Off the Schneid

In a week with Jeopardy’s two “biggest losers,” one finds fleeting redemption

Published April 7, 2024

The end is in sight!

This was the last whole week of tournament play in Season 40, with the last quarterfinal, three semifinals, and the first game of the final of this season’s Jeopardy! Invitational Tournament.

Each heading contains a link to my daily write-up over at The Jeopardy! Fan

2024 JIT, Quarterfinal #9, Monday, Apr. 1

Colby Burnett jumped out to an early lead on the first Daily Double, but Lilly Chin and Sam Buttrey had Daily Double opportunities of their own in Double Jeopardy. While Lilly got hers incorrect, Sam doubled up, taking a strong but surmountable lead into Final Jeopardy.

Monday’s final clue was in Novel Title Objects: A girl in a 1950 novel walks into this & “got in among the coats and rubbed her face against them.” Only Sam could come up with the wardrobe from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, deservedly becoming the ninth semifinalist.

Semifinal #1, Tuesday, Apr. 2

The semifinals began with Amy Schneider building a large lead, on 15 correct responses in the Jeopardy round. (Midway through, Jennifer Quail fumbled a True Daily Double bid). David Madden finished that first round with just $400, but found both remaining Daily Doubles within the first nine clues of Double Jeopardy. The lead changed four times from there, and Amy led by just $200 going into Final Jeopardy.

That clue in Historic Groups: The Kipchak Khanate is another name for this group that was eventually defeated by Tamerlane in 1395. Jennifer’s response of “the Mongol Empire” wasn’t specific enough, but Amy and David both zoomed in on the Golden Horde, and so Amy nabbed the first finals spot.

Semifinal #2, Wednesday, Apr. 3

Sam Kavanaugh’s buzzer struggles continued against Larissa Kelly and Andrew He. The 2021 Tournament of Champions winner, who got in just 25% of the time in the quarterfinal, “improved” to 28.5% this time. The Daily Doubles proved decisive here, as Larissa got one incorrect early on, and Andrew cruised to a rout by picking up $15,600 on the two betting clues in Double Jeopardy.

The lame-duck Final Jeopardy was in Physicists: This man with a force named after him published an 1835 scientific treatise on the physics of billiard balls. Sam and Larissa responded with congratulations for our second finalist (Sam’s: “Who is Andrew He, Physicist?”). While not a physicist, Andrew did give the correct response–Coriolis—as we moved two-thirds of the way to a rematch of the 2022 Tournament of Champions final.

Semifinal #3, Thursday, Apr. 4

Another tale of Daily Double: Victoria Groce jumped into the lead on the first one, Sam Buttrey leapfrogged her on the second, and Victoria nearly put the game away late with $9,000 on the last one. Only Matt Jackson was left out of the fun–and out of contention. Sam, though, was still within striking distance.

And so the last finals spot came down to a Final Jeopardy clue in State Capitals: It was named for a nearby river that explorer Gabriel Moraga named for one of a religious grouping of 7. Sam and Victoria both named Sacramento, after the Seven Sacraments, and Victoria advanced to the final. As for Sam—who said in his interview that he believes he’s lost more times on the show than anyone else—this was indeed his 13th Jeopardy! loss, putting him one ahead of Andrew He.

Final, Game #1, Friday, Apr. 5

Our first-to-two-wins final began on Friday, with Victoria Groce jumping out to an early lead thanks to the first Daily Double. Amy Schneider looked to be in serious trouble after Victoria and Andrew He split the other two; down nearly $20,000 with 12 clues to go, Amy got eight of those final 12 clues to barely stop Victoria’s bid for a lock game.

“U.S. Government” was the category for the week’s final Final Jeopardy: The formation of the Brownell Committee out of concern over U.S. communications intelligence led to the 1952 creation of this body. Andrew jokingly responded, “What have I gotten myself into…” matching Sam Buttrey again at 13 losses. But Amy successfully named the NSA (National Security Agency)… so all eyes turned to Victoria, whose response of “What is the CIA” handed Amy a big come-from-behind victory. Game 2 goes on Monday, with Amy just one win away from a spot in May’s Jeopardy! Masters

Other notes from the week:

  • No, the regular play that resumes next week isn’t going to be combined with tournament play, that was just my April Fool’s joke for 2024.
  • Amy Schneider can end the JIT tomorrow; Victoria Groce and Andrew He will try to extend it. One way or another, three-day champion Lucas Partridge (remember him?) will finally go for win #4 on Thursday at the latest.

Andy Saunders covers Jeopardy! daily as site administrator for The Jeopardy! Fan. He is also a founding archivist of The J! Archive. His weekly recap appears at Questionist every Sunday.

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