Winning the Tournament from Third Place: Analysis
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Winning the Tournament from Third Place: Analysis
Invariably in the final of a Jeopardy tournament, Alex pulls out the ageold 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 jarchive.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 thirdplace players faced a deficit of greater than $10,000 (three if predoubled 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 predoubled 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 dayone scores for tournament winners. One of the names may surprise you.
Lowest dayone 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.
Out of 93 tournaments documented at jarchive.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 thirdplace players faced a deficit of greater than $10,000 (three if predoubled 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 predoubled 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 dayone scores for tournament winners. One of the names may surprise you.
Lowest dayone 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.
Re: Winning the Tournament from Third Place: Analysis
Very interesting! In other words, if Michael comes back and wins first place tomorrow, it would be the biggest tournament comeback in the history of Jeopardy, as he is presently down $28k.
I think it would be even more impressive because not only is he down $28k to Sharath, meaning he has to finish ahead of him by at least $14k going into tomorrow's FJ to have a chance, but he is also down $16,500 to Alec, meaning he would have to be ahead of him by at least $8,250 as well.
Interestingly, this means that if Alec comes back to win from second, he would have the 9th greatest comeback ever.
I think it would be even more impressive because not only is he down $28k to Sharath, meaning he has to finish ahead of him by at least $14k going into tomorrow's FJ to have a chance, but he is also down $16,500 to Alec, meaning he would have to be ahead of him by at least $8,250 as well.
Interestingly, this means that if Alec comes back to win from second, he would have the 9th greatest comeback ever.
Re: Winning the Tournament from Third Place: Analysis
It's probably a psychological thing; obviously 9% isn't very often, but it makes for a big impact when it happens. And looking at your numbers, it appears only Meryl and Leonard came back from a 'distant' third.
And nice analysis, BTW.
And nice analysis, BTW.
Re: Winning the Tournament from Third Place: Analysis
It would be interesting to know how many could have come back with a different outcome in the second final jeopardy. In other words, how many did most of the comeback, only to lose when the leader got the 2nd FJ? I think these are still very compelling games to watch, where someone in distant 2nd or 3rd brings themselves within striking distance.
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Re: Winning the Tournament from Third Place: Analysis
You'd have to throw Mark Lowenthal in as well, yeah? He came back from exactly the same deficit as Leonard.alietr wrote:It's probably a psychological thing; obviously 9% isn't very often, but it makes for a big impact when it happens. And looking at your numbers, it appears only Meryl and Leonard came back from a 'distant' third.
And yeah, great numbercrunching, kprather895. I know a lot of us have wondered about this but haven't wanted to put in the work. Much appreciated.
Re: Winning the Tournament from Third Place: Analysis
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=274&p=8313#p8313
Here is a thread which may have some tourney data not in the archive.
Here is a thread which may have some tourney data not in the archive.

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Re: Winning the Tournament from Third Place: Analysis
I posted about this: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=274&p=204656#p204656
I also talked about players who won despite entering the second FJ in a thirdplace position (i.e. having the lowest potential cumulative score), which is rarer, happening only six times (with four of them needing a bad wager by another player to work out as they did).
Then for good measure, I mentioned the players who entered the last FJ in third place for that game alone and still won. Less interesting, but worth bringing up, I felt.
Also, I can't recall if she's the only one, but at best Robin Carroll is in rare company as someone who won a tournament scoring $0 in the second game of the finals. (Every player who has had a superlock could have done it, but they didn't.)
I also talked about players who won despite entering the second FJ in a thirdplace position (i.e. having the lowest potential cumulative score), which is rarer, happening only six times (with four of them needing a bad wager by another player to work out as they did).
Then for good measure, I mentioned the players who entered the last FJ in third place for that game alone and still won. Less interesting, but worth bringing up, I felt.
I guess Ben Lyon is the only unarchived tourney winner who finished final game 1 in third. ($5,500 to $6,000 to $8,000)Bamaman wrote:viewtopic.php?f=1&t=274&p=8313#p8313
Here is a thread which may have some tourney data not in the archive.
Also, I can't recall if she's the only one, but at best Robin Carroll is in rare company as someone who won a tournament scoring $0 in the second game of the finals. (Every player who has had a superlock could have done it, but they didn't.)