Nagoya Story 1 – Hakuho’s Record Run


Hakuho-Tachiai

Takes Aim At Total Win Record

In addition to whatever else may happen during the Nagoya basho, one item of great anticipation and excitement must be Hakuho’s imminent claim to one of the few records in Sumo that does not yet bear his name – the total win records currently held by Kaiō and Chiyonofuji.

Prior to his injury in Nagoya 2016, it seemed that Hakuho would claim these records early in 2017. But foot surgery, and a hard fought recovery prevented him from seriously challenging for his record until the upcoming 2017 Nagoya basho.

His first mark is Chiyonofuji at 1045 career wins – this only requires Hakuho to win 9 bouts. Provided he does not injure himself, this should not be difficult. Following that is the great Ozeki Kaiō at 1047 – or just 11 wins for Hakuho.

We will be counting down the wins to this mighty achievement during the Nagoya basho, starting in just 9 days.

Banzuke Chaos Indicates A Wild Nagoya Basho


Takakeishō

Fresh Blood In The Upper Ranks.

Since the final day of Natsu, it was easy to know that the Nagoya banzuke was going to be a wild tangle of re-ranking and fresh faces. It’s publication on June 25th did not fall short of that idea, and in fact further review of the ranking sheet indicates that sumo fans are in for a wild ride this basho.

Chief among the factors for chaos are the sizable number of young rikishi who are making their upper Maegashira debuts in Nagoya. Many of these young men are healthy and strong, and are eager to make the most of what will likely be a short stay in the top half of sumo’s top division.

These freshly elevated rikishi will face an entrenched and determined San’yaku, most of whom are well rested, in good health and ready for battle.

New Faces

Takakeisho – Ranked at an impressive Maegashira 1 West, this newcomer has only been in sumo since Aki 2014. Let that sink in, he’s only 20 years old, and he has been almost unstoppable. He has won 4 yusho: Jonokuchi, Jonidan, Makushita and Juryo. He turned in an 11-4 record for both prior basho as a Maegashira. Some sumo fans will wonder where this guy came from, and what he is all about. While I am not predicting a kachi-koshi for him in Nagoya, it’s going to be interesting to see what he does against the top men of sumo. Because he is M1w, you can expect him to face the likes of Hakuho, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Takayasu, Goeido and Mitakeumi. One thing is certain, Takakeisho will be challenged.

Hokutofuji – To date this rikishi has only ever had one make-koshi tournament. Now he enters Nagoya Maegashira 2 West. He has won three yusho: Jonidan, Sandanme and Juryo. He is big, he is powerful and he is patient. Watching him compete reminds me a great deal of Takayasu. He has the potential of being a significant factor of the Maegashira ranks for some time if he can stay healthy, and if he does not get discouraged by the level of competition at the top end of sumo. As Maegashira 2, you can expect him to face the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps during the first week. I especially hope that we get to see him against Terunofuji and Harumafuji, as their unique and somewhat unstoppable form of sumo will present a level of competition that Hokutofuji has yet to encounter.

Ura – A fan favorite, Ura may be doing almost as much as Kisenosato to energize the fan base in Japan. In addition to his unorthodox and anything-goes sumo style, he seems to be a genuinely nice and personable guy. He struggled to bulk up and then to learn how to manage his mass prior to entering Makuuchi, but during Natsu it was clear he had found some manner of recipe to bring his unique brand of sumo into the upper division and make it work. Now at Maegashira 4 East, he will certainly face at least a handful of San’yaku rikishi. This could include (during the first week) : Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku and Mitakeumi.

Kagayaki – Kagayaki seems to get overlooked, at least up until now. He is a quiet, un-assuming rikishi who seem to just want to train and compete. Japan loves this kind of guy, and sumo is built on the shoulders of men like this. Like Kisenosato, he took the slow road to his rank, and has been griding hard since he joined sumo at age 16. Unlike some of the other rising stars, he cannot show a string of yusho or a rapid rise. But he never gives up, and never gets discouraged. Even when he suffers a set back, such as in 2015-2016 when he bounced between Juryo and Makuuchi, he just kept training, kept working hard. At Maegashira 4 west, he will face the same card that Ura does, and we will see him take on (at minimum) Sekiwake and Komusubi opponents.

Onosho – While not in the upper Maegashira ranks, Onosho is worth a mention. Due to the blood-bath in the upper half of Makuuchi in Tokyo, he finds himself launched from Maegashira 14 to Maegashira 6. This huge move up the banzuke will present him with a vast increase in difficulty. He will face off against the likes of Ura, Endo and Ikioi. With any luck, he will gamberize, and present a strong challenge.

The crystal ball was pretty clear for Nagoya


I learned some banzuke projection lessons from Natsu, and stuck closer to my quantitative system, with fewer subjective adjustments. This worked much better, as detailed below. I also think that Nagoya was easier to predict, largely due to many fewer rikishi with 8-7 or 7-8 records.

The San’yaku went exactly to form. The only real question was whether Kotoshogiku would hold on to the second Komusubi slot, and he did. The meat grinder also went almost exactly as predicted, with only Endo and Ura switching positions. Ura had a better computed rank, and I thought Endo would drop further after his 6-9 record, but given his popularity and how well he did against the San’yaku, relatively speaking, this isn’t a huge surprise. Ura might have a slightly easier schedule at M4e than at M3w, which he can use in his first tournament this high up the banzuke, although he’ll still get at least a taste of San’yaku opponents.

The lower maegashira ranks are always harder to predict, but even here, all the projection misses were by one rank, and involved switches of rikishi who had identical computed ranks. It’s hard to see a consistent pattern in NSK’s choices of Takanoiwa above Aoiyama, Okinoumi above Chiyotairyu, Takekaze above Takarafuji, or Kotoyuki above Chiyomaru. In the coin flip M16 slot, Gagamaru got the nod over Kaisei.

Overall, my projection resulted in 28 “bullseyes” (correct rank and side), 3 additional correct ranks on the wrong side, and 11 misses, all of them by one rank. Among the maegashira projections, there were 17 bullseyes, 3 hits, and 11 misses. I’m gaining some confidence that the projections can give us a good early idea of what the official banzuke ends up looking like.

Nagoya Banzuke Live


banzuke-1

Complete Re-Rack of Sumo Stars.

We knew coming out of the tumultuious Natsu basho that everything was going to go strange for Nagoya, and it did indeed happen. We are delighted to report that the July banzuke is now live on the sumo associations website.

Notable highlights include

  • Takayasu’s first appearance as Ozeki
  • Mitakeumi’s first appearance as Sekiwake
  • Takakeisho rockets higher to Maegashira 1
  • Hokutofuji reaches the joi with his posting to Maegashira 2
  • Tochinoshin back in upper Maegashira after nearly washing out to Juryo a few tournaments ago

We are going to have a great July tournament. Tachiai’s wall to wall coverage starts now!

 

Banzuke Sunday


banzuke

Nagoya Ranking Sheet Today

After the long summer break, it’s time to begin the ramp up to the hotly anticipated Nagoya basho. Later today (in about 6 hours from this post), the Japan Sumo Association will post the banzuke online, as well as release thousands of printed copies.

If you want to take a look at Tachiai’s projections via contributor Iksumo:

Upper Makuuchi : Nagoya banzuke crystal ball part 1
Lower Makuuchi : Nagoya banzuke crystal ball part 2

Of course Tachiai will bring you all the details and our insights as soon as the banzuke is published.

Projecting a Champion: Part 1


One of the interesting by-products of my dive into Miyagino-beya’s silver medal squad was uncovering a potential new jewel in Enho. For a stable that produces very little in talent behind possibly one of the greatest rikishi ever to walk the earth (and let’s be honest, Miyagino-oyakata can be forgiven for that), it was curious to see a newcomer blast his way to a 7-0 yusho in the lower levels.

When looking to see whether this was at all something he shared in common with the current crop of sekitori as a possible signal of success, the answer was overwhelmingly yes. Of course, it is not the only signal, and as with many other sports, so much can go wrong (injuries, confidence, new trainer, etc.). But several top level rikishi put up multiple such records in their early (first year) basho and many more did it at least once. So this then begs a new question: out of the hundreds of men trying to break their way into professional sumo, is it possible to use this indicator to pluck names from down the banzuke – and if it is, when do we expect to see them bringing honour to their heya? If they don’t manage it, how much harder is it to then reach the top? This will be the first part in a series to attempt to try and figure all of this out.

First things first, let’s look at the most recent crop of 70 sekitori. We can use the March banzuke as a guide to figure out if there’s a story here because any makuuchi/juryo promotions/demotions aren’t going to massively change the calculus and the turnover from juryo to makushita doesn’t meaningfully affect our sample size (and we’re not only interested in who might make it to Juryo 14W someday).

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What I’ve done here is split the sekitori into four categories: those who managed multiple 7-0 records in their first 6 full tournaments (post-maezumo), those who managed it one time, those who didn’t manage it, and those who didn’t manage it but were already in Juryo well before their 6th tournament (owing to entering the banzuke at makushita level as an amateur champion). This doesn’t tell the full story but it is somewhat telling that half of the professional ranks managed an early zensho. Of course, you’d expect the wrestlers who have been contending for titles their whole career to float towards the top, and so let’s see if that’s what we’ve got:

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This confirms those suspicions. Makuuchi contains a higher number of rikishi to have put a zensho on the board their first year at least once (Kisenosato registered his first in his 7th basho otherwise this would have been more extreme), and as you’d expect it also contains a larger number of amateur champions who fast tracked their way to the top (and stayed there).

For the next parts in this series, we’ll start to look at how long it took these sekitori on average to reach juryo, and then start to look at the success rates of those who score this record and start to identify commonalities among them (kimarite, stature, etc), to model out who we might expect to charge up the banzuke soon and give us some more lower level candidates to track over the coming year. Again, this is just one of many signals – and there are many other intangible variables (stable, personality/confidence, etc) but it will be interesting to dig in and get an understanding of how impactful it is.