Deeper into Jeopardy! XLIX: The Knights Templar – $1200

Jeopardy! category: THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR (27-7-2015)

$1200 clue: Like an expert in chess, the highest authority in the Templars was called this; Jacques de Molay was the last

Correct response

The gist: But in chess it’s just one word. The Knights Templar, for their own inscrutable reasons, decided to spell Grand Master with a space. The Grand Master, who usually served for life (though a few abdicated), was elected through a complex voting system involving the appointment of an electoral college of thirteen (reminiscent of Jesus and his disciples) by a collection of officers drawn from the various countries in which the order operated, who then elected the Grand Master directly. Once elected, the Grand Master was afforded certain privileges, like four horses (contrasting with their emblem of two knights per horse) and an entourage including soldiers, scribes, a cook, and a servant. According to a papal bull, the Grand Master answered to no one except the Pope, but he still was not an absolute leader. He certainly had a great deal of leeway in decision-making, but the most consequential decisions, like starting or ending a war, required consultation with his top officers, and major expenditures had to go through the order’s treasurer, the Commander of Jerusalem. Paramount among the duties of the Grand Master was, naturally, to lead his fellows into battle, which practice led to the short tenures of several of the 23 Grand Masters.

The most famous of the Grand Masters were the first, the Templars’ founder Hugues de Payens, and the last (and the one mentioned in the clue), Jacques de Molay. Molay entered the order around 1265, in his early 20s, and served for about 35 years before being elected Grand Master. Amidst accusations of blasphemy and sodomy being leveled against his order, Molay visited Rome to convince Pope Clement V to investigate them and clear the good name of the Templars. Unfortunately, France’s powerful King Philip IV was already set on crushing the order and seizing its wealth. His agents managed, probably through torture, to exact confessions from Molay, but when the Pope sent his own inquisitors to investigate, Molar and his fellows denied all wrongdoing. Sadly for Molay, when he asked the Pope to make a personal verdict, Clement, conspiring with Philip, ruled against the Grand Master, and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Ever defiant, however, Molay again denied the charges after being read his sentence, and was rewarded with being burnt at the stake.

Jacques de Molay being led to the stake

Jacques de Molay being led to the stake

The clue: The chess thing is obviously what’s supposed to let you get this one, although they (maybe?) make it a bit harder by saying it’s just “an” expert in chess, not “the” expert. Still, “grandmaster” is definitely the most well-known of the chess titles, so it should be the first one you go to.

In Jeopardy!: A search of “grand master” (which also returns results for “grandmaster”) gets 48 regular and one FJ! clue in the J!Archive – the latter is about Agatha Christie’s Grand Master award (aka the Edgars, for Allen Poe) from the Mystery Writers of America. 21 of the regulars mention chess, with six about Bobby Fischer. Garry Kasparov, who lost to the computer Deep Blue, gets just one. The Templars are only in six clues, and half of them also mention chess. Jacques de Molay gets four for himself, and is the only Grand Master of the Templars mentioned in a clue by name.

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