#ThrowbackThursday – Ken Jennings’ Top Performances


A couple of months ago, I looked through some of the greatest performances in Jeopardy history, ranked by Coryat score. I elected not to include Ken Jennings there, mostly because he would have taken up a significant amount of the Top 10 on his own!

In honor of Ken Jennings’ upcoming appearance on ABC’s 500 Questions (Thursday evening, May 26, check local listings), here are Ken’s top 10 games from his original run, ranked by Coryat score!

Also, check out: Ken Jennings’ full statistics from his original 75 games, now on thejeopardyfan.com.

Here’s the list:

#10: June 24, 2004 (Game 17)

The Jeopardy round against Bryan Givens and Miriam Bamberger started out in a bit of an average fashion for Ken. Average, at least, in the respect that he matched his 75-game average with 17 correct in that round. In the Double Jeopardy! round, though, Ken ran THEATRE CROSSWORD CLUES “M”, went 4/5 in NEW YORK GOVERNORS and CONTINENTS BY VOLCANO, and went 3/5 in
GRADUATE SCHOOL, FAMOUS MEN, and 3-LETTER PALINDROMES en route to a stunning 22 correct in the second half of the game.

To mess with Alex, Ken elected to bet $1,801 on a Daily Double, prior to getting his Deweys mixed up (responding George instead of Thomas). It meant Ken only (!) had $33,399 going into Final Jeopardy. Final put him back up to his “round number” of $40,000.

His Coryat on this day? $33,800, and 40 correct, including Final Jeopardy.

#9: June 11, 2004 (Game 8)

The record for the highest combined Coryat over two episodes by one player? $74,600. So, if you’re curious as to what game preceded this one? Well, it’s coming up a little bit later on the list!

In this game against Al Arsenault and Ethan Culbreth, Ken went 5/5 in CULINARY QUOTES and FIX THE SIMILE, 4/5 in ’60s POTPOURRI, FOR THE KID IN YOU, MEDICAL ABBREV., and ART “C”, and 3/5 in “TOUCH” ME, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHTS, LEADING MEN, and SEATTLE’S SISTER CITIES. Things were slightly more balanced between the two rounds, in that Ken picked up 21 in the Jeopardy round and 20 in Double Jeopardy. Another thing quite indicative of Ken’s run: A challenger (this time, Ethan) expressing abject surprise when he finally buzzed in first on Clue 19 of the opening round.

While Ken missed Final that day, he did add $35,158 to his total, and kept an uneven total until early October.

To be honest? The stat that I find most surprising, and also might be indicative of how strong his opposition might have been: Al picked up 14 correct responses of his own, to the tune of an $11,800 Coryat. Some days, that’s enough to win, but on this day, it relegated him to also-ran status.

Ken’s Coryat in this one? $35,400.


#8: September 17, 2004 (Game 48):

In an interesting bit of Jeopardy! history, this game was the last game taped prior to the 2004 Tournament of Champions (The show, that year, put a month’s worth of Season 21 in the can in April, as they were worried of the possibility of a strike bringing production to a halt.) When the show returned to tape Ken’s next game in late summer that year, challengers found that they were given significantly more practice time on the buzzer. Obviously, this makes things more fair for everyone, but also makes it a little bit harder to defend a title.

In this game, though, between Ken and challengers Greg Taylor and Marilyn Werner, the biggest question ended up being, “will 1, 2, or 3 players make Final?” The answer ended up being 3, though it was very touch-and-go for awhile. Both challengers ended the opening round in the red (to Ken’s $10,200).

This game saw Ken run 4 categories; a performance that Ken himself did four times, but has since only been matched by Andrew Pau on April 19, 2016. (for the record, those categories were ASIAN HISTORY, ISLANDS, SUMMARIZING PROUST, and BRING OUT YOUR DEAD.

Alex was very in tune with Ken’s strategy at this point as well, successfully predicting one of Ken’s Daily Double bets in Double Jeopardy.

Overall in the game, Ken picked up 18 in the Jeopardy! round, 23 in Double, and Final for 42 in total, and a Coryat of $35,800.

#7: November 5, 2004 (Game 67)

This game saw Elizabeth Costello and John Murray challenge Ken. The game dynamics graph over on J! Archive tells the story: long horizontal lines for both Elizabeth and John, as the two of them combined were able to get in on the signaling device only 15 times. As for Ken? He ran TALES OF BRAVE ULYSSES, EVENTS IN THE OLYMPIC DECATHLON, and IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME, went 4/5 in STRANGE BREW, AWARDS & HONORS, and LETTER PERFECT, and 3/5 in OF YOUR “LOVE” and LEFT TO MY OWN DEVICES en route to 18 in the Jeopardy! round, 23 in Double, and $42,800. His Coryat? $36,000.

Final Jeopardy here actually saw Ken lose the second-most amount of his entire run in Final ($17,200), but he added $25,600 to his 67-day total.

#6: November 24, 2004 (Game 71)

The top 6 individual game Coryat scores in Jeopardy! history, as per games currently in J! Archive, all belong to Ken Jennings.

In Ken’s original 75-game run, he gave 40 correct responses (including Final) 22 times. This was the final time he did so. Including Final, Ken picked up 44 correct (his two opponents, Dan Ford, and Lisa Buckhout, were only able to signal 13 times combined thoughout the match.)

En route to a $36,200 Coryat, Ken picked up 5/5 in THE NEW TESTAMENT, FILMED IN HAWAII, and NAMES FROM THE GERMAN, 4/5 in HIT TV THEME SONGS, U.S. “S”ITIES, and ASTRONOMY, and 3/5 in RHYMES WITH FOUR, THE LIGHTER SIDE OF LIFE, TAKE ME HOME ALEX, and PHILOSOPHY. His 44 correct were split 20 in the opening round, 23 in Double, plus Final.

The $55,099 Ken picked up in this game was his second-highest individual game score during his run.

(On the next page: #5 through #1)