Judy Kay-Wolff

Marital Partnerships

Marital Partnerships

To the average individual, the caption above alludes to ‘normal’ husband/wife real life relationships — supposedly a loving twosome who marry, raise children, educate them and delight in the ensuing joys that are associated with family ties. However, that is a far cry from the interpretation applied to our own Bizarre World of Bridge (coined from HBJ’s amusing column).

Marital partnerships in our cockeyed game’s sense of the word means a married couple (or even Significant Others) who frequently played together. Eli and Josephine Culbertson were the first of the lot, going back to the late Twenties. It got to be a common practice and, if not divorced or deceased, still partner one another. It is questionable whether better partnerships result when close in ability or represent extremes (as is in my own personal case/s). To me, the answer depends upon whether you play for the casual fun of it, merely to pass time, for lack of something better to do or seriously want to learn and improve.

It is not easy to sit opposite (and be emotionally involved with) world class players like Norman and Bobby although my survivorship vouches for my strength, stamina and determination. No doubt, I have improved immeasurably in the last ten years as Bobby has dedicated a lot of time to our partnership and I have garnered much from his discussions, explanations, theories and treatments which are not akin to most experts. However my mind is slowing down and it takes a bit more composure, effort and concentration to rise to the occasion. There is no denying that it has been tough sledding on occasion which leads me to the real topic of my blog.

I have shared the same unintentionally down putting experience as my dear friend Betty Kaplan when she played with my beloved partner-in-law Edgar (as he referred to himself when addressing me). Betty was an accomplished musician, had great organizational skills and was exceptionally bright, clever — but not a ‘natural’ bridge player which for years created dismay and anxiety when she was criticized. Edgar’s frustration with her caused unhappiness though she wouldn’t have traded him in for the world (just another bridge partner) — and the feeling was mutual. However, like Bobby, Edgar enjoyed playing with his wife. Just chalk it up to two gluttons for punishment.

Edgar finally proposed a very workable solution. His commentary and view of her performance on a particular hand (which I blogged about in detail a few years ago) was conveyed with four letters: R A T S. It was an amusing approach to let off steam in a manner not to upset her. His laughable non-confrontational appraisal of her actions were: REASONABLE, ATTRACTIVE, THOUGHTFUL and SCINTILLATING. Edgar’s humorous brainchild made life at their table happier, relaxing, tolerable and enjoyable.

When I reminded Bobby of Edgar’s adaptation of RATS, he soon appeared at my computer and handed me a torn scrap of paper with his own version scribbled on it. It read ……



We are about to go to our Friday Duplicate and I will bear that all in mind.


Jane ASeptember 14th, 2013 at 2:40 am

My husband was a very fine bridge player when we first met in college, but he played mostly with his college room mates who were all also very good. I was just a beginner, and although I improved over the years, we spent more time arguing than agreeing at the bridge table. About 25 years ago, I said enough, and we have not played bridge together since. He stopped playing completely, deciding he liked the great outdoors better than a bridge table, so he plays golf and still will go down a mountain on a pair of skis. We were a great example of a married couple who should never have even tried to play bridge together. Bridge is my game now and it has worked out fine. To each his own.

I am in awe of those married couples who can actually play together as partners and even seem to enjoy it most of the time. I have to say I believe they are few and far between however.

I prefer Edgar’s RATS because it is gentle. Bobby’s version may be more truthful, but that is the RATS that I heard almost all the time when I partnered with my spouse. Perhaps if I had heard Edgar’s version even once in awhile, we would still be playing, but I kind of doubt it. That old leopard was not going to change his spots.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 14th, 2013 at 4:35 am

Hi Jane:

Over five decades I have witnessed many wedded couples break up because of differences in both abilities and style, Lots have moved on and are on third and fourth spouses. There is so much exposure that it goes with the territory. I cannot keep up with the change of women’s last names as many keep moving on and as they say — you can’t tell a player without a scorecard.

Edgar’s RATS was gentle and Bobby (who is very intent at the table and gives 1,000 % of himself) was just trying to be funny. If he ever started up with me, he would be toothless as well as bald.

Those were treacherous words!

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 14th, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I think I missed the boat. I should have transposed a couple of letters and entitled it “Martial Partnerships.” Guess I played too fast but that, in itself, would be a rare occasion.

Gary MugfordSeptember 14th, 2013 at 5:05 pm


I have never been married and never had the angst that goes with it. On the other hand, ANY serious partnership seems to have most of the symptoms and few of the advantages of a stroll towards marital bliss.

On the other hand, I have been a partnership ‘scout.’ Waaaaaay back in the last century, my friend Ron sidled up to me and asked if I would adjudge the bridge worthiness of a newcomer on the local bridge scene. So, I played with Marilyn at a local regional and found that I enjoyed the experience, but that I found her a bit timid at the table. (Surely, she could not be intimidated by moi, somebody who imagined himself as a young Bobby Wolff, only shorter, more hirsute in the pate region and, you know, not as good)

Both individuals were encumbered in marriages at the time that were due to end. And despite my less than enthusiastic appraisal of The Mouse’s bridge acumen (Yes, she got the nickname directly from my scouting report), the more intense Ron found everything else about her to be, in the words of E.E. Doc Smith, the science fiction writer, “A blinding flash and a deafening report!”

They’ve been married for years now. They play with each other just often enough to remember that Bridge is pleasurable … when played with non-spouses [G]. Actually, playing with Marilyn is so easy, even Ron enjoys it off and on.

By the way, The Mouse has subsequently become (in)famous for her courage in overcalls and, honestly, psyches. She’s also far better a player than I gave her credit for and she has as many, if not more, victories in good competition as Ron (or me for that matter). I was wrong about her future mastery of Bridge and Ron was right about everything else.

Ron’s currently fighting off cancer. He was given days to live … more than a year ago. If that doesn’t highlight the value of a good partner, then nothing does.

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


Your story is a mixture of humanity, great plays on words and sadness for Ron’s failings at this time.

Bridge plays a greater part in all of our lives than it should. This holds true especially for me — despite the fact I ran a baseball card business and owned trotters for decades — but nothing compared to my addiction to bridge. It really consumed my life, but paved the way to my having two incredible husbands (both at and away from the table). So be it!

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