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Computer science alumnus Robert Slaven with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.
By ROB MCMAHON, BA '03


A Jeopardy! whiz shares the secrets of his success.

Question: Although he admits he slept through some of his classes, this five-time Jeopardy! champion has won a total of $129,403 US. Answer: Who is Robert Slaven?                 

A self-proclaimed “geek,” Slaven, BSc ’85, was one of 144 former winners who appeared in this year’s Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions. More than 10 years after his first appearance on the show, Slaven was a quarter-finalist in the champions competition, taking home $66,201 US.                  

The Torch caught up with Slaven, who works in Vancouver as a product specialist with a software firm. He offered tips for prospective quizsters:

Plan sporadic quizzes. Friends from work brought a box of Trivial Pursuit cards and left them on Slaven’s desk. “The rule was, anyone who passed by had to pull out a card and ask me a question.”

Flex those thumbs. Slaven taped every Jeopardy! show possible. “I’d have my thumb on the [remote’s] ‘pause’ button, and then try to ‘ring in’ and beat the other contestants.”

Spot the clues. According to Slaven, questions often include hidden clues. “Watching the game over and over again gives you a great feel for what the clues are like.” For example, “French emperor” usually means Napoleon.

Stay calm. While nerves aren’t a problem during the game, commercials or wrong answers compound the stress. “I try to find a way to get back into the groove.”

Buy a good almanac and surf the net. Slaven uses these tools for his weak spots: US political trivia, ballet and opera. “A quick Google search helps build up the knowledge bank.”

Focus your breathing. On stage, Slaven checked his breathing to calm his nerves. “I meditate sporadically just to reduce stress.”

Play the categories. Before host Alex Trebek has finished reading a question aloud, Slaven judges whether he will answer. “As the categories are revealed, I start mentally gearing up for them.”

Hope for the best. Luck is definitely a part of the game—an episode taped before Slaven’s had ‘Canadian Provinces’ as a category. “I’d have done much better in that game than in mine, which had categories like ‘John C. Fremont’—who the heck is John C. Fremont?”

A How-To Guide For Armchair Scholars | Who’s Watching Who? | Desert Digs | A Helping Stand | Before It's Too Late | Game Shows for a Thousand, Alex






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