Judy Kay-Wolff


I surmised by the comments that many astute observers realized there was more to the story than the auction given — when the 4S bid rolled back to you (the 4H bidder).   Some of you inferred you might not have bid 4H originally (which surely has merit), but that was a ‘given’ — the way it was presented to the audience.  Here is what actually happened.  Opener (holding 96  AKQ92  KQ1092  5) was obviously taken back by her RHO’S 4S call and considered bidding on by her noticeable break in tempo (which is understandable with her hand) but decided to pass as did the 4S bidder.

Now the ethical dilemma arises — would you consider 5H (especially after partner’s hitch)?????   OF COURSE NOT!   UNTHINKABLE!   NO ETHICAL PLAYER WOULD (and not one of you who commented did so —  even WITHOUT KNOWING OF THE BIT — so I assume it is pretty automatic)!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (I might add an aside from a top player who wrote to me privately — and I quote, “My call is 1,000% PASS.”).  However, in all fairness I want to add both players are lovely gals and were relatively inexperienced (though not new to the game) and neither the huddler nor the 5H bidder knew they had done anything wrong.   Many club players think that is part of the game — perhaps like poker.   That is another issue which I will tend to later.  



Unless there are extenuating circumstances (perhaps a void in opponent’s suit or some wild distribution like 6/5/) — you might justify bidding again.   However, one of the golden rules of bridge is an admonition about BIDDING THE SAME VALUES TWICE.  The result is really a secondary issue.   My prime concern is to educate the decision-makers (owners/directors/managers — whomever calls the shots) about the proprieties of the game.   It is the responsibility of the ACBL to make a concerted effort to go all out to train and re-train their directing staff.   In fifty years on the scene (and having witnessed key matches with both Norman and Bobby both nationally and internationally), I have been impressed with many at the ultimate level.   However,  donning a Regional or Sectional Director’s Cap (let alone at the club level) does not, in itself, mean you have enough bridge knowledge or savvy to understand what is involved.  Again, there are exceptions.  EDUCATION IN DIRECTING IS A ‘MUST’ if we expect to ascend to a level playing field.  

As you may have suspected, I was the disgruntled 4S bidder and was appalled by the 5H call.   I did not want to intimidate the nice lady on my right by calling the director immediately, so I commented politely, “We are all aware your partner had a problem before she passed 4S so I assume you are bidding based on your own hand.”   Embarrassedly (admitting she was aware of the situation because it took her about 30 seconds to succumb to her 5H call), she said, “I’ll take it back then.   It’s O.K.   Would you like me to?”    I countered, ” No, let’s play the hand and then we’ll decide what to do.”   5H ended the auction.    I didn’t have to wait that long.  Soon as the dummy was tabled (A4  J10873   85  J962), I called for the director who told us to play and score the hand.  Bobby and I assumed he was coming back to adjust the board.    The result was immaterial.   My problem:  Why should we have not been allowed to play 4S?     THAT IS THE ONLY ISSUE .. rolling it back to where it legally should have been played — regardless of the result.  Incidentally, the director inferred he would give it some thought that night (a lot of good that was going to do — after the scores were entered and posted) and never said another word but allowed the score to stand.   I went ballistic and left the club.

I could have beaten 5H (though we could not make 4S), but I believe the important issue is the director’s LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OR WORSE YET — JUDGMENT.  He allowed the 5H bid to stay and a week later when I saw him at the sectional and rehashed the hand, he added insult to injury when he told me he had checked with some of the ‘other club directors’ AND SOME OF THE SECTIONAL ONES TOO  — and they all tended to agree.   (Eons ago when I was a kid they used to say, “That and a dime will get you a cup of coffee” — but of course Starbucks, of late, has set different monetary standards!    If the original saying is foreign to some of you younger readers — the inference is —  “So what?  I’m not impressed.”  And, believe me, I am not!!

It is time the ACBL stepped in, giving more guidance and taking the responsibility for these situations more seriously or the game will continue to go to hell in a hand basket!!!


John Howard GibsonMarch 8th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Dear Judy, no matter how long players have been in the game NO LIVING SOUL would ever stop to consider something other than a pass with that load of garbage brought down in the dummy hand. After a 4S opener there is nothing to think about other than a pass. But did her “thinking hesitation ” help persuade her partner to bid ? That’s a tough director’s call because many bold players with that impressive two suiter might well bite the bullet and go for it…….BUT NOT ENOUGH for a competent director to allow the bid to stand. Surely, the rule is if 70% of the field would have made the same bid off their own bat, then the bid must stand. Hell. I think some of our directors get this wrong….but if that is the standard of American directing, then the game over there has already descended into the pits. Yes, you were well and truly DIDDLED out of a proper score adjustment. Yours HBJ

PaulMarch 9th, 2010 at 3:43 am

A poll of expert players, and to be fair most of the non-internationals in your audience are pretty competent too, is not appropriate to apply to inexperienced players. There is a reason that inexperienced and poor players do not play like experts, and one of them is that they make silly bids quite often.

So I would expect a competent TD to poll a few of the other inexperienced players. In this specific case I would expect most would pass and this would mean that the TD should adjust the board to 4S (making however many) unless you obtained a better score from 5H. It would also give him the opportunity to politely explain why he was doing this for the benefit of the inexperienced pair.

In reality few club TDs really understand the laws in this area and, in their defence, they are difficult to understand. Even HBJ appears to be working to the old laws and it is unclear if anyone at all really understands the new definition of logical alternatives.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMarch 9th, 2010 at 9:22 am

Yes, John:

You hit the nail on the head — simply put!

I agree with you — maybe not that it has totally descended into the pits — but that it is clearly headed in that direction. That is why I feel so strongly that the club directors (and that is where this atrocity occurred) get their group together and get some guidance concerning these rulings. I am working on this aspect as I write. Pressure must be brought to bear on the ACBL for their laxity in training as well. You wouldn’t see any of these kind of directors at the Trials (or higher) — but at the club levels, we need a lot of help. It is quite obvious, especially to me, where we got three terrible rulings in two weeks plus a false claim that could have been corrected (even after the fact) — but people cling to false gods, not wanting to give up their standing or their masterpoints. It is a sad state of affairs and time these issues were aired publicly and shake up the troups into action that results in equity.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMarch 9th, 2010 at 9:48 am


With all due respect, I disagree (regardless of the ACBL regulations about polling others of the same capabilities). This is clearly a matter of ethics, morality, honor, etc. When partner has a latent problem and passes, your option (if any) is converted to an automatic pass. This has nothing to do with the level at which you play. There is nothing about a 2/5/2/4 that you have not already told your partner. You related your story once (though it is not even automatic to bid 4H at your initial turn as many inferred that 4H would not have been their first choice). However (good or bad), that was your choice and you must abide by it — REGARDLESS OF — or better yet (BECAUSE OF) YOUR PARTNER’S HITCH AND PASS.

If enough good club directors clamp down on willful taking advantanges of breaks in tempo, punishable by reverting back to the last bid, this innocent, naive, inexperienced form of indiscretion (also known as the ‘C’ word) , will stop post haste. However, it must be initiated by the club staff — and when the customers realize they mean business, it will help to do away with that ugly part of the game.

I honestly think inexperienced offenders don’t realize they are doing something wrong. Score adjustments will turn their heads in the other direction. However, it must be handled with kid gloves and explained rationally and kindly. I truly believe it will come to an abrupt halt!

PaulMarch 9th, 2010 at 11:12 am


I could not agree more with your final two paragraphs. Dealing with breaks in tempo is very difficult especially at club level where the social side of the game is often more important than masterpoints. Better training for our directors can only help address the issues.

But I do take issue with imposing your own bidding standards on others, especially on the less experienced, and presuming that they are necessarily being unethical, immoral or dishonourable.

For example, suppose the 5H bidder comes back the following week and says, “I gave my hand to all the others in my bidding class and they all bid 5H immediately. Our teacher has now explained why this is such a bad bid, but last week I knew that we’d all bid 5H and I was trying very hard not to take advantage of my partner’s hesitation!! But then I got flustered when you seemed to accuse me of unethical. What did I really do wrong?”

Bobby WolffMarch 9th, 2010 at 12:50 pm


While trying not to throw out the first stone, I must say that your last paragraph is a great fairy tale. Sure it could have happened exactly how you explained, but I would like to acquaint you with Damon Runyon’s famous American remark about how to gamble, “The battle does not always go to the strong, nor the race to the swift, but that is the way to bet”, and my bet would be that most players (perhaps 95%) who take up the game and by the time they play their fifth duplicate game understand exactly how hesitations and other telltale mannerisms by their partners transmit at least as much information as whole bidding systems combined.

The above is both the beauty (as well as the curse) of our game and it is our job as the administrators, to let every player know what is expected from them, otherwise our game is nothing better than “Let’s keep a secret” or “Liar’s poker”! Here is to believing in both Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but only for family gatherings, not for bridge games.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMarch 9th, 2010 at 1:02 pm


You allude to “The ‘social side of the game” being more important than the masterpoints. IMHO, that has no bearing on the subject at hand. When you are playing in a club game where ACBL masterpoints are officially issued, then you should learn the rights and wrongs of taking advantage of hesitations and play by the rules. It is not only about the directors’ capabilities. That is only one of the problems. You make reference to their checking with their classmates and their “teacher.” Great subject — the teacher. Ah, that may well be the rub. Let me tell you my personal experience.

Back in 1976, Charlie Solomon (who was teaching at the Philadelphia area country clubs) died suddenly and there was an immediate need for a replacement. His ‘assistant’ was not in demand so they started searching out new sources. Of course, my late husband, Norman Kay, who was gainfully employed as a successful VP at Merrill-Lynch (poor souls), graciously turned it down. There was really no one else available at Norman’s level (understandably so) — so I (and a friend who was co-owner of a card school) were interviewed for the position of teaching and coaching their teams in the country club leagues which Mr. Solomon started back in the fifties. They hired us on the spot. She had the teaching experience and I bore the good name of one of the most respected players of his era — locally, nationally and especially internationally. I just happened to luck out! But — I always told it like it was and often joked to my friends that when I gave a lesson, I was just one page ahead of my students. But — it worked out well until Norman and I went into the trotting and pacing hobby which required frequent four/five hour round trips to The Meadowlands and Yonkers Raceway — and time restraints forced me to give up teaching in 1983. But, I was proud of what I accomplished — more along the lines of manners and ethics — than the game itself.

It was a great honor and challenge (especially to me) who had never taught but certainly was privy to the great players of our day. In fact, for years after our marriage in ’63, I never touched a card — but kibitzed Norman and Edgar all the way from the sectional level to world championships. I learned much more than bridge, safety plays, ‘correct plays,’ squeezes, end plays, etc. I came to understand the importance of deportment at the table and the difference between doing the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ thing. My digression has a meaningful purpose.

My first day of class had nothing to do with 52 cards, spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs. It zeroed in on bidding the cards in front of you. I passed on all the tips from Norman and Edgar about bids in tempo, unauthorized information, alerts (even back then), etc., etc. So — before my students picked up a card they knew TO BID BASED ON THEIR OWN CARDS — not their partner’s hesitations, hitches, histrionics, gyrations, etc. Perhaps if all teachers explained that to their students (even the older, more experienced ones), we would not be faced with the problems such as discussed today.

Therefore, I don’t buy the excuse “Our teacher has now explained why this is such a bad bid but last week I knew that we’d all bid 5H and I was tyring very hard not to take advantage of my partner’s hesitation!!” Had the teacher taken the trouble to explain the guidelines earlier, perhaps this excuse would not have been offered.

It’s easy for me to say — as I’ve been there, done that, etc. It is old hat to me!

PaulMarch 10th, 2010 at 12:19 am


“and my bet would be that most players (perhaps 95%) who take up the game and by the time they play their fifth duplicate game understand exactly how hesitations and other telltale mannerisms by their partners transmit at least as much information ”

I think this is the crux of our differing views, as my experience at the local clubs is that it is only 5% of these really inexperienced players. Perhaps it is our clubs that are very different, as only about 5% of those at my clubs play in local tournaments.

I believe our views on tournament players and behaviour are much closer to harmonious 🙂


“Perhaps if all teachers explained that to their students (even the older, more experienced ones), we would not be faced with the problems such as discussed today.”

I agree 100%.

Bobby WolffMarch 10th, 2010 at 5:23 am

Hi Paul,

It appears that you have isolated the virus and therefore the root cause. Seemingly, and for whatever reason, relative beginners in the USA are quickly enticed into the local duplicate scene, and because your social bridge advancements take different and probably slower paths, we are left with differing views which, as you eloquently point out, are much closer to harmonious than I ever imagined.

To top it off, all three of us (including Judy) wholeheartedly agree that bridge students MUST be taught the ethics of the game early. Our exceptionally well organized major local club has invited me to first meet with the current owners (one brand new) and directors to explain what needs to be done by all of us and then a short time later give an open briefing, before the game, to the 100+ players who attend the games on more or less a daily basis as to what is going to be demanded of them. We are hoping that “Little by little we can do great things” and that our example will be duplicated (pun intended) around our rather large country.

Thanks much for your setting the record straight.

Bobby WolffMarch 11th, 2010 at 10:35 am

At least to me, there is one caveat which hardly ever is mentioned, although it is present in exactly 100% of a certain type of controversy. Drumroll—-If a crucial teacher was to ask her (his) class in bridge morality the following question what would (should) one’s answer be? (Multiple choice) When one’s partner studies long and hard before either passing (in an auction which will get back to his partner before closing) or making an innocuous bid which effectively places the onus on partner to make the final decision what are the responsibilities of partner?

A. Ignore partner’s huddle and bid whatever one thinks is best for his partnership.

B. Acknowledge partner’s break in tempo (BIT), but do not negatively take a position which, especially after the BIT, seems to not be in the best interest of partnership gain.

C. Pretend to discount any possible unauthorized information (UI) and still feel capable of making a fair decision in spite of the human condition which all of us possess, of self service.

D. Actually lean over backwards to dispell any and all UI by, if anything, making a decision which will, at least, seem to the world, as definitely NOT taking advantage of partner’s BIT.

E. Any other view not espoused in A through D above (Essay).

The above, if answered sincerely, may be a first step in getting both the conscience of the player and laying it on the table, possible workable rules of bridge morality. For example, to deny the human conditon and as applied to competitive bridge players, is simply unacceptable, not to mention impossible to deal successfully with.

The next psychological test will be to assess the chutzpah necessary to, after a significant, or even a relatively small but noticeable (sometimes called a professional) BIT, to now pass the decision back to partner. Please answer.

Danny KleinmanMarch 14th, 2010 at 11:22 am

“Inexperienced” player is almost always a euphemism for BAD bridge player. I have often seen it applied to players I have personally observed at bridge tournaments for as long as 25 years. The fact is, however, that even players who have been around for “only” 5 or 6 years, though “inexperienced” at bridge (if more than a few years are necessary to be “experienced”) are very experienced in LIFE and dealing with other people, and thus at reading the indecision-indicating huddles, the facial expressions and “body language” and other mannerisms of partners. And so, being inept at technical aspects of bridge (which are too much work for them to master), they rely on what is easy for them: non-verbal communication and the skillful reading of partners’ mannerisms.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMarch 14th, 2010 at 2:55 pm


So articulately expressed — in your admirably unique DK style. Yes, “inexperienced” is so much classier than saying “bad” — but drives the point home in spades (or better yet — NT).

Sadly, so many of the directors are far from expert, or even good, players but are always friendly and cordial. However, the knowledge and correct interpretation of the law is so crucial — and the bottom line in MOST CASES (not all) –is the one making the ruling doesn’t want to hurt either contender’s feelings and wants to close his or her eyes and make the problem go away. I know I won’t win any Dale Carnegie Awards for the position I assume (in the interest of bridge), but I am working with a terrific individual who sometimes doubles as a director who is willing to allow Bobby to speak to the lovely people who direct on a regular basis who could use some basic pointers from him. I may be naive (though I pride myself on being on top of things), but I sincerely believe many newer players (or older ones who have returned to the flock after a long hiatus) really do not know what are considered unaccceptable v acceptables practices — and it is high time they learned from an experienced player whom they like and respect — with an eye to making the session more pleasurable and more equitable for everyone. It’s worth a shot!

PimoMarch 27th, 2010 at 1:12 am

The hesitation is the most skillfully discussed bid in bridge. All neophytes learn EARLY on the power of this tool, the debate it generates and the chaotic confusion resulting, as in getting away with it (taking advantage of the hesitation.) They understand it can be taken advantage of more easily than any other bid, play or twitch. Ergo, this ploy has become so abused that the expert has often joined in, fiercely defending their bids using a skilled legal/ theoretical debate that shows their mastery of the bidding nuances so apparent to anyone with their level of expertise. As in, how could I not bid, whether partner hesitated or not, it’s so automatic. Hesitating would end if every time such action occurred, the offender was rewarded with his average-minus to zero and subjected to further discipline. If you cannot bid in tempo, don’t play. Better still, train directors to enforce the law upon all equally and in the same manner always.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 1st, 2010 at 8:11 am


Here’s a perfect example from yesterday where I would have been better off allowing myself to be taken advantage of:

The auction began with a skip bid by Bobby of 3C (AJ102 92 5 J107532 NON VULNERABLE IN FIRST SEAT) and the next hand took far more than the 10 seconds suggested to make a call (and I would have too). She reluctantly passed. I had just sat in on a directors meeting which Bobby conducted at my local club on Saturday morning, where it was agreed one must call the director immediately after the possibility exists partner will bid (influenced by the hitch). The director was called (as my LHO said it was premature to call).

The director simply and tactfully said “Better now than later.” I Passed and my LHO muttered something and then I suppose I embarrassed him into pulling out the pass card (much to our disadvantage).

The person who denied the huddle (VULNERABLE) HELD 874 AK6 AJ6 K986. With 15 HCP I would have taken time out to think too. Partner (a nice guy and normally ethical player) considered balancing (VULNERABLE — REMEMBER) with KQ953 10854 K93 Q. REALLY?????

It is what Norman used to call “bidding with an insurance policy — knowing you are ‘covered’.”

The result: The bad guys (ME — for challenging her excessive contemplation) ended up with a poor result as he would have bid (probably 3S and gotten to game) and would have gone down instead of us.

However, I WOULD RATHER HAVE GOTTEN THE POOR SCORE IN MY CONTINUING EFFORT TO STOP HAVING PLAYERS RELAY UNAUTHORIZED INFORMATION. As Bobby said, “her pause was excessive.” The interesting fact is that both players normally perform with integrity (but her hitch denial and his apparent outrage at being intimidated into passing did not sit well with either — and yet the good guys got punished.

Sometimes you just can’t win!