The Yokozuna and Ozeki
Hakuho (15-0) bested Kakuryu (10-5) to claim his 14th zensho yusho. As a result, the two will switch spots atop the banzuke, with Hakuho regaining the East Yokozuna rank for the first time since January.
Goeido (12-3) continued his run of impressive performances at the Fall basho by defeating Kisenosato (10-5) to claim the jun-yusho. He is in sole possession of that title after Takayasu (11-4) lost to Tochinoshin (9-6). The three Ozeki will be ranked in the same order on the Kyushu banzuke.
Full participation by the Yokozuna/Ozeki corps made Aki 2018 an exciting and memorable tournament, with daily high-stakes bouts between highly ranked rikishi. Tachiai hopes that everyone gets as healthy as possible and is ready to fight in Fukuoka in six weeks.
The Sekiwake and Komusubi quartet finished the basho on a positive note with four victories in four bouts against maegashira opponents. As a result, Mitakeumi (9-6) will remain East Sekiwake, and faint embers of his Ozeki run are still glowing. Ichinojo (8-7) saved his West Sekiwake rank with his 5th consecutive win after Hakuho woke him up on Day 10. And Takakeisho (9-6) made sure that his second trip to the named ranks would last longer than his first. He gets a slight promotion to East Komusubi, the rank being vacated by Tamawashi (4-11). The open West Komusubi slot will go to Kaisei, the only rank-and-filer to serve a full tour of duty against the upper ranks and live to talk about it. Kaisei accumulated his promotion-clinching 8 wins by defeating all five of his maegashira opponents and upsetting Goeido, Mitakeumi, and Tamawashi.
The Maegashira Debacle
With the rikishi atop the banzuke mostly racking up wins, someone had to absorb all the losses. Here’s the complete list of kachi-koshi (winning record) rikishi in the top 10 maegashira slots: Kaisei (8-7), Myogiryu (8-7). Seriously. Only two rikishi out of ten could reach even the bare-minimum eight wins. One gets to be Komusubi; the other will occupy the top M1e rank.
Let’s extend this to the next ten: Tochiozan (8-7), Hokutofuji (9-6), Daieisho (8-7). Not much better. It’s not until we get down to the M12-M15 ranks that we find our double-digit winners: Nishikigi (10-5), Ryuden (10-5), Takanoiwa (10-5), and Yoshikaze (11-4). No wonder no special prizes were awarded this basho for the first time since their introduction
47 years ago in 1947!
The dismal performance of the maegashira corps will make it a challenge to fill out the joi ranks for Kyushu, and to attempt to come up with a sane and fair banzuke more generally. There will be many disproportionately large promotions and overly mild demotions. Myogiryu (M5e) is a lock to move up to M1e. The most likely candidates for the next two slots are Tochiozan (M7w) and Hokutofuji (M9e). Tamawashi, despite his abysmal 4-11 performance, may only drop to M2w for lack of better candidates. Does Nishikigi move all the way up from M12w to M3e with only a 10-5 record, to be joined by M13e Ryuden (10-5) at M3w? Just how small a demotion is in store for M3e Shodai (6-9) and M2w Chiyotairyu (5-10)? The whole thing is a total mess.
The Makuuchi-Juryo Exchange
Today’s action guaranteed a minimum of three exchanges. Arawashi (8-7) won, ensuring his return to the top division, along with Daiamami (11-4) and Meisei (9-6). Conveniently, Kotoyuki (6-9) lost, so he is the obvious choice to join Kyokutaisei (1-6-8) and Ishiura (4-11) on a trip to the second division. The tricky call is Chiyomaru (M14w; 6-9) vs. Yago (J2w; 8-7) for the final M16w rung of the Makuuchi ladder. With his fusen loss today, Chiyomaru fell one victory short of safety. Yago failed to take advantage and lost his third bout in a row since attaining kachi-koshi, leaving him one win short of a clear promotion. He also lost to Chiyomaru head-to-head on Day 13. My guess is that Yago will go up and Chiyomaru will go down, but the banzuke committee could easily go the other way.
That’s it for Aki 2018. As usual, I’ll have a full Kyushu banzuke prediction post up sometime in the next couple of weeks, so please keep coming to Tachiai for that and other coverage we have in store between the basho.