What the Kyushu Results Mean for Hatsu


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The Kyushu basho has concluded, and while the Yusho race was largely a one-man affair, the rest of the proceedings were filled with unanticipated results. At the end of each basho, the banzuke gets reshuffled for the next one, and this is the most complex and unpredictable reshuffling I’ve seen. I will have a full banzuke forecast post once I’ve digested the final results, but here are some initial thoughts.

What makes the task difficult for the banzuke makers?

I’m glad you asked. We have a confluence of unusual events.

  • Below the Yokozuna ranks, we had three rikishi who missed all or most of the tournament, ranging in rank from Sekiwake Terunofuji to M8 Takanoiwa to M16 Ura. Where should they be ranked in January?
  • We have a 14-1 Juryo champion, erstwhile Makuuchi mainstay Sokukurai, who needs to be worked into the banzuke much higher than usual for rikishi promoted from Juryo.
  • We have several 7-8 rikishi whose make-koshi records warrant demotion, but there is a dearth of rikishi with kachi-koshi records to place ahead of them.
  • Several rikishi near the bottom of Makuuchi have records that aren’t quite good enough to make them safe from demotion to Juryo. Conversely, several rikishi near the top of Juryo have records that aren’t quite good enough to guarantee promotion to Makuuchi.
  • Perhaps the greatest complication is that we have 5, count them, 5 rikishi whose records would usually warrant Sekiwake rank, and only 4 “normal” San’yaku slots to accommodate them. This doesn’t even include Ichinojo, who will miss out on San’yaku promotion despite accumulating double-digit wins at M4.

Who will be in San’yaku?

We already knew that Kotoshogiku will vacate his Komusubi slot; with today’s loss, Yoshikaze will drop from Sekiwake all the way into the maegashira ranks (I expect to see him at maegashira 1). We also know that Mitakeumi will retain his Sekiwake 1e slot by virtue of his 9-6 record.

Beyond that, things get complicated. Our shin-Komusubi, Onosho, turned things around in a big way and ended the basho with an 8-7 record that guarantees a second tournament in San’yaku. Normally, this record would also ensure a promotion to the open Sekiwake slot, but this time we have another strong contender in former Sekiwake Tamawashi, who went 11-4 from the M1e slot. In the past, there have been a couple of cases of an 8-7 Komusubi and a 10-5 M1 competing for a Sekiwake slot, and it’s played out in different ways. Going 11-4 makes Tamawashi’s claim stronger, but I’m not sure how this will play out.

Onosho’s friend and fellow rising star Takakeisho also went 11-4 from the M1w slot. Being on the West side puts him in line behind Tamawashi, and 11-4 is not strong enough to force an extra Sekiwake slot to open, so he will be shin-Komusubi at Hatsu. This fills up four San’yaku slots: S1e Mitakeumi, S1w/K1e Onosho/Tamawashi, K1w Takakeisho. So what to do with M3 Hokutofuji, who also delivered an amazing 11-4 performance? My guess is that this record is good enough to force the creation of an extra Komusubi slot, and that he will be K2e at Hatsu, but it’s not guaranteed. Having all four of the promising youngsters—Mitakeumi, Onosho, Takakeisho, and Hokutofuji—in San’yaku, plus the formidable veteran Tamawashi, with Ichinojo knocking on the door, makes me really look forward to Hatsu. It’s going to be a long wait until January 14th!

Who will be in the joi?

The joi is a somewhat nebulous category of the top 16 or so rikishi who battle each other. In addition to the upper named ranks, it includes a number of the highest-ranked maegashira. How many? Well, that varies from tournament to tournament depending on the number of San’yaku members participating, and as we’ve seen recently, it can change during a tournament following withdrawals of upper-rank rikishi. In Kyushu, the line fell between M5e Takarafuji, who faced a number of the upper-rankers, and M5w Arawashi, who made only a couple of cameo appearances.

Drawing the line in the same place for Hatsu, the 9 rikishi projected to make up the joi include 4 current members and 5 wrestlers from lower down the banzuke who separated themselves from the rest. The returnees include the two demotees from San’yaku, Yoshikaze and Kotoshogiku, M2 Chiyotairyu, who fought his way to a respectable 7-8 record after a rough start, and Ichinojo. These four should make up the M1/M2 ranks. Rounding out the M3-M5e slots should be Tochinoshin, Arawashi, Shodai, Okinoumi and Endo; none are newcomers to this part of the banzuke.

Where will the Makuuchi/Juryo line fall?

Barring unusual circumstances (e.g., multiple retirements, court orders…), Myogiryu, Aoiyama, Takanoiwa, and Ura will be demoted from Makuuchi. Sokokurai and newcomer Abi have definitely earned their promotions from Juryo. I think Asanoyama and Nishikigi did just enough to avoid demotion by the skin of their teeth, and Ishiura and Yutakayama did just enough to return to Makuuchi after a one-tournament absence (but not enough to convince us they can make it an extended stay). The bubble is made up of Daiamami and Ryuden, who may or may not exchange spots in what would be a Makuuchi debut for Ryuden. Ryuden would have made this decision a lot easier had he defeated Daiamami head-to-head when they met on day 14.

I don’t envy the banzuke makers (or your humble prognosticator). If you have other questions, feel free to leave them in the comments, and I will do my best to answer.

15 thoughts on “What the Kyushu Results Mean for Hatsu

  1. As usual your wizardry impresses…but I must say, having these Tachiai ™ Scorecards makes it a lot easier to see the promotions and demotions!

    I’m a little curious about what happens if they don’t give Hokutofuji K2e. I can see them capping him at M1e, but then the dominoes for the rest of san’yaku get a little interesting. With Fist of the North Star at K2e, I have the next ranks like this:

    M1 Yoshikaze/Kotoshogiku
    M2 Ichinojo/Chiyotairyu
    M3 Tochinoshin/Shodai
    M4 Arawashi/Endo
    M5 Okinoumi

    It’s fuzzy at the end there, I don’t really know how to evaluate the relative moves of Endo and Okinoumi. But my question is, what happens if Hokutofuji takes that M1e slot and starts pushing people down? Is it as simple as straight line shift, or does some shuffling happen? Could Ichinojo leapfrog Kotoshogiku in that case?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have Ichinojo ahead of Kotoshogiku either way. I don’t see a problem in moving everyone down one spot (I’m not sure, if Hokutofuji is capped at M1, whether he or Yoshikaze ends up on the East side). The demotions for Kotoshogiku and Chiyotairyu would be of perfectly reasonable size, and all the kachi-koshi guys would get a solid promotion. Ichinojo might have reason to feel a bit hard done by at M2, but c’est la vie…

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  2. I pretty much agrre with your thoughts. I think that there must have been a huge sigh of relief when Mitakeumi beat Yoshikaze, ensuring that there would be at least two vacant sanyaku slots. I’m not sure about the precedents for having more than 2 komusubi but if ever there was a case for adding a K2e this is it. At the bottom of makuuchi I have Asanoyama and Nishikigi hanging in at M16e and M16w respectively, I have Ryuden replacing Daiamami but couldn’t argue if it went the other way. This looks like being the most interesting and unpredictable banuke for quite a while.

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  3. When I draw my banzuke, I will keep rikishi w/ 7-8 records where they are and see where the rest fall, even Nishikigi. This will be very interesting to see play out.

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      • Not to mention that if they cut sanyaku from 11 to 10, then keeping 7-8’s in the same spot is a promotion in real terms. Nobody knows if that’s a point of discussion in the committee, and if so, how many see it as relevant and how many don’t.

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      • Sometimes a 7-8 should be worthy of promotion. I feel sorry for guys who get that record in the last spot in their division, since the rikishi who get the same record a few spots ahead of them face practically the same schedule and are in no danger of demotion. Sure, the banzuke is just as much about cumulative performance than with ordering people based solely on their most recent result, but it still seems somewhat unfair. (The same is true for a 7-8 in the maegashira joi, who faces far more rikishi ranked above them than below them.)

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        • They could ignore the divisional boundaries and e.g. have M16 and J1 face virtually the same schedule (half maegashira and half juryo), but while that would be more fair, I suspect it would also be a lot less entertaining.

          Not to mention that it could result in rikishi trying to game the system because it might then be *much* easier to earn promotion to makuuchi if you get to enter a tournament at, say, J5 than J1. The J5 would still need to achieve the required wins, but they’d get an easier schedule than they do now and they’d have less competition from the guys in front. (Although admittedly they’d also be competing over fewer available spots since the low maegashira would be getting demoted less often.)

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  4. I think that given the fact that they put an 8-7 K1W over a 10-5 M1E for an open Sekiwake position, the calculus doesn’t change appreciably for the M1E being 11-4. That is, it’s already so lopsided such that it should favor the maegashira that clearly (to me at least) the rule is the Komusubi gets “dibs” on the spot. If you give the M1E another win to make them 12-3, then they just both get promoted to Sekiwake.

    As to Hokutofuji, well, I have no idea.

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  5. Also, lumping in Onosho and Takakeisho as “youngsters” along with Hokutofuji and Mitakeumi betrays just how much younger the first two are than the second two.

    Takakeisho – 8/1996
    Onosho – 7/1996

    Mitakeumi – 12/1992
    Hokutofuji – 7/1992

    http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Banzuke.aspx?b=201711&heya=-1&shusshin=-1&bd=on

    The younger pair aren’t as young as Kisenosato or Hakuho were, but younger than Harumafuji and Kakuryu were, all of whom entered sumo around the same age (15-16, without finishing high school) as Onosho. Note Takakeisho entered sumo out of high school and came up through the nonsalaried ranks not all that much slower (9 basho) than top collegiates like Hokutofuji(7) and Shodai(8) who would have had 4 years more training in college, so Takakeisho may well have shot up the ranks as young as Hakuho and Kisenosato if he had gone pro before high school.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Allow me to make a general comment! I’m relatively new to sumo. Became interested when I saw a bout televised in the local Asian food store. I’d been a fan of cycling for years then became disillusioned by the wretched scandals. Delighted to find a new sport to follow.

    I watch sumo on NKH or Internet and, each day of the basho, repeatedly check the time so I can see the first broadcast of the bout. And I’ve discovered Tachiai.org! It’s super!

    I’m a 90-pound psychiatrist at the country hospital of the University of Washington. My colleagues think I’m strange for having my sumo interest. Too bad.

    Your fan, Sharon

    Liked by 2 people

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