Judy Kay-Wolff


Admittedly, not being an avid book reader by nature (though I love anagrams, word puzzles and games) —  I rarely get my teeth into a new release but the clever title My Favorite 52 caught my eye (though not quite accurate as it contains 60 deals). (And they say bridge players are good at counting but not even Larry Cohen is perfect!). It started out as you may know as interactive software, and in 2005 won the ABTA “Software of the Year Award. It had never before been presented in book format. It stands apart in many ways from the rank and file ‘bridge book’ and heaven knows the tables are inundated with hoards of them (both prehistoric and current).

Perhaps, I am a bit partial to Larry Cohen. But why not? He is most deserving. He has accomplished so much in countless directions, he deserves all the recognition and kudos that has come his way. Perhaps there is only one other bridge hero who was as unassuming and modest and that was my late husband, Norman Kay, but Larry was much more diversified and accomplished a plethora in so many more directions. It appears he is always volunteering — regardless of where it brought him or what it entailed. It makes me very sad that he has (for the time being, I hope) forsaken his active play in tournament events, concentrating on a sane, normal, adjusted. happy, non-pressured relaxing outdoor-directed life with his beautiful, charming and adoring wife, Maria. If ever two people were meant for each other, they fit the bill (and this comes from an old friend who perhaps may have even ended up as his mother-in-law).

It’s too often been said that all’s well that ends well, and I do hope someday Larry returns to the table. When Edgar Kaplan died, Norman decided to call it quits as well. He just lost interest (as well as a friend and partner of four decades). Although Larry’s reason for moving in another direction had nothing to do with anything as sad and lugubrious, he will be sorely missed by the masses as he is quite a popular attraction at all the bridge gatherings. But — I have my own personal convictions about throwing in the towel, regardless of the reason. I told Norman that when God has blessed someone with such incredible competitive talent, it is sacrilege to stuff it in a closet and move on to other things. Norman came out of retirement (much because of my urging) to merge with the popular Eddie Kantar for a year or two before his own death and they had some wonderful sessions together (with Yvonne and I enjoying the humorous banter). So, Larry, you have permission now for a temporary hiatus (like a little sabbatical) but don’t stay away too long.

O. K. back to MF52. What I found captivating was I felt the book was written in a one-on-one tone. It was like Larry was talking directly to me (or perhaps thinking out loud) as he gave the backgrounds of the partners, the specific hands, the different options for bidding and playing, the analyses and the final result. They weren’t always the result you had hoped for … or you got a top because the opponents didn’t exercise their best option.  But — the analysis (good or bad) you knew was candid and unbiased. I never felt pressed as it was written in a low key manner and I could put the book down and look forward to resuming the next morning — picking up where I left off. It always amazes me how much basic, matter of fact theories we all think we know, but when it presents itself at the table in the form of one of Larry’s selections, we don’t always recognize it. MF52 kept doing that to me — a bit of ego deflation — but every bridge player is sorely in need of that! Of course, he also threw in some exotic ones — like the 8/5 hand (Once in a Lifetime). You can’t miss it —  It’s Chapter I.

The pictures were the kicker — especially one of Larry with Marty Bergen and another with Ron Gerard. For such a straight-faced, serious (but cute) looking individual, it is hard to imagine such an impeccably put-together gentleman as Larry at that stage in life. It was reminiscent of Peter Weichsel (the first one I ever saw in a pony tail) and the gradually unconventional hair styles by all individuals around the bridge world. But knowing Larry now as I do —  in retrospect  — the curls tickled me. On the other hand, there was an elegant photograph of Edith and George Rosenkranz suggestive of royalty which could have been hung at Windsor Castle or the Vatican in all its majesty. David and Larry never seem to change — although make no mistake about it: Everyone thinks of David as the comedian and Larry as the straight man. Says who? Larry is pretty funny and quick witted on his own — and not the quiet sweet Mr. Nice Guy when David and he first became partners. Larry doesn’t hold back when he has something to say — but always in a civil tone with humor, class and dignity.

This blog started out as a review of MF52, but all the other bridge reviewers can do that. My critique is more about a special human being who represents what every first class bridge player should be about: honor, ethics, love of the game and possession of a unique talent for bridge, proving that the best players are ambidextrous — they can AUTHOR AND COUNT AT THE SAME TIME.


PegAugust 12th, 2009 at 7:06 pm

For a while, for some reason, Berk-Cohen were my nemesis. Don’t ask me why – but – whenever I played them, my brain went dramatically haywire. They probably wondered how I earned my first 100 masterpoints – let alone any others.

Eventually, however, I managed to follow suit against them – and Larry has always been very gracious to me. Although I know he is a super-competitor, he still manages to say “well-done” – even when he is the one receiving not the best result.

I receive emails from Larry’s “Bridge with Larry Cohen” – and they are always entertaining, most well-written and quite instructional.

As much as I really would prefer to face other competitors at the table – I hope that Larry is really only faking us out with his retirement! Otherwise – I will miss him too much!

[…] Read Judy Kay-Wolff’s review of the book here. […]