Judy Kay-Wolff

Those Were The Days!!

I am reminded of the excitement associated with the ACBL, the organization to which I was first introduced in the mid fifties. Discovering the game of bridge to me was like dying and going to heaven. I will be forever grateful as it has enriched my life with love, friendships, fun, challenges and joy … more than anyone could imagine!

The ACBL was founded in 1937 with offices in NYC, moving to Connecticut where they remained until 1971. To the best of my recollection, Greenwich served as home until they migrated to Memphis. The early organization was operated by an incredibly personal and dynamic trio consisting of Peggy Adams, Tommy Harris and Nat Cohen. EVERYTHING in Greenwich was done by hand as cyberspace had not yet arrived. BUT they never missed a beat and handled everything from Dues to Masterpoints with noted aplomb. My memories of those early days included Norman’s good friends Alvin and Elaine Landy, Dick and Freddie Goldberg, Ralph and Joan Cohen. Sonny and Jackie Moyse, Lee and Sylvia Hazen, B. J. and Esther Becker and so many more who were representative of the warmth and closeness that was synonymous with our game in its early stages! The ACBL has moved around quite a bit in a shade less than eighty years and is presently situated (since 2010) in Horn Lake, Mississippi where they currently hold court.

When I appeared on the scene, there was a major distinction between world class players and wannabes. The longstanding records of the old time heroes spoke for themselves. Today anybody and everybody is an expert. Just ask them. Because of the Internet, the public has access to the opinions of others, though they may be based on hearsay, personal views (including strong biases) and alliances rather than records of consistently high level achievements in major events and up close and personal eye witness accounts. Don’t believe everything you hear or read!

And … how about master points? An interesting anomaly! It has come to be recognized more as an attendance record, especially at the club levels. Awarding master points for under average performances and worse yet, horrific scores, seems to be making a mockery of our challenging game. It is reminiscent of the old expression .. ‘That and a dime will get you a cup of coffee’ (a bit of an underbid since inflation appeared on the scene)! However, many people are obsessed with piling up points and with the gradual rise in club card fees in our neck of the woods to $8.00, duplicate play is a consistent moneymaker for the parent organization. Am curious as to what it is in other parts of Zone 2. Understand — the eight bucks is well worth its weight in gold for a fun filled afternoon (or evening) of learning, improving, achieving and making countless friends who share your love for the game.

Allied to the subject of money, can anyone explain why we have over six and a half million bucks in the ACBL Treasury when two and a half million seemed sufficient (even in the days of the late Christy Jones when she made off with a million or so). For what do we need it? Salaries? Salary Raises? Perks? Travel costs? Pensions? Sending our kids through college? Charity begins at home .. with the members. Just can’t figure out why such excess. Oh, one more thing .. the cost of entry fees at the Nationals are out of sight. Nothing good can come from rising card fees .. especially at the NABCs which I personally witnessed in Las Vegas this summer. Out of curiosity, I just checked out some little known statistics retrieved from the ACBL WEBSITE. There are “3 million tables of bridge in play annually in clubs and tournaments and an additional 300,000 tables online; 3200 bridge clubs; 1100 bridge tournaments annually.” Even if you say it quickly .. that’s a helluva lot of revenue! There was no mention of salaries of executives or directors, the latter of which is probably on public record somewhere. Guess executive revenue must be considered privy. Since it is we, the members, putting up the ante, aren’t we entitled to know where our money is going?

What about professionalism and sponsorship? Everything serves a purpose. To me, the term ‘professional’ is a paid individual who ranges from 1) Better than the client; 2) Good; 3) Excellent; 4) Expert; and culminates at the pinnacle … 5) World Class! Huge and varying gradations!!! And … there is a lot to be said about teaching bridge! Assuming the position of a pro beats a regular ‘day job, allows you to have more flexible hours, is lucrative at the top levels … and… often broadens your travel scope both home and abroad! On the flip side of the coin are the ones footing the bills …. the well-healed sponsors. I can’t think of a better way to learn the game starting with the basic fundamentals with a goal to reach the high level approach than by being taken under the capable wings of the very best! Many sponsors are inexperienced, ranging from hopeless to displaying profoundly great potential to be eventually accepted and respected at much higher levels. In fact, some very wealthy so-called ‘sponsors’ have ascended the ladder and are admired as they have proven they can hold their own among the top echelons. I have carefully avoided specific names, but two who come to mind off the top of my head (in a positive fashion) are Nick Nickell and Marty Fleisher. On the other hand, there are a significant number who have won major events by being carried to the finish line by dogsled, being propelled by the hired help. Many of these Pro/Am bridge relationships, of late, have been witnessed universally on BBO. I suppose the difference in egos and personal pride is what determines an individual’s subjecting himself or herself to exposure of their bridge weaknesses before the world at large. Recognition at any cost!! To each his own.

And, before leaving the subject, I must confess I am vehemently against relatively poorly playing sponsors participating in world championships, representing Zone 2. The bridge venues beyond the U. S. is improving by leaps and bounds and we have fallen from grace. We have a responsibility to send our very best. And, incidentally, without getting bridge into the school system (doing whatever it takes), we will keep dropping further and further behind China and countless European nations whose educational bridge curriculum has catapulted them to deserved fame and glory!

Hang on, I am just getting started! Another quickly deteriorating aspect of the game concerns Appeals Committees (with some volunteering members unqualified to serve for whatever the reason). Why, you ask? Where shall I start?

1) Individuals who have personal involvement with those appealing or defending should not serve on an AC .. AUTOMATICALLY RECUSING THEMSELVES with no if’s, and’s or but’s.

2) Allowing favoritism or dislike for either side should be automatic grounds for disqualification from serving. That should have been an automatic no-brainer as evidenced in the distasteful and disgraceful handling of Bobby’s notorious “Oh Shit” case by the Chairman and Co-chair who immediately should have stepped down and been replaced by neutral, impartial, knowledgeable individuals who had no cross to bear. Hard to cite a better example of a politically motivated personal vendetta.

3) When Professional/s are on trial for potential wrongdoing, other professional associates should not be sitting in the jurors’ box. It certainly appears to be an obvious conflict of interest. What could members of the Appeals Committee gain by alienating popular pro/pros on trial by voting against them? Nothing! Suppose fellow professional/s serving on such a committee had ruled against the pro/pros, what chance would they have to be recommended if the celebrated and revered Pro/s had a prior commitment for a specific event and was asked to point the client in another direction?? Little or none!!!! Conflicts like these taint rulings and decisions. I could site several instances where the Big Guns got away with grand larceny where favoritism or fear of rejection came into play.

Another issue raised by me before was the refusal of an administrator in charge of the entire directing staff who wouldn’t hear of Bobby flying down to Memphis on his own dime and educating the directors on what to look for, how to adjudicate the problem, teach them what they should be considering, etc. It was clearly stated his services would be pro bono which has always been his trademark. He was told everything was ‘just fine’ the way it was and the head honcho had no intention of inconveniencing his staff and, besides, who would be footing the bill? It was all about personal agendas and money — not recognizing the dire need for constructive advice to point the directing staff in the right direction. A deaf ear was turned .. and look at us now some twenty years later!

And what is the composition of the Horn Lake Staff today as far as bridge familiarity? Many, though lovely and conscientious loyal workers, do not play or understand our game. To prove my point about the indiscrete insanity of hiring non-bridge players in positions where it is so relevant .. I want to share a weird story from several years ago. A lady representing herself as an ACBL employee telephoned Bobby to ascertain some information about Charles Goren, obviously for an upcoming article for The Monthly Bulletin. Apparently someone suggested Bobby as her best source for getting accurate, unbiased information. As some time passed, Bobby suspected something was radically wrong as she seemed totally lost. He casually asked her how long she had been playing .. and unperturbed, she admitted she didn’t play bridge at all. We still haven’t gotten over the shock of learning she was writing an article on Mr. Bridge — but had no understanding of what the game was all about.

I would be remiss if I neglected to add that there are several devoted longtime employees who adore the game and have capably given 100% of themselves for the continual advancement of bridge — with no personal motivation and agendas. I could name a dozen or so of these fantastic workers I have dealt with personally, but for fear of omission of a deserving individual I had overlooked or did not know, the ‘good guys’ (and ‘gals’) must remain anonymous. Furthermore, non-playing (average or below par) players should not be placed in a crucial ‘spokesman like’ position which reflects negatively upon our game. People in clerical posts do not have to subscribe to high bridge standards, but those in the limelight for voicing opinions must be qualified and responsible — always guided by the best interests of the members and players (from novice to expert) as their primary objective. However, it would be nice if everyone knew and understood the majestic qualities of the game which the ACBL is supposed to be all about.

To sum it all up .. it ain’t like it used to be!


18 Comments

CPOctober 10th, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I’ve been around a long time too and I appreciate your candor. Did you deliberately omit the current issue of the 1.5 million computer problem?

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 10th, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Hi CP: Boy, you are quick on the trigger. Yes, my exclusion of the nightmare was deliberate and since I am not privy to the exact details and conditions, I am not in a position to take sides. However, it must be resolved and the truth revealed. Whose decision was it? Someone must be accountable for the costly nightmare and own up to it. Lots of views and casting of stones. Good question .. but I have no clue.

JRGOctober 10th, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I don’t know the details either, so defending or criticising what transpired may be pointless. It would, of course, be interesting to know what happened. However, before people jump in on the ACBLScore+ issue, I would like to make a point.

My background is as a retired computer professional, starting out programming mainframe computers before there was such a thing as a “personal computer”.

We tend to take for granted “applications” running on personal computers that display great graphics with nicely laid out text and compute results that many people would be incapable of doing. What we tend to forget, or simply do not know (ignorance without it being a pejorative) is that computer software can be incredibly complex. Without attempting to ennumerate all the things that even the current version of ACBLscore does, just a sample involves: movements, computing average boards, normalizing scores when pairs don’t play the same number of boards, handling fouled boards, computing masterpoints, and on, and on, … Then we move on to difficult (though understood) issues of multi-tasking — for example, handling multiple sections at the same time and handling input of scores from remote devices (e.g. BridgeMates).

Then there is the problem of testing… It is incredibly easy for humans to make what appear to be inconsequential errors — for example, it is easy when writing English prose to leave out a comma, write “there” when “their” is meant (sometimes caught by re-reading), use not quite the right word,… When that is done, most people have no trouble reading and understanding what we have written and may not even notice the missing or misplaced comma. That is not true of writing computer code. If it works at all, it can produce seemingly correct results that are, in fact, incorrect — sometimes in very subtle ways.

People that have not been involved in some way with producing computer software, are usually unaware of how much effort is required to design, code, test and document it. They don’t just underestimate the effort involved, but under-estimate it by orders of magnitude. And accurate estimation of the effort is harder, the more complex (large-scale) the software is. It is something even professionals have difficulty with.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 11th, 2014 at 2:04 am

Hi JRG:

I understand this is a very involved technical issue and conclusions should not be reached without understanding what actually happened. However, the ACBL treasury has been depleted by a million and a half and no one has taken responsibility for the disaster. What I would like to know is who authorized the project, what qualifications they had in that specific area and what are we doing, if anything, to recover the huge failed investment? Are we going to simply chalk it off as a costly error and close our eyes? Can we still pick up the pieces and accomplish the results we were aiming for or is it too late without investing more and throwing good money after bad????

I think those are the answers we are seeking!

JordanOctober 11th, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Hi Judy, it is certainly a very different ACBL from the one I was introduced to when Ralph joined it in Greenwich in 1971. For the record, the League relocated to Memphis in the Fall of 1972. There had been a second league office in LA that had been closed a few years earlier, and the League was looking for a more central location [Fairfield County was expensive to operate out of, and given how much shipping the League did (and maybe still does) a central location made more sense, just like FedEx in Memphis]. Some good people didn’t make the move south–Tannah Hirsch, Steve Becker and Tom Smith spring to mind. I’m sure there were others whose names I can’t recall. If memory serves me correctly, the final vote came down to Omaha v. Memphis. I’m not sure if Warren Buffett was on the bridge radar back then.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 11th, 2014 at 10:17 pm

For those of you who don’t recognize the name “Jordan,” he is the erudite son of one Joan and Ralph Cohen (former ACBL CEO) — and good friends of the Kays. We have been reunited via this site — bridgeblogging.com — and appreciate his input. Thanks for the update and correction regarding the move to Memphis. As far as Tannah, Steve and Tom, I remember them well. Norman and I visited the Tennessee headquarters several times and were always welcomed with open arms. It brings back treasured memories of friends from the past. As far as Mr. Buffett, my only relationship was via the personal stories Bobby shared with me regarding his bridge involvements and contributions to the game.

Thanks, Jordan. Appreciate hearing from you!

SamOctober 13th, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Judy:

Since you are so obviously in favor of honoring the game and fighting the ‘bad guys.’ what do you think of the recent moving up of the second place team in the 2013 D’Orsi Senior Cup? Curious as to your reaction.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 14th, 2014 at 1:21 am

Sam:

I just read about it this afternoon and frankly I was appalled. I am in favor of demoting cheats from an undeserved place of honor, but who is to say how the others playing the same pair of ‘doctors’ would have fared against them in the earlier stages. It was the general feeling with no doubt expressed that the accused pair had been cheating against all their opponents on the climb to the top. Nothing would have been the same, so how can you pay homage to the second place finishers (moving them up) and pay no mind to those others who obviously had been ‘done in’ earlier? Who can say with certainty what would have happened??? NO ONE!!! Yes, I would definitely disqualify the cheaters’ team — but just leave the 1st place spot vacant as no one can predict the outcome .. and should not be playing God.

I suppose my hatred for cheating originated when I first met my husband Norman Kay and watched him lose world championship after world championship. It was common knowledge to the educated expert masses what was transpiring, but for fear of scandal, the WBF just closed their eyes and let the games go on. It is not about moving second place up — but more important – putting a halt to the obvious deplorable shenanigans. Though the culprits were not formally accused, charged or convicted, life went on. Yet, there was not an expert who competed in the sixties and seventies who was unaware of ‘being taken’ year after year for decades. In fact, by a consensus of his peers, Norman was probably the best player back then who never won a world championship. Perhaps I am bitter — but with good reason and what just happened has gotten my dander up! Also — Bobby’s teams in the 70s fell victim to similar goings on and because of the Burgay Tapes, eventually the subject sextet stopped playing and faded out of the picture as a team.

I am disappointed that the WBF has succumbed to the politics of our era. Barring the cheats is admirable — but moving second place to first is making a mockery of our once majestic game — as no one would know who the winners could possibly have been because lots of blanks remain from the uncertainty of results of earlier matches leading up to the finals.

Sorry you asked??

Howard Bigot-JohnsonOctober 14th, 2014 at 9:25 am

HBJ : What a great article. Talk about revealing the truth and rattling a few cages. I don’t need to hammer home the message about the BIZARRE world of bridge…..you do the job brilliantly…but with real authority , conviction , insight and knowledge.
You speak from from the heart ,whereas I use the darker recesses of my mind to poke fun at those who ponce around on stage in the theatre of the absurd.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 14th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Good morning HBJ:

When I awakened, I was greeted by your forthright comment. No one ever accused you of not being candidly honest and exposing what is considered the Bizarre World of Bridge. The only differences between our approaches are that you mix humor with absurdity you have witnessed. On the other hand, my remarks are factual and I suppose my reactions and retorts are based on a long history of being privy to what actually happened over the years (and even now) as administrators in so many cases pussyfoot for fear of embarrassment of public exposure and lawsuits. We represent different approaches .. but the same objectives: Equity.

However, recent decisions to not encompass the old adage from the United States Pledge of Allegiance .. ‘with liberty and justice for all’ obviate a blind approach to the total picture and are only zeroing in on ‘happy endings’ to quiet the wagging tongues. Yes .. that may apply to the second place team ascending to the throne .. but not for a moment are those at the helm considering the unfair consequences of the earlier matches involving the ‘cheaters’ which would have been altogether different. It is a horrendous precedent to inject into the WBF system of jurisprudence. Obviously, the recent decision was made by individuals who do not understand all the nuances and fallout of such a narrow minded and indiscreet resolution and pronouncement. I believe in total justice which I feel has not been served with this recent decision.

bobby wolffOctober 14th, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Hi HBJ,

I think it important for you to know that just a few minutes ago Judy appeared in my office (room) with tears in her eyes, resulting from your comment.

Judy is nothing except being sincere in what she thinks and expressing it with clarity. Many have tried to argue with her, even to the point of being ultra contentious and downright rude.

At least to me, most worthwhile discussions have two sides to them. Perhaps in the next world, both sides will at least, take the time, to frame contra arguments worth considering, instead of too often just emphasizing their own overall agendas

As we speak, the USA (a country I have always dearly loved) is mired in a totally dishonest back and forth, always in favor of political interests e.g. votes, instead of what is overall best for its patriotic future.

It is so sad to see the above results in neon lights instead of rational thinking and the upholding of what I consider inviolate principles which have proudly stood the test of time.

With the jurisprudence of bridge we need to establish consistent principles and then follow them without regard to political advantage.

I’m not as well versed as I should be about the fall of previous sturdy leading and justifiable societies, but what seems to be happening is very troubling to me.

Our leaders, in whatever strata are the subject, and in order to qualify, need to present both sides of any worthwhile confrontation rather than to just preach in one political direction.

Yes, we are now, because of huge technical advances, somewhat blessed to have the opportunity to exchange ideas, but until enough of us see the light in making sure both sides are presented fairly, we, instead, can fall into a dictatorship run by only a few.

The time is now to establish how we go about it.

Mike RutherfordOctober 23rd, 2014 at 11:15 pm

I am sorry if I am intruding, I am trying to find a list of all the winners at the 1970 fall national championship in houston texas. A friend and I won the national novice open, and I was hoping to review the list.

Paul ElsteinOctober 25th, 2014 at 1:21 am

Judy, What do you think of the ACBL deciding to look at the appeal of the Wagar Women’s KO? Obviously, the original decision was at least controversial, but I wonder if the decision had gone in favor of the American team, the ACBL still would have stepped in.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 25th, 2014 at 2:23 am

Hi Paul,

I have my own opinion .. but I am not that qualified with the judicial system of bridge, so I will have Bobby respond within the day.

Bobby WolffOctober 27th, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Hi Paul,

Sorry, for that day has long since passed, but there is a comprehensive long discussion (now 127 comments) on that specific subject for your reading pleasure.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 27th, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Sorry, Mike.

We were at a tournament and did not see your comment until we returned. Your best bet is to contact the ACBL and ask them how to proceed. Sorry I cannot be of more help. Good luck in getting your answer.

Judy

JordanOctober 29th, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Paul, The ACBL has a link on its site to major winners at prior NABC’s. This should be for Houston in 1970 https://web3.acbl.org/nabcwinners?time=Spring&year=1970

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 30th, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Jordan:

You must have been a Boy Scout .. ALWAYS PREPARED!

Thanks,

Judy

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