Judy Kay-Wolff

Nobody’s Perfect!

For the last several days I have been watching various matches on BBO leading up to the final selection of the team to represent the U. S.   Kibitzing expert bridge is not alien to me.   For over a decade I watched substantially more than I played – and the benefits were overwhelming.   It is amazing how much individuals can learn when they have an open mind and acknowledge how little they know!  What amazes me is that some of those who consider themselves so-called experts, by comparison to the real thing, are barely over average.  

I watched embarrassedly as some of the greats of our current game were not so sterling and even witnessed the –2200 mix-up today before thousands of gaping viewers.   I guess it only goes to show that B. F.s and catastrophes occur at all levels – even allegedly with the top brass.  However, it is sort of scary when it happens to someone who is applying for the job to represent our nation at the WBF events.

And – an even greater revelation is the inane chit-chat and banter of some of the lesser lights who apply for the job as BBO commentators.   Since few use their real names (and probably not such a bad idea if you don’t take the trouble to check them out), I wonder where BBO draws the line as to who is acceptable and who is not. I guess I am spoiled by watching the truly great spokesmen on vugraph (Kaplan, Anderson, Ledeen, Wolff, et al)  Their words were those of wisdom and were uttered with accuracy, credence, pizzazz and vitality.   When they spoke, people listened (and usually laughed as their comments rarely lacked humor).   As I watched (both this morning and afternoon here on Pacific Time), I yearned for the days of old where the commentary was always so stimulating.  What I watched earlier, for the most part, was mostly humdrum!  As the day has gone on, it has improved markedly and I’ve enjoyed some of the entertaining repartee that is going on as I write.

With the exception of some of our commenting Hall of Famers, I wasn’t terribly enchanted or impressed with many whose monikers can be checked out in the upper right hand portion of the screen – describing their playing level by categorizing themselves as  “Experts”.  At least they might have had the humility of listing their skill level as “Private.”  Experts?   According to whom?  That’s a rather broad category – and perhaps only in the eyes of the Beholder.  Let someone else be the judge.   I guess I have a different mind set.   When Norman and Bobby referred to individuals as “experts,” I could always count on their impeccable judgment!


PaulJune 27th, 2010 at 12:45 am


I think you are being a little unfair to those who give their time freely to commentate on BBO.

It is true that there are very few expert commentators – Kit Woolsey and Michael Rosenberg are amongst the best, Fred Gitelman too when he is not playing.

But the requirements for a BBO commentator are more that just a sense of humour and excellent bridge judgement. You need to be able to type very fast, cope with dozens (hundreds) of kibitzers distracting you as you try to analyse a hand before it is played, and while looking at all four hands try to work out what a player is thinking. It is not easy at all.

In fact Rosenberg and Gitelman are the only two I’ve seen who can really do this “what the player at the table will be thinking”.

I must admit that I do not know of any commentators who are using pseudonyms.

For most of the events Roland Wald (Denmark) coordinates the BBO vugraph commentators. It is a thankless and onerous task that he performs without pay. He does welcome feedback (walddk2 on bbo) and people are dropped from the list.

A lot of the commentators, including myself, are not world-class players. Some are not even experts in my world. But this does not mean that they cannot make a significant contribution to the enjoyment of many less-talented kibitzers. One of the very best is David Bird, author of many wonderful bridge books, who is an excellent wit and highly regarded commentator. Not in Bobby’s class, just a sound mid-Flight A tournament player.

I don’t know who coordinates the commentators for the USBF, as sometimes they do this themselves (typically Jan Martel of Jim Gordon). But send any feedback to Roland and he will ensure it is passed to the right person.

Sorry to appear defensive, but it is really not as easy as people think. The vugraph greats that you mention would have found BBO a very different proposition, but if they could type quickly then I’m sure they would have been wonderful there too.


dannyJune 27th, 2010 at 6:01 am


Allow me to echo some of Paul’s comments.

First, it is VASTLY harder to analyze and type as opposed to talking. There is just no comparison.

Second, expert is NOT the top level on BBO. World Class is. Fred’s definition of expert is someone who has enjoyed some success at the National level. The people you are thinking of would be described as ‘world class’ if everyone was accurately rating themselves on BBO. Edgar, Norman and Bobby would be World Class. I think it is fair that I call myself Expert, though I am clearly not World Class.

It is a requirement that you have your real name to be a commentator. This is not optional. I use a moniker that has nothing to do with my real name, but anyone can see who I am easily enough.

Commentating is a voluntary job, that gets zero pay, and zero accolades, only grief upon misanalysis. Think about that before you blast away at those who try to better BBO and bridge itself.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 27th, 2010 at 8:35 am


With all due respect, perhaps it is just that I was raised in a different world — where an “expert” was of world class status .. not merely a decent player deluded by seeing his or her name in lights. And, as far as a voluntary job, I’ve worked free of charge for five decades for my respective district and unit — so that doesn’t crack any ice with me.

Money is not the issue. It is more about the ego.

Someone mentions having to overcome the distraction of kibitzers to enable themselves to concentrate. That’s a moot point. It would not be a factor with a true expert. And, being able to envision what the player IS THINKING ABOUT — that is not the issue. It should be about WHAT THE PLAYER SHOULD BE THINKING ABOUT.

When I eventually took the time to check out the identity of one of the commentators, I got a good laugh. Canadian world class player, Joey Silver, classified himself as a Novice. Maybe that was his way of agreeing with me and putting down the whole ranking process.

dannyJune 27th, 2010 at 9:54 am

Well, Judy, welcome to the BBO rating process. Expert is NOT the highest level. Can you deal with that? Do you not realize that players of slightly below WC status are, in fact experts when considering the entire range of bridge players?

Judy Kay-WolffJune 27th, 2010 at 10:54 am


If I remember correctly, it is a self-rating operation. And no, I find it hard to deal with that ridiculousness except for the humor of the process. I guess I am just more realistic than most and totally spoiled.

As Bobby philosophically explains similar situations involving egos (though not necessarily directed at this one) — he has often been known to say, “Everyone has their own dance card.”

It simply boils down to matters like these being totally relative!


Judy Kay-WolffJune 27th, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I just spoke to one of the most entertaining men in all of bridgedom — “me argent” on BBO(translated to Joey Silver) — who is not only a commentator on the site but an old dear friend of Edgar’s, Norman’s, Bobby’s and mine.

We reminisced for a bit and then he closed with a story playing with “The Man” (Eric Rutherford Murray) on a team. They were at the bottom of the totem pole and when push came to shove, lightning struck and they had qualified. When Eric was informed, he muttered, “This is the worst day of my life.” I can just hear him saying that in typical, straight-faced ERM fashion. Joey also made me laugh telling me about some opponents who in the same event insisted on playing Hesitation Blackwood. It worked once, but the second time they got called on it. Oh, well, one out of two ain’t bad (especially batting 500 in BB).

Bridge friends like Joey Silver with dynamic, amusing personalities makes one forget about the game’s many frailties and remember the marvelous associations by which the game has enriched our lives.

JodyJune 27th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

michael rosenberg can be very witty as bbo commentator, also larry cohen. unfortunately some of lesser knowledge perpetrate themselves upon us (1 woman i can think of), kind of like auditioning for the main spot (unending innocous comments). david bird (the abbot) I love

Judy Kay-WolffJune 27th, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Hi Jody:

You are the second person mentioning Michael Rosenberg today. I will have to pay closer attention next time he comes on board. No doubt he is a great player but am not attuned to his alluded-to great wit.

Michael came a long, long way since the first time I met him — back in 1976 when he and Barnett Shenkin journeyed to Philadelphia from Scotland to celebrate the Bi-Centennial –with a match between the Colonists (U.S.) and the British (England/Scotland). Barnett was 26 and Michael was 22. Where has the time gone?

As far as Larry — yes, he can be very cute — and has an adorable sense of humor. I just spent four days with him, his wife Maria and Marty Bergen at The Wynn during their Reunion Seminar. (If you haven’t already — read my recent two blogs on our experiences at The Wynn — the ultimate in deluxe living).

Always nice hearing from you!



MarthaJune 28th, 2010 at 4:43 am

I was wondering why Bobby Wolff hasn’t been a commentator on BBO. He would fill the bill expertly. Along with being witty he has all the needed knowledge to provide the viewers with just what is currently lacking.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 28th, 2010 at 9:35 am

Hi Martha:

Thanks for your kind words about Bobby. It is not that he hasn’t been asked.

He did so one time, but had difficulty with his computer and eventually, in frustration, bowed out. However, Bobby (not being shy) would tell it exactly how he views a hand (good, bad or indifferent) — and though it would no doubt be accurate, it might be considered .. as they say .. politically incorrect — and ruffle a lots of feathers.

Thus, because of (1) the technical problems; and (2) his candor, he has declined.

It is truly sad, as his knowledge and popular wit, would provide a lot of entertainment to the viewing audience.

You know, he was a regular Vugraph commentator (when he was either knocked out or had a session off), but with his failing hearing, it has become a problem in today’s world. Way back then, the banter back and forth between the team at the vugraph table was a laugh a minute. Of course, his hearing would not be the issue on BBO, and he is a very fast typist, but he thought it best to decline the offers for the other reasons.

By the way, yesterday for the Finals of the Fleisher/Diamond match — there was a world of difference in the commentary. They had the ‘big guns’ on board — Passell, Woolsey, Silver, Robinson and a couple others. The comments were lightning fast, on target, quite prudent and a far cry from the cast of the morning before. I was glued to my computer until two boards before the end (when the match was already decided) and I had to run out to dinner.

Ed ShapiroJuly 3rd, 2010 at 4:11 am

HI, Judy!

Just caught up with this entry in your blog. As someone who does some BBO commentary, the following statement caught my eye: “This is an underpaid, underappreciated, overcriticized job.” That was by Larry Cohen, on 9 May 2010. Of course, he was commenting on the role of BBO commentator, from personal experience.

I wish there were a way for your husband to overcome the technical problems. I’ve seen him kibbitzing on BBO now and then and would love to heare his perspective about what he was seeing.

Ed Shapiro