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November 25, 2013

Two-day Jeopardy! tournament finals: ensuring you’re still in contention

As an addendum to last week’s tutorial on wagering in multiple-day matches, I present: How to determine whether a player has the match “locked up” at the given scores.Tournaments cover

We’ll look at the 2010 Tournament of Champions Finals between Jason Zollinger, Vijay Balse, and Stefan Goodreau. (This happened to be a rematch of the quarterfinals – a rare instance.)

We pick up the action on the second day with one clue left in Double Jeopardy!. Our scores are as follows:

2010 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions finals Slide1

Stefan’s got a big lead, it appears – but does he have the match locked up, should no one respond correctly? How would we figure this out?

Well, we could do the full-out math with the current scores. As it turns out, if Vijay were to wager everything and respond correctly, and Stefan were to wager zero, they would settle for a tiebreaker question to determine the champion.

2010 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions finals Slide2

This means that Stefan will guarantee himself the title if he nails this last clue.

But two-day math is hard enough to do with unlimited time and pen and paper. How can you know whether you must take a stab at the clue in order to have a shot – or in order to wrap up the tournament?

In the main entry, I showed you how to calculate your position with respect to another player: take your difference from the first game, cut it in half, and compare it with your difference from today.

It’s similar here. Look at the person trailing in Game Two. Take the difference from the first game, cut it in half, and add it to his score. (Use subtraction if that person was also trailing after Game One.) If the leader has more than twice that amount, he has a lock game.

2010 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions finals Slide4

Alternatively, add the full difference to the leader’s score. The trailer must have at least half of that to remain in contention going into Final.

2010 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions finals Slide3

The “half the difference” score is something you should burn into your mind before the second game. It could end up saving you, as it might have in a recent tournament final.

This general idea can also help you in a regular match. If you are winning with $14,000 and second place has $7,500, and you have even the faintest idea on the remaining $1,200 clue, you might want to take a guess to try to wrap up the game.

  1. I may imagine myself getting in on that last $2,000 clue for the rest of my life. Darn those video clues! I remember calculating my wager, and when I saw I had to bet $4,001, I realized that buzzer race cost me a lock.

    If I had really thought about it, I might have bet $2,399 or less to keep Jason locked out, but I figured Vijay had no reason not to bet everything. But I could have remembered his fifth game, where he bet the bare minimum “attempt to win” amount from third place, and then guessed that he might just cover Jason. As it turned out, he forced me to get FJ right, but I still could have saved myself second place. Because Vijay bet to get ahead of me, and because I missed the lock by more than the $3,800 I lost the previous game, I’m lucky enough not to truly regret any of my wagers.

    • Keith Williams permalink

      Heh. Yeah, I think all of us have an “alternate Jeopardy! universe” that we’ll visit from time to time until our dying day.

      Indeed, both Vijay and Jason could have bet everything with no downside. Your strategy depended on whether you came to win or to “not lose”, and we all know how I feel about the latter. :)

What do you think?