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Mark Lair - A Class Act

I tend not to voice opinions unless asked, but feel compelled to speak out in favor of one of the truly great people in the world of bridge. It saddened me to hear about Mark being brought before the Ethical Oversight Committee for what, in my opinion, appears to be a relatively minor offense by players on two teams.

I have no personal knowledge of the events that transpired in Denver (or Orlando), but would like to share my personal experience of being at the same table as Mark.

From the time I got out of the Army and started playing bridge, I began hearing of the phenomenon from Canyon, Texas, named Mark Lair. It was a thrill for me to play against him while I lived in West Texas (1976-1984). I found Mark to always exhibit a pleasant demeanor and was happy to be cordially greeted. Mark is a real people person and always made you feel like you were one of his long lost friends.

As the years passed I had occasion to play against many experts and professionals, most of whom I found to be highly ethical. Occasionally I had some bad experiences. I recall asking an expert if I could see his convention card. He pulled out a crumpled up piece of paper from his pocket and snarled, “We’ll alert you if you need to know.” Was I intimidated? You bet.

My experience with Mark was the exact opposite. Mark always had a neatly printed convention card on the table and when questioned, his answers were forthright. He would go to great lengths to give complete answers which was a testimonial to his efforts to adhere to the integrity of the game. I never felt that he was condescending when replying to my queries.

I have seen Mark bend over backwards to be ethical. He is tall, but keeps his eyes focused on his own cards. I have observed him caution the opponents to protect their cards by holding them back so he will not be able to see them and gain an advantage.

Since moving to Houston I have played against Mark less frequently, but still run into him at tournaments held in Dallas and Austin. During the last forty years I cannot recall ever winning when Mark was on the opposing team. What is clear to me is that Mark wins because of his skill, experience and flair for the game.

What is also clear to me is that Mark would never do anything purposely unethical to gain an edge, and as I said at the beginning, I am truly saddened to hear that such an upstanding player would have to go through this ordeal for what appears to be an honest mistake by two teams.

My feeling is that the bridge world would be better off with more players like Mark. Am I biased in Mark’s favor? You bet I am.

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