Judy Kay-Wolff

Where Is the Elegance of High Level Bridge Going?

Pardon my direct and somewhat crude response .. but as it appears obvious to me .. into the crapper. Before I elaborate on my sad reaction, let us examine the following truths:

There are many contributing factors.

Obviously, one of the reasons (despite increasing longevity) is .. there has been little effort to replace the disappearance act (ala death), by failure to go all-out to get bridge into Zone 2 schools as exists in eleven European nations (and more so in Asia) where shockingly 200,000,000 children are learning bridge as I write .. with plaudits from children, parents and faculty! Look on line in our recent ACBL re Toronto at the successes especially in China where the eyes on the winning faces of the juniors say it all!

Before I progress to the next factor (IMO) .. let me preface my thinking by reiterating my non-debatable view that no doubt the greatest modern ingenious contribution into the realm of bridge was the introduction of BBO to bring this geographically huge bridge universe together. I can think of ‘no close second.’ I repeat .. no close second!/p>

However, with the introduction, initial appreciation, recognition and applause of the robot system .. it may/will have a devastating effect on the future of serious high level bridge. Normal on-line bridge serves as a sensational venue for people practicing with partners either for sociability or to pass the time of day. Admittedly, the robot system solves the problems of recruiting one, two or three to complete a table and afford enjoyment to those who want to play for fun but has little to do with enhancement of the learning process and preserving the high level game. No denying .. it does offer huge joy and strong satisfaction to many.

I am focusing on the continuance of the high level game and my realistic fear and trepidation that the majesty of the world’s most mind challenging game will fade away into nothingness! Can you blame me? Playing bridge for pure fun is marvelous. On the other hand, our top administration (the ACBL) should turn their minds and objectives toward preserving high level bridge rather than zeroing in on flooding the market with meaningless master points and robot tournaments!

Just one candid old fashioned woman’s disappointment stemming from her introduction in the 1960s to the regal, exciting, mind-boggling, challenging experiences of watching America’s greatest .. despite their being subjected to the cheating ploys of others recently exposed over half a decade later. My regrets to serious future bridge enthusiasts!


JoanSeptember 6th, 2017 at 3:47 am

Sometimes being brutally frank and not mincing words awakens people in areas in which they have little or no knowledge. I especially agree with your fervent reminder about bridge dying out without getting bridge into our schools.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 6th, 2017 at 3:57 am

Hi Joan,

Sometimes candor treads on toes; however, my genuine fear (certainly not unfounded) is unless someone from the ACBL steps up to the plate and encourages the organization to make bridge education a primary objective, bridge (at least the high level game) will go the way of all flesh!

CarolSeptember 6th, 2017 at 5:06 pm

I have a vague recollection of Bobby being instrumental in getting bridge into the schools in China. How did he accomplish that?

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 6th, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Hi Carol,

You are absolutely correct. It all began in Tiananmen Square about thirty years ago but did not come to fruition till over a decade later. Rushing off to an appointment, but will follow up in a bit. It was a story of continual perseverance with many political obstacles in the way. Later!

roger pewickSeptember 7th, 2017 at 5:34 pm

When ‘primary objective’ is invoked, it is the equivalent to saying ‘at the point of a gun’. Very few good things happen at the point of a gun, and all of them are expensive beyond comprehension. The good from bridge education comes from within, while being unlikely to come from without. I will suggest that if bridge were a good product then it would thrive without being forced down the throats of the unenlightened. So, force feeding will be seen for what it is- manipulation; and, whatever perceived profit that comes from force feeding will eventually be recognized as illusory.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 8th, 2017 at 1:39 am

Mr. Pewick,

I don’t recognize your name, but from your remarks, I am not certain you play bridge or were just generalizing and expressing your own personal views.

Speaking of ‘primary objective’ and saying it is like pointing a gun, in my opinion, is quite a stretch of your imagination .. closer to irrational. No one is being forced to do anything. Bridge is an elective overseas. Those who want it .. sign up. Others do not. However, as I have reiterated, it has received rave notices from students, parents and faculty. 200,000,000 kids playing bridge almost daily in Asia is rather mind-boggling and rather impressive .. don’t you think! It is a ‘fun’ learning experience and trains your thought process to prepare for later life … counting, reasoning, dealing with one’s peers in a respectable manner, socializing, enhancing one’s memory, training an individual to think, figure out problems, make choices, remember and be creative .. and the beat goes on!!

There is BRIDGE and there is bridge. The concept is not merely ‘a card game’ as thought by many unknowledgeable individuals.

A minuscule number of players fall into the first category, being blessed with numeracy. It is a unique mind gift possessed by few. Most world class players are ‘born with it.’

The great majority (present company certainly included) play the game for the fun, challenge, entertainment, sociability, drive to accomplish, elevation to a higher plain .. and .. so much more. Many are simply social individuals and others are very competitive .. reaching out to improve.

However, unless Zone 2 joins the example set by China and eleven European nations, the majestic and elegant game of high level bridge here will continue to decline and take a back seat wasting away into nothingness.

Upon recognizing the reality of death and the disappearance of aging bridge players, the only way to reinforce the continuing existence of bridge is to fight to ‘get it into the schools here.’

Many long playing, experienced bridge players share my plea. Without it, you can ‘kiss the game goodbye.’

richard e willeySeptember 9th, 2017 at 10:46 pm


Then kiss the game goodbye. Schools in the US are dramatically decreasing the range of electives that they provide. The odds that bridge going to get any kind of significant footprint int he schools systems in the age of Standardized Testing and No Child Left Behind is pretty much zero.

Like it or not, bridge is all but dead as a mass market form of entertainment. 10 more years and it will be dead. 15 years ago, there might have been time to do something. Today, time is pretty much up. (It will take a few years for the existing ACBL membership to exit the system but its been decades since there has been any significant numbers of young people joining. You might be able to get some $$$ from the novice 60 year olds that the ACBL is recruiting, but they’re never going to be any good)

If you want to salvage the game in North America in any form then you pretty much need to to accept that is going to turn into a niche form of entertainment that is primarily played over the internet. You might be able to salvage something in a few dense population centers that have lots of tech workers and finance types.

Jeff LehmanSeptember 11th, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Allow me to take a middle road.

I agree with Richard that including bridge in the curriculum of a public school is close to a non-starter, for the reasons expressed by Richard.

However, teaching bridge as part of after-school extra-curricular activities, and leveraging technology (of both the BBO-play-bridge-online type and the app-learn-how-to-win-tricks type) to induce kids to want to learn to play bridge remain open avenues. I hope that we can successfully exploit those avenues; I have seen some positive developments, especially with respect to the technology side.

I would be reluctant to assume that kids who are introduced to bridge through online play cannot be induced to also play face-to-face. Smarter minds than mine are needed to attend how to translate online play to F2F play, but I would not be so defeatist so as to assume that the former will be the death of the latter.

Jeff LehmanSeptember 11th, 2017 at 1:49 pm

I should have clarified that I was speaking of a US public school above.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 11th, 2017 at 5:54 pm

Hi Richard,

Sorry for the delay in responding. I cannot argue with most of your accurate and some brutally candid observations aside from the fact, I am a born optimist and will fight to my dying breath to pursue what I believe in.  Perhaps the gradual downsizing and eventual disappearance of the game (commonly called ‘bridge’) is viewed differently .. depending upon one’s life experiences.

From my vantage point, as an octogenarian, I have been blessed with incredible bridge friendships and associations. .. at all levels. I learned the game as I was graduating from college and became so obsessed with it, I could never wait for the next neighborhood game, Duplicate, Sectional, Regional or National. I labored as a legal secretary 9-5 on weekdays for seven years and then would ready myself for my evening bridge and weekend recreation.   By some fluke I suppose (or maybe someone up there was looking out for me), I begrudgingly tore myself away from the table one evening to accept a date with a friendly gentleman I had seen at tournaments and agreed to have dinner with him (as I did not want to hurt his feelings).   Little did I know!!  That was the beginning of my first exposure to ‘real’ BRIDGE.  At age 29, I married Norman Kay (and enjoyed over 38 marvelous years sadly ending when he died in 2002).   In the early sixties (after kibitzing championship contenders both locally and overseas) I was shocked to awaken to the difference between BRIDGE and bridge After Norman passed on, I was content to savor my vast happy memories of days gone by and pass my time with family and friends (mostly bridge cronies).   By some miracle .. out of nowhere appeared Bobby Wolff .. and you can figure out the rest.  As they say “Twice Blessed!”  I am one lucky gal (though it certainly does nothing for my bridge ego)!

I don’t profess to be an expert (far from it); however, I have learned quite enough in five decades to distinguish the majestically played game by experts from those like myself who adore playing .. for whatever reason strikes their fancy.  It provides enormous pleasures to people of all ages and all walks of life .. at so little cost!  I have to admit to my increasingly sad awareness of the deprivation of our youngsters here by not being formally introduced to the game . I continually watch bridge thriving in eleven European nations and Asia though NO CONCERTED, SERIOUS EFFORT has been exerted here in the Western Hemisphere to develop the next generation of talented stars! Continuation of the high level game in these parts is being seriously challenged!

It will have absolutely no effect on moi .. as I will be long gone when it bites the dust!   Just extremely sad to accept the destiny of our elegant game!   Sorry for the rant .. but perhaps my readers can understand my growing frustration anticipating such a splendorous form of serious competition passing into oblivion!

bobby wolffSeptember 11th, 2017 at 6:10 pm

Hi Jeff,

While both you and Richard may be anywhere between 50 to 100% correct in predicting the death of our beautiful game, I do not yet share your views that the funeral is imminent and only just waiting to happen.

If a combination of a good salesman, bridge lover, and no-holds-barred person or persons, representing the ACBL, and armed with all the very positive information obtained from both Europe and Asia on its huge success among the students, teachers, and not to be underestimated parents of the students, would seek and obtain an interview (perhaps instead a conference) with the Department of Education of our Federal Government, just perhaps, with also the right powerful lobby, extolling the virtues of our youngsters having the option of signing up for bridge, as entirely an elective as a course, and perhaps starting with middle school (ages 11 or 12+ up).

After all, arithmetic, life’s logic, code work (foreign languages in bridge, the bidding), winning psychology, compromises in the form of getting along with partner, in bridge, the bidding system agreed, as well as defensive conventions such as legal signals, legal deception and its byproduct, winning and losing gracefully and with the utmost respect, as well as intellectual mental competition, together with the world’s need for bonding in an universal endeavor, instead of hateful, often religion oriented differences in choices. All then would heartily endorse our enriching game to all independent thinkers, many of whom haven’t ever been introduced to the magic which accompanies legitimate bridge competition, whenever and wherever it is held.

If these so-called non-believers could see the social goings on between Chinese-Taiwanese, Jews-Arabs, Blacks-Whites at all the World Bridge Championships and the one word which, at least to me, stands out to stop the atrocities of war, it would be RESPECT. This word, above all others goes to the heart of the hate, which in the form of Neo-Nazis, KKK, and even other outside Nationalities fighting for existence in our country, the togetherness of that word makes friends of all of us, which then provides understanding and care between us with the hope of this standard one day serving as the beacon which keeps us together becoming well wishers instead of hateful rivals, simply because we have found a mind commonality which no one can deny is a most valuable tool in eliminating hate.

Yes, the above may become an impossible dream, but why accept such an ending when all one needs to do is be present at a Bridge World Team Olympiad to view it up close and personal and see so many of the World’s Nationalities (close to 100) viewing each other as nothing more or less than friends with a common unrelenting bond which all would agree is nothing short of sensational.

richard e willeySeptember 11th, 2017 at 9:00 pm

The US is very different than China.

In the US, responsibility for school curricula are delegated down to the state level for public schools. Private schools pretty much get to do whatever they please. As such, there is no one key individual that you can convince and suddenly swing the behavior of the entire nation.

What you achieved in China is great, but in order to accomplish the same here in the US would require several orders of magnitude more effort.

FWIW, I very much believe that bridge CAN be a valuable part of certain types of scholastic endeavors. Back when I was teaching intro level Probability and Statistics and Indiana University I used examples with cards and dice all the time (a lot of the original work in Stats was does to study gambling. As such, there are all sorts of examples where a gambling problem can be used to motivate some specific feature inside Stats). However, I don’t believe for a moment that this can be formally integrated into primary or secondary level education here in the US.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 12th, 2017 at 5:13 am

To: Roger, Richard, Jeff, et al.:

A couple of years ago I shared some information on this general subject on my blogsite. I had learned that the popular bridge-loving financier, Bill Gates, had donated a generous bundle of money (ONE MILLION BUCKS) to the ACBL, via an associate (Sharon Osburg) for the specific purpose of the ACBL delving into the possibility of engineering a program to get bridge into our Western Hemisphere schools. Next thing l spotted .. three months later, because so little (if any) progress was reported, Mr. Gates requested and received back the remaining three quarters of the original contribution .. with the first quarter going for nought. I am curious how the missing $250,000 was spent but I never heard anymore about it.

Mr. Gates got the ball rolling, but it looks like someone fumbled before we could get past the line of scrimmage …. much less …… to the goal line!

To accomplish this mammoth endeavor it takes knowledgeable, dedicated, determined, unyielding hard workers with the right connections in our educational programs and the wherewithal to see it through PLUS substantial monetary support to get it rolling. If serious advances were made with the right person at the helm, there figures to be many well-healed bridge advocates who might jump on the bandwagon and support the project. It is not going to happen overnight.. but if we throw in the towel now .. we will never know!

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