Remember to Answer in the Form of a Question

The answer: Tuesday, November 30, 2004. The question: When did Ken Jennings’ winning streak end on Jeopardy!?  Try answering these trivia questions about the reign of a trivia king.


How Long Did His Winning Streak Last? # Ken Jennings had been on previous trivia teams. Photo credit: Phil Konstantin/Flickr. Ken Jennings set the record for the most consecutive games played while winning 74 games in a row. The streak netted him winnings of more than $2.5 million.  However, his total earnings on Jeopardy! are $3,196,300, consisting of $2,520,700 over his 74 wins, a $2,000 second-place prize in his 75th appearance, a $500,000 second-place prize in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions, a $100,000 win for second-place prize in the Jeopardy Battle of the Decades, as well as half of a $300,000 prize in the IBM Challenge.

Who Was Jennings' Oddest Competitor? # Jennings played against IBM's Watson computer in a charity game. Photo credit: theNerdPatrol/Flickr. After Jennings lost, he returned to Jeopardy a few times for charity games. One of these pitted him against Watson, a supercomputer from IBM, in 2011.  From February 14–16, 2011, Jeopardy's "IBM Challenge" featured the computer company's Watson against Jennings in two matches played over three days. The winner of the competition was Watson, winning $1 million for two charities, while Jennings placed second receiving $300,000. Jennings pledged to donate half of his winnings to charity.This was the first ever man-versus-machine competition in the show's history.


What Was Jennings' Losing Question? The Final Jeopardy answer that tripped him up? ”Most of this firm’s 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year.” Jennings guessed Federal Express, but it was, in fact, tax preparer H&R Block. Ventura, Calif., real estate agent Nancy Zerg guessed correctly, unseating Jennings with a final score of $14,001 to $8,799.


How Did Jennings React to Losing? Jennings admitted to being disappointed at first, but he didn't show it. He still smiled and graciously hugged the winner, and he's also admitted to being rather relieved because his regular life (or, well, at least as much of it as possible after that streak) could resume. Jennings was bound to keep all the results secret. Since Jeopardy is taped ahead of time — he actually lost in September even though the "losing" game didn't air until November — he had to take off from work without telling people what was really going on and avoid sharing any hints of how he was doing.

What Other Factor Helped Jennings Win So Much? Jennings won his games fair and square, but there was a technical factor that helped him: learning the buzzer timing. Jeopardy buzzers are supposed to light up when it's OK for the contestant to hit them, but many people jump the gun a bit. Most of the time, they're OK, but if they hit the buzzer too soon, they are actually locked out of the system for a short time, letting others buzz ahead. Jennings just got really good at knowing when it was really OK to start buzzing in.

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