SALT LAKE CITY — It’s official: Ken Jennings is the “Greatest of All Time” — at least when it comes to “Jeopardy!”
The victory comes 15 years after Jennings’ initial legendary run on the game show — a 74-game winning streak that totaled $2.52 million.
Now, Jennings is taking home $1 million and a big fancy trophy.
The “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” tournament began a week ago, and the prime-time event has drawn an average of 15 million viewers per episode, putting it on a level with the 2019 NBA finals and the 2019 World Series.
From the beginning, “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” has predominantly been a tight competition between Jennings and James Holzhauer, who holds the single-game record at $131,127.
That was also the case Tuesday night.
During the first game of the match (one match equals two regular “Jeopardy!” games), Jennings pulled a classic Holzhauer move, going “all in” and wagering his entire total on the Final Jeopardy question.
It paid off.
The clue: “This area of Greece, home to Pan, is synonymous with a rural paradise; it’s a setting for Virgil’s shepherd poems the ‘Eclogues.’”
Both Jennings and Holzhauer gave the correct response — “Arcadia” — but in a rare move, Holzhauer only wagered a portion of his total. He added 11,381 to his 22,800 total, bringing his Game 1 total to 34,181.
Jennings, who had the lead with 32,800 points, doubled that score — an aggressive bet that brought his Game 1 total to a staggering 65,600.
Now it was just a matter of maintaining the momentum.
For a while, it looked like Holzhauer was going to pull off a win — Jennings made smaller wagers this time around, and Holzhauer went all in, wagering his 20,200 on the following Daily Double: “This big landlocked African country was surprised to be added to the USA’s 2017 travel ban, but was removed from the list in 2018.”
In what has been a common play for all contestants throughout the tournament, Holzhauer seemed to be stumped on the answer, waiting until the very last second to blurt out the correct answer: “What is Chad?”
With that response, Holzhauer took a large lead with 40,000 and closed out the game with 44,000 to Jennings’ 23,000 and Brad Rutter’s 1,400.
It all came down to the Final Jeopardy round. And it was a category all three contestants were likely familiar with: Shakespeare tragedies.
“There’s stuff that’s disproportionately ‘Jeopardy!’” Jennings previously told the Deseret News in an interview where he gave tips about auditioning for the show. “Like they don’t ask about opera a lot, but way more than it comes up in real life, so learn the composers of 20 operas. The Shakespeare plays are another manageable list.”
Jennings knows his Shakespeare. The Final Jeopardy clue: “He has 272 speeches, the most of any non-title character in a Shakespeare tragedy.”
Jennings came up with the correct answer: the villainous Iago. In a surprising move, the BYU graduate played it safe and didn’t wager anything, keeping his Game 2 total at 23,000.
All eyes were on Holzhauer.
His answer? “Who is Horatio?”
His wager? All 44,000.
With Holzhauer down to zero, Jennings was officially the winner, with a two-game total of 88,600. Jennings walked over to shake host Alex Trebek’s hand before Holzhauer and Rutter — who are each going home with $250,000 — lifted him up on their shoulders so he could hoist the trophy in the air.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about Rutter’s response to the Shakespeare clue, he used the moment to pay touching tribute to the longtime “Jeopardy!” host, the constant star of the show all three contestants have expressed gratitude to over the course of the tournament.
“You’re the best, Alex,” Rutter wrote.
In match 3 of the tournament, Holzhauer lovingly labeled Trebek the “Ghost” — the “Greatest Host of Syndicated TV.” Tuesday night, Jennings earned his own new label — the “Goat (Greatest of All Time)” of “Jeopardy!” winners — showing the world that he hasn’t lost a step since his incredible run on the show 15 years ago.