Invariably in the final of a Jeopardy tournament, Alex pulls out the age-old trope that "often the player in a distant third place at the end of day one will come back to win it all!" Meanwhile, we struggle to name just a handful of times that has happened, so perhaps a little Mythbusting is in order. The analysis actually proves rather interesting.
Out of 93 tournaments documented at j-archive.com, the player who had the lead at the end of day one won the tournament 61 times (65%), the player who was in second at the end of day one won the tournament 24 times (26%), and the player who was in third place at the end of day one won the tournament 8 times (9%).
Looking at the eight people who won from third place, three of them came from the Tournament of Champions, three of them came from the Teen Tournament, and two of them came from the College Tournament. As for the claim of “a distant third”, only two third-place players faced a deficit of greater than $10,000 (three if pre-doubled dollars are adjusted.)
Although the claim that the player in distant third often comes back to win does not seem to hold up under scrutiny, that’s not to say that magnificent comebacks don’t happen. Interestingly, many comebacks from second place outshine the comebacks from third place. If we rank the top ten biggest comebacks in terms of deficit from third to first, and adjust pre-doubled dollars, seven out of ten, including number one, come from second place. The number one greatest comeback would be Frank Spangenberg’s comeback in the Tenth Anniversary Tournament, where he had $600 to Tom Nosek’s $13,600, an adjusted deficit of $26,000.
Also of interest: the list of the lowest day-one scores for tournament winners. One of the names may surprise you.Lowest day-one scores for tournament winners:
Meryl Federman - $0
Frank Spangenberg - $600 ($1,200)
Leonard Cooper - $3,000
Papa Chakravarthy - $4,000
Brad Rutter - $2,500 ($5,000)
To date, only Meryl Federman has come back from $0 to win a tournament.
Any feedback, including corrections and suggestions, are of course welcome and encouraged.