Judy Kay-Wolff


Next on my list are Appeals Committees which IMO are frequently too inept and unable to get to the crux of the matter and produce the equity of which our game is badly in need.

I have never served as a defendant and only one time earlier (perhaps 15 years ago) did my partner and I appeal a ruling.   I have better things to do after a game than to offer myself up as a guinea pig before an often incompetent committee — with few exceptions.  However, I  witnessed one group in all their glory (about three years ago) during my infamous case which appears in The Lone Wolff (An Appeal to Remember).  Knowing in advance that this would be my next subject in the blog series, I wrote to one of the Committee members (who for obvious reasons will remain anonymous) to confirm what he stated during dinner one evening a few months ago.   We heard him admit that he never saw the hands involved, which was hard for Bobby and me to believe.   How can an Appeals Committee Member not get to see the four hands? It is a virtual impossibility!  I recall vividly Bobby and I discussing it at home that evening.   So before posting this blog I wrote to him again to confirm that he did not see the hand in question.   His opening words were (this time) “The Committee saw the hand” — to which I replied, ” YOU were on the committee.   Make up your mind..”   His original words were refuted by both him and later his wife who got herself involved to defend her husband’s denial.    Perhaps he is just getting older and had a memory lapse or had a drink or two before dinner and did not remember protesting his unfamiliarity with said hand record.  

He further offered the following unsatisfactory explanation which I found totally meaningless   Following are both his reply to me and Bobby’s outraged response suggesting how my case (or any other case that goes before an AC) should have been handled.

The committee saw the hand.   The basic problem for the committee was that the director made a decision based on the testimony of those involved, at the time and at the table.   He also conferred with other directors.   When the case was brought to the committee, the director stated that no new information or argument had emanated from you to make him reconsider.   At the hearing, there were no new arguments presented by either the opponents or your partner or you.   The reality is, the committee may or may not have made a correct ruling.   Having said that, you should realize the committee tried to make a fair ruling based on the evidence presented to it.   Committees don’t always get it right — but they try very hard to be impartial and not be swayed by the presence of notables.  [Who was the notable?   Certainly not me!]   Every time you go to court (law suit) you think you will win.  You don’t always win — but that doesn’t mean you were wrong.  It just means you didn’t win.”

Pearls of wisdom!  In any event, that did not appease me in the least and for fear of losing my cool and using profanity,  I turned it over to a very knowledgeable individual, especially in the area of appeals — my husband Bobby.    I felt I hadn’t been screwed — but rather raped by the opponents, the director and the Committee.    Bobby totally agreed with me, and in fact, he pleaded our case before the Appeals and Charges Committee Hearing at an ensuing National to revoke the outrageous AWMW (Appeal Without Merit Warning).   Just for the record, after Bobby spoke, the AWMW was immediately vacated unanimously, approved by the BOD and finally laid to rest but not before sixteen months of getting the runaround and not being advised of my right to go before the A&CC earlier.  You will find it of interest to note that the embarrassment and humiliation suffered by the Appeals Committee for having the AWMW reversed, was taken care of by the cunning Board Directors.  In order to prevent a recurrence, they cleverly passed whatever it is they “pass” — making appeals of AWMWs no longer fashionable.   How’s that action by the governing body of the American Contract Bridge League?   Disgusting!  Thus, (1) YOU CAN’T APPEAL AN APPEAL; and (2) YOU CAN’T APPEAL AN AWMW,  SO WHAT OTHER RESOURCE IS AVAILABLE  OTHER THAN TO ENGAGE AN ATTORNEY AND SUE THEM IN A COURT OF LAW FOR IMPUGNING YOUR GOOD NAME.    I can’t think of any other resolution.   Can you?????  

Here was Bobby’s eloquent reply, trying to educate the pathetically misguided Appeals Committee Member who (like his fellow committee-mates) had no clue as to proper procedure before making a judgment call:

Rehashing Judy’s appeal only has merit if the appeals process cares enough to be sure they get it right next time.  Judy gave me your email and it smacks from the truth.  As a matter of fact I would bet you are recounting what happened very accurately.  However, what I just said could have been said about the OJ Simpson murder trial.  That does not cut it with me, nor should it with you. 

The committee should not have to follow up by ratifying a terribly flawed TD decision (it matters not if it was corroborated since most other TD’s, including too many of our senior ones, really have no idea how to rule or the reasons for it).  The first thing that should be done, first by the TD and then, of course by the committee, is to look at the hand and then determine whether a huddle was likely.  Then some logic should be used such as when the accuser called the director, 1.  Was it after the hand was over or was it, timely;  2. at the time of the huddle and then the possibility of partner being privy to UI and then deciding to act?  Finally the hand that the balancer had in order to consider balancing as well, of course, as the hand the accuser was speaking about had enough values to make her position tenable.  The rules as you state them are similar to a person scratching his left ear with his right hand.”

As an aside, for the record, I might describe the time scenario before I called the director:   (1) I opened the bidding 1S; (2) Lefty studied at least 30 seconds and passed waving his hand in noticeable despair; (3) My partner who had her head down was filling in the pickup slips, unaware of the time lapse and pulled out a green card; and (4) After Righty studied for a very long time, finally balanced over my 1S bid with 2C (holding a 2/3/3/5 with two queens and two jacks. (5)  IT WAS TIME FOR ME TO CALL THE DIRECTOR — never having seen either of the opponents’ hands).   Looking at all four hands, every expert I peddled the hand to (obviously not on the committee) thought I had them dead to right and was 100% in the right because I had been disadvantaged and should have been allowed to play 1S for minus 50 (an average board).  However, it was beyond the realm of reason why the Committee chose to take a different view —  rebuking my plea and giving my partner and me an AWMW.   Incidentally, many have asked after the 2C balance why did the original huddler (Lefty) not bid 2NT to show an opening bid (which he had passed).   That’s an easy one!    He had already shown his values earlier as was evidenced by his huddle!!!

Continuing with  Bobby’s response ….

“Without even considering the possibility of my pulling rank, I have chaired so many Appeals committees with the WBF (perhaps 200+) with most being important enough so that the result could even directly affect the tournament.  Never have I heard such abominable rules as the rules you described on that ill fated evening.

It seems to me that with the intelligent legal talent available that it would be impossible to know so little about what happened during that appeal that the other members of the committee could sit around, do nothing, and just let it happen.  By the time that committee was reviewed (I was there) by the ACBL Appeals and Charges Committee, they were downright embarrassed by having to listen to what happened.

While, to repeat, there is no doubt, at least to me, of your accuracy in reporting, but how could you be part of letting it happen?  It seems that you and the rest of your group would have more pride than that, but perhaps it was late at night and the mood was that of total apathy.  In my long tenure I, at times felt guilty about taking control and making sure equity (at least 80%) would rule and a couple of times over a 30 year period I got careless and turned what I thought was a simple case over to others so that they could determine that decision and I must say that on one occasion the lovely lady (about 80) turned to me and said, “Mr Wolff, I have always heard that you were very fair and knowledgeable, but this decision proves you are not”.  She was as right as she could be and I never, after that case, relinquished my duty again.

I am relating the above story to try and acknowledge that many people who serve on committees would be better off discussing nuclear physics than attempting to make justice triumph in our rather weird bridge world.

Finally, I am through discussing this case, and promise to never bring it up again, but perhaps you could show some leadership and make sure that future committees are responsible for at least some intelligent decisions.  For the most part, at least the ones regarding some of our leading players, the decision, while not as bad as Judy’s, are still off the wall.”

/s/ Bobby

End of MY story!    You can now understand my overwhelming despair with the way some committees operate because their composition (from past performance) is very indicting that so many are unqualified (as in the subject case) and have no clue how to handle routine disputes.   I don’t care how good the committee experts are in the field of play — in many instances, appeals are not necessarily their forte, but they enjoy the prestige of seeing their names in lights as judge and jury over bridge misdemeanors.

Many times I look over Bobby’s shoulder (when he is serving on a committee which reviews cases which have already bit the dust in the previous NABC) and it is horrifying to witness the many injustices that have been perpetrated by individuals who haven’t the foggiest idea what appeals are (and should be) about.   It is a great learning process for me and helps me to understand the general distaste for many of the decisions made and the accompanying disrespect for the members who served on specific Appeals Committees.

I do not stand alone in my abhorrence at how these committees operate.   Perhaps, just as the directing staff, it would serve the best interest of the members of appeals committees that instead of being coddled and having their egos stroked, some knowledgeable person came to Memphis (which Bobby offered to do on his own dime but was refused) or an NABC (perhaps for a day or two) and hold a seminar with both directors and appeals committee members, prepping them how to handle these ever-important situations (what to look for, what to ask, etc. which will eventually lead to more equitable decisions and rulings).   The status of our bridge jury system today is nothing to write home about.

Incidentally, Bobby cited “The Precedent” which occurred a few months before my appeal.   It, in no uncertain terms, alluded to the fact that if a complaint is made to a director by a reputable individual who is not known to frivolously call for an adjustment, one must assume something untoward occurred at the table worthy of calling it to the director’s attention.

Obviously, neither the Committee Chairman nor any of its members either knew about it or thought of it in a timely fashion.   However, the following day, when confronted by Bobby, the Chairman did come clean he DID remember “The Precedent.”  Too little too late.   It was too embarrassing to go back and reverse both the ruling and the AWMW (probably an unheard method of repenting and undoing the wrong for which they were responsible).

Another appeals issue that bothers me is when a top pair (and almost every top pair plays professionally today) appear before a committee, the members usually succumb to them, mainly for two reasons:

(1)   They don’t want to appear stupid to the public not to agree with them, making them look unknowledgeable; and (2)  Since the tournaments are rampant with professionals and many serve on appeals committees, the last thing they want to do is antagonize the big guns thereby losing the chance of being recommended for some later pay date if the occasion arises.  

Too many inflated egos, personal agendas, conflicts of interest and politics for me!   Taking better measures for recruiting trained committees would be a good place to start!


DiogenesJanuary 18th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

The search for an honest man is a long and rocky adventure.

Appeal committees are too often filled with a group of people, who will stay after the game, and wait for their free play. While waiting for the free play, they pass the time by making decisions. I am sure, they feel that they have done their “civic duty” and are working for the betterment of bridge.

I think that in law, as well as in bridge, it is less then even money you will get a fair and honest decision. The lawyers employ testers to make sure that their cases will be won, not necessarily on the merits of the case but rather on the demographics of the jurors. Bearing this in mind why would the AC jurors ever rule against a professional who may at a later date line their pockets with gold?

BlairJanuary 18th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

After twenty years of bridge, I was invited to sit on a 7-0 committee. This term was used by the chairwoman ( yes, she is no longer with us ) of committees for Bridge Week. The young couple were going to be found guilty of taking advantage of hestitations ( cheating via hestitation ), which in turn would lead to their dismisal from further bridge play. I was being given a chance to join the ” Avenging Angels ” of bridge administrators who silently, via commitees, would and do control the masses. My future looked bright, and since the outcome had been predetermined, I really had no decision to make. Easy. Then came the glitch. The contestants pleaded their case, and the young criminals appeared to me to have gotten to their just spot by good old fashion deductive reasoning spiced with a touch of gumption ( as in not being intimidated by the greatness of their opponents ). So, the 7-0 committee against, after I argued their case, became a 6-1 committee for. Our committee chairman remained loyal and ruled against the gritty kids and he informed me that I would never serve on another committee. Well, two things have remained the same since that day: (1) the kids are older and still play and (2) I have never served on another committee….

BlairJanuary 18th, 2010 at 9:37 pm

P.S. – The beauty of Diogenes’s point is specifically the following scenario: If a professional player had to rule against a potential future client, would he/she do so knowing that said patron would hold that against them and later hire someone else? The answer is usually “yes”, they would not rule against said patron or patron’s team…. At the same time, having the same people on the committee creates a scenario of staidness ( as in its rarer form ). They become enamored with themselves and their power…Since committees are always because there is a disagreement with a director’s ruling, are not the complainant and committee members forever in jeopardy of retribution from said director? And are not the directors exposed to the whims of the super patron and their sphere of influence? Money talks in the ACBL, as the rest of us are just fodder that fills the room. Remember, it is an organization that only sells one product. Even though that product is just “air”, as in make-believe master points, there are many who would sell their souls to acquire them and bask in their glory….By the way, without master points, people would still pay to play bridge for its camaraderie and pleasure.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJanuary 19th, 2010 at 12:11 am


Keep on looking and here and there you will find an objective appeals committee member who knows his or her stuff — but from what I have observed they are few and far between. What Committee organizers seem to forget is that being a good bridge player does not necessarily qualify you to make judgments in areas in which you are unfamiliar. I have always believed in tempering justice with mercy — regardless of the bridge law. There are flaws in every group’s laws and instead of just living by them, one must make an effort to have them changed to reflect equity. That is the name of the game.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJanuary 19th, 2010 at 12:39 am


Sadly, your story is unique. The last thing people want to do, especially after a gruelling evening session, is to be saddled with an ongoing appeals hearing — and understandably so. If that is the case, then they should not accept the job (or the perks). I would detest the thought of not having an open mind and feel pressure from a committee chairperson — or anyone — for that matter. As you can tell, I have a mind of my own and like to hear ALL the facts before committing myself and arriving at a final decision. Much of the problems emanate from the director/s and committees do not like the embarrassment of overturning a director’s ruling.

In my case, the director started it (by using the wrong guidelines) and the committee (for

fear of making the director look bad) didn’t bother to delve into the problem or the hand,

simply taking the word of my two opponents (because my partner was distracted with the

pickup slips) — making the vote 2 against 1. However, when I know I am right, I never say ‘die.’

Your recounting of the 7-0 kangaroo court made me cringe. Thank heavens for people like you who have the courage of your convictions. You are definitely in the minority in situations like that! Most people don’t like to buck traffic. Thanks for sharing.

dannyJanuary 19th, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Diogenes said :”Appeal committees are too often filled with a group of people, who will stay after the game, and wait for their free play. While waiting for the free play, they pass the time by making decisions”

This is not only wrong, it is disgusting. Firstly, appeals members often sit around and hear no cases, and are paid ZERO for their time. I’d far rather be in the bar, or anywhere else, then to have to wait after an evening session. Secondly, appeals work is NOT easy work. We don’t take these cases lightly. At a nationals a few years back, I was serving well past 3AM on a key Spingold case. Do you think that time was worth $15 to me? Are you kidding?

PimoJanuary 19th, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Danny, you knew the ground rules when you signed on, so step aside. “We don’t take these cases lightly.” is quite a reflection. Such a pompous remark is self-serving but not a defense against the criticisms so eloquently voiced by the Wolffs. In fact, said remark is an insight as to the exact flaw with committee selection. The points of her article were based upon her actual experience. One should learn from this case….Diogenes said: “The search for an honest man is a long and rocky adventure.” Your cry is that her thoughts are “Disgusting”. Diogenes is dead on RIGHT about those who sit in judgement for a free play. Even though committees are a thankless job, please stay in the bar and let others engage in this learning process, which you have mastered. Your attitude reflects exactly what is wrong with the present system of selection of a committee and your opinion cannot be anymore important or correct than others, so why participate?….Finally, “No” is the answer about the time not being worth the $15.00. The fact is that one should not have had any concern about his time or its value. Said time should have been given freely. Said time should have been unemcumbered by such self-centered thoughts….If one doesn’t enjoy, one shouldn’t serve….Thank you

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJanuary 20th, 2010 at 1:56 am

To: Blair and Danny

Bridge players do different things for different reasons. Some serve on Appeals Committees for the glory, the free play, to pass idle time after the game or because they really care about the game itself and are desirous of restoring equity (if that is the case) to the injured parties. Fortunately, I have only been before two committees that I can remember in a fifty plus year period and both of them were convened at my request, never as a defendant. Therefore, I cannot fairly assess the composition of the body as a whole — let alone a specific committee. The only one I can accurately judge were the bozos who ruled against me but they got their comeuppance (and rightfully so) sixteen months later with the reversal of the AWMW (which was as unfounded and ridiculous as the verdict itself).

I am sure there are many, many capable AC members of expert or near-expert status who give 100% of themselves and lucky are the people who go before them as they usually get a good ruling and a fair shake. But god help those who are at the mercy of the bunglers who are either unknowledgeable or unfamiliar with what should be done to restore equity. Equity is what it is all about. The innocent should be protected and the guilty should be charged and punished — even if the rules must be bent to accomplish that end. Perhaps instead of simple appointments to these committees, the public would be better served with a bit of extra training beforehand. The same applies to the directors. Everything is not black and white and more time should be spent by the ACBL (with the aid of experienced experts) who could advise the staff (especially the newer ones) about the best manner to explore controversial issues.

I can assure you from personal experience (standing over Bobby’s shoulder as he looks at the Appeals Decisions which are sent to him for review), time after time he spots major issues which have not been taken into consideration. Nobody’s perfect, heaven knows, but perhaps some of the members need better guidance and could learn from more experienced individuals. It’s sure worth the effort if they are not overcome by pride.

dannyJanuary 20th, 2010 at 2:57 am

Pimo said: Your cry is that her thoughts are “Disgusting”.

Not her thoughts.

Diogenes notion that people serve for the free play, and don’t take it seriously. AC members take it very seriously. They may not be perfect, and they surely make some serious errors, but overall they do a good, thankless job.

This is my last post on this topic, feel free to criticize it, I will not repsond

BlairJanuary 20th, 2010 at 7:39 am

What was written is what was thought. Both sides have presented their arguments concerning AC members. They are either always serious or sometimes not. If they are not perfect, and they make serious errors in judgment as Danny describes, then logically, they cannot be considered to be good, which is the point that Judy and Diogenes both make. To represent fairness three things must take place: (1) Courses on bridge law should be a must for AC committee members. (2) No committee should allow a professional or sponsor to serve on its board, as there is too great a threat of bias/collusion. (3) Finally, said trained AC members should rotate service and critique all major rulings to maintain members’ standards.

roger pewickJanuary 22nd, 2010 at 7:32 pm

While I do not recall the particulars reported of your appeal experience I recollect having an opinion [but not what it was] as to an appropriate outcome given the facts as presented. I do have a couple of thoughts on things you brought up.

First, the rules in effect have not been equitable rules, and as such are not conducive to achieving equitable outcomes.

However, I am taken aback with this assertion:

The innocent should be protected and the guilty should be charged and punished — even if the rules must be bent to accomplish that end.

While you may get a warm cozy feeling after bending the rules in order to get justice- such an idea makes my gut wretch. There is no justice when the rules do not mean what they say. I am sure that Bobby can relate vividly the occasion he showed up for the World Championship to find that the conditions of contest to be far different from what was expected. There being the flavor of manipulating the contest to give the opponents their best chance to knock the juggernaut Americans out, and surely calculated to irritate the Americans to throw them off their game enough to at least make things interesting.

The thing about bad rules is that they breed bad adjudicators.

The other thought concerns the likelihood that your hands may not be all that clean. I can’t help wondering why you had started the auction while the previous hand had not been completed. After all, why would your partner be working on the score slips? Shouldn’t the finished hand be put away so that everyone can focus upon doing their best on the current hand? And since your partner was not ready was it not possible that the opponents had not yet completed their planning for the auction before you started the proceedings? So, if the opponents did not have sufficient time to consider their plan before you started the auction, is it justice to assert they had paused?

Because I have gone a bit fast I’ll back up and explain the dynamics. Most players need 40-90 seconds to sort and plan for the auction- is the hand worth opening?, overcall?, responding?, rebidding? I’ll do this if that…and how high? As such, the effect of starting the auction before everyone is ready to start will often make it someone’s turn before they are ready. Justice suggests that they should not suffer prejudice for completing their preparations.

There is a belief that getting the auction started sooner saves time. This belief is not merely false, it has the dramatically opposite effect. I have studied this behavior for 15 years and make the assertion with confidence. I routinely meet players that usually take 10 minutes a hand but against me miraculously take only six- even though I wait 90 seconds for them to sort their hands and to take a couple of 30 second huddles.

How can this be? For as much as there is to think about when sorting a hand, by adding in the additional information from an opening call gives a whole lot more to think about- how did he know so fast, this hand is looking A Whole Lot Better what am I going to do, I wanted to do something but now it looks risky, why is this wonderful hand going to be wasted…….. the extra information turns otherwise simple things into life and death propositions. And sorting it out takes a lot of time. And whether novice or expert most players do not avoid taking the ‘extra time’.

Therefore the thing to do is to wait til all are ready so [a] they don’t have anything extra to think about [b] when they do vary their tempo it is fair play to call them on it and [c] that they are paying attention [and profit by it:)], not to mention to be able to testify as to what happened.

Ps an additional thought germane not merely to appeals but the underlying rulings- it seems to me that the quality and effect of rulings are more likely to be satisfactory if the wronged party asserts the source of damage suffered. For instance: Righty made a dubious [after all he took quite some time to consider it, so it is quite likely to not be automatic; and notably any sensible player should applaud a partner that chose to pass in that auction] call having UI from partner that suggested he had significant values which gives the overcall considerable upside not there without the UI. Further, given the overcall Lefty made a dubious pass considering he had ample values to respond 2N, but he had UI suggesting his partner made a dubious overcall so it was less risky to pass.

Armed with this the TD is in a position to rule upon the validity of the assertion and answer those concerns.

JUDY KAY-W0LFFJanuary 23rd, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Mr. Pewick:

I do appreciate your taking the time to detail your personal feelings about my appeal. However, I have neither the time, experience nor expertise to debate your views on who should do what, at what juncture in time and so forth. I will leave that to Bobby who will no doubt follow up when he is able to devote the proper time to the matter.

However, I resent your remark: “The other thought concerns the likelihood that your hands may not be all that clean. I can’t help wondering why you had started the auction while the previous hand had not been completed. After all, why would your partner be working on the score slips?……………….” You were not there at the time, so how could you possibly know the circumstances and make an accusatory remark? Let me begin my saying my partner, Jane Segal, a good player and long-time director and club owner, is a very methodical, meticulous individual. We always sit NS as she has a problem walking and always does the scoring as North, quite capably I might add. Apparently our table had run out of pickup slips and the caddy had just delivered them (of which I was not aware as I was looking at my hand preparing to bid).

You say, “Shouldn’t the finished hand be put away so that everyone can focus upon doing their best on the current hand?” WHAT HAND? It was Board 17, the first of the set to be played, and as soon as the caddy delivered the pickups, she began to fill them in with the board and pair numbers as she has been doing for the last fifty years. So don’t be so quick to judge when you were not an eye witness to what happened and later ensued, resulting in one of the worst decisions in ACBL’s annals (both the verdict and the AWMW). However, it was not nearly as ludicrous as Bobby’s “Oh, Shit” debacle which may go down in history as the WORST ruling ever made (because two prejudiced co-chairman did not offer to recuse themselves). However, I blame Bobby for that (knowing the negative outcome in advance) but was too much of a gentleman to suggest they withdraw and be replaced.

The Appeals Process is indeed broken in some areas — and it is time the matters are recognized and addressed.