Judy Kay-Wolff


… or perhaps from the mouth of a wolff, it should be re-titled A Big Howl?  In any event (just coming off the last few seconds of the amazing Eagle victory over the Giants), I became energized to write about a subject I have been thinking about since its announcement over a month ago.

For those unaware, Jose Damiani, who has stepped down in his 16th year as WBF President, introduced the Beijing (Bridge) Sports Accord Games (with monetary prizes) wherein four national teams (including the U. S.) were invited to send their BEST team in December of 2011.   That means one that is comprised of their three best pairs and reading between the lines excludes sponsors.   Then came the outpouring of personal views originated by ITT chairman, Mike Becker, opening up varying avenues of dissension.  Everyone had an opinion (or two or three) and none of this group fears being totally frank even if it is apparent their best interests are being represented by their suggestions.   The elite group would want it by a selection process.   Others with no chance via selection preferred pairs or team trials.    They took straw polls and many ideas were thrown open for discussion.

The decision was made last evening: Billy Pollack, President of the USBF (which includes a wide diversification of backgrounds, and talents are:  VP Steve Beatty, Secretary Joan Gerard, Treasurer Sylvia Moss and members Cheri Bjerkan. George Jacobs, Mike Passell and Howard Weinstein), announced their verdict.   His exact words were:

ITTC Bloggers:

Here’s the invitation I just sent to the three pairs that have been invited to represent us in the SportAccord Games. 

As USBF President, I thought it would be inappropriate to comment as all the dialogue ensued, but I, for one, did find the discussion to be useful.  Thanks for providing the USBF BoD with good input, and special thanks to Mike B for all his help.  We listened.

Best regards,

Bill Pollack

The actual event includes an Open and Women’s Team, a Pair Game and an Individual.   Unfortunately, it comes at what may be considered an awkward time — after the conclusion of the Fall NABC in Seattle, Washington, ending early December, less than a week before the Sports Accord games begin. It creates quite a problem for those with non-playing spouses or others with real 9-5 jobs to be away from home for such an extended period of time.  

Those officially invited to play (with the option of refusing by the end of January) were Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell and Steve Weinstein and Bobby Levin –  with Lynn Deas and Beth Palmer being the women’s invitees.  That leaves one pair in the Open and two pairs in the Women’s to be named.   I don’t think there is any question or problem with the above three pairs — but let’s wait and see what happens if one or more of the six decline to play and in addition to replacements, the "Committee" will have to make a difficult decision (especially in the Opens) who else should be invited to fill out the respective teams.    

By the way some of the men earlier in the discussion were "maybes".   (In my day when you were invited to represent your country, no one was so independent.  You jumped for joy, saluted and made your plane reservations).   Today, the considerations are what expenses are being covered?; economy, business or first class (and did that include your spouse or S.O.)?; how much is the remuneration if you do well?, etc.   TIMES HAVE CHANGED.   As Stevie Weinstein said when he and Bobby Levin won the World Open Pairs in Philadelphia, he missed the playing of The Star Spangled Banner.  Though just a young man, he remembers the glory days of old.  Different strokes for different folks!

Incidentally, a huge committee (30 for each the open and women’s) will be polled to fill the vacancies that remain.  With this many people involved, it will be one big jungle and quite a cumbersome undertaking.  I was appalled that it would be thrown open to so many people and I decided to ask my old friends Larry Cohen and David Berkowitz how they felt about it.   Larry was teaching all week and was not as current with the matter as David.   Here is David’s reply to me.

“My opinion is that Meckwell and Levin-Weinstein deserve to be on the  team.   In the interest of team harmony they (if they accept) should be allowed to add the non-sponsor pair of their own choosing.

The method they have chosen will turn into a semi-popularity contest, which I do not think is correct.  You may quote me.”  (AND I SURE DID).

I, personally am not  ‘big’ on the ‘selection process"’ because of all the hanky-pank that could go on.  However, I agree with David and in this early stage, it does not ring true.   Yet, with so many others potentially involved in the next decision, it could turn into a circus so I am inclined to agree that the big four (if they accept) come up with the best pair to round them out.  Realistically, I think there are two or three possible pairs to easily fill the bill.

Just giving you something to sleep on.


RENEDecember 20th, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Why would such an honor be left in the hands of a committee (non all expert I assume) rather than have a fair pair trials and have the three finalists comprise the team. And what is this “maybe” stuff?” Maybe they’ll accept — and maybe they won’t.

Too much to stomach.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 20th, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Hi Rene:

I don’t follow the women’s events, so I am not in a position to say if selection was the right process, but Deas and Palmer have won so much, I can’t quarrel with the present selection. The same for Meckwell and Levin-Weinstein (especialy the latter whose recent track record is incredible). Three good choices — but that is not the point.

I think when Mike Becker, well intending, threw it open to discussion to the google group, he got what he expected — everyone pleading their own case. And, now that the three pairs are ‘done deals,’ (unless they refuse) — it may be best to let them choose their missing teammates because it would only be to their detriment to use favoritism as their goal rather than talent and the ability to win.

I still would have preferred a pair trials — a much more objective course to follow as long it included the “best” possible players and excluded sponsors. These Sports Accord Games are equivalent to the Olympics — a represenation of the ultimate in their field.

dannyDecember 20th, 2010 at 7:55 pm


How would you draw the line for who to allow in a pairs trial? Also note, that in a pair trial, you might easily get one of the poorer pairs of whatever group you take, and this wouldn’t please the top pairs who do qualify. I won’t even get into the notion of how you would exclude sponsors.

John Howard GibsonDecember 21st, 2010 at 5:43 am

Dear Judy,

Personally if I was in charge I would have all the pairs in contention ( say a good 20 ) undergo at least 6 duplicate type events where there play only against each other. With their final positions aggregated: those at the bottom can kiss their chances of selection goodbye.

This way they simply select themselves. As for who selects the 20, well that should be done objectively based on a weighted average points scoring system (only using recent results in grand slam rated events )….much like they do in tennis.

Yours HBJ

dannyDecember 21st, 2010 at 6:10 am


Your method will not produce the best team. Taking the selection process of the 20 first, your method would inevitably select some pairs on teams who are the 3d best pair, and would have no reason to be invited otherwise. The top pairs who we would want to send would be unlikely (understatement) to play 6 extra duplicate type events, merely to hope to qualify.

John Howard GibsonDecember 21st, 2010 at 7:47 am

Danny, Any selection method is flawed no matter what. But proving consistency in the best field one could ever put together ( no easy pairs ) then surely the top placed pairs have earned the right to represent their country.

As for them possibly declining such a final test/hurdle….well, that could be easily avoided, if the event was given the highest ranking status imaginable with lots of big bucks thrown in. Call it the Super Bowl of bridge….one guaranteed step nearer to gaining entrance to the Hall of Fame.

Moreover the pairs who are really good wouln’t hope to qualify, they simply would over the long haul. If physical distance was an issue then competition should be done on BBO…..for all the world to see.

Anyway, it’s just my humble view on things. HBJ

PaulDecember 21st, 2010 at 9:43 am

The Cavendish Invitational is essentially a pairs trial. You may complain that sponsors are permitted and they randomise the event, but in truth Levin-Weinstein are the only pair that consistently do well.

There are many world-class pairs in the event who are +1200 one year and -800 the next.

A pairs trial is just pretty random. No better nor worse than other methods.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 21st, 2010 at 10:31 am

I want to share with you two player’s thoughts on the selection process. The two involved (respectable players) had this to say: 

NUMBER ONE; (In a candid open email to the group from the first one):

“Please excuse me, I must have missed some emails …


Am I to understand that some players who once selected, have now lost confidence in the boards ability to make a sensible decision regarding the selection of suitable players?


While I didn’t agree with the whole selection process, I don’t see why the board should be subjected to that …


If those who were selected don’t wish to play with the pair(s) of the boards choosing, don’t worry, there’s a big line of players far superior to me waiting in line to represent their country, especially to a luxury, all-expenses paid tournament with guaranteed prize money, even for coming in last place – probably some who would even forgo any money at all …”

The other is from one of a pair who has a super chance (along with his partner) to be chosen to fill out the team. It was in a private email to Bobby in what I thought a rather arrogant tone (not unexpected) — but here it is:


“Do you suggest that these players should spend time and money (if they dont win prize money there will be additional expenses, there  always are) traveling to this tournament if they are saddled with an inferior 3rd pair? Or worse still, should they spend almost  2  weeks of what would be leisure time, traveling in the company of people they do not like? without any certainty of pay? Lastly, if the selected pairs dont have some VETO power they might be committed to teaming with people that they consider unethical. This is not a schoolyard, but who you allow yourself to play with or team with can reflect back upon you in positive and negative ways, and seriously influence your probability of success.  To accept an invite like this without a modifier like “MAYBE” would be absurd and I cant imagine how this could not be crystal clear to a competitor with your experience.”

In my opinion, NUMBER ONE is how I am accustomed to thinking and was the ‘way of the bridge world’ when I first entered it. It was an honor to win or be chosen to represent the U. S. – no ands, ifs or buts!

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 21st, 2010 at 10:37 am


The Cavendish is about money — not about the glory of representing your country. Without wealthy sponsors, where would the booty come from? There had to be a better way of handling this Beijing Selection Process. That is not my area — but others could have worked a little harder and more objectively to come up with a better plan — not one that has become so controversial.

dannyDecember 21st, 2010 at 10:48 am


Others DO work harder. I came up with 7 different suggestions. All were flawed. One of them was selection, which I did support when the vote was taken.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 21st, 2010 at 11:21 am

Well, Danny, you see how it was received. This whole new breed of hotshots make me sick. The pair trials worked well for many years and perhaps if they were of longer duration might weed out the weaker players and have a small playoff with the best of the best. I have no beef with the three chosen. In fact, they were probably as close to automatic as there is. It is what happens later with the remaining “selection” process that will tell the tale.

dannyDecember 21st, 2010 at 12:40 pm

There hasnt been a ‘real’ pairs trials in 40 years. You would have to admit things have changed dramatically in the bridge world during that time.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 21st, 2010 at 4:31 pm


Yes, lots of things have changed dramatically: more politics, mismanagement, unqualified administrators and much sloth.

Georgiana GatesDecember 22nd, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I would think that the timing would make it hard for Lynn Deas to attend both the NABC and the Sports Accord Games. Perhaps she has to have regular doctor checkups, for example. No question that she and Beth are an outstanding choice.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 22nd, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Hi Georgiana:

Nice hearing from you. I agree about the physical aspect for Lynn. Such a shame as unquestionably they are so very deserving.



Judy Kay-WolffDecember 24th, 2010 at 10:02 am

Dear HBJ:

I apologize for my tardiness in responding but I have been preoccupied by the horrendous situation at our club on Tuesday and have been totally absorbed.

So much has happened since your comment, it would take an hour to address it. Suffice it to say Weinstein and Levin are definitely not going. Greco had already said, if selected, he would decline. Meckwell are waiting to see who their teammates are. Then Chris Compton followed up with a two-part dissertation on the event — one objection being the air polution in Beiing. What more can I say. It is getting to look like a Laurel and Hardy series — but with real people.



Judy Kay-WolffDecember 24th, 2010 at 11:10 am


Here’s the latest update. Meckwell has firmly declined, adding to Levin-Weinstein’s refusal to go. Greco declined earlier and Zia said he wouldn’t go, so that leaves Hamman partnerless. Sorry he can’t retrieve Soloway from the grave That would be one solution.

In the meantime, with the two top pairs choosing not to go (and with the dubious

new selection/voting process), who knows how far deep into the barrel they will have to

dig to come up with three twosomes for the Opens. Still a couple good pairs available — but not with records like the refusing pairs.

Several brave, shameless souls volunteered to travel to Beijing, but I am not sure that is what the sponsor had in mind. Time will tell.

Another issue is the sponsor was counting on a top event with America sending its best team — which is, of course, now out of the question Perhaps when the new U.S. regime is announced, the sponsor may back out as he expected top flight competition and the withdrawal of M/R and L/W leaves a lot up in the air. Lots of good players left — but without partnerships, it is scary.

WHAT A REVOLTING DEVELOPMENT THIS TURNED OUT TO BE! kEEP TUNED. I believe the USBF said the decision should be made by 1/31/11.

EllisDecember 24th, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Team selection politics aside, is one of the hardest things to do, Players have to gel with each other, not just as partners but as a cohesive team unit. The many stories of teams that won despite inter team bickering is the exception rather than the rule.

add to that the politics of who should go and who shouldnt , if sponsors regardless of how much they have won in the past should be allowed,and good players not wishing to go because of prior comittments or just not wanting to go for personal reasons and you begin to have a quagmire.At least with a sponsor based system you get the best players going in the most part because the sponsor tells them to go.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 24th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Sorry, Ellis, I don’t buy that sponsor nonsense. It is not about camaraderie. You are not going to a party. You play in different rooms, compare scores and go back to your kennels. The only thing necessary is an expert, honest partnership whose object is to give 100% of themselves regardless of whom their teammates happen to be.

If you’re talking about someome like Niclk Nickell, I don’t consider him a sponsor although he foots the bills. He has more than proven himself and has held up his part of the partnership. There are SPONSORS and there are sponsors! I just don’t want to see a farcical team sent under the U.S. banner. Although their names have not been mentioned specifically, certainly Stansby and Martel should be a favorite — gentlemen, honest and an expert caliber seasoned partnership. A couple other are close behind.

Time will tell.