Originally posted Monday, November 11, 2019 by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Gainesville's own Dhruv Gaur, the Brown University student who won $100,000 earlier this year on College Tournament of Champions, caused beloved "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek to tear up with a kind message in the episode that aired Monday.
Gaur did not know the Final Jeopardy answer so on his blue screen, he opted to write something more personal. Gaur grinned and Trebek noticed.
“You’re smiling,” Trebek said. “I like that. Let’s take a look at your response. Did you come up with the right one? No.”
Trebek, who is almost universally professional on air, broke for a moment when he read “What is we love you Alex!”
“That’s very kind of you, thank you,” Trebek said, as the studio audience said, “Aww...”
After a pause, Trebek said, his voice continuing to break: “Cost you $1995. You’re left with five bucks, okay.”
Trebek is battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer and has muscled through two rounds of chemotherapy. He has been hosting “Jeopardy” since 1984.
Gaur in a Tweet explained why he did what he did: “For context, Alex had just shared with us that he was reentering treatment for pancreatic cancer. We were all hurting for him so badly...When Final Jeopardy came up, I could’ve tried to puzzle it together, but really, just kept thinking about Alex, and thought he should know...I’m just very grateful I got the opportunity to say what I know everyone was thinking. Sending all the love.
Although Gaur struggled and ended up with just $5 after Final Jeopardy, he still won $10,000 for finishing in the semi-final top nine out of 15.
Emma Boettcher, the Chicago librarian who took down Las Vegas professional gambler James Holzhauer to break his 32-game winning streak, defeated Gaur and runner-up Kyle Jones and now has a shot at a rematch if Holzhauer wins his semi-final round Tuesday.
The ultimate winner will take home $250,000.
Atlanta sports consultant Steven Grade will vie for a spot in the finals Tuesday against the nearly indomitable Holzhauer in his semi-final round. Last Friday, Grade didn't win the game but pulled in enough bucks to qualify for the semi-finals.
He started strong, sweeping a Shakespeare category. He said in a text after the game that Shakespeare hurt him during his last game so he prepped extra about the playwright, which paid off greatly.
Grade finished the first Jeopardy around in the lead at $8,400 just ahead of Francois Barcomb, a physics teacher from New Paltz, N.Y. at $7,100. (Third-place player Ryan Fenster was a nonfactor, garnering an unusually high six mistakes.)
Grade, unfortunately, couldn’t generate any momentum during the Double Jeopardy round. “I made a couple of mistakes I should have been able to avoid” early on, he said. “It took me too long to get my timing and focus back.”
As Barcomb pulled away, Grade decided to play defensively since the quarterfinals are the only time not winning is OK. He didn't answer anything he wasn't 100 percent sure of, a strategy he would not have taken if it had been a normal winner-takes-all game.
Instead, he tried to reach $17,500, a figure he figured would give him enough to get him into the semifinals. He was right.
By the end of Double Jeopardy, he had just $9,200, well behind Barcomb’s $34,300. He bet all $9,200 and got the Final Jeopardy question correct, doubling his total to $18,400. He was in.
Now he faces an even tougher challenge against Holzhauer, not that Grade is intimidated.
“I was excited to face James, to be honest,” he said. “I had figured out I'd be playing him after the match up for the first game was announced, but I had known for months that the tournament was going to go through him and if I wanted to win, I'd be facing him sooner or later.”
He missed playing Holzhauer by just one day earlier in the year and wondered how he would stack up. “I've never shied away from challenges in my life,” he said, “and I wasn't going to shy away from this one either.
Grade had to tape his episode right after Gaur’s message to Trebek and everyone in the studio, he said, was emotional.
“Luckily, I had a few minutes to compose myself and get my game face back on,” he said. “I knew I had a strategy that I believed in, and I knew if I stuck to it I'd have a shot. I was surprisingly relaxed going to the podiums for the episode. Honestly I was trying to make myself a little more nervous in the hopes that nerves would help me focus.”
And he said he was thrilled Gaur wrote that message: “It's the best Jeopardy answer ever given. He said exactly what we were all thinking the whole time we were out there.”
The #Jeopardy Tournament of Champions competitors are organizing a charitable play along to help fight pancreatic cancer. See below for details, play along, spread the word, and let’s do what we can to help win this fight. pic.twitter.com/tP9CG49paP
“Jeopardy,” 7:30 p.m. weekdays, WXIA/11Alive in Atlanta
About the Author
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.