Supercomputer crushes competition on 'Jeopardy'

"Jeopardy" contestants Ken Jennings, left, and Brad Rutter, right, compete against a computer named Watson  in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
"Jeopardy" contestants Ken Jennings, left, and Brad Rutter, right, compete against a computer named Watson  in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.Carol Kaelson / Jeopardy Productions via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The computer brained its human competition as the first game of the Man vs. Machine competition on "Jeopardy" came to a close.

On the 30-question game board, veteran "Jeopardy" champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter managed only five correct responses between them during the Double Jeopardy round that aired Tuesday. They ended the first game of the two-game face-off with paltry earnings of $4,800 and $10,400, respectively.

Watson, their IBM supercomputer nemesis, emerged from the Final Jeopardy round with $35,734.

Tuesday's competition, a continuation of the game that aired Monday, began with Rutter and Watson tied. Jennings (who has the longest "Jeopardy!" winning streak at 74 games) chose the first trivia clue, which referred to a skin malady "also known as Hansen's disease." Watson jumped in with the correct response: "What is leprosy?"

It followed that with bang-on responses Franz Liszt, dengue fever, violin, Rachmaninoff and albinism, then landed on a Daily Double in the "Cambridge" category.

"I'll wager $6,435," Watson said in its pleasant electronic voice.

"I won't ask," said host Alex Trebek, wondering along with everybody else where that figure came from.

In any case, Watson's wager paid off. Sir Christopher Wren was the correct response, and Watson's total vaulted to $21,035 as the humans stood by helplessly.

The computer ran up a commanding lead as Double Jeopardy ended and the contestants went into the Final Jeopardy round. All three had to record how much money they'd risk on a final question, relating to "U.S. Cities."

The Final Jeopardy clue? "Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle."

Jennings and Rutter bet big, and came up with the right response: "What is Chicago?" Watson bombed. All it could manage was a guess: "What is Toronto????" ... which is not a U.S. city. But because the computer's wager was just $947, it held onto the win.

The trio will return on Wednesday, when their second game is aired. The overall winner, based on the cumulative game score, will collect $1 million in real money. Second and third place will get $300,000 and $200,000, respectively. IBM says all of Watson's winnings will go to charity; Jennings and Rutter plan to give away half of their shares.

The bouts were taped at the IBM research center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., last month.

This report was supplemented by msnbc.com.

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