Judy Kay-Wolff


This blog is certainly a departure from the norm, but hopefully a welcome change of pace from the everyday grind.  In most venues of competition, certain memories loom larger than others .. whether they be sports, politics, bridge .. whatever.  There are some delightful ones we cherish — and others we choose to forget.  In our unique game (especially for old timers who have spent an eternity at the tables), those recollections are unending.  Bobby and I have been enjoying recounting some personal ones which I will share later on.  They have not necessarily taken place at the table .. but akin to the game. I’d love to hear what emerges foremost from your bridge archives!  Don’t be shy!  Who’ll start off?


SamMay 20th, 2015 at 4:56 pm


I still laugh about my funniest moment and you may remember it as it involves you and Barbara (Brier) playing with Jane Segal and me. I had not been into bridge that long and Jane (my teacher) said she needed a fourth to round out a team in Hunt Valley, Md. (Think it was a Ladies event). We returned to the table the last round, miraculously still in contention. Barbara had a look of chagrin on her face as your opponents just bid and made a tough slam to reach. I had a hard time containing myself as I had bid seven (and both finesses worked). That was about thirty years ago and haven’t played much since. I believe in quitting while I am ahead.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 20th, 2015 at 5:02 pm


I do recall the incident but would not have remembered the name of the site. I miss those ‘ladies’ events but they are, except at the Nationals, a thing of the past. Thanks for the memory!



AlanMay 21st, 2015 at 4:35 am

Who was the most famous person you met at the bridge table?

Judy Kay-WolffMay 21st, 2015 at 4:36 am

Give me overnight to think about it .. as I cover a lot of years.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 21st, 2015 at 4:02 pm

That’s a challenging question, Alan. I am not sure whether you were alluding to the normal ‘outside’ world or the self-contained bridge civilization (and that is using the word loosely)!

If you are speaking of those who received celebrity status for their recognized prowess in other areas, my choice would be a toss-up between Omar and General Alfred M. Gruenther, a Four Star General who served as the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II (and incidentally often partnered General Eisenhower — later to ascend to the presidency). I just read a cute story about Ike’s days in the White House. A guest list was being assembled for a social gathering and when asked if the Nixons should be included .. the decision was “no” — stating: “They don’t play bridge — what would we talk about?”. Can you believe????

Incidentally, a little known fact .. General Greunther was a respected authority on duplicate contract bridge and the outstanding tournament director in America in the thirties.

Omar was ‘unto himself.’ I met him on several occasions and saw much of him in Philadelphia when ‘the Circus came to town.” He was warm, gracious and soooooo unassuming, wanting to be thought of as a bridge player rather than a universally revered actor. Much is known about Omar, so let me move on to General Greunther who was of a different ilk, though just as enamored by our game as Omar.

During Norman’s travels, he met and got to know the General and on occasion they would correspond. Unbeknownst to me, after Edgar and I (as a relatively pretty hopeless novice) won some silly, unimportant event, Norman had included him in a list of celebrities whom he had requested to send a note of congratulations to be included in a scrapbook which he presented to me a month later. Buried in the huge Wolff/Kay bridge archives, this morning I sought out Al Greunther’s note, dated August 20, 1967, which I still treasure almost forty-eight years later.

Bear with me (as I have written about this several years ago): It began: “Dear Judy: That fellow, Norman Kay, has been in the limelight long enough … this, I am confident is the first of many National Championships. Now if we can only arrange to have you on the North American Team it will be taps for the Italians ..” (What was even funnier is that his penmanship was difficult to read .. and I misread the word “taps” as “tops” — and I heartily agreed).

Alan, I will address strictly “bridge celebrities” when next I have a chance. Sorry to get so carried away!

AlanMay 21st, 2015 at 9:11 pm

Hi again,

After enjoying the above, I read up on the General. He was quite an impressive individual and I can understand why you chose him in answer to my question. Most everyone knows about Omar. However, it is my guess that few, especially of the younger set, recognized General Greunther’s name.

Now you have piqued my curiosity. Who else did Norman write to, hoping they would send good wishes. Knowing him, he must have gone to great lengths to make his undertaking very special.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 21st, 2015 at 9:21 pm


I am rushing out, but when I return tonight I will scan the scrapbook to list those who were gracious enough to honor Norman’s request.


Howard Bigot-JohnsonMay 22nd, 2015 at 8:48 am

HBJ : Well one of the proudest and happiest memories I’m going to carry with me to my grave is knowing that somewhere across the Atlantic
……two very distinguished names in the world of bridge believed in what I was doing , and valued my contributions in both content and tongue-in-cheek humour.
For that I thank you both very much indeed.

Judy-Kay WolffMay 22nd, 2015 at 4:02 pm


If people (especially those confronted by the everyday perplexities of bridge) cannot maintain his or her sense of humor, it is time to pack it all in. Though bridge is ‘only a game,’ it is the lifeblood of our existence and, in most cases, affects our everyday activities more than we would care to admit. To some it is merely a delightful experience. To others .. closer to an obsession.

There is another popular site which in recent days has gone bonkers over the subject of the quality of those whose who should be entitled to represent their country in The Bermuda Bowl, no doubt the most prestigious bridge event in our archives, which originated in 1950. Many, in their zeal to protect and promote their own personal interests, have obviously lost their cool.
Compromising the elegance of the superior version of our beloved game is very sad to me.

The Wolves appreciate your talented slant cleverly presented in your Bizarre World from across the seas. Your unusually concocted presentations brighten our days. You are one in a million!

Love from Judy (and Bobby)

Judy Kay-WolffMay 23rd, 2015 at 4:23 pm


Also adorning the scrapbook as a result of Norman’s laborious handwritten requests* were the following: Congratulations from the Mayors of both Montreal (the scene of the crime) and my hometown of Philadelphia; Pennsylvania Senators and Representatives; Michigan Governor George Romney; former actors who went on to bigger and better vocations: California Senator George Murphy and California Governor/later to become U. S. President Ronald Reagan; President Richard M. Nixon, New York Mayor John V. Lindsay, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and his sister-in-law Jacqui Kennedy .. to name (or rather namedrop) a few. Also included were telegrams from close friends which were awaiting our return from Montreal.

I also received dozens of humorous retorts from so many of Norman’s teammates and bridge friends over the years. Sadly, many are no longer alive but Sami and Eric, who are still with us, and were among the first to respond in their inimitable ways. Others whose names are familiar …. Al Roth, Ira Rubin, Phil Feldesman, Peter Leventritt, Benito, Alfie Sheinwold, Alan Truscott, Bob Jordan and Arthur Robinson, Bill Root, Sam Stayman, Howard Schenken and Charlie Solomon.

(*) Our center city apartment was across the street from the Merrill Lynch office where often Norman would return after dinner to catch up on his paperwork. I was so oblivious (more like naïve) to never suspect the reason for the increase in the evening hours spent at his office, handwriting probably over fifty requests (and researching addresses) to the above noteworthy individuals and personal friends. When he presented the scrapbook to me, I was overwhelmed. What a thoughtful and creative project .. which I have always treasured. Can you blame me?

Alan, you made reference to ‘the most famous person” I had met and respected over my long bridge exposure. In the real world, I saluted General Greunther. In the big wide world of bridge, there were so many other considerations but I have to confess (excluding Norman and Bobby) .. the winner is …. my partner-in-law Edgar. He was so talented in a myriad of areas. Never does a day go by when I don’t think of him and smile. His glib tongue, quick wit and sense of humor were his calling card.

There you have it!!

SamMay 24th, 2015 at 6:13 pm

I met Edgar on two occasions and your description is an understatement!

Judy Kay-WolffMay 24th, 2015 at 6:17 pm

Perhaps that is why the Kaplan/Kay partnership endured for almost forty-three years, a record breaker for a world class pair. And what was even more important .. they were there for each other in good times and in bad. I was an eye witness!

JoanieMay 25th, 2015 at 11:52 pm

Do you have any feelings about the never ending
banter regarding the pro/sponsor brouhaha in the upcoming world championship?

Judy Kay-WolffMay 26th, 2015 at 12:08 am

Yes, Joanie, I concur with your assessment that it is ‘never ending.’ My personal appraisal is that
there are too many conflicts of interest involving those making the determinations. The issue is complex and I do not see an immediate resolution.

JodyMay 29th, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Many years ago, I was playing at the Pasadena (Ca.) regional in an open game. We were not very good, but loved to play. My pard and I bid freely and confidently to 4H. Our opps (2 experts I was pretty sure, got into the auction and bid 4S. We passed, they went down 3, and I realized we could make 6. One of the opps left. I started to cry a little. The other opp. started talking about what a sacrifice was, why, and when. He talked through the break and I began to feel better. His name was Ifti (Iftikhar) Baqai.
I believe I would have quit bridge that day if it had not been for his kindness. A fine man

Judy Kay-WolffMay 29th, 2015 at 11:41 pm

Hi Jody,

It’s nice stories like yours that balance some of the ugly ones which appear in other venues. From my own personal experience over what seems like a century, the more accomplished they are .. the nicer they seem to be .. especially to newcomers. And .. that holds true when amongst their peers. I spent many a night as the fly on the wall in Edgar’s suite as Norman’s team discussed ‘how they could have done even better” and never was a cross word exchanged or a finger pointed.
Of course, their record of victories was great .. so why complain?

Those were the days .. and I fear they will never reappear (at least not in my lifetime). Thanks for sharing!

JodyMay 29th, 2015 at 11:46 pm

That is so wonderful, not a word of criticism

Judy Kay-WolffJune 1st, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Yes, Jody! Wonderful but rare in the world of competitive bridge where everyone has an ego to satisfy..

David RottmayerJune 3rd, 2015 at 10:05 pm

My favorite story illustrates my dad’s strongest attribute as a bridge player – faith in his partner.

Holding Qx,-,AQJxx,AQJxxx he opened a Precision 1C. LHO bid 1S and I went deep into the tank, emerging with 4N Blackwood. Pass. 5H by Dad. Pass. More tanking by me, before finally bidding 6H. Pass. What would you do? Dad passed without a flicker, and declared a slam contract with zero trumps. The K of spades was led, and Dad’s faith was rewarded when dummy showered with J, AKQxxxxx, Kx, Kx. Dad ruffed the second spade low, and of course trumps broke 3-2 or I wouldn’t be telling this story. Good job, Dad!

JodyJune 4th, 2015 at 5:58 pm

One more nice person. Again at Pasadena regional, picking up Flt C player. We two of a kind I saw later. I opened 1 club, he bid one NT, and I studied my hand for a while before passing. When the round was over, my LHO (I am not sure but I think it was Peter Weichsel)’ Drew me aside to ask how long I had been playing bridge. “Not very long, I said, why? Did do something wrong? and started to cry (I did that frequently). He commented that I only had 13 hip, so I should have smoothly, in even tempo, also explaining what that meant. I chimed in to tell him that I pretended to have something so they wouldn’t bid. His face! He was so kind, giving the correct rule. That was so kind. I never have forgotten those incidents, and other like ones. I try to do that.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 5th, 2015 at 3:22 pm


That’s quite a story. Thanks for sharing. Don’t ever remember raising partner to slam with a void but I love happy endings .. especially at the bridge table where such challenges arise when you least expect them.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 5th, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Hi again Jody,

I wish there were more people like you who not only own up to such innocent, misguided efforts (known as deliberate chicanery at the table) .. but benefitted from well-intended advice from one of America’s finest who enjoys Hall of Fame status!

I have known Peter since his youth when he appeared in Philadelphia with a ponytail. It had to be in the early to mid-sixties when I was a relative novice myself. What made it stick in my mind was that ponytails were not yet in vogue (causing raised eyebrows) and I always remembered his unique appearance. I have followed and rooted for Peter since his early days with The Precision Team. Through my late husband Norman, I became friendly with Peter and even since Bobby and I moved to Las Vegas, we exchanged emails though we have not been in touch lately. Not only is Peter one of America’s most successful players .. but about as ethical as one can be .. so it is not surprising that he gently tried to point you to the straight and narrow.



Gloria BrownJune 5th, 2015 at 10:51 pm

My nice story is about Norman & Edgar. It was at a Baltimore Regional. I was not an LM. We had a terrible auction to arrive at 4 clubs. They doubled. My partner was shaking playing against them. I was wathing the table play. Her hands could barely hold her cards. At trick 3 they shrugged. They knew she was making this contract. She did not know until trick 13 that she was. Every one else went down in a game. They never said a word or made a comment. The hands went back and we played the next hand.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 6th, 2015 at 3:52 pm


It was rare for their opponents to make a doubled contract against them but their manners at the table do not surprise me. In all my years of kibitzing, I cannot focus on any unkind word exchange or finger pointing between them and that encompasses over four decades together (with a short break in the late fifties/early sixties when Norman played with Sidney Silodor).

Sadly the bridge world of today is not quite the same .. with lots of great performers but some lacking in respect. That should not be shocking as the entire world has changed .. and surely not for the better. More humility and less ego is what the doctor prescribed. Sorry for going off on a tangent but I couldn’t help recall some of the former beauty of the game.

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