Judy Kay-Wolff

Geza Who???

Age, on occasion, has its rewards  — but not this morning.   In the world I have been engulfed in for over half a century, I always prided myself for remembering the names and (sometimes) faces of those players I met or heard about (via word of mouth or through endless bridge annals).                              .

Today I had a rude awakening.  I had just arisen, came into the den and relaxed as Bobby was responding on his computer to his AOB daily comments.  He turned to me and nonchalantly asked –  how do you spelled Ottlik?  I thought he was jesting.   I replied, "I give up. What did I miss?"  He quizzically responded, "You know — Geza Ottlik!!!"  Dumb me — I had no idea to what or whom he was referring!  I later became intrigued by Bobby’s recollection of this (apparently) world renown bridge genius from Budapest, Hungary who passed away in 1990 — without my ever hearing his name.  I was soon informed he was a revered novelist, author, mathematician, bridge writer and theorist.  Ottlik was the ultimate expert on Hungarian prose — but more known in the bridge circles for the introduction and development of … Entry Squeezes, Backwash Squeezes, Elopement, Elbow-room, Entry Shifting Plays,  Non Material Plays, Rio Finesses and KO Squeezes.  I checked him out in Wikipedia and he was described as a passionate bridge player and advanced theoretician, and his 1979 book "Adventures in Card Play" (coauthored with Hugh Kelsey) introduced and developed many new concepts.  It was reported that not too long ago the great majority of accomplished players placed the book third on a list of their all-time favorites, nearly thirty years after its first publication.

I inquired how Bobby came to meet him and surprisingly, with a smile on his face, he muttered "I didn’t!"  He recalled that one day during a world championship, a lanky kibitzer seated himself beside him and he hadn’t the foggiest idea who he was.   In fact, he recalled to me the gentleman was a standout as he had to be at least six foot tall and couldn’t have weighed more than 160 pounds.  Later in the session Bobby learned it was Geza Ottlik — a  recognized wizard of whom he had heard — but never met.  In bridge, Geza Ottlik specialized not in performance — but rather in concepts. 

Amazing what one remembers — or never knew (both at and away from the bridge table)!


JoanieNovember 10th, 2013 at 7:01 am

I’ve been around a long time too and never heard of this man. He’s hardly a household word although I do admire his great contributions to the game.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 10th, 2013 at 7:12 am


Since I posted the blog, I have done further checking and do note a mention of Ottlik on Bridge Winners. I suppose people who are real students of the game and enjoy a huge bridge library may have come across his name before although I do recognize the name of Hugh Kelsey. Just surprised I never heard or seen Ottlik’s name before this morning and wanted to know if I am in the majority or minority. Curiosity once killed a cat –and bridge players may fall victim to the same search for knowledge.

Michael O' ConnotNovember 10th, 2013 at 8:55 am

Hi Judy,
He first came to the notice of the expert community with a series of articles in “The Bridge World” in the 1970’s. Too advanced for 90% plus of average players. Because he lived in Hungary he found it difficult to obtain $ to pay his subscription to the magazine. Edgar gave him a free lifetime sub for the articles.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 10th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Hi Michael:

Many thanks for your input on Ottlik. Shame on me for not knowing of the tie between Edgar and Geza as I was very much on the scene and, of course, Norman and Edgar were partners back then and were in touch several times a week. I appreciate your sensitive story of the free lifetime subscription — which confirms my suspicion that bridge players are not all bad!!!!

Jim FoxNovember 14th, 2013 at 3:53 am

He was and is a “household name” to many bridge players. Typically his name is used as a placeholder for any unknown bridge player on the recap sheet and as an alias when needed by many in various bridge situations.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 14th, 2013 at 6:25 am

Hi Jim:

Thanks so much for your input. Out of curiosity, I kept asking active local old time players and only one person had heard of him. I do believe you — but, I am certain he was much better known in Europe than in The States. In any event, no doubt of his versatility and in light of his accomplishments, I am shocked that his name was unfamiliar to me until now.