Judy Kay-Wolff

What’s in a Name?

When the name HARRY FISHBEIN, an old time legend of the 50s and 60s, is mentioned, two things immediately flash before your mind:   The convention bearing his name and his array of berets, which were his claims to fame – never seen without his beret.   Fishbein was a convention to try to combat pre-empts and although played for a while is more or less outmoded.   However, his association with dozens of unusual berets will live forever as his  unequaled trademark.   Harry, a New Yorker, was (of all things) a basketball player, President of the famous Mayfair Club and served as proprietor from 1940-1970 when some of us were still in our cradles.  While Norman was involved  in the Mixed Teams with stock brokerage clients, Fishy sympathized with my plight and invited me to play with him on a team as his partner with Dave Claren and Dora Brechner.  The next morning after his gracious invitation, I hit the stores to find an appropriate beret to identify myself as his other half, which of course brought smiles to our opponents’ faces.I don’t remember where we placed, but I recall it was higher than Norman (quite an accomplishment). 

He won many distinguished events (including 12 North American Championships) and scores of other major titles.   He also served as ACBL Treasurer from 1952-1966. was named Honorary member for 1966 and was elected as a member of the Hall of Fame.   Best of all, he was known for his loveable personality and great sense of humor.

My favorite Fishy story involved his close friend Charlie Goren.   They would often motor to nearby tournaments together and it seemed Charlie (with his entourage) normally bested Fishy.   I know this story is mentioned in Bobby’s The Lone Wolff and is one of my favorites.  I don’t remember the exact orders of finish, but if Fishy was Second – then Goren won.   If Fishy was Third, Goren was Second.  This would happen time and after and Fishy got sick of being second best.   One night, driving home from a luxurious hotel where the tournament was held, Fishy proudly removed a dozen bars of soap which he had snitched from the hotel – sure that he had put one over on  Charlie.   With that — Goren stopped the car, emptied both his pockets full of the same soap bars and uttered, ‘SECOND AGAIN, HARRY!.

Harry was one of the most beloved characters in the bridge world and had a tremendous fan club!


RobbieDecember 19th, 2010 at 8:56 am

Harry Fishbein was before my time but living in New York, people always raved about him and his wonderful sense of humor and demeanor.

The younger set appreciates your going back through the years with these little vignettes about the heroes of old. They are only famous names to us but you put some life into them for us.


JaneDecember 19th, 2010 at 9:24 am

I, too, enjoy hearing the human interest side of these legends who were before my time. All we get to see is statistics. This is much more meaningul to me.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 19th, 2010 at 9:27 am

Thanks for your appreciation of my delvings into the past. These were real people to me and I cherish the short friendships I had with so many of them as they were no youngsters when I met them.

EvDecember 19th, 2010 at 9:38 am

I, too, enjoy the old heroes I never got to see play. Who else do you plan featuring?

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 19th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I have one coming up on Helen Sobel and am working on one of my favorites — ALAN TRUSCOTT — England’s loss and America’s gain.


John SDecember 19th, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Playing bridge in the late sixties in New York, I had the privilege of meeting, albeit briefly, many of the old time greats about whom you have written these wonderful recollections. Your stories bring back many memories. Thank you.

Gary M. MugfordDecember 28th, 2010 at 9:27 am


Best of the season to you. A little late to this dance, but I have to tell you, I STILL PLAY FISHBEIN! Yep. My partners and I automatically play it over third-seat pre-empts. AND we ask about the general facts of ALL pre-empts in first or second chair. What is the fewest points the bidder can have? What is the fewest cards the bidder can have. If the answer is less than 10, we play Fishbein in that circumstance too. We have a little card on our table that says we ask about all 1/2 seat preempts and we mention it almost immediately. Took almost exactly a month at the local club I last played at where the opponents stopped monkeying around with us. The look on somebody’s face after a typical third-seat pre-empt getting followed by double-pass-pass is priceless. Yes, we had the occasional P-P-3D-3H-P conundrum that wasn’t always resolved happily (pass when 4H was on, 4H when 3H or even 3S was better, etc.). But getting rid of the Joy-of-having-13-cards pre-empts has been worth its wait in gold.

Sad to say, I never met the gentleman. But I listened on the periphery of more than one story told about him.

Happy New Year, GM

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 29th, 2010 at 5:58 am

Dear Gary;

It was nice hearing from you. One of my bridge regrets is that I never had the pleasure of getting to know you when you were working for the League.

It’s good to know you are perpetuating Fishbein’s name I, too, once played it.

Didn’t everybodyl

But I must confess, it was so long ago, I have forgotten it. However, I am happy to see you are still perpetuating Harry’s name. He was one of the sweetest, most charming men to set his feet on the bridge scene. We needed more talented men like him who was loved by the public and gave the game a good name.