Judy Kay-Wolff

THE THRILL OF PLAYING WITH A ‘PRO’ ….

This may appear to be a strange title from someone like myself, who has made it abundantly clear my views on guns for hire — especially buying your way onto a winning championship team and being surrounded by five king kongs.   Don’t misunderstand, it is an incredibly sensational way of learning, understanding and changing one’s formerly inferior methods of play, defense and perhaps hap-hazard, innocuous treatment of a very difficult game.   However, I still believe it is irrational to consider achievements in such a manner as qualifying one as an expert to be honored among the Best of the Best.   Allow me to tell you about the upheaval in my bridge mind set in the last six wonderful years.

I have played the game for about fifty-five years (although some may not consider it playing — and for the earlier part of my exposure, it may have been viewed by some as just tossing the pasteboards).   From the time I met my late husband, Norman Kay, in the early Sixties (and was married to him from 1963 until his death in 2002), I rubbed shoulders with what I would consider the elite of the bridge world, both stateside and abroad.  I witnessed bridge at its ultimate — both by and against Norman and his partner.  I have written blogs on my early life in the company of the Big Boys.  The heroes at that time, whom I got to meet and socialize with often were Johnny Crawford, Oswald Jacoby, Eddie Kantar, Sami Kehela, Lew Mathe, Eric Murray, George Rapee, Bill Root, Alvin Roth, Howard Schenken, Helen Sobel, Tobias Stone, Alan Truscott, et al.  Goren even took the train from New York to Philly to attend our wedding.   Though he had made a fortune through the game, he was never big on luxuries such as limousines or picking up checks for guests   In fact, I remember Norman arranging to have someone meet him as he alit from the train at 30th Street Station and chauffeur him directly to the ceremony.   And, yes, he was a ‘sponsor,’ of sorts, always surrounding himself with the elite of the bridge world to keep a high profile.  Bridge was his business and keeping his name before the public was part of ‘selling’ the game (for which we are all grateful as I often wonder what I might be doing today if bridge had not availed itself to me).   Somewhere I have a reel of film of my wedding, long before the VHS, DVD or VCRs appeared on the scene.   Charlie was a handsome man, a quite imposing figure and thrilled my mother’s bridge ladies no end.  The bride and groom took second billing on the occasion of their wedding nuptials — with Mr. Bridge himself as the star attraction — but it was a day to remember and the thrill of a lifetime to a starry-eyed fledgling to the game.

My present husband, Bobby Wolff, and Norman (though they were good friends and always sought each other out at the Nationals to discuss their shared love of sports) had quite different views of bridge.   Norman, who worked 24/7 as an Account Executive for ML was one of the miniscule number of top players who actually worked for a living and never played professionally (except with an occasional brokerage client when he got trapped and had a tough time saying ‘no’).   Yes, he had a real job and I don’t believe he ever accepted or got paid one red cent for playing!   Bridge was strictly a beloved sideline and hobby and he played only on Friday evenings, Saturday and Sunday (except for the three NABCs each year and some world championships).   He was a natural player, having been recognized by the ACBL as Player of the Double Decade (1957-1977) and had the pleasure of having only two regular partners during his nearly-fifty year career — Edgar Kaplan (starting in the fifties with a brief break from him when Sidney Silodor asked him to play on the “big team” in 1960 till Sidney’s death in 1963 — two weeks before our wedding).   Norman was distraught over his dear friend and partner’s death eventually from brain cancer — and took a year off — concentrating more on his Merrill Lynch real-life responsibilities, until his best friend, Bobby Jordan, reunited him with Edgar about a year and a half following Sidney’s death.   Kaplan/Kay enjoyed one of the most successful and respected partnerships the world has ever witnessed — playing together (except for the three year hiatus for about forty-three years), with countless scalps on their walls.  When reminded of his great record with Edgar, Norman always modestly countered with, “Yes, you might be right, but we probably have lost more pair events together than any other twosome in the history of the game.”

Bear in mind, Norman rarely played with ANYONE but Edgar.   He was not a ‘social’ bridge butterfly and played his heart out every moment of every event — all in the hopes of winning the right to represent our country with the eventual goal of seizing one world championship — but that was not destined to happen.   He was extremely successful on the home front, but because of the obvious stumbling blocks (which the top players worldwide shared), he never had a real shot at a world championship.   By the time Bobby came along, the problems had been eliminated (thanks to the hardcore position taken by WBF luminary Jimmy Ortiz-Patino), and he was able to find his place in the sun which Norman sadly never got to enjoy.  Norman preferred playing only with Edgar (rarely with other superstars), but I had my regular woman’s partners — Betty Kaplan, Helen Smith (the Philadelphia version — not Helen Sobel Smith), the great Barbara Brier, and my present dear friend and partner, Jane Segal.   I never tried to convince Norman to give up watching his sporting events (his second love) to play with me.   However, we did have an equitable pact.   Any time, for any reason (a mixed pair or charity game or something else important to me), he was always at my disposal.   However, I was happy with my regular partners, so It worked out marvelously.   If I had to venture a guess, in forty years, I may have played with Norman about 150 times —  to our mutual satisfaction.   Maybe that was the reason we were happily married for almost forty years — but I had the lifelong privilege to pick his brain at will and often discussed theory and the whys and wherefores for hours on end.   Believe me, I had no complaints and was content to bask in the shadows of two great players — being the ‘little wife’ (though not so little now)!  I did enjoy some novel triumphs on my own — winning a Mixed Pair with Edgar in Montreal in 1967 (as an absolute know-nothing relative novice) and another weird happening, winning the National Thursday Night Charity Pairs — once with Norman in Hawaii and another with Bobby in Atlanta a few years ago, in addition to quite a few women’s events in earlier years.

Now to Bobby Wolff, who needs no introduction to the world of bridge.   Bobby, to my way of thinking, (contrary to Norman) never had what most would call a ‘real job’   As a young man, he served in the Intelligence Branch of the Army and when he returned to San Antonio resumed the fancy he had taken to the game (which he had learned by his twelfth birthday, watching his parents and their friends on a round trip train excursion to Chicago).   At an early age, he was in demand as a professional player at the local duplicates for $5 a session (eventually graduated to ten bucks — and so on up the line), accumulated many happy customers and became accustomed to playing with (what in many cases were) mostly ‘weak players.’   He was going to law school at the time, running a bridge club (of which he was part owner with Joe Musumeci), playing pro primarily with the LOLs and their male counterparts (known as LOM) — so his involvement in bridge at the teaching level became his chief means of earning a livelihood.   Later, he became an instrumental part of forming the Aces (Ira Corn’s brainchild and money) and after they demoted Ira from a team player to NPC, the Dallas Aces became the first truly all-expert-professional bridge team in the world.   Madame Lavazza, of Italy, recently followed suit.   She does not contaminate the team — but is content to merely root from the sidelines for the team bearing her famous name (as the Lavazza Coffee Queen).  Bobby’s long list of successes followed at the table and in administration with both the ACBL and WBF — but that is all in the record books, so why elaborate?

I married Bobby on Pearl Harbor Day in 2003 (getting engaged after a three day cartridge courtship by exchanging emails on the computer).   Believe me, I harbored no great expectations of playing with him on a regular basis — if at all.    However, when he came to Philadelphia (before our marriage), he humored me as a polite groom-to-be and asked me to play at some silly sectional in Reading, Pa and we came in second in the Open Pair followed by a Sunday Swiss Team Win.   Since he was reviled by my Kaplan/Sheinwold style of bidding (as opposed to his”right where it’s at” Bobby Wolff methods), my game underwent a total overhauling.   You must understand, when I met Norman my bridge game was what was termed “kitchen bridge.”   I did play in duplicates, sectionals, regionals and a national or two — but not being a ‘natural’ bridge player, it was a struggle although I held my own playing with good female partners in the late fifties and early sixties.   When I met Edgar, he became my mentor.   Being a great theorist, he afforded me crutches and a cane — and a system I eventually learned and knew (almost as well as Norman — judgment excluded, of course).    It gave me a firmer ground from which to operate and I had most of my partners accommodating and adopting this new system I had latched onto.   K/S provided me a security blanket — and oops, along comes Bobby Wolff who  turns my bridge style upside down and causes me to trash my convention card!

The only K/S gadget to which Bobby has been converted is playing Weak No Trumps (but insists ONLY NON-VULNERABLE — which is the only way I ever played them).   While on the subject,  let me digress a moment and tell you what led to the mild revision of that segment of KS. It stems from a widely publicized hand from the annals of Kaplan/Kay.   Playing WNT (vulnerable), not only did Norman get doubled and when left in, went for 1400 (against a part score), but he made the January 1st Headlines of the New York Bridge Column.   I think it was Florence Osborne’s column in the now defunct NY Herald Tribune, but wouldn’t swear to it.   It so happened we were attending a New Year’s Day party of a bridge playing friend and Norman never stopped hearing about the hand.   Norman smiled, adhering to the grin and bear it concept, but that evening, he returned home, headed for the phone, called New York and unlike his usual warm, sweet salutation, spouted out, “EDGAR, either we play WNT NON VULNERABLE ONLY, or you should start looking for a new partner.”    No more minus fourteen hundreds for Norman Kay!   Thus, the change in system of the traditional handling of the Kaplan-Sheinwold NT variations depending upon vulnerability.

If I wanted to enjoy a happy marriage as Mrs. Wolff, which included keeping company at the bridge table as one of its components, I realized I would have to alter my style to jive with Bobby’s — which at 69 was no easy turnabout.  But, how do you argue with an eleven-time world champion?   I learned early on — the answer is:   You don’t!   So, I went along tongue in cheek and although occasionally I get a systemic senior moment, all in all, we consistently fare pretty well (through little credit to me).    Bobby’s theory zeroes in on no bidding misunderstandings, coupled with his belief that it’s a bidders game.  He advocates jumping into the fray early and leaping to would-be final contracts rather than attempting to scientifically explore other contracts which, without fail, always allows the opponents opportunities to direct unfavorable opening leads — not overlooking the possibility, if given time, to communicate and take profitable sacrifices.  Like they say — different strokes for different folks — and it sure has worked well for him during a long career.   It was a difficult adjustment from my rigid, stilted KS guidelines and theories, but I have eventually succumbed to his wining style — even converting one local partner and my regular Philadelphia soul mate of twenty-five years to change most of our existing ancient 1960s style to the ones now employed by The Wolves.

Bobby and I are fortunate that we are able to have such a beckoning and successful bridge club to play in (usually twice a week on Tuesday and Friday) while loving our general lifestyle in Las Vegas. The local games have risen in attendance to average over 20 tables and we have each noticed that the caliber of competition seems to be one step up from both of our previous experiences and is getting better and better.  The duplicates are directed fairly — without pandering to rulings which are customer-friendly, but rather toward satisfying bridge equity and treating new and old customers alike.  Possibly because of that fact, coupled with the proliferation of very good players indeed (and many visiting celebrities either on vacation or here for other bridge events), that causes an uplifting feeling which permeates the atmosphere.  Neither of us are suggesting that all bridge to-dos are eliminated.  Far from it.  But, we both agree that the one word which looms large is RESPECT which seems to trump the highly competitive nature of all bridge contests.

I’ve often been quoted, saying my bridge dates with Bobby are like dying and going to heaven, but I kid you not!  Sometimes watching his play and defense is surreal as it appears he is performing magic by the use of invisible mirrors.   This six-year experience has been the thrill of a lifetime and I have learned so much about theory and tactics which were foreign subjects that were light years from me before Bobby came upon the scene.

Playing with a Pro is quite an enhancing lifestyle, though it does nothing toward bolstering one’s ego.   However,  I don’t mind the ‘comedown’ as it is an unprecedented learning experience and …  what’s more … the price is right!


11 Comments

Linda LeeFebruary 1st, 2010 at 3:29 pm

What you describe does sound like heaven. It doesn’t only require a great partner but one who is patient and pleasant at the table. This doesn’t always work out with married people (or even with pro/clients!).

When I first thought about the idea of paying to play with a pro, I really couldn’t imagine doing it. Now it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. I couldn’t care less about winning master points and haven’t for a long time. But it would be nice to have a great partner who would talk about the game to me, point some things out AND be pleasant and forgiving at the table. Sounds like you have one.

John Howard GibsonFebruary 1st, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Hi Judy, For what it’s worth I’m opposed to the notion of buying in to pay and play with a pro in big competitions simply because the sponsor’s primary purpose is to acquire masses of green/gold points needed to claim that promotion ladder. I would guess that their standard of play at these events rarely justifies what they might actually walk away with. Although the game needs professionals, and professionals need sponsors…..it is a great shame there are not more lucrative and alternative avenues for the pros to earn a living. In my blinkered view of the bridge world, it would be more appropriate for professionals to be hired out in events where big money, high stake rubber bridge matches can be played. If green/gold points are to have any real validity at all, then every player needs to earn them off his/her own back, and not off those of the giants they pay to do all the hard work. I am a firm believer in level playing fields, where one’s ability not money is the reason behind a player’s promotion and current level of standing in the game. Anyway, tomorrow ( Feb 2nd) I am posting a blog on just one of the abilities that a true expert needs to have , if he or she is ever to enter a hall of fame, say. Would welcome your point of view or perhaps a brief comment ….if you can spare the time. Yours John

JUDY KAY-WOLFFFebruary 1st, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Linda:

Love (just as being married to, and playing with, a world class player) is a many splendored thing. However, one expert differs from another — in field of expertise, personality, mannerism, temperament, people-skills, approach, etc. To me, a pro (playing with a customer) must control himself or herself at all times (no matter what!) — reserving all lessons, criticisms and discussions for a one-on-one after the session in a calmer, less stressed-out private atmosphere.

Though Norman and I played waaaaaaaay less frequently than I do with Bobby, Norman always had a marvelous disposition at the table and few people ever knew what he was thinking. Never a twitch or a wince. I was the exception to the rule though he never said a word. However, I quickly picked up on his innermost thoughts when he bit down involuntarily on his lower lip. I, unknowingly, had just committed some egregiously horrendous, unpardonable error, but it was never discussed and we went on to the next hand without a word being spoken. That evening, either in the confines of our home or hotel room, he would calmly discuss what I had done wrong, how I could have improved my bidding, play or defense and it was a great learning experience without being embarrassed or humiliated in front of the opponents (and some people do thrive on seeing others put down). The best way of handling me was to bypass it, show no signs of disappointment, allow me to continue in a positive mode, not be discouraged and continue to give my all to that session — never aware that I had made some moronic bid or play. The result: was usually a good tally at session’s end which may not have been ordinarily achieved had I been unsettled, hassled or distracted. Don’t they say “It pays to be ignorant”? In my case, it certainly paid off and Norman learned early on how to cope with me.

Bobby, on the other hand, is angry that Norman did not devote the proper time to my game starting at Day One. Underneath this not-so-svelte seventy-five year old body and still somewhat actively rational brain, Bobby believes there is latent talent which was never developed to its fullest. It is hard for me to blame Norman as he was determined to concentrate on his business and clients at ML, improve his partnership with Edgar with an eye on representing the country and eventually winning a world championship. However, we have been down that road before — so let’s turn to Bobby’s theory. But be assured my bridge aspirations (or lack of them) were not a consideration.

I was married at 29 and bore two children eleven months apart — which was a job and a half. By the time they were two and three, respectively (in 1966) I began attending the NABCs regularly, missing only three till Edgar’s death in 1997. I had good woman partners, including a sensational player by the name of Barbara Brier who won the World Mixed Pairs with the Baron (Waldemar von Zedtwitz). My bridge life was not suffering and I had fun — keeping everything in its proper prospective. I suppose I lived by my wits but usually turned in reasonably decent performances. We had a wonderfully happy home life with many close friends and social engagements, became involved in trotters and pacers and owned an active stable from 1970 to 1987, started and operated a successful baseball card business from 1982 until 1997, even accepting a bridge teaching job in 1976 (upon Charlie Solomon’s death) on the Philadelphia country club scene as there weren’t many more qualified people in the running . Also, my game and results had improved — and need I tell you being in the limelight as Mrs. Norman Kay didn’t hurt my chances of being hired. However, I gave it up seven years later as the beginning of a soaring baseball card business and running to the races quite often to see our stable in action made life too exhausting for me. So, as you can see, I never suffered from boredom or spare time. Thus, Norman didn’t place high on his list the priority of making me into a better player. That, in retrospect, was totally unacceptable to Bobby when he came upon the scene and saw me in action.

Bobby keeps reminding me of his tutoring the Juniors. Good players have to possess a certain mind set (draining their minds of all else) and concentrating (with no distractions), learning to count (by rote) — keeping in mind (as Bobby says) “the dog that barked” and “the dog that didn’t bark”, helping one to judge better where the cards lie from either the positive or negative inference drawn from each case. I have no doubt that Bobby’s assumptions are correct — but where would I ever have found the time?

I have learned much from Bobby — but it is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks — try as I may (as the memory acts as a partial deterrent and isn’t as flexible as in my youth). He thinks he could have been a more positive influence on me as I was not taught properly and could have developed a better approach to the game as opposed to my earlier training. I have now changed my stringent, passive KS manner to a more seat-of-the-pants Bobby Wolff style but I sometimes fear my newly-acquired animalistic pre-emptive habits might land me in the Intensive Care Unit of Summerlin Hospital for a month. But — not to worry as I know that Bobby will visit daily (and bring along my favorite White Zinfandel), so what the hell! It’s a bidder’s game! Seriously, playing with Bobby is as good as it gets — so I really have no regrets. Whatever I could have been is now water over the dam (or under the bridge would be more topical) — and I accept my lucky lot in a heartbeat!

BlairFebruary 1st, 2010 at 11:17 pm

What’s it like being the other ” Half ” of a Wolff team? Well, as you progress through the event, your opponents seem to be angrier and more argumentative, why is perhaps because they feel a need to bully the ” weaker ” pair. If the other pair comes to our table at the half, they always seem relieved to find us. When we win the event, their smiles cause us to realize that every moment was worth the time and energy expended. We love it and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The toughest match we ever played with Bobby and Judy was against Kai and Kyle Larsen. We had entered an earlier event and we were knocked out after the first round. So, we entered event two on that day and Martha and I drew Kai and Kyle at our table. We love Kai, and we’re proud of junior for his accomplishments, as well as his etiquette. Well, in order not to see Kai’s hands we sat in Kyle’s lap. Kai had to work so hard on every hand to sort and play his cards, especially one at a time. At one point, he fell out of his chair. I got to him first, and as he uttered a hundred apologies, we got him back up and running. Yes, it was a dark day for our team, but sometimes, when you lose to an opponent you really like, life is ok and still special. It was one of my most memorable days at the tables. Anyway, we won the next couple of events, so things do work out in the end…..

It’s so cool to have such wonderful teammates, two people who play the game for its challenge, its beauty and with an ethic that is unsurpassed. Thank you for making our dates so much fun. Win or lose, we’re thrilled to be a part of your day….

JUDY KAY-WOLFFFebruary 1st, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Hi John:

You are certainly barking up the right tree when you speak to me about the inundation of masterpoints. Winning points no longer represents the admiration and respect for achievement as they are issued at the drop of a hat. My major grieveance is at our club (and I know it is not the management’s fault — but can be traced back to ACBL regulations) — points are awarded to those (usually in Flight C — but occasionally in Flight B) where the recipients have produced scores a shade over 40%). I cry out over saluting inferiority rather than achievement. But the lure of masterpoints gets card fees and dues — traceable back to the almighy dollar as the culprit. That is the world in which we are living as witnessed in so many venues other than bridge.

However, I know you are directing your comments toward the issues of pros earning points and recognition for students or sponsors. It does make a farce of their issuance but I’m afraid it is here to stay — like it or not. On your primary issue about various ways for pros to earn a living in other areas of bridge, Bobby is far more qualified to address that than I am. So, expect to be hearing back via a comment within the next day or so.

Thank you for writing. I always enjoy hearing your thoughts. Your love and respect for the game are so apparent.

Cheers,

Judy

JUDY KAY-WOLFFFebruary 2nd, 2010 at 1:27 am

Blair:

Talk about memory … I don’t recall hearing about Kai falling out of the chair and since Bobby and I only played against Kai, I didn’t even know his very talented son, Kyle, was in town and at the other table. I remember when Kyle and my dear friend, Bonnie Brier (Barbara’s daughter who is the newly appointed Legal Counsel for NYU), won the Teenage Pairs at an NABC. That seems like an eternity ago — and actually was. Bonnie gave up bridge to devote time to her family and a promising legal career — and look at them now — with Kyle recognized as one of the United States’ leading players. Boy, time really does fly!

I, too, remember losing and not feeling so badly as it is remarkable that Kai (now in his early nineties) has the determination and finds the strength to still go into combat. Kyle has good genes!

Bobby WolffFebruary 2nd, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Hi Mr John Howard Gibson,

Judy has suggested that I write to you about what to do with the professional bridge scene, the proliferation of master points leading to unfair ratings of players all the way up to qualifying for International representation of one’s country in the World Bridge Championships, not to mention possible Hall-of-Fame inductions.

Instead of my suggesting cures, I’ll rather discuss the Yellow Brick Road which led us to the disease, with the hope that your probable considerable intellect, together with your obvious love of the game, will, at least contribute to leading us out of dealing with wicked witches and poisoned flowers and instead find a real Emerald City without Frank Morgan (aka “The Wizard”) controlling all activity behind a curtain.

When I was a young man, newly married and living in San Antonio, Texas I fell in love with the game of bridge. My family (father and older brother) had a thriving law practice so it became a natural thing to do for me to go to law school and join them in that lifetime endeavor. However, because of an older great bridge loving friend of mine, Colonel Joe Musumeci, wanting to retire from SAC (Strategic Air command) at the age of 39, he returned to San Antonio and we opened up a bridge club together as, at least to my intent, an interim move until I got my law degree.

It will come as no surprise to anyone close to either me or some similar situation to understand that playing bridge not only trumped practicing law but did so by not taking any prisoners. However, because of the realistic strictures on the way to Oz of operating a bridge club in San Antonio with all the considerable Air Force and Army bases free duplicate bridge games available it was practically impossible to even begin to make a living (how does making 11 cents an hour sound to the reader?), in spite of also teaching and playing rubber bridge (at the rate of only 1/4 cent a point). To make matters more uncomfortable, I was getting up at 5:30AM going downtown to have breakfast while reading and briefing my subject cases, attending law school till noon and then rushing to open the club together with Moose, and then either playing very small stake rubber bridge in the afternoon, teaching classes, and finding a way to direct and play in about 10 duplicate games a week usually finishing around 11PM in time to go home and repeat the process the next day and lasting all week long.

Early it became clear to start playing lessons, which were brand new to our part of the country, although they had already begun to do that out West. Prices being what they were at that time didn’t enable me to make the semblance of a decent living, but somehow this chaotic and sorrowful existence did not in any way soften my love for the game but, in fact, in my mind, bridge was fastly winning my affection in its battle against learning the law.

To swiftly proceed over the next 7 1/2 years, we developed club playing lessons as well as Sectional, Regional and Side games at the Nationals which at least enabled us to be able to keep our heads above water financially. Then the Aces took form, my wife, 2-year old daughter and I, headed North to Dallas in February, 1968 to join Ira Corn and four other young potential experts later to become five. As far as I was concerned, my playing professionally with lesser partners was history and greater more fulfilling prospects were in store. I left law school, without taking the bar exam, but in my mind, if the Aces didn’t work out, I did have something to fall back on.

The Aces did work out, not in any emphatic sense, but at least we had won two World Championships in 1970 and 1971, but then miraculously qualified to represent the USA the next four years but sadly (at least for us) lost 4 in a row, finishing 2d to the Italian Blue Team in 1972-1975. The Aces had not been a financial success but at least my stature in the bridge world had increased several times over — enabling me to be able to make a decent living in various aspects of the game. Whew–this boring biography is finally over.

Now to what you need to know in order to apply your counsel to the problem. Professional bridge, at least to me, has no real place in being used to qualify players to represent our great country. To do that is to denigrate the game as we know it. I say this in spite of, during my early years, to have violated what I just suggested (two times). When I committed those bridge crimes there was not nearly the competition for international qualification that there is today and since we could effectively hide our sponsor and did so effectively back then it, in my opinion, cannot be done today and the records of USA sponsors playing in the last 20 years bears out that opinion. Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with someone paying a team and paying them well, as long as they are world class themselves and that is definitely the case in the playing of the Nickell team Frank Nickell, captain. There are, of course, some teams which have sponsors who are very capable and at least close to world class. I am not referring to those teams when I say that professional teams should not have easy access to qualifying to represent our country.

Yes, sometimes that awful word to some, subjectivity, may and should be used to determine whether a sponsor is good enough to be chosen, but in all cases it is so obvious that no one could legitimately dispute it.

To make a rather graphic analogy for at least, all sports fans to understand, in American football and basketball it would be impossible for a team which had any markedly inferior player to win an Olympics or since American football is not an Olympic sport, let us substitute the Super Bowl. Perhaps in baseball to put a player in right field or better yet as a designated hitter might not handicap the team to such a degree that winning would be impossible, although that player hit .000 and, of course, dropped most of the balls hit to him (or her) in right field. I’ll let a soccer expert (the world’s favorite sport) answer whether it could be done in soccer.

Could any other sport allow such a thing, and if so, why would not Olympic committees forbid it from denigrating the whole sport especially in its most visible venue?

John, I have been rambling for much too long. It is time to stop, come up for air, and let you and whoever else thinks he could contribute to where world bridge is headed (at least in the USA and possibly other countries) and what to do about it. Yes the ACBL has taken a defensive stance on masterpoints, allowing more and more of them to be issued, thereby reducing their value, their tradition, and consequently their importance. Also sponsors would never be interested in money tournaments since they already have been successful in acquiring money, it is the lure of self-satisfaction and immense ego gratification which is enabling to professionals since it allows them to be able to make money fostering their clients zeal to be recognized.

However when that zeal carries over to representing one’s country and achieving the highest honor of winning a Bridge World Championshp or equally being considered to be elected to the ACBL Hall-of-Fame which, at least up to now, would represent being one of the top players to ever play the game, can anyone disagree with me that to sanction that, is a bridge-too-far???

John Howard GibsonFebruary 2nd, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Many thanks Bobby for getting back to me and give up so much time and effort to write such a long reply. How I envy your ability to play the game at the highest level both in terms of ability and world stages. Being a professional and earning money from a game you love is the stuff dreams are made of. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your reply, along with the comments about the way sponsors set about to abuse their financial clout ……. hiring professionals purely for a stack of ego-driven ulterior motives, rather than developing their potential to become better players themselves. It is extremely refreshing, and reassuring, to hear from a professional his obvious distaste for the unjust outcomes that have emerged from those profiting by joy-riding on the backs of others. ” Parasites” is a word that comes to mind. Anyway, let’s hope one day the bridge authorities will see sense, and develop a better system for classifying players in accordance with their true abilities… RATHER THAN THOSE PURCHASED FROM THEIR MORE ILLUSTRIOUS AND GIFTED PARTNERS. Best regards John Howard Gibson

Bobby WolffFebruary 2nd, 2010 at 6:40 pm

John,

As an epilogue to our whole discussion, I have just firmly realized that for whatever reason I did not hold a sponsors wanting to add a World Championship scalp to his wall of trophies showing real chutzpah since he or she probably rationalized that he contributed by his improvement, money and presence to that stunning victory.

However, allowing his (or her) name to be put on the ballot for election to the ACBL Hall-of-Fame thereby joining it with all of the greats of the past 70+ years is just too much to contemplate. Call it ego, zeal, a charade, laughable, fantasy, or even earned, but for any rational person to think about it, just call it WRONG!!!!

Thank you for your kind response.

Bobby

JodyFebruary 3rd, 2010 at 12:04 am

Judy, at least 25 years ago, reading the results & chitchat in the BBulletin about a premier event at some Natl., someone was quoted as saying that one pair was “half a board ahead of Kaplan & Kay!” “What?” Jaws dropping, “half a board, wow”. I had only been playing for a short while, but realized that this “Kaplan & Kay” must really be somebody! I love these stories

JUDY KAY-WOLFFFebruary 3rd, 2010 at 1:27 am

Jody:

You don’t know what you missed in the ‘good ole days.’ People dressed differently (especially on weekends), talked differently and (IMHO) the truly great superstars were not so haughty and self-righteous. The only thing that mattered back in the sixties was being at the top of the heap when the matchpoints were counted. There was no soliciting of customers and rivalry among pros as there is today, grovelling to the sponsors and all the nauseating homage paid to a sponsor when he or she enters a room. I think it goes with the territory in the age in which we are living. Professionalism has turned our hobby into a dog-eat-dog rivalry, with the pros trying to get their foot into the front door before their competitors.

Norman and Edgar never played professionally as Edgar (who, like Bobby, devoted his life to the betterment of the game) always feared what would happen to bridge when money was involved (in many cases, causing morals and ethics to crumble). He was far ahead of his time and would turn over in his grave if he witnessed all the conflicts of interest and personal agendas which have emerged because of professionalism — with the winning of world championships and nationals by very average players who are now being honored by having their names submitted to Hall of Fame Ballots. A greater farce in bridge never existed. However, I blame not only the nominating committee but the sponsors who have agreed to have their name placed on the ballot, knowing full well, it is an act of patronage — not as recognition of outstanding expertise as exhibited by those elected since the Hall’s inception in 1964.

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