Decatur resident, Westminster grad Lilly Chin wins 2017 Jeopardy College Tournament of Champions

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

This was posted on Friday, February 24, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Decatur's Lilly Chan took home the Jeopardy College Championship prize today, pocketing $100,000.

Chan, a 21-year-old senior at M.I.T., is eligible to play with in the Tournament of Champions later this year.

In the finals, she had to win more money over two games with the same two opponents to win.

Ultimately, she cruised into Final Jeopardy on Friday without a lot of drama because she finished the two regular rounds well ahead of the other two players. By coincidence, she finished both days at $20,400. She said she was so in the zone during Double Jeopardy during Friday's pre-taped episode, she had no idea she was so far ahead until the second round ended.

Since the Final Jeopardy question didn't matter, she simply wrote "Who is Spiciest Memelord?" a shout out to her friends who loves memes.

The first game that aired Thursday was far closer. In fact, she was in second place going into Friday's episode, which was on tonight locally on the NBC affiliate WXIA-TV (11Alive) at 7:30 p.m.

Over four games this tournament, she played a sharp, clean game. She nabbed an impressive seven Daily Doubles and got them all correct. She also answered more than 90 percent of questions she buzzed in for correctly, according to Jeopardy Fan, which tracked her play.

"My goal for the entire tournament was really just to make it to the semifinals. Everything else was just icing on the cake," Chin said in a press release. "I never expected to do so well and honestly, everything after that quarterfinal win just feels like a dream. After the competition, I actually had dreams where the 'Jeopardy' staff called me up and said there was a mistake and that I wasn't the champion."

Gary Tse, a freshman at the United States Naval Academy, came in second and took home $50,000, while Viraj Mehta, a junior at Stanford University, finished third and won $25,000. The episodes were filmed in January in Los Angeles.

Chin moved to Atlanta at age six and graduated Westminster Schools in 2013. In an interview this afternoon, Chin said her dad is an immigrant who learned English partly by watching Johnny Carson and their family would watch "Jeopardy" at dinner as she was growing up. Both her parents - her mom Lian Li and her dad Lih-Shen Chin - are neuroscience professors at Emory University.

In middle and high school, she said she was a quiz bowl geek. But she never did specific studying to build her trivia knowledge until she found out she was in the College Tournament of Champions, squeezing that in between her regular classes. She also dug up a quiz bowl buzzer and did simulated practices so she could quickly get used to handling the "Jeopardy" buzzer.

Being at M.I.T., where Chin majors in electrical engineering and computer science, helped her prepare for the show.

"They say that getting an MIT education is like ‘drinking from a firehose,’ and I think that high-intensity environment helped me remain sharp under the pressure of the tournament,” she said in the press release. “Being part of the MIT Trap Shooting team also helped a lot. Coach always says to never keep score and to focus on one shot at a time. Similarly, I didn’t let a broken streak get under my skin too much and I stayed laser-focused on making sure that each buzz counted.”

She said much of the winnings will go to pay off her undergraduate student loans.

Chin is not done with school. She plans to do post grad studies at Stanford, M.I.T. or Carnegie Mellon in robotics. (She has already been accepted into all three.).

She is not against living in Atlanta again sometime in the future: " I really like Atlanta. I miss the Southern hospitality. It's not a joke. It's a thing! And of course, the weather."

Chin said she didn't fully appreciate how big a deal "Jeopardy" is in American culture until she was watching herself on TV. "That's me! I'm here. That's my TV," she said. "It was very outer body."

And M.I.T. is proud. The president reached out to her and she was bemused when she received flowers from the chancellor. She is holding a party tonight  and get this - she's paying for the snacks. "I haven't even gotten my check yet!" she said, with a laugh.

Chin is looking forward to Tournament of Champions, playing with the adults. "I would like harder level of play," she said, since the questions tailored to college students appear to be easier than the regular Tournament of Champions.