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Thursday, March 13, 2014

‘Jeopardy!’ Champ Chu Optimistic After Defeat

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek and contestant Arthur Chu pose for a photo. (Facebook)

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek and contestant Arthur Chu pose for a photo. (Facebook)

Arthur Chu‘s reign as “Jeopardy!” champ has come to an end. The 30-year-old Ohio resident lost to Diana Peloquin of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Chu racked up 11 wins and nearly $300,000. Some fans called him an evil genius for his unorthodox way of playing the game — he jumped around the board trying to ferret out the Double Jeopardy clues early in the game.

We spoke with Arthur Chu last month about his strategy, and he joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson again for an update. As far as the future goes, if Chu has any say, this won’t be the last time you see him on “Jeopardy!”

“I hope to be on the next Tournament of Champions, and I’m definitely gonna be studying for that,” he said. “I am looking forward, very much, to facing against other champions, you know, and seeing if my game can continue to improve to the degree it needs to.”

As far as reality TV goes: “If it doesn’t interfere with my contract with ‘Jeopardy!’, you know, I’d definitely consider that — hopefully not a dating show, because I’m happily married, but a different reality show concept, maybe.”

Interview Highlights: Arthur Chu

On the competitor who bested him

“I’ve made some jokes about being angry that I lost, but really, I couldn’t be happier to have lost to such a great contestant. She actually watched all of my previous games, because she was an alternate contestant, and so she was spending that whole time figuring out how to beat me, which I admire and respect. And she actually came up to me after one day of taping and shook my hand and said, ‘You know, whatever happens, it was an honor to be in the studio with you,’ so she was very gracious. And, you know, I wish her all the best in future games.”

“I think the best way to play against someone who’s using my strategy, like bouncing around the board, is to do the same thing. But a lot of people aren’t ready to do that, and if they didn’t practice that way, they have a hard time adjusting to it, and she managed to adjust to it, you know, pretty well. You know, she was coming in fresh and I was obviously totally, you know, brain-fogged in that game, and she got the better of me.”

On why his winning streak ended

“Over many games, you have a higher probability of, you know, winning if you bet big, because that big lead is so important to winning the game in the end. But sometimes you make a big bet and it doesn’t go your way, and that can kill you, and that whole cynicism-egoism thing got me. But in general, I mean, one thing that I would remind people is you’re watching the show spread out, you know, one game every night. When we tape it, it’s all in one day. One week is taped in one day of actual taping.”

“I was coming off of having played five games in a row the previous day, then I had, like, one night to rest up and then start over. So the reason people’s runs peter out, you know, is just fatigue, I think. It’s really hard to play lots of games in a row, and that’s why there’s this kind of wall that you hit when you get to having played two days in a row, you know? I think I’m the first person in almost 10 years to go past nine games, and so that just shows you even more what a mutant Ken Jennings is, that he could do that, you know, for, like, 74 straight games. I don’t know if anyone will ever do that again. Maybe they will. I hope maybe Diana will.”

On the “perfect storm” that was his run

“I’ve said my strategy on the game wasn’t that new, but somehow, it seemed to attract people’s attention more this time around. And also, I’m certainly not the first person to live tweet an episode. You know, I didn’t even have that idea. I’d seen, like college players do it in the past or younger players do it. But for whatever reason, it was like a perfect storm of different factors: the fact that my run was stretched out by those hiatuses, by the tournament they were running; the fact that there was this really strong negative reaction to me. So it wasn’t just that I was on Twitter, but that I was, you know, facing down a horde of critics and, you know, getting in dialogue with them. All of those things, I think, made it more interesting for people. And maybe it’s also because I am funnier or more interesting than other people on Twitter, or maybe it’s because I’m much more obnoxious and annoying.”

Guest

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW, and Arthur Chu's reign as "Jeopardy!" champion has come to an end.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "JEOPARDY!")

ALEX TREBEK: OK, Arthur, we come to you first. You were in third place, and you wrote down who was George II. No, wrong (unintelligible). It's going to cost you how much - 6,400, dropping you to zero.

HOBSON: And with that, Arthur Chu lost to Diana Peloquin of Ann Arbor, Michigan, who had the correct response, who was George VI. Well, during his winning streak, Arthur racked up 11 wins, nearly $300,000. Some fans called him an evil genius for his unorthodox way of playing the game, jumping around the board and trying to ferret out those daily double "Jeopardy!" clues during the game.

We spoke with Arthur last month about his strategy, and he joins us now from NPR in New York. Arthur, welcome back, and congratulations.

ARTHUR CHU: Thank you, thanks for having me.

HOBSON: Well, so first of all you had some I guess restrictions last time we spoke about what you could say because some of the shows hadn't aired yet. Is there anything you would like to say now that you can?

CHU: I just want to congratulate Diana. You know, I've made some jokes about being angry that I lost, but really, I couldn't be happier to have lost to such a great contestant. She actually watched all of my previous games because she was an alternate contestant, and so she was, you know, spending that whole time figuring out how to beat me, which I admire and respect.

You know, I wish her all the best in future games, which I don't know anything about. So now I'm back to the same level of ignorance as the rest of America about the future of the show.

HOBSON: Well, let's take a listen to some of you on last night's show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "JEOPARDY!")

TREBEK: Daily double, the other one.

And you are within range of the lead, certainly.

CHU: The daily double.

TREBEK: OK, for 15,200 and the lead, here is your clue. Antisthenes began this -ism with the view that self-interest is the primary motive of human behavior.

CHU: What is egoism?

TREBEK: Oh no, what is cynicism, cynicism. So you're back at zero, but there's plenty of time left. Go on.

HOBSON: It did seem like you lost some of your mojo last night in general. What do you think happened?

CHU: Well, the big thing that happened, this is the thing, they say like betting big in - over many games, you have a higher probability of, you know, winning if you bet big because that big lead is so important to winning the game in the end. But sometimes you make a big bet, and it doesn't go your way, and that can kill you, and that whole cynicism-egoism thing got me.

But in general, I mean one thing that I would remind people is you're watching the show spread out, you know, one game every night. When we tape it, it's all in one day. One week is taped in one day of actual taping.

HOBSON: So five shows in a day?

CHU: Yeah, yeah, so I was coming off of having played five games in a row the previous day, then I had, like, one night to try to rest up and then start over. So the reason that people's runs peter out, you know, is just fatigue, I think. It's really hard to play lots of games in a row, and that's why there's this kind of wall that you hit when you get to like having played two consecutive two days, you know.

You know, I think I'm the first person in almost 10 years to go past nine games, and so that just shows you even more what a mutant Ken Jennings is, that he could do that, you know, for, like, 74 straight games. I don't know if anyone will ever do that again. Maybe they will. Maybe Diana will. I wish her the best, as I said, so...

HOBSON: How is your relationship with Alex Trebek? Because the two of you did seem to be a little cold with each other at times.

CHU: Well, that's the thing. I don't know if any of us really has a relationship with Alex Trebek. He doesn't stick around and talk after the show. You know, he has a busy life to lead. So he's very professional. I know...

HOBSON: But do you think that he specifically disliked you because of what you were doing, because you sometimes didn't dress like everyone else does on "Jeopardy!" - because you interrupted him?

CHU: I think he's seen it all in 30 years. You know, I don't think what I - I mean, I don't think what I did was that unusual for the show. Maybe other people disagree. But, you know, he - I think he went on an interview on Fox News and said he didn't hate me, you know, for what it's worth. He was always very gracious to me in the little chats we had over the credits, even when I was in the moment getting frustrated with those mispronunciations I was making, one of my gains(ph).

You know, he said to me during the credits, well, you know, if I just lost $10,000 because of a close call like that, I'd be mad too. So I think he empathizes. He sees where the contestants come from.

HOBSON: Let's talk about your use of social media, which is sort of new for "Jeopardy!" You live-tweeted the show last night, and you also took to YouTube with this lip-sync after you lost. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC AND CRYING)

CHU: I don't know who I am anymore.

HOBSON: You're singing there to "I Lost on Jeopardy."

CHU: I felt I kind of had to do it, but I also felt like everyone posts just the clip of the song after they lose. So, you know, I might as well get a little more interactive with it. So I hope I didn't really come off as that upset in my other - I've known it's coming for months now. But you know, everyone hates to lose.

HOBSON: Well, how do you think that "Jeopardy!" changed because of you, specifically with the way that you use social media to tie into the games and get more people involved than otherwise would be?

CHU: Yeah, see that's, another thing, because I've said my strategy on the game wasn't that new, but somehow it seemed to attract people's attention more this time around. And also, I'm certainly not the first person to live tweet an episode. You know, I didn't even have that idea. I'd seen like college players do it in the past or younger players do it.

But for whatever reason, it was like a perfect storm of different factors: the fact that my run was stretched out by those hiatuses, by the tournaments that they were running; the fact that there was this really strong negative reaction to me. So it wasn't just that I was on Twitter but that I was, you know, facing down a horde of critics and, you know, getting in dialogue with them.

All of those things, I think, made it more interesting for people. Maybe it's also because I am funnier or more interesting than other people on Twitter, or maybe it's because I'm much more obnoxious and annoying, whichever direction you want - but it got the attention.

(LAUGHTER)

CHU: And so, you know, I've been told from people who work for "Jeopardy!" that they wish - you know, they love it when people engage with contestants.

HOBSON: Well, you engaged with our listeners actually on our website after we had you on before, and you responded to listeners who thought that the way you played the game was wrong. You said this: If you think the game isn't fun because of whizbos like me, get the "Jeopardy!" producers to change the rules of the game. "Jeopardy!" is a business, and they make their profits entertaining people. If they agree with you that the possibility of whizbos playing the way I play is something they want to discourage, they can change the rules to prevent it; it wouldn't be hard to do.

Do you think "Jeopardy!" is going to change the rules because of you?

CHU: I doubt it because, gosh, that guy, I almost forgot about him. You know, he's one of the few times I've actually, you know, read the comments.

(LAUGHTER)

CHU: Whizbos is such an interesting word. But, you know, they've had the opportunity to change the rules many times in the past, and the rules have changed. Like there used to be a cap on winning up to five days, and they removed that cap. You know, if they mind it, they have every opportunity to change it, you know, and they haven't.

HOBSON: What's next for you, Arthur?

CHU: What's next for me? Well, I need - I'd like to get some sleep, you know, go home and spend time with my wife and doing things that I enjoy that I've kind of put on the back burner, first to prepare to be on "Jeopardy!" and then dealing with this whole media blitz about "Jeopardy!"

I hope to be on the next Tournament of Champions, and I'm definitely going to be studying for that. I've got to bring my A-game. So I'm looking forward to that. And as far as other things, we'll take it one step at a time.

HOBSON: If somebody comes to you and says they want to give you a reality TV show, would you take it?

(LAUGHTER)

CHU: Well, if it doesn't interfere with my contract with "Jeopardy!" - you know, I'd definitely consider that, hopefully not a dating show because I'm happily married, but you know, a different reality show concept maybe.

HOBSON: Arthur Chu, who lost last night but after winning nearly $300,000 on "Jeopardy!" through a very interesting strategy. And we've got the link to our original interview with him at hereandnow.org. Arthur, thanks so much for joining us, and congratulations again.

CHU: Thank you, thanks for having me.

HOBSON: And if you go to hereandnow.org, you can also find Arthur's response to listener comments. In fact, if you comment on the story, perhaps he will respond to you, hereandnow.org. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • Brenda

    Arthur, I believe you played excellent. I was watching you win and win and everyone who says your strategy was bad is wrong. Your strategy was the way you should play. Picking the bigger clues either gave you more money or put your opponents in the red. It was genius. Way to go. Enjoy your money and can’t wait to see you on the championship games.

  • alsviews

    Incidentally, “whizbo” doesn’t really mean anything except that it could be the presumptive opposite of “dumbo”. Seemed appropriate, though. Kind of rolls off the tongue.

  • sebastian_cole

    I find it oh-so-apropos that Mr. Chu”s big loss was on the word egoism, as he seems to represent what I like to call “the me generation, only more so.” Indeed he appears the kind of reality show subject that has plagued the airwaves of late, celebrating agressive conflict as a substitue of creative drama. For the record, I didn’t watch him play, only listened to your interview and by that alone I can see why his personality made some bristle. Understood that Jeporady is a game and the object is to win, so one can’t fault his chosen technique to win, but there’s something to be said for grace and humility.

  • Mestralle

    A contestant who’s a jerk wouldn’t make deliberate wagers as a runaway leader so as to make a tie game. He plays to win, and that’s fine, but I think he’s been quite sporting.

    • alsviews

      Mr. Chu offered tie games simply because he felt he had the measure of his opponent and would just as soon play the contestant he knew, not as a gesture of “noblesse oblige”

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