Judy Kay-Wolff

Return of the Zombies

Never before (over a sixty year span) do I recall ever vacating a bridge locale before the planned checkout day. It is a gross understatement to note the world has changed drastically and in many aspects it has been reflected in the bridge atmosphere.

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Las Vegas Bally’s Regional Monday, JUNE 19th SESSION TIMES CHANGED!

Although MONDAY starting time corrections were made earlier (FROM 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) TO 1 p.m. And 7:30 p.m. — many participants are/were not aware of it.


See you there!

What’s in a Name?

Following the two-week 2017 Marathon Bridge Team Trials produced on BBO … when Bobby saw the final scores being posted, I overheard him humming a tune I recall from the days of that antiquated medium of radio. The melody may have been the most popular marketing advertising tool ever carried over the airwaves. It went something like…

Pepsi Cola … hits the spot;
Twelve full ounces … that a lot!
Twice as much … for a nickel, too;
Pepsi Cola … is the drink for you.

However, Bobby was thinking more in terms of the victorious Fleisher Teams’s popular recruit “Pepsi” (aka Jacek Pszcola) … a great addition to any group vying for a spot to represent one of the U.S.A. teams in Lyon.

He remarked…

“A belated Welcome to America, Pepsi! At least while I was watching BBO, it became obvious to me that players of your caliber, expertise, and continuing stability under pressure are few and far between … including what I consider the most important asset of all … high-level quality judgment!”

Good luck to all our teams in France. We are indeed proud!!!!

The Many Faces/Phases of Bridge (Part II)

I am beginning to understand the older one gets, how earlier recollections can be so biased.  In the early sixties, my life had been jam-packed with countless non-stop activities (particularly enraptured by bridge) and I never realized how really narrow and sheltered my life experiences were until my trip to the World Championships in 1968 to Deauville with Norman.  It was the first time I ventured off U. S. soil in over thirty years.  But, heaven knows, I surely made up for lost time.  

Because of some temporary political unrest in France at the time, Dame Fortune diverted us to London for a three day stay before crossing the English Channel and motoring down the coast to our final destination for the start of play.  I was in awe as I visited Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace .. monuments I read about but never saw; but .. you would not believe what really captivated me … of all things …  personally seeing Winston Churchill’s bunker in which he was sheltered during the World War II air raids .. though we were told he often ventured to the rooftop to see what was happening around the city.  

Didn’t get to see much of Deauville.  Two memories: hearing the bombs from World War II still being detonated in the harbor as I kibitzed the world championships, and getting to meet Omar Sharif for the first time (although I saw more of him when I officially oversaw and publicized the touring Sharif Circus when they visited Philly a few years later).   I must add .. I never met a more modest, friendlier, non-assuming individual than Omar.

Four years following the French trip, we had a two day layover in Hawaii, took an excursion to Pearl Harbor and eventually on to our final jaunt in Taiwan for another WBF outing.  That was an eternity ago and we continued attending all the NABCs  with one or two exceptions until Norman slowed down and passed on soon after.  It was an exhilarating way of life and I savored looking  back through many photo albums which captured the highlights of those years!   I soon awakened to the reality the time had come for me to slow down, savor the memories and enjoy those so-called ‘golden years’ without long flights, endless intrusive (though necessary) security checks and frequent layovers .. spending idle hours in airports.

Surprise, surprise!  One day in the Fall of 2003, I looked up and there I was on a plane to Monaco accompanying Bobby Wolff (whom I married two months later).  He was still actively participating in countless ACBLs, International Invitational Events and more World Championships (and definitely in possession of all his marbles even now approaching 85 in October).  It was constant packing and unpacking for the first eight years of our married life. At this juncture I stopped counting .. but it included three trips to Far East (Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan), two to Italy, one each to Istanbul, The Netherlands (Veldhoven) and San Paulo!  We are now settled down, relaxed and ecstatic with an idyllic life here in Vegas .. going wherever we want .. whenever we want .. with no time guidelines.  I told Bobby the next airline venture I make (hopefully not too soon) figures to me in a brown box to Philadelphia.   However, as I am constantly reminded  ..  NEVER SAY NEVER!

Enough tripping the light fantastic.  My final chapter and verse of the Many Faces/Phases of Bridge deals with more serious matters .. the nitty-gritty of what exists today and the uncertain future of bridge in the coming years. You might need a drink or tranquilizer before reading it!!

For Bridge History Buffs


The above magazine cover from Popular Bridge came out in October, 1970 .. a few years after the contemplation of arranging the first Professional Bridge Team in the world.  By a strange coincidence, we learned that a former secretary to a Texas business tycoon had accumulated some bridge memorabilia from decades ago and wanted to find a worthy home for it.  When we learned of it, I contacted Lynda Chalk Barefield by phone and following a delightful half hour chat with my dear newly found friend, Bobby and I received a package on our doorstep.  The photo above includes six Aces, their Captain and Coach.   See if you can identify them.  More to come!!

The Many Faces/Phases of Bridge

When I reflect on earlier times, it becomes a mirage as I must confess I have had a many-faceted existence. Like most fortunate kids .. it encompassed a devoted family, wonderful friends, grade school/high school and then college. Before my final semester at Temple University in 1956, I attended Columbia University one summer and an encounter from fifty-one years ago I indelibly remember. On my way to class, I heard screaming and witnessed four fellows card-tossing at each other in the college square; and when I inquired what they were doing, they casually replied with a smile: “Playing bridge.” Really? Coincidentally when I returned to the dorm, I met a lovely girl from Florida and being a Scrabble addict, asked if she played bridge and described my earlier experience with the maniacal card players. Her reply was negative but we made a tradeoff. She agreed to tell me about bridge and I taught her how to play Scrabble. These earlier introductions to our wonderful game were unlike my later experiences with my mother’s friends assembling every week, stuffing their mouths with all sorts of goodies, gossiping and playing some kind of unrecognizable game. In fact, I recall an occasion when my mother was on vacation and I was asked to fill in at one of their weekly get-togethers. Knowing how frustrating it could be to find a fourth, I sympathized and succumbed. It was a fun evening. However, I did learn something from that experience. At one point, when my partner bid 4C, and since it was a social forum, I asked if she used Gerber. After a long pause, she quizzically frowned and blurted out. “No, we use another plumber. Gerber is far too expensive.” Amazing what one can learn at a bridge table. It was quite an enlightening three hours. After college, I went to Junto (the learning Center in Philadelphia) where I enrolled in a bridge course which introduced me to yet another kind of bridge and I became mesmerized and played socially with friends, attended neighborhood games, tournaments .. and eventually the Nationals. That became the world with which I was enamored for over six decades and I thank God to have been so blessed.

Here it is .. 2017 .. and I happily confess our unique game has enriched my life in so many directions, it is hard to count the ways (and ‘counting’ at my age is not as automatic as it was way back then).

When Norman and I married in 1963 and he continued attending nationals, I was busy tending to our youngsters (like siblings — born eleven months apart). But .. after a bit that changed as I was not the proverbial ‘stay at-home’ mom and suggested (convincingly) that we hire the children’s original nurse for our tri-annual jaunts to the NABCs.. and never looked back. Besides bridge, Norman and I found others distractions .. all much easier for me than our beloved game.

We became horse owners (trotters and pacers). Whenever we raced (once or twice a week), whether Philadelphia, New York, Delaware, New Jersey or even Canada, we rarely missed watching our horses perform. Two neighborhood couples formed an alliance with us and we rented a ‘box’ at the local racetrack. It didn’t break us .. but we didn’t get rich either. Sometimes breaking even is good. Got to meet many of the famous international racers and was a good night-time diversion as our children were growing up.

At one point, our young son (a sports devotee) wanted to attend a local baseball card show. He asked us to “buy (rent)” a table, so we obliged. He had good vibes, was enthusiastic and successful, but the timing was bad as soon after our sports card introduction, he discovered girls! Although we made a little money with the earlier shows at which we set up, we found ourselves abandoned and encumbered with a batch of merchandise so we continued reducing inventory, intending to put it behind us. But, that never came to pass until twenty years later (for which we had no regrets). It was so exciting (with both Norman and I being sports freaks), we enjoyed the dealers and customers we met and became licensed as Kay’s Baseball Cards. It went on successfully (mostly locally or an hour drive) — working out of the house at first and then moved to an office/warehouse, ending up with six employees (relatives or close friends). Thus, it was more fun than work; but in 1997 when (as many things do), the hobby turned sour. we sold off much of our remaining merchandise, closed shop and returned to the house, where the hobby originated .. selling some on line and gave the rest to our son. It was very exciting period of our lives. Perhaps one of the reasons was .. our involvement purchasing and displaying a large variety of photos of great sports personalities (a huge seller) afforded us stimulating exposure to so many legendary stars who appeared (and often when the promoter felt the day was slowing down, he offered us autographs at half the going rate, so we did well selling them at future shows and on line as well). But the most fun was getting to hobnob with loads of world famous talented sports figures .. Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams .. just to name a few of hundreds. I must interrupt to add that of all things, they ALSO held a National Sports Show annually where dozens of celebrities appeared during the week. To be perfectly candid, several acted like real hotshots, but many were warm and down to earth. Among the good guys were Yaz, Ozzie Smith, Richie Ashburn, Timmy McCarver, Brooks Robinson and quite a few others who would chat as they personally autographed whatever it was .. be it be a book, a photograph or even a program. It was intriguing to be personally involved with these delightful individuals, if only for a moment or two. Incidentally, I later learned from Bobby there are oodles of universal celebrities who share our love of the game. You’d be surprised. More on that later on. With the exception of the three NABCs or a world championship (on occasion), we rarely took a weekend off from our regularly scheduled sports regimen in all those years. Busy, busy, busy. So, with my various dabblings in other arenas over time, I didn’t have to be a brain surgeon to realize that THE HIGH LEVEL GAME OF BRIDGE .. IS UNTO ITSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When Norman and I married in 1963, I was a ‘bridge player” .. of sorts. A huge overbid, for sure. I was dazzled by kibitzing Norman and Edgar (whose partnership lasted successfully forty three years (with a two year break before we met) .. and nary a nasty or critical word was exchanged. Amazing! Early in our marriage, I mostly watched and gleaned so much which was foreign to me earlier. I was dazzled by the many superstars I got to know. In fact, when Goren (a good friend of Norman’s) journeyed by train from New York and arrived at our marriage ceremony, his unexpected appearance shut the yapping mouths of my mother’s bridge crowd who always ribbed her, asking why Judy can’t “find a guy.” She apologetically replied. “Where can she meet someone when she travels with that Circus every week!.” In case you didn’t catch it, you guys are the ‘Circus’ to which she alluded. However, it was worth the wait. Our merger lasted 39 years until his death in 2002 after a short illness. It was a wondrous experience and I was relieved he was not in pain and was satisfied to remain widowed with cherished memories at 69, not seeking a replacement. But you know how it goes. One cannot determine what God has in store. What a ‘shocker’ when Bobby Wolff called me with a few words of condolence after he learned of Norman’s death. I almost dropped the phone as he hadn’t said hello to me in forty years, although he and Norman spent time together at dozens of tournaments at the Nationals discussing sports. His contacting me was a nice endeavor (totally ignoring me earlier), so when he won the right to represent the country in Monaco in the late fall of 2003, I courteously/casually emailed him a note of congratulations to return his kind gesture. Too much to recant as the details are common knowledge with the bridge entourage. I didn’t take long after our first face-to-face dinner encounter in Los Angeles and non-stop emails became the order of business the next few weeks, followed by our visiting one another a couple of times. I ended up joining him in Monaco (after my acceptance of his proposal by phone). We were wed on Pearl Harbor Day that year (another day that will live in infamy) and here we are, married over thirteen years and loving Las Vegas. Getting it right twice is an enormous understatement although I have converted from stringent KS (forgive me, dear Edgar) to loose-as-a-goose Bobby Wolff; however, when it works (and I can remember all his various ingenious nuances), I don’t complain. But, bear in mind .. octogenarians don’t absorb like they once did.

I began this blog a few weeks ago which gives you some idea of my earlier perceptions. I had to stop and catch my breath as life has whizzed by so fast .. but I want to share with you more of my delightful interludes which would have escaped me had it not been for this damn game. Later!

Back to the bridge chaos!

Turning Another Page

Even as a young child, after the fairy tale stage, I couldn’t sit still long enough to relax and read a good book. I was always a “shaker and a doer” (akin to ants in one’s pants). I was never an ’avid reader” even back in college. Just plowed through the subject textbook before a final and survived on what was once a good memory. Read the rest of this entry »

Back at The Plaza…

Thanks deservedly go out to the practical enthusiastic foresight of Chicago/Las Vegas resident/commuter Angie Clark who was in huge part responsible for the tremendous success of our Sectional. Not only was she unstoppable. She enlisted hard workers to cover all the bases she could not physically handle herself. Superwoman can do only so much.

As much fun as I have had at the Sectionals in LV since we moved here in 2005, never thought I would ever see the day where I noted so many unfamiliar out-of-towners who motored or flew in for the five day Sectional at The Plaza located at The Fremont Experience in downtown LV. The Plaza was once the site of the record breaking tournaments run in many earlier decades by Martha Beecher and Grace Matthews. Sadly when they were replaced, it was never the same! However, the trend is finally turning in the right direction.

In 2017 the rates negotiated were soooooo cheap, it was frightening until the guests entered the remodeled hotel and suites and were overwhelmed with their bargain rates! If you played at any of the specified gambling games on the ground level (mattered not which they were) for a specified short length of time .. your ten dollar daily parking tickets were validated PAID. The eateries especially to grab a snack between sessions were fantastic and cheap. Bobby and I ate at The Pizza place each day and still found time to play before afternoon game time.

Our playing space was superb .. good as I ever witnessed .. with more than adequate lighting. Add to that nearby restrooms and lots of fattening tempting chocolate goodies and mints.

By the way (even at our ages), it’s never too late to change. Bobby and I realized it was so tiring to commute (though it was not far from our home in Summerlin) and it took no convincing on either side to stay at The Plaza for the next Sectional. The price will be right!

Though the turnout exceeded Angie’s expectations .. there was another treat in store:

Despite the marvelous throngs at the tables, the two Tournament Directors (KEN HORWEDEL and BRANDON SHEUMAKER) did an incredible job of handling the crowd, keeping the tournament going at a good pace and posting the scores promptly.

By the way, every fact and detail on the Sectional will be presented in written form to the BoD at their meeting this coming Wednesday. I am certain it will be available to the public.

Angie proved .. never give up. Bridge is definitely on the rise here in Vegas!

To be Forewarned is to be Forearmed!

Here in the States (as well as elsewhere), there is continual chatter about declining interest in our once majestic game .. particularly Contract Bridge, which came upon the scene in 1927. As with most issues, everyone can cite reasons for declining participation. Read the rest of this entry »

A Game By Any Other Name…

The beginning of our beloved game came about in the 1800’s with Bridge Whist — continuing until it was converted in 1904 to Auction Bridge and continued that way until Harold Vanderbilt was credited when he brilliantly converted “Auction” into “Contract” Bridge while on a cruise in 1927. Then along came Eli Culbertson, Milton Work, Charles Goren and others who helped pioneer the game as we know it today. Since then Contract Bridge has appeared in many forms, including social at-home games. The American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) was created (in 1936) and The WBF (World Bridge Federation) at the urging and support of James Ortiz-Patino was formed in 1958 and under its auspices hosted many world championships/olympiads. Competition comes in all forms and shapes: individuals, pairs, teams … and more. Name your poison and pay your entry fee. At the duplicate clubs, the majority of events are focused on daily pairs with an occasional Special Club Championship (with an additional charge and extra masterpoints ala ACBL).

Judging from what we see locally here in Vegas, most play because of their love and enjoyment of the game enabled by leisure time. We also have Sectionals and Regionals. This Month (February 20th-24th), our Sectional will be held at The Plaza (which was the popular downtown site for the record breaking attendance of the 80’s and 90’s). I am pleased to add .. the advanced reservations are quite sizeable with nearly three weeks to go. All games (even at the neighborhood club level) allow the players to be ranked within their peers… new, intermediate and more experienced — depending upon their level of play). Obviously, it varies from social bridge all the way to the top .. National and International Competition where many high- level experts from both here and abroad compete … something like a Game for All Seasons. Bridge has shaped my life phenomenally beyond description (blessing me with both Norman and Bobby) and thus the necessity to express my concerns for the future distresses me!

Because of modern day technology, much has changed! I refer specifically to the current fabulous facilities employed to detect and document stealthy cheating (at all levels) with research and scientific methods not available previously. Early on .. perhaps sixty or so years ago, some adventuresome pairs illegally exchanged information and when discovered and corroborated .. some were booted out of our game .. many never to be seen or heard from again. Others paid a shorter period of penance .. but later resurfaced. However, with more experienced, clever, culprits (both nationally and internationally), it continued to thrive and is in the active stage of being proven and soon (I pray) to be stopped. I cannot go into the details myself, as I am not qualified to offer up proof .. but many top players (in 1963 when I came on the scene) KNEW and would have staked their lives on the undeserved wins of certain “glorious” teams (and pairs) whose names always appeared as No. 1. Many are familiar with the details after reading The Lone Wolff, but hold on to your seats .. there is more in the offing.

Since I truly believe the issue of deliberate underhanded, stealthy action is in the process of being squelched, we are exerting our efforts toward a new concern. On another site, most of you may have read about a second try (which failed over two decades ago) at introducing into universal bridge a proposed new contrived bidding system in conjunction with the striving for use of ‘Ferts.’ Yes, it is aptly nicknamed for the word ‘fertilizer’ which needs no elaboration. Just read between the drops. It is what it is! No doubt, most competitions are subject to change — and certainly favored .. IF in the interest of improvement (v. complicated bidding methods of confusion). Those of us old timers are appreciative and captivated by the majestic level to which bridge has ascended. However, there exist strong attempts to totally renovate our long-used methods of bidding where ‘this’ means ‘that’ and ‘that’ means ‘this.” If allowed (and we pray not), the game will go to hell in a hand basket — bearing no resemblance to what, for decades, we have proudly known as Bridge.

The most destructive element of this attempt at wreaking havoc on our long used, improved and rather simplistic bidding structure involves confusing techniques. Besides resembling a Halloween scene as it is very deceptive, it will cause contestants to play against trumped-up intentionally concocted bidding systems, slow down the game indescribably by unfamiliarity with the newly arriving chicanery, and force longtime players enamored by their favorite pastime to change their own bidding and defense to cope with it. And, how about all the extra time needed for those relatively in the dark who cause a delay of game. Certainly, they should not be penalized. With the revival of this second attempt to allow ‘ferts’ to infiltrate the system, I fear we will lose many avid players .. either giving it up or returning to relaxing mama-papa social coffee klatches. Is this attempted bridge revolution what you want? I didn’t think so!

Should (by some very dark and distant miracle) ‘Ferts’ and their accompanying ramifications officially ever sadly see the light of day … our once-great game’s replacement should be re-named GARBRIDGE!!