Judy Kay-Wolff

A CONVENTION (by any other name) ….

With apologies to The Bard of Avon for plagiarizing his words "that which we call a rose.  By any other name would smell as sweet." — copped straight  from Romeo and Juliet.

Before I get to the subject blog, it is appropriate to note that our American bridge establishment continues to rise above the many petty issues of exclusion with which it has been plagued.  Sadly, there was a dire need to form the ABA  (American Bridge Association) in 1932 because of certain prejudices in high level bridge against African-Americans.   According to our ACBL Encyclopedia of Bridge, "In the early days of contract bridge, Afro-Americans were excluded from most major tournaments."   That seems like an eternity ago and thank heavens for that.    We have overcome disturbing tendencies against  pigment color, chauvinism toward female players, sexual preference, ethnic and religious beliefs.  Proudly, our bridge world today has one focus and welcomes people from all walks of life to honor the game and uphold its sanctity.  Biases and prejudices are non-issues!

It is with this in mind, that I dare to approach what I considered a quite humorous (though some might find it ‘sticky’) tale about the naming (or actually renaming) of a convention.    While under my late husband Norman’s tutelage, he reminded me,  "When you open 1NT, if the opponents double and I say REDOUBLE –  PASS!  They have made a mistake."   Norman’s admonition resurfaced as I read a recent email involving my longtime friend and insurance agent, Philadelphian Jack Mendelsohn, who has always exhibited a terrific sense of humor — which the following tale will bear out.  The story goes something like this:

Jack and a partner were discussing the auction above and had agreed to play it differently than Norman suggested — that the redouble demanded partner to respond with 2C and take it from there.   When asked the name of the convention, Jack was told to fill it in on his card as  "Christian Transfers."    Jack, being of the Jewish faith, good-heartedly laughed and allegedly declined to attach that name to the treatment.  Obviously, it was done in jest — and laid to rest.  Two years later, it was discovered that said convention was being played by Jack and another partner, but had been renamed "Hebrew Run Out."   However, we haven’t gotten to the punch line yet.  When I received the update, I noticed that they had misspelled Jack’s surname (Mendelsohn — omitting the ‘h’).   I wrote back, reproaching him,  "At least they could have spelled your name right."   Jack’s exact retort, "Thanks, Judy.   The H he left out was for Hebrew."


RikitikiMarch 2nd, 2009 at 11:50 pm

I have always been curious about how some conventions got their names….perhaps this could be called HRO with Christian Adjunct to cover all bases.

Gary M. MugfordMarch 3rd, 2009 at 3:21 am


I’m skipping the convention part and heading right to a comment about the ABA. Back in the 80’s Toronto hosted the NABCs and I spent most of my time being the PR Liaison. Didn’t get much chance to play the game at all. As it happened, the ABA had THEIR national championships the next week in Toronto, playing at a hotel on the airport strip, which was right around the corner from where I lived. I inveigled locals to go out and play, but most were tuckered out and just couldn’t muster up the energy AND money to go out again. Three of us decided to head on out and see if maybe we could find a fourth at a partnership desk to play in the team game on the final day.

Naturally, when we arrived, we more or less stood out, three overly-pasty white guys dressed in comfortable playing clothes (Also called clothes fit for the cleaners, according to my mother). The rest of the crowd was dressed to the nines. Oh, and they were black, too. In for a penny, we pounded our way to the partnership desk. In our minds, were getting ready for a sorry, we couldn’t find a partner for you. The result was just the opposite.

A six-person team broke up to give us one of their ladies to form our team. Each of us played at least once with Gladys. Truth be told, she was the anchor to the squad. The WHOLE day of good solid bridge was punctuated with the most hospitable treatment I’ve ever been subjected to in a competitive situation. We won a few, lost a few less and placed at the bottom of the results sheet. I’ve never been in a position to play in an ABA event since. And I probably won’t. But that’s to my regrets.

If any reader ever gets that same chance I had, take advantage. Might mean getting dressed up a little and you might be out of your comfort zone a tad. But the reward is immeasurable.


JudyMarch 3rd, 2009 at 6:22 am


Thanks for taking the time to share that beautiful experience. I’ve never attended an ABA tournament but some of our local Philadelphia (as well as New York and Washington) players volleyed between the two leagues. One time I had the distinct pleasure of playing with Dr. Joe Henry. As I was typing this blog, I stopped to check the Bridge Encyclopedia to learn his

home base and was shocked to read that he was the leading ABA player for twelve years running. Just as well I didn’t know it at the time as I was a rank beginner and would have been a nervous wreck.

KenMarch 4th, 2009 at 11:26 pm

One of the most intriguing aspects of the game is how many of our conventions received their names. How often have we heard the expression, “You can’t tell a player without a scorecard.” It is not unlike the enigma of naming a convention. Chrisitian Transfers ala HRO had a really cute twist. I find equally amusing the aged bridge vibes that Jordan is really Truscott and Stayman is really Rapee. Whoever first remarked, “What’s in a Name?” was really onto something!

marvin fergusonMarch 6th, 2009 at 5:01 pm

I’m going to fill in the blanks and correct a few minor errors in the “Hebrew Run Out” story. It all started about 4 years ago when Jack and I were reviewing our snowbird card in florida after a year of not playing. Jack asked me if we were playing 1NT-X- XX as a runout to clubs with all systems on. I replied yes, and that sequence was called Christian Transfers. Jack said he had played it for years and didn’t know it had a name–as he started to write it on his card, he stopped, pretended to erase it and said , smiling, that he wasn’t playing any system called Christian. 2 years later, I was playing with Bob Brent (also of Jewish faith) and we had a similar discussion. I told him about the funny incident with Jack Mendelsohn whom Bob knows, after which Bob replied “that doesn’t bother me” and then as he started to write it on his card, he asked with a grin “is Christian spelled with a C or a K?”. Well that became one of my favorite bridge stories, and then Jack wrote me in February 09 with what became the 3rd part of the story. He said that he and his friends in Philly had renamed the convention “The Hebrew Run Out” or HRO for short. Now as Paul Harvey would say, That’s the rest of the story. By the way,for those of you who know Jack, I nicknamed him the “Philly Flash” during our playing tiime here in florida

Danny KleinmanMarch 7th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Norman was wrong. If an opponent doubles your partner’s 1NT opening (and you have a good hand), he has not necessarily made a mistake. It is only a mistake if he has doubled for penalties based on point-count (which I believe is a mistake even if you don’t have a good hand). A sensible opponent will have doubled either (a) conventionally, for example, to show an unspecified one-suiter (as in BROZEL or DONT) or spades and another suit (as in Super-Natural or Granovetter), or (b) with a strong suit to lead and establish with a couple of aces on the side as entries. If (b), then partner isn’t going to make 1NT redoubled, despite a combined 26 HCP in your hand and his (doubler might have S-Axx H-Ax D-KQJ10xx C-xx, “my kind of penalty double”). If (a), then the opponents are about to run to relative safety, and you may as well tell your story before they tell theirs and shut you out or make you start telling your story at the three-level instead of the two-level. So, it’s better to use the redouble for some constructive purpose of your own. Even when the double is a penalty double (but not “my kind of penalty double” and partner is about to make 1NT doubled, perhaps with an overtrick, redoubling gives the doubler a chance to reconsider and run, which he can’t after 1NT-double-pass-pass-pass. See the January 2002 ACBL Bulletin column “The Notrump Zone” (or the book with that name) for a sensible structure when partner’s 1NT opening (any range) is doubled (conventionally or for penalties); other structuves are possible and have other merits.

JudyMarch 7th, 2009 at 6:25 pm


Norman was rarely wrong. That was his unique sense of humor and his words “They made a mistake” were his way of penetrating my ozone layer — awakening me to that fact that we had the lion’s share of the points and it was our hand.

M BlumenthalMarch 9th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Judy, I generally agree with Danny. See my Bridge Tip # 15 if you are interested. Actually, there are a lot more variations to d ouble of one no trump. defenses changed since Norman played. I’m also trying to restrct myself to writing about standard but will acknowledge a lot of variations are appearing.

JudyMarch 9th, 2009 at 11:30 pm

You guys can agree or disagree till the cows come home. I was merely quoting Norman. That was how he played it and I don’t have to justify his treatment to you or anyone else. Go argue with him!!!!!

GloriaMarch 11th, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Way back in the late 60’s, Jay Cohen and myself played a Kaplan-Scheinwald system. Over opps. dble of our weak NT, we played rdble. forced partner to bid 2 clubs and pass my next bid; however, while playing against our good friend, Merle Moskowitz, he called the director who ruled that the bid was illegal since in essence I was making a 2C bid which leftie could not double. Glad to see that it is now legal.

JudyMarch 11th, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Your mention of Merle brought back lots of pleasant memories as he served as an usher at my wedding in 1963. Despite the fact he called the director on you (and I know how fond you too were of him), he was a good guy who died way before his time. I remember that he came to Philly from Youngstown, Ohio where he and his two brothers owned (or inherited) a very successful rug business. If my memory serves me correctly, he got sidetracked by two other passions — bridge and golf — and one day, because of his over indulgence, found himself on the (pardon the expression) carpet!

As far as the auction you cited, Bobby states that it ‘just couldn’t be.’ The only explanation (if true) is that it was an idea concocted by some unsophisticated harebrained lawmaker as the conventional treatment you mentioned has merit. So, maybe the director was drunk, on drugs or simply confused, but Bobby can’t imagine anything so logical being declared illegal.

Susi RossJanuary 14th, 2010 at 1:45 am


Did Bobby invent Wolff transfers? Or it tha another Wolff?