Ken Jennings on James Holzhauer


I once tried out for Jeopardy. I think it was 1996 or 1997. It did not go well.  I did not make it out of the Atlantic City casino ballroom where I took the initial test with hundreds of other hopefuls.  I knew the answers to all the questions, but I did not answer them quickly enough.  Maybe one day I will try again.

But I remain a big fan of the show.

In this piece, one Jeopardy champion–perhaps the greatest champion– writes about another Jeopardy champion.  I must confess that I did not follow James Holzhauer‘s historic jeopardy run to the same level that I followed Ken Jennings back in 2004, but I did manage to catch Monday’s episode in which Holzhauer loss to Chicago librarian Emma Boettcher.

Here is a taste of Jennings’s reflection on Holzhauer:

But no streak lasts forever. Until Holzhauer lost in Monday night’s game, he had seemed invulnerable. It was rare for anyone to even make a run at him. But he was defeated, fair and square, by Emma Boettcher of the University of Chicago—that’s right, a midwestern librarian. Boettcher was no civilian. She was a longtime Jeopardynut who had even written her master’s thesis about predicting the difficulty of the show’s clues. Unflustered by Holzhauer’s stat line, she played a near-perfect game. She found both Daily Doubles in the Double Jeopardy round and did what too many of his challengers had been reluctant to do: bet big. As a result, she rolled into Final Jeopardy with a decisive lead over the best Jeopardy player of our era.

That’s what people don’t understand about Jeopardy dominance: It’s so fragile. You get only one loss, and it’s Russian roulette: Any given night could be the game with your name on it. You could play a dominant game, but still catch a bad break or two—a missed Final Jeopardy, a Daily Double found by someone else. I think there were about a dozen games in my streak where my win hinged on a single question. Incredibly, they all went my way. Until the 13th game, when one didn’t.

Read the entire piece here.