Judy Kay-Wolff


Mark Blumenthal’s blog, "Cheating Caught" brought to mind a story about a female Philadelphia partnership whose consistent mind-boggling scores put the glorious world superstars of their day to shame.   They dominated the local women’s events especially.  (In fact, one did exceptionally well — playing with her daughter when her regular playmate was unavailable).

Both of my tales had NJ settings.   I was playing with my Matron of Honor and first real female partner, Helen Smith of Philadelphia, who recently passed away (not to be confused with the world class Rockette and probably still considered the best woman player ever — Helen Sobel Smith).   The scene was an Atlantic City Regional.   Our average two-session score was 209 and I was ecstatic as I could hardly count trump — but we missed winning by a mile to that "lucky pair."   There had been whispering campaigns for many years but in those days, there was a fear of law suits and other recriminations — so that chatter continued — with no attempt at serious investigations.

The following year, there was a Regional in Asbury Park and Norman and Edgar wanted to practice in the Open Pairs so we decided to drive over for the day.   I played with a local friend named Merle who was a pretty decent player; Betty Kaplan played with Jacqui Mitchell and of course, Norman and Edgar.    At dinner the hands were discussed and it sounded like the other two pairs would be among the leaders.   You will find the next statement hard to believe — but I swear it it true !!!!  Their scores came in horrendously and Merle and I (with a shade over average score) were the only ones to make the cut.   That presented a problem as it was not fashionable (or considered cricket) to withdraw – so how would Norman kill the evening while Merle and I played?

Edgar (aware of the rumors about this frowned-upon duo) suggested that Norman and he pull up two chairs and kibitz them for the 26 boards.    Norman was squeamish but Edgar shamed him into it.    The women’s afternoon results were in the 200 area, but not surprisingly at night they were close to two boards below average.   Stage fright?  I doubt it!   Their fun and games were put to an abrupt halt and Edgar and Norman assessed them (at best) as very ordinary above average players whose combined style was much more effective without eavesdroppers.


Danny KleinmanMay 21st, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Long-time Southern California star Mike Shuman has a defense against the Kaplan-Kay procedure: get the club or tournament director to bar a knowledgeable kibitzer (especially if the would-be kibitzer is the District Recorder). It works!

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 21st, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Danny: Thought you could only bar ONE kibitizer. And, in this case, Edgar could have accomplished his mission unassisted. Norman was just added for table dressing. The ongoing liaison were driving people up walls and it was time savvy players saw the show from start to finish. It proved without a shadow of a doubt the rumors were not figments of people’s vivid imaginations. In fact, I could think of no one more appropriate than the District Recorder having a front row seat. It’s known as fighting fire with fire.

Michael ShumanMay 22nd, 2009 at 4:53 am

Kleinman has made a reference about my “defence to the Kaplan-Kay precedure.” This comment is irresponsible and without any basis of fact. This “bridge player”, and I use that term cautiously, is out to besmirch my reputation in the Bridge World from a grudge of several decades ago. Danny is a decent bridge writer…….period, drop your voice.

Danny KleinmanMay 22nd, 2009 at 3:23 pm

The time I tried to watch Mike Shuman play with Rose Levy at the Bridge Academy in Reseda was on the evening of Tuesday, November 12, 1991. Director Rand Pinsky told me that at the players’ request, he was barring me. Is that the “grudge of several decades ago” to which Mr. Shuman refers? If not, just what does he think the “grudge” is?

Michael ShumanMay 22nd, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Oh please, Danny. Surely one is able to (in fact, should) bar a kibitzer from his table if either player is uncomfortable with that kibitzer’s presence. This is done frequently without any suggestion or inference of ethical standards! You brought my name up in context with Judy Kay-Wolff’s text on cheating! Bad association! But I’m happy to have an unblemished record in that area. BTW: Tues. eve. of 11/12/91? Wow! You have a remarkable memory for incidental dates!

MarthaMay 29th, 2009 at 2:05 am

Danny, I take offense at your statement about Mike Shuman. I have been friends with Mike for many decades and find him above reproach. I think you owe him an apology. To allow something so minor to fester since 1991 is a bit baffling so say the least.

Mark LombardJuly 3rd, 2009 at 3:33 am


Pistols at dawn?