The "Jeopardy!" Tournament of Champions

The Annual Trivia Championship Where 15 Contestants Vie for $250,000

Ken Jennings Crush Jeopardy's Winnings Record
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Each season, "Jeopardy!" pits its best contestants against one another in the annual two-week special "The Tournament of Champions" (TOC). Fifteen of the highest-winning contestants who have played the game since the last season's championship, including the winner of the College Championship, face off to determine the ultimate winner. vie for 

Often heralded as the "best of the best in trivial pursuits," this annual tournament comes with a $250,000 grand prize.

Additionally, the runner-up is guaranteed $100,000 and the second runner-up is guaranteed $50,000 while all semifinalists receive $10,000 and all quarter-finalists earn $5,000. Read on to find out how this special championship works and some details on past winners. 

How the Tournament Works

The layout of the tournament is pretty straightforward. For the first week of five shows, each game features three different contestants. The winners of each show move on, along with four wild cards. The wild card spots are awarded to the highest money winners, not counting the actual winners in each episode. In the case of a tie, the person with the highest score before "Final Jeopardy!" moves on.

The nine semi-finalists move on to the second week, during which the first three shows determine who will move on to the finals. The three winners of these games are the finalists who compete in the final two days of competition to crown the winner.

During the finals, contestants' winnings are not carried over from the first day to the second. Rather, the scores from both days are added together to determine the winner of the tournament.

Previous Winners

Since the Tournament of Champions began during the original run of "Jeopardy" starting in 1964, the list of TOC winners is quite long.

However, since there are no records or surviving recordings from the original Art Flemming-hosted "Jeopardy! " series, the winner of the very first Tournament of Champions is unknown but the finalists were Phyllis Gallo, John Murphy, and Terry Thompson.

Babs McClellan was the first documented champion in 1965, during which time the winners were also awarded an extra $1,000, a trip, and a trophy called The Griffin Award, in honor of series creator Merv Griffin.

Other notable winners included the 1968 champion Hutton "Red" Gibson, the father of famous celebrity and film director Mel Gibson and game show producer Jay Wolpert who won the following year. Chuck Forrest, who developed the "Forrest Bounce" method of gameplay, won the tournament in 1986 earning the most in a single season yet in the show's run. 

In 2008, the Tournament of Champions was filmed live at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where Dan Pawson. Roger Craig, who won in 2011, set the record for largest cash total at the end of a single day in 2010 when he earned $77,000 in a single game. 

For the 30th season of the show, a special presentation of the Tournament of Champions aired called "The Battle of the Decades," featuring contestants from three decades of the show's history.

Brad Rutter, the show's reigning cash prize champion (overall), won the one-time $1,000,000 grand prize, narrowly beating out his rival and longest-running contestant Ken Jennings

The show and tournament continue to this day, so tune in this year for the crowning of an all-new champion.