Judy Kay-Wolff

From Exhilarating Tradition To Lack Of It!!!!

I have been pent up here at Wounded Knee after a much needed leg scope which has put me out of commission for a few weeks. Seems like time to get back into action after purveying all the comments on Google, Bridge Winners, et al.   It’s bad enough that fairly often people sit on and chair committees and panels without qualifications or experience, but the latest is an enormously wide open forum — one of which subjects is eliminating the most prestigious event in all of U.S. Bridge – the Reisinger Board A Match Teams which originated back in 1929 (formerly called "The Chicago.").

Quite a few of the combatants are relative newcomers and wet behind the ears who know little about the background and tradition of the game although many pros are fighting tooth and nail for the change as well.  The early superstars of the forties, fifties and sixties at that time (and even the old timers of today) still consider it the toughest event — three two-session per day skirmishes which are held in the Fall and usually culminate the tournament.    It is no doubt the most difficult event to capture and requires the very best of the best.    Qualities mandatory are patience, exacting accuracy, technical skills and mental toughness at its extreme.

All sorts of suggestions have been made — including doing away with the specific event –  mostly pressed for by the professionals.   These events lead to playoffs to represent Zone 2 and NOTHING LESS THAN THE THREE BEST PARTNERSHIPS ARE WHAT WE OWE OUR COUNTRY AND OUR GAME.  Sadly, the elegant majesty of Bridge for Ladies and Gentlemen has fallen into Second place with personal aggrandizement and money capturing First!


JaneMarch 5th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I wondered where you two had been. I hope you are feeling better.

I do not attend nationals and know very little about high powered events such as the Board A Match. Has the event dropped off in attendance? It sounds brutal to me, but of course, most high level competition is. Is this an event that draws less interest now, or that the professional players no longer want to play in because they would lose client days? I am curious why the suggestion is being made to drop the event. Could you chat a little more about this, and how money plays a part? Is the event itself expensive to enter?

Thanks in advance for educating me.

Mike WhitmanMarch 5th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I can’t believe the League would consider this!There is no event greater than the Reisinger. There is no greater thrill in bridge than playing in a Reisinger final. There is no tougher form of Bridge than Board-a-Match. There is, or would be if they’d work on it a little, no more exciting event for vu-graph, where every card counts in every contract and the leader board can change on a dime. This whole thing makes me want to crawl off and die. Ugh.

Ellis FeigenbaumMarch 5th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Dear Judy,
I read an article and follow up discussions on bridge winners recently. In the article no one suggested cancelling the BAM. The suggestion which was made, was turning the BAM into a 7day event.
The article itself was more about changingthe format of the Fall Nationals, with an objective of improving Both the Reisinger and the 3 day swiss.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 5th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Hi Mike:

You, like I, are an old timer who recalls the prestige and glory of the one-of-a-kind Reisinger Board a Match competition.

However, heads have been turned to sponsorship and although there are some excellent playing sponsors, most couldn’t pass the litmus test where the BAM is concerned.

Thanks for writing.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 5th, 2012 at 4:01 pm


I don’t know which of the venues (and there are several of them) it was where I read it, but they are trying to decapitate the Reisinger or make it of less importance, changing the original format and move its position. What is the matter with it exactly where it stands now and what is the real reason for trying to either displace it or replace it with a bastardized version?

Ellis FeigenbaumMarch 5th, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Hope you are feeling better BTW

Ellis FeigenbaumMarch 5th, 2012 at 4:19 pm

The only one I read was actually extolling its virtues and trying to make it longer and better. But I am sure there are others who are less well intentioned.

bobby wolffMarch 5th, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Hi Jane,

Judy has requested me to answer your questions about the status of National B-A-M events.

The Reisinger (a 6 session B-A-M event) and held during the last 3 days of the Fall Nationals is according to some (I am probably one of them) the best and most difficult of all bridge events held world wide on a regular basis. As you have already guessed, the last 10 surviving teams slug it out the final day with every team playing exactly 6 boards against every other team.

The Reisinger has held up well in attendance, and has made a star event out of a concurrently run event, the National Swiss Team, also run the same three days, but having perhaps twice the entry, only because of, for the many teams which enter the Swiss, feel they do not have a chance to cozy up to the quality shown in the traditional Reisinger.

Most everyone and for 70+ years have regarded the final day of the Reisinger the hardest day in bridge since the competition is so fierce and every trick is so important making the concentration and talent necessary to do well almost off-the-charts difficult to succeed.

Judy’s gripe (well-founded) is that teams who play with lesser sponsors (perhaps good players but nevertheless not great) simply cannot hold their own with these particular opponents. So, presto, changeo (not so good-o) let’s do away with the event entirely and play in something which has more luck, lesser. easier to beat opponents, and thus more pleasing to the sponsor.

Not very good for the game itself, but let’s call it more practical to a rather large segment of very good players, especially ones who crave maximum amounts of money to be made.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonMarch 6th, 2012 at 10:26 am

Dear Judy, I agree with you entirely about the sole criterion for selection….namely ” being the best ” which can only determined by pitting all the top contenders against each other ( no gift-bearing rabbits allowed in ) over a very tough and demanding event …..to see the real cream partnerships rise to the top.
If selection to represent the national side involves other factors the potential for lesser mortals to sneak in under the radar is so much greater.
Yours HBJ

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 6th, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Dear HBJ:

The issue of downgrading or doing away with The Reisinger BAM was a shocker to me. When I first started playing (almost sixty years ago) if people asked me to name one event — the one I would have remembered was the prestigious RBAM. It is obvious professionals are trying to make the path easier for clients by trying to downgrade events like the Reisinger so the sponsors have a better shot.

Bobby hit the nail on the head when he states the six people to represent each country (especially his interest in his own Zone 2) should undoubtedly be the three VERY BEST PARTNERSHIPS). It is a discredit and insult to the game of bridge to ante up less than that. However, professionalism has taken over and most of the sponsors do not equate to the challenge.

You can’t win world championships with also-rans. And if you have noticed, other foreign nations have taken over the limelight and earned the path of glory. Better methods should be required to achieve the three best twosomes or we will slip even farther.

(And, just for the record, Bobby has won nine Reisingers and my late husband, Norman, captured seven). That is the quality of player who belongs on these teams. Perhaps I am biased, but the truth speaks for itself.

Ellis FeigenbaumMarch 6th, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Interesting to note but it seems the facts seem to tell a different tale.
Out of the last 20 Reisingers. 16 have been won by sponsor based teams, and of the teams that came second in the last 20 years 18 have been sponsor based.
Within that number is also the interesting fact that roughly half the time the full team would not have eligible to represent the USA as some of the Pro players were non US players.
No one , especially not me is disputing the ability of some of the sponsors, but it is a proven fact that you CAN win world championships and Reisingers with sponsor based teams.

bobby wolffMarch 6th, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Hi Ellis,

Sometimes even as conscientious as you try to be, you miss the point.

Of course, reasonable playing sponsors are going to not only qualify for the final day of the Reisinger, but also often finish in the top three. Just because someone is a sponsor does not begin to mean that he or she is not a very capable bridge player. I could read you a long list of some who can hold their own with the best, but that is not at all the point of what the problem happens to be.

The Reisinger is a great event and the players who make the final day are usually among the cream of a crop which is also way above the norm. An event like that should not be tampered with, because at least in my opinion and one of many others, the final day of the Reisinger is the best day on the WORLD bridge calendar.

There is never a time to relax since every trick is usually crucial, and the competition is simply the best there is available in the whole world, particularly when considering the foreign invasion to which you refer.

Although I would be guessing the reason, it seems to me that you are over active in wanting to disagree about something, but by doing so you might have unwittingly brought up a subject that needs to be discussed.

The mantel of excellence is on the way out of this country to other worthy countries, but it does bother me, that in spite of our great depth of excellent players we need to form COMPLETE teams who would fit the description of able to beat all comers, including the foreign experts. To that goal we should all aspire, but unfortunately dirty, filthy lucre is obviously more important to too many.

Ellis FeigenbaumMarch 7th, 2012 at 12:55 am

The only people i saw looking to change it were actually looking to change it for the better.
As it stands the Resinger is a 3 day event, the idea was to change it to a full week event, which would more than likely eliminate every one but the very finest by day 5.
I am not sure where that can be motivated by money. In fact the person i saw that brought up this suggestion has both won and been second in this same event both times on sponsor based teams. Surely lengthening the event will make it an even tougher test of ability.

bobby wolffMarch 7th, 2012 at 1:15 am

Hi Ellis,

The problem is that the change will be a qualifying with B-A-M and then a 3 day IMP KO with the final 8 teams. However I haven’t looked lately and if the proposal has changed in the last few days, I will be very wrong.

I sincerely hope you are correct in making the Reisinger just a longer B-A-M event, although I reserve opinion on the new proposal until I see the C-O-C. Although I have missed perhaps the last 5 Reisingers, I played in about 40+ straight ones before the last 5 and I can assure you it is a great event with only playing 6 sessions.

At least to me it is laughable for someone to say that the trials qualifying events (where seeding points and byes usually eminate) must be played with the same format in which the World Championship is conducted. The top players I know, could play 1 B-A-M hand and then 1 IMP hand interchangeably and never miss a beat in either game. No crutches needed!

Whoever made the statement about having to have the same format just never has seen how top players think and how flexible the real world class players really are.

Almost all world class players have natural instincts and the numeracy (always thinking about numbers) necessary to excel in all known bridge type competitions.

bobby wolffMarch 7th, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Hi again Ellis,

I failed to respond about what money has to do with any of this discussion. Mediocre playing sponsors are not well suited to playing B-A-M, particularly so the calibre of the Reisinger, so if the B-A-M becomes an IMP KO at the end it would be a plus for professionalism by improving sponsored teams chances, by hiding the sponsor, for doing well. As it is, many of those teams now opt to play in the 6 session Swiss instead, because of the difficulty of competing effectively in the Reisinger.

If, however, the so-called BAMKO is now thought of as nothing but BAM then I am all wrong in what I surmise.

Incidentally, I never remember any team at any stage of a Reisinger not playing hard and I’ve played in 40+ of them. Obviously such a thing has happened before, I’ve just, to my knowledge, not been privy to it. For those who favor straight KO because of results there having nothing at all to do with what is happening at other tables, I understand what they mean, but do substantially disagree with their conclusions.

I must admit that money does have a way of infiltrating heretofore sacred types of competition, bridge and other, but cannot help myself by being violently opposed to its rising status.

When humankind changes its values away from accomplishment, creativy and the measure of success, to only the value of money, will at least to me, be a valid reason to retire or worse from this potentially very corrupt world.

I do appreciate your opinions and posts.

PegMarch 7th, 2012 at 6:47 pm

I have been reading this thread in amazement. Perhaps there is someone, somewhere who has discussed eliminating the Reisinger. But – other than here, I have never heard nor read about it.

There was a post by Brad Moss, with dozens of comments following, about modifying the Reisinger. Because of the high quality of the event, people wanted to make it longer – not do away with it. There was discussion of a knockout. But – it would not be an IMP knock-out; the discussion was of a BAM format for the knock-out.

I myself have never played in a Reisinger. Given that it is concurrent with the Swiss, surely a reasonable event, I’ve always opted for something where I feel I have some chance of success. One day, I would like to Challenge the Champs and enter one. Still – given that I’m not a participant, what happens in it does not directly impact me.

I share the views of those who hold the event in the highest regard, and I also think that eliminating it would be unthinkable. Still – I reiterate my original point. Who exactly has stated that they think the Reisinger should be taken off the schedule?

Mike WhitmanMarch 7th, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Hi, Bobby, trust all is well.

An interesting historical note. Once upon a time, in order to qualify for the trials, you needed a high finish in the 3 big team games–Reisinger, Vanderbilt or Spingold.

Professional teams were, and still are for all I know, hired for a “cycle,” and the cycle was the big 3, with a commitment to play in the Trials (for extra money) if your team qualified.

Then, in the mid-nineties, the ACBL switched to open Trials. Since a 1st or 2nd in the Reisinger was just too tough, particularly for the money involved, many of the big sponsors switched to a money “cycle” of Vanderbilt, Spingold, and Team Trials, dropping the Reisinger.

This had, very luckily for me, the effect of orphaning a lot of great professional players for the Fall Nationals.
For many years this was the only NABC Grant was available to play with me.

I can’t believe anyone who can spell “bridge” would have the effrontery to monkey with this great event. I don’t play much anymore, but, for the record, if they had really top commentary and better software for Board-a-Match, I’d pay a thousand bucks to watch the Reisinger finals on vugraph.

Best wishes.

bobby wolffMarch 8th, 2012 at 2:18 am

Hi Peg,

Of what I have read, there has been some negativity about B-A-M in general and the Reisinger in particular. To be specific would be discussions about some teams giving up and being easy prey late in the event and comparing that disadvantage to the positive nature of squaring off mano-mano (or, I guess womano-womano) against only one opponent wherein, in theory anyway, a team has total control of their destiny.

However, since the specific pairings in all forms of KO leave a tremendous amount to be desired, at least to me, that disadvantage alone is enough to prefer the randomness of round robin play, which I have always found to be the preferred form of competition.

Maybe it is similar to some who like chocolate and others vanilla, but there has definitely been some rather volatile arguments (and from top players) about pro and con.

To me, for any team which shows conclusive evidence of so-called giving up (or of course worse by dumping), it is grounds for severe discipline if proven to a high-level committee beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, with significant money involved maybe I am being a bit naive not to ever think about such an abomination, but perhaps others fear such a thing. In the event someone does think it might happen we need to set up a bridge police force, otherwise all we will wind up doing is administering the game in a lesser way because of what just might be shadows.

PegMarch 8th, 2012 at 4:55 am

Hi Bobby –

You make some good points that I hadn’t considered. Always good, however, to discuss and debate. For instance, I think that the Platinum Pairs is a fabulous addition to the schedule. Now we have a true “elite pair” event again – and – it’s a new invention.

Just want to make sure that the Reisinger is never taken off the schedule! That would be an abomination.

Steven GaynorMarch 9th, 2012 at 5:33 pm

BAM is a tough event – You must use every bit of bridge skill you may possess to squeeze every last possible trick out of every hand. There is no time to relax. The Reisinger offers this format open to all interested to show their mettle in this most exacting event. Messing with it is, well, conservatively, a VERY BAD IDEA.
You want to play KO’s? The Vanderbilt and Spingold are excellent chances to prove superiority in that format.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 9th, 2012 at 6:59 pm


Well put and precise!


bobby wolffMarch 9th, 2012 at 7:05 pm

To Steve, Peg, Mike, Ellis, et al,

It is comforting to me that so many think, primarily because of the special talent required, so highly of the Reisinger and at the same time, understand KO’s whether they are scored at IMPs, VP’s or B-A-M itself, leave a distrust to the process in the air, probably because it is just a head to head matchup between only two teams. Sure in KO’s, self-confidence and partnership coordination as well as slam accuracy are high-lighted, but then so is intimidation and, at too many times, bad manners and less than perfect bridge ethics.

Perhaps it, like other less talked about virtues, all go back to bridge at its beginning of being called a gentleman’s game (meaning ladies as well). At least to me that specific above sentence should always continue to be bridge’s calling card, rather than shady practices and worst of all, bribing or stealthy cheating.

Ellis FeigenbaumMarch 10th, 2012 at 9:42 am

Dear Bobby,
I am still an optimist.