Jeopardy! is hard to win. Semantics and rules mean even the brightest contestants can still lose because they can’t spell a word correctly. Recently, poor handwriting cost one contestant the win and thousands of dollars. Let’s learn what happened.
A Stickler For The Rules
Children and adults alike often trip up when playing Jeopardy! over the basic rules. For one thing, all responses must be in the form of a question, or else the responses won’t count. Super champion Matt Amodio caused a stir by always leading with the phrase “what’s” instead of deliberating over saying who. His strategy won him a few enemies on Twitter but also got him $1,518,601.
On top of the quirky nature of the program, pronunciation is important. In 2013, a contestant was famously penalized for mispronouncing the name “Elaine Benes.” The emphasis was placed on the wrong syllable. It’s a tough break, but it was only an $800 dollar mistake. What happened earlier this month proved far costlier.
The Reign Of Megan Wachspress
2022 has produced more super champions than any other period in Jeopardy! history, but none were luckier than Megan Wachspress. The Berkeley-based attorney won just $60,603 over her six-day run. To put that in perspective, previous champion Eric Ahasic won $160,601 over the same amount of games. Wachspress won numerous matches while trailing in Final Jeopardy.
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Her cosmic luck went up against Sadie Goldberger, an interpreter from Columbia, Maryland. It was a close game heading into Final Jeopardy, with Goldberger leading with $9800 to Wachspress’s $9200.
The category was 19th Century Contemporaries. The clue was, “Congratulating her on the 1869 release of her biography, Frederick Douglass wrote, “I have wrought in the day–you in the night.” Wachspress answered correctly: Harriet Tubman.
Goldberger answered the same… except her answer didn’t look quite right. Her handwriting made it look like she answered “Harriett Tubma,” so Mayim Bialik informed her that she could not be rewarded with a correct answer.
Twitter, Do Your Thing
Almost immediately, the Jeopardy! faithful took to Twitter to vent their frustration. After all, Goldberger clearly knew the correct response. One viewer took a potshot at Bialik while they were at it.
Another user echoed the exact same sentiment: Bialik is bad, and Goldberger got robbed.
Meanwhile, the whole event fed into conspiracy theories that Jeopardy! is deliberately trying to create as many super champions as possible.
This rough situation serves as a reminder to everyone: write clearly in Final Jeopardy. It could mean the difference between a consolation prize and a championship.