When Emma Boettcher, a 27-year-old librarian from Chicago, knocked off “Jeopardy!” sensation James Holzhauer on Monday’s installment of the venerable answer-and-question show, it had to be considered one of the biggest upsets in the show’s history. Holzhauer had acquired an aura of apparent invincibility during his record-setting 32-game winning streak.
But The New York Times, which interviewed Boettcher after her stunning win but before Monday’s show aired, uncovered the backstory on her road to “Jeopardy!” success, revealing that her triumph had been years in the making.
Boettcher stopped Holzhauer just short of one of his main goals, topping Ken Jennings’ record of $2.52 million in “Jeopardy!” winnings, compiled during a 74-game run in 2004. Holzhauer had to settle for $2.46 million.
Boettcher had done her homework long before she arrived on the “Jeopardy!” set. She first auditioned for the show as a senior in high school, and wrote her master’s paper on the game show as an information science student at the University of North Carolina.
“In her 70-page final paper, Boettcher explored whether certain characteristics of a ‘Jeopardy!’ clue could predict its difficulty level,” The Times reports. “She said she wanted to determine if a computer could predict whether a clue was easy or difficult based on the words it was using or the length of the clue. In essence, she was asking if there was a material difference between a $200 clue and a $1,000 clue.”
We encourage readers to click on the link above to The Times to read the full article.
Here’s a clip of Monday’s final moments on the show, along with comments by both Holzhauer and Boettcher …