Surprise! James Holzhauer returned for his Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions semifinal round this evening, and the strategically aggressive legend did exactly what you thought he would do. And by that, we mean, uh, win easily. Holzhauer defeated his sharp opponents, Steve Grade and Rachel Lindgren, with a cool $30,156 total, compared to their $11,400 and $7,200 sums, respectively. While a formidable win, Holzhauer die-hards will know it’s far less than his usual winnings, and it’s actually only a tad more than what he won in his quarterfinal round last week. In fact, this total is the third worst single-game tally in his Jeopardy! career. (The lowest amount of money he won comes from his sixth game back in April, when he only took in $27,190. Gasp.) It’s also fun to note that Emma Boettcher, the contestant who ended Holzhauer’s reign earlier this year with her “whimsical” game strategy, also won her semifinal round on Tuesday. As such, they’ll both be competing in the two-part tournament final, which will be airing on Thursday and Friday evenings.
In an interview with Vulture after she defeated Holzhauer, Boettcher said that she mirrored his signature strategy, to a certain extent, in order to increase her chances of winning. However, she doesn’t like referring to the strategy as “aggressive,” but rather “data-driven” or fact-based. “As far as if I was ‘strategically aggressive,’ I know it’s definitely a controversial strategy. Aggressive is an interesting word. It kind of implies you’re trying to throw off your opponent,” she explained. “If I had to compare it to James — where it was more systematic — I was jumping around the board or staying in a particular category just because I liked it and felt like I was on a roll. I was a little more guided by intuition and feeling as opposed to having sussed out the exact, optimal strategy beforehand and using that every single time.” We can only hope their rematch will bring the drama, the style, and the tears.