Tournament Time Draws Nigh

Three weeks, one contestant left before a belated Tournament of Champions

Published February 4, 2024

Welcome back to my weekly rundown from the world of Jeopardy!

This week, one player got the second-to-last spot in the Tournament of Champions, as Champions Wildcard Group 1 wrapped up. Meanwhile, Group 2 kicked off on TuneIn Radio, with the play-in game for the last quarterfinal berth.

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

Winter 2024 Champions Wildcard, Group 1, Semifinal #1, Monday, Jan. 29

Andy Tirrell broke open a three-way tie late in the opening round by successfully converting a True Daily Double, building a big lead over Lloyd Sy and Martha Bath. But Lloyd stormed back, giving 12 correct responses in Double Jeopardy to take a lead into Final Jeopardy.

That clue, in Historical Fiction: Stan Lee said the alias-using title character of this novel set during the French Revolution “was the 1st superhero I… read about.” Only Andy named The Scarlet Pimpernel, and so he advanced to Thursday and Friday’s final.

Semifinal #2, Tuesday, Jan. 30

Juveria Zaheer was dominant on the buzzer once again in this one; missing a Daily Double didn’t stop her from holding a big lead after the Jeopardy round. But Robbi Ramirez found the all-important Daily Doubles in Double Jeopardy, converting them for $13,000 and a lead after 60 clues. Meanwhile, third-placed Alec Chao got the final clue to get his score into five figures going into Final Jeopardy. (All six of the Monday and Tuesday players accomplished this; the play was exceptional.)

This semifinal came down to Final Jeopardy, in Names in History: The scientific name of Jamaica’s ackee fruit honors this captain who brought it to England in 1793. Both Alec in third place and Juveria in second were correct with Captain Bligh; unfortunately for Robbi, he thought of Cook, sending him home and Juveria into the final.

Semifinal #3, Wednesday, Jan. 31

Michael Menkhus seemed as though he was able to buzz at will, especially in Double Jeopardy, when he was an incredible 15-for-16 on his buzz attempts. This frustrated any momentum that Erin Portman and Ron Cheung were trying to build; Ron compounded his troubles with two incorrect Daily Doubles. By a slim margin, Michael had a runaway victory.

“American Musicians” was the category for a lame-duck Final: Also an author, this singer who had 5 Top 40 hits in the 1970s was called the “Pirate Laureate.” Erin joined Michael in naming the late Jimmy Buffett, but Michael advanced to the final alone. 

Final, Game #1, Thursday, Feb. 1

The opener of this two-game total-point final saw Michael Menkhus continue his momentum from the last game, picking up the Daily Double among 11 correct responses in the opening round. But it’s tough to keep Juveria Zaheer down for long: within the first six clues of Double Jeopardy, her score went from $2,400 to $22,400—aided, of course, by a pair of True Daily Doubles. While Michael continued to battle, Juveria had earned $34,000 going into Final, with Michael at $16,400 and Andy Tirrell at $7,400.

The first-game Final Jeopardy is always a crucial turning point in a two-game final, and this one was in Geography: The first city in Australia with a municipal government, this state capital bears the name of a queen. Andy really helped his position by correctly naming Adelaide, doubling his score to $14,800. Michael went for Alice Springs, and his all-in bet gave him a massive hole to dig out of. Juveria misread the question, dropping her score to $20,000 and making things much more interesting for Friday’s game. 

Final, Game #2, Friday, Feb. 2

Game 2 of the Final saw 11 incorrect responses for a combined $14,600, as well as four Triple Stumpers at the $2,000 level. This played to Juveria’s advantage, as by the time Andy and Michael got to the Daily Doubles, neither had enough money to jump up as high as they needed to. Michael went on a valiant run at the end of Double Jeopardy, and even took the Game 2 lead into Final Jeopardy. But Juveria’s aggregate total locked the game for her, with Andy and Michael in a tight battle for second place (and an extra $25,000).

Friday’s Final Jeopardy was in Army Technology: Bearing the name of a man who died in Iowa in 1838, these began service in 1979 & today number in the thousands. No one thought of the Army’s Black Hawk helicopters, but it was moot: Juveria stood pat, winning $100,000 and a place in this month’s Tournament of Champions. Andy took home $50,000 for second, and Michael got $25,000 for third place. 

Group 2, Play In Game, Friday, Feb. 2

This play-in game on TuneIn Radio determined the final spot in Group 2, which begins Monday.

Eric Anderson $11,800 – $2,601 = $9,199

Ed Petersen $7,200 + $7,200 = $14,400

Ilena Di Toro $6,600 + $5,201 = $11,801

A couple of high-value gets late in Double Jeopardy gave Eric Anderson the lead, but his incorrect Final Jeopardy response advanced Ed Petersen to the quarterfinals.

Other notes from the week:

  • The Tournament of Champions tapes next week, for air dates starting Feb. 23; the winner will get an automatic spot in Season 2 of Jeopardy! Masters.
  • Next week features the first five quarter finals of Champions Wildcard Group 2, beginning the battle for the last spot in the ToC.

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.