Judy Kay-Wolff

Living in Sheltered Darkness

For the most part, I truly believe that the general bridge public is not aware of the difference between authentic, qualified opinion and what is not.  I have been on the scene for about fifty-six years (coincidentally a salute to Joe DiMaggio’s consecutive hit breaking record — a true master in his field).   One of these fallacies concerns ‘masters’ and ‘experts’ — terms that are used too frequently by individuals not in the know.  To borrow a trite phrase — "it takes one to know one."  Mind you, I don’t mean to allude to my being in that category — but educated enough through marital ties to have learned the distinctions from those who have been there, done that and others with possibilities to reach that plateau in the future — though far from the summit at this time.  However, I will leave that for later.

Few bridge participants (except for the serious hoi polloi who have been on the scene for decades) know that some of our earlier celebrated players had been asked to stop playing as their partnerships had fallen from grace (a kind way of acknowledging the dastardly problem).   It was reflected in knowing when to bid or pass and what to lead.  The choices made by those individuals were to disappear from the scene and those at the helm chose to let their actions be buried with their winning records and avoid public attention.  Shockingly, some of the colloquial ‘bad guys’ are in our exalted Hall of Fame and another is still a panelist — going about business with nonchalance.  This ‘hush/hush’ position taken by the League was to prevent a brouhaha or possible lawsuit and took the low road — by not exposing some of their unjustified victories.  I remember an incident long ago in a famed overseas money tournament where the first three finishers had their hands in the till — and several in-the-know contestants (with tongues in cheek — and grins on their faces) joshed by congratulating the fourth place pair.  Sad but true!  I remember another twosome who in earlier days probably ‘helped’ each other ‘casually’ (if there is such a thing) and were riled by the suspicions of a teammate, which caused personal havoc.  Yet the grizzly situation ebbed.   In bridge history, "virtue is its own reward."  Conversely, often a cover up become its own monster. 

Another situation (which exists as we speak) is where honest expert twosomes succumb to teaming up with a pair (or pairs) who are acknowledged by qualified, experienced judges as ‘Cs.’  Perhaps their rationalization is "if we can’t beat ’em — join ’em."  It is difficult for me to accept that the brilliant ‘good guys’ are not aware of what is going on.  They are too astute and adept in their own right with the pasteboards — so I must assume they are conveniently wearing blinders.  This charade may serve a useful purpose in their scheme of things (victory-wise and financially), but surely not an asset to the perpetuation of the game or its image.

The above zeroes in on major, deliberate crimes.  Stay tuned as I go into other lesser indiscretions which in most cases are unintentional but nevertheless cause standards to be lowered — for practical reasons.


A WilsmoreOctober 14th, 2013 at 2:55 am

I recall Edgar Kaplan writing a 70s Bridge World editorial in which he described being fed a bitter tale of woe by a player in a National who lost to a pair of (later convicted) cheats.

EK was somewhat startled to see the complainer and the cheats were teammates in a later National, and he went on to say that, if players were *certain* of the wickedness of a pair, boycotting was an effective and desirable solution.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 14th, 2013 at 6:01 am

Hi Avon (assuming with such an uncommon name that you are one and the same from the BW site). Welcome to bridgeblogging. com. I do appreciate your sharing the story above.

Yes, Edgar was always on top of just about everything that went on in the bridge world (nationally and internationally). I got to know him very well through his partnership with my late husband, Norman — and he was my idol for over three decades (versed on every subject you could think of — both inside and outside the world of bridge). He was sooooo erudite and was continually on top of all the goings on until he passed on in 1997. Even though he was suffering from cancer, he never lost touch with reality and was sharp as a tack until his dying day. Edgar could have written a book from his personal experience and was much involved in analyzing hands and actions of possible cheaters — doing everything in his power to put an end to those horrific practices.

As you no doubt know, he and Norman were victims in international competition for several years. Bobby experienced the same plight. Eventually it ended, but others surfaced to replace the retired culprits.

Your alluding to the player victimized by cheating bears witness to my ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ theory. These days, nothing shocks me as some individuals stop at nothing to bolster their egos (and scores).

Thanks for writing.



BobOctober 14th, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Yours is not the first reference to top players falling from grace. Maybe if stronger action had been taken at the time, without burying the truth, bridge would be a purer game today.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 14th, 2013 at 2:56 pm


I suppose there are two ways of handling such indiscretions by those in charge. Though their intentions were probably to protect the honor of the game and its reputation, their passive approach was hardly a deterrent to repeat performances by offenders to follow.

Howard Bigot JohnsonOctober 14th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

HBJ ….what an informative and hard hitting blog. I aim to reply to it with my next article. ,

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 14th, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Can’t wait!

Patricia KatterhenryOctober 18th, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I am neither a computor or bridge expert. I enjoy social bridge, playing with seven other ladies once a month and I chose your blog at random. I have a question: what are the odds of being dealt the following hand? A,K,Q,10,6,3,2 of clubs and K,Q,J,10,5,4 of diamonds. I was dealt that hand on Oct. 8 and unfortunately went down one because an opponent had the jack of clubs protected. I bid six clubs.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 26th, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Hi Patricia: Congratulations and condolences! Such an exciting hand but unexpected. Numeracy is not my best suit, so I am passing this on to my mathematics professor.

Better luck next time.