Looking Toward the Natsu Banzuke

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!).

Upper maegashira

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.

Makuuchi-Juryo exchanges

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!

17 thoughts on “Looking Toward the Natsu Banzuke

  1. Abi won the Makushita yusho (he was the only 7-0 in the division) at M56. Obviously at that low rank he won’t get out of Makushita despite the yusho, but where do you think he’ll be come Natsu?

      • He could be right alongside Hokuseiho, which would make for a very interesting start to the basho. I expect Abi to yusho again, but he will have a more challenging schedule.

  2. ma boule de cristal:
    Y1e Hakuho
    O1e Asanoyama
    O1w Takakeisho
    O2e Shodai
    O2w Terunofuji
    S1e Takanosho
    S1w Takayasu
    K1e Mitakeumi
    K1w Daieisho
    M1e Wakatakakage
    M1w Meisei
    M2e Hokutofuji
    M2w Tobizaru
    M3e Aoiyama
    M3w Chiyonokuni
    M4e Hoshoryu
    M4w Kiribayama
    M5e Myogiryu
    M5w Onosho
    M6e Takarafuji
    M6w Endo
    M7e Ichinojo
    M7w Tochinoshin
    M8e Hidenoumi
    M8w Shimanoumi
    M9e Kagayaki
    M9w Tamawashi
    M10e Kotonowaka
    M10w Tsurugisho
    M11e Terutsuyoshi
    M11w Chiyoshoma
    M12e Kotoeko
    M12w Akiseyama
    M13e Ryuden
    M13w Chiyotairyu
    M14e Okinoumi
    M14w Midorifuji
    M15e Kaisei
    M15w Daiamami
    M16e Ishiura
    M16w Chiyomaru
    M17e Akua
    J1e Enho
    J1w Ura
    J2e Tokushoryu
    J2w Chiyonoo
    J3e Hakuyozan
    J3w Azumaryu
    J4e Takagenji
    J4w Daishomaru
    J5e Yutakayama
    J5w Shohozan
    J6e Sadanoumi
    J6w Jokoryu
    J7e Kyokushuho
    J7w Wakamotoharu
    J8e Kyokutaisei
    J8w Kotoshoho
    J9e Ichiyamamoto
    J9w Churanoumi
    J10e Chiyootori
    J10w Mitoryu
    J11e Tohakuryu
    J11w Takakento
    J12e Chiyonoumi
    J12w Nishikifuji
    J13e Daishoho
    J13w Nishikigi
    J14e Bushozan
    J14w Oho

  3. Happy I get to see Ishiura back where he belongs, let’s hope he makes it stick this time, when he is on he is tremendously entertaining to watch, plus the henkas are always fun. Looking like an 80’s action flick henchman helps too.

  4. We haven’t had Yokozuna over the last few basho but lower sanyaku has been really very strong and at least two of the three Ozeki were always performing at the appropriate level. This has made the last four tournaments quite exciting to watch. I have the impression that the skill at the top is quite high even though the absolute “top level” skill is missing due to the absence of Yokozuna. Compared to a few years ago I would say lower sanyaku+ozeki are better now. My guess is that the next few basho winners will come from the current lower sanyaku+ozeki crowd.

    • It’s clear that a lot of the top rikishi are all very close in strength, which makes it really hard for the best ones to stand out, but the ones at the top of the banzuke generally do beat up on everyone else enough such that they stay there and kick out the Shimanoumi-types who lucky into promotions into the danger zone.

  5. I don’t know whether it compounds a felony to nudge the M4 MK pair one half rank down to make it neater to promote both Chiyonokuni and Hoshoryu, otherwise only one of them makes it up when they’re for all intents and purposes equal in rank and result. It’s the least of bad options compared to underdemoting a double-digit MK howler at M1 or bumping a mere 10-5 M15 12 ranks up.

    • I agree that because they are basically forced to push up Chiyonokuni before they can place down those 7-8s, for fairness sake they may move up Hoshoryu just as much since the 7-8s really don’t look too bad moved down one rank, while Hoshoryu multiple ranks away from Chiynokuni looks kinda bad. There was one time in the past where they were faced with a similar decision where they split the difference, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if Hoshoryu ended up between Myogiryu and Kiribayama.

  6. I am thinking very much along the same lines as lksumo. There really is no good solution to M3w, as everyone you can put there looks wrong. My first draft had Hidenoumi in there but there was no way I could countenance that so I currently have Chiyonokuni there. It still looks wrong but I can live with that, If only you could promote MKs, Kiribayama looks a much more natural M3 that any of the current options.

  7. maybe some clever person could come up with a ‘quality of victories’ algorithm to factor in the relative ranks and results of one’s opponents and things like fusen sho wins.

  8. Thanks for the insights.
    I have a question and can’t find an answer…if Hakuho retires, before any other rikishi becomes a yokozuna, could a yokozunaless banzuke /tournament exist? Has this happened before through the years?

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