You would have thought there would be pyrotechnics. After all, the two-day “Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades” final featured three of the greatest champions in the 30-year history of the modern “Jeopardy!” format hosted by Alex Trebek.
Top players in history
Ken Jennings holds the record for the most consecutive games won on “Jeopardy!”at 74. Brad Rutter holds the show’s record for the most overall money earned. And Roger Craig has the largest single-day haul in the program’s history at $77,000.
With those credentials for the finalists we might have expected the “Battle of the Decades” winner to amass more than $60,000 over the two days, with the other two contestants snapping at his heels. Yet the winner turned out to be Brad Rutter with only $21,800. How did that happen?
Too much testosterone on stage?
Anticipating a high-scoring final, the players seemed overly aggressive with their wagering. Craig’s devil-may-care gambling finally caught up to him. Twice he put over $10,000 at risk by making it a true Daily Double, betting all he had. Both times he failed to come up with the correct response. In Craig’s defense, he had previously employed this high-risk/high-reward strategy to positive effect. But this time it backfired. Rutter also on a couple occasions put more at risk than was practical.
Ken Jennings strikes out in “Final Jeopardy!”
In a major surprise, Jennings missed the “Final Jeopardy!” clue both days. On the second day, the clue was: “Serving 160 years apart, these 2 Secretaries of State are the only ones who never married.” The correct response was James Buchanan (who was also America’s only bachelor president) and Condoleezza Rice, who recently served in the George W. Bush administration. Jennings responded Buchanan and Albright. Perhaps he overlooked that Madeleine Albright’s father was famed political scientist and diplomat Josef Korbel. So Korbel was her maiden name and Albright her married name. Both Craig and Rutter gave the correct response, suggesting it wasn’t that difficult a clue to solve.
Ringing signaling device before knowing the correct response
Because their opponents were so talented, each player probably figured they had but a split second to buzz in. As a consequence they often rang their signaling devices without knowing the correct response. It was rare seeing these three great champs miss so many clues.
“Jeopardy!” provides the answers and the contestants must supply the correct questions, or responses in the form of a question. But were these clues tougher than usual for the finals? Three great players who usually zip through the board struggled mightily at times during this two-day affair.
Rutter won the $1 million first prize with a two-day total of $21,800. Jennings, who could have shut Rutter out if he had just recalled Condi Rice, earned $100,000 for second place with $7,599, and the gambling Craig took home $50,000 for finishing third with $4,000. Semi-finalists won $25,000, quarter-finalists $10,000 and the other invitees $5,000.
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