Hatsu ’19 Banzuke Crystal Ball


It’s that time again when I try to predict how the shimpan department will reorder the rikishi rankings based on the results of the just-completed tournament. Unlike the mess left by Aki, the Kyushu results were fairly orderly, and we shouldn’t see giant banzuke leaps and plunges with rikishi taking up slots nearly unprecedented given their prior rank and performance. Nevertheless, every banzuke forecast must grapple with some tricky puzzles. Aside from the usual uncertainty about who should be ranked on the East or the West side at a given maegashira rank, or whether someone will be M6w or M7e, here are the key question marks for Hatsu (scroll down if you just want to see the forecast).

Will they reshuffle the Yokozuna order?

To recap, Y1e Hakuho and Y1w Kakuryu sat out Kyushu from the beginning, while Y1w Kisenosato showed up, dropped his first 4 matches and handed out 3 more kinboshi to run his total to an alarming 16 in 63 Yokozuna bouts (for comparison, Hakuho has conceded 19 kinboshi—in 913 bouts!). He then withdrew, with the 5th day fusen loss making his official record 0-5-10. You’d think he wouldn’t be rewarded for this performance, but there is some question as to whether showing up at all will be viewed more favorably than sitting out the entire basho, and hence if Kisenosato will leapfrog the others on the banzuke. Precedent isn’t very helpful here, as the only parallel scenario happened in 1953, when a 0-3-12 Yokozuna switched sides with a 0-0-15 Yokozuna. In my forecast, I’m hoping sanity prevails and keeping the status quo.

What will be the composition and order of lower sanyaku?

This actually seems fairly straightforward to me. The two Komusubi put up diametrically opposed performances, which will be reflected in the their banzuke moves. Kaisei will drop into the maegashira ranks (see below), while Takakeisho will be promoted to a new career high rank of East Sekiwake. What will happen with the two current Sekiwake? History strongly suggests that a 7-8 record at Sekiwake leads to a demotion to Komusubi, while a 6-9 record means a fall from sanyaku. Exceptions to this pattern are rare and require a lack of suitable promotion candidates, which isn’t the case this time. Two upper maegashira rikishi have clear promotion cases: M2w Tamawashi (9-6) and M1e Myogiryu (8-7). While one could debate the details, I have Tamawashi at West Sekiwake, Mitakeumi at East Komusubi, and Myogiryu at West Komusubi, with Ichinojo falling to M1w.

How far will Kaisei drop?

Every basho this year has featured a Komusubi with 4 or fewer wins: Onosho (4-6-5) in January, Chiyotairyu (4-11) in March, Endo (3-10-2) in May, Shohozan (3-12) in July, Tamawashi (4-11) in September, and now Kaisei (3-9-3). The rankings of the first five in the following basho? M5, M4, M6, M7, M2. While Tamawashi’s demotion stands out as historically lenient, all saw lesser drops in rank than if they were treated as “M0”. How much of this “Komusubi bonus” will Kaisei enjoy? Unlike the case at Aki, the upper maegashira ranks generally performed well in Kyushu, and there were also several several very strong showings lower down the banzuke, leaving fewer rikishi for Kaisei to plausibly jump over. I have him at M8e, although it is conceivable that he will end up a couple of rungs higher.

Where will the Juryo promotions be ranked?

In a pattern opposite to the one considered in the previous section, the rankings for the rikishi moving up from Juryo always tend to be lower than if we simply treated J1 as M17 and so on. The countervailing force this time around is that the four worst performers in Makuuchi who aren’t at risk of demotion—Yutakayama, Chiyoshoma, Chiyonokuni, and Daiamami—were just barely good enough to stay out of Juryo themselves. So I have Yago, with a strong 10-5 record at J1e, debuting at M13e, Kotoyuki at M14e, and Kotoeko and Terutsuyoshi holding down the final two M16 slots.

Who takes the last slot in Makuuchi?

It should come down to keeping M14w Daishomaru (6-9) vs. promoting J5w Terutsuyoshi (10-5). The shimpan department has shown a recent preference for keeping borderline demotion candidates over those with marginal promotion claims. Daishomaru’s rank and record at Kyushu are identical to those of Chiyomaru at Aki, who got a one-basho reprieve from a trip to Juryo. However, Terutsuyoshi has a somewhat stronger promotion claim than Yago did last time, so I am going with a top-division debut for the pixie from Isegahama beya, who is certainly the more exciting choice!

With the preliminaries out of the way, my forecast is below (kachi-koshi records are in green; make-koshi records are in red). Please let me know what you think in the comments, and we’ll find out how the banzuke actually shakes out a little earlier than usual—on Christmas Day!

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34 thoughts on “Hatsu ’19 Banzuke Crystal Ball

  1. I agree with your promotion of Terutsuyoshi. 10 wins, especially considering how competitive Juryo is right now, should be rewarded.

  2. I still don’t get the point of having Tochinoshin at O2W and a blank O2E. Anyway, so next Banzuke is a Christmas present to sumo fans? XD

    • Ooh ooh, I know this one! (‘Cause someone already asked it for an earlier basho.) You’d have too many rikishi on the east side if you had both a Y2e and an O2e.

      • Yes. If East and West are too far out of balance the earth tilts and the sun travels over the poles melting the habitat for penguins and polar bears.

        In addition, Japan would no longer be the eastern land where the sun rises, and we’d have to replace stationery for an entire country.

        Just fooling around. I really do like the Japanese sense of proper balance.

    • To understand why balance is important, take a peek at the banzuke at the top of this post. It’s about the aesthetics of this very format. The Yokozuna names are written at a set width. The Ozeki and the rest of san-yaku are written within width margins that reflect their rank. The maegashira are then spaced evenly across the remaining space. Now, in the above banzuke, there are three Yokozuna and two Ozeki. So the East side is a little more condensed than the west side. But stick another fat ozeki in, and the east side will look ridiculous. You put it on the west, and you get a nice, even layout.

      • Thanks Herouth, that’s the first explanation I’ve seen that actually makes sense! This also covers why they don’t bother playing the same game at the bottom of the banzuke when there’s a lone 16e or 17e slot.

  3. I think Mitakeumi and Miyogiryu will swap places and so will Giku and Okinoumi. Kaisei will move in spot of Ryuden and shift everyone one down. Kotoyuki and Yutakayama will swap places as well.
    But as you said, this is more or less just a change of one position,
    I was also thinking that if it’s one promotee less, Kotoeko could be the sad guy, but then Kotoeko won their match… ;)

    • All good possibilities. I feel reasonably confident about Mitakeumi at K1e. You don’t think they’ll favor Okinoumi’s 11 wins from 2 ranks lower over Giku’s 10? I really went back and forth on moving Kaisei above Ryuden. And the bottom 7 is a mess. I looked at a number of possible orders, and all of them end up with the MK guys getting under-demoted, the Juryo guys getting over-promoted, or both :-?

      • I think Mitakeumi had a very poor tournament (and that with no Yokozuna). Even thought he went 7-8 his performance felt more like 5-10. one of his wins was also a fusen. He also lost the direct match with Miyogiryu. It’s not just the score of Mitakeumi, but also how hapless he was for many of the bouts. As with Okinoumi … they have been 2.5 ranks apart and only 1 win difference, so I will put Giku ahead, who also beat Okinoumi.
        You could be totally right of course, but whats the fun, if we all predict exactly the same? ;)

        As for the bottom … yes, it’s a mess, but I actually think you made most sense of it. If only Kotoeko hadn’t fumbled his last 2 bouts and Terutsuyoshi the last one, but so it’s really difficult to place.

    • Nishikigi benefited a great deal from the weakness at the top of the banzuke. In ordinary times he’d be overranked at M2 or 3 but rankings are relative, not absolute, and if the top guys can’t actually grind that joi meat…

      I’m really happy for him too.

  4. On the banzuke does anyone know what it says in the 2 white sections at the bottom next to the Jonokuchi listings?

  5. Does anyone know how to acquire (or even find a high quality picture online) a paper banzuke like the photo above? They’re beautiful pieces of art, but I don’t know where to reliably find them.

  6. I’m happy for both Tamawashi and Miyogiryu. And I think Miyogiryu would have taken the East slot if Mitakeumi didn’t win his last match against Takayasu, assuming this is how the Banzuke will look like. But we’ll see… However to me It seems that the judging committee usually takes such strong performances into account.

  7. Iksumo – if you don’t mind revealing one of your trade secrets, am I right in thinking that the starting point assumption is that wins less losses = movement in rank. Eg a 6-9 record at M1 would be an assumed 3 rank fall to M4? Of course I know it doesn’t / can’t always work that way but is that the starting point for your forecasts?

    • Correct! The tricky part is what to do in all the cases where this gives you four guys at one rank, or a bunch of ranks are empty, or various banzuke committee biases :)

      • Thanks very much, it makes a bit more sense now!

        P.S. I would be shocked if Kisenosato leapfrogs to top spot after no wins and 3 kinboshi! It seems mad that even one win might have been enough. You would think the general rule that you can’t advance up the banzuke without a kachikoshi would also apply to Yokozuna, but presumably there is a precedent indicating otherwise?

        • I’ve definitely seen them recently move a Yokozuna who got like 4 wins before going kyujo ahead of one who got like 2 wins before withdrawing, so they seem to go by the number of wins in the most recent tournament—but that of course doesn’t resolve the winless appearance vs kyujo from the start scenario.

  8. Looks like another coming up from Juryo with Takanoiwa’s predicament. Who do you expect to get the nod?

    • I believe the banzuke is set the Wednesday after the basho, and there’s no opportunity to add someone later. That’s why “normal” retirements are announced right after a tournament.

      • Right, imagine the poor gyoji who’d have to handwrite (paint) the whole banzuke all over again every time a sekitori beats up a tsukebito. Although it seems that they are allowed to “cheat” when they make mistakes, or the gyoji retirement rate would be much higher.

        • Make a mistake, and you just correct that position. But take out a person and you have to rewrite the whole banzuke, or at least the part below him, not just the position for that person. People will move from East to West, people will move between ranks. Gyoji hell.

  9. I’m really happy for Takakeisho, he deserves it. After reading your comments, I gave up hope that they will shift my favourite rikishi Mitakeumi just to West Sekiwake. But what worries me the most is that the bonecrusher would be Sekiwake – still hope they will prefer Myogiryu instead…


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