Long-time readers of Tachiai will know that the yusho is relatively recent concept, and a secondary one to the real purpose of a honbasho—determining the rankings for the next tournament. So, what are the November results likely to mean for the Hatsu basho scheduled for January? The new banzuke will be drawn up on Wednesday, but it won’t be made public (with the exception of promotions to Juryo) until December 24 as an early Christmas present to sumo fans. In the meantime, we can speculate.
A big story of the final day was that every single endangered incumbent—in lower san’yaku, in lower Makuuchi, and in lower Juryo—won. This neatly resolved the division exchange picture, but created a logjam near the top of the banzuke.
The named ranks
Barring any retirements, the Yokozuna ranks won’t change. We should see a slight reshuffle of the Ozeki order, with Shodai (three wins) moving ahead of Asanoyama (one win). The two Sekiwake are also clear: Terunofuji and Takanosho, though the order is up for debate: does the kachi-koshi incumbent move over to the East side, or do Terunofuji’s 5 extra wins allow him to leapfrog Takanosho?
The real action is at Komusubi. Takayasu (8-7) successfully defended his rank. Mitakeumi‘s 7-8 at Sekiwake has been a guarantee of demotion to no lower than Komusubi for the past 27 years. Will this continue to hold in the face of two very strong contenders for promotion, M2w Daieisho (10-5) and M4e Hokutofuji (11-4)? If Mitakeumi were to get bumped, which would get the nod? Could we once again see the creation of one or even two extra Komusubi slots?
The new joi
In addition to the 11 men above, who else will be joining the melee in the top 16? M1w Wakatakakage and M2e Onosho, both 7-8, have done enough to stay in the “meat grinder.” Rising up to join them will be M6e Takarafuji (9-6), M5w Kotoshoho (8-7), and M7e Tochinoshin (9-6). Just outside the top 16, ready to step up in case of withdrawals and same-heya conflicts, will be M6w Tamawashi (8-7), M3w Okinoumi (6-9), and M7w Endo (8-7). His 3 losses in the final 3 days mean that the low maegashira yusho contender du jour Shimanoumi (11-4) will get a sensible promotion to something like M9, instead of being launched all the way up the banzuke.
Final-day victories by Yutakayama and Sadanoumi, coupled with losses by Ishiura and Chiyomaru, made this cut-and-dried—we will have only two exchanges for the first time in over 5 years. Going down are absent Kotoyuki and Enho. Taking their place are J2e Midorifuji (10-5), the Juryo yusho winner, who’ll make his long-awaited top-division debut, and veteran journeyman J1e Akiseyama (9-6). The line between M11e Sadanoumi (5-10) and J3e Ishiura (8-7) is very clear, though the latter may be able to console himself with being at the very top of Juryo next time, where another 8-7 record should guarantee promotion.
Once again, any uncertainties here were resolved by final-day victories by endangered Takagenji and Ikioi. We will see three demotions: absent Abi, Nishikifuji, and winless Fujiazuma (I can’t let Andy forget that he predicted Fujiazuma would go 12-3). We hadn’t seen an 0-15 record since 2005 until Oki “accomplished” this feat in September, and now we get two in consecutive tournaments—thanks, 2020.
The three slots vacated by demotions, plus a 4th opened up by Kotoshogiku’s intai will go to Ms1w Naya (6-1), Makushita yusho winner Ms15w Ryuko (7-0), Ms2e Yago (4-3) and Ms2w Shiraishi (4-3). Naya and Shiraishi are highly touted prospects who’ll be making their sekitori debuts. Missing out despite winning records in the Makushita top 5 promotion zone will be Ms3e Kitaharima (4-3), Ms4e Bushozan (4-3), and Ms5w Kotokuzan (4-3).
Bonus: Makushita joi
The January top 5 promotion zone will include the 3 kachi-koshi holdovers listed above, along with Daishoho, who just missed promotion by going 3-4 at Ms1e. Unusually, none of the three Juryo dropouts will be joining them, as their records are bad enough to drop them deeper into Makushita. Instead, my guess is that the other 6 spots will go to Ms6 Takakento (4-3), Ms8 Tochimaru (4-3), Ms8 Ichiyamamoto (5-2), Ms9 Nakazono (5-2), Ms12 Roga (6-1), and Ms15 Hokutenkai (5-2). The last two have been on our “ones to watch list” for a while, and they faced off head-to-head in their 7th bout, so it will be exciting to see them battle it out for a shot at sekitori promotion.
And here’s a wild-card: Hakuho’s recruit Hokuseiho, who is now 21-0 with three lower-division yusho at just 19, should be ranked in the top 15, with a chance of promotion if he can put up another 7-0, though his first basho at this level is more likely to be a learning experience.
And that’s a wrap. Let me know in the comments if you’re curious about the likely banzuke position of anyone I didn’t discuss, and I’ll do my best to answer.