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Vijay Balse wins Jeopardy Champion of Champions

Last updated on: June 10, 2010 02:02 IST
Vijay Balse, who won the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, always wanted to go on the show, given his excellent run in quiz competitions in India and the United States. "It is the quiz show to be on," he says.

After six auditions--in Los Angeles in 1993, three in Atlantic City in the following years, and two in New York City in 2006 and 2009--the chemical engineer finally got in. At the Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles, he went on to become a four-day champion, grossing $84,000. The show was aired in March. He was called back to compete in the Tournament of Champions against 14 winners from several other shows. Balse trounced the competition, winning $ 250,000.

"I feel extremely fortunate to be one of only 22 winners of the Tournament of Champions, and the first--to my knowledge--such player born and raised outside the US or Canada," said Balse, 45, a native of Karnataka who grew up in Mumbai and now lives in Chatham Township, New Jersey.

The final question, from the category 'From novel to film', was: 'First published in 1880 and made into films in 1907, 1925 and 1959, it is the first work of fiction blessed by a Pope.' Both Balse and Joe Zollinger, who won the second prize, had no trouble with that one: Ben Hur. "I had to get it right to have any chance of winning," Balse says.

Balse's two-day total of $ 23,000
also earned him victory. Zollinger came in second with $ 18,900; Stefan Goodreau came in third with $ 18,799. "Zollinger would have won had he been the only one to get the final answer right. And Goodreau would have won had he gotten it right," Balse said.W hen the day began, nobody thought Balse had a chance; he was in the last place with $ 8,800. Zollinger had $10,200 and Goodreau $ 17,000.

"Winning a Tournament of Champions game is definitely much more gratifying than winning a regular game. Any 'Jeopardy!' contestant would agree that getting the opportunity to match your playing skills against the best of 'Jeopardy!' is very rewarding in its own right," Balse says. "You get to meet all these wonderful people you have watched play, and the Jeopardy staff are very helpful and welcoming. I am happy that I have made my family and New Jersey proud."

Host Alex Trebek said, 'It was a really close match up of players throughout this tournament. Vijay did an incredible job and consistently played well.'  Balse plans to use some of the winnings for travel and perhaps for a second automobile. But the bulk would be used towards a down payment for a new home.

Balse came to the US on a scholarship for his PhD at the University of Wisconsin in 1985."I have always had an interest in general knowledge, having grown up listening to the Bournvita quiz contest (in India) on radio in the 1970s, and quizzing at the University of Wisconsin from 1989 through 1992," he says.
Image: Vijay balse with host Alex Trebek
George Joseph
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