Jeopardy! Greatest Of All Time Tournament


Branden Leong, Staff Writer

Jeopardy!‘s Greatest of All Time (GOAT) tournament kicked off on Tuesday, Jan. 7, featuring three of the biggest money-winners and record-setters in the show’s history. Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and James Holzhauer are competing against each other for the title of “Greatest Jeopardy! Champion” and a grand prize of $1 million. The two other contestants will not leave empty-handed, however, and will receive $250,000 each.

Host Alex Trebek told USA Today that, “these three players have [already] won close to $10 million in Jeopardy! prize money and over 100 games among them.”

Each GOAT match is composed of two traditional, half-hour Jeopardy! games where the player with the highest cumulative points from both games wins the match. The three contestants will keep returning each weeknight (except Monday) until someone wins three matches.

So far, Jennings holds two wins and Holzhauer holds one, while Rutter is at zero. 

The spotlight on Holzhauer’s “headline-grabbing success” in 2019 inspired the GOAT tournament.

“When James had his run last year, a lot of people were wondering, ‘Well, how would he do against Ken Jennings? How would he do against Brad Rutter?'” explained Trebek to USA Today.

On Thursday, Jan. 9 (night three), Ken Jennings took a runaway victory as his second win in the tournament. Jennings previously won the first night on Jan. 7, and Holzhauer won the second night.

Players worked the board to “leave something in the tank” to get through a full hour of play, stated Jennings, but they were all exhausted by the end. None of the players had previously played Jeopardy! for an hour straight, and were running out of energy by the second game.

Jennings’s “tank was full” as he dominated night three. Holzhauer was impressed at his run.

In the first game of the third match, all players came up with the correct question to the first Final Jeopardy! answer. Jennings took the game, racking up 51,200 points, while Holzhauer had 27,200, and Rutter, 17,600.

At the beginning of the second game of the night, Holzhauer ran the board, accumulating 5,000 points before being wiped clean with an all-in Daily Double bet. Trebek dryly teased, “All right, you’re tied with Ken and Brad.” Rutter claimed both Daily Doubles in the Double Jeopardy! round.

Then came the time for the second Final Jeopardy! of the night, which received interesting responses from the contestants. The clue given stated, “These 2 foreign-born directors have each won 2 best director Oscars, but none of their films has won best picture.”

Stumped, Holzhauer (in third place, unusually), wrote: “Who is the GHOST-greatest host of syndicated TV? Alex Trebek” With the incorrect answer, he wagered just 908 points, ending with 6,492 points for the game and 33,692 for the match.

Rutter, equally as puzzled, jokingly wrote “Ken es el hombre” and “Eagles Super Bowl LII Champs,” which received a deadpan reply from Trebek, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to welcome you to the Jeopardy! comedy hour.” Rutter’s wager of 4,133 points ended him with 5,867 for the game and a match total of 23,467.

Jennings, the only one to take a stab at a serious answer, wrote, “Who are [Ang] Lee and [Alejandro] Gonzalez-Inarritu?” Still the incorrect answer, Jennings lost the 1,200 points he wagered. The correct response was, “Who are Ang Lee and Alfonso Cuaron?” However, since Jennings held a runaway lead, he ended with a total of 16,400 for the game and a match total of 67,600, more than double of Holzhauer’s standing.

Fans are not only rooting for the players, but for Trebek himself, who at 79 is currently battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Trebek has been hosting Jeopardy! since its launch in 1984, 36 years ago. 

At the Television Critics Association, Trebek said he felt his illness made him “a little slower in the ad-lib portions” during the tapings. However, the competitors disagreed. Jennings stated, “He never fumbles a word. The last of the great old-school broadcasters.”

Trebek has stated that he will continue to host the show for as long as he can, but has also teased that he would like Betty White to replace him, predicting that his successor is “probably going to be a woman” that has to have “a good sense of humor” and be “bright.”

The GOAT tournament could end on Jan. 14 if Jennings wins, but could also be stretched to Jan. 17 in a winner-takes-all match.


Photo courtesy of NYPOST.COM