Are You Watching the *Jeopardy!* Greatest of All Time Tournament?


I began the tournament pulling for Ken Jennings.  My family watched most of Jennings’s amazing 74-game winning streak in 2004.  Ally was six and Caroline was three, but they somehow still remember it, probably because we made up songs about Jennings and sung them before each show.

But I must admit that after Jennings won Match One and James Holzhauer (“Jeopardy James”) won Match Two, I started cheering for Brad Rutter, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania native and Johns Hopkins dropout who has won more game show money that anyone on the planet and has defeated Jennings on two occasions.  Until the Jennings took Match One, Rutter had never lost a Jeopardy! match to a human opponent.  (He lost to the IBM computer “Watson” in 2011).  Jennings came back and won Match Three on Thursday night, but I am still hoping Rutter will make a run to keep things interesting.

Over at Slate, television writer Jeremy Samuel Faust has some great analysis of what we have seen so far in this tournament.  Here is a taste:

We are two matches into the Jeopardy! showdown between three of the most dominant players in the show’s history, and here’s what we know so far. The greatest player in Jeopardy!history is either James Holzhauer or Ken Jennings, currently tied at one match apiece. If Brad Rutter wins in the end, it will be one of the most remarkable comebacks in sports history. (Yes, Jeopardy! is a sport. Don’t @ me.)

That the competition has been fierce is actually somewhat of a surprise. Coming into the tournament, Holzhauer was a huge favorite to win.

This is the case for three reasons. First, the format essentially eliminates the biggest potential weakness in Holzhauer’s game: variance. During regular-season play, his large bet strategy came with what statisticians call a high “risk of ruin”; even though his large Daily Double bets usually paid off, if and when they did not, the downsides could have been potentially devastating. However, in the GOAT tournament, a player can not only lose a match without being eliminated—they can lose big and they’ll still be back for more.

Read the entire piece here.