Judy Kay-Wolff


It is distressing for me to continue hearing bright, but unobjective and biased, individuals fallaciously sing the praises of players, directors and even appeals personnel.  

Perhaps I am a ‘tough sell” because all of my adult life I have been surrounded by top players and my expectations are higher because I’ve been exposed to, shall we say, the real thing.   Just because individuals have attained the five, ten or fifteen thousand master point plateau, does that make them an expert?  Hell No!  Many bridge players have been playing for eons and it is wonderful they receive so much joy from the game and have been so recognized.  I applaud the pleasure derived.  But – accept masterpoints for what they are! Amassing them is one of the satisfying rewards achieved for loving the game and by frequenting duplicates, sectionals, regionals and nationals ad infinitem, paying a pro — or even assuming the role of one!   Everything is not necessarily what meets the eye.  Nowadays active participants receive scads of MPs at duplicates which is more indicative of an attendance record as they have upped the ante by even rewarding under average performances – just to attract them to the game.  Points in themselves do not experts make.  People can and do improve, but true expertise is an inherent quality which few experience (yours truly included).   I am not pooh-poohing masterpoints.   Just accept them for what they are!

Being a certified director or appeals committee member does not necessarily mean that he or she understands the finer points of the game, what determines equity or justice or what is deserving of punishment.  Perhaps they improve with age and sometimes not.  No effort has been made by the League to further improve their educational and developmental processes and unless an individual makes a concerted effort on his or her own, the status quo will remain.  From my own personal experience and following recent “bridge court” cases, I don’t buy it when I am told … “Of course, they are qualified they have been certified directors or serving on appeals committees for twenty years.”  Understand, there are several for whom I have the utmost respect and are worthy of stellar recognition.  However, length of service itself does not necessarily qualify them to make far reaching decisions.  Some are sensational.   Others lackluster.  I just think it is time we were more discrete in our classification and not jump to snap decisions of one’s worth or excellence especially in the expert realm (understanding the highest level game, the psychology of playing at the top strata against the best in the world, dealing with the mind games played against you by one’s peers – as well as the traps which are set and then executed by very clever bridge thinkers).  In addition, those in critical decision making roles must understand the necessity for high level ethics and yet recognize and acknowledge the various ways in which they may be breached.

Summing it up, excellence is not determined by number of sessions played, points garnered or time served.  Let’s call a spade a spade.


JodyApril 9th, 2013 at 8:14 pm

You mean directors don’t have inservice training? An old saying, you don’t know anything if your job depends on not knowing anything. No boat rocking, decide on the side of the least powerful.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 10th, 2013 at 2:01 am

Hi Jody:

Very philosophical!

RENEApril 10th, 2013 at 2:03 am

I appreciate your candor, Judy. There is much truth in what you say — but most people go along with the flow and don’t want to make waves.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 10th, 2013 at 2:11 am


I am not “most people” and I don’t like camouflage. “Yes men” are not my thing. There is a lot of room for improvement — but you first have to acknowledge that there is a problem. Bobby used to call it “the good ole’ boys club” where everyone covers everybody else’s back.

Steven GaynorApril 10th, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I would not say the league has made no effort to improve director and committee performance. The mere existence of the NABC casebooks and the commentaries on the decisions have been very informative in providing how the expert and non-expert brain thinks and also how to properly handle an appeal. I read all of them and they have helped me be a better appeals committee member for my local area tournaments.

Still, I agree with you that it appears no formal process in in place to identify what constitutes UI, MI, breaks in tempo, etc., so an appeals committee has some firm ground for their decisions.

For instance, a quick bid over a skip can be as telling as a prolonged hesitation and should be punished in a similar manner.

While every case needs to be discussed on its’ own merits, there can still be guidelines and procedure to be followed before you get to the sticky points. It looks like recent actions are following those more often, but still I feel a lot of the controversies that occur are avoidable.

Perhaps we need a smaller, but well trained and compensated appeals committee especially at the highest levels. Studying former cases, discussing general issues with knowledgeable people, and establishing precedents will give us an improving process.

John Howard GibsonApril 10th, 2013 at 5:28 pm

HBJ : The problem is and always will be people’s inability to step out of the shoes of who they are and into the shoes of the ” truly reasonable man or woman”….the blessed individual who can look at issues with a completely open mind, be free from prejudice and bias, always prepared to allow common sense to prevail over raw emotion and passion, and possessing an ability to make sound judgements on the facts made available at the time. The caveat being that if the facts are few, questionable or in dispute sound judgements will always be qualified and provisional.
The tragedy is that people who are aware of their limitations rarely put themselves forward to be judges of any kind, whereas those who remain in self-denial about their failings are so often the power crazed individuals who seek positions of power and authority.

bobbywolffApril 10th, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Hi JHG aka HBJ,

Solving the dilemma of the tragedy spoken about in your last paragraph above would be, of course, the keys to the universe.

However, God which created men and women, did not restrict them to only positive constructive efforts and by not so doing, while making life on earth a much more interesting experience, also established a means in which human beings may constantly improve themselves by thinking and then acting in the way that you suggest.

Whichever way we choose to look at what we are left with, should cause rational and responsible people to seek higher ground by paying homage to the cherished gift of life. By at least attempting to eventually leave this planet with the off the charts feeling of having contributed to making life on earth a better place for those to come, we will, regardless of what we have or have not accomplished while we are here, have in actuality, positively responded to this enormous challenge.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 10th, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Hi Steven:

Your input makes a lot of sense. Most people would not touch this subject with a ten foot pole for fear of antagonizing the people directly or indirectly targeted.

I believe what you stated about reading the ACBL Casebooks and how they have helped you at local tournaments.

First, let me reiterate (for the umpteenth time) my dismaying entanglement with the League and their so-called equitable decisions which emerged from a holier-than-thou committee. Their upholding of a preposterous director ruling could not be overturned (by law, they professed) but the AWMW was reversed sixteen months later.

Believe me, Steve, I know all about ACBL Casebooks. When my infamous appeal occurred some five or so years ago, their rulings were so outlandish and made public by my keeping the public abreast of the outrageous procedures, that the “power-that-was” (whose name I shall not mention) saw fit that my case ‘mysteriously disappeared’ from the published version (the last one to be printed — to my knowledge). In fact, they had decided to discontinue the Casebook exposure to the public in writing and resorted to the internet — but nothing in tangible form to preserve for future viewers.

Secondly, though many good players appear and compete at the local tournament level, the probability of world class experts appearing and the need to understand their rationale for doing what they do best is not quite the same as at the National or International Level (as so many foreign professional teams enter the fray as witnessed by the St. Louis Nationals). The Vanderbilt was a star studded event though it became infamous by the Committee’s controversial timing and handling leading to what I consider a ‘tainted’ victory.

As you so aptly point out, probably one of the most common and heinous unethical practices is the speedy or slow pass over a skip bid. When confronted, many will state they did not know they were supposed to wait the suggested ten seconds before making a call. Toughies! If they were unaware of the purpose of the SKIP BID, IT IS HIGH TIME THEY LEARNED!

And yes, I agree that many of the controversies that occur ARE unavoidable. But — why is that? The answer is perhaps players have a responsibility to learn the do’s and don’ts of proper ethics at the table. Until they do, their opponents have a right to protect themselves.

Steve, your last point was so well taken!!! Maybe we are living in a dream world, but your last paragraph says it all: “Perhaps we need a similar well trained and compensated appeals committee especially at the highest level. Studying former cases, discussing general issues with knowledgeable people, and establishing precedents will give us an improving process.” AND BOY, DO WE NEED ONE!

Thanks again for your effort to point us in the right direction.


Judy Kay-WolffApril 10th, 2013 at 10:30 pm


Your analogy is true but frightening. I believe the game of bridge (because of its countless nuances and stumbling blocks) has made all of its participants extremely competitive human beings. That is not all bad as it offers a goal for which to strive. ‘Tis not until one has stepped back (and believe me I was forced to do so after marriages to both Norman and Bobby) to objectively assess one’s own talents (or lack of them) and accept his or her god-given limitations — acknowledging the boundaries of success. Realism is a difficult task master but it does offer direction in life (and bridge)!

I always love hearing from you. However, it is amazingly difficult for me to fathom how you switch from the “serious humorist” in your own blog site (Bizarre World of Bridge) to the straightforward, sincere, conscientious, constructive bridge lover and writer that deep down — you really are! My own true chameleon!



EllisApril 11th, 2013 at 4:01 am

Dear Judy,
For far too many reasons to go into I have given this subject a lot of thought.
For sure excellence is not determined by master points, and excellence in the realm of directing is often elusive to say the least. I have been fortunate in my bridge travels to play in games directed by the likes of Di Sacco and Kooijman and as far as directing is concerned they outshine our crop of Acbl head directors, on the other hand the ACBL organizational ability is second to none. So it seems both sets of directors and staff have what to learn from each other.
As a humorous appeals aside, it so happens I was involved in an appeal at the last nationals, on day 2 of the mixed pairs. The director having done his due diligence told the committee he had polled 3 players from the Vanderbilt , at which point my opponent looked at the committee beseechingly and said the he appreciated the respect given but would it not have been better to poll his peers?
I truly believe that most of our Directors at the top level are interested in giving the best service they can, I also believe our committee members believe they are doing good service, pointing out errors needs to be done in a manner which improves our game without causing undue conflict.
Yes there are some that are simply not good enough but in the main they do an often thankless job pretty well.

Gary MugfordApril 11th, 2013 at 5:45 pm


I have detailed in comments here in the past the day I discovered, for sure, that masterpoints and expertise are, at best, poor relations, if sharing any blood at all. The more you play, the more you come to that realization.

That said, MP’s are a starting point for a discussion. WB Ranking Points similarly when you talk about a completely different tier. Fair enough, if one doesn’t slavishly give ranking by points anything more than a nod. Agreed?

Okay, let’s move on to directors and appeals committees. Haven’t met the perfect director yet and haven’t enjoyed any appeals committee I was part of or that I appeared in front of. And those appearances were NEVER before a panel of my peers. I was always the most inexperienced person in the room … which tells you all that I need to tell you about the process. Won more often than I lost, but it was (literally) gut-wrenching each time.

I’ve known a lot of directors I liked and respected a lot who wouldn’t meet your standards. They were flawed. Some, because the liked me. Some because they promoted the social aspects of club Bridge over the ethics of the game. Some because they didn’t have the ambition to be world class. Not a crime in the lot, but like I said, they were just not that into it, to borrow a mangled phrase from the Sex in the City writers.

A couple of directors had immense effect on my continuing participation in the game. The key one was Richard Raymond who died way too young. He was directing a team game at the local club back in my high school days. My teenage partner and I had, more or less, been tossed onto a team with the club haridan and her scarecrow flunkie partner. I was actually excited, given that our ‘teammates’ had actually won regular games at the club the previous two weeks. Well, we managed to lose six straight, leading to a showdown for last place in the final round. My partner and I had had a good day. Said haridan and partner had not played well. But we had earned our defeats as a team. In that final round, my partner and I managed two big swings by bidding and making a slam and a vulnerable game, but lost to four telephone numbers our teammates brought back to the table. Then, the haridan capped a totally miserable evening by APOLOGIZING to her partner for picking the not-yet-ready kids to play with. I was incensed. My trigger-quick temper came into play and I slammed my scorecard on the table and promised never to show up at the club ever again. Raymond watched the whole last round and knew we’d carried the water, the other half of the team was totally responsible for the last loss, if not more than one loss that night. He grabbed me, marched me back to the table and ordered the haridan to apologize on the spot for her comment and for her play. She sputtered for a bit before being convinced by a really mad director that to do otherwise would get her barred. She apologized. And I spent the next decade beating her badly every time we played against her.

I tell this story not because it’s unique. I’ll bet lots of directors did something similar for younger players all over the world. But, in MY estimation, Richard was the director who saved my Bridge career. Did I eventually find out he’d make a mistake or two, fairly regularly? Sure. But on the whole he nurtured me and he nurtured others. How could he do BETTER than that and be the same kind of guy directing at local clubs that he was? I don’t think he could have been better and I couldn’t have had a better director at that formative stage in my life.

We all look at officials through the prism of our own successes and failures. I’ve not mentioned the HQ people during the time I spent with the ACBL. I had short-term success and couldn’t maintain it because of my own lack of social skills. By your rules, I was a failure because I couldn’t cope. By my rating, it was the ACBL who failed me. But I met GOOD people, heck GREAT people in my three shots at making my position work. And I met jerks and incompetents and hide-bound traditionalists who revolted at change in some nasty ways.

Do I expect performances at the level you have had the luck to witness in person? Nope. I wasn’t at that level myself. Not as a player, not as a PR person and manager. So I cut people some more slack than you do because my experiences are more varied. That’s not to dispute your right to expect and want to continue having the good luck to get the best in play, officiating and administering.

Keep striving for the best. it’s a noble goal as long as you never lose sight of the fact that is a goal, not a destination in your rear-view mirror.

‘Course, that’s just a view from the cheap seats on the sideline [G].

Judy Kay-WolffApril 11th, 2013 at 6:19 pm


A lot of what you say is realistic but I cannot agree with you entirely.

When you allude to directors, I expect them to be competently trained which is a factor I observe to be sadly lacking. And, I don’t have a lot of compassion for them as they certainly are not overworked — and receiving very decent salaries — especially in this economy where people are struggling to get jobs. They are not like the directors of old who did EVERYTHING manually — entering the names, having to pick up the slips after every round, entering the scores, tabulating the totals and so on. Today they use the Bridge Mates (where the patron has to enter his or her ACBL number) and except for checking periodically to make sure a score is not put on the wrong side, they don’t have much responsibility other than making rulings. I think that is little enough to expect of them.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 11th, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Hi Gary:

Just loved your “harridan” story and delighted to learn that in due time justice was served. No doubt in my mind Richard did absolutely the right thing by making her eat crow. To me it would be mandatory for a director to take such a stance and set an example for others who might be leaning in that direction. People like that should be stopped at the starting gate so that their goals never come to fruition.

As far as the ACBL — it is only the directing and appeals policies that irk me. Please — do not misunderstand me. There were and are several marvelous, industrious, conscientious and caring people first in Greenwich, then Memphis and now Horn Lake with whom I enjoyed (and still enjoy) wonderful friendships. I just feel that more attention should be paid to the two divisions mentioned as there is much need for improvement. I am not alone in my thinking.

Thanks for giving me a good laugh!


Gary MugfordApril 12th, 2013 at 2:04 am


In my long-winded posting, I was trying to paint a picture of people who’ve ALWAYS had a wide variety of competency while interacting with other players, directors and administrators. In ‘our’ (That’s the royal ‘our’) experience, top quality is elusive. We have learned to accept and to cope.

Your experience has been different. Although you HAVE met with incompetency (say a running multi=year appeal saga), it’s been rare enough that you seek more perfection from the two departments in question. Why not? You KNOW things can be better. And you campaign vigorously for it, while the great unwashed masses generally just accept what is the norm now. Which is mostly competent.

You SEE a fixable problem where ‘we’ (back to using royal labels) see the way things are is always going to be and we just hope the next time the system doesn’t work, it’s somebody else getting the shaft.

So please, don’t get too frustrated when the sheep don’t rise up and turn on the shepherds who let the wolves into the pack. It’s really not personal.

And I apoiogize for dragging the HQ into this discussion. After all, it was the group who I tangled with to the least satisfactory degree within the game. Well, them and a recently deceased figure from the international game. And they are the ones who, in the end, must bear the responsibility for the state of the game. And as good as people have been at HQ, and you know I loved Henry and Sue and Charlie and, well, it’s a longer list than you have space for here. But Bridge is where it’s at because the administrations of the past (can’t speak against the current group, not being a member any more) guided us here. And that includes the flaws in the two departments of which you rail against.

All that said, you didn’t indict them at all in your post or your replies to remarks. I apologize for throwing the blanket a little higher in the air.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 12th, 2013 at 3:10 am

Hi again Gary:

You have nothing for which to apologize. We look at things differently and I have always taken the position — hitch your wagon to a star. If we can improve the present situation — why not? Players have to learn to play by the rules and directors and appeals committees have to be knowledgeable enough to make equitable rulings (on a consistent basis). I do not think that is too much to hope for.

Optimistically yours,