Judy Kay-Wolff


When I came into the bridge world, it seems like every time I turned a corner I ran into a well-respected top ranked expert – not only at the Nationals – but in The Big Apple as well.   I can indelibly remember the stars of my generation — Howard Schenken,  Alvin Roth, Tobias Stone, Sidney Silodor, Helen Sobel, Johnny Crawford, Lee Hazen, Harry Fishbein, Johnny Gerber, Edith Kemp, George Rapee, Peter Pender,  Harry Harkavy, Ozzie Jacoby, Edgar and Norman – just to name a few.  Forgive my missing other obvious ones which belonged in that category – but these came off the top of my head or more appropriately, the tip of my fingers.  Paul Soloway would be of more recent vintage.  A handful of the oldtimers remain … Eddie Kantar, Chip Martel, Lew Stansby, Billy Rosen, Sidney Lazard, Kit Woolsey, Peter Weichsel, Richard Pavlicek, Bob Hamman, Ivar Stakgold, Sami Kehela, Eric Murrray and of course, my incredible Bobby, who recently reached the tender age of 80, but hasn’t missed a beat. 

In the latter group, few are still active at the table, some have ventured out in different directions such as writing, cruising or teaching and others enjoy the relaxation of semi-retirement or occasional appearances.  However, they still have all their marbles – and represent what I consider the elegant days of the game.  When I came upon the scene, few had succumbed to professional bridge, playing with sponsors.  In my mind, they represented the very essence of bridge.  The “arranged teams” were composed of all top players, with no sponsors, such as The Precision Team created  by C. C. Wei and The Dallas Aces, the brainchild of Ira Corn.

I read recently of the deaths of some of the other respected heroes of the past  .. Grant Baze, Kyle Larsen,  Marshall Miles and just the other day – discovered that my good friend, Lenny Harmon, had joined the group.

I miss those days of yore.  From my prospective, the game is no longer the one to which I was first introduced and I am saddened by the loss of its majesty and splendor.   They don’t make them like they used to!


Another OldtimerMarch 13th, 2013 at 9:45 pm


Thanks for the memories.

I probably started playing a couple years after you, but just about all of the names are familiar though sadly so many of them are gone. I remember Norman fondly reminiscing about those with whom he had either played or teamed up. Going from table to table at the tournaments in New York was like a Who’s Who. I always looked forward to those sectionals and regionals — and especially the great dining places there, even the delis and diners. We thought their prices were high then — would hate to see them now. It seems like a lifetime ago — and actually is!

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 13th, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Hi Oldtimer:

You are giving away your age, but the alternative is worse. It seems like just yesterday and I can still envision many of Norman’s cronies and contemporaries. They were warm, friendly and unassuming. I suppose when you attain such heights, your ego doesn’t need bolstering.

It was a wonderfully fascinating period of my life to rub shoulders with “the greatest.” Perhaps I was not old enough or experienced enough to really appreciate their prowess but it was always fun to be in their company. The older ones took Norman under their wing and he blossomed into a full-fledged star himself while in his late twenties. We kept in touch with many of them through the years.

Georgiana GatesMarch 14th, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I don’t think you can include Chip Martel as an “old-timer”. I remember that you once commented that you and Betsy (Wolff) Lazard had been married to two Hall-of-Fame players. Then you added that Joanna (Lawrence) Stansby and Jan (Stansby) Martel were also in that category, except that Mike Lawrence had requested to not be on the HOF ballot, and Chip was “too young” for the HOF.

I certainly think that Chip deserves to be in this group based upon his bridge skill – I just don’t think he’s old enough to be an old-timer.

John Howard GibsonMarch 14th, 2013 at 4:56 pm

HBJ : Yes, I feel that the stories about these great players will never be surpassed by those dominating the game today.
They seemed to possess magic, charm, and wit to complement their immense card playing skills. Throw in a little bit of eccentricity and eloquence and you characters really worth reading about.

Bill CubleyMarch 14th, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I played with Kyle in a pro am many years ago but I still remember one hand that I got 7 1/2 on with a 12 top.

1NT – p – 2D – x -2h swish.

I held up an obvious singleton lead of the queen of diamonds and got a finesses into an AQ on a the forced switch. I held 97 of hearts with AJ864 in dummy. Led the 7 of hearts and paused when LHO quickly played low, thought and ducked in dummy picking up the stiff 5 from Grant Baze.

Kyle said “Nice play.” Grant said, “He’s playing the Hell out of this hand!” We all get a compliment at trick 13, but I nearly blew the hand at trick 3 after receiving the compliment.

A few years later the hand got published in the Jerusalem Post by Matt Granovetter. Don’t remember the other hand where we got a top.

It was quite a memorable night in 1992 with a couple of HOFers. They always played with great talent and greater courtesy to humbler opps like me.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 14th, 2013 at 6:45 pm


I think of Chip as an old timer as he has been around so long and has won so much. He was born in 1953, so he’s not a babe in arms though admittedly not as old as most of his active peers. I certainly don’t consider him in the new whipper snapper category — but as a solid, stable player with countless scalps on the wall.

Nice hearing from you.



Judy Kay-WolffMarch 14th, 2013 at 6:51 pm


Yes, we share the memories of old and the history of their times. It doesn’t seem like the same bridge world — in many ways. The Johnny-come-latelies I am sure have, in most cases, tremendous talent, but they have not reached their peak yet. My blog refers to those who have made a mark on the game and have proven it over several decades. One or two swallows doesn’t make a summer.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 14th, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Hi Bill:

Yes, it is very rewarding to receive flattering words from the big boys .. something you will treasure — and always remember. Bobby (as Norman) always complimented his adversaries if the occasion arose. It is a nice thing to do — but not everyone looks at it that way.

Steven GaynorMarch 25th, 2013 at 5:30 pm

In the bible, Genesis, chapter 6 verse 2 mentions the ‘Nephilim’ loosely translated as ‘giants’ and also mentions men of reknown. To me, the names above are the Nephilim of bridge, the giants and men (and women) of reknown. What a pleasure it would be to find oneself in a tournament facing these folks! We pay big $$ to watch pros in other sports to play, but in bridge not only do we get to watch them play but WE can be their opposition! And, every once in a while, we actually can achieve a good result!

In the long run the current stars may mop the floor with us, but those plus results, few and far between as they may be will be cherished and their tales retold at our local clubs for years.

Happy Pesach!

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 25th, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Yes, Steve, the one good result we may attain makes up for the many times we have gotten mopped up by the experts. It is all part of the bridge experience. I was just a beginner in the (what I call) the Days of Yore — so I was mostly present as a kibitzer. It was an incomparable learning experience Of course, I am in a unique position (having two world class players as spouses) so it does take a toll on one’s ego!

Happy Pesach to you too!