Judy Kay-Wolff

Will Convention Disruption Ever End?

My deep rooted suspicions are — IT WILL NOT! Why, you ask???? Because the people at the helm are either too lazy or too selfish to do anything about it. Bobby doesn’t suggest that misinformed (uninjured) persons be awarded windfall scores they do not deserve (as is the case below) but the miscreants who bastardized the auction should have a “reasonable” number of points subtracted from their score on that board. He suggests the scores remain the way the results reflected. However, people who play systems they forget (even if they are not themselves injured – or even gain by their “forgets”) should be penalized. It may be an incentive to refrain from playing systems they can’t remember or don’t understand or fail to recognize when they arise.

Here is a recent hand. The bidding: South opened a light 1 hand and (believe it or not — West Passed); North responded 1 and East bid 1NT. When asked what it meant, West explained it was for the two unbid suits (hearts and clubs) — corroborated by their convention card. Despite South’s club holding (AKQX), she passed and West bid a meager 2 to end the auction. The Director was called and made, I believe at the present (and in effect for a long time) — the right ruling — but that is immaterial.

True they missed a game so NS was not injured (and actually gained) because of the passive bidding by West causing them not to find their game. Perhaps justice triumphed due to ineptness or inexperience — but that is not the answer. When you play conventions (well recognized or home brewed), you should understand them and their purpose, remember them (or course), and have your partner alert (when required). Believe me, the embarrassed lady felt awful when she laid down her dummy as her bid did not reflect what the opponents were led to believe. Incidentally, they were a married couple and no doubt it was not the first time they had played together.

The hands:


No one can deny that the less Convention Disruption occurs – the better our wonderful game!!

How do you feel about the subject? In this case the innocent parties were not injured — but how about the next time? and the next? and the next???


Howard Bigot-JohnsonJune 28th, 2013 at 6:06 pm

HBJ : Personally, I would be very suspicious of West. With partner supposedly holding hearts and clubs ( possibly better than 4-4 ) and West now knows they have an excellent DOUBLE FIT…… and with Aces in both the opponents’ bid suits, GAME SHOULD BE ENVISAGED and explored.

The fact that 2H was tentatively bid, and subsequently passed, suggests that West knew the 1NT overcall was dodgy ?

” Shocking ” is all have to say…..and I would be watching those two like a hawk if I was ever to encounter them again.

Richard KendallJune 28th, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Judy- while I am in 99% agreement with 99% of your (and bobby’s) historical comments here related to all things, but in particular to comments related to committee rulings, this one seems somewhat”out of place.”
Now, I will be the first one to consider I may have missed something in the presentation. That being said, and without trying to defend East or West, it seems the actions of the “offending” side should not have provoked the intensity of the response you have made.
East has no “obvious” call over a 1D opening. Granted I would probaby risk bidding 1H rather than pass. But, I would pass before I made a TOD.
West errored clearly, with the 2 suit take-out.
Maybe their agreements were that 1nt is garbage(ish).
If so, West should not consider a game is a possibility, AND given his spade holding should be reasonably comfortable his opps have at least a nine card fit.
Competitive auctions these days, especially w/in the matchpoint realm offer many roads down which partnerships may travel. West’s 2H bid may well have been an attempt to “walk the dog”, hoping maybe to buy it cheap for 3Hx later, of he may have had aspirations of getting them to 4S, when he might take a shot at a penalty double.
Just saying, this example shouldnt “mark” West as one who knew of the error committed by partner and bid something he wouldnt have bid otherwise with the “UI”
There are many levels competence in this “field” game we play, we cannot demand that all be as diligent as we profess to be with our agreements…accidents happen.
Just the other day I made a pre-emptive raise of a major opening with a partner who plays only limit raises..sigh.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 29th, 2013 at 12:47 am


I really don’t think they were seasoned bridge players because if they were, I agree with you West would have made a giant leap of faith with all his controls and bid a heart game.

The situation just reminded me to write this blog as I see so much of it in the “big bridge world” outside the duplicates and Bobby just feels so strongly that until measures are taken to make people aware of these disruptive practices, the game will continue on a downhill pursuit (as evidenced by some recent embarrassing rulings that caught the attention of the universal bridge world).

All I ask is that people understand, remember and alert any out-of-the ordinary treatments. I don’t think that is too demanding to expect.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 29th, 2013 at 1:49 am

Hi Richard:

I understand your position and respect your feelings though I do not agree. I am glad you enjoy some of my blogs though you are in opposition to others.

It was not so much what happened the other day — but the continuing “forgets” both in bidding and incorrect explanations which are commonplace — especially in the duplicate world. These were nice people and certainly did not deliberately try to hurt anyone. East just got mixed up about what the bid meant and West was not talented enough (in my opinion) to realize the worth of three aces and having what appeared to be a double fit. The whole incident was just a REMINDER of the frequency of misbids and relaying incorrect information to the enemy. This time, it would have worked to their advantage — but they did not cash in on it.

The situation just served as one more reminder of it’s existence in tournaments and nationals. There must be a way to stop it. Perhaps if penalties are assessed, the villains will think twice about what a bid means and either use it correctly or eradicate it from their card.

Furthermore, I am not suggesting that West suspected his partner made an incorrect call. I just think he didn’t evaluate his hand properly. I wouldn’t worry about the “walking the dog” concept. I would be more concerned about missing a makeable game holding three aces (two in the outside suits in which partner suggests being short) and as you cited — a double fit which bodes well in East-West’s favor.

Also when you make a call that represents your having a suit you do not hold, it may prevent your opponents from reaching their normal fit (as in the case of North-South’s 4/4 club fit) but it mattered not in this particular hand. However, it could deter opponents by misleading them with misbids. That is why Convention Disruption is so terrible because it totally distorts the game.

And, you further allude to committees. Bobby and I have both had our share of Committees. The “Oh, Shit” ruling will be hard to top as going down in the bridge annals as the worst, most erroneous appeal decision ever handed down and will live in infamy as long as people can spell B-R-I-D-G-E! I had my own ax to grind and after sixteen months of fighting the ACBL, a special committee backed down and reversed an uncalled for, horrendous, ridiculous AWMW (Award Without Merit Warning). And, we haven’t even addressed the recent one from the Trials which will be long remembered. My suggestion — either change some of the irrational laws or upgrade some (not all) of the committee members.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonJune 29th, 2013 at 1:02 pm

HBJ : Given that West knew that the system card bid showed a club/heart two-suiter, but unsure of her partner’s overall shape and length, an invitational 3H would have sufficed. Cue bids in one of the opponent’s suits was also a good alternative.
The only reasons for bidding a LIMP 2 hearts are a deep mistrust of her partner’s bidding, an unauthorised understanding of how light partner’s overcalls can be, or a complete inability to make sensible bids herself.
Even if East cocked up big time and forgot the convention, it is West who has the more serious questions to answer.

Bobby WolffJune 29th, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Hi Richard,

While I certainly respect and appreciate your feelings about the “overkill” (intensity) you feel about Judy’s disdain and horror for convention disruption (CD), I will appreciate your attention in what I consider the proper way to understand the implications.

Many years ago (I believe 1958) Charles Goren’s face (bridge’s deserved poster boy) appeared on the cover of Time magazine, heralding the popularity of bridge at that time with either that article or other reliable sources estimating close to 40 million people in North America playing some form of bridge on a more or less regular basis. At that time there were perhaps close to 150,000 players who were members of the tournament division of ACBL.

Today, while the ACBL, although the continent’s population has steadily increased, perhaps doubling since those 55 years past, the bridge population (rubber and tournament) has thought to have dropped to closer to slightly over 8 million, close to an 80% decline.

The reasons given for that significant decrease have ranged from the advent of TV on a regular basis, the Viet Nam war which caused, among other disdain, the failure of our children to follow in their parent’s footsteps for leisure activities, and the normal departure, with so many other options available of very few weekly neighborhood games where adults got together socially (my parents played 2 or 3 times a week regularly during the 1930’s-40’s at houses on my block in San Antonio, Texas) and the many various options which have become available to young people to occupy their time.

In any event, and at this present time, our continent, without bridge in the primary and secondary schools, like it is in a number of countries in Europe and all of China (200 million students learning and playing bridge on a daily basis) is, unfortunately (at least as far as I am concerned, particularly because of the rave notices it is getting in other countries amongst their young people while learning) causing this significant lack of interest in our great game which teaches, problem solving, numeracy, legal partnership communication involving proper ethical disclosure to interested opponents, social intercourse, and above all, transferable logic, used in almost every facet of adult life, in making judgmental decisions, based on the evidence and facts present.

Now, let us cut to the chase. Since 8 million to 160,000 is about is about 50 to 1, for every tournament player there are still about 50 social bridge players, many of whom are playing in retirement communities, churches, synagogues, mosques, homes (kitchen bridge), community centers or wherever people get together to socialize and hopefully have fun.

For that fun loving and relaxed society, most games are very informal with both the friendship atmosphere, general talk and gossip alike weighing equally in importance to the game itself.

However enter the ACBL (at least in North America) and its tournaments where there is a more serious atmosphere with stricter rules in place and supposedly enforced by the tournament directors (TDs) with appeals sometimes allowed for players dissatisfied with the TD decision.

Without making this tome way too long, let me only refer to Judy’s well covered recent posts describing CD and its horrors. For experienced bridge players, ranging from the very best down to beginning novices, when CD occurs, bridge, as we know it, comes to a screeching halt since when ‘forgets’ occur, especially with home brew (though usually legal) conventions wherein suits supposedly held by the bidder (because of the conventional bid) are not held, the disruption involved takes on great import since with that higher level player (tournaments) a bid by one of the opponents of one of the conventioneers guaranteed suits is thought to be an artificial cue bid, which is supposed to be exactly the opposite of what most natural bids are supposed to be, showing different suits as well as enough strength to go forward, with the intent to get to usually at least a game and perhaps even a slam.

The above is only intended to police and therefore capsulize on what our higher level game is about, wherein the bidding involved, (being limited by having only a restricted language available from 1 through 7 along with the 5 suits, including NT, double, redouble and pass).

Yes, novices must learn their responsibilities of both the rules and the special ethics required, which applies directly to our specific game, allowing no unauthorized information (UI) to be conveyed or, if so, for his (or her) partner, the recipient, to lean backward and never take advantage of it.

Is it so draconian to require players interested in the great thrill of playing tournament bridge, winning master points (sometimes ranking much more important to some, than real gold itself), with often the increased rapture of being able to sit down and, once in a great while, have the great honor, to play against some of the best players in our universe, an occurrence almost impossible (simply because logistics make it unavailable), in any other highly competitive game known to man or woman.

Without continuing to flail this horse, I think the ACBL should take the responsibility to explain the above to all of our membership so that appreciation, rather than disdain, will develop because of this unusual opportunity and all they have to do, is take the time, before checking on the convention card (or explaining) a convention chosen to play, to learn it thoroughly enough so that they understand it to the degree that they do not become disruptive, but in order to remind them of that responsibility, penalties (as they do in real life) will inevitably await for non compliance.

From the above point of view, the punitive portion is not at all to discourage, but rather to set positive standards, where all players benefit from that caveat, the inexperienced ones who learn new techniques, therefore useful weapons, in the game and also their opponents who are then faced with learning the right defenses, which in turn makes the game more disciplined and challenging for all concerned, instead of just the opposite, of rendering it as slothful, because nothing resembling accurate disclosure, is understood, causing, in turn, complete and unplayable chaos.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 29th, 2013 at 3:16 pm


You had to be there at the table and see the subject partnership in action to understand what had happened. They were not in a position to fathom or judge the potential far reaching effects of these “bidding accidents.” However, it was the perpetrators who lost out by missing the game — but that is not the point. East (who misbid) was obviously inexperienced and West (who IMHO) lacked the talent to reevaluate his 14 HCPs (with their tremendous worth) passively responded 2H (and was not calculating — merely not good enough to act otherwise). It had nothing to do with ethics, believe me!

The purpose of my blog was to call it to the attention of the bridge playing public and serve as a reminder of the dire fallout resulting from disrupting normal auctions via failure to understand, remember and alert — AND — try to put a halt to it.

I do feel the ACBL via its law and rule makers has failed to address this ever-growing problem which can only worsen — if a pair can get away with it on a continual basis without some form of punishment to discourage it. True, psychs are allowed but this auction did not fall into that category. Bobby’s suggestion of how to mete out penalties IS fair and will go a long way toward stopping Convention Disruption. Out of respect to their opponents and the game itself, CDers must learn to straighten up and fly right or face the consequences.

JRGJune 30th, 2013 at 12:07 am

When I first came across comments about Bobby and his diatribe over Convention Disruption, I was a bit misled. I got the impression Bobby wanted to restrict the conventions people could play. Having always been interested in different bidding systems (since I started to learn bridge many years ago), I didn’t agree with his stand.

I was mistaken. I have no problems with a pair having an occasional accident — it makes life interesting! However, I do see pairs having the “same accidents” week after week and I agree that it spoils the game.

I’ve occasionally given some bridge lessons (covering for the regular bridge teachers at the local club) and I’m continually telling the students to evaluate the usefulness of the conventions they play, expect to have an accident the first couple of times it comes up (forgetting to make the bid, misbidding, etc.). I mention that those accidents may be spectacular!

I also tell them that if they have more than 2 or 3 “accidents”, they should seriously consider giving up whatever the convention is. Their own results will suffer and they spoil the game for their opponents (both the pair at the table and their “real opponents”).

EllisJune 30th, 2013 at 7:19 am

I am not so sure about 2-3 times it took me 4 ,before I got 2 way new minor down, however I only got Wolff sign off wrong once.
My general rule of thumb, is that I refuse to play conventions that I do not know how to spell, or have more than 3 syllables.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 30th, 2013 at 3:33 pm


I very much appreciated the candor and straightforwardness of your comment concerning your admission of not understanding what Bobby was attempting to convey to the public. You wouldn’t be the first one!

Far be it from Bobby to tell people what they can or cannot play (unless their system is nefarious — and a deliberate attempt to befuddle their opponents). What he rails up against is simply throwing a monkey wrench into the auction (whether accidental or deliberate) to knock their opponents out of kilter. I have seen it done at all levels of bridge, but the recent example from the club game was obviously not intentional although it happened nevertheless.

Regardless of the intent of the “accident,” I agree with your remarks. Occasional mix-ups will occur (even at the highest levels) but if it becomes a pattern, I agree the pair should take it off their card. I know, from personal experience, how difficult it is for one to change systems and not have occasional confusion set in. I played Kaplan-Sheinwold for forty years. It worked reasonably well for me and in my younger days, I had no problem recalling and understanding every nook, cranny and nuance of the system. By the time I met Bobby I was in my late sixties and it was difficult for me to convert to Bobby’s style (though it stood the universal test of time — and in top drawer events — but I was not up to it). I insisted on not playing a treatment I did not understand, would frequently forget or would confuse me. It would do more harm than good. Ten years later, everything had fallen into place and I mastered (with a very occasional lapse) the conventions we employ. Until I was confident I got them under my belt, I refused!

I am totally in accord with your views of striking a convention off the card if accidents continue to occur. It is unfair to the opponents and not in the best interests of your partnership — or the game.

There is a huge difference between ‘accidental’ mix-ups and deliberate attempts to confuse the enemy and in my personal opinion, they should be banished out of existence. Furthermore, it is beyond reason (at least to me) that players (even rather good ones) can be so naive about what is going on around them. I recently heard where someone sang the praises of a certain pair to the sky. Their names are household words on the tournament scene. Over the years, several pairs (expert and average) have been monitored — and the general result was “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” People believe what they want to and often accept the appraisals of others as ‘gospel.’ I cannot believe that this person was so omniscient about their superiority — and had no real clue why their results were so good. Amazing! It is one more recommendation for not believing everything you hear.

Thanks for your inspiration to get a lot of this off my chest. Hope to hear from you again on upcoming subjects. I love the realism of your thinking.



Judy Kay-WolffJune 30th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Very cute presentation, Ellis!

Keeping or discarding a convention depends on the number of syllables in it’s title and the ability to spell it correctly. That’s as good a barometer as any. Thanks for your contribution of humor on this important subject.


Gary MugfordJuly 5th, 2013 at 7:02 pm


I still think convention disruption needs to be treated like psyche’s were in the ‘old’ days (Defined as when I was playing local club Bridge). No need for fuss and muss, just report the issue and move on. THEN, it’s up to the directors to determine when CD occurs a little TOO frequently between specific pairs and/or teams. Then a citation can be issued saying, ‘NO MORE’ incidents like this. Severe penalties from automatic loss of boards/IMPS/MPs to banning use of the ‘conventions’ in question to suspending players.

I have always had a weird approach to raising young’uns. They would do something NOT in their best interests and I would explain to them that it was time to decide whether to repeat the behaviour at the risk of a specific REAL punishment (which always was enacted if they chose to continue), or to stop and there would be no punishment. Sure, I had to sit out in the lobby with my youngest neice on a trip to the movie plex, but amazingly, I never had to do that with her ever again. And she explained my willingness to do exactly what I said I would do to the generation after that. Thus making trips to the movies pleasurable for all involved for as long as I kept doing that.

Treat newbies like kids. Allow them their intemporate behaviour and then explain the cons of continuing and the pros of changing. And let the result be upon them. SOME of these newbies will put in the work to use conventions beyond the SAYC. Some will settle in with the limits of the unwillingness to do the extra work. And some will simply go away. But things won’t be any different using any other approach I can think of.

I was once the mix master of conventions locally and my partners always played what I wanted. And ‘we’ were guilty of CD often enough that I would draw the ire of today’s me. I matured (a very, small, slight bit). So there’s something to be said for just gritting your teeth and letting these incidents pass. But I honestly don’t believe just saying it is too hard to affect corrective change, makes it worth not trying.

Greg NowakJuly 9th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Of 167, 000 members, 70, 000 have 200 to 2000 masterpoints, half have less than 200. The day that CD is gone will be the day that organized bridge has stagnated into nonexistence.