Judy Kay-Wolff


Perhaps the most fitting example is "If it ain’t broke — why fix it?"    In the blog you are about to read, I (as a ‘lay’ person), feel strongly .. IF IT IS BROKE — YOU MUST FIX IT.  At the outset, let us set the records straight.   I do not profess to be an expert.   However, being around Edgar and Bobby (besides my experience working in a law office following my college graduation) and after digesting what Bobby had to say at length — I feel it is imperative to step up to the plate and give bridge players pause to think about the concept.   On countless occasions I have seen the legal process (at the bridge table) go up in flames — both as a personal victim and observer.    Enough of this background.  Let me just cut to the chase.

I have benefited from Bobby’s knowledge and decades of experience with both the ACBL and the WBF, the latter of which has recently honored him upon his retirement (due to his increasing deafness — not lack of deftness) by naming him Chairman Emeritus of the WBF Appeals Committee.  I might add that replacing the "Godfather" of the WBF (the late and great James Ortiz-Patino) and doing so while Jimmy was still alive, was a very bold move — symbolizing the incredible intellectual respect the hierarchy of the WBF had for Bobby and his views of bridge jurisprudence.  His contributions of attempting to strive for equity and honorability are unparalleled.   He has no personal motivation.  He is especially intolerant of inept players serving on committees with lack of bridge knowledge and skills and deceiving people by occupying the catbird seat.  The committee members must be as good as the players over whom they are sitting in judgment.   Attrition has played a large role in compromising the positions of those who make crucial rulings.  As you may have surmised, this blog was provoked after the incomprehensible and irrational score change in the Fleisher-Nickell USA II Trials match — and though in my personal opinion, was off the wall, had no bearing whatsoever on the overall outcome.  In any event, there is much to consider and it is time get it out into the open.

Breaks in Tempo (BIT) sometimes passing on Unauthorized Information (UI) and Hesitation Disruption (HD) are the three main distractions which often come into focus.  Because Bobby has been so entrenched in attempting to prevent advantages garnered from the above, he has been thought of as Public Enemy No. 1 although his sole purpose is to clean up the game and return it to its rightful place in the sun but is opposed by those who will gain advantage (either ego or personal) by whatever means is thought to be necessary.  In the current issue, the outcome could have decided which team represented the United States as USA II this year in Bali.   Fortunately, it did not come to that.  His staunch view is that in situations like the subject one, the concept of ruling is not like the "normal committee member" has been instructed to rule.   Every case is different and requires excellent judgment by the Tournament Director who is summoned and then later, if necessary, by the Committee.  In his judgment, the MANDATORY requirements of a ‘qualified’ committee are:

1.  Superior Bridge Expertise — at least close or similar in degree, to the appellants and/or the alleged culprits, and the ability to diversify bridge thinking such as clearly understanding the increase in value of the Willenken hand with the bidding (not the tempo) of the hand.

2.  Knowing the particular circumstances of the hand involved (including nuances) such as competitive action by the opponents  — also tendencies in competitive auctions, lead directional doubles, their reputation and most importantly — the leanings of the particular players who might have broken tempo.   To veer from the impersonality of the issue so far, I feel it is necessary to mention the two challenged individuals are two of the most ethical players to honor the game — Chris Willenken  (opener) and Michael Rosenberg (responder).  To get a better idea of the problem involved, go to the USBF site and look at the "big hand" which opened 1D (with 22 HCP) and chanced being passed out and missing a game (or even slam) — but backed his judgment based on his cards (preponderance of controls and prime trump honors.  Note –  he ONLY had the AKQ10 of spades which were to be trump)!    Any move by South (which Bobby felt was in order) would have clearly indicated to a top partner, holding XXXX  KX  XX  AQ10XX that a slam was destined to be bid.

3.  Considering the possible circumstances that must be given to what the break in tempo (behind screens) could have been caused by and which of the players was responsible.  You must look at the hands to understand the issue. 

4.  More importantly than usually assumed, the Committee Members (who were polled by phone on such an important issue) MUST be able to think for themselves, not be unduly influenced by others who CLAIM to know the intent of the law, but in reality, are only espousing what he (or she) thinks are supposed to be the guiding principles.   Hogwash!


The ruling in the subject case thankfully was not a match-changer (although in Bobby’s opinion) was handled improperly (which is a kind word for disgustingly).    According to him, until the organizations involved (USBF and ACBL) which play a major role in determining which pairs or teams represent our Zone in world competition, rise to the occasion and stand up and bite the bullet by recognizing the lack of qualifications of some committee members and the loopholes in our process — we will be lost in the desert — unprepared to handle future similar rulings — with latent miscarriage of justice!.

In the case at hand, it is obvious the recent Committee did not even consider how strong the opener’s holding actually was (22 HCP but not suited for either 2C or 2NT).    And, playing behind screens, how could the opener be sure what caused the delay in sending the board back?  Passing 4S holding  AKQ10  AQ9X  AKXX  X) — to Bobby’s educated way of thinking  — was absolutely NOT a remote consideration and would not be deemed  ‘expert "bridge’ as any of his peers view it.   After a 1D opening, partner responded 1S and when he jumped to 4C showing shortness and a double ensued, partner bid 4S.   Holding such a monster with majestic trump support, would anyone (especially an expert?)  ever consider AT LEAST NOT MAKING A MOVE TOWARD SLAM (or jumping to 6S himself as Willenken actually did).   Incidentally Bobby pointed out that when 4C was doubled, with such an excellent partnership as Levin/Weinstein, you can be sure he didn’t want a heart lead so if partner did not have the HK, the finesse was on side.   This Committee was out to lunch to forbid opener from bidding again and, despite being well intended, should hang their heads in shame.

This debacle was reminiscent to Bobby of the winner-changing result of the recent Vanderbilt ruling which served as an albatross to the rest of the field.  As time moves on, we customarily go forward, but according to situations like the two above, it is apparent the judicial process of our once-wonderful game is making great strides toward regressing.  It is impacted with sloth and irresponsibility by not having the Vanderbilt issue ruled upon immediately between sessions regardless of the state of the match — rather than selfishly delaying it to the conclusion (never foreseeing the remote possibility it could affect the outcome) and instead (by it’s controversial decision)  ‘appointed’ the winner instead of rightfully allowing it to be "decided on the playing field" — regardless of the bizarre untimely ruling. 

In the best interest of our beloved game, it is imperative to immediately take stock of our frightening bridge avalanche and encourage and awaken our administration to right these grievous wrongs with time being very much of the essence!   I truly believe Edgar (one of our most astute lawmakers) would totally concur with Bobby and is probably turning over in his grave as I write (perhaps muttering the word ‘Indeed’!).


ReneJune 12th, 2013 at 6:26 pm


I admire your candor and fortitude and speaking out for what you think is right. Am scooting out on errands and when I return, I will check out the USBF site.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 12th, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Rene: If it is not too early in the day, you might need to have a shot first — as it is straight from the heart!

ChuckJune 12th, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Hello Judy:

I am not too good at navigating on the computer so I haven’t found the site you want me to look at. However, if I had one choice over a spade and was told my bid would end the auction, holding the hand you gave (AKQ10 AQ9X AKXX X) – I fearlessly would bid 6S (and hoped partner didn’t have wasted club points).
Partner doesn’t need much and besides, he or she could have five spades. But what do I know?

LenJune 12th, 2013 at 6:54 pm

You wrote:

> The committee must ” [Consider] the possible circumstances that must be given to what the break in tempo (behind screens) could have been caused by and which of the players was responsible. [And] must look at the hands to understand the issue.”

This is exactly what they did. It was obvious who hesitated and what it meant.

> It is obvious the recent Committee did not even consider how strong the opener’s holding actually was (22 HCP but not suited for either 2C or 2NT)

Obvious? Seriously? You think they DID NOT EVEN CONSIDER it?

> And, playing behind screens, how could the opener be sure what caused the delay in sending the board back?

This is NOT the burden of proof required! Responder hesitated and opener is not allowed to profit from that.

> Passing 4S holding AKQ10 AQ9X AKXX X) — to Bobby’s educated way of thinking — was absolutely NOT a remote consideration and would not be deemed ‘expert “bridge’ as any of his peers view it.

His peers are irrelevant. Willenken’s peers are relevant, and they were polled, and passing was a logical alternative for them. I didn’t see anything in the writeup contesting they were appropriate peers.

There was no 4D or 4H control bid, no X, no encouraging pass. Just a one level response and a hesitation to fortify opener’s hand he was willing to declare in 1D.

> Holding such a monster with majestic trump support, would anyone (especially an expert?) ever consider AT LEAST NOT MAKING A MOVE TOWARD SLAM

Yes. This is why they polled experts. Out of four of Willenken’s peers only one moved towards slam.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 12th, 2013 at 7:19 pm


This leads to the questions:

1) What is considered a peer? and

2) By whom are they judged?

There are EXPERTS and ‘experts’ just as WORLD CLASS PLAYERS and ‘world class players’. Expertise is in the eyes of the beholder.

I am not an easy ‘sell.’

Judy Kay-WolffJune 12th, 2013 at 7:33 pm


Weird that you should ask about the ‘one bid’ alternative! Yesterday at the club, I gave the hand to two of the better players whose bridge Bobby respects and asked what they would bid. Of course, they simultaneously responded 4C over 1S. However, when I advised that was not an alternative — and they were FORCED to choose one final call — what would it be. It was unanimously 6S. It didn’t have to turn out right, but was it just coincidence that two respected experienced players both arrived at the suggested final auction???? Don’t think so.

Gary MugfordJune 12th, 2013 at 8:47 pm


As contenious as Len’s comment was, it did raise the question I ask myself in appeals committees (and the secondary questions that go with it). And that question revolves around the description ‘peers.’

This case is different than any case I’ve been part of, either as a participant or as an adjudicator. I’m not that good, that I would be considered adequate to adjudge this case. i have my opinions. I ALWAYS have opinions. And they hew closely to yours and to the group you have surveyed. But, they come from my middling to so-so bridge abilities. Which, in a logical way, suggests you might be wrong … if you agree with me [G]. But enough self-effacing.

Honestly, moving away from the specifics of big-time appeals and down to local club bridge (as played on the outskirts of Toronto, not in Las Vegas, Los Angeles or New York at any of the big-time clubs. Not at the Regal or Buckman’s in Toronto, for that matter). Appeals committees at local clubs are inevitably drawn from the best players at the club present that night. And, unless one of their number is involved, it is my contention that the jury of peers is NEVER actually a jury of peers. And that goes treble for sectional and even regional tournament play. Most, not all, but most, situations involve a better pair getting ‘fixed’ by a, let’s call them, a more inexperienced pair. Sure, there are caught examples of card-sharping and sometimes even inexperienced pairs call out semi-stars for something they have done. But I find the preponderance of these situations to be C class players being hauled before a committee of A class players by B/B+/A class players.

Been there, had it done to me. Did it to somebody else once. Served on local committees. All of it unpleasant. Hated it with a passion.

So, I ask again, how are peers actually defined? And, are your peers based on the competition, regardless of your’s (and the other side’s) peerage? What happens in flighted events, where, in THAT event, your peerage group includes A-D class players? Secondarily, what exactly IS the reason for the appeals system? Is it purely to right a wrong–IF it occured on a specific hand? Or is there a secondary rationale for committees? Punishment? Education? If it is the latter, does Education become MORE important that the specifics of the single hand? And if Punishment is involved, are C Class players then required to live up to the morals and ethic JUDGEMENTS of A Class players?

I’m not arguing for the abolishment of appeals. Far from it. And again, my comments here are really not about the case at hand. But I’ve never trusted the system, hated participating in it and derived nothing concrete after the fact. And that’s despite knowing that an opposing pair was deemed to have outright cheated at my table and didn’t receive the slightest punishment other than a top turned cold bottom. Despite being told TWICE at tournament appeals by clearly top-level players that I should not ‘explain’ why I took winning actions because, while sound (and successful, the reason I was in front of the committees), my explanations were “awkward and made it sound like I was privy to undisclosed information.” Both reprimands were amazingly similar in form. In both cases I was not-long removed from playing novice events. Was I educated? Yes. I’ve managed to keep my mouth shut for the last three decades or so. But that’s more due to resentment than from a paternal teaching feeling.

Bridge treats peers like it does the word points. Useful in however many situations we want to use it. And never as accurate as we pretend the word is. But it IS a word that needs more definition than I think exists in the current understanding.

Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Hi Gary,

It is a stretch to talk about peers and how to determine who is what and why. When players such as Mike and Chris are questioned about peers, at least to me, they belong in the top echelon of what our country has to offer, but that fact is not important.

What is vital to me is that once the player behind Chris, (I think Bobby Levin) doubled his 4 club splinter, Chris’ queen of hearts immediately went up in value since there would be no way Levin (if it was he) would double for a club lead when holding the king of hearts, much less if Levin did, in fact have the ace of clubs rather than the king since he would want the opening lead to come through the dummy’s ace of hearts (a moral certainty to have) so that he would then be more likely to have developed the setting trick.

My guess, although no one can be 100% sure, that this news made Chris’ hand even stronger and convinced him to risk the small slam, even opposite almost nothing (possibly the queen of diamonds, jack, ten of hearts or ace of clubs. Of course, five little spades would be much better than four, but how could he expect Michael to know that since partner cannot see through the backs of the cards,

Do committees understand that and many other logical bridge thoughts that players like that whole table represented? Who knows, but in bridge jurisprudence, it is imperative that the committees are made up of the best players and be able to explain such points to them.

To do otherwise is irresponsibility at its worst and totally denigrating to what is and has always been since Auction bridge became Contract bridge in 1927, making it the best mind game ever and much more intriguing than the pure game of chess which is all cerebral, but without the fantastic nuances, which bridge alone possesses.

I am not debating what the laws of appeals has grown to be, but what I am saying is that there is such room for improvement and correct punishment. For example, one way to rule is that on this hand whatever happens in 6 spades counts (down or made) and a BIT may or may not draw a procedural penalty (PP) depending on what a panel thinks it should receive. In that way, the results of what happened rules instead of a contrived way which in this case, would state that the opponents of the BIT would have the option to take 6 spades down, or if not, have it ruled back to 4 spades.

If ever anything is considered totally ridiculous that contrived ruling would be my answer.

I’ve been screaming about this for years and, if you read the Lone Wolff which I know you did, you will see some part of the book devoted to true life at the World Championship and dealing with appeals. Maybe someday the world will eliminate the subjectivity of political and biased committees (not to mention unqualified ones) from making far reaching decisions in our most important tournaments.

It would be amusing to me, if it didn’t hurt so much when others classify me as someone who believes that, “if it hesitates, kill it” when in actuality, I just want sound logic, like what is used in playing high-level bridge, to determine bridge justice.

What almost happened here and what did happen in the Vanderbilt are real life examples of how not to do it. Where are the precedents and accountability of the TDs and committees which are needed to determine the makeup of future committees when they need to be assembled,

Strong letter to possibly follow.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 12th, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Hi Gary:

Thanks for your usual careful perusal and comments on the regular upheavals which seem to be commonplace in our game today. This one was a humdinger and luckily mattered not as the result (ridiculous as it appeared to me) did not adversely affect the winning team’s score. It is the principle that is troubling.

I had intended to respond to you in detail, but when I noted Bobby at his computer furiously typing away to you, I abandoned ship in deference to his decades of experience in these very ticklish issues.

Peers? Schmeers? and Cheers,


Robb GordonJune 12th, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I didn’t want to but I feel I have to jump in. I am the USBF Appeals Coordinator this year, taking over for our dear departed friend Joan Gerard. It isn’t an easy job!
While I did not serve on this committee, I selected the pool of committee members and from that pool of course came this committee. While it is a given that none of the (larger) committee members were participating in the USBC this year for (for obvious reasons) we felt that the pool was quite strong and this group was certainly capable (and included at least one former teammate of Bobby’s).

Now – getting to the reason I am writing at all – it isn’t to convince you to agree or disagree with the ruling, but rather to help people understand the process. There are three major points I wish to address:

1. The committee ruling upheld the ruling made by the Director, Chris Patrias, certainly one of our finest directors. “Getting rid” of appeals committees would not have changed this outcome.
2. “… I feel it is necessary to mention the two challenged individuals are two of the most ethical players to honor the game — Chris Willenken (opener) and Michael Rosenberg (responder).” Yes, this is true and not in dispute by anybody. But nobody accused either of them or wrongdoing. Law 16 simply aims to rectify (in ways you may agree or disagree with) irregularities that could lead to one side or another having an advantage, whether conscious or not.
3. Finally, your discussion is focused on the merits of the 6S bid (or some other move beyond 4S). But this is NOT what the committee needs to consider. We all agree that bidding is attractive. The questions are –
a. Was there a break in tempo? Yes, agreed to by both sides AND the vugraph operator.
b. Could this break convey unauthorized information? Clearly yes.
c. NOW comes the question of “logical alternatives”. Was pass (to 4S) a logical alternative? To use Edgar Kaplan’s definition of logical alternative – “Would it have been obviously foolish to pass, an egregious error, absurd? No, it wouldn’t–pass would be right quite often.”

So as you can see, even if you still disagree with the committee, their ruling was clearly reasonable and rational.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 12th, 2013 at 11:26 pm


Obviously, you posted yours before Bobby’s came on line as he answers some of the high level issues that the “Committee” no doubt never discussed, possibly overlooked and probably not even considered. Had they done so, it would have been brought to light.

All Bobby is saying is that the rules now in place are ridiculous and MUST be changed!

As far as people who are, shall we say commissioned with “high appointments and accompanying titles” with all due respect — I am not impressed. In fact in some cases, it is ludicrous, to say the least. Many are not qualified “bridgewise” and are merely worker bees who do all the scutwork so they are rewarded with high and mighty titles (which may catch the eye of the average player) but attempts at deification doesn’t work for me. I’ve been around too long and can read between the lines.

So, let’s agree to disagree.


DiogenesJune 12th, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Interesting subject! I am a long time bridge player and administrator and have always prided myself on proper ethics. With the 22 point hand, there is no way I would not make one more move (regardless of any hesitation — if indeed there was one). I have so many controls (and especially with a suggested club lead), I wouldn’t dream of passing 4S. Partner needs almost nothing and I was going to bid anyway so why should I be dissuaded from making the call I had always planned to. If I didn’t bid 6S, I certainly would have bid 5D and take it from there.

There is something radically the matter with the system if the South hand is barred FOR ANY REASON! Maybe it is time bridge players are not crucified for doing the normal thing and Committees are not so unyielding and unrelenting when there are extenuating circumstances (like what we used to call a three loser hand).

I don’t play that much any more. Perhaps it’s a good move.

Robb GordonJune 12th, 2013 at 11:52 pm

“All Bobby is saying is that the rules now in place are ridiculous and MUST be changed!”

That is a different issue entirely. The next set of Laws should be out in about 5 years which means a drafting committee ought to be getting organized now.

Also, if you feel that pass is NOT a logical alternative (like Mr. Diogenes above) then of course you would rule the other way.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 12:17 am

Hi Diogenes (and you certainly are a forthright person):

Don’t give up the game. There are really still some nice people out there. By the way, you said you would have bid 5D and “take it from there.” You wouldn’t have had to as partner had the heart king and club ace/queen and would not have needed much more encouragement.

Thanks for taking the time to write.


SamJune 13th, 2013 at 12:28 am

Just curious. I understand this was done by a telephone committee. With an event of such great import as representing your country, why was there not an on site Appeals Committee. If the USBF doesn’t have the money, why doesn’t the ACBL kick in?

Judy Kay-WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 12:40 am


You pose a very good question. I’ve never understood very much about committees and I have really had no reason to — and just as well. Perhaps the less I know, the better off I will be. However, an expert On Site Appeals Committee would make good sense and serve a great purpose.

I checked the USBF Appeal site and noticed the following: After the appeal by NS, the Director ‘polled four players, and only one moved toward slam.’ The contract reverted back to 4S. Would love to know just who those four polled players were.

JRGJune 13th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

For anyone who, like me, had a problem finding the deal and discussion on the USBF web site, it is in the Monday, June 10th bulletin. Rather than navigate the whole site, here is a link to that bulletin: http://usbf.org/docs/2013usbc/bulletins/USBC2013news11.pdf

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Hi Robb and everyone else who is interested,

When one reaches my age 5 years is an eternity, and furthermore without prodding the not so good guys, meaning self-serving ones, in the bridge world, like it just the way it is where they can “lawyer” their admiring disciples into what they want to happen.

Believe it or not, the average high-level committees are bright bridge wise, but, especially over the phone, and with no accountability or precedents ever formed have no incentive nor pressure to perform up to their capabilities. That fact, plus normal bias and prejudice against and for some of their contemporaries (exaggerated because of professional ties and hoped for favors) makes for a circus type atmosphere in bridge jurisprudence.

What assurance does anyone have that in 5 years or even 50 anything will be changed since most players (however great they are) will not be subjected to what some of us have been over the previous 60+ years.

Now is the time to take a stand and institute fairness and good bridge sense into the process. Even the highly monied major sports in the world are now instituting replay, a disturbing aspect to some who are only casually interested in watching a fast moving game, in the desire to correct many game and championship changing incorrect rulings which are nothing short of lethal to our highly watched spectator sports.

Why should bridge lag behind, since we are the most cerebral competitive sport (along with chess) and if we do not do it soon, verily it will not be done (at least in my opinion)?

Steven GaynorJune 13th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I would have redoubled 4C, suggesting that even with partner’s singleton I was willing to give this contract a shot (it can be made). this would also impart that I do not have the ‘joke’ hand.
I gave the big hand to some experienced players at our club last night and all moved over 4S. Then I mentioned the BIT, and they all still moved saying that partner could have passed the double to show weakness, but the 4S bid showed at least a legitimate hand.

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Hi again,

I left out confirming that I think Chris Patrias (and also Solly Weinstein) are as good high-level tournament directors as the USA has ever had, and that includes most of our departed legendary ones.

However, they have been instructed to rule the way they have with direct questions asked to determine whether a BIT has occurred, but so what? It is not them who need to be changed, it is the whole process which all intelligent players should join in to make our game more accurately policed with more to the point justified penalties. That, in turn should be directed at letting the punishment fit the crime all the way from 1% to 99% culpability and not have real life table results overturned with huge windfall results for non-offenders.

Sadly, some of our best players have in the not so distant past, lawyered their way when being on the other side of the arguments, convincing those committees to rule for them in spite of shamefacedly taking advantage of obvious huge BIT’s.

Robb, I sometimes wonder if you have been privy to what I am discussing, because your comments never seem to include those distortions of what is now the law, and should have been enforced, but was not in their decisions. At the very least, there has to be adequate consistency in enforcing what is thought to be the law, without which PT Barnum’s famous remark about suckers being born every minute is as accurate and right as rain.

Leveling the playing field is not just an option, it is a necessity, otherwise corruption will run rampant, even here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, which is rightfully now being examined to see if what is now happening to our way of normal life, is, in fact, the best and most moral and ethical way.

It was once quoted to me, while I was attending law school that, “Good judges know the law and duly rule on the words used”, but “Great judges also know the law, but interpret it so that equity triumphs in the application”.

Without the above, bridge jurisprudence as it is currently practiced today within the ACBL, will destroy our game.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 4:19 pm


The “five year wait” is beyond preposterous, but why am I not surprised? It is like twiddling one’s thumbs all that precious time before starting to give a curable cancer patient treatment. Don’t wait till after the funeral. The time is NOW.

What could possibly take precedence over the correction and improvement of the present erroneous and inequitable guidelines that are adhered to by blind people who are too lazy and simply are willing to enjoy the status quo????

Maybe the competency and conscientiousness of the so-called lawmakers needs to be better scrutinized and improved upon. By the way — who is responsible for this five year waiting program?

Incidentally, why is there such a long wait? Who made that stipulation? And — what issue could possibly be considered MORE IMPORTANT to take priority?

The more I read — the more I am exasperated and angered. What you need is more sincere and caring people like Bobby who puts the importance and honor of the game ABOVE ALL. But, it is apparent that is not going to happen because lethargy reigns supreme!

Next time I won’t mince words.


Robb GordonJune 13th, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Dear Bobby:

Thanks for your post to me. I hope and believe you have many good years ahead. I always treasure your thoughts and comments, even (perhaps especially) when we disagree.

While I previously agreed with you that Laws need changing (and hopefully I will be able to influence that) we probably would not completely agree about which Laws.

You were on the LC for many years. As you well know, most of the Law changes from edition to edition, with only rare blockbusters like the not-vul doubled penalty (successful) or the “No Spades Partner?” prohibition (not successful and now gone).

I am sure you realize the chaos that would ensue if we changed the Laws every time something happened that was felt to be unfair. In rapid order nobody would know WHAT the Laws say!

Fortunately we have Laws Commissions at the WBF and ACBL level to “interpret” the Laws when a disputed situation arises.

“with no accountability or precedents” Finally, I wish to address this fragment. What does “accountability” mean in this context. You have the names of the committee members (who were unanimous by the way) and they have been castigated here both for their decision and for their bridge skills, quite unfairly in my opinion. You even had a one-time teammate on that committee!

So, should we cut their pay (they don’t get paid)? Should we whip them? I don’t get this at all. What more accountability can you have than signing your name on the appeal form.

Precedent is another matter. While committees do not have clerks like th Supreme Court, we have been publishing casebooks at least since YOU have been ACBL President, and they are now online at the site. I find that these are studied and talked about.

Finally – on site committees would be nice (although they probably don’t help and we were doing this on the phone even when you were involved in USBC appeals). But the USBF really has no money. Who is going to pay for it? You would have to pay at least 5 people to travel to the site and stay there (you could have 3-person committees like we do but need a contingency in case a committee member has a conflict) AND you would have to pay the members. As it stands a committee takes 1-2 hours of a members time IF he is called. The “standing” committee would need two full weeks, regardless.

I hope that this discussion can turn more toward constructive ideas and improving the process. That is always welcome!

Warm regards,

Judy Kay-WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 4:43 pm


I am in your corner, obviously 1,000%. The issue of the double of four clubs was discussed by Bobby and me and agreed (without ever speaking of it before) that it would have meant first round control (obviously in this case the ace). Be that as it may, they would have had to burn me at the stake to have prevented me from moving over the questionable (?) hesitation over the double with the ensuing 4S call. I probably would have cue bid diamonds and partner would have no problem jumping to slam. No one should be allowed to commandeer your brain cells holding the big hand.

Perhaps the words Three Blind Mice would have been a more descriptive epithet for The Committee.

The decision was bad enough — only compounded by excuses, excuses, excuses.

PegJune 13th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I have seen no discussion above as to what Michael Rosenberg (responder) said his 4S bid showed. He claimed that it was “the weakest.”

How many of us would have passed 1D holding: xxxx, xxx, xxx, KQx? Some, but surely a number would respond 1S. And – how many would want to be in slam opposite that hand?

I agree that some laws likely ought to be changed – yet – the process must be done in an orderly manner, as Robb well explained. Sometimes tough enough knowing what is and is not the current law with the frequency of changes that we do have!

Finally, although it is surely all right to criticize decisions that volunteers make, I for one would like to thank them for their work. They educate themselves and donate their time, mostly due to their love of the game. While in a perfect world it would be great to have them at the site for 10 days, I wonder where we’d find the $8K to $10K to pay for it.

Not a perfect system – but – perhaps the best we can do under the circumstances.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 6:50 pm


Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course. However, I don’t abide by coulda, shoulda, woulda. The actual hand the responder had was immaterial. If partner had the ugly one you suggested, the 6S hand would have gone down with flying colors and the declarer would have gone minus. That score would have not been challenged or appealed. Right? Well, you can’t have it both ways.

Even to a mediocre player, the opener’s bid (opposite any response which shows a four card spade suit) offers countless possibilities for a slam and regardless of what the alleged 4S call indicated (and no one seems positive), to me it is beyond the realm of reason that at least a slam try by the opener was inappropriate and/or unethical.

How can opener be castigated for not passing a 4S call? As Bobby has said before (and to me on occasion) — “That is not bridge.” I realistically think few are in a position to challenge his track record or judgment. A change is in order — and the sooner, the better.

You can thank volunteers all you like, Peg, but it would be such a boon for the game to have closer to world class talent on the committees (especially in this event which determines our representatives). If the USBF can’t afford it — the ACBL should come to their aid. Everyone keeps reading about their net worth (and the graduating salaries of their employees and directors) — so, it seems there should be enough left to subsidize some arrangements to have on site world class players available to make these determinations. After all, charity begins at home — and where is a better place to start than the direction of determining world class representation for Zone 2?

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Hi Robb,

First to clear up what sometimes affects feelings having to do with volunteers and the following discussions which, by circumstance, involves them.

Steve Landon and Ron Smith are friends of mine, both being ethical credits to the game, plus high level players who have the scalps on their walls to prove it.

No doubt, they are qualified to be included in most, if not all, bridge committees and the bridge world is lucky to have two such fine ambassadors of the game who have the generosity to volunteer, or perhaps allow themselves to be coerced into serving.

BTW, I am playing with Ron as a teammate in the upcoming Senior trials as I have played before with him also, and just a few years ago traveled to Beijing China with Steve as one of my teammates and have also played with him in another earlier Mr. Yeh production as well as a Bermuda Bowl in 2003, finishing 3rd and exceeding our expectations. I also am batting one for one having won a Swiss team (playing with Judy) including Danny Sprung and his wife JoAnn in Reading, Pennsylvainia a few years ago.

However, by nature, none of the three of them, particularly Steve and Ron are trailblazers who defy normal convention by arguing, much less crusading, for what they may believe in, when they accepted their appointments because they wanted to do what they could to make bridge a safer place to play, without causing an uproar.

My thoughts nor actions are not politically influenced, nor will they ever be. The playing and perpetuation of our game is what it and what I say is only intended for its benefit. To allow sweet talk (a euphemism for politics) does not help get the job done, although I concede it helps to keep friends, to which I do not have as many as I would like (Peggy Kaplan being the ultimate charmer), but that is another story.

Getting back to Robb, I remember you as the chairman of the C&E committee in which Bob Rosen, the recorder who succeeded me (and outshone me by bounds and leaps) when someone who later co-chaired the famous “Oh Shit” committee was brought up on charges that he had brutally verbally assaulted a TD when the TD reprimanded him for what was deemed to be an unethical bid after his partner twice during an auction had long pauses before she passed. Bob had asked me to help prosecute that case and I accepted, eventually winning the case and, although I have no recollection of what penalty was determined, was impressed with Robb’s demeanor and overall organization.

However, later both the defendant in that C&D case and Robb served on that famous case involving Joanna Stansby and the ‘Oh Shit’ ruling. Obviously I am as close to 100% sure as is possible that the prosecuted loser had a great deal to contribute to make sure that case was decided the way it was and Robb was only a fledgling member and was undoubtedly adversely influenced. BTW the other co-chair, a former President of the CBF, who now is living but with Alzheimers disease, was also a Wolff-hater since I chastised him for not overseeing Canada sending better teams to the Bermuda Bowl since they finished last 5 times out of 7 and next to last the other 2 years (back in the1980’s and 90’s) because of politics (IMO) which greatly determined who was sent. That statement is complicated because of the facts relating to venues where the trials were held, making it very difficult for Canada’s best players and partnerships to participate therefore allowing much lesser experienced players, (with the co-chair being one of them) to so-call ‘win the right’ to represent Canada. This subject could go on and on, but it is not relevant to what this blog is about.

Accountability, and what I mean by that, is each member of the committee should state the way he voted (unanimous is not enough), but also the reasons for his vote, and the pros and cons of why. Otherwise the players and spectators interested will just have to guess what the members were thinking about, a difficult task to accomplish.

Again BTW, while on the ACBL BOD I crusaded for and finally accomplished roll call votes for all of us politicians so that the membership will accurately know which way each BOD member voted, rather than the political way of telling constituents what one wants them to believe.

I do not believe that chaos would develop with changes in the penalties for different forms of potential ethical violations such as BITs. However, I do not think changing the laws will be as easy as others may think, because the bridge lawyers among the high-level group would like to keep it just the way it is, where they feel they can win regardless of what side of the aisle they are on — with whatever the current flap might be.

It also seems that sponsors or the ACBL (which now has a record high net worth) could contribute to paying small amounts to volunteers so that high-level bridge (which separates bridge from gin rummy, Eucre, Hearts, etc.) can continue to play in a world environment which generates electricity. That keeps bridge from being denounced as only an old folks game, when in reality it is the most challenging and all encompassing mind game that has ever been created.

The next two steps should be:

1. Getting bridge into our educational primary and secondary school system like much of Europe and now China have already accomplished.

2. Change the punishment phase of bridge ethical violations to judge on equity, not a fixed amount with no attention to the degree of violation. Otherwise, the bad guys (but smooth talkers and excellent players) will rule the roost instead of the game itself sustaining the penalties and seeing that justice is honored.

Jane AJune 13th, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I am not familiar with how committees work at the upper echelons of bridge, so forgive me if these following two questions seem silly. Does the committee have to know who the players are that are involved in the appeal? Seems like if the player identity could be concealed, and only the actual hand and actions surrounding the appeal were taken into consideration, it would eliminate any possible “intimidation” and/or repercussions that could occur later. I realize that the players have to right to present their point of view, but perhaps a neutral third party could actually be the mouth piece for all four. Second, is there a time limit for a player to think about making a bid or pass? Is it ten seconds, 30 seconds, etc. Obviously if someone takes five minutes to think over a bid, that would be extreme, but what is considered acceptable? Some of us play fast, some play slow, so how is a BIT determined? And does it make a difference if a player takes longer to decide, but then makes a bid other than a pass? A long hesitation (whatever that means) and then a pass card would be more problematic if partner then decides to continue the auction.

Gary MugfordJune 13th, 2013 at 10:27 pm


Doing a leap off of your last comment. Unforunately nothing to do with the overall subject of this debate, but it’s what I do.

Okay, here are steps 3 or 3 and 4. Bridge needs to attract attention in the media. Media always arbitrages ‘stories’ and places them (if including them at all) on the basis of consumers likely reading/listening/clicking. I DESPERATELY want bridge teams to either go for sponsorship names or adopt town and nicknames.

There are a multitude of reasons the Dallas Aces are the world’s most famous bridge team, decades after disbanding. (apologies to European readers and their possible affection for the Squadra Azzura. That affection doesn’t travel well).

I FIRMLY believe that if the team had been the Ira Corn All-Stars, the overall media success of the team would have been much smaller. The Aces made their family and friends and a portion of non-Bridge playing Dallas residents proud. It is to my sorrow that I didn’t start playing Bridge until after the famous Cities matches were history. I would have loved to cheer on Toronto vs. Montreal, Los Angeles vs New York (Sheinwold fan here) and Dallas vs everybody BUT Toronto. I’ve re-read write-ups of those events in old Bridge Worlds multiple times.

Since franchising ideas seem too pedestrian for Bridge purists, then let’s call sponsored teams either by the company of the sponsor or by a non-affiliated (but paying) sponsor. I can’t have Atlanta vs Rocherster/San Antonio? Okay, then Coca-Cola vs Xerox. I understand issues with … say a beer company sponsored team playing in event where youngsters can play (and are encouraged to do so). But those same youngsters walk past stores with beer advertising plastered all over them on a regular business. Let’s not pretend Bridge-playing youngsters are the naive little children that might be gulled into a life of alcoholism because six guys are walking around with Reinhold shirts.

I hate to say it, but the only people who really care about any specific team in any major Bridge event where it’s not country vs. country, are the family and friends (which can be numerous) of the players involved. In order to get that fraction of a percent interested who, through unwillful ignorance), haven’t even heard of Bridge, let’s find a way to invest interest in them via their home-town pride or workplace loyalty.

I’m not suggesting this will turn Bridge into the new MMA. But a simple change in approach might attract one in ten thousand appealed-to media consumers. If I remember correctly, there’s about 400 million people with the ACBL jurisdiction. Think the ACBL would like 40,000 new members? Even if I’m wrong by a factor of ten or even a factor of a hundred, a simple change is all it would take. (And hey, sponsorship money can be a bonus. Just let’s not let players go all Nascar on us. Even I have limits).

Quick, think of famous teams. Plenty easy to think of pairs. Teams? A whole lot different. Part of the problem is the changing composition of teams. Some of it is pro teams with, variously, non-playing captains/sponsors, poor Bridge players willing to spend and contribute the minimum amount of table time required to be ‘part’ of the team and then teams with actual realy big-time players paying the freight and carrying the weight. Can’t tell the players without the scorecard. It’s not the easiest thing to do to go the naming route. But the reward with whatever system is tried could be huge. And there’s no reason both approaches can’t be tried.

JUST TRY PLEASE. I promise to collect all the player cards and throw away the bubble-gum on orders of my medical staff.

Robert E. HarrisJune 13th, 2013 at 10:46 pm

The hand is also at


Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Hi Jane A,

In spite of your claim of not being as familiar as you would like to be, your questions and proposed situations show sophistication.

Yes, the committee members are aware of who the four players were at the table and, of course, their positions and if one player is under scrutiny. who that player would be. Also they are almost always aware of the importance of their decision, especially after the last session of a KO match, since chances are (although it doesn’t have to be), if the appeal is held it will determine who the winner will be, because the usual procedure is not to have the appeal unless it is disciplinary in nature, but, if not, then becomes meaningless in what is decided.

I’ll take a minute to tell you what I think is important while others simply do not:

1. Precedents need to be established when and if similar cases appear in the future, where the committee then will have the benefit of what was decided then. Also it would be helpful if all the committee members would write down or voice their opinions to be transcribed by a volunteer, (preferably be paid like a court reporter). That, too would be helpful for the future.

2. Committee members should recuse themselves if they either like or do not like either of the teams or even one or more players on one of the teams or especially if professional commitments enter into possible bias either way.

3. If any committee members feels either unable to understand the legal ramifications of what he is doing, or needs someone else to explain what is involved he should have already recused himself and, as far as I am concerned subject to discipline himself if this is violated.

4. From a competitive situation, it is best that the committee members are not still in the event because there may be match-up problems which lead to bias affecting one or more of the committee that may be playing one or the other appellants.

5. Many of the above problems will vanish if each committee member would state how he voted, why, and what it might have taken for him to have voted differently. When this is recorded there will then be an important history to be used in the future in determining why someone should or should not be on future committees.

Jumping now to your tempo questions, it has to do with a person’s normal tempo. Whatever that may be, if, without screens present, a person may in any way indicate a problem before he bids and then chooses one thing or the other, there will be a strong possibility of a BIT since his partner will have obtained unauthorized information (UI) which, if used, or thought to be used, is illegal and not to be accepted.

However, sometimes when a person studies longer than usual, he may be thinking of multiple actions which curtail the possibility of UI since it might be difficult to determine what was going on in his mind to take him longer than usual.

You and I are normally fast players, so that, at least for us, if we think and then pass, even if only for 7 or 8 seconds, it is not only possible but rather likely that partner will glean that we wanted to bid something and knowing that, makes it UI.

What I am railing against is the draconian penalties which accompany even a slight BIT and behind screens when the people on the other side of the screen cannot be sure of partner’s hesitation.

The downright amusing thing to me is that in the case in question if Chris had surmised that he might as well pass since partner is likely to have studied 30+ seconds or so and then signed off, marking him with possibly some assets because if not he would have returned to 4 spades quickly and then by Chris’ pass at least he doesn’t jeopardize going down in slam, only to find out that his partner was not the one who was studying, but possibly in this case Chris’s RHO was thinking about taking a save after his partner had made a lead directing doubled, made with only the king of clubs, usually never done if doubling a short suit bid, but done in this case to stop partner from even considering leading from a broken heart holding.

The real sad part of all of this is that when committees are contacted by phone and given time to acclimate themselves to the problem, they still are not able to render their normal wisdom since it is just too foreign to what some feel necessary to be able to make a possible event changing decision. All in all the penalties given, although prescribed by our archaic and downright stupid laws force them to follow those laws to the oblivion of high-level bridge logic.


I hope you understand what I am trying to say and apologize for taking so long to say it.

jim2June 14th, 2013 at 12:26 am

First, I do not claim to be an expert but I have been playing bridge since 1959.

I would have redoubled 4C and expected it to mean the AC.

If I had held the big hand I would have always, always, ALWAYS made at least one slam try over any bid made by partner after I bid 4C. Honestly, I would have interpreted the double of 4C as improving slam chances, as it would (in my mind) have reduced the chance of wasted club values in partner’s hand.

The bid of 6S under the stated conditions would have always been the obvious one for me. That others affecting the title of “expert” felt otherwise simply proves to me that I will never be an “expert.”

Judy Kay-WolffJune 14th, 2013 at 1:05 am

Hi Jim 2:

You’re in good company! Even with a gun to my head I would have bid on — and partner would have reevaluated CQ and HK. But, we will have to be content with not being experts and the targets of committees who blindly adhere to the “law.” It’s nothing new!

However, despite Bobby’s cogent arguments and sincere explanations against the positions taken by many committees, until the ACBL decides to straighten up and fly right, the game and many of its disciples will be at the mercy of unyielding individuals. Either change the laws or improve the committee structure. Take your choice.

EllisJune 14th, 2013 at 8:24 am

The Peers.
Best comment I have heard about peers came from a person that was ruled against on day 2 of a second tier national event.
After the director mentioned he had polled 6 players in the Spingold.
” I appreciate the compliment , but I really thought you were supposed to be polling my peers”
the player has 2 national titles that I know off and multiple regional titles.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 14th, 2013 at 9:52 am

Hi Ellis:

Thanks for sharing that cute story and lightening the tensity of the subject, but in all fairness everyone can site players who have won “national titles” and “regional events” whose ability is nowhere near commensurate with Spingold contestants. Sometimes it depends on the quality of the tournament players and the luck of the draw. Nothing solid!

Just like “beauty,” what constitutes “peers” is in the eyes of the beholder. It is difficult to believe that a true “peer” of our subject opening bidder would have not entertained the thought of another call, regardless of an alleged delay of passing the board. I’d love to know the names of the four “peers” (who produced three nays and one yea). That is why Bobby is so much in favor of open votes and full disclosure. Stand up and be counted!

Steven GaynorJune 14th, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I agree with the ruling because 4S was defined as the weakest action. If 4S suggests the ‘joke’ hand mentioned in the appeal write-up, then passing that bid is a legitimate alternative.
Passing the double should show a bit more as it leaves the rest of the 4 level open for cue-bidding, and redouble (my choice) is the strongest action as it should show 1st round club control.

I also feel the committee members were good representatives to handle this case and I am not bothered that it was a phone conference. Those are non-issues (IMO).

I agree with Bobby that more transparency in all of these endeavors will add legitimacy to the proceedings.

EllisJune 14th, 2013 at 5:14 pm

A question, which I believe is relevant and seems to be the underlying thread of Judy`s blog even though it has not been stated openly.
Should the reputation and the expert quality of the players involved come into play?
To my mind two players of the highest reputation, combined with the fact that the partner behind the screen is reasonably well known for his lack of speed at the table, should give the committee reason to ponder the TD ruling.
I can think of multiple players who if you told me there was a hesitation I would be lenient based on the general slowness of their normal tempo , I can also think of some who I would never ever give any leeway to based on their reputation for lightning fast decisions.
All of the above examples would be at world expert level.

Bobby WolffJune 14th, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Hi Steven,

While I respect your opinion and your conscientious change of mind, please consider the following facts:

1. Some players do not play so-called joke responses to their partner’s opening 1 bids.

2. According to my information Chris and Mike were in the sitting EW, positions who are not in charge of the tray, behind screens, so cannot be responsible for anywhere near exact lengths of time for the passing of the tray.

3. Throughout my long career, many times, whether I was NS or EW, behind screens, the non-bidders held up the trays for one reason or another, whether with nefarious intentions or not, making it unpredictable if and why it happens.

4. Should Chris in this case, when the tray was slow in being returned, reason thusly,”if I make a slam try or just bid slam myself, should I put myself in a position of if down, the opponents will accept their plus score gleefully, but if I make it, it will be rolled back to 4 spades, making an adverse swing of 13 IMPs, at least, against us, and since I am not allowed to ask on the other side of the screen, “Why the delay?” shouldn’t I just hope the slam would have gone down and not bid it? Would anyone consider this problem real bridge? I think not!

5. The penalty for possibly taking advantage of BITs are draconian in that there is no compromise, either lose a made slam or if set pay off, so until my suggestion of allowing whatever happens to happen and then if determined taking advantage of a BIT was present, then a procedural penalty (PP) based on the judgment of the degree of advantage taking MUST be a significant improvement. BTW, I have been suggesting that for a long time with predictable non-results, probably because of the excellent playing bridge lawyers thinking they could win an appeal representing either side of discussing taking advantage of BIT’s

6. From Chris’ position when his LHO, Bobby Levin, doubles 4 clubs, it is 99% sure that Levin does not hold the king of hearts, and so it turns out, even seeing Levin doubling with the king of clubs, (an obvious non-factor with no more than a singleton in dummy) obviously to keep partner Steve Weinstein from leading from a broken heart holding such as the KJ, Q10 or even the QJ, basically not saying to lead a club (which he is indicating) but to keep him from possibly giving the slam making trick away. Chris’ assertion that the double of 4 clubs does make his holding of the AQ of hearts even stronger is certainly applicable.

If you so decide, thanks for thinking this over?

roger pewickJune 15th, 2013 at 7:28 pm

The worst practice of TDs [which is nearly universal] is to not explain the reasoning upon which judgment rulings are made. Without the reasoning the parties to which it matters are in the position of not being able to judge the efficacy of the ruling. By providing the reasoning it is the check for TDs that avoids bad rulings- if the reasoning doesn’t wash then the ruling probably is not justice; and for players, it is a smell test for judging whether the ruling is just or someone got hosed.

This ruling is such an example.

Nobody has acquitted themselves well.

1. the TD- Did not explain his reasoning [beyond 3 of 4 pollees passed]. The director did not explain the pollees’ reasoning for their action. Did not explain the basis for finding that east broke tempo. Did not explain reasoning for the adjusted score.

2. the AC- did not come to a finding as to the length of BIT. Did not deliver a finding as to the agreement in force [to 4S]. Did not investigate relevant alternative sequences [such as 4CXX]. Did not deliver a finding as to the assertion “West also claimed that the double of 4C marked the king of hearts in South’s hand, making slam even better.” Did not address the four assertions of NS.

3. EW- supposedly the basis of the appeal was that pass was not a LA alternative given “West also claimed that the double of 4C marked the king of hearts in South’s hand, making slam even better.”

My comment is that the assertion is not merely dubious, but given that it was made after seeing that S did not have the HK it was a ludicrous assertion. This discredits the premise of the appeal; thus discredited it is without merit.

4. Wolff- Wolff asserts that because of the inference that north doesn’t have the HK [which makes the HQ a working card] that slam is a shoo-in. And because the AC ignored this that their ruling was a bad on. Well, I agree that the AC ruling was a bad one [in part for that reason] but because of additional factors many of which I’ll mention here:

[a] west asserted that 4S suggested values. This is dubious [why preempt partner when partner doesn’t know if the five level is safe?] and a bit convenient [self servingly so].

[b] east asserted that 4S is the weakest sequence available [this is logical and credible- and also in contradiction of his partner]
[c] the failure to 4C XX infers that NS hold the CA

[d] the failure to bi 4H infers that E does not have the HK

[e] Wolff’s assertion the 4CX infers north doesn’t have the HK and thereby the HQ is working is dubious because W has a difficult time visualizing how to get to east without losing the lead- unless east in fact has the HK [which east has suggested he may not have].

[f] has anyone looked up the score for 4CXX with an uptrick? I take it that since it was Levin that got the ball rolling that XX wasn’t dumb….
[g] what inferences were available from the lengthy huddle?

[1] the huddle was by east because of east’s dubious spade holding required W to have a lot of specific cards for slam.

[2] most of the honor strength was ‘wasted’ in clubs

[3] cueing would infer stronger spade holding for slam than the anemic actual holding

[4] that east continued to consider at length infers powerful honors in spite of preempting with 4S [because of his hand W can infer the HK and C?K? as it is the only possible such honor]

[5] the length of consideration suggests that even with good honors he doesn’t have a source of length tricks [in other words, long clubs which in turn means short reds]

[h] where are the partnership’s tricks to come from? Stipulating that S has the HK then west still has 4 red losers for east to cover. One can probably be covered by ruffing while the useful spots are the HK, DQ, DJ. If N is given six clubs to the ace and east 4 spades and two club honors then east has only 7 empty spaces to fetch all three special cards while NS has 20 spaces. The odds are reasonable that east has at most one card, poor for two, and down right unlikely for three.

5. Ruling- inferences [as discussed above] solely from AI suggest 10 to 11 tricks are indicated at the most [missing CA and so many cover cards for red suit losers] while inferences from UI suggest specific cards [HK and CK working] were held by east which AI suggests east did not hold- making 12 [5-6S,3H,2D,1C] tricks likely. AI strongly suggests that the contract not surpass 4S which is a LA to the action actually taken. Therefore 6S breached L16B1a; the L12 definition of damage [the table result is greater than the expected result] being met L16B3 provides for an adjusted score. EW earned the contract of 4S; everything beyond 4S was tainted.

I agree that the rules are sadistic, masochistic, and pernicious. But this hand does not demonstrate it- let alone act as a poster child.

As for law that yields justice, if you really feel that your case in this hand is a true one, I would rather you not be an advocate because what ever came of it would be so hard to fix. I can advise that Kojak and Ton are very resistant to change. And, it is notable that the marching orders for the drafting committee reflect that.

Personally, I have submitted a proposal which if taken to its conclusion would address several ailments including such matters that you hold dear [CD for instance]. However, it found its way to the dust bin. Notably, the Secretary issued a solicitation to interested individuals over a year ago to make submissions to the WBFLC. As of now, door for such proposals this drafting cycle [2017] closed last December.

Bobby WolffJune 15th, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Hi Roger,

I do not know what Chris or Mike said. However, I do know what I said and that was that the player who doubled 4 clubs, sitting on Chris’ left, by inference, denied holding the HK by his double of 4 clubs.

That is all that I said. However, that fact alone gives much greater emphasis to a making slam than not knowing that stand out fact.

In any long winded discussion, usually turned argument, there are many points to be clarified. It is certainly important and necessary when discussing other views to get right what was said and how it contributes to the discussion.

You cover a number of very important points in bridge jurisprudence and the high road to getting it done, but the overall result is very difficult for others to address any of the issues, and nigh impossible to find an agreeable solution.

However, your opinion on the current laws involved are shared 100% by me, and only one other point to be made: How would anyone in Chris’ position after the tray is passed back to his side of the table after perhaps a 30+ second interval, work out the overall problem of who was the cause of it, and if so why, and much more pertinent, what to now do about it since he did not have any real way of determining who was delaying progress in the bidding on the other side of the table.

To repeat, during my experience with screens, there have been more times than I can count of players, not directly involved in the constructive part of the bidding, who sometimes think the longest, both probably for legal and also for nefarious intent, which they will always defend by obfuscation. I have even had my screenmate grab my arm before allowing me to send the tray back to the other side after I had bid in tempo (perhaps 4 or 5 seconds) and he had passed. By coincidence, his partner led one of our suits which was necessary to defeat a slam, but by luck we had signed off in game.

And so it goes, but the wrong side seems to always win these arguments by just letting it die a normal death, which will usually happen when bad guys and gals are toe to toe with good ones.

It does get frustrating to try and fight the good battle and have so many IMO, lesser knowing attempted truthsayers, present an abbreviated view which in no way begins to solve this horrible dilemma of policing ethics entwined with screens, especially when the whining starts about the poor volunteers.

How about the poor intended honest players who have to put up with these nothing less than abominable rules?

Steven GaynorJune 17th, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I work in insurance and we are frustrated that when we meet with someone we feel would be a good risk for the company and we want to offer them preferred rates, we must do what the computer generated system offers no matter what we think. Then they either get acceptable rates or not strictly on that cold criteria. Our personal input cannot count lest we be charged with ‘redlining’.

Is it the same in bridge? I am told (and have no reason to doubt) that those involved in this situation are players of the highest merit in both skill and ethics. If we have the right to use this subjective information the 6S contract could be allowed, but where do we draw the line between the law abiders and the law breakers?

The only way to solve this is to use the same rules for all, as unfair as it may appear in cases like this one.

bobby wolffJune 19th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Hi Steve,

What you have written is not only on point, but with the right emotion, showing the same longing I have, and that is to get our wonderful game right.

To start with, bridge, as we know and respect it, is a very unique exercise. It is a partnership game with strict rules against illegal communication, with the language of it, a very limited vocabulary of words, using 5 suits and only running one through seven and also incorporating pass, double and redouble.

From this the players are expected, in order to be good at it, to communicate successfully, in spite of their opponents who are encouraged to take away as much space as is practical without incurring too much risk.

To this is added, since top level (and for that matter, lesser levels also) is very competitive with both glory and now money involved to entice improvement.

It is up to us, the same as your insurance industry, to rule it the best way for the game itself, always keeping in mind the unusual features of what we are dealing with.

The insurance industry, no doubt, has really no choice but to have specific rules covering coverage, age, cost etc. but also because of longer life expectancy continually fluctuating rates to keep up with change, based on fairness and profit.

Bridge is at least a slightly different exercise wherein when someone, like Chris Willenken jumps to 4 clubs after opening one diamond and hearing his partner bid 1 spade, which, as we all know is a splinter bid, invented perhaps 40 years ago by Dorothy Truscott.

However, on this hand, it was indeed a super hand, especially with a one spade response, with him taking a major risk (my opinion) by only opening his hand 1 diamond (22 HCPs) and gutting out a hoped for response.

Once his partner has replied in a major and then having his very high level LHO double 4 clubs, denying (at least to me) the king of hearts his hand took on the look of a real and gigantic beast.

Meanwhile our to be improved rules, especially behind screens, have not looked deeply enough into what really goes on. I can assure all those who haven’t had the experience that delays behind screens (depending on the mindsets of the particular players) vary greatly, most of which has nothing to do with who has what and to what degree.

Without making this comment too long and therefore somewhat boring, the rest is easy to figure out. Some leeway needs to be given, unlike the old insurance industry whose rules have undergone many changes through a long period of time and has experienced about everything they are going to have to face.

Bridge and some of its nuances needs to continue to be examined and for my money consistent application needs to be established with total accountability and transparency always present to keep it from being corrupted and therefore ruled by those who have the most agendas, accompanied with self-service and lawyering ability, but not with the future health of bridge in mind.

don smolenJune 20th, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Thanks for the many interesting posts on this blog. They are great reading. In this case, however, I must say that I’m disappointed by the harshness of your criticism of the committee. While they may not have the credentials or experience of someone like Bobby (but how many people do?), they are quite capable of understanding this situation and, as far as I can tell, ruled in accordance with the procedures in place. By the way, I happen to know one of the members personally and would be more than happy to have him judge any situation I was involved in (in bridge or life in general).

Fulminate all you want about changing the system, but calling the committee ‘three blind mice’, questioning their ability to understand the situation, and implying that their decision might be motivated by political or personal considerations does no credit to you or the game you obviously care about.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 21st, 2013 at 3:02 pm


Sorry to offend you with my reference to ‘three blind mice’ and kind of you to defend your friend (and obviously I know to whom you are alluding). However, being involved via marriages for half a century with ‘world class players,’ I have been ‘more exposed’ and am more demanding than the average bridge individual when it comes to qualifications for such committees. Though, I don’t want to get into it, there is only one of the three who in any way resembles a world class player, but he is too soft spoken to take a strong stand on the much-to-be publicized issue (although qualified as an ‘expert’ player’) but maybe was not a good choice. As long as this issue was matter-of-factly handled by phone (and far too important to be relegated to that method), there were many other more qualified individuals who could have been mustered up for the Graham Bell consultation. In the future, on site locations for these issues should be considered. I cannot think of a better venue where money should be spent than this one.

In my eyes, committees making world bridge decisions should be better qualified and informed. Also, just for the record, two of the three committee members now reside in the same city as one of the protestors — which doesn’t help the comfort factor of decisions made. All the extraneous issues did not make for an ideal group.

And, as Bobby pointed out in some of his responses, so much more was involved than met the eye. Blame the Committee or blame the laws. In any event, changes must be endoctrinated in our procedures to achieve equity and improve our overall jurisprudence system. I do not doff my cap to mediocrity and until drastic changes are made — we will suffer from status quo which, in my opinion, compromises the very essence of our game.


Judy Kay-WolffJune 21st, 2013 at 5:03 pm

For whatever it is worth, I came upon a very interesting thought by “Terence” (a Roman Comic Dramatist) (185 BC-159 BC) which was coincidentally quoted by Terence Reese in one of his earlier books:

“There is a demand in these days for men who can make wrong appear right.”

Perhaps that is why the English Tribunal never found him guilty of what the world knew to be true.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 21st, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Dear Don:

Upon reflection, I must apologize to you for my impersonal introduction to your comments as I am sure you spoke from the heart — just as I did. It has been such a disturbing incident and few really understand the cause and far reaching ramifications which Bobby has tried to explain and portray to those unfamiliar with what some of these political (yes, political) motivations are. If you have the time, look at what he writes to Jim 2 under the Krauss-Mathe blog. No one has been involved in both ACBL and WBF administration as long as he has and he understands what causes some of these actions — far better than you or me (even if I live to be 100 — and I am getting closer by the moment). The laws and methods must be revised and improved. This is not a local duplicate where people play mostly to pass the time of day. It concerns the preservation of the honor and beauty of the game.

Alluding to your kind opening remarks, I have fond memories of my days in Philly and my association with Helen, Linda, Susan, you and the rest of the gang. I am flattered that you enjoy the blogs and photos. It is not easy to put it all together, but being retired gives me an opportunity to pay back the game that has shaped my life and provided me with so much happiness. Again, my apologies for my gruffness. My feelings haven’t changed, but you were more deserving of my respect.



don smolenJune 21st, 2013 at 7:09 pm


Thanks for your thoughts. You were always a great friend to people who were close to me and I hold you in the highest regard. No apologies necessary.



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