Judy Kay-Wolff


Raised in the City of Brotherly Love and never heeding Horace Greeley’s vehement recommendation, I spent most of my time along the Eastern seaboard (New York, New Jersey, Delaware) with frequent vacation flights to Florida.   It was not until I became enmeshed in the bridge world in the late fifties that I became exposed (more like ‘addicted’) to the NABCs held all over the United States.  I dare say I probably attended about 145 of them — but rarely left the hotel during the week.   Exceptions perhaps were Niagara Falls (Buffalo), Graceland (Memphis), The Alamo (San Antonio) — but not too many more trigger my memory.   When Bobby suggested we motor to Palm Desert from Las Vegas for the Regional for four days, I was intrigued to see that part of our country — totally foreign to me.    What perhaps amazed me most was the number of ritzy, exclusive country and golf clubs within a three mile strip — similar to the plethora of McDonalds, Wendy’s, I-Hops, Burger Kings and other fast food joints in comparable space in The Big Apple.   It was just one elegant structure after another driving down Bob Hope Drive.  Being an old movie buff, I was tickled by seeing Interstate Exits named Dale Evans Drive and I eagerly looked to make sure Roy Rogers was not shunned — and of course, I was not disappointed as his Exit followed ahead shortly.   We spotted the same type of deifications of the early stars such as ‘Drives” named after Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore (on which the Palm Desert Mission Hills complex was located) in Rancho Mirage, California.

We arrived late Monday (totally exhausted because of hitting many traffic snags) so we played only at night and the next three relaxing two-session pair events.   The once irresistible excitement of the nationals has lost  its allure and we have not attended one since the local Las Vegas NABC in July of 2008.   Never thought either of us would see the day when a shocker like this would surface, but perhaps the inconvenience (necessary of course) of airport security lines, the toll the economy has taken on airline fares and hotels, restaurants etc. played a major role.   Of course, living in LV does not necessitate the desire to look for a city more exciting to visit.   We have it all here.  In fact, the days have flown by so quickly , we wonder where the six years have gone since we were married.  First with Norman and now Bobby —  I am truly twice blessed.

Meanwhile, back at the desert — it was everything one could wish for.   The architecture was lovely, rooms were tremendous and beautiful, the bathrooms luxurious, the room bridge rates rather enticing and the playing space close by (either by foot path) or “event parking” which was more of a hassle as the Regional was so well attended.  And the piece de resistance — the Internet was FREE!!!!!!     (Try and remember back to the last time that happened)!  Many ‘big names’ showed up (playing professionally, I assume) and the snack bar between sessions was very convenient as we had little time to gallivant between the ten and three o’clock sessions. At night there were several fine terrific restaurants within driving distance (Chang’s, Fleming’s, et al.) passing Country Club Row en route to Interstate 211 with dozens of other good eating spots as well.

Everything was winding down Thursday night and as we started our final session, the proverbial @#$%! hit the fan in Round One.    Bobby (playing weak NT non-vulnerable) opened 1NT.   Holding QJXXX  10XXX  AKX  X, I bid 2C (non-forcing Stayman) to which Bobby responded 2H.    Right or wrong, in my aggressive manner, I blasted to 4H.    A diamond was opened and won in dummy by my DK.   Bobby led a spade, my LHO followed low and Bobby rose with the K which held.   He next  played a diamond to the ace, followed by a club to the ace and king of clubs, pitching a diamond from dummy.   After ruffing a club, when Bobby led the SQ (with my LHO following low),  Bobby RUFFED and all hell broke loose!!!!!  My LHO screamed at Bobby “You opened a NT with a singleton” and shrieked for the director.   He even interrogated me how often that had happened before.   I never had a chance to respond as the bridge police arrived.    Luckily, it happened to be one of the calmest,  best poised and most experienced in the business — Roger Putnam — who tried to settle Lefty down, explaining the No Trumper could make any call he wanted — though the opponent kept raving and ranting.   He even told Bobby he was going to file a recorder slip on him, to which Bobby replied, “I wish you would.”  Eventually, calm was restored, Bobby made the contract and the disgruntled man left the table.  The opponent looked to be a hot-tempered middle Easterner and from having played against him earlier this week, it was obvious he was a very good player — just a poor loser.   It was a quite unpleasant encounter and shocking that an experienced participant didn’t have any clue about the rules of the game.  Bobby’s actual hand was:   K  Q9XX  1098  AKJXX.    Playing weak NT, his judgment dictated his call.

When I arrived home, I had an email waiting for me from my close friend, Larry Cohen, who (together with his old partner, Marty-Bergen) is having a Cohen-Bergen Bridge Reunion Seminar at the Wynn in Las Vegas June 22-24 and I had asked him for some flyers to pass out at my local duplicate club.  I couldn’t resist recounting the above story and this was his unsolicited reply:  “The reason for 1NT, of course (as RSW well is aware) is not to be fancy or thiefy, it is because of the rebid problem after 1C P 1S.”   signed/LC    Great minds think alike.

I guess it all goes with the territory — but what a sour ending to a lovely four days!


ross taylorDecember 21st, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Hi Judy – cool post ! I think someone should call the director on the hotel for offering free internet – clearly not Standard American.

I don’t think the guy can be a” a very good player” and behave thusly.

Not to be argumentative, but with the actual hand, 2 clubs is certainly an acceptable rebid, but hey, this was a pairs game, so bidders beware.

A purist might temper his inner NT to a hand more like K Q9xx AQ9 Qxxxx.

best, Ross

JUDY KAY-WOLFFDecember 21st, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Hi Ross:

You’re right. I should have called the Hotel Director about the free Internet but thought it best to leave well enough alone.

Regarding the out-of-control bozo, we had played against him before and Bobby and I both thought he knew just what he was doing. Perhaps had he given his partner a count on the spades, the debacle would have been warded off and his cantankerous temper tantrum avoided.

Bobby has never been accused of being a Purist. He has brainwashed me that Bridge is AN ART (not a science) and a player must have confidence in his own judgment whether it be a bid, declarer play or defense. No doubt he would have opened your cited hand a Weak NT as well, but it went against his grain opening and rebidding 2C on this particular hand. Discerning one hand from another is what makes our game so unique and separates the men from the boys.



LenDecember 21st, 2009 at 10:12 pm

I was about to post that you’re not allowed to have an agreement to open 1N with a singleton, and that your opp might have been upset because you two seemed to agree that 1N was the correct call, therefore you two had an implicit (illegal) agreement.

Just for fun, I checked the General Convention Chart first (though I suppose you might have entered a mid-chart event) here:


It doesn’t say anything about limiting 1N openings to hands without shortness. Technically, it says:

a) Unless specifically allowed, methods are disallowed

b) You are allowed nine different types of opening bid, but none of those include 1N (or a natural one bid in a suit, either)! The GCC should be rewritten, perhaps by a native speaker of English this time.

BTW, according to the ACBL alert chart, his 1N opening isn’t alertable, either, since it’s not HIGHTLY unusual shape (emphasis mine). I though you two believed that it was actively ethical to alert this sort of thing, though.

Robb GordonDecember 27th, 2009 at 12:06 am

Linda & I had the director called on us in Verona because the opponent didn’t like the minor we chose to open with 4-4 (it would have probably been 1C unless we had a major singleton). I guess there are rules about this in Lower Slobovia.

MichaelDecember 31st, 2009 at 10:31 am

Len, I’m pretty sure it is actually ok to have the agreement to open 1nt on hands with shortness but only if it is sufficiently infrequent and you don’t have methods to discover it later in the auction. I forget the exact number, but it is something like less than 1 or 2% of your 1nt hold singletons. This information is included in the club directors information from the ACBL (which I agree is non-ideal).

The idea is it is supposed to be totally ok to exercise judgment, like on the existing hand. But it isn’t ok to have a system that requires, for instance, all 4441 hands to open 1nt. Even all 4441 with a stiff spade would be to many (or stiff diamond for precision folks). But agreeing for instance that K444 hands with in your nt range should open 1nt (that is stiff K of spades, and 444) would be ok so long as you don’t have anyway to diagnose that later.

Few people bid 1nt with a stiff, but the same rules are supposed to apply to 2nt as well and many more of us exercise judgment with 2nt hands with stiff honors.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJanuary 1st, 2010 at 5:48 pm

To Len, Robb and Michael:

I always assume my partner has a balanced (or semi-balanced) hand when he or she opens 1NT and it does not lurk in the back of my mind that partner has a singleton (or could have one). I assume they have normal distribution and make my calls based on that.

As I said above — Bobby always preaches: BRIDGE IS NOT A SCIENCE; IT IS AN ART.

In his judgment (which few would challenge — although nobody is perfect) – it was a choice of evils and he thought opening a no trump was the better alternative. The director was vehement that good judgment is no crime or violation of ACBL rules (obviously unless it is a private and common occurrence).

Though we play five card majors, sometimes there are hands that are conducive to opening a four baggger. However, my bids are always based on the assumption partner has five and I frequently jump with three. The older I get and the more I play, I realize superior results are attained by exercising good judgment rather than counting your points and playing exactly as dictated bt our forefathers. We are making new inroads every day and it a very uplifting experience.

In answer to Len, inferring we were not actively ethical for me to not alert he could have a singleton — it never enters my mind as I could count on one hand how many times it has occurred since our marriage. Sometimes, it does the opponents more harm than good, since it puts a bug in their head which is almost always unfounded. No one is more conscious of not taking advantage of his opponents (whether novices or experts) than Bobby Wolff and his entire bridge career has been patterned after keeping the game clean and above board — making a lot of enemies along the way as many try to get away with as much as they can.

And as far a Robb’s experience in Verona, remind me to keep playing stateside. Using your noodle beats playing like a robot. That’s why they make chocolate and vanilla.

A good lesson to be learned from this (with reference to opening 2NT with a stiff honor) is to consider which is more dangerous — opening a one bid and being passed (and possibly missing a game) — or straying from the NT pattern and showing your point range despite the imperfection of your distribution).

BOBBY WOLFFJanuary 1st, 2010 at 6:34 pm

To Len & Michael,

First of all I would like to address Ross and Robb also, but their blogs address other issues.

At the risk of offending whomever determines what is judged an official ACBL, WBF or Lower Slobovian position on bidding allowances I would like to offer the following:

1. These decisions need to be constantly updated depending on changing bidding philosophies and the quality of the players under their auspices.

2. Obviously the rules, especially the annotations and descriptions, need to specifically address the perceived knowledge of the participants in order, if for no other reason, than to make the reader thoroughly aware of the problem and, more importantly, the reasons for them.

3. Without adherence to #2, there will be much misunderstanding which usually leads to significant dissension at the table. The rulesmakers have to cut back on treating all players like unknowledgeable novices, but rather try and teach them the reasons for the rules.

4. The above theme on opening any number of NT with a singleton in hand is the perfect case in point wherein no reader should ever leave any aspect of bridge learning without being firmly convinced that players can basically make any bid or play they want, as long as their partner is not significantly advantaged by knowing anything that the opponents may want to know.

5. #4 is the rub, and the Golden Rule of Bridge should be that we, as players, should always use judgment in making sure that we lean over backwards to steadfastly bring the opponents up to snuff as our primary duty. As a suggestion I would extend alerts to include all information that the opponents should know on a need to know basis.

6. #5 is now in practice in Andy Robson’s unique bridge club in London and all I can say is that after playing there and reading what he has to say about it, I am thoroughly convinced that is the direction we need to go.

7. It will take time for it to be put into positive effect, but once there, everything good will happen. The main goal is to convince all of our players that lack of chicanery in presentation will eventually trump all foes in making our game what all of us want it to be.

8. X-RATED: Proceed at your own risk!!!! Keep the foxes and bridge lawyers off the committees which determine what is to be done or else there will be no chickens left to play the game we want bridge to be! As an example, I cannot help but remind myself that when I was on the ACBL Laws Commission, one of my more respected collegues began arguing for being able to hesitate legally while holding a balanced Yarborough (one jack) before passing opposite a mini-NT 10-12 under the guise of trying to think of the best action in order to keep the opponents out of the bidding. He obviously accomplished that task at that table when his LHO did pass. However, after having the director summoned, his opponents were awarded +660, but he did avoid a C&E (conduct and ethics) committee hearing.

From the blogs above, Len and Michael, (as well, of course, as Ross and Robb whom I know personally) at least from what they say on the current subject, would be my first two (four) choices to represent bridge.