Judy Kay-Wolff


Even at the highest levels of the game, conventional preferences play a big part.    What one guru may embrace — another might despise.

Let me begin with a disclaimer.  I, in no way, profess to be an expert or a theorist.  I am merely sharing with you some words of wisdom that have been (if you’ll pardon the expression) ‘espoused‘ to me by my bridgemates.

Norman, who publicly soft-pedaled his preferences and turnoffs, departed from the norm — vociferously decrying the merits of ROMAN KEY CARD BLACKWOOD.   I recall kibitzing a practice session in New York’s legendary Cavendish Club.   Norman and Edgar were testing their partnership against another pair who were in the same boat.   Their opponents (both world renown players who shall remain nameless) — in a long, complicated, scientific (?) auction reached a grand slam.    Apologetically and in a meek, embarrassed tone, Norman offered, “I am afraid I’ll have to double.”  In disbelief, each of the opponents leaped from their respective seats,  and in sync questioned …… “YOU don’t have the trump ace?”   So much for RKCB — but those things happen in the best of families.

Another one of Norman’s ‘unfavorite’ conventions was the UNUSUAL NT.    He claimed if it succeeded in landing you the contract, it served its purpose.   However, the other side of the coin had immense drawbacks!  Should you get outbid, it presents your opponents with a AAA Road Map, advantaging them with far too much information about your distribution and allowing them to make educated guesses as astute declarers.

Norman played with Edgar Kaplan for over forty years (with a temporary hiatus from 1960-63 when he partnered Sidney Silodor until his death in August of ’63).  in 1964, Kaplan-Kay reunited.  With regard to system designation, Edgar was the uncontested Chief and Norman the Indian. The Kaplan-Sheinwold style of bidding prided itself on playing WEAK NT (12-14) and a strong, forcing 2C rebid over a 1D opening.   The latter treatment remained intact till Edgar died in 1997.  However, the 12-14 opening NT was drastically revamped by Norman after he went for 1100 against a part score (doubled and very vulnerable)! To make matters worse, the hand was written up by Bridge Columnist Florence Osborn on New Year’s Day in the old New York Herald Tribune for the world to see.   We were attending a neighborhood celebration that very afternoon and Norman had to endure a lot of good-hearted teasing and the titters of his erstwhile admirers.

On the evening of January 1st an ultimatum was issued to Edgar and from that moment on — the Kaplan/Kay Convention Card charted their 1NT openings as 12-14 NON VULNERABLE ONLY (which Edgar tauntingly referred to as “Cowardly KS”).   I have triumphantly converted Bobby to that version of the Weak NT,  but he is a ‘tough sell’ and the jury is still out.  Whether I have achieved a permanent victory — or he is merely humoring me for the time being — remains to be seen.

To be continued ….

1 Comment

NeilDecember 26th, 2008 at 1:39 am

Sounds like your Norman had some strong convictions – but I am guessing Bobby drives an even harder bargain. Your closing (“to be continued”) suggest there is more to come and after reading THE LONE WOLFF, nothing would surprise me.