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Julia Collins headed back to ‘Jeopardy!’ for Tournament of Champions

Update Nov. 21: Julia Collins has made it to the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions finals, airing at 3:30 p.m. Friday on WLS-Channel 7.

Fact No. 1: Julia Collins boasts the second-longest winning streak in “Jeopardy!” history.

Fact No. 2: The Wilmette whiz has won more games of the popular quiz show than any other woman.

“They’re both the truth, but one puts me in a little better perspective than the other,” said Collins, whose string of 20 back-to-back victories ended in June. “I grew a bit tired of the ‘most-winning woman element’ because let’s face it: I’m not ‘pretty good for a girl.’ I’m a good player. I’m a very good player.”

She’ll be going up against other very good players in the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions, a two-week event that starts Monday. The syndicated, Alex Trebek-hosted series airs at 3:30 p.m. weekdays on WLS-Channel 7.

The battle of the brainiacs features the last two seasons’ top players — 15 returning champs who’ve won a collective 100 games — vying for a $250,000 grand prize.

Julia Collins competes in Wednesday's "Jeopardy!" episode against Joshua Brakhage and College Champion Jim Coury.

Julia Collins competes in Wednesday’s “Jeopardy!” episode against Joshua Brakhage and College Champion Jim Coury.

If Collins wins, she’d add a cool quarter mil to the $428,100 she raked in earlier this year.

A former supply-chain manager who grew up in Kenilworth, Collins used some of those winnings to travel to Europe this summer and enjoy not working — a luxury that gave her more time to prepare for the tournament.

The Wellesley College and MIT grad brushed up on Nobel Prize winners, U.S. presidents and “a long list of topics, like English monarchs and when they reigned, and Oscar winners, which was a bit of a weak spot for me when I was on initially.”

Collins, 31, consistently went into the Final Jeopardy round in the lead for the first 20 of her 21 regular-season games. Other than doing her best to build up that cushion of cash heading into the final round (and who doesn’t aim for that?), Collins said she doesn’t have a particular strategy for winning.

“Keeping a cool head, keeping focused and being fast on the buzzer when you know the response worked really well for me, even though it’s not anything fancy,” she said.

Another Tournament of Champions contender became famous — make that infamous — for his strategy. Instead of sticking to one category and mowing down the clues from easiest to hardest, Arthur Chu of Cleveland, Ohio jumped all over the board — the so-called “Forrest Bounce” method — to throw off his opponents.

“It was disruptive and apparently annoying for a lot of people,” said Chu, who nonetheless racked up 11 straight wins.

“All the strategy in the world doesn’t help you if you get a clue and don’t know the answer,” he added. “Julia blew past my record and she didn’t use any of the strategy that I worked so hard on. That’s because she’s a naturally good player.”

Arthur Chu and Alex Trebek on the Tournament of Champions, which starts Monday.

Arthur Chu and Alex Trebek on the Tournament of Champions, which starts Monday.

Of the 15 Tournament of Champion hopefuls, six are female. That’s lock-step with a Slate analysis that found that over the past 30 years, 40 percent of “Jeopardy!” contestants have been women. But females have won only 30 percent of the games.

The most famous of those female winners — and one of the most famous, period — said the next chapter of her life might entail writing a book.

The subject: girls and women.

“That’s something I feel very strongly about,” Collins said. “I come from single-sex education and am very pro-achievement for girls and women. I’ll keep y’all posted if anything comes of that.”

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