UC Berkeley student defeats Harvard, Middlebury students to win Jeopardy! semifinal

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After buzzing in correctly on the first question of the night, it looked like UC Berkeley junior Kevin Shen would be unstoppable. Wednesday night’s semifinal round of the Jeopardy! College Championship was all about momentum, and right from the start, Shen had it.

A few ridiculously easy initial questions — really, the website “Yahoo!” and “ponchos” were answers — was all it took for Shen to prove he could command the game over his college competitors from Middlebury College and Harvard.

He quickly dominated the first few questions in a category about U.S. states, soon arriving at the first Daily Double of the night. He bet only $1000 — more cautious than we might have been — but answered it easily (the answer: “Kansas,” a reference to the Wizard of Oz). Heading into the first break, Shen led by a couple thousand dollars.

In round two, Shen started strongly, answering several questions about superheroes (Superman and the Incredibles), but his momentum started to wane, and he starting losing the ground he had gained on his opponents in the first round. He struggled with two categories, one on Civil War slang (he must have missed that day in History 7B) and the other on 21st-century music.

Heading into Final Jeopardy! with a lead, albeit a much smaller one than at the end of round one, Shen still seemed confident.

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The Final Jeopardy! question about Shakespeare characters proved to be a battle of strategy, not knowledge. When all three of the students correctly answered that Falstaff was the character who had the most speeches of any character in Shakespeare’s plays, Shen only had to keep his lead to secure his win.

But when the woman from Middlebury — trailing Shen by only $1,400 — bet $9,700, we worried Shen would repeat last week’s mistake and not bet enough.

But an early smile gave it away — Shen had wagered $10,201 and ended the night ahead with $23,201.
In the two-episode final Thursday and Friday, Shen will battle the contestant from Texas A&M University and rematch the contestant from Princeton University, who beat him in the first round of the tournament.

Contact Chloe Hunt and Jacob Brown at [email protected] .

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