Judy Kay-Wolff

Riches to Rags!

What you see above is not a mistaken reversal of the old concept. It has been happening over the last few decades and presently, with all the ugly whispers, everyone is aware of the decline of the ACBL from numerous vantage points. My greatest concern at the moment is of huge magnitude: Exactly WHO is at the helm of our once-great ship .. and WHY?? When I came upon the scene, those in top administrative positions (with or without official titles) were greats like Ralph Cohen, Johnny Gerber, Lee Hazen, Edgar Kaplan, Alvin Landy, Lew Mathe, Eric Murray, Sidney Silodor, Margaret Wagar and many other prior legends. The prime objective was the betterment of the game and most of the aforementioned served on the impressive Board of Directors. Later appeared Bobby, Jeff Polisner, Peter Rank, Tommy Sanders and a few others who dedicated a huge portion of their busy lives directly to the majesty of bridge. Because of the respect they earned (both at and away from the table), their leadership was revered and the recommendations were appreciated, heeded and voted upon positively.

Much of what I am about to relate is ‘old hat’ and has been said time and time again (by myself and countless others with much greater experience, know-how and genuine talent). The big question: Just who should be making the major bridge decisions concerning the honor, improvement and preservation of our game, both here and abroad? To many, the answer is a slam dunk: those who have earned unchallenged reputations for their bridge expertise, great familiarity with the laws AND enough knowledge to refute/change or add to those passages in the Bridge Laws no longer appropriate because of negligence to adapt to the times. It is this group who should have the responsibility because they are more qualified to serve as the uncontested judge and jury of questionable behavior … similar to our Supreme Court. And … the sooner the change is made … the better! Most importantly (which is my top priority) is that we should have on this mighty qualified group all trustworthy individuals — devoid of showing partiality to some and ill-disposed toward others. To cut to the chase: no favoritism, cronyism or personal or political leanings (either positive or negative). If such a situation occurs, one must recuse himself or herself immediately upon notification of the individuals involved. Recusal is not a dirty word! This is not about the administration of bridge .. but mandatory when it comes to making high-level bridge decisions (now and as precedents).

To understand the earlier workings of a carefully planned device to protect both the game we love and the dignity and honor of all involved … my husband, Bobby Wolff, back in the Eighties presented two proposals which were received with overwhelming acclaim by his peers: (1) The Recorder System; and (2) The Ethical Oversight Committee (EOC). I shall share the happenings below, so if you are unfamiliar with the facts, fasten your safety belts or grab a cocktail!!

The Recorder was an appointed individual to whom a player sent a written complaint about the propriety of a questionable incident. Said Recorder examined the facts and either dismissed it … or … If the grievance had merit, it was sent to the EOC for a verdict. Bobby served as the first National Recorder but because of time restraints, turned it over to Bob Rosen, whom Bobby felt did a sensational job. And just for the record — neither Bobby nor Bob ever served on the EOC!!!!!  They prosecuted the cases similar to the role of a district attorney and sent them on to the EOC.

The Ethical Oversight Committee also organized by Bobby was a mutually agreed upon self-appointed committee which consisted of fifteen or so fair-minded true experts who were originally (without question) qualified to make final judgment. To keep it Off Limits (so less-learned individuals would not creep in as members), when a vacancy occurred (either death or resignation), replacement was made by the remaining members of the EOC — keeping it free from politics, etc. It worked fine with Bob Rosen at the helm until the proverbial brown stuff hit the fan. Most people know the smelly details, but if not, check it out in The Lone Wolff for specifics.

An incoming ACBL high official was accused of a heinous bridge crime and after the customarily routine, but thorough investigation by the Recorder, Bob Rosen, he then presented the documented findings of the EOC to the BOD — advising by unanimous vote of the EOC that the charged individual was found guilty!!. The BOD refused to honor the EOC’s findings, fired Bob Rosen and disbanded the hand-picked exemplary EOC … taking over the whole operation itself. This was the BOD’s way of showing the world they knew more than the carefully chosen Ethical Oversight Committee and sadly still choose to make far reaching decisions regardless of their obvious lack of expert knowledge on a variety of subjects.

Another hair-raising conclusion came to fruition again this past year when a top player was given a strong punishment by the then-current EOCwhich was ‘hand-chosen’ by the BOD itself, no less! There ensued astounding universal negative resentment and criticism toward the perpetrators when the BOD reversed the harsh ruling of their own hand-chosen EOC and made a big joke of the embarrassing disclosure by giving the victim a mild slap on the wrist. I am not here to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. That is hardly the issue! My objective is to investigate and examine the qualifications between administrations concerning the running of Horn Lake and distinguish it from those long-time experienced players (the EOC) who should be the final jurists as to the disposition of any serious wrongdoing.

Where on earth does a National Board of Directors get off with the very controversial handling of such a grave matter and still hold their heads high when they were responsible for the mess in the first place? It is time this longstanding ‘routine’ is carefully re-examined and a more equitable policy put in place … helping Zone 2 rise to the occasion as a democratic bridge society!


Alan MesserAugust 25th, 2016 at 4:57 am

Hi Judy, I’m quite certain the Recorder function was created by the GNYBA and it was I who was the first to serve — at least in New York City in the late 1960s.

The idea behind was to create a reporting mechanism to control and, ultimately, eliminate the hesitations that Edgar dubbed “that old black magic.”

Beyond that I couldn’t say so it’s likely Bobby served first at the national level.

Bobby WolffAugust 25th, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Hi Alan,

Yes, I learned later in life about the machinations of the original Recorder.

That description back in the beginning was then reserved for what could be described as a super Tournament Chairman, supervisor, negotiator, complaint referrer, ethics guru, and general handy man.

No doubt you set a standard which would have been difficult to impossible to only just equal.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 25th, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Hi Alan,

It was nice hearing from you. You bring back cherished memories of the days of Edgar and Norman. Not only were you good looking, but quite a popular young director who commanded respect from his peers in The Big Apple. I enjoyed the NY tournaments as they were so well run and continued on with Solly Weinstein. Those were the days!

Before moving on, I want to share an incident I will always remember: Norman was playing with Stoney who had just screamed DI-RECTOR!!. A young fella appeared and Stoney in a rather uncivil tone gave him a blank stare and shrieked: “I want THE DIRECTOR.” You stood up straight, looked him firmly in the eye .. and responded confidently: “I AM THE DIRECTOR!” I’ll never forget that moment (and I doubt if you will either)!!!

As far as the Recorder issues, I see Bobby pre-empted me above. However, my reference was to Bobby’s introduction of the Recorder at the National Level about twenty or so years later. It was a long time ago, but my recollection of the Sixties encompassed chairing and hosting the tournament, keeping it running on an even keel and dealing with suspected cheating and unethical behavior — but it appeared more local than national. Thanks for clarifying as I did not mean to steal your thunder — knowing how much you loved and contributed to the game!



SamAugust 27th, 2016 at 3:02 pm

With all the recent bridge goings on here and abroad, nothing would shock me!

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 27th, 2016 at 3:11 pm

I think the main problem is too much has been delegated (in many realms) to those willing to help — but not qualified.

Paul ElsteinAugust 28th, 2016 at 9:00 pm

Hi Judy,

Would there be sufficient consensus for choosing new EOC members, and would those chosen be willing/able to fight the politics of Horn Lake as well as the criticisms by some of their peers for past or future actions?

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 28th, 2016 at 11:57 pm

No, Paul. I don’t think that is the solution. From what we have seen after scrutinizing the lists of the recent EOCs, they appear to be experienced, knowledgeable and honorable. They are certainly in a better position to handle any accused violations of laws or ethics than the BOD .. unless they feel an allegiance to those who appointed them. And, looking at the individuals selected, this is not the case. Let the EOC perform their jobs and the BOD do theirs .. and hopefully the twain won’t meet! The EOC (going back to when it was first formed in the eighties) has yet to make a mistake (AFAIK)!

Alan MesserSeptember 4th, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Hi Bobby,
I’m somewhat overwhelmed by your gracious, complimentary comment — especially as I’m pretty sure we’ve never met. Perhaps I’ll cruise over to Orlando just to do that.

Alan MesserSeptember 4th, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Hi Judy,
I remember the Stoney incident well. The surprising thing is that we won the Eastern Reisinger KOs as teammates and became buddies and occasional partners. I even looked up Stoney in Vegas on my one and only (business) trip there.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 9th, 2016 at 10:06 pm

Hi Alan,

Sorry I never saw your reply until just now. Stoney was a huge part of my bridge life from 1963 on when Norman and I married and then two years after his death, I married Bobby, and settled in Vegas. It is now eleven years as Las Vegans and we love it! We became friendly with Stoney and dined with him on several outings each year and then when he was hospitalized, we visited him frequently each month. His mind and sense of humor were great until the very end. What a legend!

Jim FoxSeptember 29th, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Did Maury Braunstein have anything to do with directing those NY tournaments?

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 1st, 2016 at 2:33 am

Yes, Jim … Maury and his popular wife (Marion, I believe) were very much apart of the NY bridge scene for many decades. Maury was extremely efficient and was very proficient in handling both the tournaments and the players in the Big Apple for several decades. They don’t make many like him anymore.

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