Judy Kay-Wolff

WORLD MIND BRIDGE OLYMPIAD in China — now in progress!

Some years ago, Jose Damiani, President of the World Bridge Federation for sixteen years (the longest running span of time for anyone at the helm of the WBF), concentrated on and eventually enabled our wonderful game of bridge to be included as a mind sport with the hope that one day it will be accepted into the ‘regular’ World Olympic Games. Frankly, I had lost touch (and interest) but by some quirk of fate spotted that the events are taking place as I write. The results were quite disappointing, to say the least, in the early (but telltale) contests as we do have a plethora of both young as well as established bridge players in our Zone from whom to choose. This is no reflection or discredit to the USBF (especially Jan Martel who works non-stop to accomplish miracles on a minute to minute basis). I have seen countless talented worker bees .. but Jan takes the cake as was witnessed by her recent induction into the ACBL Hall of Fame). What I would like to know ….. 1. Who is the Committee who has the responsibility to choose the contestants — and are they of public record? And, are they volunteers or selected individuals? 2. Is there a general guideline for the eligibility of those players who are chosen to represent the USA? 3. Were the players who presently compose both the Open Team as well as the Women’s Team their original choices? 4. Are there money prizes? 5. Are all expenses paid? I assume so. 6. Why are so few of the very top players (with some exceptions, of course) not in China now as it is taking place? This is all a conundrum to me. Can anyone clarify? Thanks.


Judy Kay-WolffDecember 17th, 2013 at 2:35 am

Since no one seemed to come up with any answers, I surveyed the USBF site myself and was not quite sure what I was reading. In the Women’s Team, USA placed 3rd out of 4 and the Men finished last (fourth). It appears there were some last minute substitutions — with a couple names I did not recognize.

What is the responsibility of the Selection Committee? Was it not a prestigious venue (not important enough?) and why was there an absence of top world class USA players in the Open? Were they not asked? Did they not apply? I am obviously overlooking something as I saw little or no publicity although it was covered by BBO (late at night I assume from the time schedule .. which was past my bedtime).

What is going on? And .. why was there no prominent up-to-date coverage for ACBL members who care about their country’s bridge representatives doing well?

JRGDecember 17th, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Does it have something to do with “Professionals” and “Sponsors”, both of whom, I assume, are theoretically barred? Mind you, I thought the outright bar on professionals had been relaxed to some extent.

It is obvious that most (all) governments provide some sponsorship of their “athletes”.

That aside, the sponsors who support many of our professional bridge players may not be interested in the Mind Sports Games.

You have peeked my curiosity as well and I would like to hear from anyone who has an inkling what is happening.

Bobby WolffDecember 18th, 2013 at 4:40 pm


Since I often have what might be considered minority views of solving various bridge administrative problems, I will continue to opt to steer clear of expressing them for fear of raining on someone else’s parade.

However, in this case, I, in order to, at least IMO, place you on the right track, professionals (in other words a term which in competitions and certainly in bridge) would certainly be welcome and the better the player (or more aptly put, partnership, with an equal) the more he or she is desired to participate in world events by the WBF (World Bridge Federation) and IMO should be the NCBO (National Contract Bridge Organization) to which he or she represents.

To be more specific, I think a sponsoring organization (USBF, United States Bridge Federation, in Zone 2, North America) should settle for nothing less, especially when competing against the world’s best, otherwise our Zone would, again IMO, be irresponsible in two categories, unfair to the goal of the WBF in raising the bar of presenting the best world bridge has to offer, and to properly show the world that the USA has not fallen to the extent of now being non-competitive at the top level. And, if the above is true or very close, how long should the WBF wait before declining invitations to include the USA in these, what they consider, top drawer events?

Without saying more, I will leave it up to the reader, to hopefully ponder the circumstances, and, if possible, consider the remedy.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 18th, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Hi JRG (whom I endearingly refer to as John):

Your questions were intriguing and deserve answers. It seems like the guidelines for the selection and acceptance practice fall into a very gray area.

You allude to “…the sponsors who support many of our professional bridge players may not be interested in the Mind Sports Games.”

On the contrary, I do think they would love to play. However, it is neither the option nor responsibility of the ‘sponsors’ to in any manner influence the selection of the team. Mind Game representatives should be selected by very astute non-biased expert players who are in the know as to what it takes to win. Regardless of what the sport in question is (whether physical or mental) .. those places should be reserved for the very best. Otherwise, we have fallen from grace.

I suspect that the absence in the male category (although certainly ethical and accomplished players) is attributable to the lack of desire of the top pros to give up the lucre earned from playing in local Sectionals and Regionals. Obviously, money prizes at the Mind Olympics do not equate to what they receive for local professional dates and the traveling is minimal.

If we can’t send the ‘best’ — why bother at all? I cannot envision either Silodor-Kay, Kaplan-Kay, Jacoby-Wolff or Hamman-Wolff ever refusing an International Invitational Event against the world’s best. Not a chance in a million. They recognized it as an honor to be selected to attend as respected ambassadors of their zone or country!

At least, the event ended on a high note when Cheri Bjerkian won the Woman’s Individual which consisted of three pairs from each of the four competing countries.

So be it!

David SokolowDecember 28th, 2013 at 1:19 am

Having attended the WMSG for 2 years as a spectator-spouse, I can explain the process. There is no selection “committee.” The USBF asks pairs to nominate themselves if interested in going. The names of all the pairs are then submitted to voters (those who’ve done well in the US team trials in the last 5 years, I think), who rank the pairs. The top pairs go (actually, this last step is more complicated, but this is “close enough for government work” & I’m a state employee!). Pros can go, but sponsors cannot. Because essentially the same women’s team went the first two years, the USBF adopted a rule that people can’t go more than 2 years in a row (which explains why I wasn’t a “spectator spouse” this time!).

The USBF does not pay for anything–expenses & prize money are paid for by the Chinese. The first year it was a business class ticket; the last 2 years, coach. Hotel (like a dorm; we paid to stay at the Crown Plaza next door last year) & 3 meals a day at the hotel are also included. There is prize money for all events (teams, pairs & individual) totaling $150,000 (BTW, the men get more than the women!), but nobody makes a lot.

Some pros don’t want to go because they make a lot less money than at a regional, but the hotel/food are not very good & it’s extremely cold then (often below 0). Some don’t want to put themselves up & be rejected by their peers; others don’t want to take 15-20 hour trip to China right after 10 days of bridge at the nationals & before the holiday season. Some want to maintain their distance from what they consider to be a repressive regime. In short, I don’t think it’s simply because the pros are greedy or arrogant about it. In fact, this year, 2 people who were chosen had to cancel at the last minute because of health issues. I personally love going to China (I’m going next week for work), but not everyone feels the same way.