2021 Tournament of Champions – Predictions

It is almost time for the two most important weeks of the Jeopardy! calendar: the Tournament of Champions. 15 of the best champions from 2019 and 2020 have returned to compete for a $250,000 top prize. This tournament will be hosted by the 2017 champion, Buzzy Cohen. Now, I’d like to say something: I’ve gotten to know quite a few former champions over my time in this community, and Buzzy is easily one of the nicest people in the Jeopardy! community. I can not wait to watch him live out a dream of his to host the show. It makes me sad to see all of the people badmouthing him in various corners of the Internet; Buzzy is an absolute mensch who is too nice to be deserving of any of that Internet hate.

These predictions have been done using the same model used to predict the outcome of the All-Star Games, the 2019 Tournament of Champions, and the Greatest of All Time matches.

Please note: Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Monday, May 17, 2021:

Jason Zuffranieri, 48% to win, 68% to advance, 11% chance to win the tournament
Jason Zuffranieri on Jeopardy!

Ryan Bilger, 40% to win, 64% to advance, 5% chance to win the tournament
Ryan Bilger on Jeopardy!

Sarah Jett Rayburn, 13% to win, 38% to advance, 1% chance to win the tournament
Sarah Jett Rayburn on Jeopardy!

Andy’s Thoughts: Jason might be considered by many to be the favourite to win overall, but Jason’s Achilles heel is definitely Final Jeopardy!; Jason is only 12th of the 15 players in the final round. I like both Jason and Ryan’s chances of advancing out of this first quarterfinal; Sarah has been hit with a very difficult draw in her opening round game; she may need to double up through Final Jeopardy! to have any hope of advancing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021:

Karen Farrell, 36% to win, 49% to advance, 1% to win the tournament
Karen Farrell on Jeopardy!

Nibir Sarma, 42% to win, 55% to advace, 5% to win the tournament
Nibir Sarma on Jeopardy!

Steve Moulds, 23% to win, 47% to advance, 2% to win the tournament
Steve Moulds on Jeopardy!

Andy’s Thoughts: Nibir played a dominant College Championship final in order to qualify for this tournament. Karen’s work on Daily Doubles wasn’t as strong as many in the tournament as well. If this game gets an easy Final Jeopardy, semifinal spots might come down to who’s bet more aggressively. Steve is very capable of playing well and should perform well, getting his spot in the tournament after the unfortunate death of Brayden Smith in February.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021:

Jennifer Quail, 55% to win, 93% to advance, 28% to win the tournament
Jennifer Quail on Jeopardy!

Paul Trifiletti, 13% to win, 64% to advance, 3% to win the tournament
Paul Trifiletti on Jeopardy!

Ryan Hemmel, 32% to win, 60% to advance, 10% to win the tournament
Ryan Hemmel on Jeopardy!

Andy’s Thoughts: While Jason is slightly stronger in terms of game material in the first two rounds, Jennifer’s going 8-for-9 in Final Jeopardy! makes her the tournament favorite in the eyes of the prediction model. I would be shocked if she didn’t at least make the semifinals. Ryan and Paul are also strong players both with an average-or-better chance to advance into the semifinals.

Thursday, May 20, 2021:

MacKenzie Jones, 44% to win, 62% to advance, 10% to win the tournament
MacKenzie Jones on Jeopardy!

Kevin Walsh, 22% to win, 52% to advance, 2% to win the tournament
Kevin Walsh on Jeopardy!

Ben Henri, 34% to win, 76% to advance, 5% to win the tournament
Ben Henri on Jeopardy!

Andy’s Thoughts: Ben has been through a tournament before; I’m predicting that MacKenzie’s strengths in Final Jeopardy! will carry her farther in the tournament, but that Ben will at least make the semifinals before bowing out, representing his Teacher class well. I’m sure that Kevin would have liked a much easier draw than the one that he got in this game.

Friday, May 21, 2021:

Sam Kavanaugh, 30% to win, 47% to advance, 3% to win the tournament
Sam Kavanaugh on Jeopardy!

Andy Wood, 45% to win, 73% to advance, 11% to win the tournament
Andy Wood on Jeopardy!

Veronica Vichit-Vadakan, 25% to win, 51% to advance, 2% to win the tournament
Veronica Vichit-Vadakan on Jeopardy!

Andy’s Thoughts: There will be fireworks in this last quarterfinal, with both Sam and Andy riding big Daily Double bets in their respective runs. The prediction model thinks that Andy’s skill in Final Jeopardy! will serve him well in this tournament (he’s the only player to be 100% in Final in his regular games.)

Predicted Winners: Jason, Nibir, Jennifer, MacKenzie, Andy
Predicted Wild Cards: Ben, Ryan B., Paul, Ryan H.
Prediected Finals: Jennifer (1st), Andy (2nd), MacKenzie (3rd)

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7 Comments on "2021 Tournament of Champions – Predictions"

  1. Hoping you are right about the finals.

  2. Thanks for posting these, Andy.

    I’m on record saying that I don’t care for Buzzy’s on-camera persona, but I’m glad to hear he’s a nice guy. It’s a shame more people on the internet can’t make the same distinction between character and how a showbiz novice presents themselves on television.

    One thing this analysis has me wondering about is how much getting Final Jeopardy right is a skill versus luck in terms of question difficulty and category. You could test this by exploring the correlation between high-value clue performance and FJ performance, I suppose. If a player’s main game strength comes from buzzer dominance and strategic Daily Double play, it would make sense.

  3. Those look like very plausible predictions, though I’m hoping Jason makes the finals. Should be exciting and looking forward to having Buzzie host!

    • I give Jason an excellent chance, perhaps almost equal to Jennifer to making the semifinals. He has the highest Coryat, the highest average $$ won entering FJ, and is fastest on the buzzer. Even though he isn’t the strongest in FJ, I anticipate him easily advancing, though making the Finals and winning will be harder.

  4. IMHO Buzzy is the best guest host yet. He keeps the show moving, is knowledgeable (of course), and the atmosphere is cheerful. He, like Alex did, clearly roots for the contestants. Wonder if he’d accept the job.
    Thanks for your great work Andy. I check your site every day.

  5. Alex Williams | May 19, 2021 at 7:31 pm |

    Where is Brian Chang?

    • As the show said numerous times during and after his run, Brian is in the running for the next tournament, as his run came after Alex’s death.

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