Jeopardy! champion Ryan Fenster returns after loss overturned

Jeopardy! champion Ryan Fenster ’16 extended a four-game winning streak thanks to an unusual decision overturning his loss on game five from his original game appearance, aired early in 2018.

Church history for $1200 | Illustration by Bill RebholzThe four-game streak initially ended over a $1,200 church history question, when he answered “What is the Great Schism?” to the prompt, “St. Thomas Aquinas died traveling to Lyon, France, while attempting to heal this rift between the Latin and Greek churches.”

Show content manager Matthew Sherman noticed the decision and was surprised, because he would have answered the prompt the same way. So he did some digging. Turns out, while the “Great Schism” typically pertains to the 1054 break between the present-day Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, it can also be used to refer to the event referenced in the prompt. From 1378 to 1417, several men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope, each excommunicating each other until the Council of Constance ended the infighting with a decree endorsing the Roman pope, Gregory XII. The rift is popularly known as the “Western Schism,” the “Papal Schism,” or the “Great Occidental Schism.”

With his “wrong answer” overturned, Fenster returned to Jeopardy! to net more than $150,000 over a seven-day winning streak. He is on track to join the Tournament of Champions, which will likely be held in late 2018 but had no date set at press time.

This story originally appeared on page 39 of the autumn 2018 issue of Response with the headline, “Church history for $1,200 — and counting.” Illustration by Bill Rebholz. 

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