Handicapping the 2019 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions

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CREDIT: Jeopardy/YouTube

Fifteen of the most memorable recent Jeopardy! champions are returning for the latest edition of the Tournament of Champions, airing November 4-15. The big favorite is of course James Holzhauer, holder of many a Jeopardy! record. Based on their performances in their initial appearances, here is my ranking of who is most likely to emerge victorious. My analysis is based on a mix of playing style, average win total, and gut feeling. Quite frankly, everyone after James is pretty tightly packed.

Also, for the second Tournament of Champions in a row, a contestant who would have been eligible was unable to return, as 2018 Teachers Tournament winner Larry Martin passed away earlier this year.

(I have not included five-game winner Steven Grade in the rankings, because I know him personally, but I will say that I know he has spent plenty of time studying.)
1. James Holzhauer (32 Wins) – It’s not impossible to beat James, but it is improbable, even more so in a tournament format.
2. Josh Hill (7 Wins) – Josh has a tendency to look down before he selects a clue, which makes me think he has a sneaky secret about how strong his chances are.
3. Emma Boettcher (3 Wins) – The James Dethroner has the lowest win total of anyone in the tournament, but the second-highest average per-game earnings.
4. Francois Barcomb (Teachers Tournament Champion) – One of the better recent Teachers Tournament winners.
5. Ryan Fenster (7 Wins) – Hopefully he knows at least one thing about football now.
6. Eric R. Backes (4 Wins) – The four-time curse was very much a real thing, because I believe Eric had the goods to keep going even longer.
7. Anneke Garcia (4 Wins) – The four-time curse was very much a real thing, becauseI believe Anneke had the goods to keep going even longer.
8. Lindsey Shultz (4 Wins) – The four-time curse was very much a real thing, because I believe Lindsey had the goods to keep going even longer.
9. Alan Dunn (5 Wins) – Easily the winner of the best facial hair of this field.
10. Kyle Jones (7 Wins) – Kyle kind of looks like Kirstin Cutts, a four-time winner back in 2017.
11. Rob Worman (6 Wins) – Probably the champion I remember least of this field, so maybe he’ll surprise me!
12. Gilbert Collins (5 Wins) – Does his promise to give his kids 1% of his winnings still apply now that he’s in the ToC?
13. Rachel Lindgren (5 Wins) – She was a solid five-game winner, but an average of less than $20,000 per win gives me a little pause about her chances.
14. Dhruv Gaur (College Tournament Champion) – The college winner always looks strong compared to the other college players, but the step up to the big leagues is a tough one.

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James Holzhauer: A Jeopardy Postmortem

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CREDIT: Jeopardy/YouTube

After 32 winning campaigns in a row, Jeopardy James Holzhauer was finally felled on his 33rd game on Monday, June 3, 2019 to user experience librarian Emma Boettcher. His total number of games won and money earned ($2,464,216) in regular, non-tournament shows are second to only Ken Jennings in Jeopardy! history. Of course, what is most impressive about his run was the unprecedented volume of his winnings, as he nearly surpassed Jennings’ money total ($2,522,700 in 75 games) in less than half the time. This begs the question: has Holzhauer changed the game permanently?

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