Judy Kay-Wolff


You are defending 4S in the fourth round of a duplicate where lefty opens 1S and rebids 4S like a shot over a 1NT response.   Partner cashes two rounds of clubs and gets the third one ruffed.

Declarer’s hand is solid, excepting the trump suit.  He crosses to the diamond ace (and holding SEVEN to the AKQ6432 opposite a single 10), plays the 10.  I smoothly played low and he let it ride, smothering my partner’s 9 while I sat there with my teeth in my mouth holding J875.  It certainly can’t be right to cover as declarer could have AKQ9XX or AKQ9XXX.   In fact, I think it is absurd to even consider covering — but what do I know?

How do you explain it?  Am I paranoid or am I missing something?   (And by the way, I do ‘breast’ my cards).   I guess instead of bitching, I should arrange to chain him to the seat and play a set game on a slow boat to China, leaving  tomorrow.


Danny KleinmanSeptember 17th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

When I was “Assistant” District Recorder for ACBL District 23 from 1990 to 1992, and a player I respected came to me with an account of a similar double-dummy (but wrong) play by an opposing declarer, I investigated by watching that declarer on other deals to confirm the alternative hypothesis to “illicit information,” namely that the player was simply a bad player whose bad play happened to work on that one deal. I was happy to see and report that the alternative hypothesis was true, as that player consistently made bad declarer plays that failed.

Unfortunately, I was not always allowed to do so. When I attempted to watch Mike Shuman and Rose Levy at a club run by Rand Pinsky, Mr. Pinsky barred me at the request of those two … and I remained unable to confirm or refute the suspicion of Ms. Levy’s victim, Max Hardy, that she had illicit information on a deal she had played against Max.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFSeptember 17th, 2009 at 9:00 pm


You sure tell it like it is — but so do I. This was such a blatantly bad play (by not such a blatantly bad player), I have no doubt he had big ears or big eyes. No other possibility from

my standpoint. If he played the hand 1,000 more times, he would rise with an honor and play for the trumps to break 3-2. But — I do appreciate your Shuman/Levy/Pinsky story.

I am of the theory, leave no stone unturned when you smell a rat.

PegSeptember 18th, 2009 at 2:31 am

Judy – who knows?? My best guess is that he EITHER saw your partner’s hand (if you are indeed a good “breaster” :)) – or – he heard someone say something about it.

I almost never see anything. I don’t try and at 5’1″, the opportunity rarely presents itself anyway (and I DO tell people to hold their cards back if they’re bad about that.)

When I hear something, I call the director. Sometimes I get a silly response, like “play it normally.” How do you do THAT when you have a two way guess and you now KNOW which way works??!

In any case – some of us try to play the game as it is intended to be played. Some don’t.

Peter GillSeptember 19th, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Leave no stone unturned? Here are some possible explanations:

1. As you played low on S10, your partner began to detach a card before declarer played. Declarer deduced that with Jx or Jxx or Jxxx, your partner would have to wait to see declarer’s card before starting to detach a card, so your partner could not have SJ.

2. Declarer thought he had AKJ6432, not AKQ6432.

3. As he crossed to dummy in diamonds, declarer noticed an almost hidden reaction from you, that you were thinking about the next trick as the diamond was being played, i.e. your focus was on thinking rather than just following suit. If so, your facial mannerisms of concentration could be interpreted as “whether to cover S10 with SJ”. Possibly illegal.

4. They had several bottoms on the first three rounds, and he was wildly trying to get a top to reverse the session’s momentum.

5. He’s in the early stages of dementia and has mind lapses.

6. He knew you write a blog and wanted to see if his weird play gets into the blog.

7. His partner had bet him that he couldn’t get a top today against a good pair, so he seized his opportunity to try for a top.

8. He misguidedly thought he could try a fancy play to impress his well-known opponents.

9. He’s a good poker player. Although you smoothly played low on S10, he knows from experience that you always play in tempo, and sniffed out that you had SJ from the manner in which you played smoothly.

10. Illegal and reprehensible. He was slotting you, and saw your diamond come from mid-hand, then your S5 as the fourth card from the left of your hand. My gut feeling is that this is what happened, but I would like to be wrong.

11. Illegal. He saw your partner’s cards. If you think that’s possible, then you should warn your partner, as gently as possible, to take care on opening lead not to show any other cards to declarer. Some declarers, as the top club is led, notice which players lean forward to lead and in so doing, expose some of their cards. If S9 was seen on the extreme left of her hand at the time of the opening lead, declarer might have deduced illegally that she did not have SJ. At club level, some crooks target certain opponents who reveal cards as they do their opening lead.

12. Illegal. He overheard, although it seems unlikely that anyone would bother post morteming about such a spade layout. If you sit NS rather than EW, your EW opponents will not be playing boards that come from neigbouring tables so are elss likely to have overheard things.

Obviously, some of these explanations are unlikely, especially number 12, but all are possible if you want to leave no stone unturned, even the smallest stone.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFSeptember 19th, 2009 at 8:12 pm


Sorry you wasted so much time with your possible rational explanations. But first, let me begin by telling you my partner was Bobby Wolff who does not detach cards before his turn to play. No doubt you have heard of him or even played against him.

It may also be of interest to you to learn that when I entered the club yesterday, several people were embroiled in heated conversations regarding the same person involved in auctions of small and grand slams (without normal sequences — just jumping blindly with no sufficient information). AMAZING — and they all made.

Also, these were not shuffled (but pre-made) boards. Ah, there’s the rub! Besides, the person comes to the club early to help with the set-up. Hand records may even have been involved.

Another factor — there is a kitchen for drinks and nibbles where players who finish early go between rounds and unfortunately, boards are indiscreetly discussed.

And as a kicker — three recorder slips are either on file or in the process of being prepared against GUESS WHO — the passer of the S10.

Since you were not privy to most of the above information before your sermon (nor was I until yesterday), I can somewhat understand your imaginative explanations — but you can bet your bottom dollar the evidence is mounting against the culprit and eventually all chickens come home to roost.

Thanks for taking the time to write, but I can’t buy most of the defenses you offer.

SteveSeptember 20th, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Playing East-West in a local club duplicate you come to a table and hear the following auction by North-South:

1NT(announced as 12-14 hcp)- 2D(transfer)-2H-3NT-6H by the no trump bidder who has 13 hcp and Jxx in hearts. By a fortuitous lie of the cards it makes 6 hearts. Of course no one else gets above 4 hearts(all making the same 12 tricks). There can be many explanations for North’s unusual action but in science there’s a principle known as Occam’s razor which can be stated as:

“When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions the simpler one is the better.”

In the case above the simplest explanation is the player knew the hand made 6 hearts.

JUDY KAY WOLFFSeptember 20th, 2009 at 7:01 pm


Any way you slice it, auctions like these are unrealistic and conscientious Directors and Recorders have a responsibility to get to the bottom of these bizarre “LUCKY” plays or bids.

If not, why are we all wasting our time?

PegSeptember 21st, 2009 at 1:26 pm

I do think that recorders are a good idea. Very tough (like impossible) to say at the table: “You must have cheated or heard something.” But – if there is a frequent pattern of such bizarre action, and ethics committee can look into it.

Judy; are you SURE that Bobby didn’t have that 9 half out of his hand? LOL!!! 🙂 🙂

JUDY KAY WOLFFSeptember 21st, 2009 at 2:11 pm


You can bet your life on it (and I know, of course, you are kidding)! He is one of the most deceptive, ethical players one would meet in a lifetime. Maybe that is why his results have been so consistently good.