Judy Kay-Wolff


For those of you who have not read (or do not remember) Bobby’s candid recall of days gone by in
“The Lone Wolff,” I’d like to focus on an unbelievably clever way of raping one’s opponents in such a clandestine manner and .. had Bobby not gotten wind of it .. it might still be in existence.  This is an excerpt from Chapter XV – leading up to the subject story which I find absolutely fascinating in a gross sort of way.

“…….Professionals make many positive contributions to the game.  That said, there are some dark sides to that scene, particularly at levels where the pressure to win seems overwhelming and success, at any cost, is the singular objective!”

“There have long been stories of pros meeting each other in the  restrooms during tournaments to exchange information.   Player A has already played Boards 7 and 8, for example, and he knows that every card is lying right for a 25-point grand slam on Board 7.   It’s too late for Player A, but not for Player B, who hasn’t played Board 7 yet.   Player B, meanwhile, knows that on another deal, a heart lead rather than the normal spade lead will defeat 3NT, so that information gets passed along.   The matchpoints gained from these kinds of exchanges could be he different between third in the section and first – or even several places in the overall standings.   This is reprehensible, but some competitors will give in to the pressure to win, especially when they are playing with weak players, and will look for whatever edge they can latch onto.”

“In the mid-nineties, I learned about another disgusting ‘technique,’  a private, surreptitious arrangement between contending teams:  deliberately reporting incorrect scores, resulting in massive tampering with Victory Points    For about a year or so, some of the professionals had been participating in a scheme amongst themselves, making deals that only the most devious of minds could have concocted.  Here’s how it was pulled off.”

“Let us say two teams play in the late stages of a Swiss Event – not unlikely because the pros can be found at most tournaments during the year – and both are in contention to win.   The top three or four teams, for example, might be bunched up within 3 or 4 Victory Points of each other, possibly a little more.  With a 30-point VP scale (or even in the 20-point scale), there’s a lot of room for movement on the final round and the standings can change radically between the penultimate and the last round, depending upon the margins of victory.”

“The expected scenario is that you are likely to be playing one of the top several teams in the event on the final round.  You have to be pretty darned lucky to be still in contention if you aren’t a tough team to start with.”

“Anyway, in the final stages of such an event, if two contending teams are playing each other, it probably won’t help either side if the outcome is a close win by one of them.  All it would take to knock them both out of contention would be to split the Victory Points.   For example, on a 30-point scale, a tie results in 15 VPs for each side.   If it’s a two point win, the split is 19-11 – still not great for either  team if there are several contenders with a shot at the victory.”

“So the deal was this – whoever won when  two “friendly” teams played each other, NO MATTER WHAT THE MARGIN, the loser signed off on a score ticket that indicated a blitz.  The next time, it might be the other team that won and got the benefit.   What benefit, you might ask?   You must be kidding!  Well, if you’re a pro, how much better is it going to be for you if you can help your client garner first place rather than fifth or sixth?    Won’t your client be more inclined to hire you again if you win 35 or 40 gold points than if you win 6 or 7?  That’s all you would get if your team ended way down on the overall list.”

“The unscrupulous creators of this ruse named it ‘DOUBLE IMPS’.  It was sickening to think about all the teams that were screwed – teams that were playing honestly.  And who wouldn’t be upset to find that their second-place finish really should have been first and that they were jobbed out of it by a phony blitz on the last round?  I felt that the perpetrators should be in jail, but I also felt that I had an  opportunity to nip this thing in the bud.   I was less interested in punishing the criminals than I was in just ending the practice.”

“To this day, I don’t know who started it, but I’m 99% sure it’s not going on any more.   I learned the names of some of the principal characters, and at the next NABC I looked up one of the players involved in the scheme and took him aside.   ‘I know what’s been going on with the Double IMPs,’  I said.   ‘If this continues, I’m going to try to run you out of bridge.’   People who know me have no doubt about my sincerity and that I don’t make idle promises or threats.  I’m serious in matters of this sort, and the person I was talking to had every reason to believe  I would follow up on my threat.  Individuals with larceny in their souls will do as much as they feel the can get away with, but if the heat is turned up and their livelihoods are threatened, they’ll toe the line.   They  may do it begrudgingly, but they will behave.   The potential loss of earning can be a very cogent argument for conformance!….”



John Howard GibsonJuly 27th, 2012 at 10:33 am

HBJ : The trouble with cheating is that the best techniques of course have as yet ( very sadly ) to be detected. The nature of the game opens up countless opportunities and ways for both soft and hard cheating to take place , despite whatever measures have been introduced to stop or curb such practices. The desire to win all too often compromises the moral values , which form the bedrock of decent , honest and acceptable behaviour.
The Human Condition is flawed, and as society becomes more and more corrupted , the harder it is for the individual to stay true to his/her moral principles and conscience.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise to me to hear these stories , but my faith in human nature is thankfully restored when you and Bobby set out to expose wrongdoing in high places, and to help return bridge to what it once was…….the most perfect and beautiful game in the world .

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 27th, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Thanks, HBJ:

The first time I heard the story, I thought they were pulling my leg. Who could concoct such a fraudulent method to win a lousy bridge game? Only a pathetic, desperate person who will stop at nothing to further his or her career and bank account. I would love to know the person who had such a sick mind, but Bobby had a sole objective — to have it come to a screeching halt — which he believes it has or word would have gotten out.

What has happened to the beautiful bridge game I first learned over fifty-five years ago?
Conventions may have improved and some rules and restrictions put in place, but it has a long way to go to return to the majestic, moral means of enjoyment with the pasteboards.

Can you imagine such a sick mind who could devise this scheme of Double Imps? Perhaps a depraved, perverted, vicious creature with a one-tracked mind?

JaneJuly 27th, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Hi Judy,

I read The Lone Wolff twice and enjoyed it more the second time than the first. To some it does not matter how the game is played, just to win at whatever cost. In my humble opinion, winning is only fun if it is deserved, not if it is stolen. I prefer to earn a win the hard way, by doing the best I can at bidding, play and defense. Of course, we all get “gifts” at the table, but I give as many gifts as I get!

I would like to believe that most of the professionals who play now want to help their clients improve their game, and then when they win, it is a tribute to both, not just something a pro slips to them under the table, so to speak. Good for Bobby for wanting to clean up the game when he saw a wrong, not just ignore the problem.

JodyJuly 27th, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Lordy, Lordy, what next. i have read about players deliberately being slow tho, for some nefarious reason I forget!

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 27th, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Hi Jane:

Your blog was so sincere and inspirational and I, too, feel the way you do. Shenanigans are only a farce in furthering egos and a driving force for attention and enhancing one’s reputation.

Bobby did play a big part in putting an end to Double Imps but believe me professionals and other needy players who play for hire are still on the lookout to take advantage of any situation that would benefit them and their client. Read some of the appeals that are published in the bridge bulletins and you will still see what some people try to get away with.

Double Imps just happened to be about as bad as it can get.

Thanks for writing. Your love of the game is so evident.


Judy Kay-WolffJuly 27th, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Hi Jody:

Nice hearing from you. It has been so long — although I have simmered down on my blogging efforts as well.

“Lordy, lordy” says it all!



Ellis FeigenbaumJuly 28th, 2012 at 8:10 pm

The nature of the game, a gentlemanly and ladylike pusuit of perfection, lends itself perfectly to those who have larceny in their hearts.
Cheating is relatively easy both hard and soft type. From the strategically placed pencil to the overhearing of boards , to noticing whats being played at the table number preceding yours in another section when you go out for a bathroom break, to sharing hands in the bathroom.
The only thing we have in our favour is that 99.99% of bridge players place their personal integrity and honour way beyond nefarious activities at the bridge table.For the rest we now have cameras, cell phone regulations, bridgemates and the recorder system, and beyond that we have the eternal vigilance of those of us that beleive the game should still be played in the manner in which it was brought into the world , by gentleman and ladies of the highest personal calibre.
Anything less is doing a disservice to ourselves and to the game.

bobby wolffJuly 28th, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Hi Ellis,

After reading your comment and meeting you a couple of times I would be proud to be your father, brother or son, however I might think twice before I would demand your services as my financial adviser even though, to my memory we never discussed the subject and you might have a terrific nose for that profession.

No doubt if some friend would have gifted you, on your 12th birthday, with a bag of horse manure, my guess is that you would smile, run outside and expect to see your very own Shetland pony. Enthusiastic, yes, Positive certainly, Realistic, No.

Yes, many bridge players (or any other fierce competitors in any game) possess both honor and integrity, but the nature of people, especially of the toughest type and hardest to win contests, regard winning not only the goal, not only the motive for competing, but the most important gauge for remaining alive (at least at that moment) and then when you add getting paid (professionalism), ego satisfaction (I always knew how good I am), rising to the top on all lists, written or oral, setting records (for posterity) the urge to be first just supplanted my first love, complete with all satisfying physical experiences.

Without any more drama, my encounters would agree with your assessment of people (except perhaps naughty members of the abuse of children clergy, the ultimate hypocrisy) however my estimate of potential percentages of let us say the top 90% of the serious bridge players throughout the world, I would change your 99.99% of bridge players who would not compromise the virtues which are mentioned and slightly downgrade that figure to perhaps 50%, and by doing that, I think I am actually understating to what that percentage figure should be downgraded.

Yes, anything less than your figure does do a significant disservice to the game, but thinking so and hoping it was a one time affair, cost JoePa and his much more to blame (Penn St. executives (IMHO) dearly.

Am I right and therefore you, wrong, I sincerely hope not, but as Damon Runyon (an American gambler turned poet) once said, “But that is the way to bet”.

As to your view, please never change it, but don’t volunteer to be a bridge recorder.

Ellis FeigenbaumJuly 28th, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Hey Bobby,
Had I been lucky enough to receive a pile of manure for my 12th birthday, I would have probably ended up in the gardening business, as it was I received a bicycle and ended doing deliveries for 3 local groceries and a takeout diner.
I have also done C and E for the local unit and worked pretty closely with the district recorder. There are many many instances of atrocious behaviour, but surprisingly few about blatant cheating (in comparison to the numbers in the district) and those that there are, would usually be about the same suspects.
I personally have reported more than one instance of bizarre bidding sequences to the recorder, and in at least one instance that I know of it lead to a hearing.
It is possible that my 99.99% number is inexact, however I do believe that the vast majority of bridge players are upstanding and wish what is best for the game, and I also believe that some who have bad behavioral ethics have no real idea how much a detriment to the game they are and would be abhorred if they actually understood their own actions in that context.
P.S I charge $350/hour for financial advice , but I might be prepared to barter for table time 😉

bobby wolffJuly 29th, 2012 at 1:24 am

Hi Ellis,

Thanks for your response. I agree with all you say, as long as you go along with a change in the wording.

The vast majority of bridge players are upstanding and wish what is best for the game and also do not have any idea what bad behavior ethics do to the game and if at all convenient will never practice shady acts, unless some notso magic carpet sweeps them into doing what they never intended to do.

You charge a very reasonable fee for winning financial advice, so that, plus you being disappointed in bartering for a possible pig in a poke, is not at all fair to you.

Gary MugfordJuly 29th, 2012 at 3:58 am

Judy (and Bobby by extension),

When I was still young and stupid, I had occasion to run into a particular fellow and his cronies who cheated with abandon at the local club circuit. Hated being cheated on, but was completely and utterly mystified why anybody would cheat to win “a local bridge night at some no-name club.” It was like I was in Flatland and couldn’t see ‘up.’ Which made me rage all the more. Eventually, I found cheating was JUST a little more prevalent than I thought. But I never got over my wonder as to why?


But, while I don’t understand the motivation at it’s lowest levels, I DO understand greed. So, when I learned of skulduggery in big-time bridge, I was less mystified than before. At last, a reason I could understand. Didn’t like it any better. But I understand THAT motivation.

Recently, I was talking with a friend, a bridge mentor, and we were reflecting on old times, including my decision to give up club bridge. I reconted the night I played a father and son team and twice my partner and I opened 1S in fourth chair and went down in the subsequent 4S contracts by misguessing a queen. In both cases, the younger opponent had passed with opening hands and our counting ability cost us two flat zeros, when added to his decision to play poker at my table. I was … not amused. And his explanation that he didn’t want to open light (14 HCP on the first hand, 13 on the second) rang a little hollow. There was really no feeling of cheating involved at all, but I FELT cheated. And I quit going to that club, or any club. I was mad that both my partner and I had done things right and counted out the hands to take a ‘sure’ winning finesse. And lost. (although we won the overalls that night, anyway).

My friend had a good question. “So let me get this right, you bid to the right contract and played it expertly and went down. So, were you more interested in the result or in playing good bridge? Those two things were mutually exclusive on that round. Well?”

Silence was my only answer. OF COURSE I prefered playing good bridge. But I wanted that AND winning too. An honourable win.

And that’s always the question that haunts me when playing cheats. We have different answers. But is winning BY cheating really winning? Without the lure of money, and not getting respect anyways, why the hell does ANYBODY want to win when, in winning, they lose all else?

I remain blind to many things about human nature. Happily.

Regards to both of you, GM

John Howard GibsonJuly 29th, 2012 at 6:24 am

HBJ : A bridge acquaintance of mine once defined his small club as ” AN APPROVED CENTRE FOR CHEATING “, such was the prevalence of hesitations , body language , behavioural nuances and heaven knows what else to assist partnership communication. Whenever a penalty card “hit the deck” with menace you knew it was a penalty double not to be removed.
But the most damning aspect of it all was that most culprits WERE COMPLETELY UNAWARE OF THEIR OWN VIOLATIONS AND SHORTCOMINGS. Oblivious to breaches of the rules coupled with so many turning a blind eye it was no wonder , continued tacit approval seems only to exacerbate the problem even more.
Oh yes …..here is true story…..after one opponent hesitated on the play of declarer’s king…..the second opponent did likewise. Declarer ( tongue in cheek ) decided to call over the TD alleging that these hesitations were grossly unfair, because both claimed to be holding the Ace…..but one was clearly lying ?

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 29th, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Dear Gary:

I enjoyed your letter and your candor. There is nothing I hate worse than a cheat or a deliberate hesitator with nothing to hesitate about rather than to set you off course. When that occurs, I feel no shame in remarking to the offender and asking what their problem was. They hem and haw but we all know the answer. Certain people are born with larceny in their hearts and they will die with it.

Our local club has tried to clean up some of this chicanery and has done a rather good job. It is a good feeling to know that some directors do care about their club’s reputation more than the table count. As you may recall, we stopped attending one club because one set of owners (there were three couples in charge) not only closed their eyes to cheating (allowing the taking advantage of blatant hesitations and passes) and encouraged cheating by allowing the partner to balance, even after calling it to their attention.

Some people can go to bed with a clear conscience. Others don’t give it a second thought.

Nice hearing from you.



Judy Kay-WolffJuly 29th, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Dear HBJ:

I enjoyed your story of both partners ducking the “winning king.” I really suspect many people play the game for a lark, not realizing its seriousness and beauty it represents (or, at least, is supposed to).

When I first learned to play (if you could call it that), I was so fascinated as there was so much to be considered. We took the game seriously, treated it with respect and abided by the rules as we knew them to be. What I read and see about what exists now makes me sick to my stomach. Much of the beauty is gone and false pride, deception, huge unjustified bloated egos and money seem to be the focal points of what used to be known as the game for ladies and gentlemen.

Steven GaynorJuly 30th, 2012 at 4:29 pm

To Judy, Bobby, HBJ, Gary, et. al.

I am sorry to hear about people who shun local clubs due to cheating and reluctance of the directors to handle it. Here in MN we do not have those problems. Attendance is up and we do not have a lot of ethical issues or confrontations. Most director calls are for mechanical errors (lead or bid out of turn, etc.), and the people get along pretty well for the most part. We have a lot of good games all over the Twin Cities, including two full-time bridge clubs. On Tuesday during the day there are three different venues (two sanctioned and one not)that average over 20 tables each!
My wife & I also play at lots of sectionals and attend about 1/2 dozen regionals (see you in Council Bluffs, IA this week!) and people are getting along pretty well everywhere we go.

Is it perfect? Of course not, but the game operators at the places we go are definitely interested in fair play and will not hesitate to get rid of those who cause problems.

Come up and see us sometime, we’d love to have you, and I think you would enjoy your bridge time here. Check out our regional in October that will benefit the USBF.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 30th, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Dear Steven:

How refreshing! But how do you
account for the difference? I have friends all over the country who seem to encounter the same problems as we do — and do not discount the NABCS. They are far from perfect. Look at the stink over the 62 board match v. the 64 board match .. and at such a high level — a decision left to the players by the directors. Wow!

You must live right and your clubs have been blessed with sainthood.
Have you ever read any of Danny Kleinman’s protests at his local club and the favoritism shown to the regular locals? It makes me want to puke.

You have been blessed — but I truly believe you are enjoying bridge far from the norm.

Thanks for the uplift and good luck in IA.



JaneJuly 31st, 2012 at 2:58 am

Hi again,

I spent 30 years playing bridge in Kansas City, both at the club and tournament level, and my experience there was like Steven’s. Our club games and tournaments were lots of fun, and there did not seem to be the recurring problems there that I have seen here in Las Vegas. As he said, most of our director calls were for the mechanical error, and honestly, weeks could go by without a director call at all. We had nice sized games there also, so it was not that we had low attendance. We all got along pretty well.

Bridge at the club and tournament level here in Las Vegas is different than in Missouri. Definitely more serious at one of our clubs, and perhaps better competition. I think zero tolerance could be practiced better here, as there seems to be conflict going on more often than it should, in my humble opinion. I enjoy the game, and enjoy playing here, but the atmosphere is quite different than the Midwest.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 31st, 2012 at 3:22 am


Sadly, I can’t say the same about New York and Philly (at the time I left the East Coast) as you proudly boast about Missouri. I think the skyrocketing of master points has a lot to do with it .. as if they really matter. As long as they award them for under average games, they are glorifying mediocrity (or worse).

Today I won my section in a seven table Mitchell Movement and got 2.20 points. Are you old enough to remember when we played once a month in a club game to win one whole MP? Big whoops!

tom grueJuly 31st, 2012 at 5:03 am

judy i played today in a 9 table movement and won and i won .90 i think i am going to scream discrimination lol

JaneJuly 31st, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Points, smoints! I feel so sorry for TOM (LOL!) I do remember how hard it was to get master points back in the day. When I started, we had black, silver, red and gold, and no STAC or on line games either. To get those coveted colored points, we had to go to tournaments. It took me longer to get silver than anything else, primarily because I took advantage of knock outs to get gold. I like tournament play, so it was fun to work toward a goal, but is easier now to get those colors and the black points as well.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 31st, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Dear Tom:

Yes, it is a joke. Points have become many people’s (not yours) master. What are they but ways of luring most people to play (not for the challenge and beauty of the game — but to win more points than their friends). I don’t know if they still award points for on line bridge, but I knew pairs who competed as partners with their computers side by side. Wasn’t that a farce?

I am sure you remember when we played for the love and beauty of the game, but there are not many of us left.

Thanks for sharing. It is pretty funny.



Steven GaynorJuly 31st, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Masterpoints are not a joke – it is what the ACBL sells! We have an increase in attendance at the club when a special game is held. The MP races, Mini-McKenney’s Ace of Clubs, etc., keep people interested and playing.

Yes, it is a beautiful game and I think most who play actually appreciate that, but the gratification we receive means something to many people. Otherwise we would all go to those non-sanctioned games that charge $1 or even less rather than play at much more costly sanctioned clubs, and tournaments.

Still, while the ACBL has implemented ways to diminish MP awards to the masses, they have maintained or increased those awards to the top players.
Fund games at clubs(Jr, International, charity, etc.)were paid at 100% sectional, but now they are 70%.

KO’s are now paid based on ‘strength of field’ (average MP’s of all players in the bracket) which keeps the awards for the top flights where they were, but the secondary flights are decreased. Now they want to do that for all sectional and regional events.

Hey, Tom, imagine that 17 years ago they asked your son NOT to play in the open game at a sectional because he would bring the MP award down since he had none at the time. That is what ‘Strength of Field’ will mean.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 31st, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Dear Jane:

I was not as conscious as you about the types of colors of the points although Marty Bergen had it right when he proclaimed to the world ……. Points/Schmoints!

My serious bridge exposure began in 1961 when I met Norman Kay and traveled with him to all local and New York sectionals and regionals and the Nationals as well. When we married in 1963, my horizons loomed larger as I attended quite a number of world championships (as well as with Bobby after Norman died) where I saw really unbelievable superstars strut their stuff (and I don’t even think in the early days they gave away points for WBF events). That came later.

The point I am making is that people played for the honor and glory of the game so in my mind representing their own country (winning preferably) was their primary objective. Most of them never thought about points — just the privilege, honor, thrill and excitement of being on a U. S. team with the possility of ending up Number Uno.

Perhaps my background is why I am not so overly gung ho about points. The overabundance and ease with which to win them now(even being under average in your section) makes a mockery of the principle. Sure, they’re nice to garner, but I play for the sheer enjoyment of bridge and being so lucky to play and learn from Bobby all the time. Points are incidental but, of course, an incentive to play well for most contenders.

People’s backgrounds and circumstances have much to do with the way they view the game.

Always nice to hear your logical and sincere comments.


Judy Kay-WolffJuly 31st, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Hi Steven:

I disagree with you. I think masterpoints are a joke. I wouldn’t think of shifting playing sites if one club is offering more points than another. I suppose it is based upon one’s priorities in life and self-contentment.

Perhaps at this stage in mine (at 78) and having played bridge since I learned in college in 1955 (57 years ago), it is the enjoyment of the game (not the masterpoints) that entices me to show up at my club on a regular basis. As long as the club runs a clean game and shows no favoritism, I consider that incentive enough.


JRGJuly 31st, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I’ve heard, many times, “Masterpoints are an attendance reward.”

That tends to echo my own sentiments. Players who devote themselves to pursuing masterpoints quite often amass a lot more than those who play once in a while or tend not to travel to out-of-town tournaments, regardless of skill level.

This discussion is probably beating a dead horse. The ACBL awards masterpoints for whatever reasons they do. The one thing the awarding of masterpoints should not be confused with is a measure of skill (except, perhaps accidently where players like Bob Hamman, et al have lots). Masterpoint rankings simply have no comparison to schemes that attempt a true test of current skill, such as chess ranking.

Ellis FeigenbaumJuly 31st, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Master points are a reasonable gauge of ability in the last game you played in, or the last year that you played in. Master points won ten years ago, probably don’t reflect the current state of your game.
It is theoretically possible to create a master point scale similar to chess, or tennis or golf where there is a yearly attrition of values to reflect current performance.
However in an organization such as the ACBL, this is an insurmountable problem. The league or anyone else for that matter is incapable of building a ranking system which could cater for the disparity of opportunity created by the vast geographical area which it covers.
Any Northern player with over 1500 points has basically won every event in the local games for the last 5 years.
Alberta has players that have come first and second in World Championships and they still don’t have 5000 MP`s. California has players with over 20,000 master points who will probably never come close to winning an open national championship let alone a world championship.
I live in California, I can play in a sectional almost every weekend I can play in 10-12 regional’s a year, all within driving range. Try doing that if you live in Winnipeg.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 31st, 2012 at 11:29 pm


Well put. “The one thing the awarding of masterpoints should not be confused with is a measure of skill …” except in certain exceptions at the very top. I know a lady who plays 13 or 14 times a week. Her entire life is devoured by bridge games and centers around masterpoints. Pretty pathetic in my humble opinion. She is obsessive about it. But, if that makes her happy and she is not hurting anyone — no one is stopping her. Maybe they’ll even have her total number of MPs engraved on her tombstone.

Life is too short and I believe in moderation and diversification. But, of course, to each his or her own.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 1st, 2012 at 12:19 am


I don’t agree with your first statement …. “Master points are a reasonable gauge of ability in the last game you played in, or the last year that you played in.” A good player can have a horrible score and a hopeless one can win. It all depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the game itself and the element of luck involved. I think it is a poor generalization.

I do agree with you when you say ..”However in an organization such as the ACBL, this is an insurmountable problem.” The ACBL is to attract players, enhance their net worth and the salaries of their employees. They should be concentrating on what is best for the majesty of the game and make a lot of much-needed alterations.

What, to me, is really out of kilter, are the bad and mediocre very wealthy sponsors (who in a few cases spend seven figures annually to pay their professionals and their cohorts for sectionals, regionals, nationals, grand nationals, trials and prestigious internationals) and can boast about winning thousands of masterpoints when in truth they are being dragged (in most cases) to the finish line by dogsled.

I do agree it depends upon where you live that can determine your masterpoint position. It seems so unfair but that’s life. The United States offers so many more professional opportunities than Canada that it is no wonder so many have migrated here.

However, the astute players and experts know who the top echelon are and who are the tag-a-longs and wannabees. That has been a condition since serious bridge observation began for me back in the fifties.


Gary MugfordAugust 2nd, 2012 at 3:43 pm


My first week on the job as the ACBL Press Liason at a NABC, Henry Francis asked me to go down and kibitz a major pairs event and bring back a hand from a noted celeb who was playing in the event, after recently becoming a Life Master in a relatively brief period of time. The person’s name in question is unimportant, but I will tell you that I never met anybody who didn’t like the celeb on a personal level.

As I sat there and watched the person play, I came to what was an astonishing revelation for me. The player in question, a Life Master, playing in a big-time pairs event with a noted bridge author and expert, was not very good. Bordering on bad. But the celeb had many multiples of points more than me.

I had realized before then that masterpoints in smaller numbers were a weak reflection on playing ability. This was proof that they didn’t have ANY basis in reality. Or so I thought.

And here’s where Henry’s wisdom saved the day. “Sure, for some, masterpoints are bought. But for most people, they reflect their INVESTMENT in the ACBL. You should respect people who invest time and money and effort. And you should respect people who earn them by being very good. Maybe a different kind of respect, but respect they are due.” And when Henry told me that, I could hear the word INVESTMENT was in capitals.

The ACBL is a rules-setting organization with but one product to sell. Masterpoints. We segment our game based on their totals. But seriously, when was the last time anybody REALLY had a conversation along the lines of thinking the person with more masterpoints is the better player. Sure, Bobby Wolff is better than me. Duh. I’d say that without even THINKING of the gulf in masterpoints that separates me. Here’s the rub. So’s Judy, in all probability. And again, do not have the foggiest idea of how many MP’s she has. The guy across town who’s winning at the local club and is pushing three, four times more than me? Maybe. Maybe not. Haven’t ever played against him.

Bridge players are supposed to be smarter than the average bear. The smarter players look at masterpoints as an interesting statistical anomaly, fun to shoot a Crane run at. But nothing more. And maybe useful in advertising for pay dates. Otherwise, meh. And those that don’t know that, aren’t reading this blog.


Ellis FeigenbaumAugust 2nd, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Dear Gary,
I have a feeling you missed my point, I more than most understand that the commodity the league trades in is masterpoints.
Also having played across the US and in various parts of Canada I also get more than most that i would always a pick a team with 5,000 total from Halifax Nova Scotia than a team with 20,000 total from California.
I also know that the only award that the league gives out that you could probably work out an assesment of ability is Blue Ribbon q`s divided by events played.
However when they give you the LM card it should have some feeling of achievement linked to it as viewed by others who have already attained this rank, and I find it a sad and sorry state of affairs that this is not the case.
My expectation is not that a newbie LM will be as good as Bobby, however my expectation is they should be able to hold their own in Regional open pairs.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 2nd, 2012 at 10:58 pm


I appreciate your thoughts but take exception to your last paragraph. Sometimes it takes people forever to attain their 300th point (with certain %age of silver — or whatever it takes). Of course, it gives them something for which to strive which is always an upper and keeps them coming back time after time.

I doubt if that many can easily “hold their own” in their first Regional open pairs as “newbies!” For some people it is their life’s ambition to become a LM but to me the whole masterpoint system is such a farce because there are so many flaws and loopholes.

I have 43 Blue Ribbon Qualifications and have never played in one. I always played Women’s Pairs and Teams and Mixed Pairs and Teams because I enjoyed my regular partners and the opponents and the events offered a much more relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Of course, I have played in tons of Regional Opens but you find some pretty bad (as well as expert) players in the mix.

And by the way, I have witnessed new LMs who played in Regional Open Pairs for the first time and returned to their clubs bombed out of their minds from the difference in competition. I just don’t think the transition is as easy as it appears to you because you sound like a “natural” player.

There are so many factors involved — where you play, how often you play, with whom you play, how good the competition is, etc.

Of course, our backgrounds and experiences are far different and that is perhaps why our thinking is on a different plateau.



Ellis FeigenbaumAugust 3rd, 2012 at 12:25 am

The first regional pairs I played in I was bombed out of existence, the difference at that time was that the only way to advance was to play in open regional events.
Today one can play in 0-750 gold rush pairs, bracket 4 knockouts and 0-500 Non Life Master Sectionals, therby attaining the rank of Life Master without ever actually had to play against one.
In the long run, the habits learned early are the habits that are the most difficult to break and often times remain with you forever.
I find this a sad reflection, because I truly beleive the mad rush on the part of league to sell master points is detremental to the leagues other objectives which include promoting and advancing the game of bridge.
In the short term we are generating more members and more interest.In the long term we are in danger creating a generation of club players who have nothing to pass on to the next generation of club players.
I am the first person to admit, that it is not my job to make people into better players, though I do see as part of my job giving the opportunitty to learn to those that so desire.However catering to the lowest common denominator will eventually lead to our demise.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 3rd, 2012 at 4:16 am


I am in total agreement with your well-presented analysis. It is indeed sad, as you put it, that (by catering to the lowest common denominator) it will eventually lead to our demise.

With the present system, the caliber of players will decline though the membership numbers will increase.
Great for the ACBL but not for the beauty and elegance of the game. With professionalism playing such a major role, it has already reflected its toll in the present and predictable down-trodden future representation of the United States in international venues. But — with few having the gumption or desire of stepping up to the plate to fight to improve the level of competition, the ending is very predictable.

As I have constantly maintained, money is now in first place and sadly bridge has dropped to second.


bobby wolffAugust 3rd, 2012 at 4:48 am

Hi Judy and Ellis,

While I agree with what you both say, you leave the main subject unanswered.

Is there any doubt with either one of you that by far the biggest culprit and therefore a direct enemy of the future of bridge is the governing body of the ACBL?

Until and if they assume the control of their organization and correct the evils instead of creating them, by flooding the market with masterpoints, not emphasizing bridge ethics and general malaise in all other important aspects of our game, bridge as all of us know, will be headed down the hill into oblivion.

Conceivably the reason for their apathy is that they, as a group, not necessarily every one of the BOD, are possibly hoping that whenever the end comes it will be after they no longer will be on the current BOD, making their loss not as bad as it might be if it happened tomorrow.

Ellis FeigenbaumAugust 3rd, 2012 at 5:28 am

Dear Bobby,
I am not sure that they are apathetic, I think misguided might be a better description.
There are many members of the current BOD who work extremely hard, it just happens that they are working hard at the wrong things.
It doesnt taken much for a general agenda to be formed and pushed by a few influential BOD members, then all of a sudden the board is working very hard and cant see the forest for the trees. They get bogged down in the minutae of the grind and fail to see what they are grinding at is often irellevant and at worst is detremental.

Gary MugfordAugust 3rd, 2012 at 2:21 pm


Reading back you comments, I did misconstrue your intent. Apologies.

At that, you still want desperately for Life Master to mean something other than a goal attainable through ability, opportunity or life-time dedication … or a combination of any of the above. I think giving kudos to a client who ‘buys’ their LM card in a short period of time or somebody who gets that final sliver of a point at the 33rd NABC they’ve played in are deserved. But without the asterisk on their card to show HOW they became a LM, the ones who got there in a reasonable amount of time with good results based on ability have to be lumped in with the others. I speak of this as a NON-Life Master. That day at the NABC’s I talked about earlier, the very day, in fact that I also met Bobby for the first time, was the end of my desire to chase the mark. I realized the emperor wore no clothes.

That said, I play a decent game. I’ve been the best player at tables with all other players having MP totals in the four or five digits (IMHO). The downside? I don’t get Blue Ribbon invites and I’m locked out of the top classifications at some events. I can live with those limitations.

All of this is a side road detour around the original topic. Cheating at Bridge at the top levels is motivated, not by the chase for MP’s for other than advertising reasons, but for lucre, coin of the real realm, not fairy gold master points. Bobby seethes righteously about a variety of cheating schemes and merely mentioning Squadra Azzurra of days yore gives him a spike in blood pressure. As a victim, he has rage rights. As an observer, I nod my head sagely and wish more people understood where he was coming from and didn’t turn a blase eye towards the practice in all of its devious forms.

When Judy, his champion, or Bobby himself, raise the subject here, it’s not to announce the foe has been vanquished, but to keep the bright light shining on the problem. The ability to IGNORE seems inherently a prerequisite for Bridge administrators, who adopt an out of sight, out of mind approach to a lot of vexing issues. Judy and Bobby know this and turn on the light switch every so often to at least get the talk going. Again.

Again, sorry about getting your point of view backwards. GM

bobby wolffAugust 3rd, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Hi Ellis,

Undoubtedly, you are correct and misguided for many BOD members is on target while apathetic is not. In no way do I now, nor never did consider the present BOD (of whom I do not know many well enough to form an accurate opinion) intentional wrongdoers, nor even below average administrators, so again misguided seems to be, as you point out, the perfect adjective.

The electricity in bridge originated with Eli Culbertson and his whirlwind promotions and was then continued on by the industry of Charles Goren as a forerunner to popularizing the great game of Contract Bridge, but has since gravitated to world wide World Bridge Championships, as the current London Olympics represents, wherein the whole world itself revels in crowning the best and brightest of all competitions even including in other arenas such things as hot dog eating.

Without that electricity (and, no doubt, mustard) and especially with the simple high card wins type bridge which is currently played in most retirement home centers bridge becomes nothing short of trivial and to say “Who cares?” becomes even an overstatement as to the interest involved.

However, because of the WBF and Mind Sports Association and their costly hard work of continuing to present the best that high-level bridge has to offer, combined with the natural growing world wide rivalries between sovereign countries, bridge is a wonderful form of mental competition whose “Bridge for Peace” slogan is for real and felt among the players who always seem to show respect (the common denominator for peace) for one another.

When bridge leaves that arena and, instead dumbs down to what very old folks (my approximate age) and some club play seems to represent, we may as well hang em up, so misguided, certainly is the right word to apply to such a decision.

Thanks for your important distinctions.

bobby wolffAugust 3rd, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Hi Gary,

It is time that I acknowledged your accurate, subtle, but right-on opinions on where bridge is, at this very moment, and the road to take to not only allow it to survive, but to differentiate between accomplishments (attaining life master status) the right and “old fashioned way” of earning it rather than being gifted it, by round about not deserved methods with either someone else (professional help) doing the dirty work, or by fiat from the parent organization.

If the current BODs would just listen to what you say, and even more importantly how your experiences have convinced you (over a long period of time) they would be so much better off than just taking the word of their new best friends on the current BODs who may have other agendas connected and therefore influencing their views.

Bridge is an important undertaking, if only to distinguish the incredible excitement it continues to produce with the off-the-charts mental competition ever present, when the best (from around the world) square off against each other.

Comparing that with a product also called bridge, but in reality a silly child’s game of War, learned at age 6 and usually given up at age 10, but sometimes continued for life and at bridge clubs and retirement centers is like comparing sticks and stones with the atomic age.

Thanks for what you have to say, and don’t be a stranger in the future for continuing to say it.