Judy Kay-Wolff

Through the Courtesy of HBJ…

I want to share with you an impressive view expounding on this much-talked about subject that I stumbled upon on HBJ’s site!!
Howard Bigot-Johnson’s Bizarre World of Bridge

Monday, 3 October 2016


Since bridge is a partnership game and chess is not, greater efforts are needed to stop opponents gaining an unfair advantage by having complex and convoluted bidding systems.

“If your opponent in a chess game does something very unusual you can, at least in principle, figure out how to counter it right there at the board. Advance preparation would be nice, but is not required.

In bridge, players faced with complex and unfamiliar systems cannot do that. Any counter requires agreement between the partners, and that can’t be done at the table, by the very rules. Even pre-alerts and the like don’t solve this, because of time constraints, incomplete understandings, etc.

Further, at bridge you will not know all the twists and turns the opponents’ auction might take. In chess it is all right there in front of you, if you can just figure it out.

What I’m saying is that in chess there is no inherent obstacle to countering an unusual move. In bridge there are such obstacles.”

No obstacles, no constraints ……it’s a recipe for anarchy.


SamOctober 11th, 2016 at 12:05 am

How true, how true!!

With all the new gadgets and strange goings on, I feel like I am going to a masquerade party .. or like you recently referred to it ………….. a crapshoot! The internet exchanges are scary .. too many unknowns are being considered to be accepted. Personally, I feel it will scare many people away.
Is that what we really want?? Hell, No!

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 11th, 2016 at 12:34 am

Hi Sam,

I am 100% in accord with your views. It is bad enough when newer players go to their local club with a friend and are faced with complicated systems — even the legal strong club bid is sometimes confusing and intimidates them. However, as long as it is approved by the ACBL, it is legitimate and eventually people learn the basic concepts and how to handle it.

From what I have been reading, when ”THAT’ means ”THIS’ and ‘THIS’ means ‘THAT” and much is determined by the seat and earlier bids or passes, IT IS TOO CONFUSING and will lead to a gradual decrease in attendance. BESIDES, the beauty and majesty of the game we knew and loved will gradually disappear.

I just loved what Mr. Yomtov wrote above. Otherwise, the beautiful game of bridge will eventually be desecrated

MY mother’s favorite saying was –‘Why fix it — if it ain’t broke?” Makes sense to me .. especially if it worsens the situation!

Jane AOctober 11th, 2016 at 11:27 pm

Hi Judy,

Although I agree in part with what is written above, the question becomes how to determine what is “too confusing and complicated” and who should decide this? At the club level, a club owner can set certain parameters, but at tournaments, I don’t see much of a solution. I am not speaking of the elite levels of play since when you jump in that shark tank, you have to swim with the sharks.

I well remember at a national here, I asked a director about a system being played by a pair in a regional level event. It was quite complex, and after three of the directors working that event did not seem to know whether the system was “legal” at the level of the event, the pair was allowed to play it anyway. If the national level directors did not seem to know, what can really be done?

I play a variety of systems and none are very complex, yet I get the “deer in the headlights look” quite often when I alert what my partner and I play regarding our system agreements. No one has complained, at least not to my face, but especially for the newer player, many systems are confusing to them, even some of the simple ones.

There are a number of reasons why the game of bridge is in decline, and perhaps the inability of players to deal with the more complex systems being used is one of them. I don’t know personally. Tournament play can be intimidating regardless of whether complex systems are in use, but that is what tournaments are all about. I don’t play much in tournaments at this point myself, but facing players using complex systems is not one of the reasons.

Thanks for bringing the topic up however.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 12th, 2016 at 9:13 pm

Hi Jane,

We are at the crossroads of a common and very controversial subject. Are we suppose to bend the standards for the newbies and hold the world class experts to the pinnacle of highest ethics? I vote NO. New players should be taught the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of the many variances that have created the current problems. To me learning manners and respect for others (partner included) and being responsible for the ethics that have been taught should be AUTOMATIC .. no ifs, ands or buts. Otherwise, we are playing two different games.

Of course, many of Zone Two’s club officials (owners/managers/directors) have their own standards. I personally believe that some new and ‘cockapitzy’ systems should not be allowed at the club level as you will discourage/lose many inexperienced and newer contestants from participating and our once marvelous game will gradually disappear!

When you come to the big time — that is a horse of another color. A huge number of experts depend on bridge as a livelihood. No problem there as long as everyone conforms with universal regulations and no favoritism is shown .. particularly toward sponsors.

All the disturbing situations that occurred in Wroclaw (though very upsetting) MUST BE RESOLVED. The primary objective should be not to satisfy the different factions of players or the administrators (with so many opposing views) .. BUT DO ONLY WHAT IS BEST FOR THE MAJESTIC GAME WE ONCE KNEW!

Preservation of our game should be our primary consideration .. no easy chore!

Paul CroninOctober 14th, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Hi Judy,

IMO, there is way too much emphasis on “systems” – and so much experimenting and tweaking by so many players to find “the perfect system”. I think what they are missing is that bridge is not a “systems” game – it’s a partnership game. The system that Rodwell & Meckstroth use works so well, not because it’s a great system, but rather because it’s a system that they practice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. It’s the practice that makes the system work well and look good. So many players seem to have the idea that if they just play the right conventions all else will fall into place. Others develop systems where none of the bids have anything to do with the suits being bid. Great players are those who actually play the cards well – not those who bamboozle their opponents by their bidding methods. Bridge was once very popular because it was a …….game…..a game which people could readily grasp and quickly enjoy playing (and socializing). It is no longer a game, but rather a pseudo “science” , where finding the 341st. use for a double has replaced the majesty that once prevailed.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 14th, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Hi Paul,

“Bamboozle” is the perfect description for the methods of ill-intending partnerships. It may have taken months and months to concoct but unfair to expect their opponents to understand and cope with on a moment’s notice .. and sometimes for merely two boards.

I hope the powers that be (both here and abroad) open their eyes and realize that potential concessions can destroy our game and lead to its eventual disappearance!

Thanks for having the guts to speak up!

Jane AOctober 14th, 2016 at 5:29 pm

Well said, Paul. Bridge is a partnership game and systems are part of the communication aspect of the partnership. Practice makes perfect however, or almost perfect. I guess the perfect system has yet to be developed and the perfect bridge player have yet to be born.

I have played bridge for over fifty years and have seen so many systems come and go. I always get a good laugh (silently, of course) when I look at a convention card of an opponent and there is not even a space left for a period. I also wonder how many times they forget a system that only comes up rarely.

As stated earlier, I play some systems, and none are very complex. I believe some systems are necessary, especially in our current environment to be competitive, but how complex they should be is the big question. Being a simple person, I don't do "complex", but many others do.

I agree that there are some "ill intending" partnerships out there as Judy has suggested. On the other hand, I have seen many ethical partnerships play complex systems because this is what they enjoy and think it will improve their game. So where do we draw that line? I don't have an answer to that, and will leave the decision making about complex system up to others more qualified.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 15th, 2016 at 7:05 pm


Sadly those knowledgeable and respected ones to whom you allude often have ulterior motives: cronyism, political motivation, national allegiance and self-serving objectives. Some of the recent banter on BW reflects the above. Being close to those at the top (per force or marital good fortune) for over five decades, I absorbed so much by being the little fly on the wall.

Besides, reading over Bobby’s shoulder when he responds to some of the self-serving rationale, I find the resolution to many of the proposed solutions frightening and endangering to the future existence of the top level game if it is compromised!

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