For much of Emma Boettcher’s life, “Jeopardy!” had been a mostly private passion—one the University of Chicago librarian rarely brought up in casual conversation. That changed in dramatic fashion this past summer.
Five months ago, Boettcher ended the second-longest winning streak in the “Jeopardy!” history, cutting short 32-time champion James Holzhauer’s bid at the regular-season winnings record. Since that episode aired in June, the 27-year-old has found a new excuse to talk about a show that she has loved and studied for years—and given her fellow librarians a reason to brag.
“It’s kind of funny,” Boettcher said. “It used to be this weird—you know, not quite hobby—but this interest of mine for many years. Now, if someone comes up and asks, I can say, ‘What do you want to know? Let’s talk.’”
She returns to the screen on Nov. 7 as part of the annual “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions, which begins Monday. Both she and Holzhauer, who won more than $2.4 million during his run, are among the 15 competitors in this year’s field. While they aren’t facing off in the opening round, a potential rematch is possible later in the tournament.
When Boettcher filmed her first “Jeopardy!” appearance in March, she had no idea who Holzhauer was, since his first win was still weeks away from airing on television. Boettcher’s victory was also the first of several consecutive episodes shot in one day, which meant she didn’t see Holzhauer compete in studio either.
“I don’t really envy anyone that had to play him immediately after watching one of his games,” she said.
When her win over Holzhauer finally aired, Boettcher was in Toronto for a writing seminar with fantasy novelist Maggie Stiefvater, a trip she booked back in January. The “Jeopardy!” result had spread earlier than she’d expected, forcing her to juggle a flurry of calls and media inquiries during seminar breaks.
When Boettcher returned to Hyde Park, she joined her UChicago colleagues for watch parties at Regenstein Library—celebrations that included “Jeopardy!”-themed cakes baked by Elisabeth Long, the Associate University Librarian for IT and Digital Scholarship.
“Librarians don’t get in the news a lot,” Long said. “For this to be something that made headlines is really fun.”