The 2021 Hatsu basho is in the books, and all the kensho has been handed out. How will the results reshuffle the rankings for the Haru basho? As usual, I’ll have a full banzuke prediction posted once I’ve had more time for analysis, but here’s an early look at the key points. Note: I’m assuming that the rikishi who had to sit out the tournament due to COVID will have their ranks frozen, following the Tamanoi beya precedent from September. This actually helps to create a sensible Makuuchi banzuke, but creates major problems in Juryo.
The named ranks
With both Yokozuna absent, nothing will change at the top of the rankings. Barring retirement, we will have Hakuho on the East side and Kakuryu on the West for the 6th straight tournament. The Ozeki ranks will see a reshuffle, with Shodai and Asanoyama, both 11-4, occupying O1 East and West, respectively, and newly kadoban Takakeisho falling to O2e.
All the incumbents in lower san’yaku—S1e Terunofuji, S1w Takanosho, K1e Takayasu, and K1w Mitakeumi—are kachi-koshi, and all have 9 wins, with the exception of Terunofuji’s 11, which means that they will keep their ranks. I’m going to guess that Daieisho (13-2) will vault all the way to Sekiwake, creating an extra slot (he has unquestionably done enough to force a san’yaku promotion this time, after a very unlucky miss following the previous tournament). And with 24 wins in his last two basho, Terunofuji is officially on an Ozeki run and can re-ascend to sumo’s second-highest rank with another double-digit performance in March.
That’s a lot of wins (73, to be exact) soaked up by just 7 rikishi, and in a zero-sum game, the reverberations will be felt further down the banzuke.
It was feast or famine in this part of the banzuke. Daieisho aside, M2e Takarafuji and M3w Onosho recorded nine wins apiece, while everyone else was make-koshi. Takarafuji and Onosho will occupy the top maegashira rank, and Hokutofuji, with his minimal 7-8 make-koshi, will fall one rank to M2e. “Frozen” Wakatakakage conveniently occupies M2w, but filling the next few ranks isn’t easy. M5e Endo and M5w Okinoumi, both 7-8, can be placed no higher than their current rank, everyone else in the joi will fall even lower, and there’s not much help from the ranks immediately below them. This means bringing up kachi-koshi rikishi from lower down the rankings way up the banzuke. I have M7e Meisei, M8w Kiribayama and M9w Myogiryu, all 8-7, and M10e Shimanoumi, 9-6, all jumping up 4-6 full ranks, much more than their records would typically warrant.
With a 10-man san’yaku, the M17e rank will disappear, and its current occupant, Sadanoumi (5-10), will be heading down. I’m quite confident that he’ll be joined by M13e Akua (5-10). Beyond that, things get a little muddy. We have two clear promotion candidates—the yusho winner, J8e Tsurugisho (12-3), and Tobizaru’s big brother, J6w Hidenoumi (11-4), who hasn’t been in the top division since March 2018. We also have J1w Daiamami (8-7), who should be promoted, and with Ishiura “frozen” at J1e, there’s nowhere to put him except Makuuchi. I think this means that M8e Tokushoryu (3-12) will have to make room and fall to the second division a year after his triumph.
There are two other men in this conversation: J8w Daishomaru (11-4), who handed Tokushoryu his coup de grâce, and M15e Yutakayama (7-8), who could not pick up his 8th win on senshuraku and left his fate in the hands of the banzuke committee. I believe that the incumbent will just hang on, but this is a close call.
I’ll end this here, and cover what I think will happen in Juryo and upper Makushita after the new Juryo promotions are announced on Wednesday (it’s the only part of the banzuke we get to see early). Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think in the comments!