Judy Kay-Wolff


I can remember Bobby reminiscing that in his twenties what he wouldn’t give to make a U. S. team and represent his country.   Eventually, came the ACES and his dreams came through in cinemascope – winning eleven world championships.   At the age of 79, still sharp and brilliant, he has turned his efforts more  toward helping the ACBL straighten out their many administrative problems – especially this latest hullaballoo about every fourth year having both a pair and team trials, rather than a team with two winners.

People’s (the pros for the most part) true greedy feelings came out unashamedly in spades.  Incidentally, Bobby never refused to play in an exhibition match here or overseas whether or not stipends or money were at the other end, while America’s currently thought-to-be top pair decline to play unless they get adequate compensation.   This is the thanks the bridge world gets for offering them a means of support and enabling them to make a very respectable living..   Even worse, I just read about another probably greedy pro (who jumped ship from Canada to the U.S.) stated that if he made a U.S. TEAM (with no compensation – probably just expenses and per diem) – he wouldn’t think for a second about removing himself from the U.S. Team and if the opportunity presented itself, jumping to the Transnationals for a pro date, never passing up an opportunity to fill his pockets.

How sad it is that the green stuff has taken over the love, honor, and majesty of the world’s most fascinating and challenging game!  It’s the wave of the future and growing worse by the moment.  The founders of the game would turn over in their graves if they could see the offshoots from its glorious beginnings.


Paul CroninNovember 8th, 2011 at 9:44 am

Hi Judy,

How true your comments about money taking over the game! And how sad that the rules and structure of the game are set up to favour those with the most masterpoints when 98.65% of ACBL members have fewer than 5000 MPs. We all pay the same dues, so why don’t the 163,369 members in the 0-5000 MP range get organized, outvote the 1,998 members over 5000 MP, and demand that the game be organized in their favour. Isn’t that what democracy is about? It’s time that those who pay the piper call the tune!

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 8th, 2011 at 10:35 am


Bridge now and bridge back then are planets apart. The top players (Schenken, Roth, Stone, Landy, Hazen, Root, Fishbein, Silodor, Rapee, Gerber, Lazard, Mathe, Jacoby, et al [but not in any order and with lots of omissions] cared about one thing — upholding the standard of our beautiful game. Winning for the sake of winning was in and of itself the glory. Today money has taken over the game much to my sadness.

Some administrators in Horn Lake are not qualified, many workers do not even play bridge and even the head of the directors is not a bridge player and some people on the laws and appeals committee hardly live up to their responsibilities. Bridge was different back then. Today, They don’ t want to “buck” or rise up against the “big names” as looking foolish or even losing a future pay date. Today it is a free for all so why should we be surprised. Very little we can do about it, but speak up and be heard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paul CroninNovember 8th, 2011 at 10:59 am

Hi Judy,

The place to start, IMHO, is to get people to run for the ACBL Board of Directors who will represent, as they should, the majority of members of the ACBL, and not just the “privileged” few. In that way we can bring about chamges that benefit the majority of the membership rather than just those who make their living from bridge – professionals, authors, etc. Perhaps the current election process is flawed in that only the Unit Boards of Directors vote for the District representatives to the ACBL Board. How about a process whereby all members of each Unit have an opportunity to vote? Maybe put the ballot in an edition of the Bulletin, to be returned by mail to an independent Election Committee.

Georgiana GatesNovember 8th, 2011 at 2:45 pm

There’s a parallel between the distribution of masterpoints in the ACBL and the distribution of income in the USA. If you think it’s wrong that the top 1.35% of ACBL members have control of the ACBL, then you should also think it’s wrong that the top 1% of Americans have control over so much more of the government than do the lower 99%.

The argument for the top 1% of all Americans is that they produce more than do the lower 99%. And the argument for the ACBL elite is that they play more than do the lower 98.65%.

Disclaimer: I have over 5000 MPs, and am nowhere near the top 1% of all Americans.

Georgiana GatesNovember 8th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

The current ACBL election process is definitely flawed. I agree that the individual members should get to vote for District Director. I suspect that the reason we have indirect voting is that the current Board members think that they would be turned out by grassroot voting.

However, direct voting would still favor the “name” players.

John Howard GibsonNovember 9th, 2011 at 5:23 am

HBJ : For what it is worth, here’s my take on the situation. The game needs paid professionals to go out there and sell the game through exhibition matches, demonstrating bridge as the most sublime and most superior game in the world.

As for representing one’s country then only the BEST should be selected, purely on proven talent, their technical merit, past and recent achievements, and any other criteria that helps ensure they are worthy of the honour. Who should be on the selection panel ? Answer : only those who have the ability to recognise talent being qualified and able to make such fine judgements. A tall order.

But getting back to professionals sponsored by the bridge governing bodies. Well, they don’t have to be the best but good enough to do a great PR job promoting bridge. These same people ought also to be employed to undertake key roles education and good causes for bridge. This leaves players representing their country to get cover expenses for all practice events prior to the big one, plus reimbursement for clothing, travel, accommodation, loss of earnings etc. for the world stage competitions.

Representing your country alone should be reward enough, but no one doing so should ever end up out of pocket.

Moreover, I believe that these two groups should be separate and distinct entities.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 9th, 2011 at 6:19 am


Your ideas are wonderful but how many people do you know who will cede power and come off their pedestal? None that I know. Great solution but not practical. You’d have to organize a revolution to turn the operation around. The ACBL needs reorganizing but they like it the way it is. Perhaps this new CEO, Mr. Hartman, has some ideas. Fresh blood is always good.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 9th, 2011 at 6:28 am


I agree in general with your principles, but it is easier said than done. People do not give up power without a revolution and no one is about to do that against their own best interest. Your thoughts are noble — but easier said than done. Even at the club level, it is hard to get the directors to come off their high haunches, although LVBW has tried to be fair and just and move with the times. It is very refreshing to see someone making an effort to do what is right.

But, the voting thing is a whole different issue and I am not optimistic unless people stand up and be counted.

Thanks for your time.


Judy Kay-WolffNovember 10th, 2011 at 6:43 am


The paid professionals have already gotten so much out of the game, is it really necessary to reimburse them for other than their expenses although they can well afford their own money? It should be their pleasure. One took place at the Lancaster Nationals in the seventies. It was a thrill for all and in the vernacular IS KNOWN AS PAYBACK TIME. The match was a smash hit — packed to the rafters — and EVERYONE loved it.

Edgar came in on his own dime and played with Norman, Bob Jordan and Arthur Robinson against the sports celebs …. Richie Ashburn, Frank Beard Jim Bunning and Tim McCarver. It was done for pure unadulterated entertainment and the place was packed. ALL FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME .. not to grease anyone’s palm to put on a show. That ‘love’ is now gone and replaced by the only thing that seems to count these days. Too bad.

EllisNovember 10th, 2011 at 8:41 am

There are 2 relevant but conflicting points here.

One is professionalism in bridge, which has been going on almost since duplicates inception(in one form or another) From book writing to teaching to Goren hiring teams on the sly.

The other is the concept of patriotism both to ones country. i.e. representing ones country at an endeavor and Patriotism to the game itself.

Until such times as bridge can be (and this may never happen) regulated as to pay, those that can make a living from the game are basically left to their own devices for making and protecting that living.

There are those that are altruistic and are prepared to give up much of their own time and money in order to advance the game at many levels. There are those that view the time they spent learning the game and investing in studying the game as a commodity to sell to the highest or in many instances the best bidder they can find.

Somewhere in between these two stands lies a middle ground, where our finest players can make a respectable living, and our general membership can get benefit from those players at a national and international level.

In this day and age this would have to involve some fiscal renumeration (believe it or not some of our finest players, who could in theory represent our country, still have to go out to work in other fields)

On the other hand one would lose the sponsorship of some that have been major sponsors over the years. It is quite possible that without that sponsorship, the likes of Meckwell and Levin Weinstein and Hampson Greco would never have been able to stay in the game.

It is a fine balancing act we are trying to acheive, and it is one where the whole house of cards(pun intended) may come crumbling down around us.

The only outside example that I can give is Israel, where for years they have been producing outstanding Schools and Junior teams (as wintnessed in welldhoven and philadelphia ) and yet as soon as these players lose the sponsorship of the national organisation they get lost to bridge at an international level, they simply cannot afford to self finance the cost.

In Israel there is very little private sponsorship and that which there is not enough to keep the top players in the game. They all have to own bridge clubs or give lectures or have some other source of income.

EllisNovember 10th, 2011 at 8:55 am

As a prime example of the above is the story of Sam Lev, Polish by birth Lev arrived in Israel in the 70`s , At one stage he was so broke that he asked the National federation for a minimum wages job, just so he could stay in the game, When they refused he ended up playing in and for the USA.

We are not talking about the likes of Funtoni playing for Monaco, we are talking about the likes of a future Funtoni never beeing able toget out of the starting gate.

Throwing out the baby with the bathwater will not do, Our future and the ganes future needs to be thought through by some very fine mindsm in order to make it viable.

Bobby WolffNovember 11th, 2011 at 9:58 am

Hi Paul,

While I was writing to Ellis, you presented your master plan for increasing membership participation and to which I can only offer one suggestion.

Change the masterpoints name (which was originally started with the idea of rating bridge ability) to attendance points, otherwise we will be rightfully accused of confusing people the same way our federal government seems to want to treat its citizens when Congress enacts many new financial and tax related laws.

Paul CroninNovember 11th, 2011 at 9:36 am

Always liked mixed metaphors, so,,,,let’s throw the baby in with the bathwater here, and propose one next step in the reorganization of the ACBL. Set the strata for all tournament events as something like A = 5000+, X= 2500-4999, B = 1000-2499, C = 500-999, D = 0-499 (hey, they’re just examples!), and then base the masterpoint award for each stratum on table count – whatever stratum draws the highest table count gets the highest award. The next highest table count the next highest award, and so on. Surely the A stratum will have the highest table count because so many people say they want to play up against the very best – yeah, right! Why shouldn’t the majority of the goodies go to the majjority of the players – the 99% under 5000 MPs?

Bobby WolffNovember 11th, 2011 at 9:49 am

Hi Ellis,

I have been busy lately and consequently have not had much time to spare for bridge subjects.

However, Judy suggested for me to read your recent comments and so I did.

For my money (pun also intended), you are right on in describing where top level or at least wannabe top level bridge is at this moment. Until bridge gets off the bottom level money wise and finds a way to popularize bridge competition to the extent where corporate (or even perhaps individual) sponsorship becomes available the apparently unsolvable problems which you mention, will continue to haunt the development of our game.

Until that time comes, the bridge lovers (and workers) who volunteer their time will continue to be the only constant which keeps world wide bridge competition alive which, in turn, (like high-level tennis was in the USA during the 1940’s and golf was before then) may, if it gets a significant financial break, get the publicity and acclaim but not until then, will enough money start to flow into it.

You sum it up well with your individual histories. It is doubtful that I will have the sheer pleasure of seeing such a result happen, but have no doubt, fervently still wish that it will happen.

Bridge is that challenging, interesting and worthwhile that once it does happen, it will then never let the ones who got it that far, be disappointed.

Thanks for your comments.

JaneNovember 11th, 2011 at 11:54 am

Attendance points. Hummmm- does this mean all we have to do is show up, pay and play, and we could get some type of points? (Just kidding, but while we are changing the entire structure of the ACBL, why not change it all.) How about “ability” points, or “good luck playing in Flight A” points, etc. Fun to think how those of us in the rank and file could have some fun with this reorganization plan. Good idea, Paul.

Ellis FeigenbaumNovember 13th, 2011 at 8:33 am

Jane, if you wantto play in flight A , you are allowed to play up. Most team events will allow you to play up if you so desire. Gnt first and foremost. You may not do so well, but it is for sure the best way to learn the habits of better players.
Back in the dark ages before stratification we all played up, pairs or teams, getting in the top ten was an acheivement, a blue ribbon q in a pairs event was something to write home about. It is still more difficult to win an open pairs than a bracket 1 team event, and it is certainly more difficult to win a two session pairs than a 2 session Swiss.

Ellis FeigenbaumNovember 13th, 2011 at 8:49 am

For all practical purposes other than masterpoints being the comoddity that the ACBL sells, the MP system is dead. The best solution would be a mixture of the French system,( similar to the pga, where a certain amount of points lose value over time) thus creating a current index of ability, and the Israeli one, where the higher rankings can only be acheived by actually playing in higher rated events. The ACBL joke of being able to become a Life Master without ever having played one, will in the end be the downfall of the master point system.
Wether the new Strength of Feild system will adress the problems, or it will just end up as the better players getting even more masterpoints , is yet to be decided, but I am not holding my breath.

Chuck ManningNovember 14th, 2011 at 3:06 am

Lets face it the ACBL is in the business of selling master points. The new Life Master of today has no idea how the game is played. So why don’t we just sell Life master ratings and be done with it. The students of the game will remain students and the rest can pursue other interests.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 15th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

True, Chuck. It is a sad state of affairs.


Ellis FeigenbaumDecember 9th, 2011 at 9:24 am

I thought I might revisit this post, having just read the new ACBL ranking requirements vote on in Seattle.
The league has done one thing that Iconsider to be ridiculous ( they now seem to be allowing online points with no limit)
and another which i consider to be sublime( amking attaining higher ranking dpendent on winning points in higher ranking events.
they still sell masterpoints, they just made them more expensive.