The top three contestants in JEOPARDY! history will face off in an epic primetime special event: “JEOPARDY! The Greatest of All Time,” starting January 7 at 8|7c on ABC. #JeopardyGOAT pic.twitter.com/7PJUi57206
— ABC (@ABCNetwork) November 18, 2019
USA TODAY – James Holzhauer just won the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions, but you haven’t seen the last of him.
Holzhauer and the long-running quiz show’s two other biggest winners, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, will face off in a prime-time Greatest of All Time tournament on ABC in January…
But the GOAT tournament will be anything but typical: It consists of a series of two back-to-back games, airing weeknights (8 EST/PST) beginning Jan. 7. The player with the most combined winnings from the two games wins the “match,” and the play continues on successive nights (except Monday) until one of them has won three matches and takes home a $1 million prize. (The other finishers get $250,000 apiece). That means the tournament can last anywhere from three to seven days.
Sitting on the couch last Friday night after watching James Holzhauer win the 2019 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, I couldn’t help but wonder how Holzhauer would fare against Ken Jennings. Thankfully, Jeopardy! big wig Harry Friedman had the same thought. This January we’ll get to see Holzhauer and Jennings on the Jeopardy! stage together, along with Brad Rutter, in the ultimate best-of-seven Jeopardy! showdown.
It should be fascinating to see Holzhauer go up against Jennings. While both men won about $2.5 million in regular-season play, Holzhauer did it in just 32 games compared to Jennings’ 74. While Jennings gets the check mark for longevity, Holzhauer gets the check mark for absolutely steamrolling opponents. Holzhauer holds the record for the highest single-game total, $131,127, as well as the next 15 spots on that list. In other words, half of the 32 games he won were better than any other game played by any other contestant in the prior 35 years.
But while James Holzhauer and Ken Jennings may be the bigger household names, don’t sleep on Brad Rutter. Rutter is 21-0 in regular season and tournament Jeopardy! matches, having never lost to a human opponent (IBM’s Watson topped both Rutter and Jennings in a 2011 match, but the show considers that match to be an exhibition). Rutter’s only mistake was trying out for Jeopardy! before it eliminated the five-day limit for returning champions.
Since retiring as a five-day champ in 2000, Rutter has returned to the show and won the 2001 Tournament of Champions, the 2002 Million Dollar Masters Tournament, the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions and the 2014 Battle of the Decades tournament. Just for good measure, he also captained the winning team in the 2019 Jeopardy! All-Star Games. He is the Jeopardy Jordan and the king of American game shows.
While I’m looking forward to the Holzhauer/Jennings dynamic heading into the GOAT tourney, this could be a great grudge match for Jennings against Rutter. Rutter has topped Jennings in two tournaments and the 2019 team tournament. It’s hard to believe that the man who won 74 straight games in 2004 has never won a Jeopardy tournament.
Will the Greatest of All Time tournament be where Jennings takes back the ultimate Jeopardy! crown? Will Rutter continue to dominate and remain undefeated? Or will Holzhauer continue his torrid pace and assume the Jeopardy! throne? I’ll be tuning in every night,and rooting for what could now be the two greatest words in sports AND Jeopardy! GAME SEVEN