Bobby Wolff


I find it compelling to explain the dire necessity for the ACBL to markedly improve their alert procedures and update their bridge knowledge to effectively and fearlessly deal with modern problems concerning essential alerts.

The “Need to Know” Theory (introduced to me by Andy Robson, my favorite bridge authority from the United Kingdom) is what I use as my guide to familiarize innocent and/or inexperienced opponents about what is going on regarding the use of certain relatively common topical conventions in practice across the ACBL. The outstanding superiority of the Andrew Robson Bridge Club focuses on and strives to keep extraneous information at a minimum and insists upon mandatory alerting only when necessary and appropriate.

The primary convention under scrutiny in this blog concerns itself directly with the popular Forcing 1NT Response to partner’s one of a major opening bid. The expected and most common treatment of this convention is that 1NT is forcing for one round and the standard practice is usually employed with a hand which most often features somewhere in the vicinity of 6 to a maximum of 12 high card points? Those who depart from the generally accepted norm of 6-12 and use the forcing NT to show somewhere between zero and 5 high card points should be obligated to share this information with their opponents. It is not the standard method and often intimidates the opponents from balancing, suspecting the opening side has a combined minimum of eighteen HCP — deterring them from entering the auction. Employing the 0-5 point method of keeping the bidding open (and forcing — especially with a four piece trump fit — which you will bid at your second call) is a form of controlled psyche and thus should be alertable. It sounds like a reluctant effort to support partner (while in fact it is a method of misleading and discouraging your opponents from entering the auction, thinking you have a misfit despite the fact the hand may well belong to them)!

While some prefer the use of unannounced surreptitious sub-minimum responses (0-5) with which most partnerships prefer to pass, others have tipped the scales in the other direction — allowing the 1NT RESPONSE to exceed the standard upper limit (perhaps as high as 16 points) and with no conscience or legal obligation to inform their unwitting opponents of their private understanding. At this point in time, I see no prohibition in ACBL land to outlaw undisclosed sub-minimum or above standard maximum point spreads.

If playing that the forcing NT may be beyond the standard 12 point upper range, it needs to be alerted in order for an unsuspecting opponent to be aware that he or she may be at risk entering the auction at this stage. Needless to say, the opponents know (or at least should) what they are doing and are now in a position to nail an unwary opponent making a call at the wrong time. (See Judy’s medical assessment in her blog “I’ve Got A Secret.”)

I now want to digress for a moment to let you know how the logical theory of this treatment originated (in the days of Roth-Stone, later Kaplan-Sheinwold, Walsh and Eastern Scientific). Some players felt that in order to make a game-forcing 2 level response in another suit, that player needs to have a good 5 card suit (AQ10xx) or good four-carder (AKJx) which would lend itself, after finding at least a 3 card fit for the five-bagger from partner, to a better suit game or slam contract (in preference to 3NT or 6NT). These were recognized as standard treatments, nothing extraordinary and the bids meant exactly what they sounded like.

Enter the new breed: The Foxes! They recognized that 3NT contracts were far more common than slams and began applying their cunning in order to achieve better results. They altered their heretofore prosaic bidding sequences which were natural because they provided the disadvantage of tipping off the opening lead and subsequent defense of their opponents to the detriment of the declaring side. These crafty bidders found it inadvisable to bid 2 of a suit such as AQ10x(x) or KQ10x(x), but rather would opt for 1NT forcing in all safety (with no maximum range) in order to have a better chance to get that suit led since the opponents would not have the benefit of hearing that suit being bid against them. However if the eventual declarer, usually in 3NT, would have been dealt A653(2)or, worse yet, 7653(2) then the suit would be bid, again advantageously used to try to deflect its lead and direct a favorable defense for declarer. Surely, in order to play that way, the 1NT response had to raise its upper limit several notches over the normal 12 high card points now in vogue by a good many players.

I am not suggesting that this chicanery (sometimes called a tactical bid) be declared illegal or barred, but rather I am prevailing upon the ACBL to wake up and ask that unusual not-to-be-expected type treatments be alerted, both as to possible high card points held and, more importantly, the tendencies of that particular partnership to what they are doing (i.e., style). If bridge warrants the dignified description of being a Gentlemen’s (or Ladies’) Game, it needs to have rules worthy of that distinction. Let us try to encourage total disclosure and at the same time make it much more difficult for pairs to raid their sections and events by practicing subtle (and perhaps not so subtle) questionable tactics. These methods over the years have cleverly been concocted in poison gas bridge labs with the sole intent of plying their trade, advantaging themselves over counterparts sitting in the same direction — similar to shooting fish in a barrel.

Perhaps the most frequently asked bridge question after my book, THE LONE WOLFF was released, was “Why would anyone want to cheat when all one is stealing is ego?” My stock answer: In these days of increasing professionalism, money has entered the equation, making for enticing incentives; and the risk is so minuscule compared to the gain because of the lax policing position assumed by our parent organization which constantly seems to take a Hands Off Policy to avoid dealing with controversial issues (and in some cases the fear of law suits).

Many of our convention card regulations must seriously be reviewed, amended, rewritten and reprinted. Lines should be inserted to designate varying point count ranges; the propriety of pre-alerts and timely alerts should be stressed — including other nonstandard treatments which are assumed to be normal. COMPLIANCE SHOULD BE DEMANDED — from the lowly club levels up to the ultimate sphere of the NABCs and THE TRIALS! Otherwise, there is no deterrent for clever players to add questionable gimmicks to their repertoire, though not necessarily illegal, because the ACBL has allowed them to call their own shots.

The brewing coffee needs to be smelled and safeguards must be seriously reviewed, revised and updated. NAIVETE AND LAISSEZ FAIRE ENFORCEMENT MUST STOP! If not, we will be no better off than the inhabitants in “Lord of the Flies” — the allegorical novel of marooned British teenagers who assumed the running of an island to the detriment of everyone in the confinement of their realm.


I had commented Linda’s blog entry on the issue of appeals, and only recently saw Paul’s response. I would like to draw your attention to my reply.


Linda cites a challenging appeal issue and I elaborated on my views and suggestions relating to the whole process.   See my Comment “Unseen and worse fallouts of appeals transgressions.


Perhaps I have been remiss in driving my point home about the recommended “Forcing Pass” hand and hopefully the following will clarify my reasoning:

The subject bidding hand under discussion was: At matchpoints and with only NS vulnerable:

North  (dealer)    AKxx   7xx     AQJx     xx

South  (partner)   x      AQ8xx  K10xx   Axx

In an unobstructed auction the bidding (IMO) should have gone:

North South
1 1
1 2*
2 3
3** 4

 *4th suit and game forcing

**confirming 3 hearts, but a minimum

Although North’s hand has certain positive characteristics, e.g., togetherness of honors (recognized by Culbertson in his honor trick methods, but not by Goren in his high card point count evaluation) and, of course, three of partner’s primary suit, the absence of a fifth diamond and/or a singleton outside should dampen the enthusiasm.  While South has a powerfully fitting hand, and key controls, Wendy’s meaty thought provoking quotation comes to mind, “Where’s the beef?”  Especially at matchpoints and for game, it is losing tactics to consider playing 5  and the overall values do not appear to be there to justify a slam. If they were, diamonds (not hearts) would certainly be the chosen strain. 

Please note that if North would have held Kxx in hearts, but only Axxx in spades, he should jump to 4  over partner’s 3  continuation, therefore causing partner to think in terms of 6. I think that would exhibit expert-like bidding judgment by both partners. 

Now I ask the reader (while still thinking about the subject hand) to switch his evaluation to the way the auction actually went (dealt with in both Part II and I above) and realize, from a practical consideration just how different North-South’s judgment should be.  Even with North holding the K instead of the K, both partners, especially South, should be acutely aware of the certain bad red suit breaks, and so consequently should rule out getting to even the possibly endangered five level, much less consider slam. 

Since I am such an admirer of William Shakespeare, apropos the above, the words of 2d Citizen come to mind in the epic Julius Caesar immediately following Mark Antony’s Friends, Romans, Countrymen speech after Caesar’s murder: “Methinks there is much reason in what he says.”

I hope that will be the reaction from at least some of the bridge blogging readers!

If this argument is not cogent enough – let me share with you the Aces Critique Discussion Session which was mandatory for each player to attend. EVERY HAND PLAYED BY THE DALLAS ACES (whether in actual play or in a practice match against good opponents) was subject to scrutiny, serious analysis and then stark evaluation categorized by the following charges:

WHITE: Wrong – but, at least at that time and place, was relatively blameless

GREY:  Avoidable — but difficult to assess objective blame

BLACK: Guilty as charged!

Implementing the above criteria, even reaching the five level in the obstructed auction given, merits a BLACK charge, while in an uncontested auction not reaching 6  (assuming North has K and not the K) will also result in a BLACK charge. What more can I say?


For further background views and recommendations, see my November 4th Open Letter to Fred Gitelman, under Mental Telepathy at



Please check out the above Comment posted  by me yesterday at under the heading MENTAL TELEPATHY.


Sports headlines were made when Referee Ed Hochuli flubbed a game-changing call during the final minute of last Sunday’s San Diego-Denver Football Game, no doubt changing the winner from San Diego to Denver. Today’s newspaper reports that Hochuli is still very much DEVASTATED from it.

That attitude, though in itself does not right the wrong that has been perpetrated, is the approach that all referees, umpires, directors, appeals chairmen or whomever else is in charge of competitions should assume.  Its effect is very positive and quite refreshing! His position makes everyone aware of the importance of the sport and it then helps persuade the decision makers to be more dedicated to both their pre-competition preparation and their attention-direction during the contest.  Furthermore, it ‘connects’ those involved — the competitors who are giving 100% of their hearts, bodies and souls with all the interested spectators, aware of the importance of what is going on – and of course, the ultimate deciders of their fates. 

Today’s newspaper coverage sensitively wreaks from both sympathy and respect for Hochuli who realized and publicly accepted his responsibility of erroneous judgment by taking full blame for causing embarrassment to the declared winners (who didn’t really deserve the victory) and, of course, the losers (who rightfully felt betrayed).

The ACBL and its Tournament Division should use this unfortunate episode as a mighty beacon about what is expected of them and how similar wrong calls in our own sport should be handled.  Anything less by the ACBL should be thought of as a total failure by our governing organization.

If one wants examples in bridge, he need not go very far.

I suggest you check out any of the following: Fairly recent Appeals Cases which allow significant hesitation actions to be improperly taken advantage of by partner; "Losing Team Wins" in Chapter XIV of The Lone Wolff (the description of the 1990 Geneva World Championship wherein the losing team was credited with winning in the semifinal of the Rosenblum championship despite a reported ‘mis-scoring’ acknowledged by both teams which would have rightfully changed the victor – crucially reported before the start of the match the following day, but to no avail); the Judy Kay Wolff/Jane Segal debacle from the 2005 Pittsburgh Spring Nationals wherein the Director/s (and subsequently the Appeals Committee) could not possibly have done their homework, never objectively examining the hands involved to help determine whether appellants’ spontaneous remarks and accusations had any merit); and too many more to detail.

On a grander and much more far reaching scale, let us consider what has happened in our grandiose Olympic events.

The first impropriety occurred in Shanghai during the 2007 WBF Awards Ceremony, when (in direct violation of specific WBF regulations) political issues were raised with the display of a sign from the podium disclaiming the team’s responsibility for the election of President Bush. Yet, despite the absence of personal apologies from the participants for such disruptive and humiliating brashness, and due to interference of sympathetic, influential outside forces who waved the green flag — the offenders got off scot-free.  Incidentally, it is frightening that one individual serving on the decision making group originally recused himself (because of a conflict of interest due to spousal involvement) and then when the discussions got thorny, magically unrecused himself and stood up to be counted!

Then on to the Beijing ‘Real’ Olympics, in the summer of 2008, where important issues such as underage participation and other related aberrations which almost certainly occurred also went the way of all flesh – to avoid scandalous negative publicity.

Let us not forget the shamelessness of the O. J. Simpson jury where justice went out the window in favor of  catering to public opinion and making amends for terrible bigoted times in the distant past.

From there, but on a geometrically important scale of perhaps infinity to one, is it so surprising that at the outset of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany –the legal profession, including most, if not all, of the judges became totally unmindful of their lifelong training and made a travesty out of what they stood for in the interest of their personal safety and allegiance to a human monster.  We, the people, should be made of "STERNER STUFF!"

It is good to see Football is assuming responsibility and recognizing embarrassing moments with an eye to avoiding repeat performances. Perhaps our bridge administrators should follow suit!


Watching the Beijing Summer Olympics on TV has rekindled many nostalgic memories involving my international bridge career spanning nearly four decades. Representing one’s country before a steadily growing league of nations is a unique honor and should be cherished as a privilege earned by relatively few.

My involvement encompassed thirty-eight years of world bridge championships. I was absent from four, served as a non-player/administrator in five and proudly represented my country (and zone) in the remaining twenty-nine.  Those years have passed swiftly, though poignant memories and feelings remain deep-seated – especially as we approach the close of this year’s Olympic extravaganza. Whether one partakes as an administrator or player, the focus is directed to the individual’s responsibility to the task at hand. When attending in dual capacities, my playing always came first, although I was ever conscious of my duties to help improve the game.

Watching the goings-on in Beijing, I find it touching to see the camaraderie exhibited by the competing nations -– especially at this horrifying period in history as we witness terrorism, suffering, strife and political confrontations all over the globe.  When a player of one nation realizes that his opponent is in a relatively similar station (in realms of ability, motivation and expectation of finish), a strong natural bond develops. This so-called bond exudes with respect (or even love) but does not interfere with one’s determination to best his or her opponent. These feelings of warmth and admiration continue for a lifetime.  Ask one who knows!

The mental challenge of bridge championships vary in many facets from the more corporal nature of the present day Beijing gala – but they unmistakably share a lofty goal:  Players must always be comfortable, knowing their teammates are giving one hundred percent of themselves – and playing by the rules (not employing chicanery or subterfuge) — with everyone’s ultimate objective being that contests are decided on merit alone!  But — unlike bridge (where the actual numerical score determines the winner), the regular Olympics are somewhat skewed by subjective, judgmental evaluations in several categories — which sometimes allows the process to slip from grace).

The overwhelming distinction between physical Olympians and their bridge playing counterparts is age! In body sports, the average competing age is somewhere in the mid-twenties and in most instances, their staying power normally does not exceed twelve years (three Olympics). World class bridge players begin earlier, usually peak in their thirties – but unlike the athletic aspirants, can remain at the top for thirty or forty years.

This age-related durability of bridge competitors enables them to pursue their dreams over an extended period of time and enhances the thrill of victory by savoring many long-standing close friendships with people of other cultures from all walks of life.  Such has been my experience and I treasure my unique closeness with hosts of intelligent, honorable, competitive, productive, dynamic personalities in all phases of the game whom I encountered during my extensive bridge odysseys (not to forget that some whipped my butt on occasion – but that all goes with the territory). Bridge Olympics have provided an incomparable milieu for me to make and sustain a world class cast of friends! I am most grateful for that honor.

The fortunate individuals who enter the International Bridge arena have assumed a seat of honor as one of a select group who have earned the right to represent his or her homeland – whether it be country, island, territory or region. However, in the last half century our game has been insidiously invaded by inappropriate mandates on non-related bridge issues – namely politics! Several nations have issued ultimatums to their players to forfeit matches to countries with whom their foreign policies do not conform. Bridge boycotts are not accepted with popularity and taint the beauty and sanctity of our game. You may remember previous situations with China (Mainland and Taiwan), the Apartheid issue involving South Africa and the more widely publicized Arab-Israeli conflicts.

Politics has no rightful place in world bridge competition.   Regrettably, my own country was in violation at the recent Shanghai World Championships in 2007 when our victorious Women’s Team disrupted the pomp and circumstance of the World Bridge Federation Medal Presentation Ceremony by flashing a denouncement of their feelings for President Bush.

The World Olympics is a showplace for talent — where the spectators revere and applaud the artists who attain the greatest heights. The performers’ efforts are fraught with diligence, dedication and unilateral mind-set to being Number One! Where else can a plethora of world powers convene in a serene, but exuberant, atmosphere with mutual respect for those who vie for and capture the Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals. To me — there is nothing more beautiful than enjoying the strains of a country’s national anthem as their flag is being hoisted and share the glowing pride of the winners.

The Olympics provide a perfect venue to lay the groundwork for world peace. It is a starting point!  I, personally, have grown and matured to understand the ethnologies and cultures of many of my foreign brethren. It is most gratifying to observe the competitive ethics and decorum of rival nations at the Awards Ceremonies.  If only the sportsmanship exhibited by the bridge citizens of our universe had a significant impact on our power-driven political leaders (both friendly and rogue), our society would provide a safer and happier haven for us and the generations which follow.


(responding to Cam French)

My response is intended to shed more light on Cam French’s quest, as he has sometimes called it — “To right a wrong” and, while doing it, if possible, to eliminate the deceit, betrayal and perfidy which accompanies it.

He has referred to my contribution to the subject as (among several things) welcoming more scrutiny to my views, but calling it just “too painful” for me to lift tall buildings to get it done. Let me explain: There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, nor should there be in anyone’s mind, that Steve Sion and Alan Cokin as a partnership, cheated in Norfolk during the 1979 Fall Nationals and especially during the Board-a-Match Teams which they won, playing on a team with Jim Sternberg, Alan Sontag and Peter Weichsel. What else is new? Since the pair had been cheating for years before that and whatever their finish, whether it be in Nationals, Regionals, or Sectionals,(maybe even in club games), it totally distorted the final results.

Next, a few years after that and while a member of the WBF Executive Council, I proposed a law which, at the time, was unanimously passed and resulted in the following: Once a partnership is found guilty of the most heinous crime which bridge can produce (illicitly exchanging surreptitious signals) with intent to defraud their opponents and the event (thus — bridge in general), said finish would not only be denied in that specific event, but it would apply retroactively to all events in which they participated as a partnership and the disqualification would apply not only to them — but to every other individual on those teams as well. Furthermore, any and all additional attendant advantages therein would be forever thrown out!

My simple motive for proposing and having this motion passed was to dissuade all honest players from partnering or teaming up with possible cheats for fear of this humiliating reprisal. Before I leave the subject, let it be noted that I further proposed (as part of the motion) that after said titles were vacated — no other team or pair would move up into finishing position in the standings which the cheating “team” or “pair” were justifiably forced to abdicate. As far as I know, this caveat is still part of WBF rules, even though, at least up until now, it has not been called to use.

I vividly recall with mixed emotion two parallel incidents which followed the posting of the finishers in high-profile Pairs Games. One occurred in 1970 in Stockholm and the other in 1974 in Monte Carlo. It was quite a humorous sight – as the fourth place pairs were receiving facetious congratulations from their sympathetic comrades who were, as they say — in-the-know! Funny, but true.

For those who may be curious as to what I meant by “too painful” — it is so highly subjective (not to mention impossible) to judge exactly what would have happened if

the “cheaters” had not been playing. In a KO tournament, what about all the victims the rogue team beat on their way to the finals; and in Pairs, B-A-M or Swiss Teams — how about the skewed nature of results when the cheating caused a difference even to the extent (believe-it-or-not) that sometimes a cheating pair will lose a board because of their cheating rather than win it by not cheating?

In essence, what I was trying to accomplish was to deputize the whole high-level world bridge community to rise up and unify to swat down these diabolical attempts to destroy the honor of our game.

Alas, it has fallen far short of my lofty expectations. To understand why – one merely needs to refer to The Lone Wolff and arrive at his or her own conclusions. Sadly, the sanctity of bridge has changed profusely. One of the reasons for it is

Professionalism. The intrigue and lure of bridge has been transformed from “the romance derived from the sheer beauty of the great game we play” to a more practical concern –“I need to win to maintain my livelihood”.

Could that be a reason why the other members of the ill-fated Norfolk team didn’t abdicate their victory since, by so doing, they each would have to strike one National Championship from their resume. Painful? Yes!!! And — in retrospect — I think I have understated it.

Let me discuss the ACBL role in this issue. The current ACBL, in my opinion, is made up of a dynamic CEO, Jay Baum, and some veterans along with many employees who do not even know how to play the game. It is fitting to cite a perfect example of lethargy involving our administration: There was a time, perhaps 15 to 20 years ago, where the “hallowed” trophies like the Reisinger, Vanderbilt, Morehead (GNTs) and Spingold were not even engraved with the current winners (besides being eight years behind).

Perhaps Shakespeare was ahead of his time and in a context apart, but I am reminded that our ACBL Board of Directors should be made of sterner stuff wherein this above sacrilege could never happen. Can anyone possibly believe that such an apathetic group of leaders, without tradition or genuine love for the game, can possibly treat bridge with the passion which Cameron French, Zeke Jabbour and, of course, some other notable exceptions do?

Before I conclude, I think it might be appropriate to mention the following historical episode. After winning my first two World Championships in 1970 and 1971, the Blue Team came out of retirement to contest and win the next four: One World Team Olympiad and three Bermuda Bowls in 1972-1975.

In all four of those championships my team competed representing both the USA and on one occasion the WBF as a defending Bermuda Bowl Champion (1973). All four of the teams that I played on were composed, except for my partner Bob Hamman, of different teammates. On all four occasions my team finished second to the Blue Team (losing by close margins twice, a medium margin once, and being blown out once).

It may be interesting to those who are familiar with the gambling world that in 1973, in Guaruja, Brazil, after our team edged out the Blue Team during the Round Robin for the No. 1 Seed in the finals, that the British bookmakers put our final match up on the board – with the Italians being favored by 21 to 1. In other words, if one wanted to bet on the Italians, they would have had to risk $2,100 to win $100. I mention this only to educate the public as to what the legal betting establishments around the world were privy to – yet the great unwashed American bridge community (and many others) were in denial!

In each of the four tournaments, according to the Burgay tapes (released in 1976 and authenticated by the United States CIA), every Blue Team member was wired to the teeth (for more particulars please read The Lone Wolff and be sure to get the upcoming World Bridge History, authored by Jaime Ortiz-Patino to be released this October at the World Championship in Beijing). As an aftermath of the Burgay Tapes, Jimmy barred every member of the Italian Blue Team from ever appearing in another World Championship, although he relented for two particular Blue Team members in 1979 and again in 1983. I must confess I fell from grace as well as I succumbed in 2005, as Permanent Chairman of the WBF Credentials Committee, in Estoril, by allowing the two surviving members of the Blue Team to participate in the Senior Teams – representing Italy.

Having said the above, I strongly believe that my teams, as well as some

of the great USA teams of the late 1950’s and 1960’s, should have not been moved up and declared winners of events which they had failed to win — for whatever the reason!!!

Perhaps now others will understand what I meant when I referred to looking back as “too painful”.

Bobby Wolff

A favourite letter to Bobby – posted by Judy Kay-Wolff

While trying to organize a comprehensive file of all the personal notes and emails Bobby received since the release of The Lone Wolff, I happened upon one sent a while ago which just resurfaced and was so sincere, I wanted to share it with you.   It was written by Donna (Mrs. Neil) Chambers.   

The note began — With Sincere Appreciation 
…………………….  for your relentless, and obviously difficult, dedication to preserve the integrity, quality and enjoyment of the game.   I had no idea!  And, I couldn’t agree more with your ideas and principles.

Loved your style of writing.   It mattered not that I didn’t know all of the characters.

I laughed and cried and frequently "clucked" in disgust.   Congratulations.  I thank you and wish you and Judy all the best!

(signed) Donna