Kelly grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and attended Newton North High School where she helped lead the science bowl team to national competition. She graduated from Princeton University in 2002 and completed a Ph.D at the University of California, Berkeley, studying the history of archaeology in 19th century Mexico. She played quiz bowl at both Princeton and Berkeley. On August 3, 2002, she married her quiz bowl teammate Jeff Hoppes.
She is one of three members of her family to have played on Jeopardy!, all between 2004 and 2008, and the only winner of the three. Her husband was defeated by Jennings in Jennings' 70th game as champion. Her sister Arianna was defeated in her initial Jeopardy! appearance, in part due to questionable calls that prompted Standards and Practices to bring her back for a second appearance; in her second appearance, Arianna was defeated by Aaron Schroeder, who later faced Larissa in the 2009 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions finals.
In the 2009 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas, Kelly won her quarterfinal and semifinal matches and led after the first game of the two-game finals, with $24,400 to Dan Pawson's $22,301. She lost to Pawson in the second game after she missed the Final Jeopardy! clue, which required identifying George II of Great Britain as the last British ruler to be born outside the United Kingdom. She won $100,000 for finishing second.
Appearances on Jeopardy!
During her regular run on Jeopardy!, she won a total of $222,597 over six games and $1,000 3rd place consolation prize in her seventh, with her last appearance airing May 28, 2008. Excluding tournament winnings, Kelly is the second-highest winning female contestant and ranks seventh all-time in Jeopardy! earnings.
While she was champion, Kelly broke Ken Jennings' record for most money won in a contestant's first five days by winning $179,797; this record was one of two Roger Craig broke during his reign as champion, as he won $195,801 in his first five games (Craig also topped Jennings' single-game record of $75,000).[note 1] Kelly is also the second-highest winning female contestant in any single game in Jeopardy!'s history. Kelly's $45,200 performance narrowly trails Maria Wenglinsky, who won $46,600 on November 1, 2005.
Kelly returned to participate in the Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades tournament in 2014, but was eliminated in the first round, winning $5,000.
During her time as champion, Kelly set several records which have since been surpassed:
- Highest five-game total, winning $179,797 (later surpassed by Roger Craig, who won $195,801)
- Highest total winnings by a female player in non-tournament play, winning $222,597 (later surpassed by Julia Collins, who has won $428,100)
- Longest streak (from first appearance) of correct Final Jeopardy! responses, with 10 (later surpassed by Ben Ingram, who had 12 correct responses)
- Longest winning streak on Jeopardy! by a female player in non-tournament play, winning six games (later surpassed by Stephanie Jass, who won seven games, then by Julia Collins, who won 20 games)
- U.S. Public Records Index Vol 2 (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.), 2010.
- Jeopardy! press release
- Archived copy of Department of Energy website
- Berkeley Grad Spotlight
- "UC Berkeley Department of History Newsletter" (PDF). UC Berkeley. Fall 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- "Dissertation - "Waking the Gods: Archaeology and State Power in Porfirian Mexico"". December 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
- Berkeley Quizbowl Pictures
- Princeton Quizbowl Pictures
- "Jeopardy! 2009 Tournament of Champions, Final Round, Game 2". Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- Kelly, Larissa (2008-12-22). "Engines of Survival". Strange Horizons. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "Grad student makes 'Jeopardy!' history". United Press International. May 29, 2008. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
In addition to being the "winningest" female champion in the quiz show's 24 seasons, she also has become the third biggest money winner behind all-time "Jeopardy!" champ Ken Jennings, who went home with $2.5 million, and David Madden, who won $430,400, representatives for the series said.
- Her winning way, The Boston Globe
- Contra Costa Times report on Larissa Kelly
- "Jeopardy!". Episode 6850. 30 May 2014. Syndication. Missing or empty
- These scores were achieved after Jeopardy! doubled its clue values in 2001; if earlier scores are doubled to account for this, Craig, Kelly, and Jennings all trail Frank Spangenberg, whose adjusted total is $205,194. Jerome Vered's adjusted total of $193,602 is third to Spangenberg and Craig.