Judy Kay-Wolff

From the A C B L

Today, I (and as I understand .. all ACBL members via the Internet) received a list called ‘10 BIG IDEAS’ expressing ways to promote the game and suggestions how to reach that goal via their promotion. Bobby and I have already received a few emails and reactions. If it has reached you (and you've had an opportunity to absorb it), please share your views with me before I give you my ‘take’ on the subject.


JoanSeptember 26th, 2017 at 4:28 am

Did not receive it. Can you forward it?

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 26th, 2017 at 4:37 am

It is rather long. Will do so in the morning.

slarSeptember 26th, 2017 at 1:38 pm


slarSeptember 26th, 2017 at 2:27 pm

advertise, promote, sponsor: yes, everyone tries to do this better
document health benefits: this kind of falls into #1
expert player guild: not qualified to respond here
improve teaching results: meh. If you want to learn, there are ample opportunities to do so.
integrate social bridge: maybe. Ideally clubs should be big enough to separate serious (C or better) and non-serious (I/N) players. Once you do that, you can hopefully attract more social players to clubs.
money bridge: not qualified to respond here
redistribute tournament activity: where I live there are too many tournaments and it dilutes the fields. One tournament a month (nationals, regional within 150 miles, or sectional within 50 miles) is plenty. Tournaments should be a big deal. It is perfectly fine to have normal club games most of the time. Clubs are the lifeblood of the sport, not tournaments.
simplify masterpoints: my view is that masterpoint awards should be based on the size/quality of the field (not the type of event) and that pigmentation should be based the size of the score (not the type of event). Black for the first point, Silver from 1-3, Red 3-8, Gold 8-21, Platinum 21-55, Titanium 55+. (The pigment requirements for each rank would need to be tweaked.) If you want to advance, you have to play against good competition but not necessarily at nationals or regionals. This is more equitable because bigger tournaments offer more opportunities but people who can’t travel aren’t completely shut out.
strength based ratings: Colorado Springs Bridge already does this but what would ACBL do with this information?
upgrade table technology: To me the technology is fine as long as it works but when it doesn’t work it is awful. I like the idea of inserting robots into the field (at clubs) to avoid sitouts due to half tables. While I’m okay in principle with robot tournaments, the bridge skill of the robots leaves a lot to be desired.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 27th, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Hi Slar,

First, thanks for posting the reference to the ACBL SITE .. which certainly is an attempt by them to put their best foot forward; but, in my opinion .. will not begin to accomplish what is needed. My mind, as an experienced (though far from expert) bridge player is focused not on everyday bridge for enjoyment, socializing or to pass the time of day .. but toward much greater goals …. targeting the preservation of the high level game for decades to come .. not merely flooding the market with meaningless masterpoints and introducing robots to fill the empty seats!

As you probably know, Bobby served as President of the World Bridge Federation. In 1993, in that capacity, he put a bug in the ears of the top Chinese Officials (when he visited the People's Hall of the Republic in Beijing). He explained that bridge is such an incredible 'thinking' game with countless venues in which your mind can be developed to prepare one for later life .. such as logic, reasoning, counting, thinking ahead, power of recall, interaction with others .. and so much more. They immediately realized it was imperative to integrate the learning of bridge into their school curricula with volunteered pro bona help via the WBF. They were on their way … until competitive personal greed and political self interest here in the United States prolonged its introduction and was held in abeyance for over a decade. However, today 200,000,000 Chinese children are learning and playing bridge as I write .. and it is thriving in eleven European nations as well. Compare that to about 170,000 ACBL members. Downright frightening!!!

Just imagine if you had learned bridge in school .. starting with the basics of bidding, declaring and defending .. how much further advanced you would be. You are not a lone victim!! I fit into that category as well and gathered the pieces the hard way. Picking it up in dribs and drabs and learning from one's peers (whom I assume, in your case, are far from expert excepting your contact with Bobby via his AOB column) .. will never prepare you to understand the important nuances of the game.

What I am alluding to is .. THE ACBL MUST LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED TARGETING BRIDGE'S INCLUSION IN OUR EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM. It takes knowledgeable individuals with expert bridge prowess to merge with determined, aggressive ACBL administrators to accomplish making inroads into our school programs. I realize it takes money, but some of our wealthy bridge financiers have shown earnest support of this proposal .. and once we make undeniable progress, I have a feeling other well-healed bridge lovers will step up to the plate. It won't happen overnight .. but without strong indoctrination efforts by the parent authority (the ACBL), our competitive high level game in the Western Hemisphere will falter and eventually fade into nothingness with other countries overtaking our earlier stature! It is beginning to surface before our very eyes!

If this laissez faire position continues, I won't be here to witness the final stages of the ebbing of high-level bridge in the U. S., thank heavens .. but it is an undeniably realistic projection!

CPSeptember 27th, 2017 at 9:50 pm

As an old-timer like yourself, I bear witness to your fear for the future of competitive bridge here in Zone 2. I echo your thoughts and admire
your forthright manner of telling it like it is. However, it will probably fall on deaf ears. But .. as they say .. nothing ventured/nothing gained.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 27th, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Hello CP:

I believe it takes an ‘old timer” to recognize the reality of our fears. I remember the days where the tournaments were crawling with high level competitors. Sadly, but unavoidably, the numbers have fallen off .. because of aging, incapacitation and death. Without teaching the youth of Zone 2 to formally learn the game, play, compete and improve .. depending upon their individual talents .. there is little hope of our keeping in step with other nations and upholding the glory of the game.

Official teaching is the only solution .. but so far we have been up against a brick wall .. with little hope of it collapsing. Sad!!

slarSeptember 28th, 2017 at 2:23 am

With all due respect, I think your goal of bridge in grade school is misguided. It just isn’t that important. Kids do all sorts of activities in their youth but they stick with almost none of them as adults. Know any adults who still play a band or orchestra instrument?

The key period of the time is the five years after graduation from college. That’s when their lifelong habits are truly formed. If you don’t get them then, you won’t get them until a life-changing event occurs. (For most people that is empty-nesting, though for me it happened to be a divorce.)

You want the game to be healthy? Figure out how to make club bridge a part of the lives of 22-27 year olds again. The savants like Sylvia Shi will bubble up and you’ll get the numbers needed for the clubs to be healthy.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 28th, 2017 at 6:12 pm

Slar .. as you preface your comments .. with all due respect ..
I find it hard to agree with your position about the formal introduction of bridge overlooking the advantages to the younger set.   I didn’t mean kindergarten (rather the fourth or fifth grade) .. since as one comes of age it is imperative to understand the far reaching affects of mind strengthening boosters which prepare one to cope with so many real life problems along the way.  By the time one graduates upper school and especially college, their primary interests are jobs, salaries, fruitful positions with room for advancement .. and eventually marrying, raising a family and enjoying life.   Learning bridge would be low down on their list of goals.  However, from my own personal experience, I can guarantee that the rewards of learning bridge during school years is a tremendous asset toward making decisions in later life and improving one’s interactions with others. I wish I had started earlier!!
My focus is not the local club games.  They certainly do serve a marvelous purpose .. especially as people age and retire.   What could be more delightful than an afternoon among their peers and the fun and sociability it entails.  My well-founded fear is that without featuring bridge in our educational system (somehow/some way) .. high level bridge will fade into oblivion and decades of Zone 2 accomplishments, achievements and victories will go the way of all flesh.   Our wonderful game has earned a better fate!

JoanSeptember 29th, 2017 at 3:36 pm

I just glanced at all the comments on the official ACBL Blog on Bridge Winners concerning the Ten Big Ideas. Got dizzy reading all of them. What’s your ‘take’?

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 29th, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Hi Joan,

To be honest, I read it when originally posted but did not catch up with the recent views and suggestions until last evening. There is quite a disparity of opinion. Many issues zero in on professionalism, reassessment of masterpoint distribution, number of tournaments, club games ad infinitem. ACBL is hell bent on drawing more people into the game by a plethora of tournaments and special club games with a lure of meaningless masterpoints. That works at the present time for masterpoint seekers .. but what will happen when the current players begin to falter and die off? Who will replace them???

Good question!!!!

I know I keep beating a dead horse but without making an all-out effort to get bridge into our school systems here in Zone 2, you can kiss the game goodbye. So be it!

slarOctober 2nd, 2017 at 3:29 am

I think the bridge world can learn a lot from the golf world. Junior Golf is relatively strong and Americans dominate the professional ranks worldwide. However, the sport itself is in serious trouble. Millennials have not taken to it and it is arguably in a death spiral. (Sound familiar?) Contrast with soccer which has a robust junior program, miserable international results, but is growing as an adult sport.

Even if bridge bolsters its junior programs, it can do no better than golf is unless it finds a way to get and keep 20-somethings involved. Bridge has a huge advantage over golf in cost (at least 5:1), economies of scale (ever try to put 1000 people on a golf course in a day?), and scheduling flexibility (not much golfing at night…). It is probably better positioned to recover.

With this in mind, I don’t see your criticism of Masterpoint Culture (for lack of a better term) as constructive. There is wisdom in rewarding people increasingly for quality of results relative to strength of competition. Otherwise the 99% of us who will never sniff an NABC+ title don’t have a whole lot of incentive to seek out competitive opportunities and to sharpen our games. The avid players are the ones who keep the money flowing. It would behoove the ACBL to do everything possible to keep their interest.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 3rd, 2017 at 5:38 am


I understand your view as masterpoints serve as an incentive which lure many people to play. I have been active in the bridge arena for what seems like an eternity and loved every moment of it .. but lost respect for the concept when they began to award masterpoints to those players whose performances were “under average” scorewise.

They certainly lure those performers back for another outing .. but makes a total farce of our once glorious mind game. People should play for the enjoyment of learning and improving. That should be incentive in itself.

Sorry, we don’t see eye to eye on the subject .. but as has been said before .. people should do
‘whatever floats their boat!’

Bigot-JohnsonOctober 4th, 2017 at 9:56 pm

Hi there…..just my opinion…..but as the rule book on bridge begins to expand even more , confusing those who unwittingly embark upon duplicate bridge for the first time….it doesn’t surprise me at all to see so many go away disheartened, disillusioned and disappointed. Have a rule book for tournament play by all means where the strict letter of the law stands….BUT FOR DUPLICATE BRIDGE THERE NEEDS TO BE A SHORTER MORE SIMPLIFIED RULE BOOK WITH JUST ONE RULE IN IT
” Directors need only apply common sense and fairness to make any decision they see fit taking in the needs of the injured party, the damage if any that needs to be remedied, but always taking into account the relative inexperience or lack of experience of the offending player/s. ”
So many transgressions could and should be overlooked, with kind words of advice as to how to avoid repeating such mistakes.
Secondly in duplicate bridge all players should be asked and encouraged to play simple well known bidding systems. Nothing is more irritating for a relatively new player coming up against smart arsed individuals who play to a convoluted complex bidding system……. which even when bids are explained , the confusion only worsens. This is legalised form of cheating , which along with other more unregulated forms of cheating that go on unaddressed it’s no wonder that this wonderful game gets bad press and a poor take up.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 5th, 2017 at 2:56 pm


No doubt there are numerous barriers facing the newbie .. but some of them could have been prevented early. Back in the dark ages, while living in Philadelphia, I was involved in teaching bridge at some of the suburban country clubs. With my late husband, Norman Kay, as my guide, he impressed upon me the necessity of explaining not only the rudiments of bridge .. but the ethical protocol as well. Thus, the ‘dos’ and “don’ts’ were as important as the Aces and Kings.
With that in mind, the director will be faced with less problems and not having to bend over backwards to placate a beginning player.
Handling those new on the scene will thus be fairer to the newbie, director and the entire field.
However, no easy job!

As far as your second point, here in the ACBL .. little can be done about barring baffling systems as long as detailed explanations can be offered beforehand. But in my opinion, does not barely begin to suffice. NO ONE hates these cockapitzy systems more than I do. It is a tremendously unfair advantage to allow such complex systems ‘on the spot!’ I agree that these convoluted methods disadvantage the general public and discourage participation in many events. However, one cannot (or has the right to) discourage progress!

Yes, HBJ, these are problematic issues and must be handled with kid gloves to not discourage the new breed from learning and loving our majestic game as we do!

slarOctober 5th, 2017 at 3:29 pm

I think we all agree that the Masterpoint system as currently implemented is flawed. As I stated above, I think the entire pigmentation system should be revamped and that the awards should be simplified to reflect the size and strength of the field.

I personally have no issue with stratification and issuing partials to lower ranked players who scored well relative to their peers. If this means that on occasion a flight C player will scratch with a 45% game then so be it.

I think a far bigger issue is the inflated awards that are available in games against lousy competition. A quick scan of the masterpoint races shows a lot of middle-of-the-road players who play frequently in weak games. Perhaps the rating system that the ACBL is talking about can be used to evaluate the strength of the field in a particular game so that the awards for games can be set more reasonably.

ACBL is realigning the convention charts that define what methods are allowed in what games. They have something called the “Limited” chart which is currently only allowed in 0-20MP games. I believe they should slightly expand what goes in what is now called the “Limited” chart and greatly expand the masterpoint limit in which clubs are allowed to permit only the Limited chart. (I believe it is appropriate for any NLM game.) This should satisfy social players who, I agree, should not be subjected to complex artificial methods. If, as I suggest above, the Masterpoint awards for such games are low, what’s the harm?

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 5th, 2017 at 8:16 pm


Obviously, we view bridge from different perspectives. Your concern is catering to the newbies and less experienced contestants by lowering the standards with ‘forgives and forgets.’ Bridge is the greatest mind game in the world. Following your suggestions makes the game a farce!!!! If one wants to learn properly, they should take serious lessons and when playing, must learn to abide by the rules of the game/organization in command. Encouraging learning is not one of the ACBL’s priorities. It concentrates on drawing new people to our wondrous experience, focusing on drawing new members .. membership applications, dues and elevated card fees for special games. Their focal point should be OFFICIAL TEACHING to get the ball rolling. Some local schools and colleges have initiated programs on their own and I salute them! It is a ‘beginning.’

According to your remarks, maybe we should break the organization into two groups: SOCIAL AND SERIOUS. In that way, the SOCIAL game administrators could do whatever is necessary to keep their members happy and will continue to attend but be independent of the ACBL. The SERIOUS group want to learn to play by the parent organization’s rules, understand the mandatory application of proper ethics, manners, decor and deportment, improve as time passes and appreciate the splendor of our game!

What I am saying is: There is bridge and there is BRIDGE. I have always believed in hitching my wagon to a star .. and not settling for second best!

slarOctober 5th, 2017 at 10:25 pm

I’m not sure what you’re basing this comment on. I do think the social and serious games should be separated (as they are in all the healthy clubs) but I in no way believe in dumbing down the game for the serious players. All I want to do is encourage players who are inclined to play seriously. Giving awarding these players partial MPs for doing well in their flight does not make a mockery of the game. Here’s what makes a mockery of the game:
* being able to make LM without ever playing against A-flight competition
* getting gold points for coming in 10th in an NLM or Gold Rush event
* getting 3+ red MPs for winning a one-session 299er game at a Regional
* getting 2+ silver MPs for winning a one-session 199er game at a Sectional
* getting 2+ MPs for winning an “open” game that is mostly made up of social players who can barely follow suit and count trump
* getting .9 MPs for winning a section in a $1 (now $1.25) BridgeBase online game as long as there are 15 players in the section (regardless of who they are – I wouldn’t complain if Leo LaSota and Jim Munday were in attendance…)

I’ve witnessed all of these first-hand and in response, I encourage all of my partners and teammates to play up as much as they can bear.

As for Convention Charts, I believe what is now called the Mid-Chart should extend down to any game that LMs are eligible for and that the Super-Chart should be allowed in any unlimited game with a separate B/C game. I also believe that directors should apply more procedural penalties to players in serious games. As far as I can tell, applying ZT policies improves attendance. This is a good thing.

Meanwhile renting rooms is expensive and there are economies of scale. Therefore I disagree with any plan that splits the ACBL into two separate entities. The serious and social players need each other to strengthen the organization. It also creates a path for advancing players to work their way up. Speaking of advancing and learning, the best learning comes after the session. Perhaps there need to be more post-session analyses. However, this is expensive and/or time consuming and can only happen en masse if economies of scale are used. This means more clubs playing the same hands so that a single set of analyses can be produced to educate everyone.

Is anyone in Horn Lake listening?

CPOctober 6th, 2017 at 12:32 am

Hi Slar,

I have been reading the back and forths on this site and to be honest, some of your proposals
(though obviously well intended) may come from naïveté and lack of experience. Would I be intruding if I asked you how long you have been playing, where you compete and how many masterpoints you have? I believe that is quite relevant to the issues at hand. Some of your proposals are so anti-revered bridge principles and difficult to fathom. That is why I posed the questions.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 6th, 2017 at 1:12 am


It is senseless to pursue these multi-faceted and far reaching perplexities as our backgrounds and experiences are oceans apart. It became apparent as I facetiously suggested having social bridge media and serious ones. But, I suppose everyone must enjoy whatever floats their boat.

Bridge has afforded immeasurable pleasures and opportunities to many individuals for nearly a century. I pray its majesty will continue long after I am gone!

slarOctober 6th, 2017 at 3:51 am

No, it isn’t intruding. I live in Northern Virginia and play in whatever games (club/sectional/regional) my schedule will allow, which averages two sessions a week. In 5 years I’ve got 400 something MPs. (I could probably have more, but I refuse to play lower level games when my partner is capable of playing up.) I’m good enough that playing against social players isn’t much of a challenge but I don’t quite have a partnership that is over the hump and ready to play solely open games. I’ve been to Nationals three times, but unless there is an NABC event, they are a waste of time for an advancing player. People at partnership desks won’t take a chance on a NLM sight unseen and besides most days you’re stuck playing in the same old events you could play at any Regional.

I don’t know how the rest of the country does it but here clubs are struggling because rents are rising and membership is dropping. ACBL is not attracting a younger crowd and it is killing the game. Forget the kids. I’m talking under 55. The ones who are there are mostly serious players but there are not enough social players. The thing is a healthy chunk of social players inevitably become serious players. ACBL could have picked me up 25 years ago (like it picked up Noble Shore) but I had never heard of it until I randomly showed up at a club in 2012. Even now, ACBL is doing basically nothing to attract people like me. I’m not seeing anything out of ACBL designed to change that.

You think I am being naive? Educate me. Tell me where what I’m proposing is at odds with what would be healthy for the ACBL and the game in general. Tell me I’m crazy for wanting to lower the barriers to entry for social players and how a complete realignment of the masterpoint system isn’t warranted to better reward players who achieve against better competition while still retaining the addictive “slot machine” effect for lesser players. I wouldn’t be posting here if I didn’t want the discussion.

CPOctober 6th, 2017 at 5:45 pm


Thank you for your detailed response to my queries. After reading your views, I understand your plea to the ACBL to concentrate more on the social players in their mid years. However, it is quite apparent that you and Judy are continents apart in your objective.

Her experience (being married to two world class players) has obviated to her and many long-time experienced participants who admire her goal that unless the ACBL remove their heads from the sand, the high level game will wane and bite the dust. Attracting social players for fun and enjoyment does nothing to strengthen the future of bridge.

Who is going to replace our aging experts when they go the way of all flesh? No one! That is why she is so hell bent on promoting educational efforts here in Zone 2. Can you blame her?

slarOctober 7th, 2017 at 2:44 am

Bridge isn’t like chess. It takes about 5 years to go from prodigy to world class. I’m pretty sure Sylvia Shi started soon after I did. You can play world-class bridge for 40+ years and you don’t have to find the prodigies before they are 10. You’d better get them in their 20s though. This is where I disagree with our host. Shi didn’t know she would be a prodigy when she started. She just thought the game looked fun and BAM she took off like a rocket. How many more 20-something prodigies are out there, completely oblivious to the game? Make the game fun for those folks and they will show up, saving the game in the process. I’m confident that 1% of them will turn out to be really good and the high level game will be just fine.

I don’t believe there is anything more I can say on this subject without repeating myself.

MarthaOctober 9th, 2017 at 9:27 pm

As a lurker and reader, I rarely comment. This does bring to mind that East is East and West is West and never the two shall meet.

JudyOctober 9th, 2017 at 9:54 pm


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