Judy Kay-Wolff

Teamsmanship, Camaraderie and all that Rot …

I was inspired by the blog of Howard Bigot Johnson, dated August 15th, entitled Law Report, about psychological abuse at the table.   It was amusing to read but really struck a chord with me — recalling the hundreds of partnerships I witnessed in action both in national and international competition over five decades.   Not everything is sweetness and light as one would have you believe just because of a preponderance of scalps on the walls and zillions of masterpoints.

One of the most famous American partnerships of all time were always at each other’s throats, trying to assess blame upon the other.  It appeared to be almost as important as victory.   Egos are a major part of the game and even the strongest and the best wrestle inwardly with this problem.  I speak only of the male species as I was not privy that much to females at the top level (or at least what I considered the top level).

Probably the prime example of ugliness, I witnessed with my own eyes and ears:   After a match in a social setting, in the presence of the Sponsor and the Captain (the latter of whom would never sink to such depths), one of the players turned to his teammate and opened fire in a calm, seemingly sweet voice, probing, “You DIDN’T get to the slam?”   Obviously, it made, but it was impossible to bid (at least by intelligent expert standards who could not see through each other’s cards to know it meshed perfectly with few high card points).  The pair on the wrong side of the swing, were too gentlemanly to dignify such an ugly remark — but to this day, I find it hard to look at this famous pompous ass who tried to make his teammates look bad in front of the sponsor (who may have been too naive to even understand the undercurrent of the conversation).

I see this form of one-upmanship all the time with the sarcasm, arrogance and misguided blame assessment with the lower lights, but believe me, it happens at the higher levels as well — especially with the predominance of professionalism in bridge turning our game into a doggy-dog world.   As I have professed many times before, Money is in first and Bridge a far second.  I have seen the tasteless transition, the unscrupulous attempts at stealing sponsors, the ploys used to encourage the sponsors to shell out additional money for more events needed to qualify for world championships — and the beat goes on.

Elite international bridge competition will never rival the days of old when our country was represented by true experts who did not buy their way onto teams, but earned the right by innate talent, natural ability and brilliance.   I fear those days may be gone forever as I hear the death toll in the distance.


JodyAugust 18th, 2010 at 8:52 am

Great title! Fun to read, as I have said before, you have good narrative style. Psychological abuse (PA) happens at all levels and it is saddest when better players use it on lesser players. I have played against lots of experts and with few exceptions they have appered to be thotful, cheery and friendly) prob getting a top, lol). bUT once in a while, zap! to play bridge you must have good self esteem. It works for me to pretend not to have heard what they said, or get up, get water whatever after the crucial ‘WHY” question, OR ask to repeat “sorry, what did you say?” my fave question after i have x’ed and set them, when they ask, “how many points did you have? I never can remember

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 18th, 2010 at 5:21 pm


I always enjoy hearing from you. One thing is for sure. You don’t mince words or thoughts.

I have always been spoiled all of my adult bridge life playing with better players. I had the privilege for twenty years of paying with a great gal by the name of Barbara Brier (who passed on in 1996) but she was of world class stature. She won the World Mixed Pairs with the Baron von Vedtwitz even though he was declared legally blind. You can imagine what a feat that was. She never had too much to say to me at the table as she knew there was a higher-up (Norman) who might debate her criticism. Few words were exchanged during the game and I am a big proponent of that theory.

But seriously, to make either your partner or teammate look bad publicly, to me, is a crime punishable by death, or worse.

Unfortunately, because of that ugly green stuff coming into the picture, not only has the game changed but so have the politics, agendas, committees, etc. People are afraid of stepping on the toes of those who may be in a position to serve them well some day. No need to go into it. I think you get the picture.

By the way, I like your answer when you are put through the inquistion as to how many points you had! That’s always a good excuse. Lapse of memory.



John Howard GibsonAugust 19th, 2010 at 7:09 am

Dear Judy, tx for yet another plug for my blog. I’m pleased I’m able to provide you some inspiration for possible topics to write on. Certainly, I read your blogs with a view of adopting an idea or two for some of my forthcoming stuff. Guess that is one of the great things about blogging. You seem to home in on issues that need to be exposed to a wider audience…… if only to bring about wothwhile changes in the game ( or the running of it )…..which you might have achieved following your revelations on the Peter Pender scandal . I certainly enjoyed reading this article, although one can only despair if the practice of one-upmanship is as widespread as you suggest. Yours HBG

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 19th, 2010 at 12:52 pm


As you have no doubt, I don’t sugarcoat anything I feel is so blatantly wrong or against the interests of the game. There are a lot of wusses and wimps in the bridge complex who close their eyes and pretend situations don’t exist. Unless someone speaks up, they will not only not heal on their own but will fester and worsen.

Our game needs all the help it can get — and that is a huge underbid!

Gary M. MugfordAugust 21st, 2010 at 11:45 am


I’ve always been a bit ornery and unwilling to take abuse and an old friend and mentor discovered that many, many years ago. This mentor and I were playing on an underdog team in a Swiss League against one of the powerhouses, filled as it were, with friends and occasional partners of mine too.

I had quite the night. Outside of one idiotic defensive claim that cost an imp or two for an undertrick that went for wanting, I played virtually the perfect game. Despite a desultory performance by my partner, we won the game on our card. Convincingly. I was feeling my oats when my partner accosted me out in the parking lot after the game.

“Now, about that hand where you held the trump stack and misdefended …” he started. I glared at him in amazement. He’d made mistake after mistake during the game, which I managed to frequently overcome, and he was talking about a hand where we had, in fact, exacted the maximum penalty. I turned around and left him standing there trying to hide his lost dignity.

I didn’t speak to him for 15 years.

Only when he fell ill with cancer did I feel it was necessary to make amends. It was short and brusque, but I told him all things between us were square. He died shortly after.

I guess what I’m saying is, we should teach all players to stand up for themselves. I think that’d be easier than getting the egotistical bullies to back down.


Judy Kay-WolffAugust 22nd, 2010 at 10:05 am

Good story Gary. I admire your fortitude and the strength of the position you took — but succumbed to forgiveness as your ex-partner approached the pearly gates.

Some people, perhaps by an outward show of superiority really suffer from inferiority complexes — especially at the bridge table. I see it often in the aura of a few of the directors and the power they like to display being in a decision-making position. In most bridge partnerships, however, there are few twosomes of equal ability. One is usually better in one aspect of the game and the other in another purview. Either make the best of it or change partners.

However, public putdowns (or even in parking lots) are inexcusable. It is really some deeprooted instability that makes one go off the deep end, trying to ‘best’ his or her partner — attempting to make them look bad.

In my two great partnerships (and I speak of real life) — I am in an altogether different position. Norman never said a word at the table — but believe me after we put the cards back in the pockets, I knew if I had committed some atrocity (as Norman would involuntarily bite down on his lower lip).

Bobby who has a much more volatile personallity and took bridge more seriously than Norman (who never depended on professionalism for a living) is an easier read regarding my faux paxs as I can sense immediately if I have hacked a dummy or slipped on defense. Perhaps it is because Bobby served in the trenches early on playing with sponsors until he achieved worldwide acclaim and success and had become so accustomed to playing with weaker players in his prime.

However, we have a meeting of the minds, at long last, to look at the hand records in the tranqulity of our home over a drink and it is a sensational learning process — discussing the many alternatives one may have in deciding what to do. Face to face table combat is disgusting and I personally find it repulsive.

As far as egotistical bullies, for my money — they should be shot at sun-up!

Evie RosenSeptember 10th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

What should I say? At my level (club bridge) if your partner is polite enough not to say anything at the table, your opponents will venture forth their unsolicited comments…so much for zero tolerance!