Volume 85 Issue 51 | p. 56 | Newscripts
Issue Date: December 17, 2007

Tournament Of Champions

Department: Newscripts

Tournament Of Champions

Paul Glaser: Chemist by day, "Jeopardy!" champion by night.
Credit: Ricki D. Shapiro, GE Global Research
Paul Glaser: Chemist by day, "Jeopardy!" champion by night.
Credit: Ricki D. Shapiro, GE Global Research

And the answer is: "This short story, written around 1820, contains the line 'If I can but reach that bridge ... I am safe.' "

Any ideas? No? That's okay. Not even Paul Glaser, General Electric Global Research Center chemist, and five-time "Jeopardy!" champion, knew the answer to this Final "JEOPARDY! Tournament of Champions" quarterfinal question. (It's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," for those of you keeping score at home.)

Not that it mattered. Glaser's significant lead over the other contestants and his smart betting during the Final Jeopardy round was more than enough to qualify him for "Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions" semifinals, which aired last month.

Glaser, 32, says he's always been a trivia buff. He grew up watching the show and auditioned for the Teen Tournament version while in high school. Although he didn't make the cut then, his interest and determination paid off.

Credit: Courtesy of Jeopardy! Productions, Inc.
Credit: Courtesy of Jeopardy! Productions, Inc.

His "Jeopardy!" adventure began with an online exam, followed by an invitation to audition in Manhattan. "It consisted of a written test, a simple game, and some other components," says Glaser. Six months later, he was invited to fly to California for the show. "By that time, I had pretty much forgotten about the whole thing," he says.

But "Jeopardy!" had not forgotten about Glaser. By the end of the Double Jeopardy round of his first game—which aired Oct. 26—it was clear why; he ran through the entire Physical Science and A's categories, and had a cushy $9,200 lead over the next player. "Had I gotten even a single one in the Physical Science category wrong, I'm not sure I would have ever heard the end of it at work," he says.

And with good reason. Besides his position at GE, Glaser received a doctorate in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a member of the American Chemical Society.

Credit: Shutterstock (TV and Remote)
Credit: Shutterstock (TV and Remote)

To prepare for the show, Glaser watched new episodes at night, as well as reruns during the day. "My wife and I did flashcards for some of the basic stuff, like state capitals, presidents, and Shakespeare," he says. He also said he needed to guard against overthinking things. "One of the things I had to remember on the science categories was that responses to clues are typically simple and neither overly complex nor involved."

But one thing you can't prepare for? The buzzer.

" 'Jeopardy!' is not chess, poker, or the prisoner's dilemma. It's hard to psych out or intimidate an opponent into making a tactical blunder," he says. Sometimes "it becomes simply a race to see who can buzz at the right moment."

Glaser's amazing "Jeopardy!" run first came to an end after his sixth regular game and again in the semifinal Tournament of Champions round, but he did walk away with a combined total of around $132,000. And even though Uncle Sam won't let him keep all of his hard-earned winnings, there will be enough left over for Glaser to do some practical things, such as pay off student loans, feed the mortgage, and buy at least one really good case of wine.


This week's column was written by Faith Hayden. Please send comments and suggestions to newscripts@acs.org.

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