Judy Kay-Wolff


Yes, indeed!  I plead guilty as charged.   Passing by Bobby as he typed away on his computer this morning, I was intrigued as I caught a glimpse of the subject matter involved.   Therefore, taking matrimonial editorial license, I wanted to share some of his provocative thoughts with you concerning an appeal by a caring administrator to encourage others to become educated and improve their skills, adding expertise to the group as a whole.    Certainly, a great starting point and a noble intention of enlisting additional help with a long-missing admission the system needs overhauling.

Here are several of the points Bobby made, imploring those in charge to consider the game’s future by not giving credence to some current specialized agendas, but rather by cleaning it up in a few specific areas, to wit:

1.  While playing support doubles, it is impossible to define what a PASS means (without an alert) since the defensive implications and/or bidding judgment is greatly affected and the opponents are 100% entitled to be alerted to such.   (Not part of the current law?   Hell, let’s change it!  JKW).

2.  Any convention deemed to be used to basically confuse and harass average or less-than-average players should not be allowed.   (And, yes, it does happen)!   The Committee should strictly judge "wild or indifferent" defensive conventions on their positive merit but discourage hard-to-understand features and be hard taskmasters with their final decisions — protecting the innocent public.

3.  Players (particularly average-plus to better players) should only be allowed to play conventions (a) which both partners understand and will remember; and (b) be aware of the various intangibles that could cause doubt as to when applicable.  In the absence of either of the above, they should expect to be penalized the whole board — or in extreme cases — even more (because of the time wasted, the unhealthy feelings exchanged back and forth as well as the overall detriment to the game itself).  Obviously, lesser players will be cut some slack, but should it occur again, harsher penalties will be applied.

This approach will not only increase the fairness of the game, but will inspire all partners to know their system, thereby exhibiting a responsibility to each other as well as to the game.  

4.  There are too many adventuresome players out there who want to experiment, just have fun and basically want to cause a stir.   (Bear in mind — this is not a circus or amusement park — but a world class endeavor). However, when by so doing, they not only make the greater majority very uneasy about their methods but also cause the tournament directors (and especially volunteer committees) to waste endless time on issues which are in the long run detrimental to the direction into which we should be heading.   It is time we took a fierce stand against such behavior and make it unlawful.

5.  At a high-level, make all alerts on a ‘need-to-know’ basis and at the proper time (even if the alert doesn’t come until the close of the auction).  The Golden Rule applies in Bridge as well as Real Life.   Alert your opponents to what you and your partner would like to be alerted yourselves!  The end product will create respect among the participants which will tend to serve the game in the best possible way.

Though some who are more interested in their own self-interests will not agree, it  should be compelling for partnerships to volunteer obvious help to their opponents (though possibly not legally required) in an effort to make the game fairer and more playable.   We must be circumspect to not use this caveat to our own advantage (vs. the opponents) and be assured that good opponents will soon, if not immediately, recognize the difference and return the favor — not to mention avoiding the hatred it otherwise causes and deserves.  

The road ahead is a long and tough one to be plowed and Bobby closed by wishing all those who have volunteered their services — good luck!

I have to confess again to the editorial license, but the facts above are the points he was trying desperately to get across — with his focal point being to restore the game of bridge to the majestic position it once held and to which it continues to aspire!


dannyJuly 5th, 2010 at 6:44 pm

1. Passes should be alertable if they carry unexpected meanings. I am not sure a non support pass should qualify, especially if a support double is not mandatory.

2. Can you give an example of such?

3. I agree about the forgetting conventions, but it should be based on the event, not the level of player. In National and higher ranking events, I agree. At lesser levels..I do not.

4. Too many adventurous players who want to experiment? I think you are off the track here. Can we roll the tape back to the 1950s? Would you suggest that people shouldn’t be expereminting with Unusual NT’s or negative doubles? We are still learning bridge. The game is not solved. For many people, trying new things is part of their joy of the game. If you want to penalize the forgets in the biggest events, per 3 above, fine. But don’t stifle creativity. Please.

5. Pie in the sky, and way too tricky to enforce.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 5th, 2010 at 8:19 pm


Your comments shock me (especially if you were one and the same who enlisted and volunteered your services to further the cause of better bridge).

Let me answer your remarks numerically:

1. Since some people play a pass denies two or less and others do not, it is imperative that the opponents know (especially in the case where it is a definite denial). This information is certainly essential to defensive bidding judgment and, of course, the defense that could ensue.

2. In the auction (1C P 1H 1S), a pass here by most disciplined partnerships denies three. Are not the opponents privy to that information? I THINK SO — regardless of what the present rules or laws state!

3. I don’t believe the class of event is material whatsoever. It is high time (starting with the club level) that BOTH partners learn and know what their agreements are and their bids mean. Sure, an accident can happen, but it should be the exception — not the rule. And, if you are

penalized one time, I can guarantee you with certainty that you’ll remember the next time the situation arises. It is absurd to punish people at NABCs and higher and allow the perpetrators at Sectionals and Regionals to get off scot-free.

4. You can roll your tape back as far as you want. Of course, everyone is still in the learning process. That is what makes it such a great game. But do your practicing in the kitchen or on line — not in sanctioned tournaments where others who are striving for section tops and masterpoints are not injured by experimental adventures.

5. Originally this was a game to which ladies and gentleman were attracted. Because of lax rules and attitudes such as yours reflect, it will turn into a game of catch as catch can — and it is already well on its way because of the blase attitudes so many selfishly exhibit!

From your alluding to Pie in the Sky, when active ethics are being discussed (or trying to be supressed), I guess you feel many would head for the exits! If you don’t try to enforce the concept, it doesn’t have a chance! To each his own.

John Howard GibsonJuly 6th, 2010 at 12:57 am

Dear Judy, The trouble with sophisticated and overly complex ( convention ridden ) bidding systems is that the players who use them have a real distinct ( often unfair ) advantage. Firstly, they obtain far more knowledge of what is going on than their naively quiet opponents. And should the opponents bravely ask for details two things might happen. Either they are subjected to an information overload which they can’t fully absorb, or the expanations offered might not be 100% complete with perhaps one or two glaring omissions ( as you suggested in your points 1/2 ).

Add to all this the fact that regular partnership have developed another level of understanding ( often sub-conscious ) to provide ” other pointers ” about their partner’s holding….the level playfield of old has tilted over more than ever before.

Honesty and active ethics are now under constant attack from these far too many win-at-all-cost results merchants. Yours HBJ.

PaulJuly 6th, 2010 at 1:13 am

Dear Judy,

1. There are many situations where the alerting regulations (wherever you live) stifle full disclosure in order to make the game playable. For most practised partnerships, every call has a multitude of negative and positive inferences that could only be fully understood by someone who knew the entire system, but it is not desirable for every call to be alerted.

I do not object to a campaign saying that the ACBL has put the Pass, when a support double is available, on the wrong side of the line. But to argue that there should not be a line is impractical.

2. Like Danny, I am unclear which defensive conventions are so undesirable to the general public. The ACBL already has one of the most restrictive bridge environments in the world and seems to do a good job of protecting its aging membership, some would say to the detriment of its top players.

3. This is a really tough subject and I must admit that I’m not a supporter of Bobby’s crusade on Convention Disruption. However I would like to see Directors and Appeal Committees take a far more stringent line on misinformation, with a bias towards the non-offenders reintroduced. I think Bobby and I have the same goal but would take different paths.

As you probably saw during the US Team Trials, top level players forget their systems frequently. Most of the time they only damaged themselves and I think it is wrong to penalise partnerships just for forgetting. It is when they give misinformation that we need to be tougher.

4. “too many adventuresome players out there who want to experiment, just have fun ”

I know the type. They pick up all the latest crazy conventions, bolt them on with no consideration of how it affects their overall system, never know the continuations, have convention cards that are stuffed to the gills.

They are known as beginners or young players.

They are the future lifeblood of the ACBL. At a time when the ACBL membership is falling dramatically (to the extent that you may lose the second spot at the Bermuda Bowl) these are the people you need to encourage. As I said previously, the ACBL is unbelievable restrictive compared to other countries. You may have to encourage these people. Otherwise I know what direction the ACBL will be heading.

5. I would happily play a ‘need to know’ alert policy. The English policy was this many years ago, but it does not work. This is particular true in a heterogenous environment where different systems are played and players are not of the same age and standard. What I, coming from the UK, think is ‘standard’ will be very different to what you believe is so. I guess the same would be said of the West and East coasts.

This is addressed at Championship level when screens are in use. Players are scribbling a lot to describe calls to their screenmate, effectively the same as alerting every bid. This is just not possible when screens are not is use, time does not permit every call to be alerted.

So alerting regulations are required. The lines need to be drawn. For fairness and consistency. For all.


dannyJuly 6th, 2010 at 5:11 am


Do you ask Meckwell to try their new conventions at the kitchen table?

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 6th, 2010 at 9:05 am


Before I get to the other comments, let me address yours as it is cut and dried:

Bad example, Danny!

Bobby recalls (as teammates of his, no less) where Meckstroth opened a mini 1NT (playing 8-10). Next hand passed and Rodwell thought and thought for ages (with two jacks) and finally passed, convincing (conning) fourth seat not to balance.

The upshot, it was ruled back to -660 (against Bobby’s team) and when pressed for an explanation about the long consideration before passing, Rodwell confessed unashamedly that he was trying to figure out the best way to get his LHO to pass and buy the hand. Well, he certainly did, didn’t he?

Furthermore, several years later at a Laws Commission meeting, Rodwell proudly revisited the subject at Bobby’s probing, fully admitting exactly what happened and stating that he had a problem about what bid to make to keep the opponents from balancing.

Bobby wants to know whether Eric is one of your heroes?

Please spare me — they are great players but far from the Poster Children for Active Ethics!

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 6th, 2010 at 9:10 am


What never ceases to amaze me (despite your hilarious moniker) is that you care so much about the game and the way it should be played. Your sardonic humor is delightful to read and you are one of the few bloggers who always bring a smile to my lips — regardless of the subject. Never stop! You’ve got quite a talent.



Judy Kay-WolffJuly 6th, 2010 at 9:29 am


Your comments are always sincere and factual — and no doubt in the interests of better bridge. No one said it is an easy task to right the ship (and in my mind and that of others it is sinking rapidly).

You allude to the Directors and Appeals Committees. In my opinion, they (in some instances) are the cause of the problems because of their lack of expert bridge skills and judgments (despite their hallowed titles). Take it from one who knows. I have been there in spades.

If the basic rules were drilled in on opening day at Kindergarten Class, perhaps we would all be starting out on the same page. I think that is the major problem. But, it is too late for that. All we can do is move on from this day forward and enforce the rules in the same manner for everyone. These violators have to learn sometime and there is no time like the present.

No one said it would be easy, but closing one’s eyes and allowing it to continue is not the solution. Everyone must be competing on the same level playing field — regardless of what it takes.


PegJuly 6th, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Judy –

In theory, I agree with a lot of what you are promoting. In practice? …

I’m with Danny about the nationals vs non-national events. Many people at the clubs seem to have trouble understanding that you should wait a few seconds before passing after a preempt, even when you have a hand with which you’d never consider bidding. To think that these same folks would be able to never have forgets with their system, understand all the ramifications of conventions during competition, etc. is utopian thinking, I am afraid.

Where I strongly am on your side is with full disclosure. Too many pairs say nothing – or give the bare minimum explanation (when they know more themselves, either from habit or discussion). It puts the pairs who do strive to play the game as it ought at a disadvantage.

What I personally would like to see is more use of a recorder system. Perhaps a pair and/or player won’t be punished for one particular act of non-disclosure. Yet, if it appears that the same players are consistently not informing the opponents, then we could have sanctions in place.

Part of the fun and creativity of bridge is using innovation and trial and error. I don’t want to prevent people from doing this.

I just had a 15 IMP disaster with my #1 partner of well over a decade because we weren’t on firm ground with our understandings. Such is the nature of bridge – and part of why it remains so fascinating and frustrating for all of us!

Danny KleinmanJuly 6th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Under current procedures that attempt to restore “equity,” the burden falls upon victims of misinformation and failures to disclose to prove that they were damaged rather on than the perpetrators to prove that no damage occurred. That compounds the felony. How often, after having been victimized, do you spend time and thought figuring out what “would have” happened in the absence of the infraction … instead of focusing entirely on the following boards? If you make the penalties automatic, as in other sports, the violators would soon clean up their acts … as they would no longer profit from them. Imagine a rule in basketball that a shooter who is hacked is not entitled to free throws unless he can prove that he would have made the basket if left unmolested. That, essentially, is what we now have in bridge. The “split score” procedure makes things even worse. Time and time again I see victims protected by a director who assigns them “average plus” on a board while the perpetrators are allowed to keep the top obtained as the table result.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 6th, 2010 at 6:08 pm

To Danny Kleinman:

Your problem is you are too rational and make too much sense. Therefore, no one will listen to you — or begin to believe the shenanigans that go on — especially with the bridge police in your neck of the woods. From your last few renderings, it sounded like grand larceny.

Since you play a lot at the club level (as do I), I emphathize with your views and your approach to the game — whether it be a duplicate or a National. To me, it is immaterial where the violation of the rules occur. The locale or venue should not alter or affect the responsibility of the player or the director to abide by the standards — with no exceptions.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 6th, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Hi Peg:

Usually you, Bobby and I see eye to eye on these situations.

However, I am not referring to failure to pause the proper time after a skip bid or the like — but rather taking advantage of long hesitations of partner in a non-forcing situation after two passes. It also is failure to alert, untimely alerts, incorrect alerts and such that tick me off. I really don’t think that proper protocol is too demanding to expect of your opponents — at any level.

Trial and error, in and of itself, are not crimes, but when they take their toll on the scores of innocent opponents, in my eyes, they should be punishable.

New conventions are wonderful when you have them down pat but when they create, as Bobby calls it, Convention Disruption, it is hard to restore justice. That is why the offenders should be borne down upon hard so that they will get their act in shape. I don’t care if it is at a club game or the Trials. I feel we all have a responsibility to the game and learning at the ground level (a duplicate) is as good a place as any to begin.

Inexperience is a poor excuse and if people are hell bent on experimenting with new gadgets or systems and have a mixup, they, IMHO, should be prepared to receive whatever punishment, reduced score or reprimand — comes their way.

I guess I am just a tough hombre — but it has been so ingrained in me by both Norman and Bobby, it is hard to see it from the other side — regardless of the venue. I watched Edgar and Norman for almost forty years and I witnessed so little of this garbage. Bridge has changed a lot — and in many ways — but not necessarily for the better.

Ulf NilssonJuly 6th, 2010 at 11:39 pm

A general observation (view) about Full Dislosure:

We should of course all strive for Full Disclore, that’s a given fact. Both sides should be privy to the same information. But one has to realise that this is a theorethical concept only. There is no way this is ever achieved in practise, no matter how ethical the players are. This is due to partnership experience and just how the game works.

We all know that in order for a partnership to be their best, they need to play, practise and discuss a lot. Over time they learn how each think etc and are therefore able to achieve the best results possible as often as possible. I’ve never played against say Kehela-Murray, but to be able to do so well with such a theorethically inferior bidding system, I’d say their understanding of what was going on was pretty good. This is not in any way to imply any unethical behaviour in any way, it’s just the result of playing that long with each other.

No matter how fully Bobby or Edgar were to explain to the opponents what their partners bids meant, I’m pretty sure they frequently knew more than their opponents ever could. Wolff – Hamman and Kay-Kaplan were truly long standing and successful partnerships (and of the highest ethical reputation possible) and any rational bridge player should realize they knew more than their opponents about their auctions. Not because they didn’t alert or explained. It’s just a fact and a part of the game we have to accept.

Their knowledge may not even have been on a ‘conscious’ level so even an attempt to explain may have failed. This is, restating, not implying anything unethical – it’s a fact about how the game works. This is not an accusation or anything of that kind, I could have used any of a number of other partnerships as example (Martel-Stansby, Zia-Rosenberg etc).

We/they explain our agreements and so forth, Full Dislosure, but any ‘trimmed’ partnership will always know more. Not about the agreements which we have to disclose but how partners evaluate and choose their bids among logical alternatives. This is actually at least as important for the opponents. (In what situations is partner aggressive?)

Take a Master Solvers Set, where one criteria for a problem to be included is that several alternatives exist, and write down your answers as you think your partner would bid. Let your partner to the same with your likely answers. Check. I bet W-H and K-K would be pretty damn spot on. How do you ever explain stuff like that to your opponents?

What’s my point then? Just to point out that the only way (chance) we could ever attain the objective of Full Disclosure, that the opponents would have the same information we have about partners bid is if we put a cap on the number of boards any two players were allowed to play/practise with each other over a given time frame. Don’t think even the ACBL would go that far 😉

Danny KleinmanJuly 7th, 2010 at 5:24 am

Ulf has hit upon part of the truth, and it is an important part. As an MSC Director, I think he overstates the degree to which regular partners could anticipate each other’s answers (except for any partner of Marshall Miles to know he would overcall a four-card suit or bid 3NT with a six-card suit) but there are some things that are known and could be said. Here are just two.

(1)West opens 1S, North overcalls 2H, and after two passes, West acts again. Substantial extra strength, or merely appropriate shape? In a regular partnership, East will know. So, mark it on the convention card … or alert.

(2) West opens 1D and East responds 2C. Mike Lawrence called this start “the black sheep of the Two-Over-One family,” and it is prolematic for everyone. Old-fashioned standard bidding requires extra values for West to reverse into (say) 2H, so if East and West play reverses as just showing another four-card suit without promising extras, alert or announce West’s 2H. Another solution (mine) is “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” in which it is West’s 2D rebid does not promise extra length, i.e. with some minimum 4=3=4=2 hand West rebids 2D. If playing this way, I alert 2D. So easy to be honorable if you try!

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 7th, 2010 at 9:57 am


I know a couple who play automatic balancing doubles in sellout AND IS NOT ANYWHERE TO BE FOUND ON THE CARD. They are not good players, but win their fair share at the games and serve as cruise directors because they have the right connection (to someone with similar ethical views who makes the cruise ship recommendations and appointments).

So much for full disclosure!

dannyJuly 7th, 2010 at 1:09 pm


The support pass and the inferences thereto are one of just hundreds of such animals. I’ll give you 2. Say the auction goes 1C-1S-P. Do you alert the pass as might be a trap pass? Now the auction continues P-P. Do you alert the fact that the Openers failure to reopen marks him with some spade length? Have you ever seen your partner pass there with 0 or 1 spade? Should the partner alert the pass as showing 2? I could go on.

As to the notion that the auction 1C-P-1H-1S-P denies 3 in ‘most disciplined partnerships’: I would not double support there with KQJ-xxx-QJx-KJxx. Am I undisciplined? No, I just think pass is better than a support double.

At the club level, at least the clubs I have seen, many of the players have no clue what simple concepts like a reverse are. How can we demand they know what every bid means?

When I suggested that Meckwell shouldn’t have to test conventions on the kitchen table, instead of seeing my point, you used it as an oppurtunity to denigrate their ethics. Firstly, the incident you cite is probably 10 years or longer ago, and secondly, what does their ethics have to do with this discussion? Why air that particular piece of dirty laundry now?

Would you have responded differently if I had used Martel-Stansby as my example? They test many unusualy conventions in real life, not the kitchen table. Should one have to apply to the Ethics police to see if they are allowed to play a new convention?

Sure, I would love a world where everyone was as forthcoming as they should be. All efforts made in this regard are helpful.

PegJuly 7th, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Judy, I played at the LOCALE dupe today in a little sectional. One fellow managed to play Kxxxx opposite Ax (a side suit) in a 4C contract by leading the king and overtaking with the ace. Did he not see what he had? I dunno. I only know that trying to get a lot of these folks to understand what you and the rest of us are discussing would be tougher than getting me to comprehend an advanced engineering course.

When something is terrifically egregious at the local level, I do call a director and try to get people to learn a bit. My experience, however, is that it is close to hopeless.

To reach the level of disclosure you would like at a high level, I do think would take an overhaul of the rules OR playing on computers so that everything can be posted without partner seeing and/or hearing etc.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 7th, 2010 at 4:38 pm


I understand exactly what you are saying (like making an idiot play, as above, such as overtaking the K with the A). Bridge lessons might be called for. I am not talking about hopeless or uneducated players. More times than not you will come home smelling like a rose. That is not my issue or grievance.

In fact, Norman, when I talked about how he had gotten mightily fixed by some idiots, would reply, “That’s o.k. Just chain them to the table (the bridge table) and put them on a slow boat to China with me as their opponent.”

My protests are about huddles, non-alerts, wrong information, etc. Rules are made for a reason and you owe it to yourself and the game to play by the regulations. Am happy to hear that you step up to the plate at the local level when something untoward happens, even if it accomplishes little. At least it serves as a reminder — if nothing else.

And as far as overhauling the rules: Great, I am all for it — and I think the time has come. Peg, I don’t expect detailed explanations. All I want is a simple briefing if appropriate. No more — no less.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 7th, 2010 at 5:58 pm


It appears ironic to me that Bobby does not like support doubles since he has always felt if you disclose it properly, it gives the farm away to good players — both in the bidding and the defense, especially if you don’t end up playing that suit.

Having said the above, it appears totally consistent why so many top players consider the alerting of support doubles and its nuances critical for ethical compliance.

I always understood that it is mandatory to raise with four and double with three. Is that not standard? IF NOT, and partner can have three and a minimum square hand and can choose to pass, don’t you think the opponents are entitled to know that? If judgment is involved, your opponents should be aware that you are not playing the standard treatment.

I am not disputing the judgment angle (hating to double with a minimum flat hand) — just the ethicality of not informing them.

So, if you don’t alert that (1) Partner can pass holding three; and (2) A pass shows two or less — WHY NOT JUST DEFINE SUPPORT DOUBLES ON YOUR CARD THAT A RAISE SHOWS FOUR — and be done with it –as you don’t abide by the once-standard parts of the system.

Your other examples in your first paragraph are so nonsensical, they don’t dignify an answer. But after all, since you consider yourself an expert, you don’t need one.

As far as Meckwell, what has time got to do with it? The fact that Eric (years later) was still proudly espousing how he handled the situation and wondering why he was ruled against confirms he felt he did nothing wrong — so why would you object to the incident being resurrected, if he didn’t?

I remember times K/K played against them where Edgar (of course knowing what the bids meant) would always ask for Norman’s benefit as they were not alerted or explained as expected by protocol. Your sarcastic reference to Meckwell and the Kitchen Table Practice Sessions being so demeaning just happened to trigger other memories that I wanted to share with you and the public. What’s true is true.

As far as Martel-Stansby, I am not familiar with their system (either experimental or mix-ups) but the few times I have watched them, they have always appeared to be solid citizens. Thus, no comments.

Yes, “forthcoming” is good — but in short supply — and with the general laissez faire attitude, hope is dimming.

Danny KleinmanJuly 8th, 2010 at 5:40 am

To Danny Sprung and Judy:

When I played “duty to reopen” at the insistence of a stubborn and stupid client, yes, I alerted 1C-1S-pass, and explained appropriately, so that the partner of the overcall, if clever enough, could trap-pass and nail us for a penalty.

I agree with Danny Sprung’s good judgment in not making a Support Double with a flat hand and weak three-card support. When I play Support Doubles (again, with a stubborn and stupid partner), I alert opener’s pass as “tends to deny three-card support” and do not attempt to define bridge judgment further. (If an opponent wants to know why I passed with a hand such as Danny’s, I’ll tell him between rounds.)

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 8th, 2010 at 10:32 am


It sounds like what you are really saying is that “you come clean” with your partnership understandings. How refreshing in light of some dog with a bone views expressed above.


DannyJuly 8th, 2010 at 7:38 pm


I think you misunderstand my position. I will happily alert if the Acbl tells me to. I would always alert stuff like inferences from support doubles behind screens. I do not alert things that are specifically not alertable otherwise.

Is this a dog with a bone view?

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 8th, 2010 at 8:42 pm


I am not like a trained dog jumping through hoops each time my master snaps his fingers. Regardless of the rules, I feel compelled to alert when I feel a non-alert can be detrimental. The ACBL alert system is far from perfect and hopefully, they are working on it.

I alert if I think my opponents may be injured if I don’t. We play two way Stayman and that changes many calls. For instance, everyone I know plays transfers at the two level over 1NT. WE DO NOT. I think you will agree that when the auction goes 1NT P 2H, everyone assumes it is a transfer (whether a person remembers to alert TRANSFER or not). In the absence of an alert, the next bidder (having a spade suit) would not be able to pass fast enough because they suspect it is a transfer. We always alert NATURAL AND NON FORCING to allow the next bidder to come in (if he chooses) with spades (instead of being intimidated by what he thinks is a transfer).

Another instance is that we play 1NT over a major opening is only INTENDED FORCING (by a passed or unpassed hand). And, we could have four spades but choose not to bid them. I’m not sure if that is an alert or not — but it is something we also do alert so that the opponents will be aware of the fact that we may bypass spades and opt for 1NT. So, as you can see, I am as honorable as I can be — and certainly not to my advantage. I just sleep better at night alerting on a need to know basis.

In life, one has a choice to assume the role of sheep or shepherd. We have both made our choices.

dannyJuly 9th, 2010 at 4:57 am


I have found that alerting calls that are specifically not alertable just leads to table animosity. If you think the players in the events I play in do not know about support pass inferences, I can tell you that is just not the case. 80% or more of my opponents play a support double, and those that don’t are aware of the situation.

An example of our alerting: We play a variation of the Walsh Relay, so that our 2 Diamond call over 1nt is not hearts about 2% of the time. We have been told we do not have to alert that, and merely anounce transfer, but we DO alert anyway. Most of our opponents expect to hear ‘transfer’ and stop and ask. Some are even annoyed, but this is a situation where damage could occur, just like in your 2 Way Stayman example.

We are closer of mind on the alert procedure than you think.

Oh, and by the way, could you drop all these ‘dog’ analogies? And the sheep too? We are not animals here, and using these references just pours fuel on fire that shouldn’t even exist.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 9th, 2010 at 8:31 am


I am not distressed by table animosity as much as by a non-alert deceiving the opponents or innocently leading them astray. The people against whom we play appreciate our honesty and good intentions. I suppose it all depends on how you are looked upon.

Your reference to the animal kingdom amuses me. What makes you so testy to get your dander up by references to dogs and sheep. They gotta live too — and besides, with them, what you see is what you get. They are what they are — living by their wits and ability of survival — without lies or deception. Why cast aspersions on some poor defenseless wildlife! In some respects, they are superior to the human animal.

The Lone WOLFfess

Gary M. MugfordJuly 10th, 2010 at 6:29 pm


We’ve been over this in the past, you and I. And you know where I stand. I’ve always believed there should be two levels of alerts, including one where you tell the opposition they REALLY SHOULD ask, because your treatment is non-standard. So, I think I fall a LOT closer to the side of full disclosure than not.

Yet, I still feel Bridge is a timed game. And full disclosure is an attack on time that will drive players away, both those trying to be honest and forthcoming, and those who have to sit there and listen to all the crap coming from the convention hounds (bark, bark, say I, a convention-inventor and a lover of new toys).

In my heyday at the local club, especially when playing Precision, the first words out of the mouths of MANY opponents weren’t “Hello, how are you?” It was often, “Please don’t alert at this table.” Which was fair enough. But I was SOOOOO programmed to blurt out ALERT at just about anything my partner did, I engendered more sour looks, even though I was TRYING hard to meet my ethical requirements.

Maybe that’s why I became the fastest bidder and player in the club. When I hooked up with another speed nut, it wasn’t rare for us to average seven, eight minutes PER two-board round. He had a smoking vice that I managed to let him ‘enjoy.’ Of course, we weren’t playing Precision by then.

When it’s all said and done, I don’t think I will ever be able to meet your ideal of full disclosure. I think I will be able to come close and will strive (those notes you hear in the background are from Robert Goulet singing The Impossible Dream). And I think there is some honour in the attempt. So, I’ll sit out the rest of the conversation. With this last thought.

Keep fighting. Willful ignorance is harder to explain away when everybody’s talking about it.


Judy Kay-WolffJuly 10th, 2010 at 10:01 pm


If full disclosure (when it is really vital) drives people away, so be it. I reflect upon it as good riddance to bad rubbish. If one does not want to be alerted, that is their loss. I just believe in the old Golden Rule. What you and your partner know, the opponents should be privy to as well — regardless of the venue (beginners, intermediate, advanced, so-called experts or the real thing).

What I rail out about are the nuances of things like Support Doubles where there are all sorts of treatments (standard and non-standard). Regardless of ACBL rules (and I am sure you have your own thoughts from personal experience working for them some years ago) — when a partnership has two-way judgmental understandings or treatments, I believe it is stealthy not to reveal them to the opponents. Full disclosure can just be a tap on the table with the alert card and a brief explanation. No one is asking them to recite the Preamble to the Constitution. Fast and simple should get the job done.

Thanks for writing.



bruce karlsonJuly 11th, 2010 at 4:09 am


Got through most of the above. I have often wondered why a pass rather than support double did not rate an alert. Even if opener may pass with 3 and a 3/3/3/4 rag, that can be in the explanation.

My limited experience with ranked (formerly?) players has been the opposite. To wit, playing in a Sectional against Don Caton and John Potter, I was so rattled that I opened out of turn. Don simply averted his eyes and the bidding progressed as normal, marking him as a real gentleman of the game. (They crushed us anyway.)

Suspect that, as long as expert pairs are required to crush lesser mortals, only the decency of the experts will constrain bad behavior. I would be hard pressed to call the director against Meckwell or any of the wizards even if I thought my side was injured. Most aspiring players would be equally timid.

It is always, I believe, going to come back to “them that do and them that don’t” practice active ethics. The “don’t” bunch would need an expert director watching every bid.

Keep up the fight. Victory is not likely but the situation will continue to erode absent a rigorous and continuing counter.


Bobby WolffJuly 14th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Hi Bruce,

I, for one, appreciate your important comments on our game in general, even to your conclusion about victory not being likely.

If I had to guess though, I think bridge will go through trying periods where the “bad guys” seem to win at a disproportionate rate, until one very bright day, when the ethical majority suddenly rise up and assert themselves, demanding more.

When you speak of the excellent table ethics of Caton and Potter you are right on, with only the absence of publicity worth improving. There are those, Bruce, who will say that C&P are not doing the right thing to maximize their chances of winning, but any “thinking” worthwhile competitor should shout from the rooftops how immoral, not to mention ridiculous, that position really is.

True, we do not live in a perfect world, especially in the way we need to go about administering our game, but players who refuse to take something for nothing (sometimes, of course, there is no practical nor legitimate choice to not) should get every ethical person’s kudos.

Finally, there is undoubtedly an intimidation problem present while playing against our best and fiercest competitors. Perhaps even that will change, but it will only happen, if those great players and partnerships will also, at least begin to see and therefore denounce that advantage, when it tends to rear its ugly head.

Yes, the future needs a special alignment of everything that could be decent and great about our leading bridge players, but impossible, not necessarily. Only time will tell.