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‘Jeopardy!’ Contestant’s Unconventional Style Rankles Viewers — But He Wins

Answer: This ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant has used game theory to rack up four straight wins with a style that annoys some traditional viewers.

Question: Who is Arthur Chu?

Yes, Arthur Chu, currently the four-time defending champ on the long-running trivia show, plays the game a bit differently than you may have seen before. Rather than go through each column from top to bottom, as the questions gradually increase in difficulty, Chu instead hunts for the Daily Doubles, which are almost always located in the lower half of the columns, the harder questions.

The way Chu sees it—and the IBM computer Watson, which dominated its human opponents in 2011, agrees with him—the Daily Doubles are the most important clues, so it’s best to go after them first. As Chu told Mental Floss:

There’s no logical reason to do what people normally do, which is to take one category at a time from the top down. Your only point of control in the game is your ability, if you get the right answer to a question, to select the next question—and you give that power up if you make yourself predictable. The more unpredictable you are, the more you put your opponents off-balance, the longer you can keep an initial advantage.

And when he finds the Daily Doubles, his betting style is also out of the ordinary. He often wagers either next to nothing (in the above video, he bets just $5) or makes it a true Daily Double by wagering everything he’s got.

Another of Chu’s techniques is the furious clicking of his buzzer, and this seems to be getting on people’s nerves. Chu says he doesn’t mean to annoy viewers (or his fellow contestants); it’s just good strategy to keep things moving as fast as possible, so he has the opportunity to answer the most questions. (Or question the most answers, as is the ‘Jeopardy!’ style.)

The four-time champ’s aggressive style dates all the way back to his college days, when he was on the Swarthmore College Quiz Bowl team, though he wasn’t quite as successful in that competition as he has been on TV’s legendary game show.

“I did have a very aggressive style of play that sometimes got me in trouble in Quiz Bowl,” Chu says, “but which I think has served me well in ‘Jeopardy!’ so far.”

[The Wire, Mental Floss]

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