Judy Kay-Wolff


I remember with enormous pride the days of Greenwich, Connecticut, when honorable gentlemen like Alvin Landy and Lee Hazen were overseeing the operation of the ACBL along with the help of Nat Cohen, Peggy Adams, Tommy Harris and a couple others — all bridge players who understood and loved the game.  Incredibly competent senior directors (with great senses of humor) were on the scene — such as Uncle Al Sobel (his second claim to fame being the ex-husband of probably the greatest woman player ever, Helen Sobel Smith), Harry Goldwater, Jerry Machlin, Paul Marks and a warm (though very capable) group of directors who always handled difficult situations with good humor, honor and equity — rarely necessitating the assemblage of committees.   Of course bridge was minuscule then, by comparison to today’s gigantic diversification into countless areas — most of which, by nature, create more and more controversies, unholy alliances, disagreements, political adversaries, duals for power and dominance and unending differences of opinions — depending upon which camp you live in and on which side of the fence you reside.    Powerful and respected personages like Edgar Kaplan, Baron von Zedtwitz, Easley Blackwood, Sidney Silodor, Eric Murray and a few more I have overlooked were on the scene, doing their damnedest to have the game run on an even keel and keeping the confrontations at a minimum.    Fractions of points were treasured acquisitions and the bridge dues and entry fees were a pittance of today’s inflated figures.

Bridge was so much more pleasant and simpler back then and every day now seems to present unending confrontations, disagreements, jockeying for positions, power ploys and a series of problems with strong views on both sides — making the overall scene unpleasant and antagonistic.   This blog was provoked by the goings on in the areas of alerts, non-alerts, when to flash the blue card, when to speak up, when to remain silent, when to pre-alert, when to conceal your private understandings .. whatever your secret happens to be.    That level playing field for which bridge was intended is no longer existent.   It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that Jay Baum, whom Bobby and I have found to be one of the most honorable and forthright CEOs with which the ACBL has ever been blessed, is not granted more independent authority– because he suffers from the confinement of twenty-five pairs of handcuffs on a daily basis.

Since the BOD is the administering governing body (who are not expected to be well-educated in the area of bridge expertise, laws and rules), they should have a serious, conscientious responsibility to appoint honest, unbiased, top expert-class, dependable, trustworthy, non-political people without personal agendas who will see to the passage of the fairest bridge laws in the land and fight for the outlawing, reversal and revocation of any presently existing regulations unfair to the bridge world at large.

As most of you well recall, I embarked upon a rampage in my original blog of "All’s Fair in Love and War (but not Bridge)," dated February 26th and continued in its follow up on May 7th when Robb Gordon, a respected friend who serves on the Laws Commission) belatedly responded.     The introduction of the original subject almost caused a revolution because of my resistance and blind disobedience to the ‘new alert laws’.    There were countless blogs exchanged and the greatest defense seemed to do with the waste of time alerting and how it holds up the game.  Toughies!   If you like fast action, play in the Speedball Pairs or treat yourself to a weekend at a Nascar Event.  In case anyone has had a memory lapse, bridge was a game originally designed to be played by ladies and gentleman and its primary goals were honor and ethics.   I owned trotters for twenty years and the excitement of crossing the finish line (especially if my standardbred reached the wire first) was an incomparable thrill.    However,  this is not Santa Anita or Roosevelt Raceway.   Bridge may be a timed event, but one cannot place stealth (under the guise of speeding up the process) before full disclosure.

To my way of thinking, THERE IS  NOTHING THAT SUPERSEDES the MANDATORY SHARING WITH YOUR OPPONENTS OF YOUR TOTAL UNDERSTANDING WHEN A SPECIFIC SEQUENCE ARISES.    Bobby and I want you to understand what we feel is playing honorably with your opponents.

Example #1.   We play WEAK NT (NV 12-14) (V 15-17).   In both instances, we play two way Stayman (2C intended as NF to game ) (2D as GF).    There are times in one’s life when judgment must be exercised.  YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO TELL YOUR OPPONENTS YOUR HAND.  In most instances, when 2C is bid by the responder, it is intended as NF and the opener does not expect to reach a game.    Let us examine a specialized situation where Responder holds KX AXXX  XX  AXXXX.  You certainly do not want to miss a game opposite a strong NT and prefer to look for a 4/4 major fit — so you use Stayman.   BUT, why should you bid a forcing 2D with such a weak diamond holding and set yourself up for a lead directing double? Thus, your Stayman call is Two Clubs and eventually bid either a major game or settle for 3NT.     Because of this tendency, we do not just say ALERT.    The partner of the 2C bidder says "It starts out as non-forcing Stayman (whereas 2D is 100% game forcing).

Example #2.     Being septuagenarians (but in possession of all our marbles) we choose to employ antiquated bids over our own NTs.   Do any of you remember the days before transfers came into existence???  There may still be a few of you around.   TRANSFERS are the "IN THING" in the 21ST CENTURY — but not for the Wolves!   Since we elect to play two-way Stayman, transfer bids are not an option at the two level.   So, when the auction (in either vulnerability) proceeds 1NT P (2D),( 2H) or( 2S) — we simply DON’T SAY ALERT – as most people treat them as a transfer to hearts, spades or the minors) without bothering to inquire.     AGAIN, probably contrary to the newfangled alert system, Bobby and/or I SAY:  (2D) FORCING TO GAME STAYMAN; (2H) NATURAL — TO PLAY; (2S) NATURAL — TO PLAY.


THUS, BY TOTAL DISCLOSURE BOTH WE AND OUR OPPONENTS KNOW WHAT THE BIDS MEAN AND WE GO TO BED WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE.  DAMN THE TORPEDOS AND THE SIMPLE RECOMMENDED ALERT BIDS WITH THE ONUS ON UNSUSPECTING OPPONENTS TO INQUIRE!    Honesty is still the best policy but when I read about the recent innovations, it makes me shake in my boots when I think about what the game has become.


Chris HasneyJune 1st, 2009 at 6:31 am

Judy, I’d like you and Bobby to carefully consider this before answering. At any vulnerability, the auction begins with 1NT (announced range), 2H overcall, DBL. You play this as takeout showing 4 spades and cards. ACBL says no alert or announcement required. Would you be quiet, alert, or announce that this is a negative double? This comes up all the time and drives me nuts.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 1st, 2009 at 8:30 am

Chris, the problem is the ivory tower dwellers haven’t set their clocks ahead to accommodate the time change. For decades, that double was penalty. We all played it that way. The first time Bobby and I played, he looked at me as I escaped from the booby hatch as I marked our card as high cards and penalty. “Penalty” — he scowled! It is 100% takeout. That was my introduction (rather publicly humiliating) to this popularly accepted takeout method. You have hit upon the very essence of my article. THINGS CHANGE — but perhaps the ACBL has not yet taken this into account. Whichever individuals effected the alert changes should come to the realization they have caused more harm than good. To avoid any confusion until it is all resolved and uniformly accepted, how can they frown upon alert announcements to keep the enemy out of harm’s way. With all of today’s bidding revolutions (and what Bobby calls “the foxes in the henhouse”), it is worth every ounce of energy of the “administrators” of these changes to allow for the adjustment and education of non-alerts (right or wrong) — or bedlam will exist and worsen. It has already reared its ugly face at the club level. The presentation and rehandling of alert or non-alert issues MUST BE REVIEWED AND DEALT WITH PRONTO.

Thanks for raising the issue. It was the perfect question and bridge’s higher-ups’ job should not be (as you say) to drive people such as you nuts!

PaulJune 1st, 2009 at 1:14 pm


Adopting your own alerting rules may be acceptable playing down at the local club, but try this at a UK tournament and I’d expect a serious warning the first time you announce an unalertable natural call (of a 2H response to 1NT) and a disciplinary penalty the second time.

I fully understand what you are trying to do, but others will consider that your partner is TELLING you what your bid means. This may not be a major problem with an ethical pair, but are you happy when a professional with a weak client starts doing this?

There are many faults will the alerting procedures around the world, but I think your approach, albeit with the best intentions, will not improve things.


Danny KleinmanJune 1st, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Bobby and Judy have it right: whatever we know because of our partnership practices, whether newfangled conventions or treatments like Negative Doubles when they overcall our notrumps, or oldfashioned treatments like natural 2H and 2S responses to 1NT that have become (to put it mildly) unusual, we must disclose to them.

Alas, some pairs that try to be ethical receive tongue-lashings from opponents, warnings from directors, and other scoldings (see a comment from “Len” on Judy’s blog not long ago calling me unethical) for alerting things that the ACBL (did it move its headquarters lately from Memphis to Mount Sinai?) does not include on the list of alertable calls that nobody can memorize. Just yesterday I heard from an opponent at the table that he and one of his partners used to alert an unusual method in order to avoid deceiving their opponents but stopped because they were warned by directors not to alert it. “Now almost every time we use it, we get a top, because without an alert, opponents neither look at our convention card nor inquire.”

The motivation for opposing alerts of officially non-alertable methods was that alerts could clarify confused auctions. Example: A player overcalls a 1C opening with 2C. If it’s Michaels, it’s non-alertable, but if it’s natural, it’s an alert. His partnership agreement is that it’s Michaels, but he plays 1C-2C as natural with other partners and this time he has forgotten and has AQJxxx in clubs. His partner alerts, and in reply to an opponent’s inquiry explains 2C as Michaels. Oops, the wheels have come off! Advancer bids 2S, overcaller now “corrects” to 3C, and advancer passes. 3C makes three, whereas 2S would have gone down two. See what harm has come to the opponents from an alert of a non-alertable call!

I say, nonsense! Call the director. A competent director adjusts the result to 3S down three or 4S down four … and scolds advancer for passing 3C (perhaps also scolding overcaller for bidding 3C if they play new-suit advances as non-forcing and overcaller removed 2S to 3C with Jx in spades). In the absence of evidence to the contrary, a competent director assumes that the alert and explanation clarified a confused auction for overcaller, and that advancer passed 3C because of some mannerism of overcaller that tipped him off to pass.

So, the cure (and when applied, eventually the corrective) for transmitting useful information to partner by alerting supposedly non-alertable calls is simple: just enforce rigorously the prohibition against utilizing unauthorized information. A player must be “deaf” to his partner’s alerts, announcements, explanations and even failures to alert … until (if false information has been conveyed to the opponents) the time comes (at the auction’s end for the declaring side, at the end of play for the defenders) to call the director and make the necessary correction.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 1st, 2009 at 2:21 pm





JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 1st, 2009 at 2:27 pm


You always are far ahead of the field in directorial gray matter. Few seem to understand that regardless of some of the ridiculous new non-alert rules — the field is getting the worst of it. I am tired of wasting my breath. Bobby and I do what we KNOW is right to give our opponents the best shot to be on level ground. We can’t do more than that! This is all gettting to be a broken record — but most people don’t understand how to put the pieces together.


Bobby WolffJune 1st, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Hi Chris,

If I open 1NT (regardless of weak or strong) LHO responds 2 Hearts (assumed either natural or semi-natural) and partner Doubles, I would immediately blurt, “Negative, not penalties”! By not alerting it puts RHO in an embarrassing position of having to ask if his hand warrants it (which obviously gives away UI) or instead, doesn’t ask, but passes which, in its way, may also give away UI.

I can understand why some would not want to alert and make the opponents uncomfortable and even set me up to protest if I got a poor resuilt by my later claiming that the opponents took advantage of UI. The people who should be penalized are the numbskulls (or crooks) who make these rules. In case you are wondering, I would rather be thought of as a crook.

Our new alert motto should be: Ever onward, ever backward. My guess is that throughout ACBLdom about half of our players would play that double penalty (always done in the somewhat distant past) and half would play the more modern style of takeout.

What else needs to be said?

Bobby WolffJune 1st, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Hi Paul,

When I just wrote my blog on this subject I merely answered Chris’ question, I didn’t read the other blogs.

With all due respect to the UK’s position, bridge is not a game when our rulesmakers can cater to the cheats who play it. If it is thought that (in your example) someone alerted in order to tell his partner why he was removing the double (usually pro and sponsor) a TD and later a committee should penalize that pair severely with greater penalties to follow if done again. There is no way that our laws should play the game of crooks and accomplices, since both masters can never be served.

I ask you to get your home country to look deeper into the reasons for their rules. Their current rule will hurt to the very essence of the game and is impossible to administrate.

PaulJune 2nd, 2009 at 11:16 am

Hi Bobby,

My only point was that our administrators wish the players to play by the regulations they publish and not make up their own alerting rules.

In defence of the English Laws and Ethics Committee (L&EC), not only do they publish their minutes fully and in a timely manner but they are very responsive to private correspondence and most of them are very active in public Internet forums on the Laws.

England also has a Club Committee, representing all the clubs of the land, that provides input to the L&EC especially in the area of alerting policy. In the last six months the Club Committee actually prevented a change in the alerting regulations as they believed it was too skewed to tournament players and not the majority who play in clubs.

So when pairs make up their own alerting rules, although I fully understand your intentions are pure, the Directors will not be very tolerant.

Please be assured that I, and I’d hope (and expect) everyone, fully supports full disclosure. And I strive my utmost to do this within the legal framework that I play.


PegJune 2nd, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I will still look forward to the day when virtually everyone has their own mini-laptop. We’ll bring ’em to our game, and play on it instead of using real cards. Then, we’ll be able to privately alert and explain all bids without worrying about UI with our partner. Afterwards, all our hands will be saved and we can see who did what on each board, too.

Oh well; I can dream!

Bobby WolffJune 2nd, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Hi Peg,

There is no doubt that your solution about playing on modern laptops, even at the club, would probably solve the UI problem which we are both concerned about, prompted by either no or even untimely alerts.

However, it does remind me of the story of the 900 pound gorilla who was taught to play world beating golf in a relatively short time. On exhibition, he stepped to the first tee and hit a 530 yard drive landing 2 feet from the hole on a par 5. After shuffling to the green (he was too big for a cart) he took his putter, addressed his ball and hit it another 500 yards toward the second hole. One problem thought solved, another one to be addressed!

Peg, perhaps instead of computers, we can address the Active Ethics conundrum and somehow get religion into our motivation to vastly improve our potential marvelous pastime. We could start by increasing penalties for disobedience and swift but sure punishment for not following our ethical commandments. Just as importantly, we need to use better judgment with well intended others, who are innovative in trying to help and raise our sophistication in determining the difference. Without doing this or something very similar, our failed history should clearly inform us we have been born dead.

We need your help so stop dreaming!

Ray LeeJune 2nd, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Judy, it’s not just the UK. I have on more than one occasion had the director called for alerting a non-alertable call (which I thought opponents entitled to know about). The first time they only thought about it AFTER they had achieved a VERY bad score in the play, and were looking for an out. Unfortunately, the DIC (in a National event no less) gave it to them.

More recently, the following auction occurred:

Me Linda

1H 2D

2NT (15-19) 3C (alerted)

3D (alerted) 3NT


LHO, on lead, enquired about the auction. We explained that the 3C bid was a form of Checkback, enquiring both about majors and exact range, and that 3D had shown 15-17 and not disclosed any information about majors. LHO led a club, and I claimed 12 tricks; a spade lead would have beaten the hand. The director was called and we were accused of volunteering information (about the major-suit enquiry aspects of 3C) in order deliberately to mislead LHO and avoid a spade lead.

Needless to say, I was furious. I returned to our partners at the end of the round (it was a Swiss) and told them that if the Director ruled against us I was walking out of the tournament, and that I hoped the ACBL would also expel me if that occurred (it didn’t).

Unfortunately, there are lots of people out there who try to get in committee what they can’t win at the table, and volunteering information of any kind gives them an opportunity. Let’s face it, they aren’t going to accuse you and Bobby of anything underhand, but the rest of us are fair game.

Chris HasneyJune 2nd, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Interestingly, the “Ask Jerry” column on page 40 of the June “Bulletin” addresses the notrump overcall/double situation, but says nothing about alerts or announcements. That is because he defines his recommended treatments being as follows after suit intrusion following a 1NT opening bid…

“Without discussion…the standard treatment is this: “Under” doubles are takeout, “over” doubles are penalty.”

(1NT, 2S, DBL is negative for takeout; 1NT, P, P, 2S, DBL by opener is penalty.) Of course, things change if the intruder’s bid is conventional. It do get tricky.

Chris HasneyJune 2nd, 2009 at 11:20 pm

I got curious and looked this stuff up in the Downey-Pomer “Standard Bidding with SAYC book. While they address all sorts of interference like doubles, 2C, 2D or higher, interference after Stayman or Jacoby Transfers, They DO NOT address this topic, nor what must be alerted. Ray, maybe that should be flagged for the next edition. (pp 22-23)

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 3rd, 2009 at 1:58 am


I sympathize with your revolting situations, but when there are such convoluted rules about alerts and non-alerts (and snowballing by the minute), it is time that the people who are “supposed to know about these things” took a Refresher Course or replaced the individuals who have effected some of these changes.

This is not a new issue — just worsening as time goes by. I am sure Bobby told you that based on several horrendous and irrational rulings and appeals decisions, some years ago he afforded Gary Blaiss the opportunity by volunteering to fly to Memphis on his own dime (rare these days with all the professionalism and greed) and try to help familiarize the floundering directors, educating them about what they should be looking for to reach a verdict fair for both sides. He was told it would be a terrible imposition on the directors. In other words – the polite answer was: Thanks, but No Thanks. And, you wonder why we are at this juncture in bridge administration now? C’mon!

You recall when this all began with the original blog, I was criticized and reprimanded for daring to violate any of these recent reversals of fortune (rather misfortune) and reufusing to stand at attention and salute. I don’t recall ever enrolling in the military — nor do I intend to. The more time has passed, the longer the list of violations and loss of bridge rights are being witnessed at the club level and though I haven’t played in any serious tournaments recently, I cannot attest — only speculate — that it has trickled up to that level. ALERTING AFTER THE FACT is frequently of no consequence and only increases the turmoil and does more damage.

The directors are just trying to follow the instructions of their superiors (?)! Perhaps, there lies the rub! I suggest the people making some of these ridiculous new regulations understand all the ugly ramifications they create later in the auction — where there is no going back. Timeliness in bridge is so much of the essence.

I know you are aware that Bobby is on a committee of “overseers” who review the Appeals after each NABC. I often pass him at his computer and observe him muttering something to himself and shaking his head in disbelief. Many of the head honchos (often professionals) sit on these high level committees and being human and having pride, the subordinate members don’t like to be thought a fool by disagreeing (or wanting to disenfranchise themselves with those in powerful positions who may one day serve them well).

I once read a book called The Lone Wolff. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, you have heard of it. It was there that I earned my Bachelors and Masters Degrees on the subject of politics, personal agendas and serving one’s own best interest.

But — when it comes to alerts, we may be headed for adjoining rooms in Bridge Jail, as neither I (nor Bobby) will ever stop alerting when we know it is imperative for the opponents to have certain information at the given time — not when it no longer matters.

I guess I can never be accused of being a sheep in wolff’s clothing.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 3rd, 2009 at 4:39 pm


It is admirable that you take these subjects so to heart. However, what one columnist wrote

or what guideline-authority-bibles dictates does not alter the problem. The solution, in my opinion, is to round up experienced, non-political, open-minded certified experts (if there are any still around with a true understanding of how the game should be played) who are willimg to cast aside personal preferences and start from scratch, considering what damage can be done by leaving the present alerting code in place. It is incomprehensible to me many truly believe the laws of the jungle presently trying to be invoked and enforced are the solution to recapture the standards of the once honorable game we once revered.

In my comment to Ray above, I mentioned that the confusion already surfaced at the club level –regarding what is to be alerted and what is to be hushed over (since it is as clear as mud) and not necessarily in the best interests of anything but the speedy zoom of the sonic boom. I had alluded to the fact that the effect seen at the club level WILL “trickle up” to the tournament eschelon. I was wrong. In retrospect, it already has. Recently, the club we attended doubled in attendance because of the folding of another site. This morning I surveyed the caliber of yesterday’s participants (19 tables/38 pairs) — recognizing so many are quite talented “A’ players (and lots of good now-retired “B” and ‘C’ players who migrated to LV recently. This latter group returned to the fold but many don’t have the masterpoints to show for it because

of their long absence as they were busy earning a living and dutifully supporting their families — while others were on the tournament trail). They are now represented in full regalia at our sectionals and regionals.

A preponderane of onlookers view the club level as a kindergarten playground and pooh-pooh its unimportance — as if to say — Who cares? Anything goes! Wake up. Things have changed big time! It is the overall picture of the lack of clarity and failure of these many ill-guided revisions of the rules that gives me pause as it will soon affect all levels of the game and the alerts/non-alert issue will eventually escalate — not abate.

Let’s not be ostriches. Stick your neck out and speak up!

PegJune 4th, 2009 at 12:52 am

Bobby – I have tried to help. Several years ago, I was asked if I would serve on a laws committee. I responded that I would be delighted to do so – and that was the last I heard of it all.

I don’t know how familiar you are with the opposite sex often not getting a lot of respect – particularly at the bridge table. I, however, am all too familiar with it.

I could also regale you with my own stories of plain old bad behavior. My favorite, perhaps, is the time I called a director after a woman tanked in the middle of a competitive auction – then her partner bid again. When the director arrived at the table, I explained what had happened. “Was there a period of thinking?” inquired the director.

“Absolutely not!” was the huffy reply. The director looked sheepish, with a “what can I do?” face and told us to carry on.

Well, my partner judged to bid game after the opponents had competed with 3 spades. Then she proceeded to make it.

The recriminations began.

“Why did you bid!?” said The Tanker. “They were going to play the hand in 3 hearts!!!”

Well,” her partner hurled back at her, “If you hadn’t thought so long, I would not have bid. I thought you had something!”

Nice, eh?

Gary M. MugfordJune 7th, 2009 at 10:07 am


You know my feelings about bridge being a timed sport and my desire to achieve your full disclosure through a two-step process. So I’m ducking commenting on the raison d’etre of this posting. BUT, your reply to Chris did tweak a memory or two.

I stopped playing local club bridge when I discovered a pretty decent prospect played poker at our table and passed opening hands because, “You guys are pretty good defenders.” I didn’t quit when I knew I was being cheated on. I didn’t quit when social players engaged in socializing while occasionally uttering bids and flipping pasteboards onto the table. I didn’t quit because I wasn’t winning regularly … OR all the time. I quit when the illusion I had that I was playing bridge was shattered.

Where does the pass of 13-point hands holding at least four spades with passes in front of him, TWICE, fall into the active ethics’ rainbow? (We played 4S on both hands, somewhat unsuccessfully, grumble, grumble)

That last paragraph feels like baiting, so let me mollify you before you hit the reply button. It’s local bridge. We had a local pair named the Giggle Sisters, who came, laughed, and pushed cards cuz their husbands wanted them out of the house for a night. One of them wasn’t allowed to declare NT after 9:30. The other was actually a decent player and she bid NT whenever she could. They doubled for penalties on anything at the two level and higher. And gawd forbid one take out the other’s double. I actually learned all of this by scratching a curiosity itch and playing a night with each of them. Delightful ladies. Entertaining evenings. And not a bit of bridge really. It was all about the socialization.

I wish local clubs WERE incubators of not only ethical bridge, but good bridge. But a lot are not. And never will be. I used to enjoy the socialization before I became old and crotchety. I even accepted offers for some home bridge and even … believe it or not … offers to visit and not play Bridge at all!

But I stopped playing Bridge at local clubs when they stopped playing Bridge at my table. Pinning the hopes of a new ethical underpinning on local clubs is not how to cure the ills you and Bobby rail at. If a solution exists, it exists elsewhere.


Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2009 at 11:53 am

Hi Peg (responding to your blog of June 4th),

Your entire director story outlined above, should be part of a teaching dossier taught to new tournament directors as part of their indoctrination. IMO, it is not so much of your being female, but rather the lack of forceful (albeit tactful) leadership of director training.

Fairly recently, perhaps 2 years ago, there was an appeals case involving a respected and experienced ACBL member who called the director, claiming a decided hesitation and then pass by one of his opponents, followed by a “pushy” action by his opponent’s partner. The result of that particular case is not worth reporting in detail, except for the following caveat: “When a respected ACBL member, or at least one who is not disrespected for being an inveterate director caller, calls the director it should be prima facie that, at least something untoward must have happened”. It, at that time, was then called an established precedent beginning with that case, and then interpreted later by an appeals committee that a director call by a qualified ACBL member would confirm that a probable (or perhaps certain) possible transgression had taken place.

Sadly, as time went on, appeals committees (AC) openly rejected that established precedent, claiming that it took their subjective reasoning away from them (see Judy’s Appeal to Remember in The Lone Wolff). Perhaps AC’s would be wise to reinstate that jurisprudence since during my 100+ years of playing and administrating I have never, even one time, either seen or heard of anyone obfuscating or otherwise manufacturing an incident based on a total lie. I guess with an Alfred Hitchcock mystery theme, it could happen, but I think very unlikely in the real bridge world.

Having said the above, unfortunately there is very little what you and I might call effective tournament director training, involving the psychology of competition (POC). I once offered to come to Memphis on my own nickel to preside and discuss this POC and how to politely, but effectively establish the truth without a great deal of doubt or rancor. I was turned down by one of the leadership in the tournament division, claiming they would have to pay the TD’s extra for attending such a seminar. Such is the the state of the ACBL and nothing whatever (to my knowledge) is being done about it or many other possible improvements in the tournament division.

Laissez Faire has engulfed us to our everlasting detriment and unless a large seismic earthquake, or at least a small crusade, is begun by someone, nothing good is on the horizon.

Finally, and back to your point about your being a non-influential female. I totally agree that if a well known top player would bellyache or especially a current ACBL BOD’s member would complain, yes, something would be done about it, and post haste. Somehow or somewhere, until the battle is joined by numbers of caring members we will be left only talking about it.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 13th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Dear Peg:

I just celebrated a special milestone in my life (perhaps the magic age they associate with senility on the horizon). So, I have been extremely tied up responding from afar to touching messages from dear friends, family, mere acquaintances, old bridge partners, new local friends and today when I looked at my latest blog I found comments from you, Gary and Bobby’s response which I had never seen until just now because of my distractions. I took off Friday to play in our weekly duplicate yesterday with Bobby and (though I made a point to not discuss June 12th’s significance), as walked in at game time, I was embraced with hugs and kisses from well wishers. I was bewildered as I always say to Bobby — no gifts, no cards — no nothing! I HAVE EVERYTHING I WANT AND NEED. However, it never occurred to include NO CAKE for which Bobby had arranged with one of our lovely owners, Dixie Perkinson. Thus, the cat was out of the bag and a magnifiicent huge birthday cake for 80-100 people adorned the table.

Anyway — enough apologies for my tardiness.

I appreciated your recounting your experience of being invited to join (and then unjoin) a committee. Perhaps, they reconsidered that you had a free spirit, were open-minded and cared too much for the game to go along with the rubberstamped majority. Consider it a compliment.

I enjoyed Bobby’s eloquent response to you. His directions are always constructive, extremely honorable, well-conceived, non-emotional, and he never pulls any punches (via objective reasoning) why the ACBL has gone downhill along many avenues. Too much politics and too few good guys willing to go out on a limb and battle the foxes in control. However, he has done more for bridge in every capacity since he first saw a bridge deck at age 12 than anyone in its history — and all for the love of what he believes to be (or to have been) the greatest game on earth. SO BE IT!

Judy Kay-WolffJune 13th, 2009 at 6:26 pm

To Gary:

I am disheartened that such a talented writer with an incredible genius of expression has given up on bridge — even at the club level. I believe people like Danny Kleinman and The Wolves will fight to their dying breaths to to convince the directors, managers and owners (et al.) that what they are doing is detrimental (and actually) a mockery to what was once a sanctified and hallowed game. If more people (in a position to know what is proper and what is taboo) would fearlessly rebel against the farce the game is becoming, and enlighten others what damage is being done, perhaps others would join the cause.

Bridge has become about money and ego. Just look on BBO and see some of the atrocities committed before the cyberspace audience at large. I, personally, think BBO is one of the greatest inventions of all time (and when, if ever, there was a foolproof way to unconditionally guarantee no illegal information could be stealthily exchanged) — it should be up for the Nobel Prize. I know they are working on it. In any event, Fred Gitelman is a sheer genius.

Back to the subject at hand. Despite duplicate club bridge being the lowest level of the game available — those at the helm have the same responsibility to see to the proper management and adjudication of problems as the higher echelons.

Let’s look at the bottom line:

The OWNERS(MANAGERS AND/OR DIRETORS) are being reimbursed. Part of that money goes to THE ACBL. THE ACBL issues MASTERPOINTS. It is a vicious cycle and all individuals running a game at any level should see to it that no hanky-panky is going on — wherever the site — whether the clubs, Trials or Nationals.


Gary M. MugfordJune 13th, 2009 at 10:54 pm


I gush over your descriptions of my writing. Thank you.

On the other hand, I don’t kid when I say I’m old and crotchety. I have a serious lack of time thanks to three different clients all believing they are my main clients and expecting programming on that basis. Thus, I rarely have times to think too much about pleasurable activities. I read Bridge books at the dining table, get hands from old partners who phone or visit on one pretext or another, and check out the daily bridge column in the paper. I’ve bookmarked Mark Blumenthal, Frank Stewart and your blog sites and read them once a week. It’s all I have left to give to Bridge. And really, it’s more like taking than giving at this point.

I fought the fights at the local club (I was a young punk once). I tried with the ACBL to induce modernization into the PR battle … and lost several times. I loved the people I worked with and a few of the people I worked for. Met a lot of really GREAT people. And some louses, from top to bottom.

My last try at making a difference came two years ago when I emailed the ACBL asking them about the rule deciding short swiss matches that end in a tie, with no overtime available. The current rule is that the tie is broken on the basis of who wins more hands. I noted that the idea in team games is to take risks in trying to beat contracts and doing your best means occasionally giving up imps here and there. In the match in question, we bid and made a non-vulnerable game not bid at the other table, but lost imps on overtricks and one extra-doubled undertrick when the declarer on our team at the other table, took a shot at making a contract that was better than 50 percent. So we ended up tied. We outplayed the other team throughout the match … and lost on the tie. The rule SHOULD be that the team with FEWER hand-wins wins, because they’ve won most of the battles, while obviously losing more skirmishes.

I got no reply. Right or wrong on my part, but I got no reply. Even with my history with the ACBL office.

I’m not bitter, nor am I jaded. I’m just tired. And old. And crotchety. So I can sit on the sidelines, feeling somewhat above the fray and cheer you on. I really, REALLY wish you success in MOST of your objectives (there’s me being a contrarian again).

But, my time in the game has passed by. A game you can play until die, shouldn’t be able to do that. But it has. It’s like the great line from George Allen. “They gave me a lifetime contract … and then had me declared dead.”

Keep posting.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 14th, 2009 at 12:07 am

O.K. Gary:

I forgive you for staying out of the fray as long as you promise to keep on writing. I truly enjoy your unique presentations. I have always been a fan of individuals who present their views with style, pizazz and humor and you certainly fill the bill.

PIMOJune 14th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I was just amazed by all the comments generated by Judy’s blog. The thougts presented all show how there is an inconsistancy in today’s bridge. I have been reprimanded virtually every time I play, as we attempt to explain to the opponents what our bidding means and directors tell us not to explain. Anyway, my partner and I no longer play our forcing club system as the rules for alerting have caused more undue stress than the worth of playing the game. It has been years since we attended regional after regional, primarily because there is no joy any longer in Mudville…thanks Judy, and to the rest of the bloggers, for reminding us as to why we no longer play

JuanitaJune 16th, 2009 at 1:46 am

Will some one please explain to me the point of the USBF team trials in White Plains. No disrespect to Nickell/Freeman (and I understand his health will be OK) — but how few boards does one have to play to represent the US in Brazil? Can someone a lot smarter than me explain all this? What is the point of the team trials — just come up with a mathematical formuale based on performance in Vanderbilt, etc.

JuanitaJune 16th, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Below is from the USBF website. First, let me make this clear, I am not accusing anyone of doing anything unethical. What I am pointing out is that when a sponser doesnt play many boards — what is he doing on the team? And how can the USBF kick off a sponser — the rest of the team wont get paid. This is just another reason why the ACBL should NOT subsidize the USBF — their team trials are just a subsidy to sponsers who may or may not be able to play bridge well.

The Nickell team came from behind in the second half of the USA2 Final match to defeat the Fleisher team, which had eliminated Nickell from the USA1 bracket four days earlier. Fleisher jumped off to an early lead in the USA2 Final match, but couldn’t hold off Nickell in the final 3 segments. The Nickell team was playing 4-handed in this match, after team member Richard Freeman, who had been ill throughout the tournament, became so ill he couldn’t play on Sunday. Freeman flew home and was admitted to the hospital where it was determined that he has pancreatitis, a painful but treatable condition. We all wish him a speedy recovery. Under the USBF General Conditions of Contest, the partner of a player who is unable to play for health reasons is also treated as being unable to play for health reasons, so Nickell was not required to play the match. In accordance with the Conditions of Contest, the pair will appear before a USBF Conduct & Ethics Committee to explain their failure to play. That committee will determine whether to recommend to the USBF Board that they be included on the USA2 team for Sao Paulo