Regular play vs. the Tournament of Champions

The 2014 Tournament of Champions featured a first in Jeopardy! history - the top three players in the qualifying rankings (most games won, then most money won) reached the final. This got me thinking about how players in various positions coming into the ToC perform in the tournament. Is it "chalk" - that is, does better performance in regular play correlate with success against the top players head-to-head? Or is it "a chip and a chair" - the important thing is just getting into the field of fifteen, because once you're there, anything can happen?

The all-time standings page over at The Final Wager has a neat searching feature - if you input a year (i.e. "2014") it will return the competitors in that year's ToC, which can then be sorted. This revealed some interesting points. For example, in the first Tournament of Champions in November 1985, the two players with the lowest winnings totals in regular play got to the final. When Rachael Schwartz became the first woman to win the ToC in 1994, she was the last player in (among those qualifying through regular play). It looks like the answer to the question I posed above is a little of both - players among the top three winners in a ToC have a better chance of reaching the final, along with the player in the number eight position. But other than that, finals positions are fairly evenly distributed. Note also that this doesn't take into account how players were matched up in quarterfinal and semifinal games.

At first glance, this thing does look kind of like a blob of earth tones, punctuated by specks of gold, silver, and bronze. A way to interpret it is by looking at the column for each ToC as the "leaderboard" for that tournament, with the numbered rows representing those qualifying from regular play, and the automatic qualifiers at the bottom, in chronological order of when they won their tournaments. Hovering over the text in a cell reveals the identity of the player occupying that rank in that ToC. For example, placing the mouse over the "1" in the "1" row for the 1986 ToC, you will see "Chuck Forrest: 5 wins, $72,800".

Rank 1985 (S2) 1986 (S3) 1987 (S4) 1988 (S5) 1989 (S6) 1990 (S7) 1991 (S8) 1992 (S9) 1993 (S10) 1994 (S11) 1995 (S12) 1996 (S13) 1998 (S14) 1999 (S15) 2000 (S16) 2001 (S18) 2003 (S19) 2004 (S21) 2006 (S22) 2007 (S24) 2009 (S25) 2010 (S26) 2011 (S28) 2013 (S29) 2014 (S31) 2015 (S32) 1 2 3 SF QF
1 SF 1 SF 2 3 SF SF 3 SF SF 2 QF 1 1 SF QF 2 2 SF QF 1 SF 2 SF 3 2 4 6 3 10 3
2 QF SF 3 QF QF 1 QF QF 2 SF SF 1 QF SF 1 SF SF QF QF QF 2 2 SF 2 2 QF 3 5 1 7 10
3 QF 2 2 SF QF SF QF QF 1 QF SF 3 3 QF 2 SF SF SF SF SF QF SF 1 SF 1 1 4 3 2 10 7
4 SF SF 1 SF SF 2 QF 1 QF SF SF QF SF QF QF SF 1 QF SF QF SF SF SF QF QF 3 3 1 1 12 9
5 QF SF QF 3 SF SF SF QF SF SF QF SF QF SF QF 2 SF 3 QF SF 3 SF QF SF SF SF 0 1 3 14 8
6 2 QF QF SF QF QF QF SF SF SF 3 QF SF SF SF 3 QF QF SF QF SF 3 QF QF SF SF 0 1 3 11 11
7 SF QF QF QF QF QF 2 SF QF QF QF SF 2 QF 3 QF SF SF SF SF SF QF QF 3 QF QF 0 2 2 8 14
8 QF SF SF 1 SF 3 1 QF SF SF 1 2 QF SF SF QF 3 QF 3 1 QF QF SF SF SF SF 4 1 3 11 7
9 SF 3 QF SF QF SF SF QF QF QF QF SF SF 2 QF 1 QF SF QF SF SF QF SF SF SF SF 1 1 1 13 10
10 QF SF SF QF 2 QF QF SF QF QF SF SF SF SF SF QF SF QF 2 SF QF 1 SF QF QF SF 1 2 0 12 11
11 SF QF QF QF SF SF SF SF SF 3 QF QF SF QF QF SF SF 1 QF QF QF SF QF QF QF QF 1 0 1 10 14
12 SF QF SF SF QF QF SF 2 QF 1 SF QF QF 3 QF QF SF 1 SF SF QF QF SF SF SF 2 1 1 11 10
13 QF QF SF QF QF QF QF SF SF 2 SF 3 QF 0 1 1 4 7
14 1 QF SF SF QF QF QF QF 1 0 0 2 5
15 3 SF QF 0 0 1 1 1
College 1 QF SF QF SF 2 QF SF QF QF SF SF QF SF QF 3 QF SF QF QF 1 1 1 9 14
QF QF QF QF SF
SF
Teacher QF QF QF QF 1 0 0 0 4
1
Teen SF QF SF SF QF SF QF QF SF SF QF QF 0 0 0 8 6
SF SF
Senior QF SF SF QF 3 SF 3 QF QF QF 0 0 2 3 5
Length 195 185 200 200 190 190 190 190 185 225 185 186 229 191 226 265 289 202 228 270 276 209 269 235 273 240
6+ Ws 2 3 0 3 2 5 5 7 4
5 Ws 15 5 9 9 5 11 8 11 7 9 5 8 6 9 11 14 7 2 3 8 5 4 4 3 4 7
4 Ws 0 10 4 4 7 1 4 1 4 3 7 4 5 4 0 0 7 7 2 4 7 6 4 4 1 2
3 Ws 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 2 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 1
Auto 0 0 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 1 4 1 1 2 2 1 0 3 2 3 3 1

Notes:

The College Championship has been held every season since Season 5 (except Season 31), with its winner always qualifying into the next ToC. Vinita Kailasanath (2001) and Joey Beachum (2008) deferred their bids to the following ToC due to other commitments.

The Teachers Tournament has been held every season since Season 27, with its winner always qualifying into the next ToC.

The Teen Tournament has been held every season since Season 3 (except Seasons 31 and 32, and with a second edition in Season 23), with winners through Season 16 qualifying into the next ToC. Since Season 17, Teen Tournament winners are not granted entry into the ToC. Here's The Final Wager on this change.

The Senior Tournament was held each season from Season 3 to Season 12, with its winner always qualifying into the next ToC.

Clue values were doubled to their current amounts on November 26, 2001. Three players in the Season 19 ToC (Alan Bailey, Mark Dawson, and Trevor Norris) played before this doubling, and their seeding is based on their winnings being doubled; their scores are noted by asterisks next to their dollar figures when you hover over them.

From 1985 through 1993, the qualifying period for the ToC was the prior season. Starting in 1994, the qualifying period was modified to the time between ToCs, subject to modifications as TPTB see fit, as is believed to have happened for the 2014 ToC (qualification period ended on an unknown date well before the ToC, most likely at the end of Season 30). The qualification period for the Season 21 ToC is considered to have ended on June 1, 2004 (the day before Ken Jennings's first appearance), and the Season 22 ToC qualifying period commenced on November 30, 2004 (the day Ken lost in regular play). Since Jennings did not appear in a Tournament of Champions, his seventy-four wins are not considered part of either qualifying cycle.

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