Judy Kay-Wolff

Equating Bridge Expertise with I. Q.

There have been so many varying opinions about qualifications (or lack of them) while commentating on BBO. Of course, everyone has his or her own vantage point as to what they are seeking while glued to their computers. The various talents of the performers have to do with experience, level of competition, ability to analyze, verbalization skills, quickness of mind, believability, sense of humor, good interaction with fellow commentators  — and so many other pertinent factors.   Some look upon kibitzing as sheer entertainment, casual relaxation and nothing more — while others, who have more pressing agendas, gage it differently and are more interested in the pearls of wisdom of an expert analyst as a learning experience rather than just amusing repartee.   That’s why they serve chocolate and vanilla.  Enjoyment is the name of the game.

While considering the above, visions of two individuals in the bridge world danced through my head.   Though both were addicted to the game, their life’s accomplishments were like night and day — as were their successes at the table.  

The first individual must have had an exceedingly high I.Q. as he worked diligently on The Manhattan Project. For those too young to remember (or were not on earth at the time), it was the code name for an operation conducted during World War II to develop the first atomic bombs.  Obviously to have qualified for acceptance in this earthshaking (no pun intended) program, he must have been near genius with extraordinary scientific skills — though bridge was no walk in the park despite his sponsoring a host of top players as his partner.

The second person who came to mind was a total bridge nerd.   And yes — we certainly can lay claim to more than our fair share.   By dictionary definition, a nerd is an unstylish or socially inept person who is slavishly dedicated to intellectual pursuits (in this case, of course, our dear game).  I was fortunate enough to have been invited to play with him half a dozen times and though his name is not a household word because he cannot afford to travel regularly to the big events, this fellow has the most astounding natural instincts and ability, tremendous table feel, gut feelings on probabilities and usually emerges near the top even when playing with a client.  He piles up tons of points annually and yet I doubt if he could open a can of soup with an electric opener.

So what does this all mean?  I really believe these two opposite ends of the totem pole prove that intelligence is not necessarily the key factor in success at the table.  It may help when push comes to shove — but card sense is in and unto itself!

As to the identity of my two mystery friends — I’ll never tell!


John Howard GibsonAugust 12th, 2010 at 12:44 am

Dear Judy, Just to let you know that HBG is about to tell the bridge world about the art of good commentating. ( But just to inform others reading this particular post, I’m not one of the two characters mentioned in the above article ) . Yours as always relying on your blogs for a bit of inspiration. HBG

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 12th, 2010 at 7:25 am

To my man of many names (John, John Howard Gibson and Howard Bigot-Johnson):

What I love about you most is that you never hold it back. Like people always tease me — “Judy, why don’t you say what you think!” Happy I inspired you. It was fun reading. For those not familiar with John’s site, scroll to the bottom and click on Bizarre World of Bridge for many fun-packed renderings. Certainly an apt description of the zoo in which we live.



Dave Memphis MOJOAugust 12th, 2010 at 9:59 am

My problem with commentators is that so many of them can’t help being double dummy.

Ray LeeAugust 12th, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Bridge is a great leveller. I love the fact that when the richest man in the world strolls more or less unnoticed into a bridge tournament, the only interest from most of us is whether we’ll get to play him — because we should get some good boards! The chess world works the same way — one of the most respected players at the Toronto club back in the 70s earned his living as a janitor, while a university professor who I worked for was just about tolerated.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 12th, 2010 at 2:01 pm


Bridge IS a great leveller! Sometimes it takes some comeuppance to get one’s head screwed back on straight!

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 12th, 2010 at 3:44 pm


Double dummy PARTNERS are worse!!!!

You hit the nail on the head about the commentators when you said “so many of them can’t help being double dummy.” I think it is an automatic reaction when the hand appears — almost like a reflex or instinct.

At the ultimate level, where egos don’t need nurturing, I have often heard icons question their own judgment, admitting there might be a better path to success than the one they had chosen. The bigger they are, the more humble they appear to be.

What I like about playing with Bobby is — he NEVER second-guesses me. Oftimes I express regrets about a bid or a play which turned out wrong — like bidding an unmakeable game or missing a perfectly fitting slam. After the duplicate, in the privacy of our home, I am fortunate that he takes the time to go over the boards. He always calls a spade a spade. Bobby does not believe in the soft-soaping process. Regardless if I have committed a little boo-boo or a cardinal sin, we discuss it civilly and I profit from my mistakes — hopefully not to have a recurrence (new ones, yes — but no repeat performances). I find table cross-talk during the game very disconcerting because nothing good can come from it!

What I do find comforting is that if I am too hard on myself, he will say something like “What else could you do?” or “That’s what I would have done.” or “You had no other option” … and that ends the discussion.

So much for double dummy approaches!

PegAugust 13th, 2010 at 9:13 am

I do believe one of my talents at commentating is NOT being double dummy. Since I have made almost every error there is to make, frequently I can see ’em coming down the pike. More than once, I’ve seen “the experts” claim that a hand will be made or defeated in some expert manner. Yet, I’ve believed that the hand will instead turn out in some other “all too human” manner.

While I appreciate those who can see plays that I have trouble discerning after the fact – I love those who can do vugraph with humor AND some reality.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 13th, 2010 at 3:30 pm


I love your candor. It comes even ahead of your sense of humor and self-deprecating style though obviously you are too modest. I really wish I could talk Bobby into doing some commentary. His mind is lightning fast on realistic analysis and his sense of humor is just as quick. He hasn’t missed a beat or lost a step even though we have not attended a national in six! I keep him on his toes at the duplicates!

He had done some practicing on BBO and I think one time did attempt commentating, but the computer is not his favorite playtoy even though he is a fast typist (in fact faster than moi though I was a legal secretary after college).

BBO is indeed a great contribution to the game!!!!

PegAugust 14th, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Judy; talk him into it! YOU can do it!

Sure it would be super to have Bobby’s wit and wisdom.

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