The Thrill of the Chase

Last-board charge clinches runaway final

Published May 26, 2024

Welcome to a weekly recap of the last two episodes of Jeopardy! Masters.

The last two semifinal matches went down on Monday, with Yogesh Raut coming into the week with 4 match points, Victoria Groce 3, James Holzhauer 1, and Amy Schneider 0. (In the semifinals, a win is worth 3 and second place 1.)

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

Monday, May 20, Game 1 (Semifinal #3):

Amy struggled mightily on the buzzer in the Jeopardy round, successful on just three of her 18 attempts; Victoria and James came out tied for the lead. Victoria missed a Daily Double early in the second round (her second such miss), then James extended his lead on the last one. From there, it was only a question of whether James would secure a runaway win… but Victoria made it to barely more than 50% of James’s score.

This led to an interesting Final Jeopardy wagering dilemma for Victoria. If she bet to guarantee second place and hand victory to James, she would eliminate Amy and guarantee her own place in the final; if she bet for a win and missed, she’d end up third and leave the door open for Amy.

Before Victoria’s strategic choice was revealed, we got to see this clue in Metallic Elements: As it’s rarely found in pure form, one explanation of its name is that it comes from Greek for “not alone” or “not one.” Victoria was the only player to come up with antimony— but she ended up betting for the guaranteed finals spot, standing pat and taking second place. James took 3 points and Victoria 1; they would both go into the last semifinal tied with Yogesh at 4. Still at 0, Amy was mathematically locked out of the final.

Monday, May 20, Game 2 (Semifinal #4):

James, Yogesh, and Amy played this one for bragging rights. By Double Jeopardy, Amy finally started to find her buzzer timing, getting in 50% of the time. But James and Yogesh played hard as always: Both converted five-figure True Daily Doubles. James entered Final Jeopardy with 32,000 to Yogesh’s 24,800 and Amy’s 8,200.

Amy’s farewell clue was in 21st Century Literary Characters: The last name adopted by Damon Fields, the title character of this novel, refers to his red hair. All three players successfully named Barbara Kingsolver’s character Demon Copperhead. James picked up his second win of the evening to “win” the semifinal round; Amy’s goose egg earned her $100,000 for a fourth-place finish.

Wednesday, May 22 (Final):

Victoria had the best handle on the buzzer in Game 1’s Jeopardy round, successful 52% of the time to James’s 28% and Yogesh’s 29%, but all three finished the board within 1,000 points of each other. Double Jeopardy proved quite dramatic: Victoria jumped to a big lead with a 10,200-point True Daily Double, then James did the same for 10,400! From there, James stayed hot on the buzzer to pile up 27,200 points, ahead of Victoria with 25,200 and Yogesh’s 9,600.

The first final Final was in Politicians: This man was the 1st to be governor of one state & then senator from another; 173 years later, Mitt Romney became the second. Yogesh and James both named Sam Houston, governor of Tennessee and senator from Texas. Yogesh doubled his score, getting back into contention with a total of 19,200. Meanwhile, Victoria and James made conservative bets: Victoria lost just 3,800 to fall to 21,400, while James bet 1,109 to improve to 28,309. With all three separated by a scant 9,000 points, the title would still be up for grabs in Game 2.

After ending the Jeopardy round 200 points behind Yogesh, Victoria took complete control in Double Jeopardy: 59% buzzer success, 15 correct responses, and 14,400 points on the two Daily Doubles alone. Meanwhile, James played what was statistically the worst game of his career: 22% on the buzzer, and a Coryat score of just 8,800—his first time under 10,000 in that stat ever. By the end of the round, Victoria not only had a Game 2 runaway, but had the tournament sewn up as well: her two-day score going into Final Jeopardy was higher than either James or Yogesh could double up to.

But second place was still very much on the line–and with it, an extra $100k over third–on this clue in American Women: The New York Times wrote of this woman who died in 1951, “though she was forgotten at the time, part of her remained alive.” All three players successfully named cancer-cell donor Henrietta Lacks– and with that, Season 1 champion James Holzhauer claimed the $150,000 third-place prize, Yogesh Raut nabbed the $250,000 for second place, and Victoria Groce became the second champion of Jeopardy! Masters, winning $500,000. All three are automatically qualified for the next season.

Andy Saunders covers Jeopardy! daily as site administrator for The Jeopardy! Fan. He is also a founding archivist of The J! Archive