Do you want to know where your favorite rikishi is likely to be ranked for the Natsu basho without waiting for the official announcement on April 30? Never fear, the crystal ball is here. This time, I’ll give you my predicted banzuke right at the start, and then go through some of the biggest moves and uncertainties.
The biggest rise, 10 full ranks, belongs to Shimanoumi, who vaults all the way from Juryo 1 to Maegashira 8. After spending the better part of four years in upper Makushita and lower Juryo, Shimanoumi broke out with two consecutive 13-2 championships in the second division, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in his top-division debut. If my prediction is correct, he will be doing so at the highest rank in about a decade.
Other notable jumps belong to Ichinojo (M4 to Sekiwake), Aoiyama (M7 to Komusubi), Kotoshogiku (M8 to M1), Ryuden (M11 to M5), Yoshikaze (M12 to M6), and Chiyomaru (J1 to M12).
There are some doozies here. As you can see in my Juryo forecast, Chiyonokuni will fall from M12 into the bottom half of the second division, but this is due to injury, not performance. He’ll be joined there by M16 Yutakayama, whose drop is entirely due to performance. And Ikioi, who should have sat out the last tournament, will manage the rare feat of falling all the way from M9 to Juryo, becoming the highest-ranked rikishi to drop to the second division without sitting out since Toyohibiki three years ago.
Staying in Makuuchi but falling from the joi-jin into the bottom half of the division are Kaisei (M1 to M9), Nishikigi (M3 to M9), and Tochiozan (M4 to M12).
Best Banzuke Luck
Good banzuke luck refers to being either under-demoted or over-promoted given one’s rank and record as a consequence of other performances. In my forecast, such good luck is entirely concentrated at the bottom of the banzuke. Tokushoryu and Enho are very fortunate to be promoted from Juryo to Makuuchi at all, much less to be ranked M14, but the losing records by everyone ranked M14-M17 at Haru make it pretty much impossible to do anything else. And among that make-koshi crowd, Ishiura and Chiyoshoma are very lucky to cling to the bottom of the top division, and Terutsuyoshi would be ranked lower except for the fact that there’s no one to move ahead of him.
Worst Banzuke Luck
Actually, no ranking in my forecast is unreasonably harsh. The only rikishi with any right to complain are Onosho and Shohozan, and they only drop half a rank further than they “should.”
Biggest Question Marks
Let’s take it from the top of the banzuke.
- Will Mitakeumi (7-8) get to stay at Komusubi with a half-rank demotion, or will that slot go to Kotoshogiku instead?
- How far will Tamawashi (5-10) fall from West Sekiwake? Based on recent precedent for sanyaku rikishi, I’ve given him the mildest possible demotion, to M2e, but he could easily end up a rank lower.
- How big will Shimanoumi’s promotion be? Ranking him at M8e seems pretty reasonable to me, but anywhere from M7e to M8w wouldn’t surprise me, and the banzuke committee could opt to go even lower.
- How far will Kaisei and Nishikigi fall? I’ve given them relatively lenient demotions because of their places in the joi and the caliber of the opposition they faced, but one could easily argue for placing them a rank lower. The same can be said about Tochiozan, but it’s harder to see who could move ahead of him.
- What will they do with the mess at the bottom of the banzuke? Having four exchanges between Makuuchi and Juryo makes the most sense to me, but anything from two (with Toyonoshima and Ikioi surviving) to five (with Takagenji trading places with Chiyoshoma) is possible. And when it comes to the precise rankings, any solution that avoids promoting someone with a losing record is a victory.
Tune in at the end of the month to find out how the crystal ball did!