Judy Kay-Wolff


My blog "I’VE GOT A SECRET" (intended primarily to call attention to the use, misuse and abuse of the unlimited lower, but more specifically, upper private understanding of the FORCING NO TRUMP OVER A MAJOR OPENING) seemed to have evoked lots of opinions and struck chords all over the place (with private emails as well as "comments").   I suggest those who would like more of a background on the subject read Bobby’s Comment #12 posted today directed to "Richard" about psyches (spelled both ways I see) and the honorable way to handle icky situations.

Where you were reared, by whom and how you were taught has much to do with your approach to the game (re knowledge, style and ethics).  I was a disciple of the rigid KS System but recently have learned to flap my own wings playing a less rigid think-for-yourself logical system — all with immediate alerts if deviating from the norm.  It is a refreshing style playing 1N P 2H (to play) when Bobby immediately says TO PLAY (rather than suspect a transfer by the word ALERT — and deterring the next bidder from calling 2S (as he would have suspected it was a transfer as played by most). 

When Norman and Edgar had a sequence that began 2H P 2S P and the opener responded 2NT, an alert card was immediately flashed.  In their system — 2S could (or could not) have been a psyche, but an acceptance of spades was shown (and alerted) by a 2NT call, allowing the 2S caller to return to 3H if appropriate.   (Obviously, you were not permitted to raise to 3S or god-forbid 4S).   It was part of an honorable system AND ALL FOUR PEOPLE AT THE TABLE HAD THE SAME INFORMATION.

The other side of the coin will knock you for a loop.   Here are two repulsive sequences that are known in the upper echelons but I’ll omit the names of the naughty culprits for obvious reasons.

Case 1:   Opener bids 1H; responder calls 1NT which ends the auction. While opening leader was considering his options,  UNSOLICITED, the DECLARER (HOLDING EITHER TWO OR THREE SMALL SPADES) VOLUNTEERS that his partner neglected to say that he could have four spades.   PAUL CHEMLA, French superstar, got touted off a natural spade lead and received a poor  result because of such GRATUITOUSLY DISGUSTING, SELF-SERVING,  SHAMEFUL ACTION BY DECLARER.   I believe it was quite a while before Mr. Chemla played on American soil again

Case 2 (Same pair):   Their auction began by a 1H opening and a 1S response, followed by an invitational jump to 3S and acceptance of game.   WHEN DUMMY TABLED 20 POINTS AND ONLY RESPONDED 3S, the opponents went bonkers.   It was explained 1S may have been a PYSCHE SO PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT IS NOT TO GO BEYOND 3S TO ALLOW FOR A 4H CORRECTION.  Another "I’ve Got a Secret!"

Perhaps, if these players were beginners, you might have some sympathy for their naivete and stupidity — but WORLD CLASS PLAYERS?   C’MON!!!    It is time more people woke up and smelled the stench of the roses!


Chris HsneyApril 29th, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Case 1 happened to us in a club game last week with similar results. However, I don’t think it was done deliberately based on the pair who gave the gratuitous information. It is good that you bring it up.

I fault the new alert/announce procedures for a lot of this. Folks are really confused about what they should and should not do under what circumstances.

Chris HsneyApril 29th, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Perhaps an article in the Bulletin about these things would be welcomed.

Fred GitelmanApril 29th, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Hi Judy,

Regarding Case 1, I personally don’t think you have presented enough information to justify such strong criticism of the declarer. Perhaps the declarer always volunteers this information regardless of what his/her spade holding happens to be. If so then I think he/she should be commended for his/her efforts at full disclosure.

Of course I agree that if declarer only does this when he/she would prefer to avoid getting a spade lead then that would be reprehensible.

Also, it is hard for me to feel sorry for Paul Chemla (who for sure is a great player as well as a personal friend of mine) for 3 reasons:

1) I am pretty sure that, at least in the past 10 years, the primary factor that will determine if Paul comes to a given NABC is if he happens to be hired to play in that NABC.

2) Paul has many fine qualities, but being a good loser when he gets a bad result is not one of them.

3) As a bridge player, I personally have zero sympathy for players who talk themselves out of making a natural lead based on such things. Did Paul really think that declarer would volunteer such information only if he/she actually wanted a spade lead?

Fred Gitelman

Luise LeeApril 30th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I kind of agree with Fred on this one regarding Case 1… I mean, World class bridge has a huge psycological component to it and therefore I too do not feel sorry for Paul… If this person in question truely is as dishonourable as you claim him to be, then Paul should have known in advance he couldn’t be trusted.

I’m reminded of the “Battle of wits” from the princess bride —

Vizzini:”But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.

But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

Iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. And you must have suspected I would have known the powder’s origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

You’ve beaten my giant, which means you’re exceptionally strong, so you could’ve put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you’ve also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.”

Man in Black: You’re trying to trick me into giving away something. It won’t work.


Man in Black: Then make your choice.

Vizzini: I will, and I choose – What in the world can that be?

Vizzini: [Vizzini gestures up and away from the table. Roberts looks. Vizzini swaps the goblets]

Man in Black: What? Where? I don’t see anything.

Vizzini: Well, I- I could have sworn I saw something. No matter. First, let’s drink. Me from my glass, and you from yours.

Man in Black, Vizzini: [they drink ]

Man in Black: You guessed wrong.

Vizzini: You only think I guessed wrong! That’s what’s so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…

Vizzini: [Vizzini stops suddenly, and falls dead to the right]

Buttercup: And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.

Man in Black: They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

bobby wolffApril 30th, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Hi Luise,

You jest and what a perfectly appropriate intellectual response and from a well done dialogue from “The Princess Bride”.

If Active Bridge Ethics were as simple of only following certain rules or better yet of being able to press a required button (by the rules) and have a message delivered we would probably improve the alert process. However, until that day arrives, proper behavior, even including rules following, will always be somewhat subjective, with right or wrong being determined by what is in the suspect player’s mind and heart, not exactly what his specific actions might indicate. On the other hand, to always give the player in question the benefit of the doubt and require two (not one) bites from him or her in order to place guilt might allow too many unfair results before they meet their day of reckoning and besides in high-level bridge and over many years many dies have already been cast and become well known.

How may we or anyone ever determine the secret of what’s in a player’s heart, you may ask?

Simple, my dear Luise, knowing the real person and who he or she really is, will be of infinite value, particularly in the two great games of love and bridge.

I am full of respect for you!

Judy Kay-WolfApril 30th, 2009 at 4:07 pm


You are the uncontested guru of the internet world and for that I doff my cap– but as to your realistic view of life on earth (the bridge earth, i.e.,) you could not be more — shall we say — off key. The example I gave about this individual is not an isolated one. He is not a stranger to committees for taking challenged “questionable” actions and, in fact, it runs in the family when trying to get what one is not entitled to — but this is neither the time nor place. Bobby mentioned the former incident in his book, but was kindly discreet about withholding names.

As I recall, you and your deputies have enough problems maintainingng honor on the internet and since you are genuinely such a sweet, soft spoken gentleman (and by nature wanting to avoid ugly situations — always preferring to give others the benefit of the doubt), you are so off base, this time you laid a bomb!

When you say — ” Perhaps the declarer always volunteers this information regardless of what his/her spade holding happens to be. If so then I think he/she should be commended for his/her efforts at full disclosure.” NOT THIS DECLARER!

There’s a bridge in Brooklyn still waiting for a buyer. On a scale of one to a thousand, you are closer to zero on your assessment. The issue of Chemla or whomever the victim may have happened to be has no bearing whatsoever. This declarer would have done it against his own grandmother as larceny reigns supreme. Chemla and his decision to play here, in France or Timbucktu had nothing to do with the case on hand. In fact, I remember for a fact that the late, very honorable Grant Baze came up to Bobby after the incident stating that there are only two people who would have ‘volunteered’ that despicable spade-bait information — namely, YOU AND ME (Bobby and Grant). But he clarified by adding: “If we would have announced it, WE WOULD HAVE inferentially held no less than KQ10x!!!

And, to answer your last question, ” Did Paul really think that declarer would volunteer such information only if he/she actually wanted a spade lead?” — I promise you if the volunteer had been Norman Kay — YOU COULD HAVE BET YOUR LIFE ON IT!

Judy Kay-WolfApril 30th, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Dear Luise:

Not being a serious bridge player, you must understand that our game is in a class by itself. Unless you know the cast of characters, no Pulitzer Prizing Winning Novel or the greatest fairy tale on earth could have any bearing on the thinking of a must-win-at-any-cost bridge player. It is an obsession with many and some will stop at nothing to rule supreme. I’ve been on the scene over half a century — so at this point, nothing would surprise me and I felt compelled to relate these tales. It is routine to many veterans — but a revelation to others.

Luise LeeApril 30th, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Bobby, in your comment you said “in order to place guilt”, and judy, you speak of “must-win-at-any-cost” bridge… I suppose I will never, EVER understand the mentality required to play this kind of bridge (nor would I want to). I don’t understand the need to place guilt for a loss. I don’t understand what it is like to NEED to “win at any cost”. I would never want to place myself in a situation where my self-worth and value is dependant on whether or not I win the game. I would never want to put myself in a situation where the “contest” matters more than the game itself.

Bobby, I’ve read a lot of your blogs and posts and I frequently see talk about your high personal standards for yourself and how you much you value winning and being “right”. It is obvious that you are extremely competitive and that winning is very important to you. However there are others who are not as confident or self assured who may make the mistake of connecting their success at the bridge table with their success as a person. When this happens, then of course people cheat. Of course they bend the rules! Of course they do whatever they can do within their power to beat the other guys — These people have had it ingrained in them (either by themselves or by others) that to LOSE at the bridge table means that they themselves are “Losers” — as people.

The problems that both you and Judy speak of has little to do with bridge ethics, and much, much more to do with the person’s self esteem, confidence, self worth and values. What does something like that to people? Were they born with such intense insecurities? Was it something that grew with sad life experiences? Does the intense compettive nature of the game itself act as a catalyst that adds fuel to the fire, causing people with an already unstable mental state to lose themselves and their identity? The drive to be the best, to be the winner, implies that without winning then they are nothing. So I guess they better do what they need to do in order to win. Lie, cheat, or merely bend the rules, etc. It doesnt matter! If I play ethically and lose the game, what does it mattter? I would have lost myself. I would be worth nothing. If winning is THAT important to people, then playing ethically is irrelevant has no meaning whatsoever.

I can’t help but feel sorry for people like that. To never know what it is like to work hard towards a goal and feel proud and good about your yourself for your efforts (not results!), to constantly live life in fear that you will never live up to your own (or others) expectations, to always feel as though you are in someone elses shadow, to always feel second best or never good enough… It must be a very sad and lonely life.

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

— Rudyard Kipling

Fred GitelmanApril 30th, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Hi Judy,

No, I am not naive. I am very much aware of the fact that there are scumbags out there. I will even take your word for it that the unnamed player (not to mention his unnamed family members) is a scumbag.

However, what you describe as “Case 1” in your first post does not constitute evidence of this in my view.

But really my point has nothing to do with any given scumbag (or you or me or Norman or Grant or Chemla or anyone else). Here is my point:

If it is ever appropriate to volunteer “my partner might have 4 spades” then it is always appropriate to do this regardless of what your hand happens to be.

Your reponsibility is to disclose your partnership’s agreements. Your partnership agreements are not a function of the 13 cards you happen to be dealt.

Fred Gitelman

LenApril 30th, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Case 1: The ACBL alert procedure changes frequently, and almost nobody knows it perfectly. The directors, especially, don’t know the correct procedure. I believe you are required, when declaring, to correct any misinformation (including missing alerts) before the opening lead. If that’s not the case, then the ACBL should do a better job explaining that. If I’m correct, then:

a) Declarer was incorrect in announcing his spade agreement, he should have said his partner failed to alert 1N.

b) The last thing anybody should want is a procedure that leaves it up to the (possibly crooked) individual to decide when to follow the alert procedure and when to deviate. Do you think a truly crooked player can be trusted to alert only when it’s disadvantageous?

Case 2: This sounds identical to the K-S auction you gave. If their agreement is as you described, and you believe “ALL FOUR PEOPLE AT THE TABLE HAD THE SAME INFORMATION” then, surely, 2S should have been alerted, since it didn’t promise spades and was, in effect, a relay to ascertain opener’s spade holding.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 30th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Hi Fred:

You used the word scumbag — not I, but I won’t take issue with it. And, to clarify, the unnamed reference in Bobby’s book was singular — not plural — but disgusting and unsportsmanlike — nevertheless. Under ordinary circumstances, it certainly is appropriate to alert BY THE PARTNER OF THE NO TRUMPER AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME (rather than DISGUSTINGLY AND BELATEDLY by the DECLARER looking at two or three little). Let’s be really topical AND CALL A SPADE A SPADE. DO YOU THINK DECLARER WAS TRYING TO HELP THE DEFENDER GET OFF TO A SPADE LEAD OR TOUT HIM OFF ONE? Perhaps, Chemla should have been clever enough to see the double double-cross in progress!

However, the target of my wrath and justified disrespect has a record of this and worse shenanigans and not an unfamiliar face before Appeals Committees. And believe me, Fred, — he will never be nominated for Sidney Lazard’s Sportsman of the Year Award.

Fred GitelmanApril 30th, 2009 at 8:43 pm


If “remaining topical” involves ascribing nefarious intentions to someone whose identity I don’t know concerning an incident that probably took place several years ago that was related to me (at least) 3rd hand, then sorry but I am not interested in remaining topical. I never would have responded to your original post if I thought that this was its purpose.

But since you do seem interested and since I have accepted your word that the player in question is a scumbag, then I will be happy to agree with you: it sounds likely that something nefarious was going on in this particular case even though, as I stated before and still believe, your original post contains nowhere near enough information to draw that conclusion.

However, the reason I responded to your original post was because I was concerned with my reading of of it which to me implied that the very practice of volunteering information like this is OK only if you happen to hold the unexpected hand that you say you could hold. I apologize if I misinterpreted what you were trying to say.

I disagree with this. My point is that is either always OK or it is never OK.

The question of whether “always” or “never” applies is not a matter that I am qualified to speak about. Even though I am an experienced tournament player who tries to do “the right thing”, Len is 100% correct that most people like me don’t know what the rules about such things are anymore. Fortunately in practice I like to think that my lack of knowledge in this area does not put my opponents at a disadvantage – my partners and I try to bend over backwards to tell our opponents what we think they might want to know even if our procedures for doing so are not strictly by-the-book (whatever that means).

To me what you say makes sense: it would be better if the partner of person who made the bid volunteers the information. However, it is easy for me to think of several circumstances where this might not be practical or possible (I will spare you my list).

But for all I know the rules might say “neither player should volunteer such information” or “it doesn’t matter who volunteers the information as long as someone does” or “it is entirely up to the discretion of each player to decide when and who should volunteer information, but it is important to be consistent”.

The question of whether or not 1H-1NT not denying 4 spades is alertable could well be relevant. I have no idea if it is alertable or not, but I am guessing that it is not alertable these days. Even if it is alertable, it is “normal” for strong players to occasionally bid 1NT when they have 4 spades and for their partners not to alert (with no nefarious intentions), for example with something like:





I think that the majority of USA experts these days would respond 1NT with that hand and probably none of their partners, even those with the best of intentions, would ever think about alerting.

Any opponent who felt damaged by such a failure to alert (or volunteer post-auction) would qualify as either a beginner, a Secretary Bird, or a poor loser in my view.

Fred Gitelman

Judy Kay-WolffApril 30th, 2009 at 8:54 pm


As you may be aware, the purpose of the original blog ‘I’ve Got a Secret” was to set off a time bomb with the ACBL about the inadequacies of our alert procedures (both oral and written) as well as the familiarity and expertise (or lack of it) by some of our directing staff. I do not allude to the group of top level mediators like Chris Patrias and Solly Weinstein, but some (not all) below the trials and major events level From the varying responses (comments and personal emails), I believe we have made quite a bit of headway. All I want is candor, equity and equality — no more, no less. I don’t think that is too much to expect!

And, Len, you made a beautiful point.. Much better if offering was made by Opener (not declarer) — but it may not have been as effective as it turned out in the actual scenario as the alert unfolded.

About the KS auctions: 2S over 2H WAS alertable and on the card — as well as the 2NT response showing specifically spade support. That is what is so refreshing about playing against those who respect the majesty of the game. There was never deceipt or non-disclosure by KAPLAN-KAY. Perhaps that is why I am so disappointed with a few of our big names of today — although the majority carry our banner with glory and dignity.

As to my current style — Bobby and I play (except for 2NT) only three level major responses over weak two of a major openings are forcing. (2H P 2S — NF; 2H/2S P 3C/3D — NF)’ BUT 2H P 3S or 2S P 3H are forcing. ALL ON OUR CARD AND ALERTED AS WELL.

What’s so hard about baring all — AT THE RIGHT TIME AND BY THE RIGHT PARTNER??? SEEMS BASIC TO ME — but what do I know? I only have 5,000 points and play simply for enjoyment — with no great aspirations — but it has never daunted my unyielding expectation for everyone

to honor the rules.

bobby wolffApril 30th, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Hi again Luise,

You have clinical, educated (at least in my view), intelligent beliefs about the competitive world and its players. Although a beginning bridge player yourself, you are wise in the various ways of the competitors who are sometimes driven to cheat, obfuscate, lie and/or do anything necessary to be on the winning end instead of just another “loser”.

One of the most enjoyable passtimes I have always enjoyed is starting to occur on television right now. Since probably pro basketball (NBA) and professional hockey are the better examples of the competitive sports available, just to watch the intensity, physicality and just plain seriousness plainly visible in both of those sports on the faces of all the players (and the coaches) shows just how much the possibility of winning means to them. Neither money, family health and welfare, status, nor anything worth mentioning is worth discussing compared to what advancing in the playoffs to the ultimate goal of winning the whole magilla means to them individually as well as collectively.

Strangely, at the World Series in baseball and at the Super Bowl in football it shows, but, alas, not at the same emotional or intensity level.

Why is this so? Alluding to your blog are self-esteem, self-confidence, ability to face your friends and foes, and whatever else that is important, riding on the outcome? Although I agree with you that actually it is not, but while it is being contested that and every other worthwhile thing in life (or so it seems) is being determined with the single result achieved. Could it be that because of for thousands (perhaps millions) of years, warriors have gone in search of self-preserving food for their families (and themselves) with the ability to survive, foremost in mind, and at stake, and with that in the offing, it was wise to play for keeps and protect oneself to live to fight another day as well as to bring home the bacon. We all know that the laws of the jungle are very loose and perhaps playing by the rules (what rules?) was not only unnecessary, but to say only three words, just plain ridiculous.

I think, that if winning was returning with food and life in hand, then we, as warriors, should be expected to play bridge as hard as we can, with nothing held back, and it then would revert to the administrators to tell us the rules and force us to live up to them or perish from the scene, never to return.

In all the years which have passed, warriors (although, now at least, partially civilized) have lived up to basically what is expected, but our administrators have let us down. Politics and self-serving ideas have crept in and being voted on and off the island has become the game of choice, not the totally necessary one of everyone needing to perform to the best of his (her) ability, but always within the rules (both written and the spirit of them).

In bridge, because of the unusual partnership aspects, ethics have become an important and vitally integral part of every hand played as well as all the surrounding logistics necessary to keep score accurately, making following the rules paramount to even being able to have a contest, much less a fair competition which the game itself requires.

If you or anyone else is in any doubt of what I am saying let me sum it up in these words. World class bridge, in order to be played, will require everyone involved to play with the utmost intensity and with total thought and undying concentration to be successful. Anything less, by any member of the pairs or teams competing, would require far too much luck to win (although in practice such perfection is usually not necessary).

If that is true, then while it is being contested, the players can serve only one master and that is total dedication, though always completely honest, and with the active ethics necessary, to be able to have a chance and eventually, upon success, declare themselves worthwhile champions.

No, Luise, any player does not have to win to continue to have self-esteem or otherwise live a wonderfully productive life, but for the relatively brief competitive period during the tournament there is very little in life equal to the sheer joy of competing against one’s worthy equals and emerging victorious.

“If” by Rudyard Kipling has always been my favority poem and I love you mentioning it, if, only for no better reason than for me to have an accurate record of all those wonderful words and thoughts. I suspect that you already know that the passage from “If”…If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…are physically in the locker rooms on display at Wimbledon.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFApril 30th, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Dear Fred:

You disappointed me!! Where’s your sense of humor? What I meant by the word TOPICAL was a play on the term “CALLING A SPADE A SPADE” (referring to the Declarer holding two or three little SPADES). I suppose I am fortunate you didn’t interpret it as getting into racial issues as well or the NAACP might be at my door. I MEANT THE WORD ‘SPADE’ LITERALLY.

FOR THE RECORD — IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU and I have known you too long and have too much respect for your brilliance, your standards and your true love of the game to ever suspect that you would be involved in any way, shape or form! I really have no idea where you were coming from on that one!!!

Fred, the one principle that all these comments back and forth prove — is that we have a long way to go before our organization (at each and every level) clarifies the rules so these ugly situations do not arise again.

However, before I close I wanted to add a direct quote from Bobby (Wolff) in response to your reference to the word “NEFARIOUS.”

“If anyone could possibly believe IT NOT NEFARIOUS that when partner (who should always be doing the alerting) DOES NOT, but in his place, THE ALERTING IS DONE UNSOLICITED BY DECLARER HOLDING TWO OR THREE LITTLE SPADES (instead of KQ10x as suggested by the late Grant Baze) — then I suppose they also believe that The Holocaust never took place either.”

Luise LeeApril 30th, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Bobby – I can’t find fault with anything that you have said. I agree completely with your comparison to other competitive sports and when I asked myself the question of why is Bridge different from all of those games we watch on TV, I guess the only answer that I can think of is that team sports such as hockey, football, baseball, soccer, etc, are all public spectator sports that we watch on TV! They all have referees or umpires on the field making the calls and ensuring the rules are followed, and there are strict guidelines about what happens when someone breaks them. Not to mention the fact that if any judgement call is made that is questionable, there are video cameras taping the event, the infraction is broadcasted across the nation on live TV and if there are any mistakes made by the overseers of the game these mistakes are publically announced and the judges in question are called out immediately, not to mention that there are usually thousands of people present in the stands watching the event in person and they might even start a riot if they get really pissed off or think that someone is deliberately bending/breaking the rules. As a result of all of the publicity, for the most part, the rules are followed because the consequences of not following the rules are consistant across all the games everywhere.

Chris HsneyMay 1st, 2009 at 12:35 am

(for Louise)

ROFL!!! One of my favorite movies and favorite scenes

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 1st, 2009 at 2:23 am


I am not responding to pick a fight with you but perhaps I am realizing for the first time that despite all the time you spend on the bridge-related blogging site doing an incredible job with everything you touch — that you totally misunderstand much of the lingo that catches your eye and what appears to you to sound like pompous asses. Bridge players have big mouths and broad shoulders! Otherwise, they might be playing bingo.

I came from a home in Philadelphia where my mother and her friends played ‘kitchen bridge” — meaning each week another woman hosted her friends for two to three hours of dealt out hands, discussed their children’s achievements (always sensational, of course), gossiped discreetly about their neighbors, exchanged recipes and names of plumbers and painters and had a steady flow of hot hors d’oeuvres and refreshing cold drinks to enjoy when they were dummy. It was a social way of killing time.

No unkind words were exchanged — not because they were such saints, but because one didn’t know much more than the other and it helped pass a night each week before television and much later the computer monopolized our lives.

There are BRIDGE PLAYERS and there are bridge players. That sounds like a lot of double-talk — but truer words were never spoken. Having a “home bridge game” is simply a social arrangement where you do what you want, score to your own liking, make your own stakes (if any), start and stop when you want and no one is accountable to anyone else. You play a ‘set’ — one hand with each partner. It couldn’t be any more informal than that. No laws, no restrictions, no directors, no rule book, no master points — no nothin’!!!!

Eventually those free spirits got wind of a game (or games) held in their respective cities called “duplicates” which rapidly gained in popularity. It was an organized effort, starting at a certain time, on a certain morning, afternoon or evening and there was a person called a “director” who ran the show. This was considered ‘big time’ as an organization called the American Contract Bridge League allowed you to join (for some minuscule fee — at that time) which entitled you to earn recognition for your successful achievement in the form of a fraction of a master point and you would receive a postcard signifying the number of total master points earned by your efforts. It caught on big time and once a month (back in the fifties or sixties), the fourth Monday of the month was designated Master Point Night where the overall winner won ONE WHOLE MASTER POINT. Can you imagine that? AN ENTIRE MASTER POINT. WOW! The following day the entire city would be talking about it like you won the Irish Sweepstakes!

Luise — so far — this does not sound like what you have been reading and talking about. HARDLY!

Once you are hooked on duplicate, you gravitate to the real world of competition — sectionals, regionals, nationals, tryouts for the world championships and eventually money tournaments (which is a story in itself). It is this serious competition which (since you have not traveled the road) has personally offended you because you have never experienced the thrill of the inner challenge of using your learning background and new skills, testing your durability, keeping your wits (and temper), recognizing your own vulnerability and weaknesses as well as those of your partners and opponents, accepting the fact that this is a game to be played by certain rules (which you cannot control — but merely follow) and sooooooooooooooooo much more.

You mention guilt. The only guilt I feel is if I have not lived up to my own potential — miscounting a hand, pulling a wrong card, not envisioning my partner’s (or opponent’s) holding — and many other atrocities I have committed in half a century. However, I assess my own guilt and acknowledging and recognizing it doesn’t make me a bad person — just one who has learned from my own mistakes and tries to avoid a repeat performance (but no promises)!

You also speak of “must win at any cost.” I give 100% of myself whether at bridge, blackjack, blogging — whatever. I am a firm believer — all or nothing. If I lose, I lose. I am used to it. I pick my spots, play where I have the best chance to win, don’t go in over my head — but always know I have put my best foot forward. I am accountable to no one but myself. If my partner is unhappy — let them move on (except Bobby for he’s a keeper; and besides I’d hide his hearing aids and pills — so he couldn’t afford to dump me for less than exemplary performances — although warranted on many an occasion). Remember — IT IS ONLY A GAME. I think of it as a learning experience from which I can only improve.

You talk about self-worth and high personal ideals. Losing at bridge has nothing to do with people’s overall self-esteem or success. Goren was a great promoter — the best! However, he was not a great bridge player. Helen Sobel was a Rockette and learned to play bridge between performances. No doubt she was not the best dancer or the prettiest performer — but she is yet to be challenged as the best woman player of all times. How about General Gruenther and President Eisenhower? World War II heroes never to be forgotten — but their under par bridge had nothing to do with their universal respect and contributions to the war effort. Losers at the table are very often tremendous successes in real life. Look at Gates and Buffett — two of the great heroes of our game — not because of their prowess at the table but because of their dedication and generosity to promoting our hobby and hundreds of other worthwhile brilliant projects which have had so many positive affects on the world at large.

Luise — not playing up to one’s potential (regardless of the level of play) is no crime and no reason for name-calling, recriminations and self-embarrassment. You must always consider the source. Not everyone can be a bridge genius with hundreds of scalps on his wall. Many brilliant people have ‘no card sense.’ That is a proven factor. SO WHAT? (But, Luise, how many people have the unfathomable knowledge you have acquired in your field — and keep getting better and better each day? Sometimes your explanations to me about how to do this or that makes me feel like a low-grade moron as I have no clue what you are talking about — but it doesn’t upset me or give me a complex). And I assure you, I don’t consider myself a loser!


Loosen up. Not everyone can be a bridge star. I don’t feel any the worse for not being a recognized expert! I keep plugging along, doing the very best I can. I have led a very productive life and no doubt my proudest accomplishment (besides my family) is the pleasure I have gleaned basking in the shadow of two of the world’s most talented, respected and ethical bridge experts — NORMAN KAY and BOBBY WOLFF.

Luise LeeMay 1st, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Judy, this is where our media for communicating and the impersonal nature of the internet fails us, for I am not “personally offended” by serious competititive bridge. (Of course, with the exception of my one and only experience — I was offended by that, and rightly so, but I know now it was an isolated incident. I also know that I was not in a good place at that moment in time to handle “failure” and I was not mentally prepared for serious competition. I still am not, but maybe someday I might be…). I understand very well the difference between a BRIDGE PLAYER and a bridge player. In fact, I believe that we are very close in our beliefs about what the issues are (as I understand them) in compettitive bridge. I believe our only difference lies in where the “blame” rests for the “cheating”. While the person who commits the act is obviously solely responsible for their own actions, the failure rests entirely with the administration in dealing with such offenses. You and Bobby have both convinced me of this. I wouldn’t have said this last week, however. These discussions and my own pondering of the issues have changed my mind and I do believe that I now understand your position fully and I agree with you.

SOME PEOPLE WILL CHEAT! That’s a fact. It happens. If they think they can get away with it, they will try! It happens ALL the time, in EVERY sport.

You tell me that people are cheating in compettitive bridge and I do not know enough about it to disagree with you. So if people are cheating in compettitive bridge, then obviously they believe that they can get away with it.

Therefore, the issue must be: Lack of consistant rules, Lack of consistant consequences, and lack of PUBLICITY. The reason I speak about publicity is that I think it acts as a deterrant for future offences. If people KNOW what will happen to them… “remember what happened to so-and-so when they did such-and-such?” etc. then they will be less tempted to repeat the offense.

My words about self esteem, confidence, etc, was in an attempt to analize WHY people cheat (at anything!). I believe that the drive to win can be so strong that it overpowers a persons desire to play by the rules. (Or they just wonder if they can do it without getting caught, and the thrill of the unknowns (what will happen to them) is exciting. Who knows why they do it — I certainly don’t understand it. Cheating is completely apprehensible in my mind – as my father always said, “if your opponents are dumb enough to not catch you when you cheat, then you are smart enough to beat them without it”. But some people, no matter what the game, will try to cheat… Why? Who knows — I was merely guessing as to what the reasons might be. I am not angry or upset with the cheaters, however. If I were to get angry or upset with anyone (which I’m not, because I’m not yet a “BRIDGE PLAYER” and I don’t care… but if I did) then I would be upset with the administration. I don’t think I would directly get upset with the “cheaters” because it serves no purpose — they won’t change! That’s just who they are. (If I had any control over the matter, I would never play with them again.) I would be upset, however, if there were no consequences.

Anyway, I have not completely convinced myself that I will never be a “BRIDGE PLAYER” — I still might, some day. When my kids are older and I have more freedom to go out when I want, I’ll have more time for studying, reading and more time for practice. Some day…

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 1st, 2009 at 3:28 pm


Your father’s words intrigued me — but why should the honest guys be behind the eightball — fighting to get even? That was not the intent of our forefathers who created this sometimes infuriating game more than a century ago.

The great frustration is that even though you (or anyone) is aware (with no doubt) a rape had taken place by unethical calls or other unacceptable behavior , you cannot (on your own) make an accusation. Your options are to call a director (god forbid you slow up the game), file an appeal (which will be screened for merit) or file a “recorder’s slip” (detailing the suspicious incident) — but that and a dime (or in today’s market — two dollars is more accurate) will get you a cup of coffee and who knows if your efforts ever find its way to the proper authorities.

Obviously, cheating is insidious (in any form — minor or major). But even worse is our present method of handling it — for the many reasons detailed in the previous blogs. They want to know why bridge is a dying hobby and young players look toward other avenues of pleasure. Perhaps observations of the way things are handled offer pretty good insight into the answer.

We are at a sad point in the game — although the dues and entry fees of the parent organization are rolling in and collectively millions of dollars are made by the pros (mostly by those from foreign countries received from American sponsors plus fees paid to our own professional top flight performers) who find playing pro is more fun and less work than having a real 9-5 job). Who can blame them? Thus, there is little incentive to improve the ethics and stop the cheating — just abide by the status quo. No muss — no fuss. If it ain’t broken — why fix it? I have observed the panorama since I came upon the scene as a beginner in 1955 — and I guarantee it is barely recognizable fifty-four years later as the same glorious game.

Let me repeat: Money is in “first;” and bridge in “second.” … and it has been that way for a long time now. This is just the tip of the iceberg — but enough for now.

Dwayne HoffmanMay 1st, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Cheating. A strong word indeed. However, I firmly believe it is present at all forms and flavors of the game. I hate thinking this, but it is always in the back of my mind, especially over the last year.

I highly respect Fred and his cadre at BBO. They have done something that I didn’t think would ever take off, and the class he has shown me personally, influenced me to stay in this wonderful game. However, with all due respect, I think his typical easy going, laissez-faire style, can not longer truly be of great benefit to those folks who are so geared into earning masterpoints and rank increases, that when something completely irregular happens, there’s no incentive to write recorder memos and to act on hands to be examined in the proper context. His brilliant creation, is now the breeding ground for ramping cheating.

I can not even begin to think of the number of times, a strange irregularity has happened that was blatant in my eyes, and after research, I’ve asked for the link for a recorder memo, and the directors thought I was the one at fault. That’s not what the system is designed to do, but admittedly, I have practically given up on writing these because of the fact I don’t want to be the “bad guy”.

This is definitely not “Pick on Fred” day here. There are things that he is doing to help stem the tide. However, it really comes down to each one of us, policing ourselves. It starts with being both polite, and firm, in adhering to the rules and decorum of the game (if we ever managed this somewhat successfully, it’ll be a big step forward). That to me is the “active ethics” part – it boils down quite simply, even for this mathematician, to respect. Respect for ourselves, our partners, for one another.

We must be willing to be enabling agents, to help Fred and others, stamp out this blight on our game.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 2nd, 2009 at 2:32 am


I admire your candor as few people are willing to recognize and make as provocative a statement as you did in your opening lines.

I also agree with your plaudits for Fred and BBO. Their accomplishments and format are mind-boggling and the positive affect they have had on soooooooooooooooooo many lives is astronomical. It is so exciting to watch major international matches on your comuputer and read the clever and humorous banter back and forth (though not always accurate — but amusing nevertheless)! I, personally, do not play on BBO but so many of my friends have a field day practicing and improving partnerships. It is a wondrous invention and Fred just seems to keep coming up with one brilliant idea after another.

Having said all that, I suppose I am paranoid (maybe it accompanies old age) about cyberspace competition other than for fun and practice. I am not at all comfortable having trials or other major events decided where total security cannot be guaranteed by quarantining all people in one secured location with appointed trusted monitors to accompany a contestant to the restroom. Seems rather primitive and a total invasion of privacy — but obviously a necessary evil.

Self-policing is not the solution. It is a dreamer’s idealistic approach and it’s got my vote — but it will never succeed — especially with professionalism and big money entering the equation. It is really an insurmountable problem. We need stronger, tougher restraints, penalties and punishments, but at least addressing the issue, rather than ignoring it, is a step in the right direction.

Danny KleinmanMay 5th, 2009 at 4:24 pm

The bypassing of a four-card spade suit in responding 1NT to a 1H opening can occur in either of two contexts.

(1) As responder’s judgment call with four weak spades, whether with six strong diamonds (Fred Gitelman’s example) or otherwise.

(2) As a result of partnership agreements, for example by many pairs that play Flannery, in which a 1S response to 1H shows five, and ordinary four-card spade suits such as QJ94 as well as strong four-card spade suits such as KQ107, are suppressed.

In context (1), the 1NT response is not alertable, the frequency with which responder will have four spades is low, and when he does, the opponent who leads a spade is unlikely to suffer from responder’s having 9543 rather than, say, AQ8.

In context (2), the 1NT response must be alerted, the frequency with which responder will have four spades is high, and when he does, the opponent who leads a spade is quite likely to harm the defense, blowing timing if not a trick in the suit.

So, what should the 1NT responder do in context (2) when the 1H opener fails to alert? There are two legitimate points of view about this. One is to follow the letter of the law by drawing attention to the failure to alert and calling the director, who will no doubt ask for an explanation of the 1NT. The other is to follow the spirit of the law by drawing attention to the failure to alert only when it is material, that is, when he does have a “biddable” four-card spade suit (by which I do not mean 9543). Does that disadvantage responder’s side? Well, yes, but that is the viewpoint I favor, as the disadvantage was triggered by opener’s failure to alert. To draw attention to the failure to alert even when it is immaterial is to put oneself in position to benefit from partner’s failure to alert. Why, then, do I consider the other viewpoint “legitimate”? Only because the 1NT responder can draw attention honorably to the failure to alert … if he adds, “Please do not infer that I have bypassed a four-card spade suit on this deal,” or other words to that effect, in order to protect the Paul Chemlas and other innocents of this world from deception.

Dwayne HoffmanMay 7th, 2009 at 8:42 pm


I am not one to simply sugar coat something which I believe is self-evident. I want this game to keep growing, and one of the three big areas for me that needs to be addresses is this topic – full disclosure. It amazes me that in this age of information, the amount of disclosure, is dropping instead of increasing!

Self-policing I agree, is not an omnibus solution to this issue. However, in terms of practicality, from the grassroots level, it is a good starting point. Call it a reverse engineering effect of sorts – local players doing the right thing at the club level surely can only benefit the entire population in general in terms of expected behavior. Yes, there needs to be some items at the top end of the pyramid as well, but, we have to start somewhere.

Frankly, I think the anonymous nature of the Internet, when it comes to bridge specifically, has had an unintended effect of many players not realizing one of the most critical pluses of bridge: the social element. I’m a youngster in the game, 33, but as a Microsoft Certified System Administrator, one of the things that I have noticed is the detachment that many players now have, both online, and in real life. I think many have lost the art of tact and civility that comes from a consistent, continual, involvement in the other person.

I consider myself incredibly lucky, that in every long-term partnership but one, the player opposite of me, has been of exceptional class and character. My current partnership over over 3 years, is my best one, not because of a superior player, as much as I respect Larry for being the man he is.

If you come to D.C. for the Nationals, please don’t be a stranger. It is my home event, and there’s going to be the extra enjoyment of not only sleeping in my own bed but also equating names to faces, and of course, offering some good home cookin’.

LenMay 9th, 2009 at 12:23 am


The ACBL has a procedure. A player is supposed to alert his partner’s alertable calls. Period. When her forgets, his partner is supposed to notify the opps at a particular time (depending on which side declares). Period. If my call is alertable (say 1H-P-1N, possibly showing four good spades), and partner forgets, HE won’t alert before the opening lead BECAUSE HE FORGOT. It’s up to me. And the laws say I should notify my opps. Period.

Let’s look at the illegal, alternative suggestions above:

1) Don’t say anything when you have two or three small spades (or, I suppose, fewer).

Will the opps be damaged when they see a spade suit in dummy better than “standard” bidders would have? What about the fact that the director can roll back the final pass and allow an opp to balance in a (now more attractive) minor suit?

2) Say there was a failure to alert, and add “Please do not infer that I have bypassed a four-card spade suit on this deal”

Oh how Judy will holler for your scalp whenever you do have four spades!

3) Say there was a failure to alert, and add “Please do not infer that I have bypassed a four-card spade suit on this deal” but only when you lack four spades

Now what happens when you have S5432? If they trust you, and don’t lead spades, you might benefit. If you don’t add the caveat, with bad spades, then where do you draw the line? How do you ensure others draw the line in the same place? (Hint: by following the same alert procedure as everyone else is supposed to)

Danny KleinmanMay 9th, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Len, when responder has two or three spades and does not draw attention to the failure to alert, the opponents have not been damaged. Likewise when he has four spades to the umpty.

That’s the procedure I favor.

The other procedure, which I do not favor but nonetheless respect as honorable, is to draw attention to the failure to alert and add the “Please do not infer …” caveat when you have fewer than four spades. Yes, when you have four spades to the umpty, you should add that caveat also. “Please do not infer …” does not mean to make a contrary inference, it means to make no inference at all. The ethical player is concerned not with the technicalities of what the ACBL says about the alert procedure, but to make sure his opponents are not harmed by his partner’s failure to alert.

MichaelMay 10th, 2009 at 2:08 am

Um, the auction 1H – P – 1NT is not alertable (in the ACBL) when the 1NT is a “normal” 6-9 non-forcing bid, even if it would always be bid with 4 spades (I.e., even in a Flannery context like Danny’s number 2 above). The ACBL in general does not have you alert inferences like that the person could have 4 spades. See http://www.acbl.org/play/alertChart.html which has “Non-forcing 1NT response whether four-card majors are bypassed or not” as no alert. So if you play some system where by inferences the 1NT bidder can have 4S what should you do? You definitely should not alert the 1NT bid. If the opponents ask about your auction you certainly should mention that the 1NT bidder may have 4 spades. But if they don’t ask anything when your auction is over should you volunteer information like this? I’m of the opinion that it is ethical to do so. So mentioning, before the opening lead, that the 1nt bidder may have 4 spades is reasonable to do – but you obviously can’t only do it when you don’t want a spade lead, you should always do it.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 4th, 2009 at 8:46 pm


Um, may I be so bold as to ask what your area of expertise is and whether you serve in any official capacity for the ACBL (paid, perks or otherwise)???

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 6th, 2009 at 4:10 pm


MichaelJune 27th, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Sorry, my original comment took so long to get approved that I didn’t see your more recent response. I’m not an executive or representative of the ACBL in any way shape or form. I’ve received no perks from the ACBL that aren’t open to any other member (only perks are from winning district NAP and GNT).

I don’t like the ACBL’s handling of conventions – I think it is too restrictive, and wish there was more flexibility allowed, especially in open or unlimited events. I agree that there are certain aspects of the ACBL that is opaque and confusing (especially around which conventions are GCC or midchart legal conventions).

But I think it is down right false to say certain things are confusing when the ACBL alert chart clearly states what the right policy is. Top and bottom cues are not alertable, transfer advance cue bids are. 1nt bypassing a 4 card major is not alertable. There is no such thing as a “natural” announcement in an auction.

If you want to willfully ignore the rules because you think you know better, that is your choice. I disagree with that choice. But I think it is very wrong to cloak disobeying the rules under the guise of them not being clear, when in certain circumstances they are very clear.

Tenoba A. BensteinJanuary 19th, 2011 at 1:14 am