A great ‘Jeopardy!’ answer in episode featuring local 13-year-old Westminster student

Nilai Sarda, a freshman at the Westminster Schools, won $26,400 with a third-place finish in the JEOPARDY! Teen Tournament

Nilai Sarda, a freshman at the Westminster Schools, won $26,400 with a third-place finish in the "Jeopardy!" Teen Tournament

Remember the name of Nilai Sarda. The 13-year-old won $26,400 on the teen version of  “Jeopardy!” this week that featured a surprising answer from the teen who eventually won.

(The video here reveals how first place finisher Leonard Cooper, a senior at eStem High Public Charter School in Little Rock, Ark., delighted the audience with his cool performance and his final answer. He didn’t know the final question but he bet wisely.)

In 2011, Nilai won second place in the National Geography Bee.

At the time, Nilai described a study regimen that included 45 minutes on weekdays and two to three hours on weekends. Nilai said he created computer profiles for every country in the world.

I expect Nilai will win a lot more top prizes before he finishes high school. (I wouldn’t be surprised to someday read about his perfect score on the SAT someday.)

Here is the official statement from the “Jeopardy!” show:

Nilai Sarda, a freshman at Atlanta’s Westminster Schools,  won $26,400 with a third-place finish in the “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament in an episode that aired today.

“I was just amazed I was able to make it on,” said Sarda, who at 13-years-old was the youngest contestant in the tournament. “I thought that because I was 13 they’d probably take someone older who had tried out before instead.”

Sarda missed the tryout for “Jeopardy!” Kids Week last year and took the online qualification test for the Teen Tournament for the first time this year, his first year of eligibility. He hoped his relative youth would be an advantage over his competitors and relied on his knowledge of the show to succeed.

“I watched the show a lot and looked at the archives,” Sarda said. “I was bouncing around the board, trying to find the Daily Doubles.”

Sarda plans to pursue a career in science and is already scouting universities like MIT, Caltech or Stanford. . “I’m probably going to save some of the money for college, or maybe invest it,” Sarda said.

Leonard Cooper, a senior at eStem High Public Charter School in Little Rock, Ark., won the tournament and Barrett Block, a senior at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., placed second.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

57 comments Add your comment


February 12th, 2013
9:10 pm

Congratulations to this young man and his family!

Jane Doe

February 12th, 2013
9:13 pm

Nilai was awesome! But this tournament was very unfair to pit a 13 year old Freshman in High School with a Senior in High School — that’s 4 more years of education, growing and life experience — Kids should be matched with Kids, and Older Teens with Older Teens…
Congrats Nilai, you blew me away!

Charles Douglas Edwards

February 12th, 2013
10:41 pm

Answer—- Atlanta best writer on schools and educational issues !!!

Question– Who is Maureen Downey.

CONGRATULATIONS young man on a terrific performance on Jeopardy.

Abby Lee

February 12th, 2013
10:51 pm

missed the final episode; I saw all of their previous contests. I was amazed at the wealth of knowledge displayed by all of the teens and thought Nilai was fantastic. I don’t think it unfair-TEEN starts at 13-he’s out of the “kids” category. Great for him! Leonard seemed so calm and self assured-loved seeing him be able to ring in simply by having his arms crossed and finger poised at all times. Barrett’s forced teethy smile got on my nerves. I say forced because I saw his demeanor change the instant the camera red light changed He came across as a smart guy but arrogant and almost condescending. He had difficulty hitting the buzzer a number of times. Congratulations to all of the teens who participated. I am 70 and have been watching Jeopardy since 1967. These kids know far more (about so many things) than I have garnered in my entire life. America’s hope is in good hands.


February 12th, 2013
11:50 pm

Love to see that all 3 finalists are from the south!! Job well done. Have to say that my 14 yr old knew as many correct answers as the contestants and some they didn’t know. Maybe next year…..

Pride and Joy

February 13th, 2013
4:44 am


February 13th, 2013
8:19 am

Congrats to the young local Nilai. My favorite of moment of the finals was when eventual winner Leonard Cooper played a true Daily Double risking more than $18,000 and got the question correct! Gutsy confidence.

Maureen Downey

February 13th, 2013
8:43 am

@Teach, I normally don’t like quiz shows because I get nervous when I see how nervous the contestants are. But Leonard Cooper was a delight to watch. He was so calm and self possessed. I had my kids watch the show with me because of Nilai but they both were also quite impressed with Leonard. (It was my son who tipped me off to the fact that Nilai had also placed in the National Geography Bee as he had read about him at school.)
For those of you who did not watch the teen “Jeopardy!” program last night, try to find it online as all three kids were impressive. They all got most of the questions they answered correct. It was a true battle of intellectual titans.

Entitlement Society

February 13th, 2013
8:43 am

Wow! What a great kid. I love that he is even going to do something responsible with the money he won. Kudos to his parents for bringing him up right!

Mike F

February 13th, 2013
9:32 am

Congrats to Nilai. He was great considering that he was younger than his two competitors. Also, what a great final round played by Leonard. But, did anybody else notice that had Nilai gotten his final jeopardy question correct, he would have won. I think Leonard thought it was a run-away and he would have looked really foolish if Nilai ended up with over $40K and beat him.


February 13th, 2013
11:23 am

I don’t think this tournament was unfair to Nilai since there was a contestant younger than him in the tournament, and she was pretty good. I thought Nilai did really well making it to the finals, but luck and a gutsy performance by the eventual winner proved to be the deciding factor. In general, to win tournaments, those 2 factors are what either a team or an individual needs in order to win, not just pure talent. That’s what make tournaments great!! You never know what the outcome will be.


February 13th, 2013
11:36 am

Great job Nilai! You represented Atlanta and Westminster well! Third place is an accoplishment to be proud of!

mystery poster

February 13th, 2013
2:13 pm

The first three quarter-finalists were all from GA.

I saw one of the semi-finals where all 3 contestants bet everything in Final Jeopardy and and lost, a 3 way tie with $0. Since you have to have at least a dollar to win, no one won that game. The young man who was ahead going into final never should have bet it all, he didn’t need to.


February 13th, 2013
3:46 pm

Second year in a row that a teen from Georgia was in the finals. Last year it was an all girl final, can’t remember the young lady name, but she placed 2nd. Congrats to all the high achieving teens in Georgia , we needed this.

Maureen Downey

February 13th, 2013
3:48 pm

@Ashley, In 2011, DeKalb student Kailyn LaPorte landed second place and won $42,600. She was 15 at the time and attended Chamblee.


February 13th, 2013
3:52 pm

@Jane Doe …..he’s a 13 year old freshman in high school who pretty much blew the older competitor s away. It would have been unfair to hold him back.


February 13th, 2013
8:04 pm

I think that for anyone to be on TV for all to see be so poised is great! Young people are a lot more capable than we give them credit, that is why I believe they should be allowed to move ahead if they have the skills that other lack regardless of age.


February 14th, 2013
10:14 am

Great job by Nilai! Another Georgian, Bradley Silverman from Alpharetta, was runner up in 2008. Nilai, Kailyn, and Bradley are part of the very strong Academic Quiz Team program in Georgia. The state may have academic issues, but there a numerous schools around Georgia that have outstanding programs that help develop students like these three.


February 14th, 2013
10:14 am

Every high school should FORCE their students to watch one Jeopardy episode daily, for several reasons; 1. It’s not uncool to be smart. 2. You can complete a sentence without “Know whut ah’m sayin’?” 3. Being smart can earn you good money!

Middle School parent

February 14th, 2013
10:33 am

Congrats to Nilai!! He did an AWESOME job. Very smart young man. His parents should be proud. Leonard was a joy to watch – calm, cool and collective!!

Middle School parent

February 14th, 2013
10:34 am

Great point, Biz. My kids watch it with me sometimes.


February 14th, 2013
10:35 am

My daughter was on Nilai’s academic team last year, and we both could not be any prouder and happier for him. He’s the real deal!! Put him up against anybody…don’t hold him back because he’s ‘just 13′…he’d be insulted by that. His poise on the show belied his age also. His awesome range of knowledge never ceased to amaze me, and it inspires all of us quiz nerds out there to put our trivia skills to use. Congratulations Nilai, you were amazing on Jeopardy, but somehow I was not surprised. Again, we’re very proud of you.


February 14th, 2013
10:43 am

In the ultimate irony, had the other GA player not blown his lead and bet it all (stupidly), forcing a 0-0-0 result, the eventual winner would have been left out and the toothy guy from KY would’ve won (all other things staying the same).


February 14th, 2013
10:43 am

Wonderful to see education competition. If a young person, makes it to Pro Sports, they are Entertainers. Youngsters who make it to real jobs they are our finders of medical cures.
Parents is the important word. Men who abandon their Parental duties, should be be recoginzed,just as sex offenders are.


February 14th, 2013
10:43 am

The parents of this young man has done a wonderful job with him. I hope other parents will take note and follow.


February 14th, 2013
10:44 am

Nice to see 3 Georgia teens in the finals (the other two from Duluth and Warner Robbins).

Jawga 69

February 14th, 2013
11:02 am

Very impressive!!! I am, however, slightly dismayed that none of these fine contestants on Tuesday’s show posted the correct question (Who is Dwight Eisenhower?) to the final jeapordy answer (”The eyes of the world are upon you”).

Atlanta Blue

February 14th, 2013
11:14 am

“Very impressive!!! I am, however, slightly dismayed that none of these fine contestants on Tuesday’s show posted the correct question (Who is Dwight Eisenhower?) to the final jeapordy answer (”The eyes of the world are upon you”).”

Watch again, Barrett got the question right, which is what moved him into 2nd place.

And yes, Leonard was cool and collected, but Leonard’s math skills weren’t so hot. If Nilai gets the Final Jeopardy question right, he would have beaten Leonard. Leonard seemed to forget he was $16,000 behind going into the day. What kind of clip would THAT have been?!?!?

Tater in AFG

February 14th, 2013
11:18 am

Jane, did you watch the tourney? Nilai was kicking some serious BOOTY!! Unfair my right eye.


February 14th, 2013
11:20 am

Wow, the three contestants left standing at the end of the tournament were from Georgia, Kentucky and Arkansas. ‘Very impressive for those of us native Southerners who are so tired of the South getting dissed by the rest of the country. Congrats to Nilai and his parents!


February 14th, 2013
11:28 am

A few things with Jeopardy and this situation….

1) I’m very happy for him as everyone is.
2) Whoever said that matching freshmen with seniors is wrong…that’s correct. There should be the equivalent of a JV teen tournament and a Varsity teen tournament. This has resulted in an imbalance of questions that were far too easy for older teenagers. The teen tournament seems way too easy (relative to the teens) than the adult questions do for adult contestants.
3) It bothers me that a kid from Westminster and a kid from a magnet school were invited, when in all probability, those kids are already from wealthy families and don’t need the money. I don’t know if you limit the contestants to public schools or not, but just saying….kids who have millionaire doctors and attorneys for parents shouldn’t be winning money when you’ve got other kids who are just as gifted dealing with growing up dirt poor.


February 14th, 2013
11:29 am

Unbelievable how people have complained that this kid came in second like second is not good enough. I would hate to be their kid. It was great to see what they both did. Espeicially the younger w with the pressure all around him from adults.


February 14th, 2013
11:32 am

The three contestants that missed the final question the other day all gave the same answer “Dublin,” which put them all at $0. This was a great show!


February 14th, 2013
11:33 am

Susu you aren’t kidding. I’m also sick and tired of holier-than-thou Northerners trying to pull the superiority card. The SAT thing doesn’t hold water. Northern schools, by-and-large, do not allow underachievers to take SATs and other standardized tests, as they track them straight into vo-tech professions, whereas in Georgia, everyone is encouraged to take the ACT or SAT. Right or wrong, it makes the stats look bad and gives politicians something to campaign with.

In all reality, there are “backwoods” ignorant people in the middle of Northern metropolises who can’t imagine that anyone lives life differently, who feel like food and manufactured products just magically show up, and that those who make that happen are the ‘little people’. I consider a lot of these people to be the equivalent of neutered lap dogs making fun of wolves for being backwards.

Darryl Douglass

February 14th, 2013
11:34 am

Much props for all three. All three are from the south, I think it’s funny how the nation thinks we southern hicks raise DUMB kids… lol yeah, RIGHT !

Darryl Douglass

February 14th, 2013
11:37 am

Bobo, you are kidding right? The kids from wealthier families should not be invited? Really? You actually believe that? If so, do us all a favor, please DON’T HAVE KIDS and please DON’T VOTE!

Entitlement Society

February 14th, 2013
11:38 am

@Bobo – seriously! Why would you assume that this child has “millionaire doctors and attorneys for parents? based solely on the name of his school? Clearly you lack information and sound reasoning skills. Any child is eligible to apply for this tournament. Why in the world would you exclude certain children based on the school they attend? Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable.

LaKeisha Jackson

February 14th, 2013
11:47 am

Congratulations to all the finalists. As to the age discrepancy, keep in mind that Nilai had defeated a lot of older students in order to make the tournament in the first place.
I applaud Leonard Cooper for his come-from-behind win, and he’s obviously very intelligent and likeable. But it does bother me a bit the way so many are gushing over him and proclaiming his final answer to be the “best answer ever.” If you watch Jeopardy regularly, then every couple of weeks somebody has a cute, clever answer…and his was no better (nor worse) than many others.
I have a sneaking suspicion that one reason for all the gushing over this guy is because a lot of people are glad to see a dark-skinned African-American with a big Afro actually win a Jeopardy tournament. Jeopardy has been criticized (unfairly, in my opinion) over the years for not taking special steps to make sure that its contestants reflect “diversity”. (At least, diversity as defined by the PC crowd…which is a quota system, really.) And as much as it delights me and my family to see someone who looks like us win a big Jeopardy tournament, all the effluent praise is awfully patronizing and, frankly, a little offensive.

Old timer

February 14th, 2013
12:07 pm

@Bobo…..you cannot be serious…….anyone who can compete deserves the chance. I was really impressed with all of the contestants. They dressed nicely and represented their state, schools, and family well. When there is so much negative it is wonderful thqt something so positive can be shown.

Atlanta Man

February 14th, 2013
12:08 pm

Nilai is INCREDIBLE!!! The kid is so gifted, and so smart, and yet works SOOOO hard!! How many times do we see talented kids being lazy?? Answer: A LOT!! Nilai goes to math camps, science camps, space camps, surgery camps (okay, just kidding about the surgery camps) and WORKS HIS TAIL OFF! He deserves everything he achieves. NILAI FOR PRESIDENT IN 2035!!!!!


February 14th, 2013
12:12 pm

Way to go Leonard! You have a bright future ahead of you.


February 14th, 2013
12:50 pm

Leonard and Nilai were both great. Really liked Leonard’s cool and calm and funny handling of the competition.


February 14th, 2013
1:03 pm

Just because you go to those schools (or private schools) doesn’t mean you have money. My niece attends on a scholarship. Her mother is single parent and certainly not rich.


February 14th, 2013
2:16 pm

Nilai was terrific and congrats to him! But it’s fair to point out if he had wagered less-conservatively, especially in the first game of the final, he would have cruised to overall victory. Leonard made the all-time gutsy wager near the end of Game 2 and won because of it. That said, I hope when he’s adult we get to see Nilai on Jeopardy! again!
(oh, and presidential wannabe Barrett finished overall second-place, exactly where he’s going to finish when he eventually enters politics and runs for office…..)

Teacher's Son

February 14th, 2013
3:34 pm

I strongly disagree with points 2 and 3 of Bobo’s post at 11:28 a.m. but his/her post at 11:33 is spot on. I grew up in a state with high SAT scores and most students there were actively discouraged from taking the SAT or the ACT.

Congrats to Leonard and to Nilai but, as some other posters have observed, if Nilai had gotten the final answer correct, he would have (narrowly) overtaken Leonard, who was not a lock going into Final Jeopardy.


February 14th, 2013
3:37 pm

All of the young people were wonderful. I enjoyed watching them play. I wish them all the very best in their future endeavors.

Phil Osopher

February 14th, 2013
3:59 pm

Teen Jeopardy! is quiz for bubble-gum chewing minds. Give me the adults. These whelps never heard of Ol’ Blue Eyes.

Omar Little

February 14th, 2013
4:19 pm

“He didn’t know the final question but he bet wisely.”

Not really- he miscalculated what he needed to win. He is just lucky Nilai got it wrong. If Nilai gets the final answer correctly, Leonard is totally embarassed and goes down in Jeopardy history, Cliff Clavin style.

Sk8ing Momma

February 14th, 2013
4:26 pm

All of the contestants were outstanding; but, Leonard rocked it! Not only was his breadth of knowledge impressive, his tactical approach was as well. His all or nothing bet on the Daily Double was masterful. It paid huge dividends for him. It was a very fun tournament to watch. My kids (11yo son and 13yo daughter) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kudos to the contestants for jobs well done!

Madge From Accounting

February 14th, 2013
4:32 pm

If Nilai gets the Final Jeopardy question right, he would have beaten Leonard.

Well, IF my sister was flat chested she’d be my brother…. IF i would’ve been born beautiful I could’ve been a gold digger……………IF my dog wasn’t a pit bull he’d just be a bull……………

Just saying………