Judy Kay-Wolff


Early this morning I found Comment #25 on my blog of JUNE 1st (THE BRIDGE EARTHQUAKE) — and a few hours later Comment #26.  Though they do not directly relate to the earlier blog, it tackles a new problem with an aura of discontentment with the direction bridge is moving.   To relieve my readers from trudging through #1-24 (but be my guest if you have the time) — I have taken the liberty of carrying forward the commentary of Juanita.

Juanita June 16th, 2009 at 1:46 am {Comment #25}

   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 formulae based on performance in Vanderbilt, etc.

Juanita  June 16th, 2009 at 2:49 pm (Comment #26} 

   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 sponsor doesn’t play many boards — what is he doing on the team? And how can the USBF kick off a sponsor — 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 sponsors 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.


Ray LeeJune 16th, 2009 at 6:53 pm

It’s difficult, but it seems to me that Nickell and Freeman are no longer ‘on the team’ and must go through whatever normal process there is to be added. Of course, what will now happen is that other four will want to add them so they get paid (or at least add a pair that includes a sponsor). In a world where the USBF wanted to send the best possible team to Brazil, they would not approve adding a less than world class pair. Bobby discussed a similar situation in ‘The Lone Wolff’. Perhaps future trials should omit the sponsors completely; 4-person teams could play off and add the sponsor at the end.

Chris HasneyJune 17th, 2009 at 4:40 am

I wonder how Jimmy Cayne is doing…

PegJune 17th, 2009 at 5:04 am

I don’t understand this. As far as I can determine, Freeman and Nickell were excused from playing due to illness, and in accordance with the rules and the conditions of contest. Why should the fact that Nickell is a sponsor have anything to do with what the actual rules are?

The rules should be the same for everyone – and, as far as I can determine, they are.

Ray Lee; how many partnerships in North American bridge have won as many ACBL championships – not to mention international titles – as Nickell/Freeman?

I might add that I have kibitzed more than one session of bridge where the “sponsor” delivered plus results – and the rest of the team did not. Just because someone is wealthy doesn’t mean that they are not an expert bridge player.

Nick SimmsJune 17th, 2009 at 8:33 am

There has been heated debate about sponsors here in the UK, too. However, the thing we really do not understand is why the US gets two teams in Sao Paulo when the rest of us only get one.

PegJune 17th, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Nick – this is just a guess, but the U.S. does have a population of 300 million. How many other nations are this large?

I imagine that Europe wouldn’t be happy if they had only two teams of representation! In some respects, our states are similar to nations in Europe. Maybe we should actually have fifty teams qualifying 🙂

Judy Kay-WolffJune 17th, 2009 at 3:04 pm


Don’t worry about Jimmy Cayne. He has done more than his share for bridge. Back in the

nineties he put up the front money to Bobby for the trials (with no assurance of getting it back). In fact Bobby cherishes Jimmy’s remark to the effect, “That’s the first time I ever got my money back — with interest!” Cayne also was instrumental in exposing a potential debacle which could have wiped the ACBL off the map.

Bobby WolffJune 17th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Peg and Nick,

I do not think that any knowledgeable bridge person thinks that Nick Nickell or Dick Freeman are not expert bridge players or that the two of them are not a very good partnership. However, I would also like to remind Peg of Damon Runyon’s most famous quote, “The race is not always to the swift, nor is the battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet”. In this great big world there is almost always someone who can do things better than someone else. To think otherwise would be saying that there is never anyone who could be considered best.

In answer to Nick Simms, the USA was awarded two teams (in the early 1980’s), not because of being a country of 300 million, but because the stated reason was that their ACBL membership was over 150,000 (more than any single country in Europe). The real reason (I was there when this was decided) was that the depth of the USA’s excellent players was far and away much deeper than whichever country (probably Italy) was in second place.

With the explosion of professionalism that depth becomes filtered down, making it a very questionable thing of the wisdom of allowing us two teams.

JuanitaJune 17th, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Judy — and what would be that debacle?

Peg — I never meant to say that the rules or ethics were violated (and actually I think I said specifically I didnt see any violations), but rather that the rules make no sense. Of course the sponsers play excellent bridge — but as well as the rest of the team? What is the point of having a team trials? Why should the ACBL be subsidizing it? Adding the WBF fees to the USBF subsidies — for what?

JUDY-KAY WOLFFJune 17th, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Juanita — It is in Bobby’s Book, The Lone Wolff, about the attempted takeover of the ACBL. Contact me at kay19072@aol.com for more inforrmation.

Also — watch for Bobby’s VERY TOPICAL BLOG on the TRIALS which will be posted on his site in a few hours. You know it was YOU who created all this interest in this bizarre incident and its impending handling.

Luise LeeJune 17th, 2009 at 7:21 pm

In response to Bobby’s comments: I completely understand the desire for wanting to increase the level of competition by having the best representatives at each event, but the ACBL is hardly an impartial and unbiased deciding body to make this determination.

We frequently encounter this in Canada with one of our nation’s popular sports: Curling. Every year, each province sends their representative to the canadian national championships and the winner represents Canada at the world event. The province where I live, Ontario, is notorious for being a VERY difficult province to qualify from. In fact, one curler in particular actually LEFT THE PROVINCE and moved almost 2K kilometers away in order to curl out of New Brunswick instead, where competition was minimal.

Having said all that, I certainly can sympathize with wanting to have the absolute best representatives at any particular event. However, sometimes luck just isn’t on your side and, inspite of your best efforts, the “best” team falls short and the underdogs win. Should the USA get special treatment simply because they’re the ones with the most (skilled) paying members? This would be different from almost every other sport that I could name. In the fairness of all nations, when it comes to a “world” event, the USA should get just one team like everyone else.

Ray LeeJune 18th, 2009 at 12:53 am

Peg: If you read what I wrote carefully, you’ll see that I didn’t in fact say that Nickell and Freeman shouldn’t be picked. Perhaps I wasn’t clear: what I meant was that given that the approving group will consist of a)sponsors and b) people who depend on sponsorship for their livelihood, then it’s not very likely that an added pair including a sponsor would ever not be approved. Yes, N & F, as Bobby says, are expert players. That’s not the same as ‘the best available pair in the USA outside the two pairs that played the final match’ — which in my view, is what the USBF should be looking for. Of course, as a Canadian. it’s none of my business 🙂 However, I’ll make a bet with you: should Freeman’s health preclude his going to Brazil, the third pair they add will include a new sponsor, unless Nickell continues to pick up the tab somehow.

Fred GitelmanJune 18th, 2009 at 1:35 am


I take issue with just about everything in your recent post.

First, you say “I didn’t in fact say that Nickell and Freeman shouldn’t be picked”. Perhaps that is true, but it really doesn’t matter since you make it clear that this is how you feel when you say “‘the best available pair in the USA outside the two pairs that played the final match’ — which in my view, is what the USBF should be looking for.”

Second, When you say “given that the approving group will consist of a)sponsors and b) people who depend on sponsorship for their livelihood”, if the approving group consists of the USBF Board of Directors (which as far as I can tell consists of 1 sponsor of open bridge, 1 former sponsor of women’s bridge, 1 professional player, and 4 people who to the best of my knowledge are neither sponsors nor professional players), then clearly your statement would be wrong.

Third, what gives you the right to attack the integrity of these fine people? Even if they were all professional players and sponsors, that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of doing the right thing.

Fourth, why is your view that the USBF should be looking for ‘the best available pair in the USA outside the two pairs that played the final match’ if the Conditions of Contest state that Nickell and Freeman should still be considered members of the winning team? I am assuming of course that Freeman really was sick – are you really suggesting he was faking?

Apologies in advance if I have misread the Conditions of Contest.

Fifth, perhaps it did not occur to you that ‘the best available pair in the USA outside the two pairs that played the final match’ might be willing to sponsor the team. Although I certainly do not think that Brad Moss and I qualify as ‘the best available…’ I suspect most would consider us to be in the top 5. We happen to be professional players, not sponsors, but I could easily see myself sponsoring this team to get a chance to play with those 4 in the Bermuda Bowl. Perhaps ‘the best available…’ would feel the same way.

Clearly you have a bug up your ass when it comes to sponsorship in bridge (excuse my language), but that doesn’t mean you have any clue as to what you are talking about concerning this subject.

Sixth, your bet might be a good one given the considerations of my fifth point and the possibility that Nickell (who is beyond generous) might well be willing to pick up the tab regardless (as you suggest). But if your bet was “I bet the USBF will approve an traditional pro-sponsor pair” then I would be willing to put a lot of money on the other side of that bet.

No doubt the unusual circumstances that created the need for these particular Conditions of Contest to be invoked (circustances that IMO were at least as “unlucky” for poor Freeman as they were for the Fleisher team) will result in the USBF giving some serious thought to changing said Conditions for future USBCs.

However, it would obviously be inappropriate to change the Conditions of Contest for the 2009 USBC now.

I personally have no doubt that the USBF Board will do the right thing and follow whatever Conditions of Contest currently exist. I personally hope that I am right about what these Conditions of Contest say and that Nickell and Freeman will remain part of the team.

Fred Gitelman

JuanitaJune 18th, 2009 at 1:48 am

Whoa, I dont think anyone has suggested that Dick Freeman was not ill (and hope for the best for him) and I don’ t hear anyone suggesting an ethical issue. I just question between the bye and the illness, N & F did not play a lot of boards and is the trial of any value. Why is it “obvious” that the conditions not be re-evaluated at this point? It is just as obvious to me that this situation was not envisioned when the conditions were drafted and signed off on.

PegJune 18th, 2009 at 12:18 pm

What if Meckstroth or Rodwell or Zia or Hamman had become ill, unable to play – and the two other partnerships had played – and won? Would it be right and best to tell the third pair that had suffered illness during the competition that they couldn’t play?

Well. I’m sure that there can be some arguments made that they should not (they played less than the “requisite” number, etc.) But, surely arguments could be made that they should play – which, is my guess why the rules are what they are. Would people really be arguing that Meckwell shouldn’t play on this team if one of them had been out of action the last match due to a kidney stone?

Bobby and Judy can correct me if I am wrong, but I think some years ago, teams were selected by choosing the best pairs from a competition. I believe it was a disaster. Not that superb pairs weren’t selected . . . but, a team is far more than “the best pairs out there.” Anyone who puts together teams appreciates this.

No system is perfect. If we didn’t have sponsors, a lot of people who play the best bridge around would be working for some corporation or running their own small business or whatever – and hardly have much time to play championship bridge. Some sponsors clearly are not in the same league with the teammates they hire. But, some arguably surely are.

In any case, perhaps some of the rules should be reformed. I surely am not at all knowledgeable about this. Nevertheless, at least some of the sponsors I know are great bridge players and great folks who contribute to bridge . . . I must admit I do kinda get my hackles up when people seem to behave as if they don’t deserve to be up there with their teammates.

JuanitaJune 18th, 2009 at 12:38 pm


The USBF is an open event. Any one who can get togethor a team has the right to be there. My question is whether the ACBL should be subsidizing and whether the ACBL should be negotiating harder on the WBF fees. It is one thing if these ACBL payments are primarily to the benefit of the people who have competed to represent the US. Its another if they buy their way in.

Fred GitelmanJune 18th, 2009 at 1:42 pm


“Conditions of Contest”, like “Ten Commandments” is traditionally capitalized. Perhaps the reason is to emphasize the importance of the CoCs – they should be seen as almost sacred by bridge players who enter a contest (who are expected to follow its conditions) and those who organize tournaments (who are expected not to change the conditions in mid-stream or after the fact).

I would not have thought it necessary to explain why I think this is “obvious”, but if tournament organizers had the right to change the Conditions of Contest after the fact, it would not be fair to the players – the integrity of the contest itself would be ruined.

Imagine that you win a lottery and while you are waiting to collect your $1 million prize, you receive a letter that says “The lottery organizers have decided that it would be more fair to give you $100 instead and to distribute the rest of the $999,990 randomly to other ticket holders.”

Imagine that you make a legal right turn on a red light, but 5 years later you receive a traffic ticket in the mail along with a letter saying “Right turns on red lights are no longer legal in this state and we are retroactively charging you with this offense”.

Imagine that you win a bridge tournament, but a week later your are informed by a letter “Although your bidding system was legal at the time, we have decided that the rule that made it legal was poor. Your masterpoint account has been debited accordingly. Please return the trophy at your earliest convenience.”

If a rule in question is a bad rule then the time to change it is before the next lottery, right turn on red light, or bridge tournament. It is not fair to try to apply rule changes to a lottery, right turn on red light, or bridge tournament that has already happened.

Fred Gitelman

JuanitaJune 18th, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Fred, I don’t disagree with that. My personal belief is the Nickell team should politiely withdraw. Sometimes you have to do more than the law requires and less than the law allows.

Bobby WolffJune 18th, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Some relatively random comments before I attempt to eventually put my whole thought process together in some kind of order, hopefully in the next few days.

First Peg, No, neither Meckwell nor Hammamood should be benched. Simply because their presence makes the possibility of winning more in focus. Are you familiar with how the Nickell team fared in both the Shanghai 2007 Bermuda Bowl and then the 2008 World Mind Sports event previously called the World Team Olympiad. It needs to be said that on each occasion there was an interloper on the team because of the untimely death of Paul Soloway, but does that really excuse that team for making such poor choices of choosing the interlopers. Also it tends to SHOUT out to the world and to all who would listen, that the USA is not all that it is cracked up to be anymore. For those not in the know the 2007 team did not get out of the Round Robin, an unheard of poor performance and the 2008 Olympiad team did barely get to the second stage before losing their first KO match to Poland, another almost new low in that event. Curiously it was capped off by Jeff Polisner’s accurate, but very sorrowful description, that the loss to Poland really didn’t matter since the winner of that match had to play Italy the next round. These comments would have been laughable as early as only a few years ago.

Can anyone in the know with the experiences in the last 50 years with predominately only cheats, French, new honest Italians, a few Norweigans and Americans dominating the winners circle, would any full blooded American bridge player accept Jeff’s very candid and accurate analysis. Since it is broke shouldn’t we try and fix it or rather cater to only humanitarian treatment of well below qualified individuals masquerading as world class players.

Also Peg, you are using the aberrant 2d US team for Yokohama in 1991 when Gary Hahn took over from an ultra-busy-me to construct a Pairs Trials made up of winners of certain specified Regional Events forming possibly the worst team ever to represent our wonderful country. My intent is not to denigrate the winners of that awful trials (Chances are they were the best of a poor lot) but shouldn’t you be familiar with the facts rather than create false illusions for unknowledgeable others to follow? Again, Gary was interested in playing in the trials himself so he conjured up this method. Is it any wonder why I think of political groups as corrupt clear through, since my experience with the bridge world and certainly the US government has led me to that conclusion. Mea Culpa, because whatever my busy agenda was at that time wasn’t worth what my neglect caused. At that time I had the power to get almost anything worthwhile passed so it was I who was to blame for letting that fiasco happen.

And now to list in a couple of sentences my goal. Sponsors and Professionalism serve very important functions in just the way you describe them. BUT, not for International qualification and play and for that matter serving on the USBF. That status should go to Woods, Mickelson and their close peers in golf, our great NBA players, not collegiate stars since they are just not good enough to win any medal, let alone gold, in basketball, special top stars in baseball and tennis. In soccer we have to wait till we have at least one star before we can even think of being a factor in this most popular of all world games.

How would you like to have the responsibility to sell our sponsor client setup to a real Olympiad committee so that they would consider installing a world bridge competition in their scheduling. Would you like to see a bridge sponsor type skating for the USA or a sponsor type skiing in the Winter Olympics trying to win a medal. If so, and I don’t think you would, but that is apparently what you are arguing for. You are, at least to me, a treasured energy filled, very intelligent asset to any organization you would join, but in order to go further you need to get more realistic with what you are dealing with.



JUDY-KAY WOLFFJune 18th, 2009 at 8:01 pm


As you know, I did not initiate this controversial discussion of the moral and hopefully unbiased, non-political nightmare of a decision faced by those in charge. This was predicated by two blogs from a woman named “Juanita” who identified herself no further. I merely featured it on a new post to bring it to the attention of my blogging audience as I think it is a powerful issue which may affect not only the Nickell Team — but U. S. teams for decades to come.

However, much of her analysis seems rational and right on target. She appears to have a grasp on the countless problems involved and faced by the USBF. And, speaking of the USBF, I think you better do a mathematical ‘recount’ of the classifications into which you categorize the individuals — regarding professionalism, sponsorship and alleged neutrality. Although the cast of the 2009 USBF is slightly different in composition to the era of the Shanghai Witches, I see too many conflicts of interest to go along with your confidence in their unbiased reflections. In a world where bridge players are so close, it is an impossible position in which to be placed. I don’t think it is “attacking the integrity of these fine (?) people” — but rather a case of being human with the frailties and weaknesses with which we all cursed.

Getting to the issue of actual replacement if that is deemed the proper course of action: Let me make it abundantly clear, I am not speaking on my own behalf as I am not qualified to judge, but I guarantee you that a dozen other pros will challenge your statement about you and Brad. And, today with the floodgates of cash opened up by the wealthy sponsors, that shouldn’t be a problem for others to join the bidding war to join Meckwell and ‘Hammamood” (as I heard Bobby refer to them). But would `that really be fair to the Fleisher Team?

As far as giving thought to changing the Conditions of Contest, IMHO quite a few other areas (laws, appeals, alerts, non-alerts, et al.) demand the attention of impartial committees as well — but maybe that is another can of worms!

I think you said it all when you alluded to the fact “…. Nickell (who is beyond generous)…..” That information is known to the world at large but should that really be a consideration though it is hard to deny that there has never a finer, more ethical, bridge-philanthropic gentleman

to grace the table than Nick Nickell.

However, that is not the issue!


Fred GitelmanJune 18th, 2009 at 10:12 pm



I agree with you.

Do you agree with my reading of the Conditions of Contest which suggests that these three pairs are the three pairs on the Nickell Team?

Do you agree with me that the Conditions of Contest should not be changed now?

If your answer to either of these questions is “no” then please explain why.


Fred Gitelman

Bobby WolffJune 18th, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Hi Fred,

This blog is not the detailed one I intend to write to you, but rather one which deals only with your subjects in your answer to Judy.

I confess that I have not studied the specific CofC in the just completed 2009 Open Team Trials. Not that long ago since Edgar had always either written the CofC for all our important Team events or at least supervised its construction. For all who knew this very talented and unique person, his most significant calling card was that his writing enabled him to interpret the conditions so that equity always triumphed.

Some, upon hearing this, might cry out “How can we cater to such tyranny?” Instead, sharing at least 30 different times the co-chairing with him of important WBF Appeals Committees, I crave him back desperately especially during these difficult times for me, to again use his cunning to not only establish equity, but just as importantly to get it done.

So there is not any doubt, I will directly say that “There is no time like the present to right the ship, establish equity, allow the USA their best chance of winning (remember the wrong direction we are now going), and break up what most professionals want: “We much prefer to make the money than to win for the USA or for that matter for anyone”. When you talk about the CofC in such hallowed ways, why don’t you also mention the horrible conflicts of interest present by the USBF committee who makes these decisions. It is made up of several of the most influential professional players (Bob Hamman and Mike Passell for two) not to mention either former sponsors or at least a very visible current one. Also on board are two members directly connected to Bob and Nick Steve Beatty and Chris Compton . Except for Joan Gerard who has always been above suspicion, although under intense pressure because of her loneliness (I can testify to that) every body has been snatched. And, of course, I may be slightly wrong as to the specific current makeup of that committee, but suffice it to say that everyone mentioned above is either on it or recently has been. To complete the roster of the last couple of years we feature Rose Meltzer (who I have great hope for getting the right religion) Lou Ann, Jan Martel and Dan Morse (my regular bridge partner who is as political as one can get). I neglected to mention the current President Billy Pollack, an extremely bright and likable person but who recently recused himself on a direct conflict of interest position only to unrecuse himself when the conversations became sticky.

Furthermore, when you sing the praises of the hard working USBF Board, you mean what you say, but only because you are a caring and humanitarian person, but can you truthfully say that you expect this Committee to show the leadership necessary to right our ship? I think that you are way too bright for that, but rather than rock this ship, you choose to continue to be a humanitarian rather than a dyed in the wool patriotic American who wants everything done for us to send a winning team.

By the way I agree with Ray Lee in his criticism and skepticism of which direction we are going. I do not agree with him, but rather with you, that if Dick and Nick are not selected that the USBF will look for another sponsor to take their place. No way, if for no other reason than why would current sponsors want the best for other sponsors, especially since that would not solve any problem whatsoever, except for the ultra greedy demand for money by only a couple of the sure to be sanctioned half of Nickell’s front four.

I have written much more than I intended. I always do, possibly to the detriment of the readers. But yes, I think however the CofC’s are worded (whatever they say) that the USBF has within its power to get us going in the right direction.

On that point let me say that it took 15 full years of exerting pressure on the ruling bodies to convince them that it was time to have another World Championship on USA soil. It has finally happened, and from what I hear, another thank you is due Nick Nickell. If I have ever had an idol, it would be Nick. He has never denied me or possibly any other request to do constructive things for bridge. People like him are very rare, as proven by the ITT’s initial plan of adding sponsors to the USBF in order for them to feel a responsibility to help fund the necessary events to make us more valuable and viable. It hasn’t worked out that way and wouldn’t have been my choice, but what is a fella to do when he has no clout to get things rightside up.

In closing, I must quote to you what my late and great wife Debby said to me in the early 1990’s (several years before she was stricken with lung cancer). I was very active and had just secured permission to take the Trials away from the ACBL BOD’s and be able to run it in the best interests of our top players and the high-level game itself. After joining with me in our discussions, she acknowledged that the prospects for the future looked bright, indeed, but then admonished me with the following unforgettable comment, “Bobby, things look rosy now, but wait till you see what it will look like and turn into, once you step down”.

Call it ‘Women’s Intuition!’


JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 19th, 2009 at 1:10 am


Being of sound mind, I am totally capable and equipped to respond definitively to your two questions:

1) Do you agree with my reading of the Conditions of Contest which suggests that these three pairs are the three pairs on the Nickell Team?


2) Do you agree with me that the Conditions of Contest should not be changed now?

I believe everything humanly possible should be done (WHICH MEANS YES THEY SHOULD BE CHANGED IF EQUITY DICTATES) to right the ship. HOWEVER, I FURTHER BELIEVE THAT NO DEVIATION SHOULD BE MADE TO ALLOW INDIVIDUALS (LIKE OTHER PAYING PROS AS YOU SUGGESTED TO BECOME A REPLACEMENT PAIR FOR FREEMAN/NICKELL should that be the case). It could turn into a bidding war and in rather poor taste.



PaulCJune 19th, 2009 at 1:19 am


Let me see if I understand your last post.

Nick Nickell is a terrific guy, but he and Dick Freeman should not represent the USA in Brazil.

The USBF board should replace them with another pair regardless of what the Conditions of Contest for the Team Trials actually say. That’s the way to restore equity, and it is what Edgar Kaplan would have done.

The USBF board will not do this because every one of them suffers from conflicts of interest, except for possibly Joan Gerard and you’re not sure about her.

Meckstroth and Rodwell expect to be paid. (I’m guessing a little at the meaning of “ultra greedy demand for money by only a couple of the sure to be sanctioned half of Nickell’s front four”).

Replacing Nickell/Freeman and sending the team to Brazil without sponsorship would be an act of patriotism. Sending them to Brazil is the sort of thing done by caring humanitarians like Fred Gitelman, and that’s not the way to fix this mess we’re in.

Did I get it right?

BethJune 19th, 2009 at 2:00 am

If there were more Edgar Kaplans and Bobby Wolffs in their heyday, we wouldn’t be fighting such an uphill battle now. The new warriors are too concerned with their own agendas.

Bobby, don’t give up the ship. You have plenty of supporters.

PegJune 19th, 2009 at 2:45 am

I have never had the privilege of playing in an open team trials. While I never say “never” – odds are that I will not. I have never been involved in any way whatsoever in setting up COC, etc., etc. Thus – what I know about team trials only comes from reading, chatting with friends who DO play in them, etc.

Bobby – I guarantee that what I know about the team trials is a small fraction of what someone like you – or Fred – or many others would know. I knew nothing of exactly when or how or what a pair competition was used to select teams; I only knew that it had occurred. And actually, I really thought it had happened a long time before 1991. I thought that Edgar had set up a pair competition many years ago, thinking that the odds he would be selected would be greater.

BUT – as I said in my earlier post on this subject – I am a woeful student of history. Combine that with the fact that there really are no great respositories of bridge history (or at least, none with which I am familiar) – again, I certainly could be wrong.

I’m with Fred on his logic about CURRENT COC. They are what they are. They should be followed, as best as is possible. As written, from what I could glean, if a player becomes ill during the competition, that player and his partner are excused – yet under circumstances (I do not know the details) are still allowed to play. Whether the pair is Meckwell, Ziamman (sure you don’t like THAT better? :)) or Nick & Dick – seems to me that IF the laws allow one of those to play under conditions of illness – then any of the others should be allowed.

IF the rules as configured; that part or any other part – are not good, then The Powers that Be should rewrite them. I am quite certain that I am not a knowledgeable enough person to know. Period. Oh – the philosopher in me is happy to listen to all the arguments, then render my opinion. But, as stated, I’ve never played in the event, haven’t been involved in setting up rules ever, and definitely am not famliar at present with all the arguments pro & con on all the (I’m sure) complex issues.

Oh – and one more item. I’m someone who makes loads of mistakes. Anyone who has played bridge with or against me knows this – LOL! One thing I surely try never to do, however, is be deceitful in discussing matters like this. If I am wrong about something, it’s because I made an error or was ignorant. It was not because I was trying to put one over on someone. (I only do that when I am on opening lead or discarding :))



Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2009 at 2:50 am

Hi Paul C,

You got some of the facts right, but I am suspicious of your tone.

Yes, Nick is a terrific guy (nothing wrong with Dick either) and right at the top for being generous and objective. In spite of that, which has no real bearing on the decision to be made, it becomes a question of how to run competitions, particularly ones which have bastardized overtones like sponsor playing involvement. Perhaps Jerry Jones, as the owner of the Cowboys, should replace Tony Romo with himself as the starting quarterback. Please understand I am not equating Nick and Dick with being in the same ballpark as Jerry playing quarterback.

Any conditions of contest should have wiggle room to be able to do what is best for the competition. It is usually very difficult to provide for every contingency so that sophisticated judgment by unbiased experienced people should be used to determine what to do.

Whether the entire USBF BOD’s is subject to conflicts of interest is for the powers that be to determine. From the appearance of who they are, it certainly looks to the naked eye that it could be thought to be similar to the OJ Simpson jury who were not guilty of anything other than natural prejudice which allowed a double cold blooded ruthless premeditated murderer to be acquitted. In order to be fair and defend the jury, one has to remember the unbearable persecution their race went through during many shameful years in our country. Still it appears to be the wrong time to get even in the way they did, but perhaps I am not thinking clearly.

Joan Gerard , whom I happen to know better than the others, has always wanted to serve bridge properly and without bias, so I can only say that her position appears to be lonely to me to have to deal with others who might instead, have their own agendas.

Jeff Meckstroth has already said that unless Nick and Dick are reinstated he will not go to Sao Paulo, in my opinion simply stating that without enough money it is not worth representing his native country. In many previous somewhat similar situations he and Eric Rodwell have refused to go to prestigeous tournaments, thereby depriving that tournament of their name identification, claiming the money prizes were not enough. Since they are doing better financially than most everyone else who plays professionally I think that he would never be thought of in the same positive light as John McInroe was with the Davis Cup. McInroe, as we all know, was at times a petty, abusive rascal, but to his everlasting credit he loved his country and was willing to put himself out for it. To me and my generation I respect that, but maybe you and others do not.

Replacing Freeman/Nickell would not necessarily be an act of patriotism, but since they officially did not win the USA 2d team spot, perhaps our administrators should change colors and put the country and bridge first and the players back in their place as part of the zoo. (of which I am a proud member) OHOOOOOOOOO (simulating a wolf howl).

Fred Gitelman is a fine gentlemen and a very good player as well as a genius creator with his BBO. However sometimes we need a different type of leadership, one that requires making enemies and not making love.

Finally our country is obviously falling off the top pedestal in bridge, a position that I, as a player coveted for a few years. I am now basically out of the picture, but I would still like our country to continue to perform well.

You did get most of it right, but since you obviously enjoy remaining anonymous, it is somewhat hard to take you very seriously.

Best regards,


Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2009 at 5:42 am

Hi Beth,

Thanks for your kind words. Without at least a little encouragement it becomes distasteful to continue making enemies.

The world apparently has been changing right in front of us. I, at least had a chance to be alive during a period which has been renamed, The Greatest Generation, beginning around the time of World War II. I think that name is perfect for that time period since, at least the way it seemed to me, pride, a taste for unconditional victory, honor, patroitism and big efforts permeated the atmosphere where now politics, chicanery, dirty filthy money, and power are our gods.

World history is full of the bad group of the above adjectives, but perhaps a miracle will come along and we will become a proud meritocracy.

Thanks for writing. You are much appreciated.



Fred GitelmanJune 19th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

To Judy: Thanks for answering my two questions.

To Bobby: You had two questions for me:

Question 1: “why don’t you also mention the horrible conflicts of interest present by the USBF committee who makes these decisions?”

I did touch on this subject in my original post in this thread, but I will try to clarify my position…

Because I believe that intelligent, well-meaning people of good character are capable of rising above potential conflicts of interest and doing the right thing. I assume you believe this too (about Joan Gerard for example) because you say “Except for Joan Gerard who has always been above suspicion”.

Furthermore, I assume you believe that you yourself would do the right thing if you were on the Committee despite your potential conflicts of interest. For the record I believe that about myself and this makes it easy for me to believe the same thing about my fellow bridge players on the USBF Board (most who I also happen to count among my friends).

Please do not tell me that Joan (and perhaps you) do not have potential conflicts of interest because she is neither a professional player nor a sponsor (same might be true for you – perhaps you no longer consider yourself to be a professional player). We all have potential conflicts of interest because we all have close friends (and/or hated enemies) who are either professional players or sponsors (to say nothing of the fact that all of us have personal relationships with one or more members of the Nickell Team).

The world of high-level bridge in the USA is a small and incestuous place. IMO it is impossible to put together a Committee consisting of those among “our best and our brightest” to make the big decisions without every single Committee member having multiple potential conflicts of interest inherant to almost every decision of consequence.

The best we can hope for is that such people will be able to act responsibly despite these potential conflicts. Perhaps I am naive, but for me it is easy to hope and expect this to happen.

Question 2: “but can you truthfully say that you expect this Committee to show the leadership necessary to right our ship?”

100% truthfully I believe that this Committee will try to do the right thing regarding the Nickell Team and that they will be able to overcome any potential conflicts of interest. My answer to question 1 hopefully explains why I believe this, but a more cynical way to justify the same answer is this:

The whole world is watching. Under the reasonable assumption that these people care about their personal reputations in the bridge world, it would be insane for them to allow their potential conflicts of interest to sway their decision. Whatever you might think about these people, I suspect you will agree with me that they are not insane.

But about “showing the leadership to right our ship”, I will have to think about that one. I believe that by and large the USBF Board consists of good and smart people who are willing to listen to the ideas of others. I believe some of them have strong leadership skills. I believe that all of them care deeply about the future of bridge in the USA.

However, I can’t say for sure that our ship needs righting, if so to what extent it is off course, if so how it could be righted, or if so if it is even possible for any Committee to right the ship without creating side effects that may well be worse.

For me the Nickell issue is not about ship-righting. It is about following the existing rules. IMO ship-righting should wait for another time (and another discussion).

It seems we do not see eye-to-eye on a lot of this, but I thank you (and Judy) for taking the time to try to make your positions clear.

Fred Gitelman

Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Hi Fred,

Thanks for your follow-up. Whether we see eye-to-eye on this or not, it is obvious to me that our differences will not reduce the respect I have for you and all your wondrous accomplishments for the communication you have created which has so greatly enabled and thus enhanced the world of competitive bridge.

There are perhaps only two episodes necessary for me to illustrate the reasons for my reluctance to trust the USBF and their judgments.

1. Their handling of the Shanghai Seven after the Shangai World Bridge Championship in 2007.

The Ladies team and their Captain produced the “We did not vote for Bush” sign at the closing awards presentation, specifically violating a rule which they had all had signed at least one time to not violate in order for them to be eligible to both represent our country and, of course, play in the Championship. While not important to some and even funny to others, it took the elegance, not to mention to lessen the significance of the formal occasion of honoring the medal winners. The WBF had seen fit to try (and almost always succeeding up to then) keeping all world politics away from the competitive world of bridge. The WBF’s motto is Bridge for Peace which symbolizes how the players of all countries not only mingle, but competitively play the game against each other, in spite of the obvious vast differences between some of the competing countries political policies.

In any event the USA needed to let the rest of the world know how seriously we agreed with their intent and would demand discipline in enforcing what was the law. Instead, after the USBF had announced and then arranged through their lawyer a trial to be held, if necessary, to decide on what punishment to inflict, then when the Shangai Seven’s lawyers appeared in front of the USBF BOD’s with veiled or perhaps not so veiled threats against the USBF members, our group put their tails between their legs and begged off with not even a whimper. To me that was a scandolous ending which was a deep embarrassment to me since I had a small part in developing that very important, successful and necessary WBF rule.

2. While President of the WBF, my office negotiated and developed a WBF World Championship in Albuquerque, NM in the fall of 1994, some 8 years after a previous WBF Championship was held in Miami in 1986. From 1994 on, the USA did not have another WBF championship and in spite of the later formation of the USBF, I think in the late 1990’s (or early 2000’s), they continued to refuse to have another WBF World Championship on US soil. I tried many forms of persuasion, but to no avail. They claimed it was virtually impossible for many reasons, which fact continued to strain our relationship with the WBF, Jose Damiani of Paris, France, President, and the rest of the whole world. Add to that the hostile attitude the ACBL BOD’s WBF representatives showed toward the WBF in regard to our dues paying and other general policies of the WBF and thus chaos between Zone 2 (North America) and the rest of the world, particularly Zone 1 (Europe) was the order of the day. Finally after much consternation and hand wringing the USBF agreed to at least try. Presto Chango, magically in a very short period of time Philadelphia, 2010 was agreed to with other sites, notably Las Vegas standing by. At least to me, all that needed to be done was go look for a site, find the not so steep financial backing and get it accomplished. Why did it take 15 years for this to be done? Shouldn’t Zone 2 have shown more responsibility to the WBF and to bridge in general, especially so since the USA is the only individual country to be allowed 2 teams instead of 1 in all of the different categories of WBF competition?

Fred, that is why I have little faith and confidence in what the USBF stands for. Being a personal confirmed optimist, I am hoping that will change.

Good luck in whatever great new innovative services you continue to bring to our wonderful game. You, perhaps as much as anyone else ever has, have contributed so much to our hope for the future.

Bobby Wolff

PaulCJune 20th, 2009 at 4:04 am

This is now on the USBF web site. I think it just appeared.

As a result of Dick Freeman’s illness, and his inability to play in the finals to determine USA2, the USBF, in accordance with its General Conditions of Contest, named a Tournament Committee to review the circumstances and recommend a course of action to the USBF Board. Led by John Sutherlin, the Committee met, and unanimously recommended that Nickell-Freeman be permitted to remain with their team. The USBF Board unanimously accepted the Committee’s recommendation, and USA2 in Sao Paulo will be the original six-handed Nickell team. We all wish Dick a full and speedy recovery.

Bill Pollack, USBF President

Bobby WolffJune 20th, 2009 at 1:19 pm

The decision by the Tournament Committee was certainly the expected one, if only for the specific words chosen in our CofC’s, and, of course the deserved high esteem both Nickell and Freeman are held by most and so everyone involved or even on the periphery should join and wish our two teams for Sao Paulo good luck as well as hoping for Dick, a complete recovery.

Let us understand what, if anything, we should learn by this episode:

1. Practically thinking, the Fleisher team, obviously through no fault of its own, and from a bookmakers point of view, went from being perhaps a 2 to 5 underdog to realistically a 1 to 15 underdog. For those unfamiliar with gambling lingo that means that with the particular matchup of Fleisher’s six handed team against Nickell’s front four that Nickell would win approximately 15 out of 16 matches instead of approximately 5 out of 7 with both teams in tact.

2. Whether this is fair or not possibly is not the primary question, but rather just maybe we should consider this to be, as insurance companies write in their policies, an act of God.

3. However, rather than passing the blame to others (especially a deity) perhaps we should recognize that the writing of Conditions of Contest is a very tricky thing with several time worn caveats ever present:

A. Seeking to cover as many unpredictable events happening as thoroughly as practical.

B. Always, while expecting ethical compliance from every combatant, still addressing the possibility of untoward maneuvering, and, if so, how to detect it and, of course, prevent it.

C. Establishing before the fact, the overall goals involved in determining who wins and, very importantly, particularly with our complicated playing requirements, fulfilling various possibilities which could occur and the penalties, if any, for either non-compliance or perhaps only semi non-compliance.

D. In the event of unusual circumstances, (such as occurred here) whether there is any recommended mitigation of possible damage suggested or required from the team causing those circumstances to happen. In this case, of course, if the illness had occurred to any of 4 of the 6 players on the Nickell team the illness in itself would have provided the obvious solution, but alas with what actually happened, it didn’t. Note: At least 70+ years ago, when competitive high-level duplicate contract bridge team games came into existence only 5 players were allowed on each team, with the specific idea of, “if anyone gets incapacitated that team will have a built in substitute ready to play”. Approximately 10 years later, 5 players were expanded to 6, serving the tri purpose of endurance, possible illness and keeping partnerships intact.

E. Make no mistake that our recognition of sponsors or the less polite. but more graphic , description of players, as expert-challenged has geometrically made writing CoC’s that much more difficult. And what about those same players, perhaps on other less world class teams, being the best player(s) on that team? Since many problems remain unseen before the fact, perhaps we should announce general caveats to be applied. In this case a glaring example, at least to me, would be: Should we not consider what our laws regarding sponsors not having to play do to the team they do not have to play against?

4. What are we immediately going to do with a possible copy-cat rerun of what happened in White Plains? Do we have the capability of investigating possible ruses? At least in the White Plains conundrum no one had any doubt as to its authenticity. To me, it would be irresponsible not to immediately address this potential problem.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 20th, 2009 at 4:48 pm

To Paul C:

Since I have not yet recovered from the humiliation of the Shanghai Witches Side Show at the 2008 World Championship, I don’t have much faith in the USBF. After threat of lawsuit against them and their individual members (via a wealthy sponsor’s interceding and financial backing in protection of the SW) — all charges were dropped and not an ounce of regret or apology by the brazen offenders. Hopefully, in Sao Paulo we will have no Obama malcontents making childish fools of themselves in similar fashion.

Before yesterday’s decision had appeared on the USBF site, I had already learned if it. I immediately wrote to my old friend, USBF President Billy Pollack, as I have never been a believer in secret votes. Everyone should be openly accountable for their action:

My letter:

Billy: Are you at liberty to reveal the names of the USBF TOURNAMENT COMMITTEE WHO CONVENED, REVIEWED THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND RECOMMENDED TO RETAIN ALL SIX PLAYERS as if the finals were played in the normal fashion?

Thank you Judy Kay-Wolff

Billy’s prompt reply appears as follows:

Sure, Judy. Ask me a straight question, get a straight answer.

The Committee was John Sutherlin, Chair, Rose Meltzer, Henry Bethe, Jeff Polisner and John Solodar. We avoided other candidates who were judged to be too closely linked with the Nickell team (although obviously, everyone we would consider had some- connection). The committee’s vote was unanimous.

The USBF Board (which contains, by my count, three membres who are typically not sponsors or pros — me, Beatty, Joan; two pros — Hamman and Passell; and two sponsors — Jacobs and Moss), I’d say is well balanced. Per the Conditions, we have to accept or reject the comitteee’s recommendation, I recused Hamman, and asked the other members to vote. I got four responses so far, plus mine, all in favor of retaining Nickell-Freeman. So I won’t say it’s unanimous unless and until and I get the last vote.

We do intend to revisit the Conditions, and I have already begun that process, but it would have been horribly wrong, IMHO to retroactively change them.

I will compose a general statement in a few minutes.

Best regards to you and Bobby,

Bill P

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At this point, I do believe they did the best they could with the cast of characters involved and the obvious detemination expressed to prevent a repeat performance in the future. However, with committees like these (with such unavoidably politically incestuous relationships with sponsors and pros who have much to gain or lose – especially with the subject individual/s) — it is a no-win situation for bridge. Most important is we move forward and prevent another debacle. My heart goes out to the Fleisher team who really got the @#X%! end of the stick!!!

However, my most distressing question (as explained on the site originally) — who was responsible for this original Condition of Contest — tantamount to quaranting both partners for one’s incapacity — JOINING THEM AT THE HIP! Seems like better alternatives were available.

Unquestionably the most important issue is that Dickie returns to good health and is at his best in Sao Paulo. My vehement position had nothing to do with the subject characters. In fact, I was a big Dickie Freeman Quiz Kid Fan and marveled in the sixtieis how he flawlessly totaled the scores at the tournaments leaving the players in awe of his talents. Norman and I had been friendly with Dickie and Louise for about forty years (being married about the same time). As to Nick — he is everybody’s’ hero.

All we can do at this point is hope the USBF plugs the flaws and wish both USA teams banner results!

JuanitaJune 20th, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Below is an excerpt from the USBF by-laws –

c. Support only participants who are of Olympic and world

championship caliber and who possess the highest talent and

achievement as determined by trial competition and training.

d. Provide an equal opportunity to bridge athletes, coaches, trainers,

managers, administrators and officials to participate in amateur

bridge competition without discrimination on the basis of race,

color, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation, and with fair

notice and opportunity for a hearing to any bridge player, coach,

USBF BYLAWS 1/07 Page 2

trainer, manager, administrator, or official before declaring such

individual ineligible to participate. Notwithstanding the above, the

membership explicitly endorses the establishment of events

restricted by gender or gender combinations (e.g., Mixed;


I respectfully submit these purpoeses, which are included in the by-laws presumably submitted to the IRS for tax exempt status, are not being met. When I look up the meaning of the word participant, I see synonoums including member, contributior, contestant. It seems to me that USBF has changed this meaning to team.

The ACBL should think about why it is subsidzing sponsered team.

And yes, though I do not know him, I wish for the best of health for Mr. Freeman.

Gary M. MugfordJune 20th, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Some random thoughts on the matter … I have a very healthy respect for the team dynamic. A very large part of me ratifies the USBF decision as honourable and correct, even if not within the strict interpretation of the law. I’ve often heard players claim decisions were based on what they thought their partners would do at the other table. As much as it might NOT be a good idea to do that, intimate knowledge built up over the years as to habits does occasionally pay off.

And sometimes, the law is an ass.

I’ve also met several of the big team sponsor/players and as shocking as it seems, I’ve actually liked most of them. I’m always perfectly ready to assume a well-heeled sponsor is a horse’s patootie, but I’ve been proven wrong time after time. I resent them less than most of the folks on the outside wanting in on the riches.

And with opportunity comes ambition. And when added to power, comes self-interested finagling. I’ve seen too many youth sports teams with good prospects suddenly dump their coaching staffs so some power-grubbing beaurocrat opportunists can slide in, just in time to grab the golden ring for themselves. It’s as predictable as human greed can get. And big-time bridge has not been exempt from this in the past, as Bobby has noted. Frankly, I don’t trust just about ANY scheme that would have been created for replacing Nickell and Freeman. I’d rather dance with them that brung them to the dance, than look over the hill at who might be there. Remember, in the absence of a truly altruistic selection system (which might be impossible by definition), the team MIGHT have ended worse off for playing talent than Nickell and Freeman.

I appreciate Bobby’s internal struggle at the decline of American superiority, but we’ve seen it in other endeavours. We Canadians throw a hissy fit when we don’t win every global gold medal in hockey or curling. The USA basketball superiority was upended decades ago, reclaimed, and is once again under duress from the likes of Spain. English soccer has never recovered from the Fist of God. I could go on. It’s certainly laudable not to give into the tides of change, but to ignore the rising water everywhere is to risk perishing without trying other ways to better one’s shaky position.

The only way to weed out sponsors who are good enough to carry 2/7ths of their team’s action, is to find equally well-heeled money pools for the pros to dip into. It matters not that some of the best will play for their country’s pride and others won’t. As long as ‘the best’ includes players on the mercenary end of that divide, there can never be the equivalent of the American Dream Team.

Individual playing sponsors has become de rigeur in the pastime. It’s one of the things that’s made it difficult for the non-playing public to identify with Bridge in general. Not to disparage a good guy, but outside of the family and friends of Nick Nickell, who cares if NICKELL WINS CHAMPIONSHIP (AGAIN). The media doesn’t. I really believe the kickstart Ira Corn gave Bridge last century was fueled in large part with the team being called The Dallas Aces. If nothing else, it made their exploits newsworthy in Dallas, if nowhere else. (I might be overstating the local press the Aces got, but there were the most famous team ever … to non Bridge players)

Maybe we could generate town teams with funds achieved through advertising sales, the same way sports teams do. Or, I’d love to see a similar movement away from person-named teams to teams sponsored by organizations (I still think with my PR hat on, occasionally). The Coca-Cola Kibitzers versus the McDonald’s Macs would possibly generate enough publicity through the corporate parents to build up the money to make star-studded six-man teams, rather than fab fives plus one. That’s not to say that the Down South Doctors have to adhere to the “only the best” practice, if they so wish.

If the money can’t be raised via ‘traditional’ methods, than the playing sponsors will continue to fill the breach, rising tide or no.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 20th, 2009 at 7:55 pm


This is one of the most fascinating and original concepts ever brought to my attention. I have a regional coming up Monday so I will have to postpone a serious answer tilll I can give it the thought it deserves. I must admit it would have a lot of local kicks but would lack in the universal glory of winning a world class event which I still consider the Stairway to Heaven.

Cam FrenchDecember 7th, 2009 at 1:17 am

There can be no mid-event rule changes.

I think Fred covered that with ample examples.

Perhaps the rules need to be amended, but that is for others and not at this time.

I think the one element lost in this discussion is a team dynamic.

Adding the “best pair” is arbitrary, violates the conditions of contest and is insulting to the Nickell team members.

Sometimes “chemistry” is at work, espcially in a game like bridge where ego reigns supreme. I have been asked by better (yes, there are a few hordes of) players to play, but for me, to play with such an individual or team mates, detracts from my pleasure of the game and the enjoyment I derive thereof.

Surely no one is better equipped to determine who would add value to their team than the team members themselves. How many baseball teams have one hot shot added who slugs a lot of home runs, but detracts from the overall?

The “best team” is a lofty goal. Sometimes that is the playerss who won, under onerous circumstances.

Viloating the rules at the eleventh hour to achieve a goal, is an affront to the players and the game.