Source: IBPA Bulletin Nov 2021

Watch out, Helgeness and Meckwell! A new generation is on the move. The 2021 Norwegian Pairs Championships, played in the beautiful Storefjell resort at 1000 metres above sea level, produced a sensational result when 13-year-old Nicolai Heiberg-Evenstad, partnered by his father Stian, captured the silver medal. The youngest person ever to win a medal in an open Norwegian bridge championship may be one of the youngest even in the rest of the world. To accentuate the power of our young generation, the gold medal was taken by internationals Christian Bakke and Tor Eivind Grude, still in their twenties.

Knut Kjærnsrød
Knut Kjærnsrød

Nicolai started with chess at the age of six and, in his first year at school, he became the school champion, where pupils up to the age of 16, as well as a few teachers, participated. At the age of eight, he was introduced to bridge, and ever since he has been passionately dedicated to the game. Despite being just in his early teens, he can already look back on a remarkable career. He was selected for the national Under-16 team at 11; he earned a Nordic title in 2019 and became an online world champion in 2020. At 11, he also became the youngest-ever to win a gold-point tournament in Norway.

Following are a few examples of Nicolai’s winning efforts, and we start with a defence:

MP Dealer West. Neither VUL.

Q 9 6 4 3
J 8 7
9 4 3
A 5
A 8
6 5 4 3
A J 6
K 10 8 7
A Q 10 9
K Q 10 8 7 5 2
J 10 7 5 2
K 2

Q J 9 6 4 2
West North East South
1 1 Dbl 41
Pass 4 5 Pass
5 Dbl Pass Pass

1: Void.

North started with the diamond three and Nicolai ruffed. I know a few players who would rather automatically shift to partner’s suit, but Nicolai completely trusted his fathers lead of a low diamond and returned a club to get his second ruff for one down and an 85% score.

The next examples show solid declarer technique:

MP Dealer East. Neither VUL.

Q 8 6
K 10 9 5
K J 4
10 7 4
K 5 4
J 8
8 6 3 2
J 8 6 5
A J 9 7

Q 9 5
A K Q 9 3 2
10 3 2
A Q 7 6 4 3 2
A 10 7
West North East South
1 1
Pass 31 Dbl 4
Pass Pass Pass

1- Heart support, invitational plus.

West led a club. Nicolai was never in doubt: he ruffed, played a trump to the king, ruffed another club, cashed the ace of hearts, led a heart to the ten and ruffed dummy‘s last club. Nicolai then played a spade to the eight and East‘s nine. The opponents could cash two more spades but had to present the 13-year-old declarer with his tenth trick.

This deal is my favourite:

MP Dealer North. N/S VUL.

A 9 3
A Q 3
A K 10 6
J 10 4
Q 10 8 4 2
9 6 5
Q J 8 5 3
J 7
9 7 4 2
A K Q 9 8 3
K J 7 5
K 10 8 4 2

7 6 5 2
West North East South
1 3 Dbl
Pass 4 Pass 4
Pass Pass Pass

West started with a diamond to dummy’s ace. Nicolai also cashed the king of diamonds, getting rid of two of his club losers. Three rounds of trumps were followed by the knave of spades, covered by West’s queen. Nicolai saw that he would run into transportation problems if he took the trick, so he ducked!

West led a high diamond, ruffed, and Nicolai played a spade to the nine, cashed the ace and still had a trump left as the entry to his king of spades.

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