Judy Kay-Wolff



I think it is high time the ACBL took one step back and looked at the mounting glitches on the tournament scene – and recognized their responsibility for finding a cure. A combination of the brazen improprieties of many of the players by deliberate failure to alert and withholding of pertinent information (plus the accompanying indifference of some of the directors) leaves much to be desired. It is the duty of those in charge to point bridge in the right direction with tact and diplomacy. If they do not have the time, dedication or inclination to right the wrongs and prevent recurrences in the future – then perhaps they should move on as they are not equipped (or perhaps trained) to do their job.

I recently attended a regional and Bobby and I privately spoke to the lovely, caring head Tournament Director who lent a very sympathetic ear to my complaints (and heeded Bobby’s vehement suggestions), promising to speak to the director involved. Several annoying director-related incidents occurred in a two day period. This was merely one of them ….

Here was the situation. You be the judge!

The auction had proceeded:

1C P 1D P



Before I led, I questioned the 1D bidder if partner could have a four card major. The diamond bidder shrugged and innocently stated the NTer probably denied a major but she was not sure. They were a seeded pair, it was not the first time they had played together and not such an absurd question. The fact they did not have a mutual understanding is unacceptable. They should have had one as it is a necessary component of bidding.  Plain and simple.

How could she not be sure? Her partner sat there smugly and volunteered nothing. Why should she? She certainly did not have a four card majorSHE HAD TWO OF THEM. Yet – she did not offer to correct her partner’s misleading information. To me that is unconscionable! It may not be ‘required’ by law which perhaps suggests that our present day ACBL procedures need scrutiny and overhauling. To correct partner’s statement would, in my opinion, have been the decent and honorable action. In fact, Bobby felt much more strongly that the NTer had a moral responsibility to correct the wishy-washy response and come clean, confessing she had both four card majors. Perhaps that is radical and a bit much to expect, but she could have initiated: “I COULD have one or both of them.” Because of the failure to amend partner’s statement, I made an unfavorable lead and then discarded injudiciously, to boot, as I was totally in the dark as to declarer’s distribution and point count. Sadly, the setting was surreal – more like a poker jamboree than a bridge setting.

Even more distasteful was the nonchalant attitude of the summoned director who matter-of-factly (but not before prodding by us) reluctantly told the partnership to get their understandings straightened out and hurriedly left the scene of the crime. It would have served the game better had he explained their erroneous information caused the opponents to misdefend – inappropriately resulting in an undeserved bonus to the guilty partnership. It was clear he was avoiding a ‘reprimand.’

General policy leans toward keeping the customers happy by avoiding situations, thereby encouraging them to continue to patronize the game – resulting in increased attendance and more card fees. That criteria should not be top priority of those in charge – but until directors are better trained, these ill-handled situations will continue.  It should always be an overriding consideration that "common sense prevails."

After the smoke had cleared, I obtained the hand records – in readiness to nurse my wounds — but it seemed to be only the tip of the iceberg. To compound the errors of their ways, we learned our opponents must have been playing weak NT and not alerted as the opener’s hand was AQJ9 AJ52 8 A1095 and rebid 1NT with 16 high card points. Perhaps getting that stealthy high point message across (regardless of the distorted distribution) was more important than denying the fullness of the major suit holdings. We were none the wiser until the following day. Is this what directing is all about? I think not.

It matters not in which venue one is playing (whether it be a club game or NABC).  Our standards should not be compromised at any level. Let’s start participating in active ethics by allowing our opponents to enjoy a level playing field and force the directors to join the party. If the players won’t rise to the occasion, it is the moral responsibility of the governing body (the ACBL and its policy formulating committees) to recommend and sanction full disclosure when a misexplanation is rendered, placing the onus of clarification and enforcement squarely upon the shoulders of its representatives — the directing staff!

Rome is burning!!!!!!!!!!!


Martha BeecherSeptember 16th, 2008 at 11:05 pm

Does it deny a four card major? In a perfect world the 1NT bidder would be the player explaining the bid, not partner, no information can be exchanged as he is dummy. More to the point is the strange rebid of 1NT with a 4-4-1-4 pattern after partner responds one diamond. This is a bizarre action in all cases. When 1 NT does not deny a four card major it usually implies a balanced hand. This is clearly a conventional bid showing a strong NT, without regard to pattern, and should be alerted as such. The failure of the director to explain what the problem is, and take appropriate action, for the damges caused by the bid is also bizarre. Are the directors being pressured to give rulings based on hiring procedures? I hope not.

Playing by all the rules all the time is the only way tournament bridge should be played. One set of rules for club games and another for higher ranking events only leads to problems. This is what causes the newer players to think that they are being picked on at tournaments. They have been allowed to bid, as they please with no questions asked, and feel that is the norm and it is fair game to try and trick your opponents. If playing by the rules drives them away, maybe they should take up a different game.

Blair FedderSeptember 18th, 2008 at 10:47 pm

I play a bidding system that is confusing to my opponents. I would have never allowed the conversation to have continued as it did at your table ( my partner would NEVER have lied to the opponents, like NEVER!!!!). Your opp. psyched your side out by violating system and/or by not informimg you of his/her? treatments. You were simply cheated. It was not a big cheat, but in the olden days, with a Max Hardy, or Spider Harris, or Phil Woods or, well, their names and careers are legendary, they would have exposed the cheating and ruled against it. Now, the directors are paid professionals who don’t play or understand the game, nor do they understand the great shoes that they are failing to fill. They collect their check and submit their expenses. Do they get a pension and /or medical? If so, ouch! Let the club directors run the tournaments, as they lose business everytime the circus comes to town….


Steve GrossmanSeptember 22nd, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Hi Judy–I agree with you–I find something else bothersome, but no one else seems to mind, this is the failure to alert “negative space” when playing a system a bit unusual–Bill and I were playing in a Swiss sectional (A-X) with Jane and her p–our opponents, who are seasoned players complained bitterly to the director about our use of Tartan–even though their partners were also playing multi using modified acol 2 bids in majors–we were told we cdnt play it–ok—but–they were playing opening 10-12 with 1nt or 1 of major–amongst other arcane semi-destructive treatments–and didnt disclose what bids were forcing or non-forcing until non-forcing came up.- i guess this was also ok given the letter of the law–BUT!!–I was so angered by their protestations about our cc coupled with their own flirting with the ethical edges–I lost my cool -and with it my concentration—ok–it was my fault–but the whole experience was painful–if it were the old west, i would have entertained more effective remedies for my frustrations—–anyway—-good to rant about it

Love to Bobby—we miss you


Danny KleinmanSeptember 25th, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I concur in all that Judy says, but conditions are even worse than she describes. The Duty to Disclose Fully has become a Duty to Cheat. To illustrate:



pass pass pass 1♦

pass 1♠ pass 1NT

pass 2♣ pass 2♥

pass 2NT (all pass)

South does not alert 2♣. Knowing that some pairs play this 2♣ rebid as an artificial checkback (a bad method, in my opinion, as I would want to bid as North did on ♠A1073 ♥76 ♦J5 ♣Q9874 or similar), even by a passed hand, you wait perhaps a second or two longer than usual before passing, just to give South a chance to alert (as you wish to avoid one of the usual excuses for failures to alert, “He called too quickly for me to alert!”).

Perhaps even that one-or-two-second huddle is undesirable, as an observant partner who is well accustomed to your usual tempo may surmise that you are contemplating a lead-directing double of a possibly artificial 2♣.

At the end of the auction, most honorably, North announces that 2♣ was “New Minor Forcing” and should have been alerted. Ignorant of the fine points of the Laws, which require him to call the director, South neglects to do so. To protect your partnership’s rights, therefore, you call the director.

At this point, you have already disclosed unauthorized information, namely, that you were contemplating some action other than a pass had you known that 2♣ was artificial. Of course this action was not “demonstrably” a lead-directing double. Conceivably, it was 2♦, 2♥ or 2♠ (yes, I have observed players claiming, after an opposing failure to alert, that they would have taken actions that make even less sense over an alerted call than over an unalerted, and I have seen directors believe them) … but of course anyone with a modicum of common sense would know that the contemplated action was a double.

The director calls you away from the table, and you tell him that you would have doubled a “New Minor Forcing” 2♣. Should the director believe you? Perhaps the double you say you would have made was a risky one, e.g. on ♣KJ105 rather than a safer double on ♣KQ1097.

At any rate, the director believes you. Now the spotlight shifts to your partner. She knows that you have clubs. Dare she lead a club from ♣863? That would be utilizing information gleaned from the fact of your initiating a director call and whispering something to the director away from the table. Is this information “authorized” to her? The director walks away without telling her, but advises you to call him back at the end of play if you think you may have been damaged.

Honorably, partner makes her “normal” heart lead … which blows a trick and a tempo. Instead of going down two (-200, a bottom), South makes 2NT (+120, a good score). You call the director back, say that you think you have been damaged, and request redress. The director says he will consider it.

Note that all of this might have been avoided had North and South followed what is perhaps the easiest rule of all, a rule that requires no skill: Display a pair of convention cards, each facing one of your opponents. A quick unobtrusive glance would have revealed the meaning of 2♣ to you even without any alert.

You play a few more rounds and hear no report about that board from the director. So you approach the chief tournament director to inquire. Then you learn that your opponents’ score has been changed to -200, but yours will remain -120. When you ask why, the director says, “As an experienced player, you have a duty to protect yourself. If an opponent makes a call that you suspect may be conventional, you must inquire. You failed to do so, even though you know that many players around here play New Minor Forcing.”

Soon an opponent makes a 2♣ bid that may be conventional. You wait for his partner to alert, and when no alert is forthcoming, you inquire. As it turns out, the 2♣ bid was standard. Partner leads the ♣K against the laydown 2♦ contract. Declarer, a former ACBL President, misplays and goes down. Then he calls the director and accuses you of bad ethics, alleging that you asked about the 2♣ bid in order to direct a club lead. However, your clubs were ♣J87 and partner’s lead was from ♣KQ62.

The director informs you that you shouldn’t have inquired, because “Very few pairs around here play that convention.”

What does this all come to?

According to current ACBL policy as interpreted by the current crop of directors, you must ask about an opposing bid when your own holding in the suit suggests that it may be conventional, provided that the convention is sufficiently popular among players locally. Failure to guess correctly whether to ask deprives you of redress when an opponent has failed to alert, and subjects you to accusations of bad ethics when there has been no failure to alert.

And to ask only when your own holding in a suit suggests that the bid may be artificial is to cheat. Do the ACBL and its directors really want to impose upon players a Duty to Cheat?