Judy Kay-Wolff


Being married to two Hall of Famers places me in a unique position.   I am joined in that classification by my good friend, the late Betty Kaplan, who divorced Alfie Sheinwold to marry Edgar Kaplan, though the men continued to be associates and their system (Kaplan/Sheinwold) weathered the anticipated chatter and gossip storms.   The other gal to lay claim to that title is Betsey Lazard who was once married to Bobby Wolff (yep, the same one) and became Mrs. Sidney Lazard in the early 2000s.   To those detached from the bridge world, it must appear analogous to playing a game of musical chairs but because of frequent tournament encounters, per force, the scars heal, the ‘exes’ usually become friends and on occasion their extended families became partners and teammates.  (Even the Wolff/Lazard twosome fell into that exclusive category)!  So much for Nuptial Bridge Trivia.                                               

For yours truly, co-habitation (ala legal marital status) with individuals of Norman’s and Bobby’s caliber was (and is still) quite stimulating and offers insight into a higher level of bridge which I never knew existed.  It was like being transported to another planet via a space capsule!  But — rest assured  — it takes a definite toll on one’s ego, image, confidence and self-esteem.  Yet — there is a big ‘up’ side.   If you have broad shoulders, you realize that (in addition to the martial bliss you anticipated – and I have been twice blessed), the positive benefits significantly outweigh the negative putdowns that accompany the transformation.   Norman, for the most part, operated in a gentle, low gear.  His displeasure was evidenced (at least to me) by biting down involuntarily on his lower lip.   He never had to utter a word! (I wasn’t always certain what atrocity I had committed — but I assure you — it was something horrendous)!

However — make no mistake as to Bobby!   He utilizes all his cylinders and you learn to roll with the punches and fasten your safety belts.   Where shall we begin?  Let us postpone his diatribe on harmful Bidding Conventions and tackle another of his gross dislikes: JACK DENIES, TEN IMPLIES (JDTI).  But — as made abundantly clear earlier, I am only the Messenger!  Are you ready?

According to Bobby ..

One of the worst conventions conceived preaches the LEAD OF THE JACK TO DENY A HIGHER HONOR.   In return for this dubious advantage of letting partner know that you are denying the Ace and the King (and also, of course, the queen unless you are playing Rusinow), you are doing your partnership a disservice by telegraphing that message to your enemies.

Let us assume the contract is NT and the classic holding for our purposes here are QXX(X) opposite KX(X) .. or .. KX(X) opposite QXX(X).  The following  are the known pitfalls of JDTI — dependent upon the telltale lead of the JACK or the TEN —                                                                

a)  WITH THE ASSURANCE that the Ace is in RHO’s hand, defender goes about his business by NOT wasting his honor on the first round, wisely saving it for a later go-round (and thereby becoming a charter member of the Honor Conservation Society); and
b)  WITHOUT THE ASSURANCE where the Ace is, it becomes strictly a guess whether to rise or duck.

Another on-point example of the fallacy of this Jack Denies principle is the following:

Let us assume you are defending against a NT contract.  When a singleton appears in dummy (marking declarer with the King and Queen), defender often has little option but to duck (depending, of course, upon the rest of the hand).  If RHO wins the Ace, two winners are immediately established for declarer.  Even if Righty allows declarer to win the trick, everyone knows if push comes to shove later in the play that the remaining honor is safe from the prey of the ace in opening leader’s hand (because the lead of the Jack has already guaranteed RHO has it).  Telegraphing the opponents who has what makes JDTI a lose/lose situation for the defense.

Invoking this principle gives aid and comfort to the enemy, i. e., the informed declarer who knows exactly who holds the Ace.  It lends an added dimension to declarer’s options, removing some of the guesswork, while his not-so-lucky counterpart/s at the other table (either at matchpoints or team contests) have to blindly work it out on their own.   The defense is giving up too much by adopting this method of leading.

Bobby called to mind a fortuitous incident quite apropos on this very subject.   In the mid-eighties, the semi-finals of a U. S. Team Trials went into overtime and Bobby’s team eked out a one imp victory.   He fondly recalls romping home with a 3NT contract and luckily for him, his opponents were playing JDTI.  The opening lead was the Jack and in desperation, looking at KXX in dummy, RHO rose with his doubleton ace and returned the suit, allowing Bobby to bring home the game.    The same suit was led at the other table, but the contract was 1NT.   In this latter case, the location of the ace was unknown so declarer ducked  (as did Righty) to win in his hand and when LHO got in, he returned the ‘non-committal’ Ten and declarer (not privileged to know where the ace was) rose with his King, lost to the unguarded Ace and made only six tricks.  They captured the Trials Final which qualified them to represent Zone 2, and went on to win the World Championship in 1985 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Twenty-three years later Bobby recounts the JDTI hand from the Trials and is a cogent reason for his continuing hang-up about Jack Denies, Ten Implies!

Stay tuned for more …..


PegDecember 29th, 2008 at 12:08 am

I knew there was more than one good reason that I admire your husband. I, too, cannot stand “jack denies”. Thus, despite the brickbats I must face at times (“you are soooo prehistoric with the conventions you utilize”) – I stick to my principles …. and laugh inwardly when they pay off!

M BlumenthalDecember 29th, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Yes, jack denies may give declarer information, but remember declarer can see two of his side’s hands, but a defender can only see one so thus it may help the defender more than it does the declarer. Also, the opening leader may lie if he feels he has so much of the defense’s assets that his partner doesn’t need to be told the truth. I don’t normally play the convention but will if my partner wishes to.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 29th, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Mark: I fully understand the two against one principle — allowing the declarer to be one up on the defenders. However, lying to partner (especially on opening lead) I feel is unconscionable and though it may deceive declarer, it may cause your partner to misconstrue declarer’s holding and misdefend as well. It’s six of one — and half a dozen of another — which brings us back to Square One.

M BlumenthalDecember 30th, 2008 at 12:54 am

Judy – The principle is not lying to your partner but deceiving declarer. If you judge your partner will be irrelevant in the defense you might as well try to all you can to mislead declarer. It’s similar to underleading an ace on opening lead. I know Peter Pender did it often. One of the things Goldman told me when we first started playing on the Aces was that he never underled an ace on opening lead. As you can see in my little section about Walvick’s doing so, it’s always the opening leader’s fault if it doesn’t work out. If the leader’s partner works it out very often, there is a good chance the pair is wired.

PaulDecember 30th, 2008 at 11:34 am

It is always interesting to see how a convention, such as Jack denies, can create such diverse opinions. I’m not a fan of it personally but don’t regard it as so violently bad as Bobby appears to.

And what does this say of his opinion of its users? Presumably the semifinalists in the US Team Trials are fairly good players. They have decided to use this convention, presumably because they believe it wins more than it loses. Or did they just decide to use the worst convention they could find?

Little is black and white in this game.

Bobby WolffDecember 30th, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Paul brings up an interesting philosophy which causes me to expound further.

Strong opinions are often somewhat exacerbated depending on how they are described and who is presenting the description. Yes, Paul, you were on target with your assumption, “… Presumably the semifinalists in the US Team Trials are fairly good players….” Our opponents on that particular hand happened to be Paul Soloway and Bobby Goldman, fellow Aces, former teammates, a great partnership and two of the best players ever (who are sadly no longer with us).

It is a question of ideology.  Some of the great participants, especially Bobby Goldman, were actively into bridge theory and needless to say, contributed mightily to the high-level improvements of partnership action.

Having said that, it may be worthwhile noting that at the same high-level stratosphere lie two distinct varying approaches to the game itself.  The first tenet is clung to by the totally scientific stars, leading others to believe that it is always beneficial to arm partnerships with as much information about each other’s hand as possible (both in the bidding and in the defense), discounting advantages which certainly normally accrue to the opponents.  The contra view,

held by pragmatic experts (usually, but not always, more naturally talented players), is that there is a fine line distinguishing which side benefits most from specific more modern conventions (both bidding and defending) which help define hands and their results.

Therein lies the rub! Obviously, there is no doubt in which distinctly different categories Bobby Goldman (the theorist for that partnership) and I each belong.  I think it is necessary to not neglect considering the following fact:  Against probably all levels of play except the VERY top level Bobby Goldman was on point.  I am strongly suggesting that “Jack Denies” is not a good convention to employ against Gabriel Chagas, Benito Garozzo, Bob Hamman, Zia Mahmood,

Jeff Meckstroth, Eric Rodwell and Co., as well as many lesser-known great performers who are presently on their way to stardom.

In my not-so-humble opinion, the above players and their contemporaries will “have those JDTI users for lunch!”

Other than Jack Denies, there are other treatments (in both bidding and defense) which serve as a basic comfort zone to their users, but again, in my opinion, promote for the top level opponents far too great an advantage. The bottom line is that its use challenges the effectiveness of the partnership and edges them into the minus column!

Ray LeeDecember 30th, 2008 at 8:48 pm

As Brian Senior said to me rather acerbically (which is typical for Brian!) a couple of years ago regarding the Namyats convention, ‘It’s important to remember that bridge is a 4-person game, not a 2-person game’. There are many conventions in carding and bidding, including some very popular ones, that are beautiful and useful in a 2-person context, but that one should regard with a very jaundiced eye in a 4-person context. Weigh very carefully what you are giving up as well as what you are gaining when you adopt one of these methods. I confess that I play JDTI, because frankly, I need all the help I can get on defense. But I know one of the future columns is going to be Bergen Raises, and I couldn’t agree more with Bobby on that one 🙂