Part one of my interview with Vijay Balse, reigning ToC Champion!

     I am so pleased to present my interview with the winner of the 2010 Tournament of Champions, Vijay Balse!  In this awesome picture of some ToC contestants with Bob Harris, Vijay is third from left in the middle row (photo courtesy of j-archive‘s Robert Knecht Schmidt):

     Vijay says: “First of all, let me thank Jeanie Kenkel for the opportunity to share my J! experiences with readers of The Jeopardy! Fan website.
     Next, I apologize for not having had the chance to respond to her queries until now.
     Finally, I hope that you will also take the time to read about my ToC experiences on the J! Board, in posts by a certain bumbling reporter named Ray Porter, starting with this post, and continued in the same thread.
     Now, to Jeanie’s questions…”

(1) Does Jeopardy! air in your native India?

     “Not to my knowledge. In fact, my first impression about J! back in 1985 — when I moved to the U.S. as a graduate student — was being perplexed when the contestants’ responses were in the form of a question. :)”

(2) I read on the Jeopardy! message boards about your methods for learning new information while you participated in College Bowl. This includes reading material in your weaker subjects and making “question packets.” Did you continue this after College Bowl, with the thought of winning on Jeopardy! in mind?

     “Well, College Bowl toss-up questions are structured so as to reward players for anticipating the questions themselves, in addition to the answers. On the other hand, J! clues are read aloud by Alex Trebek in their entirety before the contestants can respond. Hence there’s not much overlap between the two formats, and I did not write any more College Bowl “question packets” after finishing graduate school.
     However, I did prepare a number of complete J! games, as well as miscellaneous sets of clues, primarily from 2003 through 2005, to help friends I had gotten to know through the J! Board, and other forums, practice their J! gameplaying skills.”

(3) Did you practice ringing in?

     “Actually, no. The contestant coordinators give out ballpoint pens — which are supposed to simulate the actual signaling device — during J! auditions.
     I found that the actual devices are bulkier, and that the push buttons offer much more resistance than the ballpoint pens. As a result, and so as not to wear out my thumb, I decided — at some point during my third regular game — that it was best to press the button on the signaling device only once.
     Of course, my luck with the timing of this single push decided whether I rang in successfully or not. Instead of waiting for the ‘go’ lights mentioned in various discussions about the J! signaling device, I waited for a couple of beats after Alex Trebek had finished reading the clue before ringing in.”

(4) Did you tape all five of your regular episodes in one trip to California?

     “Yes. Usually, a game broadcast on a Monday is the first of the day, the game broadcast on a Thursday is the first after lunch, and so on. However, in Season 26, this predictable pattern was disrupted on account of the taping of the Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational.
     Thus, the game won by Jordan Brand — which was broadcast on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 — was the first taped on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009. I won the next four games taped that day. My fifth regular game — broadcast on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 — was the first taped on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009.”

(5) Did you watch your regular episodes when they were on TV, before you competed in the Tournament of Champions?

     “Yes, my regular games aired a couple of weeks before the ToC was held, so that my fellow contestants got the chance to assess my J! skills. Regina Robbins, on the other hand, was a complete unknown, since her first game did not air until Tuesday, March 23rd, the first day of the ToC taping.
     As an aside, I have been watching J! on a regular basis since 1985, and began recording the games on a DVR starting with Season 24. As practice for my regular games, I watched the episodes available on my DVR in November and December of 2009.
     With less than a month between getting The Call and traveling to Culver City for the taping, I decided to focus on being mentally ready to play J! for real.
     Watching all those games helped me realize what made contestants fail at playing the game well — such as being overly cautious in wagering, getting complacent when having a large lead, and so on — and I did my best to avoid such missteps.”

     Come back tomorrow night to see what Vijay is planning now!