Bobby sought out the Appeals Chairman, who readily acknowledged to Bobby that he recently had read the intelligent caveat "the precedent" which totally escaped his memory at the time of the hearing –(and no doubt would have changed the outcome of the decision and the ensuing ‘warning.’ )

For your information, in general terms, the "precedent" suggests that when a substantial bridge citizen with a good reputation who does not have a record of calling the cops for trumped up reasons, summons a director and states what has occurred, his or her credibility should be recognized and respected and the hands should be carefully scrutinized.   It was impossible that the directing staff performed their duty as both of the opponents’  hands proved without a doubt my assessment of what happened was gospel — not a figment of the imagination.   However, they ruled against us (giving an AWMW as well) and we filed an immediate appeal on the spot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After the "precedent" was discussed, the Committee head should have swallowed his ego and could have reconvened the Committee (perhaps a "first"  — but certainly the honorable thing to to do), explaining they had reached an incorrect ruling (punishing the innocent and letting the offenders off blamelessly).   To add insult to injury, the AC saw fit to issue an  AWMW (Award Without Merit Warning) against  us — BUT no one had the guts to do anything about trying to reverse an insidious decision which my partner and I fought (because we had been cheated, YES, CHEATED, raped, violated –  however you want to describe it) and status quo reigned for sixteen months although we continued to fight it    Finally, we decided to engage an attorney who advised the ACBL if the AWMW was not removed, my partner and I were going to file suit.    IT WAS NOT UNTIL THAT TIME THAT WERE ADVISED WE COULD NOT TAKE LEGAL ACTION BEFORE GOING BEFORE THE APPEALS AND CHARGES COMMITTEE (where we were represented by Bobby and immediately THE AWMW was vacated and approved by the BOD — with one outcast).    How’s that for timing — kept in the dark for well over a year as to our rights?   It’s a helluva way to run an Appeals business and should serve as a great learning experience.   So as you can see, I am not a big fan of our Directorial Staff (with certain high level exceptions) nor our Appeals Committees.

Now to Robb’s point — about alerts and rulings.   I cannot think of anything more cowardly and disgusting than to sit by idly and abide by many of our existing rules despite Robb’s view "I don’t think we should get into the business of making up our own rules when we disagree with the existing rules, even, " (as he says) "if we are clearly right."   As far as I am concerned, you know what you can do with some of those ridiculous  "existing"  rules.    There are two solutions:   Insist the present Committees examine, re-examine, change, remove, correct, amend and plug all the loopholes — or replace the committee members with those who have a better understanding of the game and whose overall objective is equality for all.   No one is infallible — not even our bridge mucketty-mucks.

Bridge is an ever changing game and those in charge should stay abreast of it, allowing for revisions of staid or inequitable guidelines!


19 Comments

Danny KleinmanMay 8th, 2009 at 12:08 am

Without wading through the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge, which have become longer and more convoluted with each revision, and without referencing any list put out by the Memphis office of the ACBL to see what’s alertable in the opinion of the chief ACBL directors, we should know what the rules and procedures are. A basic rule of bridge is that the meanings of calls and plays in your partnership must not be kept private; you must inform them of any meanings that are not available to them from a general knowledge of bridge. The means of doing so are dual: (1) on a convention card that must be displayed to them; (2) by alerts and announcements to them. In effect, by deeming some conventional calls “non-alertable,” the ACBL is encouraging players to violate this basic rule. Can alerting what the ACBL deems “non-alertable” ever help one’s partner (and thereby harm the opponents)? Not if the directors do their job of penalizing the utilization of unauthorized information.

Let’s take an example. I’ve heard it said that no cue-bid of an opponent’s suit is alertable, but suppose a pair plays 1S-2S not in the usual way (hearts and an unspecified minor) but as Top and Bottom (hearts and clubs). North makes this cue-bid, having forgotten his partnership agreement, with hearts and diamonds (thinking they are playing the usual form of Michaels). South alerts and explains 2S as Top and Bottom, thereby jogging North’s memory as to their actual agreement. South then bids 3C whereupon North corrects to 3D. Have East and West been harmed by South’s alert and explanation, which jogged North’s memory? Not at all, if they call the director and the director does his job, which is to assign an adjusted score: the result in 3C assuming optimal defense and pedestrian declarer play. Then North should be subject to a procedural penalty for utilizing the unauthorized information (namely that South’s 3C is a preference between hearts and clubs rather than a desire to play 3C even facing hearts and diamonds).

The burden must not be placed on the opponents to make inquiries. Indeed, in many instances, the opponents may not even know which questions to ask.

PaulMay 8th, 2009 at 1:39 pm

The ACBL Alert Procedure is fairly clear when an alert is required.

It also says that certain conventional bids, such as cue bid of an opponent’s suit, do not require an alert. This phrasing is interesting, as it does NOT say that such a cue bid SHOULD NOT be alerted.

So alerting such calls is not necessarily an infraction and is still playing by the rules. But, ethically, it is fair not to alert them either.

I am happier that we use the WBF alerting principles in Scotland: alert all conventional calls. You may think alerting Stayman is silly, but it is a simple rule that we all understand.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 8th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Hi Paul:

First of all, I disagree with you about the clarity (and equity) of ACBL alerting rules. I think they are as clear as mud.

You mention cue bids as not alertable. Bobby and I play cue bids (Michaels) for the other major and CLUBS. Certainly alertable. We play Stayman (two way) alerting 2C (NF to game) and 2D (F to game). Another certainly alertable bid — (as many would suspect 2D as a transfer to hearts and two hearts a a transfer to spades and 2S as minors). We play non-transfers at the two level (2H and 2S) so we alert as “Natural” to avoid the opponents from drawing incorrect inferences. I could go on and on. Andy Robson’s theory of alerting on a “Need to Know” basis is about as explicit as it gets — and saves time, moving the game along.

You mention WBF rules in Scotland. Here in the States in the hundreds of duplicate clubs around the country, many are social players and most would have no clue what the WBF is and only know the ACBL because that is where they send their dues.

My plea is that the club managers know the rules and don’t play favorites (which we know exists in many bridge haunts); the tournament directors are well-versed on the current rules and use good judgment after scrutizining all the hands; that the members of the Appeals Comittees do their homework, reviewing old cases and are prepared to meet new challenges; and that the Committees which write and approve the rule and laws, take a good hard look at what exists today — amending, correcting, revising — as the game is constantly changing.

My theory has always been: “WHAT YOU KNOW — YOUR OPPONENTS ARE ENTITLED TO KNOW AS WELL.” DAMN THE ALERTS. Do what you have to do to make it a level playing field. No more — no less.

Danny KleinmanMay 8th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Dear Paul from Scotland,

Whether the ACBL’s rules for alerting are clear is moot. Yes, you can look at a list put out by Memphis and see (clearly) whether a particular call is on the list. If you have an unusually good memory, along with a willingness to study and memorize that list, you can manage to alert those and only those calls that are on the list. I have two quarrels with that, however.

One is that virtually nobody has memorized the list, at least among those I encounter at the table. Few players are willing and able to do so, and there are no uniform principles that can help anyone determine whether a call is on the list. The other is that the list itself is faulty.

I applaud Scotland, not only for supplying the educators who served my country’s founding fathers (Jefferson, Madison and others) so well, but for the sensible procedure of alerting all artificial calls (even Stayman), which provides a uniform principle that you don’t have to be a genius to apply.

LenMay 8th, 2009 at 11:53 pm

The goal of the laws (and zonal regulations) is to maximize the enjoyment of the competitors. If the rules say to alert a 2S overcall of 1S if and only if it shows spades, then a fatuous alert is improper, unethical, and, most importantly, detracts from the opponents’s enjoyment.

I think there’s nothing worse for the game (well, a few things) than people exercising civil disobedience because they can’t understand why other people prefer a certain rule. The rule about ALWAYS annoncing a notrump range is wonderful. It protects the opponents and any UI, while unlikely, is easy to assess and repair. Lots of people didn’t like the rule, complaining in letters to the bulletin every month, as they should. However, the suggested violating the law in protest, and that’s terrible. If you don’t like the rules, feel free to complain, and feel free to boycott until they suit you, but don’t ruin other people’s enjoyment.

As for alerting any conventional call, reall? I mean, you alert takeout doubles? Strong notrumps? Three card minors? What about four card majors? Does that make the game more pleasant or speed the game up, or help anyone understand your agreements better? Ugh. 1S-(X for penalty, unalertable) seems like a total waste of millions of hours of people’s time alerting takeout doubles.

The laws say the opponents are entitled to know what’s going on, and that’s great. That doesn’t mean you can’t have intelligent defaults to maximize information throughput.

1C-P-1S-2H, 2S promising four trumps isn’t alertable, no matter how many times you assert it is. And it shouldn’t be, since it is exactly what it sounds like, a raise. However, if half the people alert it, and the other half don’t, we’ll have hard feelings when people feel uninformed because they’ve come to expect non-sanctioned treatment.

Bobby WolffMay 9th, 2009 at 1:15 am

Hi Len,

Against my better judgment, I am going to attempt to reply to some of your comments. All I ask of you is that you think over what is said before you start making declarative statements, especially when they may be based on what you consider are the reasons for the rules. I am going to make this as brief as possible in order to save wear and tear on all of us who are now involved.

Your first statement about the reason for the rules is that they are to create maximum enjoyment for the players. Rules are made with the following caveats in mind:

1. To create as fair a contest as is practically possible. 2. To not tend to be overly protective or, more importantly, to try and prevent chicanery, both subtle and not so subtle. 3. To try and make all the players in that event (the ones eligible to play) aware of their responsibilities to each other and to the game in general. 4. To have swift and enforceable penalties for violations deemed severe enough to materially affect the fairness or in some cases to prevent the game to continue at what may be called a snail’s pace. Nothing whatsoever concerned with the rules has to do with the enjoyment of the game for the players. It is hoped that the above will please the players in knowing the administrators have the best interests of the fairness of the game in mind.

When it comes to alerts, we enter the realm of the difficulties involved when many types of contestants of all shapes, nationalities (which sometimes has effect on understanding different languages and dialects), abilities, experience, attitude, responsibility to be actively ethical which immediately transcends to the spirit of the competition. Consequently, it becomes necessary to alert when there is a need to know by the opponets, sort of like the Golden Rule in life, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. An example of that could easily be when one raises partner’s major suit response and promises four to do it, the defense is in much better position to be able to judge if an opponent also has 4 of the pair’s suit that his partner (assuming plenty of trumps in both hands) will have, at the most only 1 loser in that suit. Obviously if a pair has a rule about having 4 trumps to raise and he is dealt AKx, x, Kxxxxx, Axx and after opening 1 diamond and having LHO pass, partner bid 1 spade and have it go 2 hearts by RHO no one in his right mind, unless they were playing “support doubles” would not raise spades to probably 2, and even consider a jump to 3. Any other choice, regardless of your understanding, would be laughable. But Len, maybe that is the problem to begin with, namely that with all the levels of players playing under the umbrella of one tournament how can all the poisoned flowers involved be identified much less be made to be compatible? Alerting needs to be a practical application of what is important and what is not. Obviously all the high level players I know would almost never make a mistake in that kind of judgment, but who can say if that applies to the great unwashed who also enter.

You talk about some players will alert while others may not. Certainly true, but in order to have a level playing field everyone must be experienced enough to know which is which. In all other sports relative equals play against each other. Not so in bridge; hence chaos reigns! All we can do is have great enthusiasm for our game as well as a pure heart. Without those attributes our tournaments are born dead and we might as well flip coins to determine winners.

PaulMay 12th, 2009 at 9:20 am

Len,

I was trying to avoid discussing doubles but clearly I must. In Scotland, no doubles are alerted. You are expected to pre-alert any unusual doubles.

Situations do arise where asking about a double can lead to unauthorised information, but I’ve not experienced them very much (certainly not amongst the better players).

The club players LOVE this rule. They never knew when to alert a double anyhow and now it is very clear. The players in England still have precise rules on alerting doubles that the majority do not understand and it is obvious to me that the Scottish players are happier.

I do not understand why you think we might alert a strong notrump (or weak one), 4-card majors and 3-card (better) minor. These are considered natural and not alertable. Similarly, bids that show a known suit and nothing else are typically not alertable by nature of their strength. So weak two bids and Acol strong two bids are natural and not alertable; a 2 hearts opening bid showing hearts and a minor would be alertable.

We are happy with it. I’m surprised you want to stick with the something that is far more complicated.

Bobby WolffMay 15th, 2009 at 9:14 am

Hi Paul.

At least to me, the clarity of your thoughts and the expression of them are rare qualities indeed.

Although it is probably a little too late but probably good news for your ever loving home country, Judy and I will not be moving to Scotland. However, if you accurately represent how your bridge players feel about alerting (and I suspect you do), those who live there are very lucky.

What you say about natural bidding not being alertable, but one that is semi-natural like a 2 heart opening which shows both hearts and a minor is, makes complete sense to me.

Also, I wish everyone could understand clearly why a trump raise which promises four needs to be alerted since, if the original bidder of the suit now bids higher in that same suit after being supported, their opponents will know that he might have only four himself, but already knows he will be facing 4 card support. The law which should influence that alert is basic to protect what the opponents are entitled to know and any and everyone who doesn’t immediately agree, though being otherwise honest in their thoughts, suffers from an inexperienced bridge knowledge which, at times (too many) serves to challenge and therefore hurt what their opponents do, both in the bidding and often on defense.

If one adds to that the possibility that there are foxes who know better, but play dumb for obvious purposes, the picture becomes clearer which usually bodes badly, especially for the poor hens.

Please everyone consider that in most all other games, even the very highly paid ones which are on TV all around the world, the idea is to do whatever one can to increase chances of winning and if the referees still happen to see an illegal push or hold, well it might still be worth doing such a thing, since a passive approach (in that situation) wouldn’t be the percentage action. Aye, there’s the rub which separates bridge and its ethics from possibly every other competitive game, but sometimes the thrill of winning, even in bridge, transcends our thoughts and causes us to think about and then actually do, evil.

At least to me, doing such an evil, although certainly in bad taste and undeniably wrong, is not nearly as ruinous to our game as are our administrators who turn into doves or better defined as accessesories and permit such behavior to go unpunished. All of the above is exacerbated in bridge when different levels of competition compete against one another and excuses run rampant as to why. Wrong, yes, correctable, yes, easily accomplished, NO!!!!!

Danny KleinmanMay 18th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

To Len (LenMay 8th, 2009 at 11:53 pm), who says:

“The goal of the laws (and zonal regulations) is to maximize the enjoyment of the competitors. If the rules say to alert a 2S overcall of 1S if and only if it shows spades, then a fatuous alert is improper, unethical, and, most importantly, detracts from the opponents’s enjoyment.”

There are rules, and besides the rules, there are procedures for implementing the rules, just as in the U.S. Constitution there are broad rights that are supplemented by Congressional legislation to secure those rights.

The rules indicate that calls with unusual or unexpected meanings should be alerted. With some partners, I play 1S-2S as Michaels, showing hearts and an unspecified minor. That is the usual meaning, and so I do not alert. However, with other partners I play 1S-2S as showing the two top unbid suits, hearts and (specifically) diamonds. That is an unusual meaning, and so I do alert. In no way does this jeopardize the opponents or interfere with their enjoyment of the game.

Now suppose that my partner has forgetfully bid 1S-2S with five hearts and six clubs, and following my explanation, attempts to “correct” my 3D reply to 4C. I will interpret this 4C bid in context, not as meaning “Oops, I forgot, and your alert reminded me,” but as showing a 0=5=5=3 hand with substantial extra strength. Come hell or high water, I will protect my opponents … without even a need to call a director (who, in some instances, may not know how to protect them).

Do you really think I am unethical?

LenMay 18th, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Paul,

You said your procedure is “alert all conventional calls”. I pointed out that doubling 1S to say “I DO NOT WANT TO DEFEND 1S!” is, by any rational definition, conventional. I pointed out that opening 1C in your fourth best suit, say AT98 AT9 AT9 432, is, by any rational definition, conventional. Since you claim these are not alertable (and I don’t doubt that) I don’t think your system is quite so simple as you suggest. It’s great to have a simple, easily remembered rule, but not when it’s wrong a high percentage of the time. Also, I never said I want to stick with our system, just that I don’t violate it ad-hoc. I do prefer a system that gives the same answer, every single time, without interpretation, to a system based on personal ethics and preference. That way lies madness.

Danny,

I agree there are differences between rules and procedures. I am also aware that the laws of contract bridge are different from zonal regulations, including alert rules. I have used the term “rules” to cover any applicable regulation/law/procedure/etc. enforced by the host of the particular event the player plays in, anywhere in the ACBL (I don’t know much about other zones, WBF, etc. though the same ideas should apply). So, for example, in my district they allow Woolsey as a NT defense in sectional events. That means you are supposed to follow the Laws, the ACBL regulations, and the GCC except the part forbidding Woolsey. Instead of clarifying that in each paragragh, I just say “the rules”.

You are correct that the rules indicate that calls with unusual or unexpected meanings should be alerted. You choose to ignore that the rules also specify, AS THEY MUST, which calls are considered unusual or unexpected. For example, low level takeout and penalty doubles are not alertable, unless they have a highly unusual meaning. That sounds fine, until they specify that support doubles are HIGHLY UNUSUAL. I don’t mind that, even though every single player I know plays support doubles. Even though I think it’s ridiculous to alert support doubles, I do it, because that’s the law.

BTW, the only way you can tell that support doubles are highly unusual is to ask a director to print out the “tech file” about low level doubles and their alertability. I’m not sure how many others have done that, but I have. I don’t think that’s a very good way to distribute information.

My point is that letting people determine what they consider unusual/unexpected is a recipe for disaster. Specifying what’s unusual/unexpected and STILL letting people determine what they, personally, consider unusual/unexpected to override the standard procedure is absurd. Whether or not you, personally, take advantage of UI has nothing to do with the conversation at hand.

So, yes, I do think it’s unethical for you to alert 1S-2S showing the reds, since that’s EXACTLY the same as writing your opponents a private note saying “that shows spades” since that’s the ONLY alertable meaning. I hope you wouldn’t pass them such a note, and you certainly shouldn’t give that information verbally, either.

Bobby,

I read your response and considered it carefully. I feel honored, since that might be the most clear and well reasoned post I’ve ever seen from you. I agree with much of what you said.

While I agree with the four “caveats” you state about the goals of the rules, you then say:

“Nothing whatsoever concerned with the rules has to do with the enjoyment of the game for the players. It is hoped that the above will please the players…”

Please clarify the difference between enjoyment and pleasure. The “caveats” you state are not ends themselves, but means to the end of player pleasure, as you stated.

For example, “caveat” 1 is for a fair contest. That is not the goal of a handicapped team game. And that’s fine, since the point is for people to enjoy the game.

If we used bridge as a forum to elect our government, that would be different. As it is, it’s just a game, and people play because they enjoy it, and the rules are for them.

I have one final point about alerting support double situation raises promising four card support. It is exactly the same situation as third and low leads against suits. You COULD alert every single time, annoying the opponents and giving the appearance of trying to give UI to partner, or you could follow the imposed rules we all tacitly agree to follow and let the opponents consult your clearly, accurately marked card at their pleasure.

Bobby WolffMay 20th, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Len,

Enjoyment has to do with “getting joy from”, while pleasing has to do with being “content with” or “feel cared for”.

The idea of a handicapped bridge team game would be my first choice for the worst form of any bridge competition imaginable, fairer, at least from my view, for the supposedly better team to try and make as many errors as they can in order to even the contest.

In social competitive bowling there used to be an 140 man wherein the worst bowler (as far as his average was recorded) and usually 4 others on a side whose actual score always counted, would get credit for 140 even if he bowled less than that per game or, of course his actual score if he scored 141 or better. That was done to encourage poor or beginning bowlers to join leagues. Although some view bridge in the same light, since bridge is mental competition instead of physical, it is rare for administrators and wrong (at least to me) to give mental handicaps instead of the more natural physical handicaps which bowling represents.

Your analogy with forums to elect our government is a terrible and fallacious example since political acumen (aka mass ass kissing) does not lend itself to having the mental capacities nor an acceptable work ethic, to direct us in the best manner or even an average plus one.

Since I have already spoken out how it is very important in the case of a major suit trump raise by the opener showing four to be alerted since for those who play it that way the original responder, knowing he will be facing 4 trumps, may then just jump to game (or otherwise bid it in a competitive auction) while those who do not, cannot, and hence will not (except in rare instances). Since the declarer will always be the one with that special information I think it is necessary for that side to alert their opponents to that caveat in order for those opponents to not be adversely deprived of useful information. Having to consult the opponent’s convention card, especially at specific times (eg. at the end of an auction) is a sure way to allow dreaded UI to leak and then be fraudulently used by both partnerships.

Len, with all due respect to your obviously keen mind, during these email discussions, sometimes reminds me of the now deceased Ed Wynn aka “The Perfect Fool”.

Danny KleinmanMay 21st, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Len:

Your use of capital letters betrays you.

The rules cannot (not “MUST”) specify which calls are “unusual” because that varies from one milieu to the next. You say that everyone you know plays Support Doubles, and I don’t doubt you, but most of the players I play with and against do not (I play Support Doubles with a minority of my partners). The word “unusual” itself is ambiguous. Support Doubles do have an unusual meaning: the usual meanings of doubles are of two kinds: penalty (under which rubric lead-directing doubles fall, as they suggest the ability to beat the contract doubled) and takeout (under which rubric “negative” and “responsive” doubles fall). Support Doubles are not only unusual but unique in showing exactly three cards in a specified suit. Of course, in another sense, Support Doubles are quite usual, being universal among the bridge players you know (who must be a most sophisticated bunch of players indeed).

To alert a call is not “EXACTLY” the same as passing opponents a private note explaining that call incorrectly. Rather, it is to inform them that it is in their interests to learn how you and your partner play that call, whether by inquiring, or by examining the relevant portion of convention cards displayed on the table facing them. “Alert!” is not a rough synonym for “Assume […]” but rather a rough synonym for “Inquire!”

The requirement to alert highly unusual meanings precludes their being “ONLY” one alertable meaning for a call. Nobody, not some ACBL official or committee, and not I, can come up with an exhaustive list of possible meanings for one call, let alone all calls, but even if somebody could, how could we expect bridge players to remember such a list? If consulting a memorized list were necessary in order to know whether to alert, then after many calls, the caller’s partner would have to exclaim “Wait! I’m trying to figure out whether to alert!” before the next player could call.

I play regularly, in ordinary club games and at occasional tournaments, and I can testify that few regular partners display convention cards, fewer still display convention cards that are clearly and accurately marked, and almost none display them on the table facing their opponents. Of all the bridge players who play in clubs in Los Angeles, only I and some of my regular partners display clearly and accurately marked convention cards on the table facing opponents. My handwriting being quite bad, I go to some trouble to produce printed convention cards on my computer for my regular partners. Nonetheless, instead of consulting my convention card, most opponents inquire about alerted calls, as it is bothersome for most to have to find the relevant portion of the convention card, then read the small print (convention cards are so detailed nowadays that the print must be small).

Perhaps there is yet another reason for opponents to inquire about calls, whether alerted or not, instead of consulting convention cards. I have found, through experience, that reliance on what is marked on a convention card or on calls that are not alerted to have usual meanings, does not always offer protection against misinformation or failures to inform. Directors often require players to “protect themselves” by inquiring about all calls in which a player has interest. For example, your LHO opens 1S in third seat and your RHO responds 2D, which is not alerted. You have five good diamonds (e.g. AQ1094) and a singleton spade, and you hope the opponents have misfitting hands and will get in trouble. You do not double because a double here would be takeout for clubs and hearts. So you pass, and LHO bids 4H, which comes round to you. Well, does LHO have a strong hand with six or seven strong hearts? Or are the opponents playing “Two-Way Reverse Drury” (which a few pairs in your milieu do play)? Do you inquire now? You’re damned if you do (you’ve shown interest in diamonds and transmitted unauthorized information thereby) and damned if you don’t. If 2D was “Two-Way Reverse Drury,” a director is apt to answer your complaint by saying, “Well, you’re an experienced player, so you know that many pairs play Two-Way Reverse Drury. Looking at good diamonds, you should have inquired. Memphis says you have a duty to protect yourself.”

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 22nd, 2009 at 5:05 am

Danny: You missed your calling. Why are you wasting your time on this nonsense?In fact, maybe you should be sitting on bridge legislative and administrative boards trying to straighten out all the conundrums that are passed down to unqualified directors to untangle to the public. You, like, Bobby, want to turn the game around in the right direction but with all the loopholes and lack of clarity that exists — bridge as it stands today is a lost cause and can only get worse!

Danny KleinmanMay 22nd, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Well, Judy, just try to get me appointed to such boards, and see the reaction of the powers that be. For less than two years (summer 1990 to spring 1992) I was (Assistant) District Recorder for District 23, until the powers-that-were (Cecil Cook, Alan LeBendig and Jan Cohen) ousted me following a “kangaroo-court” hearing in which they refused to accept a written statement rebutting the lies that had been told against me.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 23rd, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Danny:

I am neither an advocate of some of these farcical committees nor an admirer of many of their appointees. But here’s an apropos story not known to the great unwashed which points out how they operate.

Bobby was on his way as a member of the Laws Commission (so he thought) with a plan he was about to propose differentiating the handling of defensive hesitations as opposed to bidding hesitations. He was met at the door by Gary Blaiss who questioned where Bobby was headed. A bit taken back, Bobby replied, “To the Law Commission Meeting.” Embarrassedly, Gary replied, “You are no longer a member.” You could have knocked Bobby over with a feather. It appears that Bruce Reeve (not the most popular or respected personality in the bridge community — and for good reason) had replaced Bobby with Adam Wildavsky — with no prior notification whatsoever. A real class act — if ever there was one!

Perhaps it is time the public becomes aware of what goes on behind closed doors. So, nothing you can tell me about some members of our administration would shock me.

Danny KleinmanMay 23rd, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Who is Bruce Reeve? Is he the actor who played Superman in some old movie or television series? (I never saw either, so I wouldn’t know.)

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 26th, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Christopher Reeve (Superman) and Bruce Reeve (ACBL) are planets apart. My first encounter with the latter goes back to 2004.

Sometime in 2003 I recieved a pleasantly surprising call from Mike Becker inviting me to join the Hall of Fame Committee (HOFC). I was quite flattered as I had been delighted to learn that Roy Green had resurrected the institution which had fallen by the wayside for about thirty years. Bobby and I had just gotten engaged and was quite surprised when I walked into the meeting to find on the table several adorable ‘knocker” shower gifts — a much appreciated gesture. The members (nine I believe) were serious, hard working, well intended individuals who had earned their place in the sun (one I remember well was Norman’s close friend, Dickie Freeman).

As time passed, it became evident the HOFC was being manipulated by the Board of Directors who were not a smidgeon as qualified to make relevant decisions as our group and the situation was worsening. Finally, Eric Kokish was commissioned to write a Proposal to the ACBL Board of Directors, pleading our case that we were quite capable of proceeding without their meddling into areas in which they were not qualified. The Proposal was rousingly approved, transmitted to Roy Green whom I consider a very special individual, but who naively sent it on only to Bruce Reeve, ACBL President and CEO, Jay Baum. IT WAS OBVIOUSLY INTENDED FOR THE ENTIRE BOD.

When we did not hear back from the BOD, many eyebrows were raised and only by a chance meeting with one of the Board Members, did I learn the BOD never received Kokish’s important communication which had been pocketed by Bruce Reeve for release a month or two down the road, if ever, or when the spirit moved him.

Such personal and political hanky-panky was too much to stomach and despite protestations from my colleagues, I sadly resigned from the HOFC.

That, Danny, should answer your question “Who is Bruce Reeve?”

Robb GordonMay 28th, 2009 at 7:19 pm

I must belatedly respond to a couple of things here. First, Judy, I have many character flaws (I am no stranger to the knife and fork, I have little patience for foolishness, and my opinion of my bridge game is sometimes inflated, for example), but among them you will not find cowardice. Indeed, if I were to take up cowardice, I would start with a healthy avoidance of blog debates with you and Bobby, who are like Pit Bulls (intended admiringly).

As to Bobby’s missive to me, it struck a negative chord in this manner – my priorities in life are 1. My Wife, 2. My Family, 3. My Friends, 4. My Dogs, 5. Bridge. I know that to many reading this, the order of priorities is twisted and perverted, but there you are. As such, I have a difficult time when somebody likens the other side of a debate to the practice of those who slaughtered millions in the name of racial and political purity. Sorry, it just doesn’t work.

If we are discussing Nazis or Bull Connor, I am perfectly comfortable with a campaign of civil disobedience. Doing so addresses actions that are an anathema to humanity, and the greater good justifies the insult to the rule of law.

But when we are talking about a game, I beg to differ. There are many reasons why such disobedience is ill conceived, and several have been pointed out in this forum. But to continue –

Suppose that a baseball umpire is notorious for calling an “outside strike”. The players know it, the other umpires know it, and the league knows it. Casey comes to bat and, with a full count, the pitcher misses about a foot outside the plate. “Strike Three” yells the umpire. Everybody in dugouts, the stadium, and the national TV audience sees the bad call. Instead of arguing the call, Casey sneers at the umpire and trots down to first base. Surely he is “entitled” to first base, and just as surely he can’t keep it. If he doesn’t retire, he will have to be removed or the game will have to be forfeited. The game can’t continue when the players make their own rules and rulings. Is Casey a hero or a goat? I suggest the latter.

No, for better or worse, the way to change the conditions is to exert influence on the powers that be, by direct contact with BOD members, by volunteering for critical positions, and by bringing abusive practices to light. Ridicule is often the best way to fix things, and the more people know, the greater the pressure.

As somebody pointed out, I am a member of the ACBL Laws Commission. While our authority is limited to particular matters (not alerts and conventions, for example), I am certainly willing to represent any proposal that is well conceived and good for bridge.

Warm regards,

Robb Gordon

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 29th, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Dear Robb:

I fully appreciate your response and respect your list of life’s priorities — though I predict it to be quite different than other individuals — especially bridge devotees! I also admire you as a bridge player and fine human being with honorable intentions. I just don’t agree with your methods as I feel you are beating a dead horse at this point in bridge status.

As far as your reference to the Nazis or Bull Connor, those are issues between you and Bobby. However, when it comes to baseball, you have come to the right place.

I was in the wholesale baseball card industry for twenty years — with Norman joining me after his retirement. Working eighteen hours a day was a consuming venture — but with regard to the baseball umpires — I was quite familiar with The Three Blind Mice.

After my many expreiences with the BOD, most of them (with an exception here and there) , in my opinion, can be classified in the same category. The dubious distinction of being a board member is usually a result of a district popularity contest and does not in any manner mean they are qualified to make far-reaching decisions which affect our once-wonderful game. Much damage has been done, making a farce of it — and in many instances I blame it on the administrators’ ineptness and lack of knowledge of the game. Long gone are the days of the Edgar Kaplans. Sidney Silodors and Eric Murrays to administer and police the sport — and who knew from whenst they spoke — with the sanctity of bridge as their ultimate goal.

And, as far as those who sit on the higher committees, espousing their personal, self-serving views on rules, tactics, conditions and other such touchy situations — they have not gained my respect because too much politics and personal agendas get tangled in the mix. Again — that is something over which you and Bobby can wrestle.

Over a long period of time and many disgusting personal experiences, I have learned to live by my own bridge conscience. You know what you can do with your Civil Disobedience theory. It doesn’t crack any ice with me as I have lost my respect for “The Establishment.”

Bobby and I alert (regardless of the colorful letters or blocks on the convention cards) if we feel the opponents would be ‘done in’ by failure to do so. One has to live by his or her own ethical standards to sleep in peace at night and my full disclosure at the table gives me total comfort and repose.

To each his own!

Warm regards,

The Pit Bull

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