Wrapping Up the Hatsu Storylines

Image courtesy of Nippon Sports

The Yusho Race

Congratulations to Sekiwake Tamawashi on his first career yusho! With a 13-2 championship following a 9-6 record at M2 in Kyushu, will the long-time sumo veteran be considered for an Ozeki promotion in March, and if so, what is his target number of wins? After today’s non-promotion decision (see below), who knows!

Kadoban Watch

After slow starts, Takayasu and Goeido rebounded with creditable 9-6 final records, and will once again be ranked O1e and O1w in Osaka. Injured Tochinoshin (0-5-10) will be kadoban at Haru, needing 8 wins to retain his Ozeki rank. The good news? He should finally be “promoted” from O2w to O2e after Kisenosato’s retirement removed the need to balance the banuke.

Takakeisho’s Ozeki Run

Today we learned that 33 wins in three basho while ranked in sanyaku isn’t always enough. There have been 38 prior instances of such performances in the six-basho era (since 1958), and 35 of them led to Ozeki promotion. Of the three exceptions, two overlapping ones involved Miyabiyama in 2006, and he is a special case, as he was trying to get re-promoted to Ozeki after being demoted from the rank 5 years earlier. The other instance was Baruto in 2009-2010, who was denied promotion after going K1e 12-3, S1e 9-6, S1e 12-3 with a jun-yusho. He responded by ensuring that he wouldn’t be overlooked again with a 14-1 jun-yusho in the March tournament. Can Takakeisho similarly force the issue in Osaka? By the way, Kisenosato’s retirement now means that there will be one fewer named rank on the next banzuke. Because the total number of Makuuchi rikishi is fixed at 42, there has to be one more maegashira slot, so 17e will reappear.

The Sanyaku

The two Sekiwake will retain their ranks at Haru. The only question is whether they will switch sides. As is often the case, the banzuke committee decisions make for confusing precedents. They used to regularly reshuffle the Sekiwake ranks based on their records in the most recent basho, just as they still do with the Yokozuna and Ozeki. But then the practice appeared to stop. For instance, after the 2017 March tournament, 8-7 S1e Tamawashi stayed on the East side, despite S1w Takayasu finishing 12-3. However, after winning the 2018 Nagoya basho, S1w Mitakeumi (13-2) was moved ahead of S1e Ichinojo (8-7). What made the difference? The extra victory, the yusho, or something else? If it was the yusho, we could see Takakeisho move down to S1w instead of up to the anticipated O2w.

The ripple effects of Takakeisho’s non-promotion include Mitakeumi moving over to East Komusubi, rather than up to West Sekiwake, and only one Komusubi slot opening up. Conveniently, there is only one strong promotion candidate: M2 Hokutofuji (9-6), who was the only rikishi of the ten ranked between M1 and M5 to finish with more wins than losses, and who will finally make his sanyaku debut after missing out despite going 11-4 at M3 in Kyushu in 2017.

Without a second open sanyaku slot, Kaisei will have to content himself with being the top maegashira. After that, the upper maegashira ranks are a mess. The next 10 spots on the banzuke will have to be filled with a mix of rikishi from the upper ranks who won’t be demoted far despite posting losing records, and those from down the banzuke who’ll receive overly generous promotions. The former group includes K1e Myogiryu (5-10), M1e Tochiozan (6-9), M1w Ichinojo (6-9), M2e Nishikigi (7-8), M3e Shodai (7-8), and M4w Okinoumi (7-8). The latter consists of M7w Daieisho (9-6), M9w Endo (10-5), M6e Chiyotairyu (8-7), and M6w Onosho (8-7). I’ll do my best to sort out their order in my upcoming regular banzuke prediction post.

The 7-7 Club

Half of this group succeeded in picking up their kachi-koshi, while the others lost to drop to make-koshi. Winning on the final day were M12 Meisei and M8 Asanoyama, while M15 Kotoeko and M5 Aoiyama ended the tournament on a down note.

Makuuchi Turnover

The five clear open slots—vacated by Daishomaru, Daiamami, and Kotoyuki’s demotions and Kisenosato and Takanoiwa’s retirements—are spoken for by Tomokaze and Daishoho, who clinched promotion with final-day victories, and Terutsuyoshi, Ishiura, and Toyonoshima, who dropped their final matches, but had already done just enough (in fact, Terutsuyoshi lost on four straight days after securing his kachi-koshi, while Ishiura closed the tournament with three straight losses). It will be exciting to see at least three Makuuchi debuts—the most since there were four in May of 2013.

Kagayaki defeated Yutakayama to become the last man in the top division to reach safety. That leaves the 6-9 M14 duo of Yutakayama and Chiyoshoma on the bubble. In the Juryo bout matching two promotion contenders, yusho winner Shimanoumi prevailed over Chiyomaru, likely eliminating the latter from consideration. Will Shimanoumi’s 13-2 record from all the way down at J11 be good enough to ensure a Makuuchi debut and force down Chiyoshoma? I’d say yes, but it’ll be a close call—after the last two basho, rikishi with 6-9 records at M14w just hung on to the final rung of the top-division ladder. They could also drop Yutakayama in favor of Chiyomaru, but this seems less likely.

29 thoughts on “Wrapping Up the Hatsu Storylines

  1. As always, Iksumo does a wonderful job of making sense out of the last 15 days. I’m constantly amazed how all the posters can illuminate and simplify things so that even a moron like me can understand. Thank you again for that. I tend to be remiss about showing my appreciation for all their hard work. All I can say for March is how much I hope and pray that the two Yokozuna return healthy and ready to dominate. I do not want to see Goeido and/or Takayasu fighting Kaisei and/or Hokutofuji in the final bout of the day. I really seem to need Yokozuma. When Hakuho got hurt, all the air went out of those final days’ bouts for me. I’m happy for Tamawashi, but I really needed to see him beat a healthy Yokozuna.

      • Jokoryu should be the only demotion, plus the 3 sekitori retirements open up 4 slots. After today’s results, they should pretty clearly go to Ms1 Daiseido (4-3), Ms1 Kiribayama (4-3), Ms3 Takanofuji (5-2) and Ms3 Wakamotoharu (7-0 Y).

        • Agreed. the only remote chance for a different outcome would be, if Irodori was moved ahead of either Kiribayama or Takanofuji, but I think thats an outside chance. Last time someone from Ms6 got promoted with 6 wins was Ishiura in 2015 and the last time before that was 2004. Happened relatively frequently before 1990 thought;)

  2. I’m curious if the promotion picture turns out the way you guess. I think there are only two safe bets (Terutsuyoshi, albeit a really dissapointing finish) and Tomokaze. Among Daishoho, Ishiura and Toyonoshima, either could be the odd man out in favor of Shimanoumi (Tomokaze went up 10.5 ranks last time with one win less). The easy solution would be to send Chiyoshoma down too and have 6 promotees 😉

      • Well, looking at your query, from 2007 on in 5 cases (some from J12) only Tochinoshin didn’t get promoted to Makuuchi. No idea what the thinking behind Tochinoshin was (he only got up to J5). I can understand him not getting promoted with only 3 demotions and a 9-6 at J1 and 13-2 resp. 12-3 for both J3. All other went up, two times as high as M13e, once even from J12. That query rather backs up the case for Shimanoumi I think.

        • The thing is, the other three also have rank and record combos that usually though not always lead to promotion. I guess Toyonoshima would be the most likely to miss out, as the lowest-ranked of the trio, but there could be a “sentimental favorite” thing with him. Like you said, easiest to demote Chiyoshoma, and I would have been more confident in that outcome before the last two banzuke decisions.

  3. Was there a meeting where they decided that Sekiwake and Komusubi were no more than 2? My understanding is there is no reason they cannot make Kaisei K2…I don’t think they will, but, as recently as 2006 we had three komusubi.

    • It takes a very strong promotion case to “force” an extra slot—like 10-5 from M1 for komusubi. Hokutofuji didn’t get an extra slot when he went 11-4 at M3, so 10-5 from M8 is not even close.

  4. 3 Oguruma boys for March, that would make Takekaze proud – Yoshikaze (still hands un there), Yago and now Tomokaze WOO HOO

  5. The committee must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when Hokutofuji got his 8th win against Nishikigi on day 14. If he hadn’t got his KK they would have had to reach way down the banzuke to fill the komusubi spot. It turned out to be a pretty good basho for Mongolia. Apart from Tamawashi we have likely promotions for Daishoho and Kirbayama and a jonokuchi yusho for Roga.

    • Kyokusoten managed his third consecutive kachi-koshi – this hasn’t happened to him since 2015. I hope he gets inspired by his yusho-winning brother-in-law and stick to it.

      Yoshoyama also managed a third consecutive kachi-koshi, and will continue his slow climb up Sandanme.

      Hoshoryu, of course, has yet to post a make-koshi. With 5-2 he has a good chance landing in the “top 10” (actually top 20) of Makushita.

      Daitenma, the other Mongolian newcomer, also posted a decent 5-2 this basho.

      However, this wasn’t a good basho for all Mongolians. Ichinojo, Chiyoshoma, Arawashi, Azumaryu, Mitoryu… Not even talking about Kakuryu or… Terunofuji 😭…

    • Yes. Hokutofuji’s KK plus the Nozeki promotion sure simplifies Sanyaku. The can re-direct brain power to sorting out the M-Joi.

    • Though Kaisei, having been komusubi just one basho ago and dropping to M8 due to injury, would have been a fine candidate.

      • One of my favorite funny moments this basho was Day 14. The look on Yago’s face and the shake of his head after Kaisei lifted him over the straw. Seemed to say “Man, that guy is big.”

    • Well, if Hokutofuji hadn’t gotten that 8th win against Nishikigi on day 14, then Nishikigi would have a KK and be the one getting promoted. 🙂

  6. A little sad Takakeisho didn’t get his ozeki promotion, especially as he had a yusho in those 33 wins. He had some good wins in there too. Hopefully he can use his usual fighting spirit to push on, and register another strong tournament at Haru.

    Congrats to Tamawashi – winning your first yusho and your wife giving birth to your second child is a truly incredible moment. Tamawashi fought well, has been consistently around the sanyaku for a while, and seems like a really nice guy. Happy for him!

  7. I only mention this here because I couldn’t find a webmaster link.

    I usually can vote comments up or down, and rate articles with stars. These features are not appearing.

    Any idea why this is so? Is it just me?

    And maybe put a webmaster link in one of the pulldown menus?

  8. In a comment to Jason’s January wrap up, I asked:
    33 wins plus a Yusho victory? I wonder how many other times that’s occurred without a promotion?
    This great post seems to answer the question with a “NONE”. The three instances you cite don’t involve a Yusho win. Baruto won his yusho after he was an ozeki and Miyabiyama never won a yusho.

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