Who knows when it’s going to be possible to hold the next basho, but at least the rankings chart for it, based on the March results, will be released on schedule on April 27th. Let’s briefly divert ourselves from more weighty matters by speculating how the top-division ranks will be reshuffled.
The top five ranks are pretty much set in stone: East Yokozuna Hakuho, West Yokozuna Kakuryu, East Ozeki Takakeisho, West shin-Ozeki Asanoyama, and East Sekiwake Shodai. The next two ranks, West Sekiwake and East Komusubi, will certainly be occupied by Mitakeumi and Daieisho, in all likelihood in that order. So the real prognostication is for ranks starting at West Komusubi.
I went through my forecasting methodology in the last of these posts. We can divide the rikishi into three lists: those with winning records (kachi-koshi) in the top division, those likely to stay in Makuuchi despite losing records (make-koshi), and those likely to be promoted from Juryo. We first need to establish a pecking order for each list, and then merge the lists.
If we go by rank and record alone, the KK list in order of priority is: Takanosho, Okinoumi, (Yutakayama/Onosho), Takarafuji, (Kagayaki/Kiribayama), Aoiyama, Terutsuyoshi, Ishiura, Chiyotairyu, Ikioi, (Shimanoumi/Kaisei), Kotonowaka, with parentheses indicating ties. Higher up the banzuke, higher rank tends to outweigh extra wins in case of ties, which favors Yutakayama over Onosho. Lower down, it tends to go the other way, likely placing Kiribayama ahead of Kagayaki and Shimanoumi ahead of Kaisei. Also, at the top of the list, Takanosho’s low rank and strength of schedule makes it highly probable that Okinoumi will pass him for the last san’yaku slot, and it’s not out of the question that Yutakayama and even Onosho could end up ahead of him.
The ordered MK list is Endo, Abi, (Hokutofuji/Enho), Ryuden, Tokushoryu, Tamawashi, Tochinoshin, (Myogiryu/Sadanoumi), Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, (Takayasu/Chiyomaru), Nishikigi (assuming he avoids demotion). Hokutofuji’s san’yaku rank should give him the tiebreaker over Enho, and the lenient treatment often afforded those demoted from the named ranks may even place him ahead of Abi. Takayasu should be ranked above Chiyomaru, and could rise even higher—his placement after an 0-5-10 performance at M1 is probably the biggest question mark of the banzuke.
I’m predicting five promotions from Juryo, and I would rank them in the following order: (Wakatakakage/Kotoshoho), (Terunofuji/Kotoeko), Kotoyuki, with Tobizaru just missing out. I would not be surprised if the order ends up being different, and it’s also far from clear where to slot in the second-division men.
Making some reasonable guesses, here’s my predicted down to M9:
I could see different orders among the M1-M2 ranks, Hokutofuji being up to a full rank lower, and some half-rank switches, but otherwise I’m fairly confident down to this point. Here we come to the first tricky placement. By the numbers, the next in line for the M10e slot is Tochinoshin, but with a 6-9 record at M9w, a half-rank-demotion would be extremely generous. This can be solved relatively easily by moving Shimanoumi and Kaisei up past the former Ozeki, and placing him at M11e instead. Myogiryu and Sadanoumi (in either order) then fill the M11w and M12e ranks. And after that?
M12w is a real conundrum. Does Takayasu end up this high with zero wins at M1, when the two previous banzuke saw demotions to Juryo of winless rikishi from M3? Shohozan is the other make-koshi candidate from the upper ranks, but his 4-11 record at M8 also seems to call for a bigger drop. The only remaining kachi-koshi rikishi is Kotonowaka, and 6 ranks is quite a jump for someone who went 9-6 at M18. Or do we slot in the highest of the men promoted from Juryo here, and is that Wakatakakage, Kotoshoho, or even Kotoyuki? And it doesn’t get any easier as we go further down the banzuke. I went with Kotonowaka at M12w, and slotted everyone else in below him, giving preference to Makuuchi incumbents whenever it was a close call. With that, we get the following projection for the lower half of the maegashira ranks:
We’ll find out how the banzuke committee’s rankings differ from my predictions in just about two weeks. In the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments! I hope that everyone in the sumo world, including the writers and readers of this blog, stays safe and healthy, and that we get to see another basho (and the associated reshuffling of the ranks) as soon as it is prudent to hold one.