Judy Kay-Wolff


Being a member of the golden age club is not all bad!   I remember the wonderful era of baseball (Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium) where the heroes of the game rode the crowded subways and buses with the ‘rank and file’ — no limos, chauffeurs, private cars, bodyguards, or million dollar contracts. They were just ordinary people who shared the love of the game with the fans.

That sentimental reflection spans the early days of bridge as well.  The game was smaller, the attendance was less, the cost of travel was a pittance by comparison to today’s escalated costs and the directors were a breed of their own.  Everyone knew everyone else.  The camaraderie was out of sight.  It was just one big happy family.

The directors’ names were household words — Al Sobel, Harry Goldwater, Phil Merry, Paul Marks, Jerry Machlin and some others I am sure I have overlooked.   The tradition of such characters earned them popular acclaim and respect — much in the manner of  two current directors — Sol Weinstein and Chris Patrias — who usually seem to be in command at the highest levels.

For several decades, a standout favorite in my hometown of  Philadelphia was Maury Braunstein (whose wild bow ties were his trademark).  Everyone adored Maury (and his popular wife Marian who was also a director).  Maury directed predominantly on the National level but, when available, presided over most of our tournaments — booked in advance by popular demand.  He had a darling personality and I remember his oft-quoted response when someone asked him about the importance of the game to the players.  ”You’d be surprised!  To some of these people, it’s a matter of life and death .. or even more serious.”

In 1997 I vividly remember Marian inviting Norman and me to Maury’s Surprise 83rd Birthday being held in upper New York State and apologizing if it were an imposition.  Imposition? No way!  We were honored.  Norman and Maury were great friends for many years — and we tried our damnedest but couldn’t pull it off.  We were even more saddened when we learned Maury died later that year and we never made it to the big bash.

Below was our poetic message of regrets:


We tried our very best — you see

To fly up — to Schenectady

There was no problem — getting there

(From Philly — we’d catch — U. S. Air)

But getting back — we had a plight

There was for us — no return flight

The evening aircraft — had a crowd

And standing up — is not allowed

So all our efforts — went in vain

They could not ship us back — by plane

Please be assured — we went all out

Our hearts were in it — have no doubt

We planned to show up — with no fuss

But  “a number” — they did on us

Though in the flesh — we couldn’t swing it

We’re thankful for — this modern trinket

So to Maury — and — his charming queen

Our love is sent …  by Fax Machine!


Judy and Norman Kay


GloriaFebruary 26th, 2009 at 11:31 pm

You mentioned Harry Goldwater, who I was very fond of. After the birth of my first child, I, as a proud parent, carried an 5×7 glossy of my gorgeous newborn. Harry studied the picture then turned to me and said, “Maybe he’ll be good in business”.

JudyFebruary 27th, 2009 at 12:02 am

Gloria: Your comment confirmed that is the Harry Goldwater we all knew and loved. I am reminded of another of his funny lines. He was called to the table when the opening lead was made by the wrong hand. Bobby confirmed Harry’s ‘stock answer.’ “Accept the lead because if the person didn’t know he wasn’t on lead, chances are, he wouldn’t know what to lead either.”

Robb GordonMarch 5th, 2009 at 6:09 pm

When I was about 20, I was playing with my mother in a 2 session Mixed Pairs at the Nationals. The second board of this particular round was interesting, and since we were done I pulled my mother’s hand out of the board to make a point to her. The opponent called for the director. Harry Goldwater came to the table and the opponent in all seriousness asked if it was permissible that I was “giving a lesson” at the table. Harry looked very stern and said “No, it is frowned upon. But this is a son playing with his mother, and he arranged for a special waiver before the session”. The opponent looked satisfied and Harry left.

JudyMarch 11th, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Robb: That was typically Harry. I’m sure that was just one of hundreds filed away in The Harry Goldwater Library of Bridge Quips. Perhaps what I loved most was the serious manner in which his gems were delivered. His era of directors were a breed unto themselves.

Mike LawrenceOctober 9th, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Hi Judy,

You seem to have information about Maury Braunstein. I am writing an article in which I wish to credit him with the following statement. Do you know if it was Maury?

“If someone leads out of turn, accept it. If he doesn’t know whose lead it is, he probably does not know what to lead”

Perhaps you have a more correct quote if indeed, Maury is the source.


Mike Lawrence

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 9th, 2013 at 9:59 pm


I remember the person as someone else and when I went to check with my human bridge encyclopedia, Bobby confirmed what I had thought .. not a doubt that it was Harry Goldwater. I once witnessed him making the statement.

Maury Braunstein had some great lines as well — but we can’t take that one away from Harry.



Judy Kay-WolffOctober 9th, 2013 at 10:19 pm

In answer to Mike’s question, I felt this documentation on the internet about Goldwater’s Rule.

Many bridge players have heard Goldwater’s Rule – the suggestion by National TD Harry Goldwater that an opening lead out of turn should generally be accepted because any player who doesn’t know whose lead it is probably doesn’t know what to lead, but the story behind the rule isn’t as well-known.

Here it is in Goldwater’s own words:

“I have been a National Tournament Director for many, many years. I have seen a lot of famous players come and go. I have been involved in some of the most incredible incidents at the bridge table. Yet I will probably be remembered, not for my many years of service to the ACBL or my talents as a director, but for a theory I tested at a tournament in Philadelphia years ago which has been embraced and popularized by thousands across the country whom I have never met. It is called Goldwater’s Rule.

“Al Sobel was running a regional where it all began. During one of the afternoon sessions, he called me to a table where he was making a ruling and asked me to play a hand. I was a little surprised by his request, since it is quite rare that a director finds himself declaring while he is working.

“As it happened, one of the players had inadvertently picked up the wrong hand before the bidding began and consequently was a little more familiar with LHO’s cards than he should have been. Al was promptly summoned, made sure everyone had the correct hand, and ruled that the auction should proceed normally. Satisfied that it had, Sobel still faced a problem. The man who had seen his opponent’s cards was declarer. To achieve par, Al needed a third party to play the hand which I consented to do.

“The bidding had gone 1♠ – 3♠ – 4♠, and I received the ♣10 lead out of turn. Staring at K-x-x of clubs, my options were to accept the lead out of turn, force Lefty to lead a club, or make the ♣10 a penalty card and forbid a club lead. Although you might think me foolish, I decided to accept the lead, leaving my king of clubs vulnerable to attack. Sure enough, dummy hit with A J x x, RHO had led from Q 10 9, and I had found the only way to play the club suit for no losers.

“My pet theory was proven in actual play: a lead made out of turn should always be accepted because anyone stupid enough to not know whose lead it is isn’t smart enough to make a good one.”

Harry Goldwater (1901-1995) of Yonkers NY became a National TD in 1957. Starting in 1962 he served as an adviser to the ACBL Laws Commission and was a contributing editor to the Official Encyclopedia of Bridge. Harry served in the Pacific with the Navy throughout WWII.