Well, the official rankings for the Nagoya basho are out, and while the crystal ball fared reasonably well, there are some real head-scratchers among the banzuke committee’s decisions. Let’s take a look at what my predictions got right and wrong.
As expected, there were no surprises in the upper ranks from Sekiwake to Yokozuna, where all eight placements went exactly to form. But just below that, we got our first big surprise, with Ryuden (M5w, 10-5) taking the West Komusubi slot in place of Asanoyama (M8w, 12-3). Not only is Asanoyama’s combination of rank and record clearly superior, but he also won the yusho! Oh, and he defeated Ryuden in their head-to-head meeting on Day 9. Neither man has been ranked in San’yaku in the past, so that can’t have given Ryuden the edge either. Pretty much all of the other forecasts I’ve seen also had Asanoyama at Komusubi, so this decision definitely qualifies as a puzzler. EDIT: Now that the Guess The Banzuke results are posted (your humble prognosticator came in 8th, his best result to date), we have some numbers. Of the 83 players, 74 had Ryuden at M1e, and only 9 had him at West Komusubi. As for Asanoyama, 8 had him at M1e, 1 at M2w (???!!!), 40 at West Komusubi, 28 at East Komusubi, and 6 at West Sekiwake. So the committee’s decision was clearly a surprise to those who try to forecast the banzuke on a regular basis.
And the committee’s work did not get any less puzzling in the upper maegashira ranks (M1w-M4w). It was reasonably clear which seven rikishi should be placed here, but their order was anything but. The committee seems to have pretty much randomly drawn names out of a hat, resulting in two pairs of rikishi who posted identical records at the same rank at Natsu (M2e Endo and M2w Daieisho, both 7-8, and M7e Shodai and M7w Meisei, both 10-5) being placed a full rank apart. Aoiyama got the benefit of the doubt sometimes given to make-koshi San’yaku rikishi, only falling from Komusubi to M2e with a 6-9 record, but Ichinojo did not, falling from East Sekiwake to M4w. Ichinojo’s placement was the only one my forecast got right in the nine ranks from West Komusubi to M4.
The forecast improved significantly from there, placing 18 of 24 rikishi from M5 to M16 at the correct rank, and with only one switch of sides (East vs. West). That switch highlights internal inconsistency in the committee’s decision-making. Both they and my prediction had Myogiryu (M5e, 6-9) and Tomokaze (M9w, 8-7) at M7 and Okinoumi (M4e, 5-10) and Onosho (M10w, 8-7) at M8. But who gets the more prestigious East side? Well, you could go with the higher-ranked rikishi, who faced tougher opposition, or you could give it to the rikishi with the winning record. I went back and forth on this, and ended up going with the former for my predictions. The committee, it appears, simply flipped a coin each time, ranking Myogiryu ahead of Tomokaze but Onosho ahead of Okinoumi.
I never even considered ranking Kotoeko, already ridiculously over-promoted to M11e from M15w, where he eked out an 8-7 kachi-koshi, ahead of Yoshikaze (M6w, 4-11), yet that’s exactly what the committee did. I am also puzzled by how Toyonoshima (J1e, 8-7) ended up all the way at M14e, ahead of both Yago, who had a better numerical claim to the rank and was already in the top division, and Kotoyuki, who posted a better rank-and-record combination in Juryo. Kaisei is also lucky to be ranked at M15w (I had him half-a-rank lower) after managing only 3 wins from M8.
Overall, my forecast had 28 of the 42 rikishi at the correct rank, with all but two of these on the correct side. Of the 14 misses, 5 were by half-a-rank, 6 by one rank, and 3 by a rank-and-a-half. Obviously, the biggest beneficiary of the curious decision-making is Ryuden, at the expense of Asanoyama. And rather than distributing the banzuke luck evenly among the upper maegashira, the committee saddled Shodai and Meisei with all of the bad luck, with most of the benefit accruing to Aoiyama and Endo.