What Will the Haru Banzuke Look Like?

With the Hatsu basho in the books, how will the results reshuffle the rankings chart?

The Upper Ranks

Terunofuji will once again be the lone East Yokozuna. As a result of their records at Hatsu, we will have East Ozeki Shodai and West Ozeki Takakeisho. And they’ll be joined by newly elevated West Ozeki 2 Mitakeumi, who, as a shin-Ozeki, will be the lowest-ranked despite putting up by far the best performance of the trio; his placement on the West side is to balance out Terunofuji’s rank (literally balance out, on the physical banzuke).

The San’yaku

We will have two new Sekiwake to replace the promoted Mitakeumi and the demoted Takanosho. The race for these slots came down to the final day, with M6w Abi (12-3) winning to edge ahead of M6e Hoshoryu (11-4) for one spot and M1e Wakatakakage (9-6) defeating M5e Onosho (10-5) head-to-head for the other. I am not sure about the order of Abi vs. Wakatakakage.

Likewise, we will have two new Komusubi to replace Meisei and Daieisho. One will be the aforementioned Takanosho (7-8), whose minimal make-koshi will cushion his fall to one rank. The other should go to either Onosho or Hoshoryu, though I wouldn’t completely rule out M2e Ura (8-7). I’d slightly favor Hoshoryu. Also, I would have thought that Takanosho would end up on the West side, but last basho’s placement of Meisei ahead of Daieisho lowers my confidence in this.

The Upper Maegashira

This is where the banzuke gets really tricky. There are four ranks available at M1-M2, and 5 candidates who by all rights must be ranked there. Since 5 > 4, we have a problem. The quintet consists of West Komusubi Daieisho (7-8), whichever of Onosho and Hoshoryu isn’t ranked at Komusubi, plus Ura, M2w Ichinojo (8-7), and M3e Tamawashi (8-7), all of whom must be promoted after achieving winning records. So who ends up at M3e? The options include not promoting Tamawashi, drastically under-promoting Onosho or Hoshoryu, or ranking Daieisho at M3e, lower than any Komusubi with a 7-8 record has ever ended up. None of these seem very palatable, and yet one must happen, unless the banzuke committee were to solve the maegashira problem by creating an extra Komusubi slot, which they’re not known to do. If anyone has ideas, I’d love to hear them.

After M3e, things settle down for a bit, with K1e Meisei (5-10), M1w Kiribayama (6-9), M3w Endo (7-8), M7w Takarafuji (9-6) and M12e Ishiura (11-4) comfortably filling out the rest of the joi ranks (though probably not in that order). Just below them at M6 should be M14e Kotonowaka (11-4), who’ll probably see the biggest jump in the rankings, and M4w Hokutofuji (6-9). Finally, I assume that M7e Takayasu, who sat out the basho due to virus precautions, will retain his rank, especially as there are no other claimants to it.

The Middle Maegashira

After that, the banzuke is a mess. Nobody really deserves to be ranked at the 5 spots from M7w to M9w, and yet someone has to be. There’s a huge group of rikishi whose ranks and records would normally place them between M11 and M17, so we are bound to see a mix of very lenient demotions and very generous promotions. I won’t try to make sense of it here, but look for a full banzuke prediction post in a few weeks.

Juryo Exchanges

This isn’t very clear-cut either. The two rikishi who will obviously be demoted are the absent M9w Hidenoumi and M17w Kaisei (5-7-3). Four Juryo rikishi did enough to earn a promotion: second-division yusho winner J2w Kotoshoho (11-4), former top-division regulars J2e Nishikigi (9-6) and J1 Kagayaki (8-7), and newcomer J4w Kotokuzan (10-5). But whose places will they take?

Three other Makuuchi incumbents finished with demotable records: M14w Ichiyamamoto (5-10), M16w Tsurugisho (6-9), and M18e Oho (7-8). With enough promotion contenders, all three would find themselves in Juryo in March. That could yet happen, but it would involve bringing up J5w Azumaryu (9-6), whose record at that rank doesn’t really warrant promotion.

It seems like there is no way to keep Oho, as with the M18e rank disappearing after Mitakeumi’s promotion, that would mean moving him to a higher rank despite a losing record. Tsurugisho and Ichiyamamoto have identical demotion cases “by the numbers.” Each lost to Juryo promotion contenders, one on Day 14 and the other on Day 15. I’m really not sure what the banzuke committee will opt to do here, but maybe it is Azumaryu’s lucky day. The Juryo veteran has had a few cups of coffee in the top division before, most recently two years ago. I suppose it could also be a very unlucky day for Kotokuzan.

I think that’s all for now; let me know what you think in the comments.

27 thoughts on “What Will the Haru Banzuke Look Like?

  1. I don’t see Abi getting a sanyaku spot just yet. He’s coming off a 3 basho suspension, and I get the impression he’s not too popular with the sumo elders. I woulld predict he’ll be moved up to M1 and forced to get one more KK before returning to sanyaku.

    • It’ll be interesting to see how much of a role such considerations play, as his rank-record combination is considerably stronger than those of the other contenders, especially if you want to rank 3 of them ahead of him.

  2. I don’t see the point in continuing to punish Abi by not promoting him to where he should be on the banzuke. I think he has to go to sekiwake because there’s already enough of a pile up in the joi without artificially holding back someone for something they’ve supposedly already been punished for.
    Beyond that, this whole banzuke is a nightmare to predict! I think Onosho will be the other komusubi, Hoshoryu for M1e. Do rikishi with an 8-7 HAVE to be promoted as you say, can they not just retain rank like rikishi with 7-8 often do?

  3. I’d be surprised if Hoshoryu got the Komusubi spot ahead of Onosho. True, by the numbers he’s ahead, but surely joi bias wins out here. Maybe not though I’m no expert

  4. I’m totally mystified by the promotions/demotions – my “efforts” are embarrassing compared to the many savants out there. So, this time I decided to see if another factor could explain the decisions.
    I made a sort-of “strength of schedule” – just gave each rank a number (1 at the top, 22 at the bottom [this time]), and just added ’em up for each rikishi.
    Interestingly, Onosho is the winner amongst those competing for sanyaku (I didn’t do Wakatakakage). His strength of schedule is slightly harder than Ichinojo or Ura, despite being 3 spots below, and way harder than Abi or Hoshoryu. In fact, his opponents were, on average, 3 ranks higher PER MATCH than these other two.
    On the basis of that, I say that Onosho will join Wakatakakage at Sekiwake. But, I’m sure I’ll be wrong yet again!

  5. I like the idea of creating a third komusubi slot…which immediately means it’s wrong. But thinking outside the box, what about a third Sekiwake, going to Abi?

    • I don’t think they think outside the box: there are very specific scenarios when an extra sekiwake is added, and none apply here

  6. As for Juryo demotions, with the news that Shiden didn’t participate, I wonder if they will preserve his rank.

  7. I think Tamawashi ends up at M3E. It’s far more palatable than demoting a 7-8K to M3E or only promoting a 11-4 M6E 3 spots, and I find it very unlikely that the committee will open a 3rd K or S spot without a really pressing reason. They’ve become super stingy recently(Abi not getting Sekiwake even going 9-6 twice from Komusubi, Daieisho going 13-2(!) from M1 and only getting a 3rd Komusubi instead of a 3rd Sekiwake) and having a 3rd Komusubi just to ease congestion at upper Maegashira would seem wildly out of character. It’s not the end of a world if someone doesn’t get promoted with a 8-7.

    I’m a huge Mitakeumi fan and I’m glad he got promoted, but man would life have been so much more exciting if he had lost to Teru. Not only would we have seen a 3-way playoff, but imagine drawing up the Banzuke with Mitakeumi still at Sekiwake. Who on earth do you put at M3E/M3W then?

    • On the other hand, all past instances of 7-8 K1W have gone exactly where they needed to go, below all other KK joi members. So I wouldn’t rule out putting Daieisho at M3W simply to push the rest of the 8-7s one rank up where they should be. Either that, or less likely, one of the 8-7s gets shafted, but that’s quite unfair when they’re all in close proximity. Daieisho has also been on the butt-end of crap banzuke luck, only getting komusubi for his yusho, so it’s at least thematic.

      The Abi case was because he was repeatedly blocked by Asanoyama (who leapfrogged him from K2), Mitakeumi (who’s permanently hogging one sekiwake slot) and falling ozeki (who take up the other by priority), and it’s clear that you need a 11-4 or better to force a third sekiwake slot if one is not otherwise available. He was admittedly quite unlucky, but his non-promotion is not a case of the NSK being stingy.

      And while I agree they’re unlikely to create a third komusubi, I think the reasons for that are slightly different: a K2E makes the bottom of the banzuke even worse, as there’s already a huge amount of banzuke luck going round thanks to the void around M10 and down. No need to compound the problem for yourself when you don’t need to.

      • The choices for M7w and below are already terrible; having to pop one of them up to M6w (and move others up a spot) would be another level.

  8. Tbh I think the sanyaku spots in question could go to Ura and Ichinojo. This banzuke committee has shown leniency to the joi, including underdemoting them. I mean, Ichinojo went from K to M2 with a 5-10 last time. So in their eyes, a 8-7 at M2 might look more important than 12-3 at M6. Then again, they had both Ura and Ichinojo fight lower maegashira for kachi-koshi. This will be the toughest one to predict yet. One thing for sure, they are not opening any additional slots, because the lower part is already a mess and they will have to overpromote people with 8-7 records from the bottom of the banzuke.

  9. I didn’t know about the need to balance the banzuke, I’d assumed Mitakeumi would be on the east side like Oho this time (I was struck by the imbalance of having both Terunofuji and Oho on the same side on the picture banzuke).

    Looking at Haru 2014 (3 Ozeki, 3 Sekiwake), Haru 2021 (3 Ozeki, 3 Komusubi) and other similar cases it seems this balancing act continues right down the san’yaku.

    Nagoya 2004 is an interesting case where there were odd numbers of Yokozuna, Ozeki, and Sekiwake. In that case the odd Ozeki was on the east and the odd Sekiwake went to the west.

  10. It has to be Daieisho on Me3 or I‘ll never want to read „darwinistic“ and „make-kochi“ in the same sentence again!


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