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2009 Hall of Fame Banquet - By: Peggy Kaplan

My personal love affair with tournament bridge began in the southwest. There, I met a fellow early in his own journey with this incredible game. Lean and lanky with a distinctive drawl, this young man already seemed destined for greatness. Hand after hand, he outbid and outplayed the opponents, his long fingers scooping up far more tricks than most could ever capture. Even in the beginning, Mark Lair had creativity, daring, table feel and flair. Thirty years later, that talent and determination found Mark inducted into the 2009 Hall of Fame.

Mark’s stats are amazing. Over 53,000 masterpoints; fourth on the all time list. Twenty North American Championships. More than 1,000 regional wins, along with many international competitions. Mark’s record alone is well deserving of entry into the Hall of Fame.

Yet, there is far more to this competitor. At Mark’s induction, longtime partner and close friend, fellow Hall of Famer Mike Passell, gave a moving and emotional speech about their years of friendship and success. Another elite teammate and partner, Eddie Wold, also offered tales about Mark. Both Mike and Eddie recounted how Mark so often had an incredible sense of when to steal from the opponents – and when to simply pound them with expert card reading.

I could share scores of hands where Mark has dazzled this kibitzer with his exploits. A most recent one occurred during the Open Team trials in White Plains. Mark’s partner preempted with 2 hearts and RHO passed. Holding five card heart support, Qx of spades and a modicum of values, Mark firmly placed a 4 spade bid on the table. Partner had an upper range hand, so Mark’s inventiveness didn’t steal a slam swing – “only” a moderate game swing against their vulnerable four spades.

Mark has a love of bridge second to none. But even more important to Mark are his family and faith. Mark’s mother, wife Sally, twin sons and extended family cheered as Mark thanked friends, teammates and his spiritual grounding for support.

In addition to Mark’s achievement, other bridge icons received awards. Congratulations to Aileen Osofsky, Queen of Goodwill and winner of the 2009 Blackwood Award and Jerry Machlin, all-time great tournament director for the 2008 Blackwood. Agnes Gordon received the von Zedwitz Award, given to a player deserving of the Hall of Fame, had it existed during their lifetime. And the Sidney Lazard Jr. Sportsmanship Award went to Peter Boyd.

Thanks to George Jacobs, Master Ceremonies extraordinaire, and to all these fine players. They truly represent the best in bridge and are worthy of the highest honors.

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