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IBM's Watson computer takes a big lead over humans in second 'Jeopardy' match

Watson missed just one question before the first commercial break, getting 14 of the 15 questions correct. By the end of the episode, Watson amassed $35,734 in winnings.

February 16, 2011|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

On Tuesday night's "Jeopardy" episode, Watson, the IBM supercomputer, steamrollered to a commanding lead over his human competitors.

Watson missed just one question before the first commercial break, getting 14 of the 15 questions correct. The lone question Watson missed was answered correctly by former "Jeopardy" champion Ken Jennings.

Jennings and Brad Rutter, also a former champ on the game show, eked out just five correct responses during the second round of the challenge, which began Monday and ends Wednesday night.

By the end of the episode, Watson amassed $35,734 in winnings, with Rutter ascending to second place at $10,400 and Jennings (who is a record holder with 74 straight matches of "Jeopardy" previously won) having earned just $4,800.

Watson and Rutter ended Monday night's episode in a tie with $5,000 in winnings each and Jennings at $2,000. With Jennings behind after the first round, he chose the first category Tuesday night to start off the show.

But Watson was too quick for Jennings and Rutter in the first question and for a large part of the night.

Just as on Monday, Watson was competitive yet showed that there was plenty of room for improvement. A skill that Watson lacks is making decent bets.

When the IBM computer landed a Daily Double question in the Cambridge category, it bet $6,435.

Host Alex Trebek shook his head saying, "I won't ask," gaining a laugh from the audience.

Watson got the right answer -- "Who is Sir Christopher Wren?" -- and boosted its earnings to $21,035.

One moment of man over machine came in the Final Jeopardy question, which both Jennings and Rutter got right and Watson got wrong.

To "Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle" the humans correctly submitted the question "What is Chicago?"

Watson, who bet only $947 in the final question, submitted "What is Toronto?????" with the five question marks implying that the computer was unsure of its answer.

On Wednesday night the three will face off in the final round of the match, dubbed the IBM Challenge, with the winner taking home $1 million. If Jennings or Rutter win, half the money will go to charity, and if Watson is victorious, all of the cash will be donated.

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