For fans of the game show Jeopardy!, this week has been sort of like the Super Bowl, the World Cup and the World Series rolled into one. Three of the best players in history are battling in a tournament billed as the "Greatest of All Time." (Tuesday, Jan. 14, 8 p.m. on ABC).
We reached out to Chattanoogan Charlie Steinhice, a former Jeopardy! contestant and quiz-show expert, to handicap the tournament after three matches. At this point, Ken Jennings, who has won more Jeopardy! games than any other contestant leads with two match victories. (Each night of the contest is considered one match.) Meanwhile professional gambler James Holzhauer, who holds more Jeopardy! records than anyone in history, has won one match in the GOAT tournament. Meanwhile, Brad Rutter, the show's all-time money champ, has yet to win a match. The first contestant to three match victories wins the $1 million prize. The tournament could end Tuesday night if Jennings wins.
Steinhice says: "I admit to a slight bias — Ken Jennings is the only one I've met, and we have more mutual friends than I do with the other two.
"But from what I can tell, Ken is the best prepared and the most highly motivated. It looks like he is determined to regain the official title as the #1 winner ever, which Brad Rutter currently holds in terms of actual (money) winnings. Perhaps more importantly, Ken had never beaten Brad before. It's sort of like watching Peyton Manning in the 2005 AFC Championship game, when he got past the "can't beat Brady" perception.
"When you're at their levels of knowledge, the difference is more in the non-memory mental parts of the game. How well can you keep track of the categories and the remaining questions? How do you handle the question selection and wagering, now that James Holzhauer has totally changed the old routine? And how well can you figure out the so-called "bumper clues", hints in the way the question is phrased?
"Timing on the buzzer is the other big variable (and was my nemesis) All three have shown mastery of it in the past, but again Ken looks the best prepared. We know our reaction times slow down as we get older, and Ken is the oldest of the three. In interviews before this tournament, he said he knew he was at a disadvantage. So my bet is that, knowing that, he out-practiced the others. From where I sit, it's Ken's level of self-discipline that sets him apart from the other top Jeopardy! stars."