What is a comeback? Avi Gupta ’23 pulls off thrilling ‘Jeopardy!’ win

Feb. 22, 2023, 7:52 p.m.

“I’m all in, Mayim,” Avi Gupta ’23 announced. He had just bet all $7,400 of his earnings in a risky wager on Tuesday night’s “Jeopardy! High School Reunion Tournament” after trailing by thousands in the first two rounds. 

He went on to mount a surprising comeback and win the episode in dramatic fashion. In the next two weeks, the tournament will air on ABC, bringing back contestants from past Teen Tournaments for three knockout rounds. Gupta won the 2019 Teen Tournament as a high schooler.

After spending most of the first round in the negative, Gupta mounted a nail-biting comeback in the final five minutes of the episode. Halfway through the Double Jeopardy! Round, he remained almost $10,000 behind fellow Teen Tournament alum Jack Izzo until he stumbled upon one of the round’s Daily Double opportunities. He bet all his winnings on one question.

“This strong, lightweight metal was named for the dozen children of Gaia and Uranus,” host Mayim Bialik asked. 

Gupta responded immediately: “What is titanium?” 

Bialik paused. “That’s correct,” she said.

Gupta pumped his fist. “You’re not gonna get rid of me that easily,” he quipped to his fellow contestants. 

Once within striking distance of the lead, Gupta remained in contention until the Final Jeopardy! question. He was the only contestant to answer the final question correctly, assuring his comeback win. 

In the match, he was not the quickest on the buzzer or the most accurate guesser — those honors go to Alison Purcell and Izzo, respectively — but his two clutch answers in the Daily Double and Final Jeopardy! were enough to get him to the next round.

“It’s gonna make for some good TV,” Gupta said of the tournament matches, hinting at his dramatic Tuesday win in an interview with The Daily. “I hope people have as much fun watching it as I did playing it.”

Although he acknowledged that the competition is “pretty fierce,” Gupta remarked that the group of contestants show “a lot of love and support for each other.”

The reunion format means that the contestants know each other better than the show’s usual random allocation of contestants. After the Teen Tournaments, the ex-competitors stayed in contact: all the contestants “ended up in a big group chat that’s been alive for four years” and some have met up several times, according to Gupta.

Now that they’re reunited, the community of trivia nerds has bonded even more. During the taping of the tournament, the whole cast of contestants hung out in the “Wheel of Fortune” studio next door to watch all their friends compete. “We’d yell out answers and just go crazy when someone gets a certain answer, or get really excited about a particular wager,” Gupta said. 

The camaraderie was on full display in Tuesday’s episode, full of laughs and joking asides. “‘Jeopardy!’ is even more fun to play than it is to watch, honestly,” Gupta said. “People in the groupchat are already saying that the show should bring us back again in another four years for a grad school reunion tournament.”

Gupta arrived as a trivia newcomer during his first time on “Jeopardy!.” He watched the show with his grandmother as a child and years later decided to audition on a whim. Once there, he felt out of his depth, having “never touched a quiz bowl buzzer” in his life. To his surprise, he made it on the show and ended up winning the 2019 Teen Tournament.

“I don’t come from the school of thought where I’m memorizing packets and binders. I just ask a lot of questions,” he said. “It’s just that curiosity.” 

This sentiment fits the legacy of the show, as expressed by the late Alex Trebek, its long-time host. “Even if you are learning facts that you are not going to be able to use in your daily life, it enriches you,” Trebek wrote in his memoir.

Gupta’s facts ended up enriching him more than just metaphorically: he earned $100,000 in the Teen Tournament, and there’s another hundred grand at stake in this month’s reunion tournament. He donated part of his 2019 winnings to a pancreatic cancer charity in honor of Alex Trebek, and he plans to donate charitably again if he wins this year — as well as put the money toward his future graduate school tuition.

Several Stanford students have featured on “Jeopardy!” in recent years: Isaac Applebaum ’23 won a match in last year’s College Championship; Jack Weller ’15 J.D. ’23 came third in the Second Chance tournament in 2022 (despite hilariously guessing “meese” as the plural of “moose” in one viral moment); and Josie Bianchi ’20 competed in the College Championship in 2018.  

The remainder of the High School Reunion Tournament will air over the next three weeks, but don’t try and coax an answer out of Gupta about how far he goes. “People try all sorts of tactics to try and get me to tell, like the whole ‘blink twice if you won’ thing,” he said. “You’re welcome to try, I’m not going to tell you what happened.” 

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