The official rankings (banzuke) for the November tournament won’t be announced until October 29th, but the results of the recently completed Aki basho can be used to forecast these rankings with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Interested in where the rikishi you’ve been following are likely to end up on the sumo ladder? You’ve come to the right place. Below, I go through the rationale for my ranking projections; scroll down to the bottom if you just want to see the predicted banzuke.
Every tournament’s results are idiosyncratic, and present their own special difficulties for forecasting the rankings. As I already noted, Aki 2018 was exceptional in how poorly the upper and middle maegashira ranks performed. As a consequence, the top of the banzuke—the four named ranks—are very easy to predict this time, but the upper maegashira ranks are a real challenge, and we will see combinations of current rank, performance, and future rank that have rarely occurred in the past.
First, the easy part. The named ranks will look exactly the same as they did at Aki, with three exceptions. First, Kakuryu and Hakuho will trade places atop the banzuke, following the latter’s zensho yusho. Second, Takakeisho will slide over to the East side into the Komusubi slot that will be vacated by Tamawashi. Finally, Kaisei, by far the highest-ranked maegashira with a winning record, and the only one to face the full slate of upper-rank opponents, will move up to the open West Komusubi slot.
Then we come to the upper maegashira ranks. Things start innocently enough. Myogiryu (M5e; 8-7) is a relatively weak candidate for the top M1e slot, but not exceptionally so. Tochiozan (M7w; 8-7) and Hokutofuji (M9e; 9-6) are even weaker candidates for the M1w and M2e slots, but not historically so, and they’re the best we’ve got. But who should be ranked M2w? Remarkably, the best (only) candidate among higher-ranked rikishi with losing records is Komusubi Tamawashi, despite his terrible 4-11 performance. To find the next most-deserving wrestler with a winning record, we have to go all the way down to Nishikigi (M12w; 10-5). Neither man belongs anywhere near M2 by historical criteria: a Komusubi with that record received a demotion only down to M2 twice, and that was in the same basho back in 1953, while a 10-5 M12 has been promoted to M2 on a total of only six occasions (most recently, none other than Tochiozan in 2009). Based on this history, I’m going to guess that Nishikigi will find himself in a part of the banzuke he’s completely unfamiliar with: his previous career high rank was M6 two years ago, and resulted in a 4-11 beating, so I shudder to think what will happen when he has to face the Yokozuna and Ozeki at Kyushu!
If we slot in Nishikigi and Tamawashi at M2w and M3e, we are still not out of the woods. The best of the remaining higher-ranked make-koshi rikishi, in order, are M3e Shodai (6-9), M5w Asanoyama (7-8), M2w Chiyotairyu (5-10), and M4w Abi (6-9). The list of the best-placed kachi-koshi rikishi starts with the 10-5 M13 pair of Ryuden and Takanoiwa, and continues with 11-5 M15 Yoshikaze. These ranks and performances are historically weak for consideration this high up the banzuke. The MK wrestlers actually have a better claim, but of course they cannot be promoted with a losing record, and while a 7-8 performance will sometimes find a rikishi at the same rank in the next tournament, a record of 6-9 or lower guarantees demotion. So if we adhere to these rules and maintain the rank order above, the highest rankings for them are Shodai M4e, Asanoyama M5w, Chiyotairyu M6e, and Abi M6w. Ryuden, Takanoiwa, and Yoshikaze then slot in at M3w, M4w, and M5e—unusual but not completely unprecedented for their rank and record.
After that, the banzuke starts to look more normal, with MK Kagayaki, Shohozan, Takarafuji, and Kotoshogiku (all 7-8) receiving small demotions, and KK Daieisho (7-8) a reasonable promotion. Below them, we find some of the more disastrous Aki performers from the upper maegashira ranks (Ikioi, Yutakayama, Chiyonokuni, Endo, Onosho) along with the mediocre performers from the lower ranks. I’m going with four promotions from Juryo, exchanging Yago for Chiyomaru, and this quartet rounds out the bottom of the banzuke.
As usual, I expect this forecast to get the big picture right. As for the details…we’ll find out October 29th!
Note: kachi-koshi records are in green; make-koshi records are in red. If you spot any errors, please let me know in the comments. And of course, please feel free to discuss the projections and ask questions!