Exploring The Biggest Bridge Festival in Europe: Örebro, Sweden

To see some great pictures from the town and the festival itself, check out the link at the bottom of this article.

This summer the IntoBridge team visited some of the biggest bridge gatherings in the world. We already updated you about the US Nationals in Chicago. After Chicago, we went to the beautiful town of Örebro, which despite its modest size, hosts the biggest bridge festival in Europe!

Organized by the Swedish Bridge Federation, the festival welcomes players from more than 20 countries around the world, however, the majority of the players are Scandinavian. There are different types of tournaments that appeal to a wide range of players – the famous Chairman’s Cup gathers world-class teams, while the single-session Bronze Pairs events gather players with much less experience. And then there are various events in between, mostly pairs formats.

Along with all open events, there are various types of National competitions going on. One of those stood out – the National pairs event for players with less than 2 years of bridge experience. The top 3 received medals and listened to the national anthem as they did in all other categories. In their attempts to find new players, federations worldwide can learn something from the Swedes.

The festival’s tremendous success can be attributed to the impeccable organization of the Swedish Bridge Federation and the highly skilled full-time staff who oversee its smooth operation. Notable individuals such as Carl “Calle” Ragnarsson, Micke Melander, and Tomas Brenning, the punctuality-driven head of scoring, contribute significantly to ensuring that the schedule runs without any delays, which is a common occurrence in most other bridge events worldwide. Additionally, participants can access the daily bulletin, written by renowned international bridge columnist Peter Ventura.

While the Swedish Bridge Festival captivates visitors with its bridge-centric events, the city of Örebro itself adds a touch of cultural charm to the experience. Situated in the heart of Sweden, Örebro boasts a rich history, with its medieval castle serving as a focal point for exploration and discovery. The castle was built more than 700 years ago and became a palace during the reign of King Gustav Vasa. Various types of tours and treasure hunts are organized for tourists.

Tourists can also take a leisurely stroll through the city’s cobbled streets, marvel at the stunning architecture, and indulge in the delicious local cuisine that blends traditional Swedish flavors with modern gastronomic innovations.

At the heart of the festival are the daily Bronze Pairs events, where bridge enthusiasts of all levels connect and compete. These one-session pairs events attract a diverse range of participants, with anywhere from 100 to 400 pairs taking part in each session, 3 times a day! 

For those seeking a more competitive field, the Silver Pairs events offer an engaging challenge. Spanning over 42 boards, there is one Silver event every day with around 100 pairs participating.

The Goldmine Pairs event is played towards the end of the festival and this time gathered 136 pairs. It’s played in a Swiss style, starting with 42 boards of qualifications and then, based on rankings, every 20 pairs play 38 boards, all-play-all in Final A, B, C and so on… The Final A this year was won by the Swedes Magnus Eriksson and Mikael Rimstedt with a 2% lead over the second-placed Christer Eriksson and Thomas Ivarsson. The top 3 were completed by Joakim Ericson and Lennart Bylund.

The jewel in the Swedish Bridge Festival’s crown is the Chairman’s Cup – a week-long teams event, which consists of a Qualification phase with a double-elimination KOs for the qualifiers. This year, 127 highly skilled teams joined the competition. Thanks to the American sponsors Gillian Miniter and Rajath Shourie, several of the very best players in the world joined the competition – the Rimstedt brothers from Sweden, Tor-Eivind Grude and Christian Bakke from Norway, two of the best American players, Gavin Wolpert and Joe Grue, and also Tom Paske from England. 

After a week of intense battles, team Dinner Club, Gillian Miniter & Joe Grue (USA), Ola & Mikael Rimstedt (Sweden) and Thomas Paske (England), prevailed over the all-Swedes team of 2 med lite mer hår (Daniel Eriksson, Tommy Bergdahl, Thomas Karlsson, Jan Selberg, Olle Wademark and Adam Stokka).

Pre-COVID, the festival used to be even bigger, with up to 525 pairs in the Bronze events and 173 teams in the Chairman’s Cup. Post-COVID, the Festival is on a trend to reach again those numbers within a year or two.

In the enchanting setting of Örebro, the Örebro Bridge Festival shines as a celebration of skill, camaraderie, and cultural immersion. From the welcoming atmosphere of the Bronze Pairs events to the strategic battles of the Silver Pairs and especially the Goldmine pairs on top of the awe-inspiring competition of the Chairman’s Cup, the festival encompasses the true essence of bridge. Every bridge player can immerse themselves in the captivating world of bridge amidst the cultural backdrop of Örebro, where history and modernity intertwine to create an unforgettable experience.

Do you want to get an idea about the town and the playing area? Check out our photo album from Örebro, CLICK HERE.

Posted ByIntoBridge

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