The 2021 Haru basho is in the books, and all the prizes have been handed out. How will the results reshuffle the rankings for the Natsu 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.
The named ranks
Barring any unexpected further intai news, we will have Hakuho as the sole Yokozuna. The Ozeki ranks will see a reshuffle, with Asanoyama and Takakeisho, both 10-5, moving up to O1 East and West, respectively, newly kadoban Shodai falling to O2e, and re-promoted Terunofuji “debuting” at O2w.
All the other incumbents in lower san’yaku—S1w Takanosho, K1e Takayasu, K1w Mitakeumi, and K2w Daieisho are kachi-koshi. I think they’ll move up in tandem to S1e, S1w, K1e, and K1w, although there is a chance that Takayasu could leapfrog Takanosho (now there’s an image!).
Similar to the situation last time, we had three high-performing upper maegashira—M2e Hokutofuji (9-6), M2w Wakatakakage (10-5) and M3e Meisei (10-5), who would all deserve a san’yaku slot if any were available. The other upper maegashira all put up losing records that ranged from borderline to disastrous, and we have to go all the way down to M8w Tobizaru (10-5) to find the next winning record. This makes filling out this part of the banzuke a real challenge.
I think the least unfair way to accomodate the top trio is to place Wakatakakage at M1e (obviously), and then bump up Hokutofuji a measly half-a-rank to M1w, leaving Meisei, who really should be ahead of him, to settle for M2e. Tobizaru is then a lock for M2w, and remarkably, the surprise jun-yusho winner, M12w Aoiyama (11-4), is the best (and really only) candidate for M3e. What to do with M3w though? Here are your options, ladies and gentlemen: M9e Chiyonokuni, with 8 wins, M15w (!!!) Hidenoumi with 10, or M1w Onosho with his sterling 4-11 record. No, seriously, those are the best-placed rikishi, assuming they don’t promote someone with a losing record. Take your pick between a 5-rank over-promotion, a 7-rank over-promotion, or a 5-rank under-demotion.
Leaving the 7-8 M4 duo of Kiribayama and Myogiryu in place stops the bleeding a bit, but the choices for M5e, M5w, and M6e don’t look so hot either. After that, it’s two more 7-8 rikishi keeping their ranks—M6w Ichinojo and M7e Tochinoshin—and then the rankings return to some semblance of normalcy. And let’s not even think about what would need to happen if an extra Komusubi slot were created for Wakatakakage.
With a 9-man san’yaku, the M17e rank will reappear. And the exchanges should be pretty straightforward. Everyone in the top division finished with records that easily warrant a return, with the exception of M11 Kotoshoho (one win) and M15 Yutakayama (4-11). Those two demotions, plus Kakuryu’s retirement, open up three slots, and there are three clear promotion candidates: J2e Ishiura (9-6), J3e Chiyomaru (9-6), and J1w Akua (8-7). For the second basho in a row, no one will make a Makuuchi debut; before this March, we’ve had a newcomer in every tournament since Kyushu 2018. Just missing out on a return is M4e Enho (9-6), who will try again from the top spot in Juryo, where even 8 wins will be enough.
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!