Judy Kay-Wolff


Honesty has always been heralded as the best policy.   It holds true with family, friends, business associates and the public at large.  However, should it also encompass truthful answers to posed questions concerning bridge?   It depends!!!

When one expert asks another expert for his valued opinion, the supposition is that the one who inquires seeks the benefit of the other’s good judgment — not necessarily to hear concurrence with the bid or play he made in actuality.   It is not to nurture or soothe one’s ego — but to delve into the mind set of a contemporary — possibly to hear a different approach, suggestion, analysis or solution.

However, do the same conditions of contest prevail when two arguing partners (and lesser players, to boot) accost an expert, pedaling a hand on which they vehemently disagree — each wanting the cornered person to agree with his point of view?    That’s an easy one.   It depends upon whom you ask.

If Bobby Wolff was the target, I guarantee you that neither partner would walk away wondering what Bobby thought!   They would know!   Bobby has never been accused of couching his feelings or fudging his thoughts.  He loves the game too much — and if he is sought out, he will never soft soap or sidestep the issue.   It is not about hurting feelings — but rather about honoring the beauty of our sanctified game (according to The Lone Wolff).    

No expert can escape the inevitable “what would you have done with this hand?” question. Bobby’s predecessor in my life, Norman Kay, had a different  perspective.   He was a very sensitive human being — with a penchant for not making waves.  When placed in the same position, Norman handled matters in a more delicate fashion (like King Solomon) trying to resolve issues fairly and peaceably — with a minimum of finger-pointing or embarrassment.  Norman’s M. O. would include a smile and a soft sympathetic voice asking what the person actually did.

Regardless of how grotesque or irrational the action might be, Norman would appease the questioner by sweetly saying, “It is a matter of judgment, ” or “It could be right,” or “You were unlucky,” or the worst of all possible retorts (at least from my personal vantage point) … “It is an awkward hand” (a luxury Norman never granted to me).  He would be non-committal to the sweet Little Old Ladies who would approach him in a state of bewilderment after being chewed out by their equally unskilled partners.    Those bystanders who knew his style were accustomed to his dog and pony act and found it amusing as they watched his anticipated routine.   However, when I was placed in the same battered position as the LOLs, I received no words of solace — simply the harsh truth.  Norman expected better of me! 

It is hard to fathom that this sweet, soft-spoken gentleman (in the eyes of those seeking a shoulder to cry on) was brutally frank with me in an earnest effort to point me in the right direction.  I suppose I should have felt flattered that he saw a glimmer of hope but it was tough to stomach such a flagrant variation in standards.   My boo-boos never fell into the wishy-washy category as my counterparts.   The old sauce for the goose/sauce for the gander adage was not applied as I was not coddled or extended the same latitude as Norman’s adoring public. 

But it’s not over till it’s over!   A few years after we were wed, when Norman was asked to pen some words of wisdom for The Bridge Set, published by The San Fernando Valley Unit,  he deferred to me and I finally had my day in court.   It didn’t take a mental giant to come up with a subject and the perfect title ….. EVERYBODY GETS AWKWARD HANDS (but me) by Mrs. Norman (Judy) Kay.   (I just re-read it and it’s still pretty funny almost forty-two years later).

The article appeared in the publication’s swan song, the January-February, 1967 issue, but in all objectivity, I don’t think my contribution had anything to do with it going belly-up!


LindaDecember 18th, 2008 at 2:56 pm

While I am obviously not a bridge star I have been at times a big fish in a little pond (my particular pond being a local bridge club). I remember playing with Ray against the a weak women player ( I am no longer using the term LOL for personal reasons). She took an unneeded finesse which failed and made one less trick than the field. She asked me if she could have made more tricks. I smiled at her and said; ” No Mrs. Anonymous, you could not have made more tricks.” And no I didn’t put the emphasis on the you.

I am not always that diplomatic. I love analyzing and discussing bridge hands so it is easy to drag me in. If someone is just trying to win points with their partner than I think the best way to go is to answer like Norman did. I am sure that I don’t do that nearly enough. Team-mates are another issue.

KENDecember 19th, 2008 at 12:44 am

Slight Correction – You should have broadened the category to include LOM (little old men) as well and I will own up to being one of them! Norman never wanted to make anyone look bad (especially in the presence of others.) However, I can assure you that in the privacy of a phone call the next day I would always press Norm to come clean and let me know what HE would have done and why. Norman Kay was one of the genteel giants of the bridge world – past or present! Whatta guy.

As for the article from the Bridge Set that you mentioned – would you please reprint it here? I for one would love to read it.

Robin KayDecember 23rd, 2008 at 9:20 am

Hi Mom:

You did NOT have the distinction of being the ONLY one never to have held an “awkward hand!” I believe that distinction was extended to anyone with the last name “KAY.” When it came to the Kay women he told it like it was ..no words were ever minced. No doubt it made us both far better bridge players than we could have ever been without his tutelage.

I remember many a time when I called home looking for approval or sympathy after a bridge outing only to hear the following responses…“You bid WHAT??? Or “Seriously Robin, what did you really hold?”….It was always said with a chuckle and the conversation never ended until he gave me good advice and the wisdom I was seeking…I can still hear his voice to this day.

There was only one Norman Kay and we were truly blessed to have him.