Judy Kay-Wolff


Last evening we were enjoying the Rampart Buffet with our friends. Cookie and Bob Yellen.  Before we went to stuff our plates, Bob accosted Bobby giving him a sheet of paper with a hand, asking “Could I impose on you.”  However, for simplification, I am giving you all 52 but Bobby’s parchment had only the North/South cards and the first three tricks played.   What next?






AJ85                 1072

Q952                 6

43                     98752

K75                   A1084





(I thought it was a hand from yesterday when we did not play duplicate but I could have not been more wrong!!!). 

Soon as Bobby saw North and South, he blurted, “I played this hand over 39 years ago in Taipei against Szwarc and Boulenger “ (and was reprinted in one of Alan Truscott’s books where Bob found it and thought he could pull a fast one on Bobby).   No way.

Truscott’s description …

“South has three top losers in the side suits so he must avoid a trump loser.   In the replay, the French declarer, Jean-Marc Roudinesco, made the standard play of taking the (heart) king and leading the ten.   This would have allowed him to pick up Q9xx of trumps on his right.”

“But Wolff had a subtle clue.   The defense began with a club to the ace, a spade to the ace, and the club king.   The West player, Henri Szwarc, owns three world titles and has been one of Europe’s best for more than 40 years   He won the second and third tricks with no hesitation and appeared quite relaxed.   That strongly suggested that he believed he was going to make a trump trick.”

“So Wolff proceeded on the assumption that Szwarc held not just Qxx,  which would look like a possible trick, but Q9xx, a highly probable trick.   After winning a spade lead in his hand at the fourth trick, Wolff backed his judgment by leading the heart jack.   This was covered by the queen which confirmed his estimate of the situation:   West would  not cover with Qx or Qxx.  A diamond to the ace allowed Wolff to lead the heart seven for a finesse.   Then another trump  was led to the ten and closed hand was reentered with a diamond ruff.   The last trump was drawn with the ace, and dummy made the remaining tricks.”

“This seemed like wizardry.   Could Wolff see through the backs of the cards?   He had used brilliant psychology.”

It was not Bobby’s great table feel that pressed me to write up this hand, but the fact that Bob Yellen was still laughing and  talking to himself today that it didn’t take Bobby 15 seconds to recall THE HAND, the year, the opponents, the site and the card combination with only his and partner’s cards presented to him.  LOL!


JSApril 30th, 2011 at 9:45 am

What a brilliant analysis. I wonder how many of our oldtimers or even present day stars would have had the intuition and nerve to take a position like that. Guess that is what makes him The Lone Wolff.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 30th, 2011 at 9:59 am

Dear JS:

I have the distinct pleasure of playing with Bobby twice a week at the duplicates. Why I don’t know — a test of true love perhaps and infinite patience although we usually score pretty well! It is like watching someone playing as if the opponents’ cards had mirrors through which he can see. It is a god-given talent — something you can’t learn. I saw it in Norman and history is repeating itself. Great for the scores — but hard on my ego because of the disparity in ability at the card table. He refers to it as “numeracy.” The only consolation is he wouldn’t dare play a word game with me.

Steven GaynorMay 3rd, 2011 at 10:22 am

Recognizing these subtle clues is one thing, but acting on them AT THE TABLE is something else. You have to trust your instinct and go against decades of training of doing the %age play or the normal play or the ‘field’ play. That is what makes someone like Bobby Wolff an umpteen time National and World Champion.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 3rd, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Dear Steven:

Bobby is nearing 79 and I don’t think he has missed a beat. He continues to amaze me at the table and always has the courage of his convictions. But, after eleven world championships, I think your ego suffers no damage — right or wrong.

Thanks for your lovely tribute.