Defeated ‘Jeopardy!’ Champ Explains Final Error That Cost Him the Game

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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the April 23 episode of Jeopardy!]

Nam Nguyen set an impressive buzzer stat in the April 22 game of Jeopardy!. His buzzer percentage was 71 percent, which host Ken Jennings said was “almost unheard of” at the top of the April 23 episode. But his speedy buzzing (which he attributes to his video game experience) wasn’t enough to protect the one-day champ from an incorrect answer in Final Jeopardy.

Nguyen, a playwright from Mississauga, Ontario, was playing against Mark Lashley, a professor from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  and Lianne Schaffer, a piano teacher and musician from Newton, Massachusetts on Tuesday. He enjoyed a large lead for the entire game, and a runaway game was nearly possible. Thanks to some Daily Double action, Lashley was able to catch up to the point where his score was just a bit more than half of Nguyen’s.

The scores going into the final were Nguyen with $17,600, Lashley with $9,000, and Schaffer with $7,000. A smart bet from Lashley, plus a low bet and/or loss from Nguyen, could have won Lashley the game, and it did. Nguyen was the only player out of the three to answer the final clue incorrectly, dropping his score by $401 to $17,199. Lashley ended in first with $17,601, Nguyen in second, and Schaffer in third with $14,000.

On the Jeopardy Reddit discussion board for the episode, Nguyen revealed that Jennings himself thought the Final Jeopardy clue was “pretty difficult.” The category was “Business,” and the clue was, “In the 1850s the .925 sterling silver standard was instituted by this company, the first American one to do so.” The correct answer was, “What is Tiffany & Co.?” “Tiffany” and “Tiffany’s” would also be acceptable. Lashley and Schaffer answered correctly, while Nguyen guessed “What is Wells Fargo?”

Nguyen took to the Reddit thread to explain that a luxury brand such as Tiffany’s was not something he knew about growing up.

“Ken very kindly said he found FJ pretty difficult in the post-game chat, and obviously the subject matter’s very fair game (for Mark & Lianne’s taking), but to put a bit of my life story out there real quick, I didn’t grow up in a family where luxury brands (esp. bling) were top of mind,” Nguyen explained. “Hell, my dad was in a Vietnamese refugee camp when he was my age!”

“We’re financially stable now to the extent that even the stolen car was primarily an inconvenience for mobility,” he continued, referencing his family’s stolen car mentioned in his mid-show interview. “But I’ve still never shaken the mindset that anything that goes on my body is utilitarian-first, without judgment against people who do make art of how they look every day.”

After Jeopardy, Nguyen took his first trip to Tiffany’s.

“The weekend I got back from LA to Mississauga, I tagged along shopping with some friends, and as they gawked at watches, I took a close look at a jewelry display for the first time in my life, and immediately saw the words ‘.925 sterling silver’ for the second time in my life. That’s how it goes,” he said. “All credit to Mark to fighting tremendously in DJ to keep me from the runaway and then pulling out Tiffany right at the end of the 30 seconds for the W — I hope the dough buys tons of Transformers for your kid!”

Jeopardy fans were supportive in response.

“Great playing, and bad luck about FJ. If you had $401 more today going into FJ I think you would have been a 5+ day champ,” said one reply.

“Damn! I was pulling for you, Nam. I thought you had the chops to make a ToC run like Alison [Betts]. Just like the guy on my flair, you just had a FJ brain freeze,” another fan wrote. “See you in [Champions Wildcard Tournament].”

See more explanations of his playing, including his Daily Double blunder, in the Reddit thread linked above.

Jeopardy!, Weekdays, check local listings

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