Volante wrote:Luck, buzzer skill, knowledge. That's about how it goes, I think, no?
i disagree. first of all, there is a hugely important 4th factor, which you might call strategy. this is where i feel roger outclassed the rest of the ToC field: finding the DDs, wagering on both DDs and FJ, understanding your opponents. there's quite a lot of skill in that area, and most players give almost no thought to it at all. i felt pretty good about my wagering but the lack of awareness/DD-hunting ultimately proved to be my downfall.
also, i'd modify "buzzer skill" to just "speed". either that, or add a 5th factor, "quick thinking". just knowing stuff isn't enough if you can't recall it quickly enough to ring it, and there are also plenty of jeopardy clues where you don't really start out by knowing the answer, but you can kind of put the pieces together based on TOM or wordplay or whatever—provided you're fast on your feet.
anyway, of the four factors, i actually think knowledge is by far the most important in some sense. if you picked three people off the street to play jeopardy, the one with the most knowledge would win the vast majority of the time. given that the contestant selection process winnows the field exclusively to people who will almost certainly know more than half the material, it becomes less of a distinguisher, but the differences remain important, especially because knowledge difference is more of a factor for the high-$ clues. the other hidden factor here is that knowledge plays a huge role in strategy—as roger has amply demonstrated, the DDs can be a ridiculously powerful weapon if you know your stuff (and you know you know your stuff). i like the way roger used the DDs much more than somebody like madden, who found them and essentially neutralized them with small wagers (despite an incredible 96% career success rate on them).
buzzer skill has kind of the opposite effect; there is a pretty wide range of speeds among jeopardy contestants, so it obviously matters. at the same time, i think there are plenty of us (especially the ones who get to hone their skill over many games) who are all fast enough that it's not possible to be consistently faster. so when you have two or three of those players buzzing on the same question, it comes down to luck.
i do think if you're good enough at everything else, you don't need much luck; as one example, look at how many of roger's/david's/ken's games were lock wins before FJ. but the relative importance of the factors depends quite a bit on the level of the contestants. for "regular" jeopardy games i'd rank them speed, knowledge, strategy, luck; for the ToC i'd go strategy, knowledge, luck, speed.