Jeopardy!” fans were outraged after contestant Ben Chan lost his nine-day winning streak on the show over a spelling mistake.
Chan, an assistant professor of philosophy at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, saw his winning streak end on Tuesday night after a judgment call ruled that he had misspelled the name of a character in William Shakespeare’s 16th-century play “Much Ado About Nothing.”
During the “Final Jeopardy!” round on Tuesday, Chan, Danny Leserman and Lynn Di Vito played the category “Shakespeare’s Characters.”
“Both of the names of these two lovers in a Shakespeare play come from Latin words for ‘blessed,” the contestants were told.
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Confident in his answer, Chan bet $12,201, writing: “Who are Beatrice and Benedict.”
However, he misspelled the latter’s name, which is actually Benedick. This error cost Chan his winning streak.
His fellow contestants incorrectly answered with “Romeo and Juliet.” Di Vito ultimately won with a total of $11,800, having only bet $3,000 on the “Final Jeopardy!” round. Meanwhile, Chan ended up with $5,199 and Leserman left the show with $1,000.
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Following Chan’s defeat, show producer Sarah Whitcomb Foss informed him that he is the “first and only champion” in “Jeopardy!” history whose first nine wins were considered “runaway” victories. These victories are determined when a contestant’s winnings are so large that no other players can catch up to them.
Commenting on his spelling mistake, Chan told Foss, “It’s a very memorable miss. If you’re going to go out on a miss, go out on a memorable miss.”
Several fans who were rooting for Chan did not take his defeat well, with some arguing that his loss was only attributed to technicalities that fell on a judgment call.
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According to one of the five “Jeopardy!” rules, spelling is never important when it comes to a contestant’s answer in “Final Jeopardy!” unless it is specified in the category. The only caveat is that the answer “must be phonetically correct and not add or subtract any extraneous sounds or syllables.”
If a contestant misspells a word, the decision comes down to a judgment call, which was what happened in Chan’s case.
“Lynn doesn’t finish spelling ‘Juliet’ yet it’s ruled as a complete (albeit incorrect) response, and Ben misspells Benedick by one letter and is ruled incorrect. Clearly they knew what he was going for and yet ended his run on a terrible technicality,” one Twitter user wrote.
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“Benedict is a variant of Benedick, one of the characters in Much Ado About Nothing and thus should have been an acceptable answer in Final Jeopardy,” another user tweeted.
“I am beyond disgusted with @Jeopardy!! They’ve never penalized anyone for wrong spelling, yet they chose to penalize 9 game winner Ben Chan in Final Jeopardy and cost him the game..He missed ONE LETTER!! This is so wrong,” an appalled user said.