The DeepQA Research Team - The Jeopardy! Quiz Show


The Jeopardy! Quiz Show is a well-known syndicated US TV quiz-show that has been on the air since 1984. It features rich natural language questions covering a broad range of general knowledge. It is widely recognized as an entertaining game requiring smart, knowledgeable and quick players.

The show's format pits three human contestants against each other in a three round contest of knowledge, confidence and speed. All contestants must pass a 50-question qualifying test to be eligible to play. The first two rounds of a game use a grid organized into six columns each with a category label, and 5 rows with increasing dollar values. The image below shows a sample board for a first round.

Jeopardy! Game Board

In the second round, the dollar values are doubled. Initially all the clues in the grid are hidden behind their dollar values. The game-play begins with the returning champion selecting a cell on the grid by naming the category and the $ value. For example the player may select by saying "Technology for $400".

The clue under the selected cell is revealed to all the players and the host reads it out loud. Each player is equipped with a hand-held signaling button. As soon as the host finishes reading the clue, a light becomes visible around the board, indicating to the players that their hand-held devices are enabled and they are free to signal or "buzz-in" for a chance to respond. If a player signals before the light comes on then they are locked out for 1/2 of a second before they can buzz-in again.

The first player to successfully buzz-in gets a chance to respond to the clue. That is, they must answer the question, but their response must be in the form of a question. For example, validly formed responses are "Who is Ulysses S. Grant?" or "What is The Tempest?" rather than simply "Ulysses S. Grant" or "The Tempest." The Jeopardy! quiz-show was conceived to have the host providing the answer or clue and the players responding with the corresponding question or response. The clue/response concept represents an entertaining twist on classic question answering. Jeopardy! clues are straight-forward assertional forms of questions. So where a question might read "What Drug has been shown to relieve the symptoms of ADD with relatively few side effects?" the corresponding Jeopardy! clue might read "This Drug has been shown to relieve the symptoms of ADD with relatively few side effects." The correct Jeopardy! response would be "What is Ritalin?"

Players have 5 seconds to speak their response, but it's typical that they answer almost immediately since they often only buzz-in if they already know the answer. If a player responds to a clue correctly, then the $ value of the clue is added to their total earnings, and that player selects another cell on the board. If they respond incorrectly then the $ value is deducted from their total earnings, and the system is re-armed allowing the other players to buzz-in. This makes it important for players to know what they know – to have accurate confidences in their responses.

There is always one cell in the first round and two in the second round called Daily Doubles, whose exact location is hidden until the cell is selected by a player. For these cases, the selecting player does not have to compete for the buzzer but must respond to the clue regardless of their confidence. In addition, before the clue is revealed the player must wager a portion of his/her earnings. The minimum bet is $5 and the maximum bet is the larger of the player's current score and the maximum clue value on the board. If they answer correctly they earn the amount they bet, else they lose it.

The Final Jeopardy! round consists of a single question and is played differently. First, a category is revealed. The players privately write down their bet – an amount less than or equal to their total earnings. Then the clue is revealed. They have 30 seconds to respond. At the end of the 30 seconds they reveal their answers and then their bets. The player with the most money at the end of this 3rd round wins the game. The questions used in this round are typically more difficult than those used in the previous rounds.