Judy Kay-Wolff

The continuing Hall of Fame saga ….

On January 19th, I posted a blog entitled “From the Sublime to the Ridiculous,” discussing many controversial issues concerning how I and many others thought our once illustrious Hall of Fame was now being defamed and denigrated.   Many chimed in with comments, totaling 49 in all.  Although three weeks have passed since it hit the blog site and some have moved on to newer issues, I happened to glance back and saw some very humorous comments which I ‘copied’ and am passing them on for your amusement.

Incidentally, Bobby has been having many (hopefully productive) emails back and forth about the hardcore issues involved with present Chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee, Steve Robinson (an inductee himself).   The subject itself is no laughing matter — but I wanted to share with you some of the messages that may have gotten lost in the shuffle from both my site and John Howard Gibson’s.

On January 30th, the following came from humorist, Danny Kleinman, who was (and always is) kidding on the level.  He is not only a terrific player, writer, author, teacher, theorist, etc.,  but one who cares so much for the the beauty and honor of the game:

We need many more Bridge Halls of Fame. How about a Clients’ Hall of Fame? We can start with some of the best: Charles Goren (a client, as noted by Bobby in THE LONE WOLFF), Barry Crane (an inference from the fact that a much better player, Grant Baze in his prime, deigned to play with him), and Sam Stayman (an inference from my personal observation of his bidding and play some fifty years ago). I might even make it if I ever scrape up enough money to hire a World Champion like Rose Meltzer. How about a Huddlers’ Hall of Fame? We’d better interview the former denizens of the Cavendish West Club for nominations. How about a Revoker’s Hall of Fame? Beside the most obvious candidates, Lewis Himmell and the late Harold Guiver, we can include the more obscure Steve Lake, who invented the Revoke Obligatory (a rare legal revoke) some forty years ago. The possibilities are endless.

Today, February 8th, John Howard Gibson (who pokes fun at himself by renaming himself John Bigot-Johnson) had the following to say: 

Dear Judy and Bobby,

Please read my latest blog ………aka HBJ….. my alter ego. I have volunteered my version of a what a World’s Best Bridge Players Hall of Fame should be about in terms of gaining recognition and entry. In amongst the tongue-in-cheek humour I’m sure I’ve stumbled upon some useful ideas on a fair and just process. Would love to hear your views…..even if they are all bad.


John Howard Gibson

From Howard Bigot-Johnson’s Bizarre World of Bridge


As you know, or may not know, the Yanks have set up a Hall of Fame to honour those who really know how to play the game. At present it seems to be an American HOF, because only Americans were selected to enter it by the front door. Apparently, Canada felt that two of their best players were overlooked, and after voicing concerns, justice was eventually served, when they were later added to the list by decree…..or should I say ” allowed in by the back door” . However, some criticism has been made from various quarters (even from within the Hall itself) , that a few too many players have sneaked in at the expense of more deserving cases. These questionable selections apparently concern a small group of big money sponsors, who by regularly hiring professionals have achieved success on the big stage. Success which some observers believe results from being “carried ” on the shoulders of giants. Well, hopefully all that is about to change, because I’m going to set up Howard Bigot-Johnson’s World’s Best Players Hall of Fame. And I can assure you that there’s going to be (1) no secret bulging brown envelopes, (2) no mutual back-scratching societies , ( 3) no secret cabals, ( 4) no unhealthy conspiracies, ( 5) no nepotism, and (6) no despotism. In other words, players who get into this Hall will have to meet the following stringent conditions:

They have never ” hired” players to be their partners, or to play in their team. Successes by virtue of this practice are discounted against them ( but not their partners or team-mates).

Nominations by regular partners and/or team-mates are out of the question, in that mutual back-scratching societies are banned.

Nominations only count if made by highly placed OPPONENTS involved in the same big stage or world stage competition ….. who are not of the same nationality . Moreover with each nomination, evidence of hands must be provided where the player nominated really showed his/her genius at work.

Players with the most nominations over a given period can qualify for a ” player of the year award ” confined to their own particular country.

Players, who achieve several player of the year awards, can be put forward by their country to be considered for Howard Bigot-Johnson’s World’s Best Players HOF.

Those nominated to get into this great Hall will have to fit Howard Bigot-Johnson’s ” Lets see the final proof of how good you are ” examination. This will consist of a five 90 minute papers covering the following topics: (1) bidding on awkward hands, (2) opening leads and defence, (3) awkward contracts for declarer, (4) declarer squeeze play , and (5) reading the cards. Scores below 90% will be deemed ” a fail” … earning them the big “F” certificate and ” better luck next year” condolences. Those players who pass will be allowed to join Bigot ( who of course is an Honorary member ) in the Big Hall for a badge of merit and a slap-up meal. Now if any tosser can think up a better system than that, then either send me a post, or submit your views on some other blog ( and advise me where to look ). Or if it’s your wish, where to get off …..Yours full of cracking ideas Howard Bigot-Johnson.

Bobby couldn’t let that one slip by, so here was his reply:

Hi Howard,

You have an intriguing writing style and an impish personality. Those qualities plus a demanding subject (especially tuned to the high-level world bridge community) will get at least a measured response from me. Please understand that this particular subject is important (in my eyes) and far reaching — so be prepared for some agreement and some not so.

Possibly because of what seems to be a world-wide movement to objectivity (instead of that naughty word, subjectivity), we are all paying a price in performance. Objectivity, as defined, by many (mostly idiots) is 100% conformity to only written or proven facts with no deviation allowed, since, at least according to them, judgment can be manipulated to suit the writer or better spoken by the one who has an evil agenda.  The real “skinny” is that some of your above rules cannot be implemented.

1. Sometimes, and in the not so distant past, the best player on a team was the paying sponsor, who in order to get a team of his choice, at least paid the expenses of his chosen group, who otherwise could not afford to attend.

2. Sometimes it is a natural and positive happening for a regular partner/teammate to nominate a qualified nominee. It is then up to the various built-in protections to make sure that nominee is up to snuff.

3. This world has become smaller in that some of my current, closest and most respected (at least to me) friends live in all corners of the planet making it so (what in past times would have been a good idea) that being nominated by another nationality results in howling at the moon.

4. Almost 20 years ago I trained 2 USA Junior Teams to play in the Junior (25 years old or less)World Championship held in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1991. At that time no North American team had ever cracked the top 4 places in any previous Junior World Championship. I created Bridge Aptitude tests (which you are now suggesting) which possibly (with all due respect), even then were more sophisticated than what you might provide. They helped me greatly in choosing the two teams who went on to finish 1st and 4th and ever since then North America has been a major factor, so I am agreeing with you on your idea.

All of the above which worked, didn’t just encourage, but rather demanded subjectivity, in moving forward and eventually bearding the lion.

Without someone with hoped for superior judgment in control, we and thus the whole project, is born dead. Can it be done and the answer is not only Yes, but rather HELL YES, but purity of performance and honesty of effort is required rather than the sacred but impractical straight objectivity package.

Strong letter to follow.

Respectfully and with appreciation,

Bobby Wolff


To which HBJ immediately replied ….

Dear Bobby,

Many thanks for your reply. I stand in awe of someone who really knows what they are talking about. The article of mine was an invitation by Linda Lee to do a Bigot slant on this whole tricky issue. But underneath my amateurish attempt to show Bigot up for what he is, I had hoped to put across ideas on raising the selection bar towards one of objectivity, total lack of bias, and impartial judgement. I agree not all sponsors are the weak link in a team, but the fact remains that if they, then to be given the same masterpoint accreditation as the others does invoke an element of injustice. Anyway, many thanks for your comments again but always remember Bigot only sees the bizarre aspects of the world of bridge.


John Howard Gibson

The matter is so grave, to my way of thinking, (perhaps because I feel personally involved since I have two husbands enshrined in what once was an elegant body thought of as The Best of the Best) — that I had to turn to the humorous side to assuage my anger and soothe my wounds.


ross taylorFebruary 9th, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Thanks Judy – if you or your fanbase have any bridge anecdotes about Barry Crane – those would be interesting to read. Danny Kleinman’s riposte was pretty funny – though I am not sure how to take his Crane comments – as a spotty youth some thirty years ago, Crane looked to be a seriously tough competitor to these (as yet) untrained eyes.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFFebruary 9th, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Stay tuned, Ross. Someone wrote to me just today after seeing the Barry Crane reference and told me a funny story which may be coming across the wires soon. I only knew Barry as a famous, polite opponent on rare occasion playing in some donkey event with a lot of weak players (like myself .. at that time .. or even now on a bad day). One thing is for sure — his record was incredible and he was quite a legend — for whatever the reasons.

Martha BeecherFebruary 10th, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Hi Judy:

I read with interest Danny Kleinman’s reference to Barry Crane playing with Grant Baze. I was very active myself at the time, playing with the late David Ashley, who was a super player in his own right, and we got to know and play with a lot of the West Coast stars as well.

The year was 1984 — January, I believe. David and I were friendly with Rhoda Walsh and Grant. At that time, Barry who was forever looking for good partners since he was always in the McKinney Race (renamed The Barry Crane Top 500 in his memory), enlisted the aid of Grant Baze and ‘signed him up’ for the year.

Rhoda, being close with Grant, was ecstatic as it would put Grant’s name in the bridge headlines and certainly help his future career. She did warn him in advance that he would be playing by “Barry’s Rules.” Grant had primarily indulged in rubber bridge games so his name was not readily recognized in bridge circles as the sensational player he already was (and later to become one of America’s finest though he sadly did not make the Hall of Fame during his young lifetime). And, I might add that your husband, Bobby Wolff, has told me that he considered Peter Pender and Grant Baze one of the premier partnerships in the world. Quite a compliment!

Back to Rhoda’s admonition to Grant: “As soon as you learn all of ‘Barry’s rules,’ you’ll be unstoppable.”

David, Rhoda and I waited in our room late one night when Grant burst in after his first session with Barry. Apparently, their maiden voyage was quite an intriguing experience, as we awaited the report on his initiation. Said Grant, “Barry’s Rules only apply to Barry’s partners. Barry himself has carte blanche!”

No doubt Barry mesmerized his kibitzing audiences and was quite captivating and somewhat intimidating to watch in action. Crane was a Master of Psychology and knew how to get the best out of his partners and the worst from his opponents. Some combination!

ross taylorFebruary 12th, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Thanks Martha – more Crane stories people !

Danny KleinmanFebruary 12th, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Did you ever wonder, Martha, or did anyone ever tell you, why Mr. Crane had rules for his partners? Especially regarding declarer play, of all things, the one phase of bridge that is NOT a partnership matter, such as which defender to play for a missing queen with a two-way guess or when to try to drop a singleton king off side missing king and two other trumps, and when to take a normal finesse?

One explanation in these situations it would let Mr. Crane figure out whether to put his partner in an iffy slam (or game) … something he could do successfully if he knew the hands AND how his partner would declare.

If what Grant said to you and David was true, it constituted an indictment of Mr. Crane. How dare Mr. Crane tell Grant, a superb declarer, how to declare!

ChristmasmenDecember 10th, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, may all your wishes come true!