Note: Mark Molson was one of the best bridge players Canada ever produced. At the time of his death, he had around 20,000 Master Points -- the way bridge players measure their achievements -- more than any other player in the country. He was Canadian champion eight times, and in 1990 won the bronze medal at the World Team Championships in Geneva. There was some controversy when an opposing team made a mistake in scoring a game. A correction could have placed the Canadians higher, but the judges ruled there would be no replay. In 1995 at the Bermuda Bowl held in Beijing, Mr. Molson and the Canadian team won the silver medal. In the past few years, Mr. Molson had started competing in the United States, a tougher league and one where the money is better. "Mark had all the skills needed to be a top player but beyond that he was very competitive. He hated to lose and his will to win gave him an edge," said Boris Baran, who was Mr. Molson's bridge partner for most of the past 30 years and played with him in both the 1990 and 1995 world championships. "He was a superstar in the bridge world." The competitiveness showed itself even between partners at the bridge table, and Mr. Baran recalls that while Mark Molson was almost always well-behaved, he could lose his temper at a partner who had messed up a hand. Mr. Molson was a member of a branch of the brewing family, although not the one that ran it. His father, William Molson, known as Bill, owned a seat on the Montreal Stock Exchange and traded on the floor. His brother Ian is an investment banker who for a while worked at a senior level in the beer company and made a stab at control. His brother Bill is also in the investment business. Working with numbers runs in the family, and a quick mind with odds and probabilities is essential in championship bridge. "Mark would have been great in finance if he had pursued that, he really was very bright and obviously great with numbers," said his brother Bill. Like other members of his family, Mark Molson went to private schools in Montreal, a boarding school in the Eastern Townships and then to McGill University. He learned to play bridge from his grandparents, John and Hazel, at the age of seven. From then on, he played often with his grandparents, especially at their summer residence at Metis Beach on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, 40 kilometres west of Matane. A lot of his time at McGill was spent at the student union and at his fraternity house playing bridge. He graduated with an arts degree, but what he really had was a degree in advanced bridge. After university, he kept playing. Unlike his brothers, he was unconventional, almost bohemian, and never had a regular job. "To the great consternation of my parents, Mark saw no reason to terminate his undergraduate existence when he left McGill. A job or conventional employment of any kind never held much attraction for Mark," said his brother Bill in a eulogy in Montreal. "Likewise, the possession of a steady income, a permanent residence or a predetermined daily existence never made it on to the list of Mark's priorities." Playing that much bridge can be seen as a waste of time or, in this case, preparation for a shot at the professional bridge circuit. Top class bridge is not a game you learn by reading books or taking lessons, but by practice. "It's been said that it takes 10 years of dedicated play to reach the level of mediocrity in bridge," said Mr. Baran. "Once players reach that level, most of them seldom get any better." After a decade of playing serious bridge, Mr. Molson kept getting better and became a professional bridge player. That took him all across Canada and around the world. The top professionals can make $500,000 a year. Mr. Baran said that last year Mark Molson made $150,000 (U.S.) on the professional bridge circuit. John Markland Molson was born in Montreal on April 28, 1949. He died on Jan. 19, 2006 in Miami after complaining of chest pains while playing golf. He died in hospital. He is survived by wife Janice Seamon, one of the top woman bridge players in the world. They have a seven-year-old daughter, Jennifer. He is also survived by his father and three brothers. [F. F. LANGAN, Friday, February 10, 2006, The Globe and Mail]
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