How is the schedule of daily bouts decided? Sumo fans often think that the scheduling is narrative-driven, with the torikumi committee trying to achieve specific outcomes or arrange exciting matchups. While this can be true late in a tournament, much of the scheduling is largely algorithmic, and this is especially true for the first week to ten days, as well as higher up the banzuke. In this post, I’ll look at what should be the first-day schedule barring withdrawals, what the slightly trickier second-day schedule might look like, as well as what the Yokozuna’s fight card is likely to be for the entire tournament.
Terunofuji’s Fight Card
With eight men in the named ranks, and 27 available bouts between them (since Takakeisho can’t face Takanosho), the tournament will start with one intra-san’yaku bout per day. Traditionally, the highest-ranked rikishi’s schedule starts with the lowest-ranked Komusubi, so Terunofuji will open against Hoshoryu. He will then face rank-and-filers in order of rank through day 9, when he returns to facing the rest of his san’yaku opponents in reverse rank order. So on day 2, we should see the Yokozuna matched with Daieisho, followed by Ura, Ichinojo, Tamawashi, Onosho, Meisei, Kiribayama, and Endo. Starting with day 10, his last six opponents should be Takanosho, Abi, Wakatakakage, Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, and Shodai. Obviously, withdrawals in the top 16 ranks would force alterations to this schedule, and, as we’ve seen in recent tournaments, so can particularly poor performances, causing an opponent to be skipped later in the tournament, as can yusho challenges from lower down the banzuke.
Day One Torikumi
After the Yokozuna, we start with the next-highest san’yaku rikishi and assign him the highest available rank-and-file opponent. So the rest of the san’yaku bouts should be as follows:
- Shodai vs. Daieisho
- Takakeisho vs. Ura
- Mitakeumi vs. Ichinojo
- Wakatakakage vs. Tamawashi
- Abi vs. Onosho
- Takanosho vs. Meisei
Some exciting matchups to kick things off! Having taken care of the top 16, we simply pair up the remaining rikishi in rank order, starting with M4e Kiribayma vs. M4w Endo and continuing with East-West pairings straight down the banzuke. The only fly in this ointment is the concentration of three Chiyos at M12w-M13w, so presumably Chiyomaru and Chiyonokuni will face the M14 duo of Kotoshoho and Yutakayama instead.
Day Two Torikumi
The principle here is the same, with a few wrinkles. First, the order of the three Ozeki rotates each day, as does the order of East-West rikishi. Second, we start having to work around disallowed same-heya pairings among the upper ranks. After the Terunofuji-Daieisho pairing, it should be the second-ranked Ozeki, Takakeisho, facing the other Komusubi, Takanosho, but they’re in the same heya. I haven’t looked closely at whether Shodai or Mitakeumi should get the intra-san’yaku bout instead, but let’s say it’s Mitakeumi vs. Takanosho. Then we’re likely to get Takakeisho vs. Ichinojo and Shodai vs. Ura. Wakatakakage gets Onosho, and Abi fights Tamawashi. Hoshoryu should face Meisei, but this is another same-heya situation, so we go on to Kiribayama as Hoshoryu’s next possible opponent. This should be followed by Meisei vs. Endo, etc.
I hope this post demystifies how the daily schedule gets put together. I may update it if any rikishi of note withdraw, and I will keep an eye on the torikumi throughout the basho. Please leave any thoughts and questions you may have in the comments.