Judy Kay-Wolff


In the current ACBL Monthly Bulletin, I enjoyed reading about my old Philadelphia friend, Craig Robinson, whom I have known for well over four decades – together with his wife, Elaine Landow.   In fact, I knew Lainie.  her parents  and her sister Gloria Rabinowitz when the girls were knee-high to grasshoppers.   Perhaps that it is why I was so proud to see Craig ascend to the throne – but not without reservations.

Because of half a century of experience,  I have observed the growth of political agendas of the Board Members which benefit the individual personalities more so than the game itself.  Many are elected by attrition or what they can do for their individual unit or district – via sectionals, regionals and even nationals.  In fact, they are often like the old television series, “The Untouchables.”   They are unto themselves, carry twenty five sets of handcuffs which makes the CEO subservient to them for fear of his job.   They criticize situations they are advised about, but sit on their hands and not try to rectify the problems.   I have seen stark examples of these twice recently (the October 22nd LV fiasco where ACBL rules were violated by the directors one after another but rather than investigate the truth, they, as usual, sat on their hands not wanting to make trouble for their directorial flock despite flagrant bias).   The other involved the Peter Pender Issue where they were in violation (for sixteen years over one ignored grant) and are now playing dumb and refusing to respond to the misused money totaling about $25,000 not used properly for the continuation of the Pendergraph or the presentation of another important vehicle to honor Peter whose intention was to have his name perpetuated.   Enough about the Board of Directors … back to Craig .. a breath of fresh air, I pray!

Because the duplicate clubs are the base level of the entire hobby, Craig has committed himself to visit 100 bridge clubs in 100 days (50 clubs East of the Mississippi starting in May) and the balance after the Summer Toronto Nationals by continuing on to 50 clubs West of the Mississippi.   I hope it is not just a case of Mr. President dropping in to see the rank and file.   I prefer to view it as Craig getting to meet the owners, directors and managers as well as their faithful players and explain to them that they are the future of bridge as many are newcomers, green as can be and know very little about the protocol of the game – because no one has bothered to explain the concept to them.

The  majority are experienced diehards who play daily and also frequent Sectionals, Regionals, Nationals, Trials and even world championships.   Regardless of their level of play, the protocol of the game should be a time-honored procedure where everyone plays by the same rules.  FIRST AND FOREMOST, NO FAVORITISM IS SHOWN TO ‘REGULAR’, DAILY CUSTOMERS – and everyone is treated the same – with no exceptions.   Many of the proprietors and their emissaries have been known to show partiality to their ‘regulars’ for their fear of switching allegiance to a competing club.  

The areas to which I allude are long huddles/passes with ensuing action by partner (and no strictures on their partners unless in the case of a forcing auction); failure to alert; alerts to remind partner of what they are playing; using unacceptable systems with the intent to confuse where the system is used for that very purpose (especially against the novice or not-so-good players); filling out erroneous and incomplete convention cards, omitting upper and lower ranges, gloating and high fives; talking at the table as if the opponents were not present; craning one’s neck to see an opponent’s hand, copping boards from an opponent’s open score card; when asked — not offering a full explanation of a bid  and last but not least, CONVENTION DISRUPTION and UNAUTHORIZED INFORMATION.  I could go ON AND ON AND ON.  To me, the above is what should be made abundantly clear to every player at every club so that we are all playing on a level playing field which is ethical and pleasant.   It would be a great beginning …..

To me, in addition to shaking hands with all the participants, Craig could be doing the once-great game of bridge a tremendous service by, in his gentle way (for which Craig is known) imparting this information to an impressed and attentive audience because of the honor of a personal visit to their club by THE PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN CONTRACT BRIDGE LEAGUE.   If any person has the savoir faire to do it, it is Craig Robinson, a terrific player in his own right and a perfectly ethical gentleman at all times.

Just as the jungle beasts learn the laws of survival, as we were all growing up, our natural instincts were to do what was best for ourselves.   However, that concept does not apply at the bridge table.  Ethics and morals are tied for first place and it is a difficult concept to preach.  Good luck, Marathon Man!   You have your work cut out for you!


Al TushmanJanuary 23rd, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Your list of the player and director issues which take place regularly at club games only skims the top of the problem areas. Most of these same issues also arise in local Sectional and Regional tournaments. One issue you didn’t mention but which really irks me is the player that sucks all of the time out of the round by tanking trying to make an obviously unmakeable contract or trying to set an obviously makeable contract or, even worse, tanking in the hope that the declarer or a defender will forget what’s already been played. Isn’t it great when you have two minutes left to play the last board in the round! How about something non- insidious but no less aggravating, the failure of North and South to say “hello” to East and West when they arrive at the table either because they are still discussing the last board or they are just unfriendly. Perhaps you should ask your readers what bothers them most. You could put together quite a list.

I think the ACBL needs to do a much better job in the area of Continuing Bridge Education (CBE) for players, club owners, club directors and tournament directors. I think a lot of the problems at the bridge table are correctable by better educating players on the ethics and good manners of play, and educating club owners and directors on how to gently but firmly enforce the rules and ensure that the players who want it can have a pleasant afternoon or evening of bridge.

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 23rd, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Dear Al:

Yes, I admit to an oversight or two — particularly the quick pass after the Stop Card is placed on the table. Although these same incidents occur above the club level too, the main place for “escaping the wrath of god” is at the clubs where unqualified directors do their best but do not have the faciilities, knowledge or sophistication to make other than basic ‘book’ rulings. You have a slightly better shot at having them corrected in a Sectional or Regional as the quality is usually at least one step up — but no guarantees as I learned from the stupidity and naivete of a Senior Directors Committee which met in Orlando and never bothered to check out the complaints about one of the directors involved and proclaimed “no bias” although the pair profiled had filed several complaints against her. But at a tournament at least you can appeal (not that it is any guarantee) but you have a better shot at equity. Club levels are different — though there are solutions to that as well.

I certainly agree with your passage on all the shenanigans that go on at the table which waste time and in some instances may be a deliberate attempt to make the opponents forget earlier cards and plays.

Yes — good prompting, Al. I’ll pose your question to the public:


As far as the education of the public (CBE) INCLUDING PLAYERS, CLUB OWNERS, DIRECTORS AND TOURNAMENT DIRECTORS — IT IS AN ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TASK. The problems are the directors and owners don’t want to lose their players by ‘putting them down’ and the directors want to keep up a good attendance at their sanctioned events and not want to hurt anyone’s feelings for fear of them not returning (and I know of many such cases with new players).

YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. OBVIOUSLY, THE HONOR AND DIGNITY OF THE GAME SHOULD COME FIRST, LAST AND ALWAYS but where money is involved, not everybody (or not nearly everybody) sees it the same way.

Thanks for your candor about a subject which most are not prone to discuss.



BethJanuary 25th, 2011 at 7:27 am

Learning protocol at Day #1 is a great idea, Ah, there might be the rub that leads to all the table problems — not having been taught properly in the first place.

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 25th, 2011 at 7:35 am

It is comparable to learning to crawl before you walk. Learning manners and protocol in bridge are so unlike any other game. Many teachers are so anxious to get the game rolling and give their avid students a taste of the game, they forget to tell them the no-nos of bridge.

Now that it has gotten so overcomplicated with conventions, styles, methods, alerts, stop cards, difference in vulnerabilities, etc., it is a whole new ball game and time for teachers and club owners to take a step backwards and explain what is right and what is wrong.

Let’s backtrack and slow down a minute and get into gear. It is good for the players and necessary for the game to survive.