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Was Amy Schneider really first trans player to qualify for Tournament of Champions? Here’s what we know

Amy Schneider performed in plays for years and is very comfortable on-screen, and her strategy is essentially to not have a strategy so she can stay 100 percent focused on the game. Plus, as a longtime viewer, she tried to be conscious about not behaving in a way that viewers find irritating.

Two weeks ago, “Jeopardy!” guest host Ken Jennings kicked off the show by telling the audience that contestant Andrew He had just guaranteed a spot in the next Tournament of Champions by winning five games in a row.

“We already know he’ll be facing our other qualifiers this season,” Jennings said, and looked toward He’s two competitors. “Might Max or Amy be adding their names to that list?”

That mundane intro line turned into reality. After a close game, Amy Schneider was the only contestant to answer Final Jeopardy correctly, triumphing over He — and she has been on a wildly impressive streak ever since, winning 11 games so far and racking up $421,200, the seventh-highest winnings ever for a contestant during the regular season.

“I believed that I was pretty good, and I thought I could win three or four games if things went well,” Schneider, 42, said in a phone interview. “I was like, ‘I could win a few, or run into bad luck on the first game and not win and it would be what it is.’ To win 10 and counting — that’s definitely higher than the high end of my internal expectations.”

Schneider, an engineering manager who lives in Oakland, Calif., is also the first transgender contestant in “Jeopardy!” history to make the Tournament of Champions, where the top players from each season compete. During an episode last week, she wore a transgender flag pin and explained on Twitter that she specifically wore it around Thanksgiving because she wanted to show support for the “disproportionately high number of trans people” who are estranged or cut off from their families.

“The fact is, I don’t actually think about being trans all that often, and so when appearing on national television, I wanted to represent that part of my identity accurately: as important, but also relatively minor,” she wrote. “But I also didn’t want it to seem as if it was some kind of shameful secret.”

Schneider was initially a bit hesitant to publish the thread. She has seen prominent trans people speak out on Twitter, and the reaction is not always pleasant. But as she realized she was going to be on national television for a decent stretch of time, she started thinking about how she wanted to talk about that part of her identity. As a once-closeted trans person, she knew others in similar situations would be watching her closely.

Many “Jeopardy!” fans seem quite pleased by Schneider’s streak, a far cry from those frustrated by Amodio’s use of “What’s” instead of “Who is” or James Holzhauer’s aggressive playing tactics. Schneider performed in plays for years and is very comfortable on-screen, and her strategy is essentially to not have a strategy so she can stay 100 percent focused on the game. Plus, as a longtime viewer, she tried to be conscious about not behaving in a way that viewers find irritating

“But ultimately, if there’s something that will annoy viewers that I have to do to win, I’ll do it,” she said.

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