Japan's Takeru Kobayashi will face his greatest challenge ever on American soil this October 28, 2006, when he competes live on ESPN2 at the Krystal Square Off III World Hamburger Eating Championship in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Once considered unbeatable, the current Krystal-eating world record holder will be up against the finest field of competitive eaters ever assembled, many who have been closing in on his dominance lately, including Joey "Jaws" Chestnut and Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas. The eight-minute eating contest presented by the fast food icon Krystal and featuring the famous, fresh, hot, small, square Krystal Hamburger is a major in the sport of competitive eating and the only world hamburger eating championship sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating.

ESPN2 will air a live, 60-minute special of Krystal Square Off III, including the championship event, starting at 4 p.m. EST. The entire program will be rebroadcast on ESPN the following day, Sunday, October 29, at 3 p.m. EST.

With Kobayashi's unbeaten streak and an unprecedented total cash purse of $30,000 on the line, thousands of spectators from across the U.S. and as far away as Japan are expected to witness the Krystal Square Off in person at the First Tennessee Pavilion just blocks away from The Krystal Company's headquarters. This year's winner will walk with $10,000 and the coveted Krystal Square Off Champion's Belt and Trophy made out of crystal. The runner- up and third place finisher will each take home $7,500 and $3,500, respectively, and the remaining top ten finalists will receive payouts ranging from $2,000 to $300.

While Kobayashi received an automatic seat at this year's final table as the defending champ, the remaining 12 finalists had to battle it out during an eight-city qualifying circuit in which the winner in each city won a spot at the finals while the rest fought for one of four highly contested wild card seats. Thousands competed along the way, including all the top-ranked professionals, and an unprecedented six eaters surpassed the magic 50-Krystals mark. It was "The Black Widow" Thomas though who posted the top qualifying number this year, easily winning her qualifier in Chattanooga with 62 Krystals-a mark that tied Joey Chestnut's American record and fell just seven shy of Kobayashi's world record mark of 69 Krystals. Chestnut, who nearly beat Kobayashi in 2005, was disappointing in his qualifier, finishing 10 Krystals less than he did at the Krystal Square Off finals in 2005.

The 13 finalists for Krystal Square Off III are:

Finalist, Hometown ( 2006 Qualifying City and # of Krystals Eaten in Qualifier)

Takeru Kobayashi. Nagano, Japan 2005 Champ (67 Krystals) 2004 Champs (69 Krystals) Received Automatic Seat

Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. Alexandria, VA ( Chattanooga, Tenn., 62 Krystals )

Chip “The Phenom” Simpson, Gainesville, FL. ( Atlanta, Ga., 53 Krystals )

Tim “Eater X” Janus, New York, NY ( Memphis, Tenn., 53 Krystals )

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, San Jose, CA ( Jacksonville, Fla., 52 Krystals)

“Humble” Bob Shoudt, Philadelphia, PA. ( Nashville, Tenn., 52 Krystals )

Rich “The Locust” LeFevre, Henderson, NV (Wildcard, 51 Krystals)

Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti, Chicago, IL ( Knoxville, Tenn., 48 Krystals)

Seaver “The Achiever” Miller, Ashburn, VA (Wildcard, 41 Krystals )

“Crazy Legs” Conti, New York, NY (Jackson, Miss., 38 Krystals )

Dale “Mouth of the South” Boone, Atlanta, GA ( Macon, Ga., 37 Krystals )

Arturo Rios, Long Branch, NJ (Wildcard, 36 Krystals )

Justin Mih, Irvine, CA (Wildcard, 36 Krystals )

"Krystal Square Off III is one of the most anticipated finals in the history of competitive eating with the top eight eaters in the world competing and many expecting Kobayashi to be challenged like never before," said IFOCE Chairman, George Shea. "The famous Krystal may prove to be the great equalizer as young guns like Joey Chestnut and Chip Simpson as well as the veteran Sonya Thomas have shown incredible acumen in their handling of the fresh, hot, small, square hamburger that gave birth to the legendary Krystal chain, and on October 28 the Krystal burger just may give birth to a brand new legend."

While this is just the third year of the Krystal Square Off, Krystal has been hosting eating contests ever since it first opened its doors in 1932. Indeed, Krystal's second customer, Roy Ward, claimed he could eat twice as many Krystals as French Jenkins, the chain's first customer. He did just that by eating 12 Krystals. The years have passed, but Krystal Lovers have never stopped challenging each other to Krystal Eating Contests. This longstanding tradition became official in 2004 with the first Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship.


Founded in 1932, Krystal restaurants have become more than sparkling-clean eateries where friendly employees serve up fresh, delicious food. Krystal has become a cultural icon and an experience that virtually every man, woman and child in the South has shared. The Krystal Company is the oldest quick service restaurant chain in the South and the second oldest in the United States. The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company currently has more than 400 restaurants in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. For more information, visit .