Handicapping The Haru Banzuke – Part 1


Sizing up San’yaku.

We still have many weeks before the start of the March sumo tournament in Osaka, with 4 weeks until competition begins, and 2 weeks before the banzuke is released. But I was told something that fascinated me – the Nippon Sumo Kyokai creates a draft banzuke for the next tournament shortly after the prior one finishes, and then tweaks it in the intervening weeks. This may be completely fictitious, but if they can do it, why can’t we?

Being a technology guy who loves sumo, I started examining the ratios between rank, win / loss and position on the subsequent banzuke. It let me a couple of formulas, which may be useful, and a really overly complex spreadsheet. That gives us some ranks to start from, and a motivation for discussing what may drive the Haru basho. I am going to break these into a series of postings that span the Makuuchi banzuke. Up today, the San’yaku group.

East Rank West
Hakuho Yokozuna Kakuryu
Harumafuji Yokozuna Kisenosato
Goeido  Ozeki  Terunofuji
Kotoshogiku Sekiwake Tamawashi
Takayasu Sekiwake
Shodai Komusubi Mitakeumi


Sort of the easy group, they don’t get demoted so they swap positions from tournament to tournament. During Hatsu, Harumafuji and Kakuryu both withdrew due to injuries, and Kiseonsato is the shin-Yokozuna. This puts Hakuho back Y1e again (where he belongs). I put Kakuryu at Y1w with Harumafuji at Y2e and Japan’s new celebrity hero, Kisenosato, at the starter slot in Y2w.

Harumafuji has started making public appearances again, but he reportedly tore a thigh muscle in January, and sometimes those things are tough to heal. Kisenosato, by all reports, is training his brains out after being on a whirlwind PR tour. Part of this may be making sure he lives up to the Yokozuna rank he takes great pride in, and part of it may be tuning up Takayasu for his Ozeki run.


Thanks to Kisenosato’s promotion and Kotoshogiku’s demotion, there are only 2 Ozeki going into Haru, one of them is gravely injured, and one of them is kadoban and a physical basket-case. Goeido is O1e, but it’s not certain he will be recovered enough to join in competition in Osaka (where he is a home-town favorite). Given that they re-assembled his ankle with plates and screws, he may in fact be forced to retire. As of today, Goeido has been canceling his public appearances and keeping a low profile in recovery. We dearly love Goeido 2.0, but fear he may never have a chance to shine again.

Terunofuji is kadoban, and faces a real chance of demotion this time. With the Sekiwake, Komusubi and upper Maegashira all strong and looking to advance, there will be no quarter given at Haru. Terunofuji’s injuries are complex and chronic, and there may be no way for him to resume the sumo he deployed that made him (at one time) a Yokozuna contender. Today, he can only hope to heal, or find a worthy exit path.


There will be at least three Sekiwake ranked sumotori in Osaka, the normal two plus the demoted Kotoshogiku, provided he does not decide to retire before hand. That gives us Kotoshogiku as Sekiwake 1e, with Tamawashi as Sekiwake at 1w. Computationally, Takayasu came out higher than Tamawashi, but seeing that Tamawashi is retaining his rank, he has a slight edge over Takayasu, who shows up at the rather exotic rank of Sekiwake 2e.


As describe in a prior post, the competition for a Haru San’yaku slot was fierce, with records that would have typically promoted rikishi into the upper ranks, not getting them even close to a berth in the named positions. Rounding out at Komusubi, we have Shodai falling out of Sekiwake to 1e and Mitakeumi rising on a superb Hatsu record to 1w.

8 thoughts on “Handicapping The Haru Banzuke – Part 1

  1. Wouldn’t Mitakeumi move up to Komusubi 1e with his excellent record in January? He was 11-4 and beat Shodai.

    Thanks for your excellent coverage! I’ve been following Sumo since my cable company picked up Japan TV a couple of years ago.

    • Thanks for commenting, and that’s a very good question. I did in fact build some formulas to try and “guess’ how the banzuke would turn out. As part of doing that, I am forced to make a number of assumptions, but I tried to root those assumptions in prior observations of rank changes between basho.

      in general, there seems to be a notion of ‘soft landing” among rikishi in the Sekiwake and Komusubi ranks. That translates into a rikishi who is dropping from Sekiwake to Komusubi ends up east if it’s a fairly mild losing record. A great example of this is Takayasu from Kyushu to Hatsu.

      But then there is the “adjustments” I referred to that the NSK seem to do based on a number of factors the formula cannot take into account. Things like how popular the rikishi is, or how influential their stable are. This seems to skew ranking by up to 4 places in some cases. I really poked around at how to try and handle something like that before publishing, as an engineer by trade, I want to get “accurate”, but then again I think it’s better to just put the calculated ranks out there, and let the fans discuss.

      Mitakeumi has a big following, and he may “levitate” over to the East – it would not surprise me.

  2. Is impossible to get this right. I could imagine there is politics involved too. But i believe the higher ranks are easier to predict

    What kind of engineer are you?

    A questuon, how do you feel when 90s guy like akebono n konishiki says hakuho so dominant cuz there are no competition today. He will struggle to keep ozeki in 90s era. I personally feel that is disrespectful to all current wrestlers. I say Ichinojo can destroy prime konishiji

    • I seem to be some kind of software engineer, which at times pays the bills. As far as Konishiki or Akibono making some disparaging comments about the current crop of rikishi: I am sure they are very nice people. Highly competitive people, like top end sumotori, say things that the rest of us have a hard time understanding. If Akibono, Konishiki, Hakuho and Harumafuji were at an izakaya drinking and eating, they would be swapping friendly barbs like this all night long.

      In isolation, it looks really ugly and petty – and I am sure the press loves to play that angle up as much as they can. Especially the Japanese sumo press, as they will do anything to boost eyeballs.

      Sumo is a tough business. It pays fairly well, but nothing compared to other competitive sports. It destroys bodies with ruthless efficiency, and wears out the best and brightest in a handful of years. All of these guys know that reality, and I am sure appreciate just what kind of situation people like Hakuho are in better than we fans ever could. So I cut them a lot of slack.

      It was probably good natured ribbing from an veteran to a champ at the peak of his career.

  3. Ah – I was so focused on scrobbling up the triple Sekiwake field that I failed to appreciate that we’ll have only two Ozeki next basho – and perhaps only one competing. (I’m no doctor, but the prospect of anyone entering the dohyo on a freshly screwed and plated ankle leaves me quite ill at ease.)

    I don’t want to get into the grim details of possible outcomes that would lead us to a NOzeki tournament in the near future, but that IS a distinct possibility, no? Forgive me if this is a dumb question, but as a bit of a neophyte who can’t seem to query the SumoDB effectively right now, how uncommon would that be?

    (PS – first comment. Love the blog, looking forward to your down-banzuke picks.)

    • Thanks for the comment, Ian.

      So it’s quite possible we can get to a NoZeki tournament this year. In fact I would not be surprised at all if the upcoming Haru basho is NoZeki! I am not doctor either, but I think the chances of Goeido being able to compete effectively are very poor if his repair was that extensive. Terunofuji needs medical intervention to have any chance of returning to his prior threat levels, so I would not be surprised to see him follow Kotoshogiku at Haru – if he is not forced to withdraw first.

      As far as Kotoshogiku, he may have been using the relative slack since Hatsu to heal up, and I certainly hope so. But he has to win 10 the hard way in Osaka to get his Ozeki title back. He did that in May of 2016, so it’s possible if he is healthy.

      Thank you for the kind words – next group of picks out tomorrow, so do come back.

  4. Would you kindly post a summary of the injuries? Specially goeido and terunofuji. If already coverrd preciously, could you kindly shar the link?


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