are in danger ! Competitors improving?

There were moments during Amy Schneider’s historic Jeopardy! sequence where she felt a pang of pity for her victims. Schneider notched 40 straight wins and $1.4 million in earnings from late 2021 to early 2022, often beating everyone to the podium. An average Schneider match ended with her comfortably beyond the reach of the cheekiest Daily Double bets. She was icy, relentless, impervious, flexing unparalleled Potpourri superiority over us ignorant bar-trivia novices.

Danger! was once a game filled with lowly two-day champions and hotly contested matchups, but lately the wheat has been separated from the chaff. A new generation of gamers has unleashed a reign of terror on America’s biggest game show. It’s nice to know that Schneider was capable of remorse, at least, even when she tripled, sometimes quadrupled, our score.

“I had to be really aware of fighting [my mercy]”Schneider told IGN. “When I was pumped up before the game, I was like, ‘This is for a house. These people are trying to take away my house and my wife’s house. I can’t let that happen.”

Amy Schneider on her way to 40 straight wins.

Schneider’s 40-game streak immediately catapulted her into Jeopardy!’s all-time pantheon. Ken Jennings is still the king with his 73 wins, won in 2004, when the string of more than four games was cause for celebration. But the more you scroll down the record, the more you will see that an inordinate number of great Jeopardy! races have been held in the past two years. Matt Amodio went 38 games just before the Schneider dynasty; Mattea Roach, a tutor from Toronto, knocked out 23 games in April and May with a ridiculous 93% correct rate; and Ryan Long completed a 15-episode campaign last month – an incredible feat that was unfortunately diluted by the dominance of his fellow trivia sharks.

Danger! has been on the air in one form or another since the 60s and has maintained the same competitive format since 1984. And yet, for some reason, its players have improved dramatically at the game, seemingly overnight. Nobody really knows why, but everyone who loves Jeopardy! has its own theories.

“When we started seeing this deluge of winning streaks, a lot of people – including some of the champions themselves – argued that it was just a statistical aberration. It was the monkey theory infinite on infinite typewriters: if you put enough nerds on enough buzzers for enough time, sooner or later you’ll get very successful back-to-back nerds,” says Claire McNear, a journalist at The Ringer who wrote the book. definitive on Jeopardy!, Answers in the form of questions. “But there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re also seeing Jeopardy Moneyball-ing.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re also seeing Jeopardy Moneyball-ing.

McNear refers to a new metagame stratagem adopted by some of the Jeopardy! champions. The goal is to approach Jeopardy like a card counter at a blackjack table, looking for any edge to beat the house. For James Holzhauer, the player who best embodied this approach and played 32 games in 2019, that meant looking for daily doubles early and offering aggressive, full bets when he found them. These daily doubles are the heavy agents of chaos in an otherwise stilted and measured trivia tournament, and Holzhauer correctly determined that they weren’t being used to their full potential. It’s like how the 2015 Golden State Warriors took advantage of a three-point line that was ignored by every other team; sometimes it only takes one innovator to change a game forever.

“All my life I’ve felt like people are being too conservative with their bets. It’s hard to do that when you’re on stage, because it’s your own money. But people bet more aggressively than before,” says Schneider. “If you’re successful, it makes those late-game comebacks much less likely.”

McNear points to other clumsier innovations that players have weaned themselves on as they continue to mathematically disassemble the game. She mentions The Jeopardy workout buzzers! community have built to better simulate the precise, nanosecond-to-nanosecond timings of response to a cue, and the ridiculous amount of data consolidated at the J! Archive, which is basically a sports almanac for Jeopardy!. Log in and you’ll find a comprehensive list of questions, answers, and categories for virtually every episode in the show’s history. “As with anything else, the intensity of your preparation isn’t the only thing that matters, but there are now so many people in the Jeopardy! candidate pool who come into the studio not just because they love Jeopardy! but because they’ve specifically studied how to play Jeopardy! and maximize their chances of winning,” McNear says.

James Holzhauer prepares to roll the competition.

James Holzhauer prepares to roll the competition.

But perhaps the most surprising assumption I’ve heard from various Jep leaders is that the game show’s pandemic contingencies have expanded its overall player base. Andy Saunders, who runs the incredibly in-depth blog The Jeopardy! Fan, tells me that during the COVID-19 lockdown, casting producers for the show pivoted to Zoom-based online auditions. Danger for aspirants! challengers no longer needed to burn a day jostling through an endless series of trivial essays in a beige studio; no, they could just test their mettle anytime, anywhere with the program new module “Test at any time”, which serves as a digital pipeline for potential candidates. Maybe there are a million Jeopardys! geniuses hidden in plain sight, like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.

“It lowered the barrier to entry for a lot of people because before that you had to make a pretty big investment of time or money because if you weren’t in a big city you had to go to the audition Saunders says. “It was hard to commit, especially when there was no guarantee they were going to get along.”

Danger for aspirants! challengers could simply test their mettle anytime, anywhere with the program’s new “Test Anytime” module.

Schneider also mentions that the Jeopardy of the COVID era! is a little less intimidating than it was before the pandemic. There was no studio audience for her run, which meant she didn’t feel the eyes of strangers and loved ones on her as she put it all on the line. things a little easier,” she says. Of course, you expect Jeopardy! to get back to bringing viewers back to the theater in the future, so that’s at least one benefit that streak holders won’t be able to rely on moving forward.

This is good news for some Jeopardy hardcore! Fans. Some of them complain about the show’s new direction, mostly because watching an incredible Mensa-level champion beat lesser players every weeknight isn’t particularly compelling. I will admit that I prefer a final category with a bit of drama, and that has been rare lately. But as a longtime fan of the show, who mourned with the rest of the country after the passing of Alex Trebek and watched in exasperated rage as a bitter power struggle consumed the search for his successor, it’s strangely reassuring to know that in 2022 there are still so many people obsessed with unraveling the mystery of Jeopardy!. The show will never die. In fact, against all odds, he has never been so alive.

“It’s more like a sport. There are people like me who studied hard and go there to win,” says Schneider. “It’s more professionalized, and I think that’s a big change.”

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