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"Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek and contestant Larissa Kelly

Grad student scores big on 'Jeopardy'

— History graduate student Larissa Kelly is making history — on prime-time TV — as she racks up wins and winnings as a "Jeopardy!" contestant. At the end of her sixth game, which aired Tuesday, May 27, Kelly had racked up a total of $222,597, more than any woman in "Jeopardy!" history.

A fourth-year Berkeley Ph.D. candidate specializing in 19th-century Mexican history, Kelly, 28, was behind on Tuesday night when it came to the "Final Jeopardy!" round, when the contestants were presented with this answer in the "Films of the 1950s" category: "The action in this film begins at 10:30 a.m. and plays out in almost-real time until 12:15."

One contestant blanked; Kelly and the third contestant both wrote "What is 'High Noon'?" The game went to Kelly, who had wagered $801 more. (In some of her previous games, she grabbed the lead early and widened it.)

Foreign-language and pop-culture knowledge have served Kelly well during her "Jeopardy!" career: in game six she knew the lottery abbreviation "QP" (answering "What is 'Quick Pick'?") and the French for "one of these social blunders, from the French for 'false step'" ("What is faux pas?").

Another competitive advantage: willingness to bet aggressively, and other points of strategy acquired through intimate familiarity with the game. Her sister, Arianna, appeared on "Jeopardy!" this January; her husband, Jeff Hoppes, a fellow UC Berkeley history grad student, competed in 2004. (Being "strong in both British and Latin American history," Cal was "a top choice" for the couple from the beginning, Kelly says.)

Kelly’s seventh game airs at 7 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, May 28, on ABC, Channel 7. Go, Larissa!