Judy Kay-Wolff

The First Fifty Years of the WBF (Part III)

I spent today reading the last 135 pages of  the above chronicle.  It continued the tributes (with photographs) of many of the most influential world renown bridge figures and their contributions to universal bridge – including perhaps the most active and energetic of all – Jose Damiani (President from 1994-2010!!!) – in multi-faceted roles.  Also revered were Harold Franklin, probably best known as Chief Tournament Director for the English Bridge Union for over twenty years as well as Chief Tournament Director of the European Bridge League and The WBF; Australian Denis Howard who served as WBF President from 1986-91 and even acted as interim CEO for the ACBL in its time of need; Brazilian Ernesto d’Orsi, a charming likeable fellow, whose term was 1991-92; Gianarrigo Rona, born in Rome (presently WBF President); American Dick Goldberg who served on the WBF Executive Council and held other high positions with them until his retirement in 1990; and Bobby Wolff whose term was from 1992-1994 – a winner of eleven world championships and a crusader to clean up the game and get bridge into the schools!  The details of their individual involvements are spelled out in detail on separate pages or special chapters — specifically dedicated to their achievements.

Also covered was the ugly South African Apartheid issue (as well as Israel’s problems of acceptance by some) but thankfully by this time has been ironed out.  Mr. Patino also touches on the many managerial problems, financial issues and sponsors needed to help pay the bills of the WBF functions now being held all over the globe;  the 1986 recognition of Bridge in the Guinness Book of Records; the development of “youth” bridge; the HUM (a Highly Unusual Method)  which means any system that exhibits unusual partnership agreement — often used to confuse the opponents (what Edgar Kaplan amusingly referred to as PUS .. a Particularly Unusual System – tantamount to HUM); the development of a special WBF Convention Card which each partnership was required to have at the table; the introduction of Bridge as a mind sport because of the persistence of Mr. Damiani as a promoter and his expertise in the advertising business; and last but not least the many political upheavals amongst the administrators of the WBF who did not view several issues in the same light.

Why listen to me banter on and on??  Do yourself a favor.   When the book is available, treat yourself to a copy.   As Jimmy Patino described it, it is “An Anecdotal History Compiled by its Presidents” .. and I might add – well worth reading!


ChuckSeptember 28th, 2012 at 5:10 pm

That’s a lot to digest but sounds like a real labor of love! Do they go into detail about the Burgay Tapes? And — what about Egypt refusing to play against Israel in Deauville?

bobby wolffSeptember 28th, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Hi Chuck,

For obvious reasons, some of the detail about the Burgay Tapes were somewhat sketchy. The probable most interesting omission is those tapes were verified as authentic by no less an organization than the USA’s, CIA.

Thirty six years later, Leandro Burgay, a very successful business man in Italy, is still around competing fiercely in the world’s senior events.

Five years ago (2007) in Shanghai, China I heard the whole story from him which would, at least to me, make for an interesting cloak and dagger movie, with many dangerous adventures for him trying to evade retribution from his Italian loyalists.

For many World Championships, a number of Middle East countries were denied the right to play against Israel by their governments and had to forfeit (0 victory points for them, while Israel earned only an average or no more than their final percentage number).

To make that political move even more ridiculous (at least to some of us present) was that the players from all teams involved were best friends, socialized together at the tournaments and vitally discussed partnership system improvements of those current days.

For what it is worth, Omar Sharif, sometimes representing Egypt as a player and other times serving as a vital View-graph commentator, played a large part in trying to overcome the political strictures and was always a positive force for peace, especially for the great game of bridge.

For what it is worth this was also true, but not to as large an extent, with Taiwan and Mainland China, whose governments also played a part in their activities (China did not want the Taiwanese flag displayed and wanted their country to be called Chinese Taipei), but stopped short of forbidding those two countries from playing against each other.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 28th, 2012 at 6:16 pm


Funny you should mention Israel and Egypt in Deauville as I happened to be there and well remember the afternoon they were scheduled to face each other. The word around town was that the Egyptians received a message from Nasser not to play, so Egypt withdrew. However, what was not known was that Omar hosted the Egyptians in his suite for lunch and played rubber bridge the whole afternoon.

I got to know Omar Sharif in the early 70s when ‘The Circus” came to The Drake Hotel in Philly. I was helping the Chairman, Bob Jordan, organize it as he was on a bridge trip to Australia — not to return home until a day or two before the Circus and Aces came to town.

Norman and I also hosted a private dinner for Omar and his team at a nearby restaurant and I have never met a more humble celebrity (both for his movie and bridge credits). He was somethin’ else!

You brought back wonderful memories!

JaneSeptember 29th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I will get this book to broaden my bridge horizons. Thanks for taking the time to wet our appetites. Inquiring minds want to know.

When is Bobby’s next book coming out? I know, you may have to tie him to the computer and stand over him with a whip to get this done, but he still has so much more to share, I believe.

Gary MugfordSeptember 29th, 2012 at 4:39 pm


A bit of added background to the China-Taipei issue. Back in 1981 I was with the Canadian Junior Women’s team at the inaugural World Junior Fast Pitch Softball Championships in Edmonton, Canada. (I was there as a journalist, but I’d coached about half the kids on the team at various clinics over the years and was still coaching at the time). During time off, I spent most of my time doing TV broadcasts or stadium announcing.

As it turns out, I was on the mike when China and Chinese Taipei played in the preliminary round. It was billed as the first time two teams from the countries had ever played under their own flags. It had been preceded by some singles table tennis competition between the two countries. I believe the official Chinese sanctions had been lifted about eight months earlier.

One of the writers from a local Edmonton paper was going to play up the ‘first’ for the weekend edition. But I cautioned him to do some research. I was sure the two countries had met in Bridge events, even during the so-called embargo by the mainland Chinese. As it turns out, there HAD been at least one event, in 1978 I believe, where the flags had flown … as patches on uniforms. And, as I had reminded the writer, Bridge is a sport. So said Sports Illustrated.

The article never appeared.

Now, I did not do any of the research. The writer from Edmonton did. So I can’t vouch for his findings. But sad as it was, I couldn’t claim to be the announcer at the first China-Taipei team competition. Oh well.

Hard to believe political embargoes are still going on in sports, even to this day. But nasty habits are hard to break.


Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 29th, 2012 at 5:28 pm


Thanks for your comments. Don’t hold your breath till Bobby’s (next?) book comes out. However, you are so right about the many stories, incidents and eye-witness accounts which would be nice to share with the public — but another book is not in the foreseeable future. His mind is incredible and his prowess at the bridge table has not faltered — despite his approaching 80 next month. The Lone Wolff was very time consuming and tedious in the writing and editing and it took so much out of us, so we will have to content ourselves that it finally got on the shelves and was very popular. By the way, you may remember that I found the abandoned manuscript on a dusty shelf in Dallas when we first married. It was two-thirds completed but he sort of lost his zest to finish it. NO WAY. I edited what had been written and moved forward from there. It took another few years to get it off to Master Point Press — a very good move.



bobby wolffSeptember 30th, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Hi Gary,

I love your story on the first (or almost) official competition between China and what I remember as Formosa, but now, and for a long time, the beautiful country of Taiwan.

After visiting China (bridge tournaments) several times in the last ten years I am utterly amazed at the physical improvements apparent as well as the young (or at least it seems to me) Chinese are so friendly and well dressed as opposed to what it was as late as the middle nineteen eighties. Add in the modern 100 story skyscrapers adorning the sky in especially Shanghai and there is no doubt that a new World Power is arising. The avenues in both Beijing and Shanghai now look like Paris.

Since the motto of the WBF is “Bridge for Peace” let us all hope that China, and for that matter all of Asia, will be among the leaders in showing off their significant, powerful, and creative culture to all the world’s advantage.

David PorissOctober 10th, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Judy, Please contact me at my e-mail address (note the real spelling of my name is NOT the same as the one in my e-mail address). FYI we have met several times. I used to be the bridge bookseller in the North East for 22 years.

Chafika Tak-TakJanuary 6th, 2013 at 7:34 am

C’est très intéressant, peut-on trouver les livres de Bobby Wolf en français?