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Team Brad wins first-ever 'Jeopardy!' All-Star Games; trio will share $1 million grand prize

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Wed, Mar 6th 2019 11:10 am
Team Brad -  Larissa Kelly, David Madden and Brad Rutter - with `Jeopardy!` host Alex Trebek. (Photos courtesy of Jeopardy Productions Inc.)
Team Brad - Larissa Kelly, David Madden and Brad Rutter - with "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek. (Photos courtesy of Jeopardy Productions Inc.)

After a 10-day battle between the brawniest brains on television, Team Brad – Brad Rutter, Larissa Kelly and David Madden – won the “Jeopardy!” All-Star Games, presented by Consumer Cellular. Team Ken – Ken Jennings, Matt Jackson and Monica Thieu – finished second, while Team Colby – Colby Burnett, Pam Mueller and Alan Lin – came in third. Team Brad will share a $1 million grand prize, while Team Ken will split $300,000 and Team Colby will take home $100,000.

“While the money is certainly nice, the biggest reward is to be able to compete with the best of the best, who also happen to be great people, and to have a lot of fun doing it,” said Rutter, who already held the record for most money won on a game show going into the All-Star Games. “The highlight for me was getting to be a part of a team. There’s always a camaraderie among ‘Jeopardy!’ players who are playing against each other; it was really cool to be able to encourage each other and pick each other up if things weren’t going as well as they could have.”

After the first game of the two-day final, Team Brad had $36,000, a slight lead over Team Ken with $32,500; Team Colby trailed with $8,000. Rutter didn’t feel he needed to alter his strategy going into the second game.

“We had been playing really well, so we didn’t want to change anything up,” Rutter said. “We just wanted to stay aggressive if the opportunity presented itself, because we knew Team Ken and Team Colby were more than capable of erasing our modest lead.”

Team Brad did retain their lead going into “Double Jeopardy!” in the second game, and they never lost it. Rutter, Jennings and Mueller faced off in the “Double Jeopardy!” round, and all three players were aware that the “Daily Doubles” were extremely valuable. Team Brad landed on both and answered two out of two correctly.

“I don’t think I’m giving away any trade secrets when I say that I was certainly hunting for the ‘Daily Doubles,’ ” Rutter said. “When you have the lead, the easiest way for your opponents to come back is to find them, so it was a big relief to get them both. After I got (the second ‘Daily Double’) right, I knew it would take a heroic effort for the other teams to get back in it, but that’s exactly what Ken and Pam are capable of, so I made sure to stay focused to preserve the runaway.”

Jennings, whose team finished second, also reflected on the importance of the “Daily Doubles” in the second game.

“In hindsight, since it was a pretty accessible “Final Jeopardy!” that everyone knew, the whole game came down to whether Brad or I found that second ‘Daily Double,’ ” Jennings said. “We were both buzzing in well in that round, but that one brief stretch where he found both ‘Daily Doubles’ about a minute apart was really the nail in the coffin. I was thinking the same thing I’m always thinking when I watch Brad play in a tournament: ‘What’s his secret? How many lives does this guy have? The “Jeopardy!” gods love Brad Rutter.’ ”

Rutter and Jennings have faced off several times in the past, with Rutter winning each matchup – except for their competition with IBM’s Watson, who beat them both.

“Brad and I have probably played against each other more than any two other people in ‘Jeopardy!’ history, but it’s never enough for me,” Jennings said. “On the one hand, I’m thinking, ‘Just once, can somebody take this guy out in the semis?’ But on the other hand, you want to see how you stack up against the best talent available.”

Jennings said playing as a team was “a blast,” and said his team’s convincing win in the first match of the tournament – against Julia Collins’ team and Austin Rogers’ squad – was one of his favorite “Jeopardy!” memories.

“Getting such a convincing win in that first match against such all-time talent was the best feeling,” he said. “I remember being so proud of Monica when she nailed that ‘Final Jeopardy!’ about Rembrandt, and I think that was the match where Matt knew a 1970s ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch. That was so not in his wheelhouse, but he had prepared like crazy in what he considered ‘weak’ categories, reading whole books about 20th century TV. It paid off! Everybody overachieved.”

Team Colby advanced to the final match by winning the wild card round.

“I was shocked to be there,” Burnett said of his team’s spot in the finals. “I was just happy to play another round. I knew we were staring down two Goliath teams, but just being in that top draw was fulfilling.”

Burnett credited his teammates, Mueller and Lin, with the strategy that led to their wild card win, and with encouraging him to embrace the team format.

“Pam and Alan were great competitors and understood the purpose of a team better than I did,” Burnett said. “They’re also great people to be around. Their optimism and upbeat nature helped lift my spirits. We knew our capabilities and performed at our highest level. I am proud of them; I’m glad that I picked them, and I am glad they stood by me throughout this entire process.”

The “Jeopardy!” All-Star Games were presented by Consumer Cellular, the “all-stars in wireless.” To learn more about the tournament, visit www.Jeopardy.com.

In Western New York, “Jeopardy!” airs at 7:30 p.m. weekdays on WIVB-TV Channel 4.

“Jeopardy!” began its 35th anniversary season on Sept. 10, 2018. With a weekly audience of 24 million viewers, it is the top-rated quiz show on television. For more information, visit Jeopardy.com.

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