Judy Kay-Wolff

The Bastardization of Bridge

On the concluding fifth day of the Las Vegas Bridge Sectional at the Riviera, Bobby’s and my teammates, Carol Stewart, a well respected player, and her sensational partner, Paul Ivaska, won the Stratified Swiss.  (In fact, they won three of the five events in which they competed).   Well, maybe we won Friday.   Maybe, we didn’t.  The final score declared us the winners – but you judge for yourselves.

Let me begin by reassuring you again I do not profess to be an expert and know very little about the Conditions of Contest as far as time elements.   I have enough problems counting trump.   I try my hardest, play as ethically as I know how and don’t mince words if I feel an impropriety has taken place.

From what I understand from a knowledgeable, experienced bridge authority, a normal Swiss Match consists of 7 boards and is expected to conclude within a certain time frame.   I was never aware of this as I play whatever board appears in front of me and am not a clock watcher.   The format was three matches beginning at 10 a.m. and after a break, three more resumed at 2:00 p.m.   I believe 50 minutes is allowed (but it is immaterial as this event added an extra board — bringing it to EIGHT, and did not compensate for the extra board time-wise which certainly makes a difference).

In Match 4 a board was removed from Paul and Carol’s table, with no penalty to either side.   It served more or less as a slow play warning.  Bobby and I were not involved.  So our score was based on seven boards and I believe we won by 16.  In Match 6 we played against a contender (being the most important contest of all) and I recall looking at my watch as the declarer took about five minutes in 6NT before he called a card.   The director had come over earlier and said to move it along.   All hands are not lay-downs.   Some can be claimed when dummy hits; others could require long considerations especially in doubled contracts or  high level ones that are touch and go.   We didn’t happen to have many problem hands. 

As we were about to play the last board, the director who made her appearance earlier, said play ceases and only seven boards would be counted.  It was the eighth board and other tables were still in play.  Our score would count only the seven, but  the other side would get a three imp award.   WHY WERE THEY ENTITLED TO SUCH A WINDFALL?  Except for the slam alluded to above, no one was particularly slow and THERE WERE NO CAMERAS OR MONITORS SO WHO HAS THE GALL TO ASSESS THE BLAME AND REMOVE BOARD 8?????    We actually won by 2 (11-9) but our opponents had three IMPS tacked onto their score and moved into second place to displace the rightful 2nd Place winner (the team with Pam Stratton).  Therefore, this policy of removing boards at the will of a director AFFECTS THE ENTIRE FIELD.  And, who is to say if we played Board 8, we would not have lost a large number of imps and the entire event.   The two women involved in the ruling punched out for dinner as soon as the scores were posted.  Done deal.   After the game, Paul, out of curiosity, confronted Bill Michael, DIC (who apparently was never consulted) who admitted it was an incorrect ruling but with the directors involved gone from the premises, he could not verify the facts.   Too bad!  The “time problem” must be with the same pair and obviously, it was not.   So, the 3 IMP Award to our opponents was an undeserved bonus and Pam Stratton’s group got screwed out of 2nd as the ugly situation was adjudicated.   (There were, to our knowledge, at least five such happenings yesterday – with removed boards).

We don’t understand how blame cannot be assessed.   Are the directors claire voyants or do they have x-ray eyes to be certain whom, if anyone, was responsible.   How can Headquarters allow this?   How can directors not know the rules?   How can the DIC, Mr. Michael, not be aware of these incorrect rulings that his directors were making during the course of the game?   (Apparently IMP penalties are only issued if the same pair is at fault twice or more).   Why was it not discovered until after the two floor directors had left.   HOWEVER, SINCE THE DIRECTING STAFF IS AT FAULT FOR NOT KNOWING THE PROCEDURE, WHY ARE THE SCORES NOT CORRECTED.   It is never too late to restore equity!!!!!!!!!

Come to think of it – were the stipulations of eight board matches, IMP penalty rewards or take-away boards POSTED OR ANNOUNCED?  I arrived just at game time so I dunno!

In any event, it is high time that ACBL Headquarters did a better job of recruiting and/or training – so that the directors know the Conditions of Contest and never allow this to happen again.  We can all learn from our mistakes.   Nobody’s perfect!


ChuckOctober 24th, 2010 at 4:51 am

Dear Judy:

Your blogs are such a wonderful departure from the kings, squeezes, backward finesses and other magical performances at the bridge table. Of course, those subects are beneficial to the bridge devotees who hang on every word in order to improve their skills. I am not knocking it. Pursuit of learning is to be admired.

However, I am fascinated by your memories of yore (as you call them) and true life stories of both the good and the bad one witnesses during a bridge career.

In every sport there are stipulations. Like it or not. Other administrators (especially in pro sports) take the game much more seriously but, of course, zillions of dollars are involved collectively and no one wants to fall from grace of the public — or worse yet — the advertisers. In sports, it appears there are hard and fast rules to follow and it is necessary because they are such dangerous endeavors where human lives are at stake.

At bridge, my ‘take’ is that it is about the ego — simply winning or losing. No wonder bridge is considered a sport indulged in by our grandparents as the youngsters shy away and pursue other areas of fun and accomplishment. I find that sad, but it is ugly situations like the above that discourage new young players who are missing (as you have often referred to it before) the most majestic mind game in the world. However, that is their loss.

Don’t directors have some type of formal training or is it like the old open book tests which any bozo can pass? Good for you for having the guts to bring such an embarrassingly touchy subject to the attention of the public. If it is accurate, it can only aid in making the necessary changes and attracting more people to the bridge table. It has become an old person’s game and greater efforts should be exerted to entice the public (especially our youngsters) to the table — which brings me to another question: Why no formal bridge classes on the rosters in schools as exist in so many foreign countries?

As far as what you call bastardization of the game, law and order, plus consistency, must prevail to assure its longevity.

Thanks for taking on the challenges. Few would have the nerve to do so.


Bobby WolffOctober 24th, 2010 at 7:20 am

Hi Chuck,

Thanks for your well conceived analysis and on target opinions.

It is Sunday morning and I have just read Judy’s and your blog and want to add (since I was, of course, right there) that if anything, Judy understated it. While the lady who came to take our board away was polite and without malice, the episode belongs in Ripley’s Believe it or Not (I hope you remember that feature of the distant past).

Although Judy is often slow, during this match, neither she nor I, missed a beat (no delays whatsoever) and the opponents, a well playing young man and his very nice female partner, had almost all of the decisions and the few ones I had, I, as usual, played lickety split.

The result didn’t disfavor us (we won anyway) but to allow our opponents to be credited with 3 additional VPs (or IMPs since I never found out)while the Stratton Team (captained by Jan Crossley with Proctor Hawkins and Gard Hayes) was then demoted to 3d instead of 2d, belongs up there in a bridge sense, with the undeserved justice accorded OJ Simpson.

I didn’t hear anything about it until the directing staff had performed their charade and as Judy said, BASTARDIZED the event, not to mention the game itself. BTW I was told that several TD’s had dinner dates and had left prematurely as well, of course, as the chief director not being there as Johnny on the spot, to keep this continuing bridge tragedy from happening.

How can the TD’s and, of course, the ACBL itself even begin to hold their heads up considering the disgusting behavior, and without any apologies to anyone?

Yet they expect the players to SHUT UP and follow their off the charts, terribly thought out rules. I suspect they will pretend as usual, that this embarrassment never happened, and do nothing about it.


DiogenesOctober 24th, 2010 at 10:04 am

Amazing, that the directors have now all become mind readers. They know who plays fast, who plays slow, what the players are thinking and have the ability to make rulings based on what they “know” is in the minds of the players. In the future rulings can just appear on the bridge mate devices without having to call a director. This will be part of the Vulcan Mind Meld as perfected by Mr. Spock. The awarding of the three imps certainly created havoc with the correct order of finish for the event. As you pointed out quite a windfall. Here I am walking through the forest looking for firewood and “poof” it appears. Justice does not seem to have a hand in these happenings.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 24th, 2010 at 10:27 am

Well put, Diogenes!

I still feel the cause of the problem lies with the ACBL as they are much too protective of their directing staff. THERE ARE LOTS OF SENSATIONAL DIRECTORS I KNOW –but there is a shortage here.

I know I told the story before where Bobby offered to come down to (then) Memphis on his own dime for a day or two and give a seminar that would solve many of the problems.

However, the person in charge, now retired, wouldn’t think of inconveniencing his flock — so the beat goes on AND GETS LOUDER AND LOUDER AND LOUDER.


CarolOctober 24th, 2010 at 5:31 pm

The floor directors didn’t attempt to determine which side was responsible for not playing the last board. The directors didn’t know the rule and incorrectly accessed an adjustment for the other team allowing them to receive an unearned 2nd. The DIC explained that an adjustment is usually awarded when the same pair has had a board pulled in an earlier round or when one pair is found to be responsible. However, he was unwilling to correct his director’s error (the issue was addressed promptly) because the directors had “left the building” and were unavailable (dinner plans had been mentioned earlier) to verify the facts.

Tournaments are not run for the directors’ benefit. It goes without saying that they shouldn’t leave before their job is finished. They are paid employees who should, according to the ACBL website, possess among other requirements:

1. “Thorough knowledge and understanding of the Laws of Duplicate Bridge and ACBL regulations… and

2. “Public relations skills to balance the roles of referee and judge, schoolteacher, psychologist and entertainment director…”

This following statement follows the list of TD requirements. “While it is vital that we deal with rulings and penalties in a manner consistent with our laws and regulations, it is even more important to do so in a manner that shows that we realize that these players are our customers and have many other options for spending their leisure time. Presentation is everything…”

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 24th, 2010 at 6:16 pm


Wow! What a super all-encompassing assessment of the debacle at The Riviera during Friday’s LV Sectional Swiss Team.


THIS BRIDGE TO-DO IS THE TALK OF LAS VEGAS! Thanks, Carol, for taking the time to detail the horror story and to go to the trouble of quoting the list of TD requirements.


Andre AsburyOctober 25th, 2010 at 7:13 am

Directors are always hesitant to assign penalties for being late. In district 7, however, the norm seems to be 8 board matches in Swisses, with 50 minutes allowed to start your last board, and i’ve never heard of them assigning any adjustment for unplayed boards – just some matches are reduced to 7 or 6 boards. That seems fair enough because it’s usually too hard to tell which pair is at fault for the slow play and penalties do turn people off from the game. However, at the flight A level, trying to get/keep people hooked shouldn’t be a concern.

In the Rosenblum round robin, I was a little concerned we would get a penalty for slow play which would be unfair because my partner and I were clearly not the ones playing at the pace of 10 min/board. We were against the top seed in our group and clearly beating them at our table. We had taken 2 hours to play the first 12 boards, meaning there were only 20 minutes for the last 4. The directors regularly walked by, reminding the table to hurry up. On a couple occasions the director just stood there for minutes watching. Two of the last 3 boards were trick 1 or trick 2 claimers and when we finished 2 or 3 minutes late, they decided to take away the “automatic penalty.” Not sure if it’s because they couldn’t penalize just one side or what but the directors were well aware of who the culprits were that time.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 25th, 2010 at 7:46 am


Appreciate your input and sharing your history, but the cold facts of life are that conditions of contest MUST BE MADE PUBLIC. No directors tiptoeing around and then arbitrarily assessing penalties or awarding imps. The right hand had no clue what the left hand was doing. In fact the DIC admitted the scoring was incorrect but it was too late to do anything about it. How truly sad that is how a final score is determined and the winners are named.

I think the biggest ACBL PROBLEM is the lack of knowledgeable directors (besides personality problems) at the lower levels especially. Of course, there are some exceptions. The problem here is that they are trying to save travel expenses for more

qualified directors from out of state and the equity of the game should be placed before the almighty dollar and using locals primarily unless they are qualified in the ways Carol Stewart’s comments enumerated.

They charged $10 a session. Let them charge $11. I don’t know the final total count but as of the middle of the third day, I believe the table count was almost 600.

That extra few bucks would make a difference

and I know there were many complaints, both to the wonderful local administration who kill themselves and among the players

as well.

You usually get what you pay for! But, in this case, what was even worse, the floor directors did not know the rules.

Al TushmanOctober 25th, 2010 at 1:13 pm

The ACBL bridge directors constitute a mixed bag, the good, the bad and the indifferent. The same could be said for most professions. Most of the directors I’ve seen are very good at their job and handle the running of tournaments and director calls with skill, a sense of humor, and the ability to diffuse nasty situations. Unfortunately, I’ve seen, as have you, many that really should be encouraged to find employment elsewhere. The situation you and Carol have described is just awful.

Let me get this right: An allegation is made that in a Swiss Team event there is a directing error made at your teammate’s table which doesn’t affect your first place win but, because it favored your opponents at the table, another team was demoted from second place to third place. The director-in-charge is informed of the erroneous ruling but cannot do anything because the two directors involved have left for dinner and cannot verify the allegations. What? Left for dinner? No adjustment can be made? Huh? The directors’ ruling stands? Very bad officiating!!! Hopefully, the folks in Memphis (or wherever they are now) have been advised and will do something.

Al Tushman

CarolOctober 25th, 2010 at 6:09 pm

The Conditions of Contest for Swiss Teams posted on the ACBL website differ from the DIC’s explanation. It appears that the floor directors inappropriately applied Rule #10 under “Play” which states: “… If the Director determines one side to be at fault, he/she MAY act to protect the non-offending side… the awarding of three IMPs per board (not played) to the non-offending side.” The directors awarded a three IMP adjustment without attempting to access blame.

Rule #9 under “Play” states “When a table fails to complete play within the allotted time, the Director will issue a warning to the responsible player(s). A second late finish will result in a penalty of 10% of the maximum score possible in a match (at the form of scoring in use) being deducted from the team’s cumulative record for the event…” This wasn’t the case either, but explains how a pair’s 2nd pulled board would be handled.

There is no rule stating that a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. loss of a board is an automatic three IMP penalty. It appears the directors were conflating Rule #10 and Rule #9. The Rules of Contest are very clear, and neither team was due an adjustment.

Part of the problem was that Rule #7 wasn’t respected. “The time allotted is seven and one-half minutes per board.” The clock should have been set at 53 minutes to start the last board, not 50 minutes as the directors said they did. I don’t know when the clock started ticking down, but the event averaged one hour per match – that included posting the matches, finding your table, making the boards, playing the boards, comparing the scores, verifying the results, notifying the directors, entering the results, making the next pairing, and taking a comfort break – bathroom, smoking, etc. Seven-board matches average one hour! The math doesn’t work. The missing three minutes partially explains why so many boards were pulled, but not how we managed to play eight-board matches in the time usually allowed for seven-board matches!

Was the dinner engagement that important? I feel we deserve more from the staff.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 25th, 2010 at 8:38 pm


It sounds like you did your homework and it is in the interest of all of the players to see to it that this never happens again. It is quite apparent to everyone our directors need better “direction ” or else be replaced by those who are more qualified. A major consideration or requirement for being hired should not be the necessity of being a ‘local’ to avoid extraneous travel and hotel costs. Bridge judgment, a pleasant personality, respectful handling of the players and the knowledge of CofC should be the first order of business for the selection of a director.

Thanks for exerting all that time on research. It is really the responsibility of our unit and district who owe it to us, the players, to protect our interests and make certain the proprieties are adhered to and we don’t have a repeat performance of this nightmare.


Judy Kay-WolffOctober 25th, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Dear Al:

Go to the head of your class. You passed the test with flying colors. Your assessment of the facts were right on target.

Perhaps with this situation being brought to light, the

governing body will realize just how weak this directorial staff was and the inequity of the final results. It is really a matter of principle — and should never happen again.

Thanks for caring.


TonyOctober 26th, 2010 at 3:52 am

I think that problem is that the directors have become too self-assertive — especially in light of the fact that there are many more knowledgeable people at the site.

How is it possible, if penalties or awards were handed out with questionable merit, that the scores are permitted to stand. Some set up!

CarolOctober 26th, 2010 at 3:47 pm

I’d like to clarify my feelings about the recent Las Vegas Sectional’s DIC. I’ve almost always found him to be a good director and a good DIC. I feel that he was caught in the crossfire, mostly not of his making.

Friday’s Swiss Team requirements appear to have been:

1. 10 A.M. start time,

2. 5 P.M. finish,

3. One-hour break at 1:00 P.M. (no snack bar was set up), and

4. Six 8-board matches since that was the shortest contest that the players could be expected to accept.

Unfortunately, this meant only six hours of playing time, when ACBL regulations normally would require 6 hours and 45 minutes. (Please see my other posts for gory details.) Sadly, the director to whom the DIC entrusted this event saw fit to superimpose a policy of aggressively enforcing the time constraints by pulling boards and imposing IMP penalties, even though this director didn’t understand the applicable rules and even tried to levy a penalty mendaciously. The unfortunate result was that at least five boards that I know about were pulled, the course of the event was affected, and the final results were altered because of a last round penalty.

The general problem, which must be solved somehow, is that an adversarial relationship is developing between many players and some of the directors. The players are not blameless, of course, but most of the responsibility must be shouldered by these directors.

A tournament’s directors are a team. Unfortunately, one bad apple can have a huge impact on a team.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 26th, 2010 at 5:32 pm


I understand we are both (along with dozens of others) upset with the ludicrous mishandling of the Friday Swiss Team farce.

I’ve never met the DIC (to my knowledge) and if I did, I certainly don’t remember him. HOWEVER, THE DIC is the DIRECTOR IN CHARGE. That means he shoulders the entire responsibility for whatever, if anything, goes wrong.

My questions ….

1. Is it etched in stone that EIGHT boards must be played?

2. What is meant by “the shortest contest that the players could be expected to accept?” Who makes that decision? Would the players ask for their money back for seven board matches or walk out? I doubt it. They also could have tacked on another 7+ minutes but that may have interfered with people’s dinner arrangements, I am told.

3. Should that not be the decision of the DIC — not the directors assisting him. WHO IS RUNNING THE ASYLUM? I would imagine the DIC should have realized you cannot cram eight boards into the time usually allowed for seven. Why would he succumb to put players in a pressure cooker when they have other responsibilities (making the boards, scoring, checking scores at the end, comparing with opponents and reporting them). That all takes time. The players are far from superhuman and it was a stupid decision to play eight rather than seven boards, resulting in the time panic button of having to pull the boards to cope with the minute span created by whomever the DIC allowed to make the rules.

4. WHO ACTUALLY made that decision?

5. Was the DIC aware that his helpers were pulling boards arbitrarily? And, if so, what was he doing about it?

6. Were there slow play warnings? (I can guarantee you that neither side was slow at our table except a slam by the opponents where it took declarer close to five minutes to play to the opening lead?)

7. Why should the DIC entrust to another director the protocol for the event involving pulling of boards? Isn’t a DIC the one who dictates the format, and if not, who does?

8. Where was the DIC during the game? On or off the premises .. especially at the end when the second and third place teams changed positions because of the outrageous awarding of three imps for no reason whatsoever to the newly designated 2nd place team?

9. And, when the DIC was approached AFTER THE GAME and ADMITTED that the awards of IMPS for pulled boards were WRONG, wasn’t he a bit gutless to allow the status quo? Bad things had happened with or without his earlier knowledge. Yet he refused to take a stand to reverse them and allowed ‘wrong’ to prevail over “right.” That can never be good for our game.

To me, he is as guilty as anyone because he was the king pin and let the robots run the show which was HIS PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY.

So, Carol, we will have to agree to disagree (other than your last statement about the player/director bad blood). It is apparent at every tournament here in LV and has been for a few years now.


ReneOctober 27th, 2010 at 3:05 am

I have been following this topic since it was first released. Admittedly, I am not familiar with the innerworkings of tournament directing, but it would seem to an outsider that a DIC is just what his title incicates. All critical rulings and conditions should be his ultimate responsibility.

Rather than making bridge a relaxing afternoon but in fact turning it into a Nascar race, I fail to understand why seven boards were not played, avoiding the tumult at the end and causing the discretionary (not mandatory) pulling of boards as someone earlier alluded to since there were no cameras or individual monitors documenting the offenders. I think it was rather praecipitous to handle it in the fashion that has been related. Just my two cents.

CarolOctober 27th, 2010 at 8:49 am

When Paul and I talked with the DIC at the end of the event, he didn’t know that boards had been pulled or that penalties had been assessed. He also said he would talk to the directors involved but couldn’t change the results without verification. I don’t feel that we should expect the result of an event to be changed based upon a player’s unverified complaint – even mine.

I don’t know why or who decided to cram the Swiss into six hours, but I assume the dinner plans were a contributing factor. Judy, you, me – most players – do what you said earlier: “play whatever board appears in front of me and am not a clock watcher.” We just did what we were told. If the directors hadn’t been so aggressive with their board pulling, the problem may have gone unnoticed.

I believe that the DIC trusted his staff to run the event by the rules. He wasn’t aware that they weren’t until someone brought it to his attention. The problem couldn’t be resolved at that moment because the director running the event had left prematurely.

LV has had an ongoing problem with their directors. I feel our new DIC is a big improvement over some past ones and would like to see him given a chance to correct the final results.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 27th, 2010 at 9:28 am

Carol dear (and I still love you) but disagee with much of your personal feelings on this debacle.


I don’t buy it!

I would still like to know who made the decision for playing 8 boards in the time normally alloted for 7! WAS THE DIC NOT AWARE OF THE TIME ISSUE?

Sorry, but the fact the DIC had unyielding faith that the event was being run ‘by the rules’ doesn’t cut it with me. I feel he was negligent and perhaps not aware with whom he was dealing and THE FINAL DECISION SHOULD HAVE BEEN HIS — NOT HIS STAFF.

You refer to the “director running the event leaving prematuraly.” WHO WAS STEERING THE SHIP? THE DIC or one of his UNDERLINGS? Is not the DIC IN CHARGE????

This new DIC (IN THE FUTURE) MAY BE A BIG IMPROVEMENT OVER SOME OF THE PAST ONES, BUT AT THIS POINT, HE IS A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT. PERHAPS THIS WILL BE A GOOD LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR HIM — and if he is able to restore the final results to what they should have been, I shall reconsider my opinion of Mr. Michael. But as for now, this mishmash leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

But as things now stand, he is in large part responsible for the gaffe.

Bobby WolffOctober 27th, 2010 at 10:13 am

Not much to consider but only the following:

1. The DIC is in charge and should not, in the absence of a very unusual or, of course, a life threatening situation, be away from the site, especially at the conclusion of the event.

2. Since the wrong #2 finisher was declared, how can it not be possible to now list the rightful 2nd place winner together with a profound apology?

3. I am a firm believer of giving vast leeway to the DIC, but with his performance last week, it would now be under question and certainly subject to future close scrutiny.

4. He may be a wonderful person and have the potential to be good, if not great in his job, but if last week was an example, HE IS NOT!

5. When incompetence is accepted, it becomes the rule rather than the exception.

6. Consistent professionalism in performance is expected in every ACBL tournament and last week was indeed only an ACBL tournament.

7. I will be waiting for a change in who finished 2nd in the Friday Swiss Team and an official apology from the DIC, without which it would be impossible for me to accept what happened. If none is forthcoming it would, in my opinion, be randomly proper for all players at the next tournament to question every move, of almost any magnitude, made by the directing staff, up to and possibly including even rebellious behavior.

NOTE: the preceding sentence is an automatic legacy of what was allowed to happen.

8. After due consideration, what happened during the last day of that tournament, was the worst I have ever experienced in over 60 years of vigorously attending ACBL events.

[…] To see the original and the 19 comments that ensued in the past five days, please go back to my original blog, dated October 23rd and read the story in living […]