Judy Kay-Wolff

THE CAVENDISH … And Where It All Began

I always wondered about the origin of the name Cavendish.   After some research, I learned it was the pseudonym of a famous London Whist authority, Henry Jones, who employed it when he published his first book under the non de plume of ‘Cavendish.’  He got the idea from the name of the Club where he played Whist back in the 1800’s.   In 1925, Wilbur Whitehead (together with a couple of other gentlemen) took license and adopted its name .. resulting in the introduction of The Cavendish Club to New York City.  For the first eight years, its home was The Mayfair Club and then moved to the Ambassador, The Ritz Tower, premises on Central Park South, The Carlton House, a brief stop at on 48th Street ..  and eventually to a town house on 73rd Street.  However, because of monetary problems, no doubt caused by escalation of rent and dwindling membership, the club was forced to cease operations in 1991.

In 1975 the Club began hosting the prestigious Cavendish Invitational Pairs and though forced to close its doors in ’91, it continued to be held in The Big Apple.  In 1997 World Bridge Productions took over the Invitational Pairs (adding The Open Pairs to the format) and moved it to Las Vegas.  Along the way, some secondary events have been put on the roster, enticing others to attend.   This change of venue from  East to West enhanced its popularity and the purse size increased substantially because of greater attendance.  I believe it stayed in LV until 2011 when, in conjunction with the Monaco Bridge Federation, they migrated to Monaco in 2012.  It was held there a second time, finishing a few weeks ago.  Originally, it was an annual ritual ending on Mother’s Day Weekend, but recently was moved to October.  Of course, the dramatic new location in the principality of Monaco lured many European players to join the party, substantially hoisting the booty to the eventual winners.  However, there is now talk of the CI rotating sites (with Las Vegas hosting it in even years and Monaco in the odd ones).

In the late 90s Norman was invited to serve on the Appeals Committee after it moved to Vegas.  Naturally, I adhered to the old Biblical quote … "Wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge" and soon I was tripping the light fantastic at a plush hotel in Vegas.  Not sure, but it could have been the former Desert Inn which shut its doors in 2000.  From the opening event (with the auctioneers in formal dress) till the closing ceremonies, each day and night exuded with luscious food and great drinks in luxurious surroundings.  It was one of the most exciting bridge venues I had ever set foot upon.  However, what amazed me most was the preponderance of celebrities (both guests from abroad and stateside).  I don’t recall how many tables were in play, but it attracted an enormous amount of players and investors.  The Cavendish Invitationals were unquestionably the largest money bridge tournaments in history.  The U. S. was well represented and could have served as a Bridge Who’s Who with anybody and everybody in attendance.

Looking through the Internet reports and Bridge Bulletins from this month’s CI, I was shocked to learn that only a shade over a dozen individuals’ names from the States appeared on the entry forms.  What could provide a more enchanting setting than Monaco?  Is it the cost of the entries?  Or .. the cost of the flights and rooms?   Or .. the state of the economy?  Has the prize money lessened?  Or .. something that never occurred to me?  Why is this once-magnetic bridge happening not attended by more Americans who once flocked to these annual New York and Vegas events?   It evades me!  Any ideas?  I’d love to know!


pod12@msn.comNovember 2nd, 2013 at 11:54 am

HBJ : May be the pulling power of yesteryear’s greats with their magnetic personalities, charm and wit is sadly missing from the cutthroat world of bridge we have today.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 2nd, 2013 at 3:48 pm


Interesting observation .. one which I had not considered.

My own personal exposure to the, as you describe, “cutthroat world of bridge today” is practically non-existent. We have not attended an NABC in the last five years (with the exception of San Francisco) so I have not witnessed what you describe firsthand. However, I have observed (via the Internet) unmitigated authoritative tones of those to whom you allude. Seems today there are many self-decorated heroes on the scene. You don’t see much of it in Sectionals and Regionals — and with few exceptions — these individuals do not make appearances at local clubs unless playing professionally. And, of course, that does not, in any way, hold true for all the newer better players. Many keep their egos in check as they enjoy their climb to the top.

I am part of the “yesteryear” era, mostly as a kibitzer. I reflect upon those to whom you pay homage and allude — and in my opinion — most deserving. I think of many old timers, some up in years, but still very much alive — like Murray and Kehela, Eddie Kantar, Lew Stansby, Chip Martel, Kit Woolsey, Hugh Ross, Kerri Shuman, Betty Ann Kennedy, Peter Weichsel, Sidney Lazard, Mike Passell, Larry Cohen, David Berkowitz, Peter Boyd, Steve Robinson, Zia, Bob Hamman (not to overlook BW), et al. who all stood the test of time, but retained their modesty and dignity — and have been a longstanding credit to the game with their performances and contributions. Forgive any unintentional oversights as in my mind there is a plethora of that ilk — just too many to name. Those cited came off the top of my head. I welcome the names of others who rightfully belong!

JoanieNovember 3rd, 2013 at 5:23 am

That’s an impressive list and your praise of their accomplishments both at the table and away — represent anything BUT the cutthroat approach to which HBJ refers. He continually attacks the “bad guys” in his humorous blogs and that type of behavior is what would drive many fun-loving bridge players away from the game.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 3rd, 2013 at 5:39 am

Hi Joanie:

For many years I sat sheepishly behind Norman — in awe of the brilliance I witnessed both by his partnership, his team and the opponents. There was no such thing as cutthroat bridge though they always gave 1,000% of themselves with one goal in mind … victory!

Most of the players were socially friendly and mingled with their opponents in a civilized manner — without criticism or aspersions. They were a tight knit brotherhood who respected one another and shared a common love. What HBJ seems to be referring to is the passing of the gauntlet or changing of the guard. With relaxed laws and the impossible situation of biased and prejudiced influences, it has caused negativity which, of course, is not good for any sport — physical or mental.

I know this blog has branched out and approached subjects to which I was oblivious — but so be it. I find it wonderful to have a venue in which one can comfortably speak his or her mind without fear of criticism. Thanks for your input.