‘I really am so fortunate’: Amy Schneider reflects on ‘Jeopardy! Masters’

Super champ finished fourth in second annual tournament.

Credit: ABC

Credit: ABC

Competing among “Jeopardy!” super champs can be extremely daunting, but Dayton native Amy Schneider proved her worth against her fellow trivia titans in the second annual “Jeopardy! Masters” tournament, which aired May 1-22.

The Oakland, California writer and winner of the 2022 Tournament of Champions placed fourth and received a cash prize of $100,000. She faced Season 1 “Masters” winner James Holzhauer, Season 1 “Masters” finalists Matt Amodio and Mattea Roach, 2024 Tournament of Champions winner Yogesh Raut, and 2024 Invitational Tournament winner Victoria Groce. Schneider, the runner-up in the Invitational Tournament, was specifically chosen as a Producers Pick.

Final results and winnings: Groce (1): $500,000; Raut (2): $250,000; Holzhauer (3): $150,000; Schneider (4): $100,000; Roach (5): $75,000; and Amodio (6): $50,000.

The initial announcement of the fan favorite’s return as a Producers Pick was met with controversy, but the producers, citing they “depend on ratings,” defended their decision, according to The U.S. Sun.

“We have to acknowledge there were several worthy people. But one person stood above everybody else,” said executive producer Michael Davies. “What a player. We see how well she deals with the tougher material which is very important in Masters. We see how good she is on the buzzer so we’re delighted to have Amy as the sixth pick.”

Credit: Disney

Credit: Disney

In the end Schneider’s buzzer timing had a tendency to stall her momentum, often making her performance frustrating to watch. But she said she took it all in stride due to the nature of the competition.

“At this level, the (buzzer) is so much of the game,” said Schneider, 44. “So many of us know so many of the answers and are so good at the buzzer. It looks frantic because, as is the nature of how the buzzer works, you have to hit it a bunch of times – not just once – because you might get locked out.”

Addressing the aforementioned controversy of being chosen by the producers, Schneider reminds fans that any pick was likely to ruffle feathers.

“It’s kind of baked into the definition of the term Producers Pick,” she explained. “It was always going to be controversial because everybody can debate. Nobody knows what criteria they use. That said, it’s not like this is an unusual thing. There are essentially Producers Picks, wild cards like in Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, that give tournaments leeway to invite the people they think ought to be there. I certainly wasn’t the only person that was worthy of this pick, but I think I am one of a fairly small number of people that were worthy of it. I was delighted that they gave it to me. If I didn’t want controversy, I should have just won the Invitational Tournament but I didn’t. So, I put myself in this position and then it was just up to me to show that I belonged.”

Assessing the challenges

Before taping began, Schneider mentally refreshed by not particularly spending large amounts of time learning new material but rather recalling what she already knew.

“I studied more obscure world capitals and flags and a few things like that, but more of what I did was try to look at lists of things I already knew that were not necessarily at the top of my mind,” she said. “For example, looking (at) the list of all the U.S. vice presidents. So, it wasn’t learning anything new just getting them closer to the top of mind because you have to know it right away on ‘Jeopardy!’”

In May 2023, Schneider failed to reach the semifinals of the inaugural “Jeopardy! Masters” tournament. She placed fifth and received a cash prize of $75,000. This time around she knew the stakes would be even higher, especially since she didn’t make as strong of a showing last year as she hoped.

Credit: Disney

Credit: Disney

“Part of the challenge was just getting past the fact that I had not been as successful as I wanted to do last year,” Schneider said. “The first Masters was the first time I had really struggled at ‘Jeopardy!’ It was really unpleasant. But getting back to just playing my game and not worrying about past results was one of the big challenges. I reminded myself that I was up against ‘Jeopardy!’ Masters and, also, I’m a ‘Jeopardy!’ Master and they are up against me.”

Schneider also felt fully prepared for the fight and its ensuing pressure having previously competed against the majority of the Masters.

“I played James and Victoria before and what a frustrating feeling that could be so I definitely knew the two of them were going to be serious competition,” she said. “I think James, Victoria and Yogesh had a bit of an edge. It was nothing insurmountable but me, Matt and Mattea could see they were clearly at a top level and we would have to do be at our best to stay with them. I’m proud of myself for not just redeeming myself for last year to an extent, but also managing the emotional roller coaster of the quarterfinals. I predicted the ways I would start to get down on myself and I had mental plans ready to go to fight them, and I was just glad I played my game. I did better than last year, which is a success.”

Supportive homecoming

Schneider’s fearless, fascinating and funny memoir “In the Form of a Question: The Joys and Rewards of a Curious Life” was published last October. The pop culture-friendly book ranges from highs and lows of childhood to deep insights into gender and sexual identity.

“I’m very glad I told my story the way I did,” Schneider said. “I’m working with a young adult author on a middle grade edition of the book. In revisiting the book, I’ve realized how much I’ve changed just since I started writing it. It has made me want to get back into writing again. I feel like just in the last year or two I’ve learned so much more and remembered more experiences. I have more to share.”

Last November Schneider returned to Dayton for a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Beavercreek, and she also delivered a poignant keynote address at the Transgender Day of Remembrance at Sinclair Community College. She enjoyed her time in Dayton and the support she received.

“It was wonderful,” Schneider said. “I love Dayton. I love the LGBTQ community in Dayton, which I did not know I was part of when I lived there but I have known members of it my whole life. Dayton is a really supportive place. I’ve never felt uncomfortable in Dayton ever. It always feels like home however long it’s been since I’ve lived there.”

Credit: Disney

Credit: Disney

While balancing plans to launch a podcast and eagerly ramping up her LGBTQ advocacy with Equality California in advance of election season, Schneider is grateful to have contributed to another memorable “Jeopardy!” competition. She also acknowledges her evolution of greatness is an ongoing process.

“I really am so fortunate,” she said. “The tiny number of people who have played ‘Jeopardy!’ enough and long enough in different settings to really grow as a ‘Jeopardy!’ player is a really special thing. I’ve learned that if I want to get to the very top level, there is some work I have to put in. There is a slight level of trivia knowledge that I need to add on and to be serious about if I want to keep getting even better. And I’ve also learned that I’m very good at it and I am a force to be reckoned with. And if I really dedicate myself to it, I can be as good as anyone. I’ve been up against the best in the world several times, and while I haven’t topped out as of yet, I know that I could and I know the work that would take to do it.”

Right Now with Russell spotlights arts and entertainment news every Friday and as news arises. From the latest in local arts to the latest in film, music, TV, theater, awards season and other hot button topics, the goal is to fill you in on what’s new in order to satisfy your entertainment cravings. He can be reached at Russell.Florence@coxohio.com.

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