With a strong performance in the qualifying round and two solid sessions in the final, Christal Nell and Igor Savchenko won the Rockwell Mixed Pairs by more than a board. Nell, of Seattle WA, and Savchenko, of Morris Plains NJ, scored 66.81% and 63.08% in Tuesday’s qualifier, and 57.04% and 59.05% in the final.

In second place were Judi Radin of New York City and Dan Rubinfeld of Berkeley CA.

This was the first NABC victory for Nell, a self-described stay-at-home mom who also teaches private bridge lessons. Savchenko, a software engineer, won the NABC Fast Pairs in 2015, and the Miles Non-Life Master Pairs in 1999.

Because the winners live on opposite coasts, they practice online. Their partnership began at the 2013 Fall NABC in Phoenix after encountering each other as opponents in several events and finally in the 0-5000 Mini-Blue Ribbon Pairs.

On that occasion, Nell recalls that Savchenko approached her after the game and said, “You always beat me!” But the admission was actually an overture for him to ask her to form a partnership. “I realized that if she said yes, it would be my chance to eventually win a national championship,” he said.