‘Jeopardy!’ Crowns Its 2021 Tournament of Champions Winner

The last Alex Trebek-era Jeopardy! contestant has taken home $250,000 and the title of Tournament of Champions winner.

(Perhaps now former?) substitute teacher and new champ Sam Kavanaugh was overcome with emotion and seeming disbelief when all was said and done. Here’s how it happened.

'Jeopardy!' champion and guest host Buzzy Cohen smiles for the camera
‘Jeopardy!’ champion and 2021 Tournament of Champions guest host Buzzy Cohen |
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

This is the final Tournament of Champions featuring Trebek-era contestants

The last of the game’s top champs with Trebek as host made their way through the Tournament of Champions and took time recently to honor the late television personality.

Four-game champ Veronica Vichit-Vadakan recalled Trebek’s unexpected sense of humor. “Most people think of him as being so serious and buttoned-up, but he was really a fun and goofy guy.”

“You knew if Alex was teasing you, you were doing okay,” said Jennifer Quail, who won eight games on the quiz show.

“Just with a look he would tell you, ‘You did a good job, nice work,’” Kavanaugh said.

A new champ is crowned

The 2021 tournament’s final lasted two games. Kavanaugh who came into the second and final game with $38,000 was up against Vichit-Vadakan who earned $6,400 in the first game and Michigan resident Quail with $14,500.

Guest host – and 2017 Jeopardy! Tournament champ – Buzzy Cohen opened the last game. “Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to the final game of our two-day total point affair,” he began. “As someone who came into the game with no money and went on to win the Tournament of Champions, I can assure you, anything can happen.”

RELATED: ‘Jeopardy!’: Ken Jennings Described Alex Trebek as ‘More the Goofy Uncle Than the Stern Dad’

By the end of the game, “European Borders” was the Final Jeopardy! category. The answer was “It’s still there, but none of the countries that bordered this country at the beginning of 1990 exist anymore.”

Vichit-Vadakan answered incorrectly with “What is Albania?” and ended up with a two-day total of $15,600. Quail got it right with her answer of “What is Poland?,” with a total of $42,000. At this point, Quail stood a chance of beating out Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh answered incorrectly with “What is Hungary?” but his very low wager of $12 ensured his win. His final total overall was $58,388 making him the tournament champ. Head down and bobbing with delight, Kavanaugh was overcome with emotion.

The game earned quite a donation for The Trebek Center

By game’s end, Cohen announced the donation Jeopardy! would be making to The Trebek Center.

Jeopardy! is also donating [$250,000]to the Hope of the Valley Trebek Center for the Homeless,” the guest host said.

The late quiz show host was a longtime supporter of Hope of the Valley. The Trebek Center was unveiled in March in honor of Trebek. The center will feature over 100 beds for those in need of shelter and assistance.

His widow Jean said at the time, “I know how proud Alex was of their mission. He was so deeply grateful to be a part of the solution, to always lend a helping hand by offering both hope and practical assistance to those in need.”