Judy Kay-Wolff

FELONIES, MISDEMEANORS AND LESSER BRIDGE CRIMES ….

No one can argue that deliberate, pre-arranged cheating is the most heinous of all bridge crimes.   Since in our society, death is not an option, permanent banishment should be the unarguable penalty paid by the unscrupulous individuals who conceived these plans with malice aforethought.   Perhaps if this strong means of punishment was adopted when it first came into existence, the issue would not still be so prevalent today (at all levels).   Believe me, there continues to be, as we say, ‘wired’ partnerships whether you want to believe it or not, not only here in the States, but abroad as well.    The rank and file, for the most part, are not exposed to the latter, but the big boys still encounter it in all sorts of serious competition (both here and on foreign soil).   That, however, is not the subject of this blog.   I would like to examine the different types of corruption of our game (and the many pitfalls responsible for it) which occur and how they are handled (and more often mishandled) by those in charge.

Let us start with a simple case of accidentally not responding to partner’s Stayman call by the obvious inadvertent Pass of 2C (described crudely as a B. F.).   It happens to all of us on occasion and I have confidence that you can figure out the reference. 

However, that is just the beginning of the ugly aftermath.   As the No Trumper realized that he had not pulled out the 2D card he intended (denying a major) and was rushing to replace it by the proper card, the mean-spirited, ill-intending creep on his left lickety-split SHOUTED PASS.  

What happened to the ACBL dictated regulation of using the green card?  Was the bidding box no longer chic, fashionable or simply out of vogue?    Hell, no — but the time required to reach for the Pass card might allow the NTer the time frame to explain he meant to pull out the 2D card – squelching his opportunity to appeal to the conscience of the vocal passer.   No civilized person I know (IMO) would want to score matchpoints by not allowing the 2D card to be placed on the table — animals and vermin excepted.

Also bear in mind the stakes!   They were not playing for money — merely masterpoints.   But, perhaps it was Triple Point Day where you get a glut of those coveted meaningless pieces of paper.   I might have mentioned before that I read a funny article defining Triple Points as earning one third and buying the other two thirds.   Makes sense to me — but it brings people into the clubs and more money to the owners, directors and ACBL although it certainly deflates the glory of earning it the old way — where people took pride in their achievements.   In the bridge world we live in today when masterpoints are awarded (mostly in the cases of B and C players) for 40% games and below for placing in their section, it makes you sit up and take note sadly — that we are acknowledging and heralding not only mediocre but substandard play as well.

Forgive me for digressing.   Back to the matter of the lightning fast vocal pass.   It was brought to the attention of Mike Flader (rulings@acbl.org).  After a couple of exchanged emails between Mike and the victim (with Bobby interceding as well at the behest of the ruled-against party), Mike agreed that he (along with Bobby) would have allowed the green card to be picked up and replaced with the intended 2D call.   However, at the present time that is not how the law views the error.   My answer — screw the laws, the rules and the unyielding, less-knowledgeable directors and re-write the format to reflect justice and equity.   It is pathetic if that is the way people want to earn good scores.  

To me the culprit was clearly Lefty with his hungry demonstration to finish off the auction pronto like a jungle beast swooping down upon his prey – except the jungle beast is not nearly as guilty since he needs food to stay alive.   The bridge culprit, on the other hand, doesn’t need masterpoints (especially the devalued ones of today) to survive.   Another view is that the masterpoint hound only swoops down to be evil and to further his enjoyment of basking in his own conniving tactics and overbearing personality.  Bridge is no longer the game intended by its founders to be played by ladies and gentlemen.  It seems like the animals are running the zoo with the help of directors, appeals committees, and lawmakers.   Time for some radical changes!

Now let’s compare the above travesty to another — which went down as one of the most hideous, egregious, infuriating, outrageous rulings in the long history of the game.   You got it — that infamous “Oh, Shit!” case from the March 1999 Vanderbilt Knockouts in Vancouver.

I can’t imagine any other debacle approaching it from the standpoint of violation of bridge law or corruption of the process — but primarily enhanced by the cast of characters involved.   To really understand the sequence of events, you will get a first hand accounting through the eyes of one who was there front and center and knew the background behind some of the moves.  Let’s cut to the chase.   Here’s the actual hand and original ruling:

                         A1084        Contract:  6C by South (down one)

                         KQ9           Opening Lead:  H7 by West

                         KJ9

                         Q104 

       

                         Q6

                         A852

                         —

                         AK86532

Unfortunately, though my husband Bobby and his partner Dan Morse originally received the correct ruling from Stan Tench, it was reversed by a prejudiced director with whom Bobby had numerous run-ins.  To compound the situation, when it was appealed by Bobby’s side, the two individuals who served as Co-Chairmen on the Appeals Committee (known enemies of Bobby) never considered stepping down and recusing themselves as it was payback time.  Inexcusable! There oughta be a law against it.

Sadly for Bobby this case preceded me. Had I been on the scene, you can bet your life that the Appeals Co-Chairs would have been forced to show some semblance of human decency by recusing themselves.  However, I blame Bobby for not speaking up.  He was naive enough to disbelieve that such a miscarriage of justice could occur as the facts were self-evident and anyone with a brain cell (or maybe two) would not have allowed the declarer to take her card back two plays later.   But ACBL Land is unpredictable!   Believe me, I’ve been there and can attest to it in living color (The Lone Wolff, page 217).

What actually happened was Bobby led his singleton heart against 6C, won by declarer in dummy.  She then led a diamond from KJX and when Dan, fearing a singleton queen, popped up with his ace declarer ruffed. All she had to do was pull trump and claim her slam as she had a discard for her losing spade on the diamond king.  Simple?  Kid stuff.

However, instead of the rest of the hand being duck soup, she must have had an aberration (not uncommon even at the high levels).   After ruffing the diamond, declarer played a low trump to dummy’s queen and then played a spade away from the Ace and Dan hopped up king and gave Bobby a heart ruff for down one.   As she led the low spade (and AFTER Dan won the king, her universally quoted comment was echoed, “Oh, Shit!”  Bobby described it in TLW:   “It was a phrase that was to become so famous that those two words will always be synonymous with the most ludicrous appeals decision that ever came down the pike.”

After the play was over, declarer’s partner suggested they call the TD, Stan Tench, to the table who had no problem ruling that the result stood.  Ten minutes later he was coerced into reversing his ruling, after Chief Tournament Director, Henry Cukoff (an arch-enemy of Bobby’s) became involved.   Unfathomable as it is, but because of Cukoff’s brain-demented mandate, declarer was allowed to take back her card and 6C was chalked up as making.  Yes, read it again.   You are not seeing things!

UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cukoff’s decision was backed by the late Brian Moran, possibly Steve Bates and certainly even a seemingly unwilling messenger-like Stan Tench.

Back to Cukoff for a moment.  This next memorable experience took place in Orlando during the Reisinger in 1992.   Bobby, as you may know, was very involved in attempting to catch cheaters, monitoring their moves and even organizing sting operations.   Competing in this event was one notorious player (still alive and wide-eyed – and has even won a world championship) who thrives on clocking hands.  When Bobby saw this predator gazing where his eyes did not belong, he suggested to the DIC Cukoff the need for a physical change in the table arrangement which during the second day of the Reisinger BAM event historically used an internal movement.  The source of the temptation needed to be eliminated. 

As it then existed, the movement called for the East-West Pair to SKIP A TABLE (GOING DOWN TWO)WHILE THE BOARDS WENT DOWN ONLY ONE.  Thus, it seemed wise to re-arrange the numerical arrangement of tables in two sections (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and so on and the same with 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, etc.) – with the sensible intent that the East-West players not directly pass the table from which their next boards to be played would be coming (especially if play had not concluded).  Cukoff refused, but Bobby had him overruled and did not rise to the top of Cukoff’s Hit Parade.

And now to the Appeals Committee Chair People:

(1)  Doug Heron, a Canadian politico, was a Co-Chairman.   For years, Bobby fought to have the Canadians field their best players in the International Events instead of filling the chairs with the lesser lights that included several political figures.   As a result of their finishing terribly, next to last or even dead last overall on occasions,  Bobby proposed a motion that Canada had to finish at least in the top half in the World Team Olympiad to be permitted to have a team in the following Bermuda Bowl.  Note that it would have been a slam dunk effort if Canada ever attempted to send anywhere near their best players.   But, alas they had other objectives in mind.   Is it any wonder that Heron was happy to foster and uphold the asinine verdict of Cukoff.

(2)  Doug’s partner in crime was Bob Gookin, the other Co-Chairman, a good player, from the Washington, D.C. area.  He was called before a C & E Committee when he was extremely rude and insulting to a TD who ruled against him for balancing at the three level after two long and obvious breaks in tempos (and passes) by his partner.   The prosecution was headed by Bob Rosen, who enlisted Bobby’s support to help him with this particular C & E hearing.  Gookin was severely reprimanded for his conduct but he was able to even the score in spades with Bobby at the “Oh, Shit” hearing.

Now,  I ASK YOU – why are people (with commonly known personal vendettas against others) sitting in positions of power?   RECUSAL is a rather new word and may not be in many old dictionaries but it certainly should be in fluent use with the ACBL and MANDATORY that people with either biases or prejudices should never be appointed to a decision-making status where good friends or bitter enemies are involved.  If by accident, they are — they should have the decency to voluntarily step down!


34 Comments

AndyMay 19th, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Thanks for sharing, Judy. I had sorta, kinda heard of the famous “oh sh*t” hand, but had never read the specifics. That ruling was one from a distant galaxy, far, far away. I can understand why Bobby didn’t put up a stink at those in the position of power, i.e. those hearing the appeal. The situation was so obvious, it likely wasn’t on Bobby’s naive radar screen to even think that such a ruling could be considered, let alone implemented. The cards had (duh!) been played. Because declarer was a “name” player, that gives her permission to take back already played cards??? Two tricks later??? S’cuse me but I don’t think so. The one point seemingly missing from your rendition of the awful tale, was the basis of the “ruling.” How the hell did they defend the indefensible? Something to the effect of “she’s an expert, and thus really didn’t mean to play it that way? Well, I’ll go out on the proverbial limb, and assume the two players (Bobby and Dan) were experts as well, no?!!!

I’ve been on the “not on my radar screen” side of things (not at the bridge table, with one exception, of course) to even consider such horrifying outrages could happen. I’m also reminded of the Soviet Union’s “winning” the basketball gold medal over the USA at the 1972 Olympics, done via a referee’s ruling of similar stench to that from March 1999.

Keep fighting the good fight, Judy and Bobby!!

Andy

JodyMay 20th, 2010 at 7:09 am

This is a post for the ages (history). Thx so much for the info. Nice to get it straight, simply unbelievable. In spite of the fact that the player wrapped herself in the flag (at Shanghai, or afterwards, with her apology, that does not excuse her or her pard’s behavior (to even request such a ruling). Is she a pro or a client, I just wonder why her behavior was accepted by her peers.

PegMay 20th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Perhaps this is some small consolation, Judy. The ruling is so infamous, mention the “Oh, Shit” ruling to any experienced national player, and they immediately know to what you refer – and – how ludicrous it was. It truly is THE standard to which all other ridiculous rulings are applied.

Unlikely any other will ever rival it for being The Worst Ever.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 20th, 2010 at 9:14 am

First to Andy:

I was not that familiar with the 1972 Olympic Gold Medal issue but immediately went to Wikipedia to glean the facts and recall the incident. It is worth everyone’s checking to see ‘manipulation in action.’ Yes, the referee’s ruling, as you say, “had a similar stench to that from March, 1999” Sadly, evil lurks in all sorts of competition.

Fred GitelmanMay 20th, 2010 at 9:18 am

In Canada, like the USA, team trials are used to select international representatives for events like the Bermuda Bowl.

In Canada, like the USA, sometimes the teams that win these team trials are (on paper at least) not the best possible teams.

In Canada, like the USA, sometimes “political figures” are members of teams that win the team trials.

Probably you already knew all of the above, but your post makes it sound like (to me at least) that the system is Canada is somehow corrupted by politics. That is not true – the system may not be effective in terms of selecting the best possible teams, but there is nothing corrupt about it.

Fred Gitelman

Judy Kay-WolffMay 20th, 2010 at 9:43 am

Next, Jody:

I always love hearing from you as I share your straightforward approach and sense of equity big time!

You know I had forgotten that the same person who was responsible for the Oh, Shit Incident (turned into a Federal Case by her partner) was also center stage when the sign “We did not vote for Bush” was quite defiantly displayed by one of her teammates at the Shanghai Closing Ceremony. I was not there so I cannot be certain that she knew of it beforehand. I suspect not.

In all fairness to her, she is a bright, nice lady. Her action in the earlier issue was more of an embarrassment than anything (and no doubt would have been passed off as just another bridge error by a good player although she did proclaim “Oh, Shit”), but it was her partner who created the stink (you’ll pardon the pun) by calling the director by trying to get redress (and eventually achieving the horrendous ruling). INDEED HE DID — making her remark the laughing stock of the universal bridge world — never to be forgotten.

However, the Shanghai Witches (or Shanghai Seven) disgrace was not her brainstorm. Soon as the repercussions began, I know for a fact, she was willing to issue an apology but was dissuaded (coerced ?) by her team who wanted to pursue it to the bitter end. Only because a wealthy bridge bleeding heart intervened (stepping up with big-time attorneys fees and threatening to sue the USBF individually and as a group) was the issue dropped out of fright for their own well-being and pocketbooks). So, in all fairness to her, she was willing to repent — not so for her brazen teammates.

Obviously, she started it with the wrongly played card and the Oh, Shit outburst — and the grudge-bearing Tournament Director and the two prejudiced Appeals Co-Chairs finished it off!

End of story.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 20th, 2010 at 9:54 am

Peg:

As usual, you are right on target. Once declarer played a low spade from the ace and Dan won the king and gave Bobby a ruff, the rest should have been history — regardless of which expletives were uttered.

However, when you inject unknowledgeable or prejudiced people into the mix, justice is never served.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 20th, 2010 at 10:01 am

Fred:

I wouldn’t touch your comment with a ten foot pole. However, Bobby could probably write a book with the information of which you obviously are not aware. I will see to it (when he returns home) he fills you in on the background.

Judy

P.S. Do you think Heron and Gookin should have remained as co-chairs or stepped down? Just curious.

jkw

Fred GitelmanMay 20th, 2010 at 11:14 am

In response to your question:

“Do you think Heron and Gookin should have remained as co-chairs or stepped down?”

I don’t know enough to answer this specific question, but as a general rule, of course I agree with you that biased individuals should not be making decisions in which their bias will compromise their ability to decide objectively. Individuals who recognize that their bias makes it impossible for them to function impartially should recuse themselves. I have no idea if Heron and/or Gookin fell into this category with respect to the case in question.

In the real (bridge) world, I don’t think this is realistic. For example, every single person who might be qualified to co-chair this committee would have had some bias with respect to Bobby. Some would be biased against him and some would be biased for him. That is just a fact of life when you live in a small world like we do.

I do think it is possible for (some) biased individuals to overcome (some of) their biases and do the right thing. As a practical matter when living in a small world, it makes sense to me to assume that all individuals are capable of behaving this way (until they prove otherwise) and to trust those who are not to recuse themselves when appropriate.

I am not suggesting that this “solution” will always work out, but I think it is is the best we can do.

Fred Gitelman

Bobby WolffMay 20th, 2010 at 11:15 am

Hi Fred,

Corruption was not my contention. Canada, between the fairly early 1980’s and the middle l990’s, set a bridge record for incompetence. During that time they either finished last or next to last overall or, at least in 1991 lost to Mexico, who were equally inept in Yokohama.

When the system of qualifying was worked out, Zone 2 (USA, Canada, Bermuda and Mexico) were allotted 3 teams and Europe (Zone 1)who had grown in size more than doubling Zone 2’s bridge population, were given 4 teams (as you can guess, quite competitive). My hope for Zone 2 (and promoted by me) was to get our 3 teams as a Zone, to be individually competitive.

You and I know that Canada’s best (6 players out of perhaps 15+ to choose from) would suffice. It never happened and continued not to happen, embarrassing me and whomever else that cared. I canvassed all of the players who would favorably represent the Maple Leaf (as a matter of fact I just reviewed that whole situation with Joey Silver a couple of days ago, which turned out to be very ugly for Zone 2) and they complained about how hard it was for them to travel about Canada (about 4 or 5 different stages) besides all the expense of travel and of devoting the time to be competitive. Meanwhile I had never heard of any of the players eventually selected, possibly not even one of them (as competitive players) although I certainly cannot vouch for them all to have been terrible.

Why would Canada accept the most favorable situation in the world (along with the USA, to be able to almost guarantee a spot in each Bermuda Bowl, at that time only having to defeat Bermuda and Mexico, (and then Bermuda later opted out to be in the Caribbean Zone) leaving only Mexico. unless they were prepared to send possible winners or at least players capable of some kind of respectable showing.

I do not know about corrupt. All I was interested in was for competitive players to represent the great Maple Leaf instead of what I know were at least some political figures. I even made a trip to Canada during that time to try and cajole them to spruce up their responsibility to produce. They claimed then that they would try and set up methods of qualification and do better, but it simply didn’t happen.

I was only an administrator in this episode, but I, surely like you Fred, hold bridge and responsibility dear in my heart. At least during this period, your great country let down Zone 2 in this important bridge matter. When you represented Canada in Salt Lake City in the early 2000’s you and your Canadian team won the whole tournament and, of course, you and other competent players have represented them with distinction since.

Why is it so hard for so many to hear the real truth and accept what happened? How would I know or even begin to be sure that corruption occurred? All I do know are the results and sad though it may be, Canada’s bridge administrators should be ashamed for not getting more competent players (doing whatever it took) to get it done and, if they deemed they could not, then relinquish their basically automatic bid.

I say that in full realization of your immense contribution to the universal-wide bridge world. Where were people like you when Canada needed them????

Fred GitelmanMay 20th, 2010 at 11:41 am

To answer your question:

“Where were people like you when Canada needed them????”

Unfortunately most of the time my teammates and I were either not playing well enough to win Canada’s team trials or not playing well enough to avoid an embarassing finish in the World Championships.

I think it is totally reasonable to make suggestions like “Canada should scrap their team trials and use some other process to select their international representatives”.

There are also strong arguments in favor of team trials (even though of course I agree with you that in recent decades the results have for the most part been rather poor).

IMO how best to select a national team is a difficult question with an answer that likely varies from country to country and from time to time. I do have opinions on this subject as far as Canada is concerned, but the purpose of my original post was not to voice my opinions. The reason I posted was due to concern that some readers might be misled by Judy’s post into believing that there was something nefarious going on in terms of how Canada selects its teams.

I am not suggesting that Judy intentionally suggested corruption was at the root of this, but I thought that her words could be naturally interpreted that way. I thought it was important to set the record straight.

Fred Gitelman

Judy Kay-WolffMay 20th, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Fred:

You are talented, young, far too trusting and have too much faith in the purity, objectivity and honor of a person when that person’s ego was tainted or injured by the individual being judged (which decision encompasses and affects his team as well).

No one with a past sticky “history” involving the appellent or appellee should EVER be in a judgment-making capacity — be it a director or committee person. There are enough honest and honorable people in the bridge world who could easily fill the shoes of one who has recused himself.

And, I don’t think it is such a ‘small’ world as you assert. The world of bridge is huge, with lots of potential replacements who possess knowledge of the law and no personal leanings.

To me, it is unconscionable for people who have had (let’s discreetly call them) “issues” (in this case with the one on trial) and had been made to look bad in the eyes of his peers and the public by said individual, to not immediately remove themselves voluntarily and automatically ASAP from the scene and be replaced by open minded persons.

How could anyone in their right mind (yes RIGHT MIND) and with an ounce of conscience and integrity who professses to know anything about the game ever consider (even for a fleeting second) that the trick was not a fait accompli when declarer played a low spade away from the ace, defender rose with his king and gave his partner a ruff. The profanity really had nothing to do with the action except to spice up the story for the press who welcomed it with open arms.

To reverse the ruling was barbaric and whoever was involved in any capacity whatsoever should hang their heads in shame and deserves all the bad publicity they received.

DiogenesMay 20th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Since the question of corruption was tossed around regarding the methods of selection of teams, it appears when equal opportunity is not afforded all contestants (obscure sites, far away venues, frequency of contests, excessive costs, etc.) the ability to attend may be virtually impossible for those who have ‘real jobs’ and work for a living — but who may be the ones who offer the greatest opportunity for the Maple Leaf to put their best foot forward.

Doesn’t that create an impurity of sorts? Should that not be the primary goal of those in charge? Should they not do everything humanly possible to entice and encourage the very best players to compete in the Canadian Trials? I never really followed the Canadians in those years — but come to think of it, I rarely saw their names in lights.

Apparently, during the period Bobby alluded to, many factors prevented the top players from competing — leaving the field open for the less than stellar players.

Forget Murray and Kehela (and Elliott, Sheardown, Gowdy, Charney. et al) and the next wave (Silver, Kokish and others). I understand that several have defected (Wolpert, Gitelman, Hampson, et al) but who can blame them with the tempting professional offers and business opportunities?

I think Bobby was well within himself when he screamed out about the failure of those in charge to field the best teams — with the convenient vacancies being filled by those not up to snuff. Sometimes you get what you pay for. The heroes of yore are long since gone. But maybe the present Canadians can restore their bridge standing and regain the respect they lost in the last couple decades.

Bobby WolffMay 21st, 2010 at 6:31 am

At the risk of further flogging the horse, it needs to be said that a very common thread relayed to me by the world-class Canadian players who did not attend the trials because of the difficult logistics, was simply: “If, by some miracle my regular partner and I were able to compete in the trials, without 2 other partnerships like us we would be duck soup for any worthwhile team who qualified for the Bermuda Bowl from other countries”. “Why, then would we attempt to leap mountains to attend when the final result, after getting there, was already ordained”?

With the above as a backdrop was “what happened very weak”?, “Yes”, “could certain incentives given to select players in a team trials perhaps have changed bridge history”? “Yes”, “could perhaps a different method of selection, or at least a combination of determining selection have helped”?, “Yes”, “was it corruption instead which ruled”?, “probably not”, but whatever it was, the example set was lazy, not acceptable, below par, and not living up to the normal high standards and responsibility to be expected from proud Canadians.

Michael RocheMay 21st, 2010 at 4:51 pm

This is my first ever response to a blog on this website. However I feel that I must weigh in on the comments concerning the selection and performance of Canadian International teams.

Unlike The USA, Canada does not have paying sponsors with the necessary funds to entice developing players to abandon career objectives and become full-time professional players. Unlike some European countries, Canada does not receive government funding or subsidies to help develop our skills. Rather, the playing field in Canada is quite fair. Bridge enthusiasts form a a team and enter our trials. If you win, the prize is yours. There will be of course, considerable personal expense in the form of $ and time committment. The Canadian Bridge Federation has reached into its pockets and and been able to provide (usually) some well-needed coaching prior to trips to the various world championships.

Apart from a spectacular showing in Beijing where Canada finished second to the USA, our results have been less than steller, albeit not as bad as presented by Mr. Wolff.

But so what? We played, we tried our best, we didn’t win. Mr. Wolff makes it sound like we should keep our teams at home because we have no chance. With that attitude perhaps all the teams other than Italy and the USA should just save their time and money by staying away from International competitions. I quote Fred Gitelman “Unfortunately most of the time my teammates and I were either not playing well enough to win Canada’s team trials or not playing well enough to avoid an embarassing finish in the World Championships” If Fred can admit that, then I think all Canadian players can breathe a little more easily. Sometimes you don’t have your A game. I love it when I hear other, (read non-winning) teams discuss the quality of our representatives. It’s an open event – if you’ve got the best team then all you have to do is enter – Oh yes – Enter and then WIN. Second or 3rd/4th doesn’t cut it. That seems pretty fair.

You mention that you hear that world-class players don’t attend the trials because of logistics. You’re from Texas so I imagine you should know BS when you hear it. It’s the desire to compete while spending your own time and dollars that is lacking. If it’s all about winning a world championship then these world-class players should be like Fred and Geoff and Gavin and head to the US for the money. Alternatively as was done for Beijing ………they can form a partnership, build a team, put in an entry and try to win.

By the way – that’s what the other teams do.

Bobby WolffMay 22nd, 2010 at 5:07 am

Hi Michael,

Most, if not almost all, of what you say is the truth, and furthermore you are not afraid to call it as you see it, without fear of intimidation or being put down by what some might think is, and from the other side, more experience talking. It is only what you do not go into, and not necessarily by your own choice, which may tend to cloud your overall picture of where Canada may stand in the world bridge scene.

Canada has a rich bridge heritage. I, myself, together, of course, with our team which qualified to represent Zone 2 won the North American Team Trials held in Milwaukee in 1974 some months before the Venice World Championship — Murray, Kehela, Goldman, Blumenthal, Hamman and Wolff, Ira Corn, Captain. I considered myself priviliged to have Eric Murray and Sami Kehela as my teammates on the North American bridge team, which represented Zone 2 in the Bermuda Bowl and lost in the finals to the Italian Blue Team (what else is new?) in a close match (29 IMPs) which was decided in the last segment. In those days Zone 2 was North America, not made up of 4 different countries, but rather only one entity. Soon after that, and ever since, Canada particularly, being fiercely Nationalistic, insisted on having their own team and, of course, operating under their own flag.

Briefly recounting history, Canada then basically marked time for about a decade, although, of course, playing in the World Team Olympiad, held every four years which was a continuation from before 1974 and for the most part was very competitive, especially during Murray and Kehela’s golden years which started in the 1960’s and continued for about 20 years.

At this point I would like to digress and mention other countries (about the bridge playing size of Canada) who from time to time came into world bridge prominence and for the most part are rising, not only in their bridge playing abilities, but also in their, at least to me, superior ethics and classy demeanor. These countries are now listed, in no particular order, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Denmark, Bulgaria, China, Russia and to a slightly lesser standpoint, Japan, Chinese Taiwan, Turkey, Israel, Spain and South Africa. It needs to be noted here that countries like Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and others are unadulterated credits to our game, have been around for many years, but are not now going through a renaissance. Also to be noted, is my leaving out the perenial bridge powers through the ages, simply because we all know who they are.

The first very progressive group, have for whatever reasons. beaten back the challenges which you mention by having bridge administrations which probably have fluorished through their absolute love of the game, together with their undying dedication through their hard working administrators, of finding a way to making it work. The happy result for them is, at least what I believe will be the wave of the future for the world wide development of bridge and the hoped for scene of putting bridge on the world wide map for one day having full fledge bridge competition in the real Olympics. Since, at least to me, bridge is far and away the greatest strategy and mind game ever created, and with the endurance necessary to win at the top even demands physical attributes.

What does it take and exactly where do we go from here? I do not pretend to know that answer, only what is now happening and when I see those relatively Johnny come lately countries perform, my heart swells with pride for them. Bridge with them, and on their way to being the best, and doing so while honoring the game with the way they play it at the table, and with their uncompromising ethics is worth every glitch in the road on the way to getting there. God speed from here!

Every country in this wide world has different problems. At least for me, I, being a huge American patriot, am very disappointed, not especially in our bridge world, although unless we IMO put a cap on just how far professionalism will be allowed in our international qualification, we are eventually headed for real problems with our overall bridge results and worse, what borderline or certainly less interested bridge enthusiasts see us as being. In the outside world the continued beat is, ME, ME, ME instead of US, US, US!

Michael, while I agree with you as to what happened with Canadian bridge and with not much specific blame to apportion, I am suggesting that Canadian creativity and fortitude needs to rise up and solve the problems we both mention, without which, we need to, at the very least, take our international allotment of team qualifications back to the drawing board for updates. World bridge, like life itself, is ever changing and standing still is, in reality, going backward.

MichaelMay 22nd, 2010 at 9:35 am

Thanks Fred and Michael for speaking out and setting the record straight.

As Bridge players we all know or should know that sometimes hopes and events do not coincide.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 22nd, 2010 at 11:03 am

Michael:

Apparently Bobby had responded to your comment long after I had retired for the night. He was far too kind to you.

Since this was your first time blogging, I suggest in the future you get your facts straight. Bobby was talking about the eighties and nineties and you are philosophizing about recent times. “Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Bobby was born in Texas but has resided in Nevada for the last five years. Your reference to Texas BS couldn’t be farther from the truth. Bobby has never been guilty of BS as he shoots straight from the hip and has damn good aim. Ask anyone who knows him. He is more qualified to judge this subject than anyone in the world as he has served as President of both the ACBL and WBF, being active since the sixties — maybe before you were born. I have no clue whom you are or your age.

There is no doubt Canada had great representation with Eric and Sami in the sixties and seventies when I first came on the scene, welcomed on U. S. teams by my late husband, Norman Kay and his partner, Edgar Kaplan. No pair ever better represented their country as a partnership both in talent and ethics. Unfortunately, they had other barriers to overcome.

That having been said, let us move on. That was not the era in question. Bobby was there and saw it in living color. His passed proposal that Canada had to finish in the top half of the Olympiad to be able to play in the following year’s Bermuda Bowl should not have been a hardship, but rather an incentive, if the best teams were fielded. It was not really too much to ask of them. When Botswana plays in a field of seventy-five or so, they are happy to finish in the top sixty. I should think with the talent that was available, the Maple Leaf administration might have exerted more influence and encouraged the top players to enter the fray, ashamed to finish near the bottom.

Unless the Canadian experts that Bobby spoke to were lying (which I seriously doubt), the overall conditions to play in the Trials were not conducive to attract the better players. I think it was humiliating to have to place a mandate on the Canadian teams to finish in the top half, but apparently not. After all, many other countries were not knee-deep in money to support their teams but they usually managed to send competitive ones and often made good showings.

To sum it up, you were talking about apples and Bobby’s references were to oranges!

Judy

Fred GitelmanMay 22nd, 2010 at 5:36 pm

In the spirit of “getting the facts straight” and in response to this from Judy:

“Unless the Canadian experts that Bobby spoke to were lying (which I seriously doubt), the overall conditions to play in the Trials were not conducive to attract the better players.”

Maybe nobody is lying, but somebody is wrong.

Disclaimer: I am not 100% certain about all of the numbers and dates that follow. Interested readers can check for themselves through the Canadian Bridge Federation’s web site (cbf.ca).

The era you refer to started in 1984. That was the first year that the winners of the CNTC (Canada’s team trials) had a chance to qualify to play in the (1985) Bermuda Bowl.

Between 1984 and 1998, there were 16 CNTCs.

Between 1985 and 1999, there were 8 Bermuda Bowls.

Between 1984 and 1998, 6 of the 16 CNTC winners consisted mostly or entirely of “name players”.

It was quite unlucky (at least as far as this discussion is concerned) that only 1 of these 6 teams won the CNTC in a Bermuda Bowl year.

I played in almost all the CNTCs during these years. When a “name team” did not win, there was ALWAYs at least one name team playing in the event. Typically there were several other name players distributed among the other teams.

To claim that it was the norm for Canada’s top players not play in the CNTC during this era is emphatically wrong. If anything, the opposite was the norm.

As best as I can recall, I played on a name team during each of the last 6 CNTCs of this era. My team won “only” 2 of those CNTCs. That should not come as a surprise. To win the CNTC you need to qualify out of a round robin and then win 3 knockout matches. Even if you assume that a name team will always qualify out of the round robin and that they are 3:1 to win any knockout match, they will win the entire event less than 1/3 of the time.

1998 was my last CNTC, but as far as I can tell the pattern has been largely the same since that time. It is still the norm for most of the active Canadian name players to participate in the CNTC.

FWIW, it is hard for me to imagine any of Canada’s name players (most of whom I know well) to claim that, if they chose not to play in the CNTC in a given year, that this would be because they thought they had no chance in the Bermuda Bowl. Even Canadian bridge players have egos.

One of the good things about the CNTC is that this event gives the non-name players in Canada (many of whom are highly-skilled but lack in international experience) a chance to play against the best in their country and, if they win, to gain some international experience. Some of them eventually go on to become name players.

In my opinion, this is part of the reason why Canada produced a disproportionate number of very strong young players during the era in question.

One more thing I would like to make clear: My references to “name players” and “name teams” should not be taken the wrong way. I am not in any way suggesting that being famous necessarily equates to being superior. I have a great deal of respect for the bridge skills of many of the non-name players in Canada (as I should given the number of times I have failed to beat them in the CNTCs).

Fred Gitelman

Bobby WolffMay 23rd, 2010 at 7:03 am

Hi Fred,

I have not a doubt that your analysis of what happened during those troubled bridge years in and for Canada was true and authentic.

Just as my recalling the effect of those years from my role of justifying the original plan set up in 1988, my first full year on the WBF Executive Council, but not augmented into law until 1991. The award of three teams to Zone 2, including two to the USA, was quite a positive shot in the arm to the great depth of world class talent in the USA. Also from the WBF’s position it, at least on paper, was in line with what they wanted, another top team in the event, adding to the expertise, which was always the desire among the leaders of the WBF, to show off the highest level of bridge playing possible.

The above also served the European Bridge League well in allowing it to consistently increase the number of its teams playing in the Bermuda Bowl through the years (they are now up to 6 or 7 and from my view, have earned them), both because of their overall bridge population swelling and with it, the overall expertise of their leading bridge teams has also been on the rise.

Considering this positive phenomena, is it any wonder that my (and I assumed my colleagues from Zone 2) administrative hope was that in order to match Europe (Zone 1) in overall skill, we in North America (Zone 2) needed great support from all three of our representatives.

Assessing those years, and directly considering the results, Zone 2 performed in spades, only because of the play of the Nick Nickell team which won in 1995, 1999 (actually played in January, 2000), 2003 and 2009. The Rose Meltzer team won for Zone 2 in 2001 with USA 2 also doing well in many of these years, being consistently and tenaciously competitive, before losing to USA 1 in the semi-finals.

Fred, I certainly do not begrudge the plight of Canada. You, yourself, a product of Canada have developed your BBO to become a major forum to practice one’s developing partnership and even moreso to such an extent that bridge is in the forefront every time you present events from around the world and without which, we would never glean the publicity needed to make bridge a major sport and, at the very least a worthwhile competitive activity.

And now to the major point (drum roll). It is that I sincerely believe that with the raw material in players which Canada has provided, and, even more important, with the right plan for promoting that advantage and the hard work needed to organize and insure the participation of the right partnerships within your country to make your team, Zone 2 in general and Canada specifically, could make a greater contribution to Zone 2’s performance.

Sadly, but realistically, you have migrated to the USA for obvious and not to be challenged reasons and consequently between trying to play world class bridge and running your ever expanding BBO, your plate is entirely justifiably filled.

However, Canada is a large creative country and with that, someone or some group should step forward and help our Zone meet the challenge by providing a consistently competitive 3d team, qualifying or, if necessary appointing the partnerships wanted, to try and offset the continued improvement of the Zone 1 teams, which if left unchallenged figures to, without mincing words, become world dominant and eventually blast Zone 2’s participation into smitherenes.

On a softer note, please join in our crusade to keep Zone 2 on top, or, at the very least, equal.

Michael RocheMay 23rd, 2010 at 10:51 am

Mr. Wolff:

Let’s break this down to two issues and try to put them into a non-personal setting:

#1 – Zone 2 has 3 teams which you were instrumental in organizing. As a Zone 2 member and a Canadian I thank you for allowing Candians access to the Bermuda Bowl in years that our National team defeats Mexico in the Mexico-Canada playoff. Please understand that our performance or lack of performance is not a reflection on you or your assistance to create the opportunity for Canada-Mexico. I would bet that not one player on any Bermuda Bowl team – be it USA Canada or Mexico thinks about Zone 2 for one second. The chosen teams are representing themselves as part of their National Team, not Zone 2. With respect, I have trouble understanding your passion for our results as they have do not reflect on you – only the players themselves and to some extent some others who feel that the results are a National reflection of Canada’s ability. I do know of some top-ranked players who feel differently – that Canada’s Bridge team is a personal reflection on them as Candian players. I personally don’t see it that way.

Point #2 – Selection process

I think that Ray Lee posed a form of this question some time ago on this forum.

Pairs trials through IMP pairs – similar to the Cavendish has been considered. Luck plays an important element – which boards you play against which pair. Also considered was a “selection” process. There are quite a few problems with that approach. I’ll review just a few. The selectors may be biased in favour of some “known” pairs or they themselves may wish to be considered. Canada does not have the budget to send National teams to world championships without support from the players. Our trials are becoming self-funding so we need entrants to raise money. I doubt very much if the average CBF member would offer financial support to a “chosen” few. I play in our trials most every year. I was fortunate enough to have partners and teammates that carried me to victory a few times. In the years I won we received some funding. In the years I didn’t win (many) others got the benefit of my attendance and financial contributions. I don’t believe that the opportunity to represent our country should become a popularity contest, or at best be an arbitrary decision about who is best-qualified to play in the World Championships. Our trials are not perfect. But they are fair. Can you imagine a US team trials scenario whereby the winners are told they were “lucky” and as a result the second place team will be the representatives? Neither can I.

We send the wining team. And we cheer for them. But if they find it heavy-going and don’t do well – it’s their issue, not yours, not mine.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 23rd, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Michael:

In answer to your question to the following:

“Can you imagine a US team trials scenario whereby the winners are told they were “lucky” and as a result the second place team will be the representatives”?

YES, YES AND YES!!!

I can cite three similar examples (in Pair Trials):

In a U.S. Pairs Trials, the team captain (who could have been Julius Rosenblum) ousted the third place pair and replaced them with Kaplan-Kay (who finished fourth).

Also,

In a Women’s Pairs (where the top three were to represent the U.S.), the partnership of Mary-Jane Farrell and Peggy Solomon were replaced but I don’t recall by whom.

And last — but not least ….

Bobby, while organizing and coaching the Junior Trials back in the nineties, replaced the third place pair and pulled Martha (Benson) Katz out of the rubble and matched her up with Debby (Zuckerburg) Rosenberg and they went on to win the event.

You close by saying:

“We send the win(n)ing team. And we cheer for them. But if they find it heavy-going and don’t do well – it’s their issue, not yours, not mine.”

So — maybe in the interest of obtaining the best three pairs to represent OUR country, rules are broken to give us our best shot. It is obvious Canada and the U.S. have different ideals and ways of viewing their options. In any event, I must say your patriotism and loyalty to the Maple Leaf are unequaled — no matter what. Good for you.

However, I suggest you read Bobby’s comment following this — and perhaps you will have more knowledge of the introduction of independent Canadian Bridge into the world sphere. (Incidentally, he was very much in favor, and personally advocated adding Canada as an independent entity to Zone 2, making a total of three teams, although I am certain he will not mention his involvement — but I will.)!

Bobby WolffMay 23rd, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Hi Michael,

Just a couple of paragraphs.

Before this arrangement was hammered out which turned out to give Canada unchallenged access to the Bermuda Bowl, Canada had sent exactly one pair to play in the Bermuda Bowl, which has been going on since 1950 and was originally an annual event until 1976 when it became only once every two years. The reason, of course, is that whoever was selected to play in that event representing North America would have had to form a team and beat out their USA compeititors for the single spot representing Zone 2- USA, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda until Bermuda opted out for the Caribbean (Zone 5) some years ago.

Eric Murray and Sami Kehela, both from Toronto and in every way a 1st class pair, had qualified several times as part of a North American team through the auspices of a North American Team Trials which selected three pairs. Other than that there was no Canadian presence ever in the history of that event. PLEASE NOTE: This is not talking about other World Championships such as the World Team Olympiad or the World Bridge Championships that are now each held once in every four years, as they were before the Bermuda Bowl was changed to every other year.

By the new process Canada was blessed by having what should have amounted to a bye to the entry for the Bermuda Bowl Championship. From then on they were represented by three Canadian Pairs except for two of the Bermuda Bowls where they lost to Mexico in 1991 and again in 2009.

They got their wish to play under the flag of the Maple Leaf and not have to share it with another country or countries. It seems to me that this accomodation would have caused Canada to take great pains to send their most capable pairs in order to seek their best result, if for no other reason than to represent their proud country with their best and be ready to compete against the world’s finest. IT SIMPLY DIDN’T HAPPEN!

Gary M. MugfordMay 24th, 2010 at 12:38 am

Judy (and Bobby too, I know you are lurking),

The CNTC’s were always a pet hate of mine. I managed to go winless in the first one, playing with my high school partner plus the local harridan and her almost deaf partner. She lit into us after the final of eight losses and I was headed out the door to resume my chess career. That’s when the club owner stepped in and made her apologize. He’d watched our two last matches and knew we’d have won at least those, if not for the poor play of our teammates.

I got added to a team the next year when three really nice folks from a town an hour north of us asked if I’d fill out their team, despite my loudly proclaimed resolution NOT to play again. Since I was enamoured of the non-partnered player’s next door neighbour, I foolishly said yes. Oh-and-eight and I swore off the CNTC’s as the vile exercise in humiliation that they were. (And no, the sacrifice didn’t lead to a single date with the winsome Wendy)

But the unequivocal best team in the qualifier the third year decided that the protection of a fifth player might come in handy and asked me to play a couple of rounds and be available in the case of emergency for the Toronto knockout round. We managed to go six and oh and qualify for Toronto despite my presence. Off to Toronto the team went. I wasn’t playing the first knockout. A nice leisurely drive to Toronto to sit in for the second round of the knockouts was spoiled on arrival by the news we had been beaten in the first round and it was now time to pack up and head back to the ‘burbs.

Besides being my rational excuse to quit banging my head against the wall of this particular event, it also served as an object lesson of why my good-for-the-local-market team was fooling itself entering in this thing and spending the larger-than-normal amount of money for our usual tournament follies.

We played in Toronto. I’m sure good-to-pretty good suburban players in Montreal and Edmonton (the Alberta teams seemed quite strong in this event during that era) encountered the same situation. We were merely fodder for the really good city teams. The good city teams then played off with some of the hoi polloi from across Canada and eventually somebody from Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver or sometimes Ottawa won the event. There was little cross-pollination of the city teams.

And city teams don’t make for good international representation. Unless every good bridge player in the country gravitates to the one place. And that’s where I have a slight issue with Bobby equating Canada with some of the equal-sized bridge populations of the other countries. Travel distance makes a difference. The lack of cross-pollination of the city teams was affected (to what degree, I’ll leave to others more familiar with the situation) by this separation.

And with the CNTC starting virtually at the club level, that separation proved a major impediment at the international level. It’s hard to rationalize a pair of Edmonton guys and a couple of Montreal aces traveling to Brampton to team up with a Toronto partnership to win the right to come back again weeks later for the next round in Toronto. With a chance to lose in the first round. Were there enough players to form two or three international-calibre teams back then? Sure. But the expense of putting those teams together simply made doing that not cost effective.

The CNTC’s were the Canadian bridge equivalent of March Madness. It was almost designed to let the little guys and gals have their moment in the sun, before getting Butler’d by the Dukes of Canadian bridge. And, since the title kept moving around the major population centres of the country, it was politically correct too.

That it didn’t lead to sterling international results is self-evident. Bobby was right to want better of us. But, as he found out, at the time he was spittin’ into the wind. With our ‘little brother’ complex about competing in things with the US (other than in hockey), we weren’t nearly as bothered about our results as Bobby was. Not until the recent ‘Own the Podium’ development at the Winter Olympics was Canada willing to stand up and spit somebody else in the eye and tell them we are going to beat you up one side and down the other. Trust me, it was very, very controversial in this country to have the audacity to say “WE are going to beat YOU!” And that attitude was a lot worse then than it is now.

I’ve always been proud of our Canadian experts. I think they wear the flag well. Did the politicians conspire to create a team-naming system that almost guaranteed futility? Sure. But the rank and file liked the illusion the CNTC’s offered.

Perchance to dream.

GM

NOTE: Canada hosted the first world junior softball championships in 1981. National teams from the countries congregated in Edmonton with two exceptions in the ladies division. The US sent the California state champions augmented with players from all over the country My local town team, girls I’d coached and watched for a decade, represented Canada with the addition of three other players from towns within an hour’s driving distance of Brampton. We finished fourth, taking the eventual gold medalists Japan to extra innings in both the round-robin and the first game of the play-offs. It was almost the perfect hosting job by Canada. We came close to an upset, but Japan, the US and China didn’t fool around with the niceties of letting a town team wear their national jerseys.

It wasn’t JUST in bridge that Canada had slightly esoteric ideas. (And if you think politics in bridge is bad, let me tell you about Softball Canada one of these days)

Bobby WolffMay 24th, 2010 at 7:37 am

Hi Gary,

To say that I appreciate your informative blog is a huge

understatement. Yes, I do lurk and up until now I have been uninformed as to the cultural differences which has caused misunderstandings from the gitgo.

The WBF is serious business and needs to be if we want to ascend bridge to the level we are aspiring. When we add that statement to the commitment and dedication required by the participants, and at several levels, we have little time left, not to mention patience to play fun and cultural games.

Another incongruity seems to be the attitude of the Canadian representatives on both the ACBL BOD’s and, of course the WBF. They are sincere in their loyalty and partiality to the Canadian cause in every aspect of competition, promising, among other things, complete dedication to whatever is necessary. Sure they cry out for and sometimes demand special financial support and other compromises to make their tasks doable, but failing that, they never indicate what you so clearly and articularly (as long as everyone understands Canadianese) describe.

When the Chinese say “A picture is worth a thousand words” — your adventuresome stories are picture-like and increase that underbid tenfold.

Thanks much, but where were you 20 years ago? Little did you know, if you would have materialized then, that your resume would have included being hired by a little knowing group of WBF officials which would have profited mightily from your advice, predictions and experiences.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 24th, 2010 at 8:59 am

Gary:

We had a power outage last night so I am just waking up after a normally uninterrupted sleep, and am about to run off, but not before taking a few moments to respond to your delightfully entertaining, well-worded and informative, shall we say – View from Your Bridge!

I have a feeling that if Bobby knew beforehand the actual existing conditions and unyielding mind sets which prevailed among the many contestants and administrators, he would never have wasted his time responding to the earlier comments — trying to explain and justify his position. It was tantamount to treading water.

MOREOVER, there is no way in hell he would have fought for the abject futility of Canada’s breaking away from the U. S. two-team structure and helped them acquire elite representation under their own flag.

Perhaps Canada would still be part of the United States conglomerate which represents Zone 2. That would specifically mean that they would have the right to play in the U. S. Team Trials and after beating the Nickell Team and all the other great U. S. teams they would then, and only then, qualify to play in the Bermuda Bowl.

We’ll never know!

Cheers,

Judy

Gary M. MugfordMay 24th, 2010 at 10:56 am

Judy/Bobby,

Canadians liked to be liked. We tend to get upset when we aren’t, except on the ice pond when playing hockey. Then we exhibit that other trait we believe in strongly, tenacity. Well, that and toughness. Think red-jacketed Mounties, of whom nary a discouraging word is said outside of this country. (We have the occasional dirty linen to wash out up here).

Now, that’s a COLLECTIVE view. Individually, we can be as mean as junkyard dogs, as competitive as Michael Jordan peering at Byron Russell and despondent when I errrr, we, lose. Just like everybody else in the world.

I wouldn’t want Judy’s idea of re-incorporating Canada (and by extension, Mexico and Bermuda) into the US world qualifying system. It denies us the periodical chance to overcome our systemic representation-picking flaws. And I like having a puncher’s chance. Yes, I’d have a three-team playdown between the CNTC champs and teams picked in a manner I haven’t figured out amongst the best Canadian representatives that weren’t on the CNTC team.

Possibly getting the top two players with maple syrup in their veins over the preceding twelve months of TEAM play at major championships and having them DRAFT teams might work. The flaw with that is that maybe we should have BOTH on the same team. So, you start with the first guy and let him keep picking until he doesn’t want the next ranked guy for whatever reasons (political in all likelyhood. There’s ALWAYS guys you wouldn’t want to be on the same team with, regardless of ability). And no, when you do eventually get the two team’s captains selected, they don’t have to stay only with ‘ranked’ players. I know some players who I’d like wearing the national colours who don’t play often enough to be ranked, but who’d be in my top dozen. (and I’d let the CNTC champs draft up to the sixth player too)

Sure, going off the list would hurt some feelings. So, it would be un-Canadian. But these ARE the world championships we are talking about.

Hope you get that air conditioning back working.

Bobby …

As you remember, I was around thirty years ago and left the ACBL for the first time due to my intense disagreement with a high-ranking WBF official. Didn’t like him and he sure as hell didn’t care for my work either. Unlike the ACBL Board of Directors, who split on like/dislike lines but let me do my job, the WBF guy actually interfered with my work while I was out helping Jean Besse buy a computer. I quit on the spot (although continued working for the 24 hours it took for me to get out of town).

I have never hidden my dislike for policians, who usually come in two flavours, those you hate and those you merely dislike. I’m one of those Canadians who DON’T want to be liked at all costs. I’m a mean man. There wasn’t one chance in a billion at ANY time in my life that I could have done anything to prevent/divert the direction of bridge here in Canada, in the US or at the WBF. Totally incapable of it. I know my limitations.

Nice of you to suggest otherwise, though. That’s my smile warming up the northern horizon.

GM

Judy Kay-WolffMay 24th, 2010 at 11:23 am

Gary:

You continue to amaze me with your candor and straightforward reflections. I am not sure if you were joshing or kidding on the level — but, please get one point straight. I, in no way, was suggesting the outrageous reincorporation of Canada, Mexico and Bermuda into the mix. Certainly not. I merely was making a point — WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN — had Bobby not worked with others to help Canada gain its bridge independence and have the opportunity to stand on its own two feet (or ice skates). Whichever!

Judy

P.S. The electricity was restored — but it wasn’t a problem with the air conditioning that distressed me (as it is rather cool here now) — but rather the outage took away my playtoy — the computer. However, all is now well and good and I am back and running.

John Howard GibsonMay 24th, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Dear Judy, You and I must be almost telepathic, but right now I’m doing an article on this thorny problem of inadvertant designations…in which I quote that very hand. When it appears in few days time I would love your hear your comments.

As for the case in question, it really does beggar belief since declarer plainly called for a low spade….and it was not as if there was an immediate request to change it. The delayed realisation of the mistake clearly showed a COMPLETE lapse in declarer’s concentration…..rather than a fleeting momentary blip followed by what was the clearly intended card he/she wanted to play at the outset. Do such reckless aberrations receive sympathetic reprieves in chess….I think not. Yours HBJ

Judy Kay-WolffMay 24th, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Hi JHG:

Funny you should talk about our being almost telepathic — with my current blog. I am a keen believer in reading one’s thoughts. So often Bobby begins a sentence that could be going anywhere and before he utters another word, I can finish his thought and know exactly where he was headed.

Boy, if I could only read his thoughts at the bridge table — the game would be so much simpler for me. Better yet, I’d like to discover his secret of playing a hand, managing to read the opponents’ cards as if he has mirrors. I suppose counting has a lot to do with it — but it’s so darn much work and takes endless concentration. It just ain’t fair to come by it so naturally.

I shall be awaiting with interest your upcoming blog and commenting on it. Sometimes allowances must be made — depending upon the incident. Of course, every hand is different and should be adjudicated accordingly — not by hard and fast rules dictated by the elite (and some not so elite).

Judy

Peter GillJune 2nd, 2010 at 7:14 am

Now, I ASK YOU – why are people (with commonly known personal vendettas against others) sitting in positions of power?

I think one of bridge’s main problems is that retirement is not applicable to bridge. In other sports such as tennis, cricket and football/soccer (e.g. Ruud Gullit, Bobby Robson, Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini etc), caring former superstars retire and then become caring administrators or officials. At bridge, the players govern the game, because ex-players (almost) do not exist, especially now that Seniors bridge is growing. I think this is at the core of this problem.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 2nd, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Peter:

A brilliant analysis — but most bridge players don’t throw the towel in until they are covered with dirt and deep in the ground. And, perhaps because of mental stimulation, many continue to enjoy the game and live to ripe old ages. My problem is not with the age of the player or the active or inactive status — but rather with the honorable cognizance that they possess either biases or prejudices regarding the person whom they have been asked to judge.

The answer is RECUSAL — a voluntary position that is the perfect solution (though necessarily in demand — but in extremely short supply).

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