The Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions is an annual tournament featuring the longest-running champions and biggest money winners from the past season or seasons of Jeopardy! The tournament began in 1964 during Art Fleming's tenure as host, and has continued into the Alex Trebek era of the show. There have been seven years in which the Tournament was skipped altogether (1984, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2018), and eight seasons (1, 17, 20, 23, 27, 30, 33, and 35). The brief 1978–79 revival, which aired for five months, is known to have had a Tournament as well.
In 2002, Jeopardy! held a Million Dollar Masters tournament featuring fifteen previous champions, and in 2005 the show held an Ultimate Tournament of Champions for over three months, which featured over 100 champions from previous years instead of a regular Tournament of Champions for just the previous year; that season's Tournament of Champions began on September 20, 2004, featuring any remaining season 19 champions who hadn't qualified for that year's tournament as well as all of the season 20 qualifiers except for Ken Jennings, who had just resumed his winning streak two weeks before the tournament started (Jennings's streak was interrupted three times that year; the other two times were for the show's annual Kids Week in October 2004 and the College Championship in November 2004).
In 2014, Jeopardy! held a Battle of the Decades tournament featuring 45 previous champions, with 15 from their respective decade (1984–93, 1994–2003, and 2004–13). All of the players competed in a week-long slate of games, respective of decade, from which the winners out of each game would become quarter-finalists. Those 15 winners would then return to compete in a regular tournament format, with the winner taking home $1,000,000.
The latest Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, featuring contestants from seasons 32, 33, and 34, began November 6, 2017.
In 2019, Jeopardy! held an All-Star Games tournament featuring 18 champions grouped in 6 teams of three. All of the players competed in two sets of two games, with the two winners immediately advancing to the final; the three highest scoring non-winners competed in a two-game wild card match to determine the third spot. Those three teams then competed in a two-game final match, with the winning team receiving $1,000,000 (split equally among the three contestants).
According to surviving microfilm records of broadcasts from the era, the original 1964-1975 Tournament of Champions format generally featured the top 9 winners in the given season, inviting the highest earning five-day champions, with four-day and three-day champions invited if necessary in order of winnings. The 1969 edition was an exception; as numerous high scorers were involved in the 1968-69 season (including what would stand as the two highest-scoring contestants in the daytime version's history), 18 contestants were invited to a two-week tournament.
In the current version of the show, the Tournament of Champions includes 15 players. Most of the slots are reserved for regular-season players who have won the most games since the previous championship contestants were chosen, followed by the most money in the case of the same number of games won. Prior to the end of the five-game limit, champions of five games were traditionally guaranteed a slot in the event, while four-day champions have been involved in most Tournament of Champions fields, and if necessary, three day champions may qualify (which has occurred in seven tournaments to date.) In the one instance where there were more five-day champions in the qualifying period than available slots in the tournament, the most recent overflow contestants were held over for the following tournament (which occurred in 2001, with the last two five-day champions held over to the 2003 event.) Notably, 2004 74-day champion Ken Jennings gave up his bid in the 2006 Tournament of Champions in favor of an automatic finals bye in 2005's Ultimate Tournament of Champions, and therefore never competed in the regular tournament.
Winners of the annual College Championships and Teachers Tournaments are also guaranteed slots in the Tournament of Champions. For many years, the winners of the annual Teen Tournament and Seniors Tournaments also participated, but the Seniors Tournament was discontinued after 1995, and a Teen Tournament winner was last invited to the Tournament of Champions in 2000, none ever having won the event. Scheduling occurrences can result in multiple winners of a given annual tournament in the same Tournament of Champions field, most recently with two College Champions and two Teacher Champions in the 2017 event. Due to academic study commitments, two College Champions (Vinita Kailasanth in 2001 and Joey Beachum in 2008) have deferred their bid in their original intended Tournament of Champions to the following tournament.
For Jeopardy!'s first nine Tournaments of Champions, the tournament was held each November, with the qualifying period for the event being the entire previous season. Starting after 1993's installment, the qualifying period was modified to any games played between tournaments, and following 1996's installment, tournaments moved to a more fluid schedule, and are no longer solely held in November; it is usually, but not always, held during a "sweeps" month (February, May or November) to maximize the show's Nielsen Ratings. As a result, qualifying periods now vary in length, and the tournament does not have to be held in a given season or calendar year. Due to scheduling delays from prior special events, producers have the option to begin a qualifying period prior to the start of the previous tournament if necessary, such as for 2015's installment.
A sixteenth player is also invited as an alternate contestant in the event that a qualified champion is unable to attend; usually, though not always (see below), this player is the most successful contestant (measured first by wins, then by amount won) not already in the tournament. In the 2001 event, the two overflow five-day champions (Mark Dawson & Alan Bailey) were both invited as alternates, due to travel concerns in the wake of the September 11 attacks, though no one was unable to compete, and both were included as planned in the 2003 tournament. As well, the highest earning contestant to not advance out of the prior round is assigned as an alternate for the semifinals and finals in case of emergency. In 1986, 2014, 2017, and 2019, the sixteenth player participated and a seventeenth player, also based on the same criteria, was the alternate.
The first two instances were based on violations of eligibility requirements, as in 1986 Barbara Lowe had appeared on another game show within the probationary period, and in 2014 Jerry Slowik was indicted on sexual abuse charges of a 15-year-old girl, and his court case had not come to trial at the time of the taping; he eventually pleaded guilty in February 2015, including a 30-day prison sentence, five year probationary period, and registration as a sex offender. Two qualifying contestants have died before reaching their respective Tournament of Champions. Six-day champion Cindy Stowell died of colon cancer shortly after she taped her appearance on the show and well before she would have appeared on the 2017 Tournament of Champions. Stowell's estate was awarded the $5,000 she would have been guaranteed as a quarterfinalist, plus an additional $5,000 donation, which in accordance with her wishes and along with the rest of her earnings from the show, was donated to charity. The 15 qualifying contestants and first alternate who participated each wore dark blue ribbons for colon cancer awareness, and the producers posted the Web site of the charity during the tournament in which 2016 Teachers Tournament winner Jason Sterlacci had the idea to get to remember her. Larry Martin, winner of the 2018 Teachers Tournament, died in January 2019 shortly after his win.
On rare occasions, the Jeopardy! staff will invite another contestant for the Tournament of Champions who would not have qualified under traditional circumstances. Emma Boettcher, notable for her upset of James Holzhauer, was invited to fill Martin's spot in the 2019 Tournament of Champions despite only winning three games, in part because of her overall score. As part of the conditions of the wild-card, contestants who had finished ahead of Boettcher were placed in the pool for the 2020 Tournament of Champions.
In most seasons of the Art Fleming era, the Tournament of Champions featured three semifinal games, with the winners competing in a two-legged tie final (similarly to the second half of the modern tournament), though here, scores weren't reset for the second game, allowing contestants to add to, lose, and wager money won in the first game. For the 1969 Tournament of Champions only, 18 champions were invited to compete, who competed in six quarterfinal games, two semifinal games, and the usual two-day final (with the highest scoring losing semifinalist also competing as a wild card finalist.) The 1970 tournament returned to a one-week format, but featured two separate one day finals involving top performing contestants from the semifinal games.
The 1978 NBC revival of Jeopardy! held a Tournament of Champions in early 1979 featuring top-earning champions from prior games of that season, though the format is unclear from surviving episodes. A copy of the final episode exists (sans the contestants' last names), which saw contestant Stuart defeat Phillip and Tom to win the event.
With the expansion of the field to 15 players in the Alex Trebek era, the Tournament of Champions now lasts two weeks (10 shows) with the following format, devised by Trebek himself in 1985 to suit the 15 five-time champions from the previous year. The same format applies to all Jeopardy! 15-player tournament formats—the Teen Tournament, College Championship, and Teachers Tournament; it previously applied to the Seniors Tournament, the Million Dollar Masters Tournament, and starting with the second round (15 players), Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades:
- Shows 1–5: The quarterfinals, with three new contestants participating each day. The five winners and the four highest-scoring losers (wild cards) advance to the semifinals.
- Shows 6–8: The semifinals, with only the three winners advancing to finals. Tournament tie-breaker rules and triple-zero rules apply.
- Shows 9–10: Two-legged tie final. Each leg is treated as a new match (players start with zero score, although the podia for the second leg will display a player's score from the first leg), with aggregate score determining final positions, with one exception: a contestant with a negative score at the end of Double Jeopardy! will have their score raised to zero. The championship is determined by the highest aggregate score, with runners-up receiving either a guaranteed cash prize or the amount of their two-day total, whichever is higher.
The standard tie-breaker round is in effect at the end of a quarterfinal, semifinal, or if the game is tied after the two-legged tie in the final. The format was first used in tournament play.
Triple Zero Score: All three players are eliminated from contention for an automatic berth to the next round. An additional wild card is added. Players with a score of zero are still eligible for a wild card, should not enough players have a positive score.
Tie for Wild Card: In case of a tie among the highest-scoring losers for a Wild Card position, the same rules as determining second and third place prizes is used, with the highest score after "Double Jeopardy!" breaking the tie (and the Jeopardy! round, if necessary). A player with a zero score in their round is still eligible for a Wild Card should it come down to this. Note contestants with a negative score after Double Jeopardy! are placed lower than players with a zero score at the end of Final Jeopardy!
The prize amounts for all contestants are as follows:
|Period||Finalists (minimum guarantees)||Semifinalists||Quarterfinalists|
|Winner||1st runner-up||2nd runner-up|
|1964–74||All players kept their scores in cash at the end of each game||none, except in 1969|
|1985||$100,000||Kept two-day total winnings||$5,000||$1,000|
- During the Art Fleming era of the show, in addition to their score winnings, Grand Champions won a tropical vacation and were presented with a trophy called the annual Griffin Award, named for show creator Merv Griffin. In many years they also received a $1,000 bonus.
- In 2006, schools selected by each contestant received the Classroom Jeopardy! electronic game in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week.
- In 2007, each contestant received the Jeopardy! DVD Home Game System.
List of participants
The following is a list of contestants and where they placed in the tournament. Prize amounts for the non-winning finalists who won more than the minimum guarantees are as indicated in parentheses.
|Art Fleming Era (1964–75)|
|First annual (1964)|
|Winner: Terry Thompson
Madeline Von Koch
|Second annual (1965)|
|Winner: Babs McClellan
|Third annual (1966)|
|Winner: Burns Cameron
Other finalists not recorded
|Fourth annual (1967)|
|Fifth annual (1968)|
|Winner: Hutton "Red" Gibson
|Sixth annual (1969)|
|Winner: Jay Wolpert
Jane Gschwend (biggest winner in NBC Jeopardy! history)
|Seventh annual (1970)|
|Winner: Gene Cheatam
Mary Lee Fox
|Eighth annual (1971)|
|Winner: Rock Johnson
|Ninth annual (1972)|
|Winner: Anne Marie Sutton
|Tenth annual (1973)|
|Winner: Paula Ogren
|Eleventh annual (1974)|
|Winner: Denny Golden
Other semifinalists not recorded
|Alex Trebek Era (1984–present)|
|Season 2 (November 11–22, 1985)|
|Winner: Jerry Frankel
1st runner-up: Bruce Fauman ($9,399)
2nd runner-up: Steve Rogitz ($5,100)
Paul Boymel (Season 1's biggest winner)
SSGT Paul Croshier
|Season 3 (November 3–14, 1986)|
|Winner: Chuck Forrest (Season 2's biggest winner)
1st runner-up: Paul Rouffa
2nd runner-up: Marvin Shinkman
|Season 4 (November 9–20, 1987)|
|Winner: Bob Verini
1st runner-up: David Traini ($16,000)
2nd runner-up: Eugene Finerman ($11,600)
John Ryan (Season 3's biggest winner)
Zeke Sevilla, Jr.
|Season 5 (November 7–18, 1988)|
|Winner: Mark Lowenthal
1st runner-up: Bruce Naegeli (Season 4's biggest winner, $18,799)
2nd runner-up: Sandra Gore ($13,000)
|Season 6 (November 6–17, 1989)|
|Winner: Tom Cubbage (won Season 5 College Championship)
1st runner-up: Rich Lerner ($15,500)
2nd runner-up: Brian Wangsgard (Season 5's biggest winner)
|ABC's Super Jeopardy (June 16–September 8, 1990)|
|Winner: Bruce Seymour
1st runner-up: Bob Verini
2nd runner-up: Dave Traini
Zeke Sevilla Jr.
|Season 7 (November 5–16, 1990)|
|Winner: Bob Blake
1st runner-up: Larry McKnight
2nd runner-up: Steve Berman
Ofc. Frank Spangenberg (Season 6's biggest winner)
|Season 8 (November 4–15, 1991)|
|Winner: Jim Scott
1st runner-up: Steve Robin ($12,600)
2nd runner-up: Lou Pryor ($9,700)
|Mark Born (Season 7's biggest winner)
|Season 9 (November 9–20, 1992)|
|Winner: Leszek Pawlowicz
1st runner-up: Bruce Simmons
2nd runner-up: Jerome Vered (Season 8's biggest winner)
Ofc. Frank Epstein
John Kelly, RET USAF
|Season 10 (November 15–26, 1993)|
|Winner: Tom Nosek
1st runner-up: Bev Schwartzberg ($19,100)
2nd runner-up: Marilyn Kneeland ($11,500)
Ed Schiffer (Season 9's biggest winner)
|10th Anniversary Tournament (November 29–December 3, 1993)|
|Winner: Frank Spangenberg ($41,800)
1st runner-up: Tom Nosek ($13,600)
2nd runner-up: Leslie Frates
|Season 11 (November 14–25, 1994)|
|Winner: Rachael Schwartz
1st runner-up: Jeff Stewart ($20,800)
2nd runner-up: David Hillinck ($7,500)
Steve Chernicoff (Season 10's biggest winner)
|Season 12 (November 13–24, 1995)|
|Winner: Ryan Holznagel
1st runner-up: David Siegel (Season 11's biggest winner, $24,600)
2nd runner-up: Isaac Segal ($16,600)
Paul Thompson (Season 12's biggest winner)
|Season 13 (November 18–29, 1996)|
|Winner: Michael Dupée
1st runner-up: Bob Scarpone ($11,000)
2nd runner-up: Michael Daunt ($8,200)
|Season 14 (February 2–13, 1998)|
|Winner: Dan Melia (Season 14's biggest winner)
1st runner-up: Kim Worth (Season 13's biggest winner)
2nd runner-up: Bob Harris
Josh Den Hartog
|Season 15 (February 8–19, 1999)|
|Winner: Dave Abbott
1st runner-up: J.J. Todor ($20,600)
2nd runner-up: Juliet Wiley
|David Bagley (Season 15's biggest winner)
|Season 16 (May 8–19, 2000) taped at the Atlanta Civic Center in Atlanta, Georgia|
|Winner: Robin Carroll
1st runner-up: Jeremy Bate
2nd runner-up: Steve Fried
|Season 18 (October 22–November 2, 2001)|
|Winner: Brad Rutter
1st runner-up: Tad Carithers
2nd runner-up: Rick Knutsen
Babu Srinivasan (Season 17's biggest winner)
Doug Lach (Season 16's biggest winner)
|Million Dollar Masters Tournament (May 1–14, 2002) taped at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York|
|Winner: Brad Rutter
1st runner-up: Eric Newhouse
2nd runner-up: Bob Verini
Leslie Shannon (Miller)
|Season 19 (May 5–16, 2003)|
|Winner: Mark Dawson
1st runner-up: Brian Weikle (Season 19's biggest winner, $56,601)
2nd runner-up: Eric Floyd (Season 18's biggest winner)
Jill Bunzendahl Chimka
|Season 21 (September 20–October 1, 2004)|
|Winner: Russ Schumacher
1st runner-up: Tom Walsh
2nd runner-up: Arthur Gandolfi
Scott "Renzo" Renzoni
|Season 21 Ultimate Tournament of Champions (February 9–May 25, 2005)|
|Winner: Brad Rutter
1st runner-up: Ken Jennings (Season 20's & 21's biggest winner)
2nd runner-up: Jerome Vered
|Season 22 (May 8–19, 2006)|
|Winner: Michael Falk
1st runner-up: Vik Vaz
2nd runner-up: Bill MacDonald
|David Madden (Season 22's biggest winner)
|Season 24 (November 5–16, 2007)|
|Winner: Celeste DiNucci
1st runner-up: Doug Hicton
2nd runner-up: Cliff Galiher
|Mehrun Etebari (Season 23's biggest winner)|
|Season 25 (March 11–24, 2009) taped at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada|
|Winner: Dan Pawson
1st runner-up: Larissa Kelly (Season 24's biggest winner)
2nd runner-up: Aaron Schroeder
|Season 26 (May 10–21, 2010)|
|Winner: Vijay Balse
1st runner-up: Jason Zollinger (Season 26's biggest winner)
2nd runner-up: Stefan Goodreau
Justin Bernbach (Season 25's biggest winner)
|Season 28 (November 2–15, 2011)|
|Winner: Roger Craig
1st runner-up: Tom Nissley (Season 27's biggest winner)
2nd runner-up: Buddy Wright
|Season 29 (February 13–26, 2013) presented by Prudential|
|Winner: Colby Burnett (won Season 29 Teachers Tournament)
1st runner-up: Keith Whitener
2nd runner-up: Kristin Morgan
Jason Keller (Season 28's biggest winner)
|Season 30 Battle of the Decades (February 3–May 16, 2014)|
|Winner: Brad Rutter
1st runner-up: Ken Jennings
2nd runner-up: Roger Craig
|Season 31 (November 10–21, 2014)|
|Winner: Ben Ingram (Season 29's biggest winner)
1st runner-up: Arthur Chu
2nd runner-up: Julia Collins (Season 30's biggest winner)
|Season 32 (November 9–20, 2015)|
|Winner: Alex Jacob
1st runner-up: Matt Jackson (Season 32's biggest winner)
2nd runner-up: Kerry Greene
Greg Seroka (Season 31's biggest winner)
|Season 34 (November 6–17, 2017) presented by Consumer Cellular|
|Winner: Buzzy Cohen
1st runner-up: Alan Lin
2nd runner-up: Austin Rogers (Season 34's biggest winner)
Seth Wilson (Season 33's biggest winner)
|Season 35 All Star-Games (February 20–March 5 2019) presented by Consumer Cellular|
|Winner: Brad Rutter, Larissa Kelly, David Madden
1st runner-up: Ken Jennings, Matt Jackson, Monica Thieu
2nd runner-up: Colby Burnett, Alan Lin, Pam Mueller
|Buzzy Cohen, Jennifer Giles, Alex Jacob
Austin Rogers, Leonard Cooper, Roger Craig
|Julia Collins, Ben Ingram, Seth Wilson|
|Season 36 (November 4-15, 2019)|
|Eric R. Backes|
James Holzhauer (Season 35's biggest winner)
References and notes
- Wallenstein, Andrew (2008-01-08). "Sony TV gets celebs' help in digital push". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2008-01-09.
- "Lovable genius Austin Rogers' reign on 'Jeopardy!' comes to an end". Cleveland Plain Dealer. October 12, 2017. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
- Knecht-Schmidt, Robert (2011-12-18). "The Tournament of Champions in the Art Fleming era of Jeopardy!". JBoard.tv. Retrieved 2015-10-10.
- Jeopardy! champs begin tournament. Fort Lauderdale News (October 12, 1969).
- Senter, Jay (January 25, 2019). Larry Martin, a fixture at Belinder Elementary for nearly 3 decades, passes away. Shawnee Mission Post. Retrieved January 25, 2019.
- "Coming Soon: The 2019 Tournament of Champions". Jeopardy! official YouTube page. July 10, 2019. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
- Eisenberg, Harry (1993). Inside "Jeopardy!": What Really Goes on at TV's Top Quiz Show. Salt Lake City, Utah: Northwest Publishing Inc. p. 75. ISBN 1-56901-177-X.
Alex put together the two week, fifteen player format used on the current show. We had 15 undefeated five-time champions the first season. In subsequent seasons we never had as many as 15 five-game winners so we added those four-game winners with the highest scores until we had the requisite 15 contestants for the Tournament.
- Most episodes from the Art Fleming era of Jeopardy! do not survive, so there is no video record of these Tournament of Champions games; paper records indicating the players may be found in the NBC Master Books daily broadcast log, available on microfilm at the Library of Congress Motion Picture and Television Reading Room. A summary of those records may be found here. A listing of Jeopardy! Grand Champions, 1968–74, may be found in Fabe, Maxene (1979). TV Game Shows. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company. p. 13. ISBN 0-385-13052-X.
- "Swarthmore's 'Jeopardy!' Hall of Fame". July 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
- A Piece of "Jeopardy!" Trivia - Sony Pictures