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January 21

When Garry Kasparov took on IBM's Deep Blue computer system in a six-game chess match. Kasparov ended up losing by two wins to one, with three draws, but I was fascinated all the same. The ads for "Jeopardy! The IBM Challenge" have been clever and have added some excitement to something I was already looking forward to anyhow.

If you weren't aware, IBM has been working on a program named Watson. It is supposed to be able to play a game of Jeopardy! Against human competitors. It would need to be able to take the clue, parse it properly, picking up on slang, word play and then to find the meat of the clue, figure out the response, and ring in...all before the humans do.

Over a three game match, the winner will scoop a million dollar prize. Second gets $300,000 and third wins $200,000. If Watson wins, the entire sum will go to charity. If a human wins, half goes right into his pocket, and half goes to one of three deserving charities. There is no doubt that Ken Jennings should be in this exhibition match, having won 74 games, as well as placing second in the Ultimate Tournament of Champions. Brad Rutter, who defeated him in that match, as well as winning a Tournament of Champions and the Masters Tournament, is also a qualified choice. But is he the best? The most deserving?

Sure, he won his Tournament of Champions, which is more than you could say for Frank Spangenberg, whose five-day mark has remained unbeaten twenty years later. But Brad won against a field that was unmemorable and undistinguished. Three million dollars of Brad's winnings have come from special/invitational tournaments, and many other players haven't been able to compete in those events, either from not having a high enough total, or not being memorable enough, or in Brad's case, not being a recent enough winner.

I think this was a missed opportunity on the part of Jeopardy! If I were in charge of the world, I would invite back six of the top winning players (Jennings and Rutter included, along with just about any four players from your rogue's gallery of winners) and had them each play a two-game match to see who would take on Watson for the money and the glory.

But I'm not, and they didn't, and essentially we get a rematch of the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, except Jerome Vered was swapped for a computer. All the same, I plan to watch, and I hope you do too.

Travis Eberle very nearly made an unkind joke at Jerome's expense. Give him a piece of your mind at traviseberle@gmail.com.