The 'Jeopardy' Champs' Gameplan for Beating IBM's Supercomputer

Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter know what it takes to win -- against humans. But when the duo go face-to-face with IBM's supercomputer Watson, starting Monday night, they'll be relying on alternative methods.

Jennings holds the title of having the longest run of consecutive games won, while Rutter's $3.2 million purse makes him the largest money winner. Both offered insights into some of their winning strategies going into the three-day, two-game Jeopardy challenge with Big Blue's (IBM) Watson.

Super-Processing vs. Human Cunning

And do they face a challenge, come Feb. 14, 15 and 16. Watson's key developer says the supercomputer with a friendly voice can process the equivalent of 1 million books in three seconds. And the steps Watson takes to parcel that information are very similar to the manner the human brain works out data.

But those figures don't deter Watson's human challengers. "He's faster on the buzzer and more consistent, so I'll have to bet more aggressively," says Jennings -- who jokes that he has to win this one for the underdog in this contest, the human race. He plans to wager more of his winnings on any Jeopardy Daily Doubles that come up in the game.

Rutter says he's looking forward to certain game categories where he thinks Watson might be slow to answer, such as questions where the cues are very short or more abstract.

"The 'Before and After' category is an example of one I'd do," says Rutter. "There's a lot of word play." He notes humans have the advantage in the word-play categories, compared to fact-based questions.

Beating Watson to the Punch

Jennings and Rutter also are prepared for Watson to aggressively search for Daily Doubles that, if answered correctly, can beef up a contestant's winnings in a matter of seconds.

During the practice rounds, Watson reportedly played in a very traditional fashion of picking a category and working its way from the top of the board to the bottom. But in real play, according to Jennings and Rutter, Watson suddenly became hyper-vigilant in searching for Daily Doubles, which are often found in the last three rows of the board.

As a result, Rutter says, he plans to jump in earlier and try to claim as many Daily Doubles as he can before Watson finds them.

And while they don't get any extra points for being human, Jennings joked that Jeopardy host Alex Trebek said the two human challengers may have to compensate for Watson's deadpan ways.

"He said we need to be funnier than usual," says Jennings, "because Watson won't be carrying the show."

That's show biz.


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