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)
1 SF 1 SF 2 3 SF SF 3 SF SF 2 QF 1 1 SF
2 QF SF 3 QF QF 1 QF QF 2 SF SF 1 QF SF 1
3 QF 2 2 SF QF SF QF QF 1 QF SF 3 3 QF 2
4 SF SF 1 SF SF 2 QF 1 QF SF SF QF SF QF QF
5 QF SF QF 3 SF SF SF QF SF SF QF SF QF SF QF
6 2 QF QF SF QF QF QF SF SF SF 3 QF SF SF SF
7 SF QF QF QF QF QF 2 SF QF QF QF SF 2 QF 3
8 QF SF SF 1 SF 3 1 QF SF SF 1 2 QF SF SF
9 SF 3 QF SF QF SF SF QF QF QF QF SF SF 2 QF
10 QF SF SF QF 2 QF QF SF QF QF SF SF SF SF SF
11 SF QF QF QF SF SF SF SF SF 3 QF QF SF QF QF
12 SF QF SF SF QF QF SF 2 QF 1 SF QF QF 3
13 QF QF SF QF QF
14 1 QF SF
15 3 SF
College 1 QF SF QF SF 2 QF SF QF QF SF
QF
Teen SF QF SF SF QF SF QF QF SF SF QF QF
SF SF
Senior QF SF SF QF 3 SF 3 QF QF QF

Rank 2001 (S18) 2003 (S19) 2004 (S21) 2006 (S22) 2007 (S24) 2009 (S25) 2010 (S26) 2011 (S28) 2013 (S29) 2014 (S31) 2015 (S32) 2017 (S34) 2019 (S36) 2021 (S37)
1 QF 2 2 SF QF 1 SF 2 SF 3 2 3 1 SF
2 SF SF QF QF QF 2 2 SF 2 2 QF QF QF 2
3 SF SF SF SF SF QF SF 1 SF 1 1 1 QF QF
4 SF 1 QF SF QF SF SF SF QF QF 3 SF SF SF
5 2 SF 3 QF SF 3 SF QF SF SF SF SF QF 1
6 3 QF QF SF QF SF 3 QF QF SF SF QF QF SF
7 QF SF SF SF SF SF QF QF 3 QF QF SF SF QF
8 QF 3 QF 3 1 QF QF SF SF SF SF SF SF SF
9 1 QF SF QF SF SF QF SF SF SF SF 2 SF SF
10 QF SF QF 2 SF QF 1 SF QF QF SF QF QF QF
11 SF SF 1 QF QF QF SF QF QF QF QF QF QF QF
12 QF QF SF 1 SF SF QF QF SF SF SF SF 3
13 QF QF SF SF 2 SF 3 QF 2 QF
14 SF QF QF QF QF
15 QF
College SF QF SF QF 3 QF SF QF QF QF SF SF
QF QF QF SF SF
SF
Teachers QF QF QF QF SF 3 QF
1 QF

Rank 1 2 3 SF QF
1 5 6 4 11 3
2 3 6 1 7 12
3 5 3 2 10 9
4 3 1 1 15 9
5 1 1 3 15 9
6 0 1 3 12 13
7 0 2 2 10 15
8 4 1 3 14 7
9 1 2 1 15 10
10 1 2 0 12 14
11 1 0 1 10 17
12 2 1 2 12 10
13 0 2 1 4 8
14 1 0 0 2 5
15 0 0 1 1 1
College 1 1 1 12 15
Teachers 1 0 1 1 6
Teen 0 0 0 8 6
Senior 0 0 2 3 5

Notes:

Winners of the College Championship, inaugurated in Season 5, have always qualified into the next ToC. Vinita Kailasanath (2001) and Joey Beachum (2008) deferred their bids to the following ToC due to other commitments. Jaskaran Singh, the winner of the 2022 National College Championship (an ABC primetime limited series), qualifies into the Season 39 ToC.

Winners of the Teachers Tournament, inaugurated in Season 27, have always qualified into the next ToC. Larry Martin, the Season 34 Teachers champion, passed away prior to the 2019 ToC.

Winners of the Teen Tournament, inaugurated in Season 3, qualified into the next ToC through Season 16. Since Season 17, Teen Tournament winners are not granted entry into the ToC, although the Seasons 17-21 Teen champions were invited to the Ultimate Tournament of Champions.

Winners of the Senior Tournament, held in Seasons 3-12, qualified 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.

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