Looking Ahead to the May Banzuke

With an incredibly exciting Haru basho in the books, let’s take our bimonthly look at how the results will shuffle the rankings for Natsu.

Yokozuna and Ozeki

Our sole Yokozuna Terunofuji will maintain his Y1e position at the top of the rankings, and I hope that we will see him in fighting trim. O2w Mitakeumi had an excellent debut at the rank, and his 11 wins will see him jump to O1e. Who would have thought that O1e Shodai, who started 1-5, would end up with a better record (9-6) than O1w Takakeisho (8-7), who started 8-3? Both cleared kadoban, with Takakeisho dropping his final four bouts after picking up that crucial 8th win and Shodai going 8-1 after his rough start and “making his presence felt” in the yusho race. As a consequence, Shodai will be ranked O1w, while Takakeisho will occupy O2w.


After his breakthrough performance, S1e Wakatakakage (12-3) will continue at his current rank (and aim higher). S1w Abi (8-7) defeated runner-up Takayasu on senshuraku to defend his rank.


K1e Takanosho (4-11) will be fighting in the maegashira ranks in May. K1w Hoshoryu (8-7) beat Kotonowaka on senshuraku to defend his rank, and he will move over to the East side. So we have one open slot at K1w. Who gets it?

The contenders are M7e Takayasu (12-3), M2e Ichinojo (9-6), M4e Kiribayama (10-5), M6w Kotonowaka (11-3), and M1e Daieisho (8-7). Although Daieisho has the worst case “by the numbers”, it’s close enough that he should take the slot by virtue of his status as the top maegashira. I don’t think any of the other performances are strong enough to force extra Komusubi slots, so the rest of this group will have to settle for occupying the M1-M2 ranks.

Upper Maegashira

The ranks from Ms3e to M6e will be filled by a mix of rising and falling rikishi. Joining the group that can expect to see some san’yaku bouts are M9e Tobizaru and M9w Wakamotoharu, both 9-6. Staying in these ranks but moving up are M4w Endo (8-7) and M6e Hokutofuji (9-6). Dropping, but not too far, are K1e Takanosho (4-11), M2w Tamawashi (7-8) and M3e Onosho (6-9).

Biggest Banzuke Moves

Two rikishi finished Haru with fewer than 3 wins: M3w Meisei (1-14) and M5w Ishiura (2-7-6). Unsurprisingly, the pair should see the biggest falls; my first draft has them tumbling 9-10 ranks. The other banzuke movements should be a lot less extreme, with something like a 5-rank drop for Ura and similar rises by Takayasu and perhaps Tochinoshin being the most dramatic.

Makuuchi/Juryo Exchanges

We ended up with a clear captain for the Juryo barge: M15e Akua (4-11). Three rikishi have final records that are just short of safety: M17e Kagayaki (7-8) and the M13 duo of Chiyonokuni (5-6-4) and Chiyomaru (5-10).

Meanwhile, down in Juryo, there are two very clear promotions—the J1 duo of Oho and Azumaryu, both 10-5. Runner-up Midorifuji (12-3) has a strong promotion case, while J2w Hidenoumi (8-7) and the champion, J13e Ryuden (13-2), finished a win short. I think that Chiyonokuni and Kagayaki will go down along with Akua to make room for Oho, Azumaryu and Midorifuji, while Chiyomaru will just survive by virtue of being half a rank above Chiyonokuni.

Juryo/Makushita Exchanges

There are two clear demotions, and two clear promotions to the salaried ranks. J14w Kotoyusho (4-11) should have gone down last time, and will now do so for sure, as will J12e Hakuyozan (4-11) after two straight years in Juryo. Taking their place will be the last man to be demoted last time, Ms1e Chiyoarashi (4-3), and Ms1w Tochimaru (4-3), who was unfairly denied last time in favor of keeping Kotoyusho and will finally make his sekitori debut after missing out on promotion with winning records in the Ms1-Ms5 ranks on five occasions.

The other demotion candidates are J10w Churanoumi (5-10) and J14e Takakento (7-8). I think the former will be exchanged with last basho’s winner Ms3e Nishikawa (4-3), while the latter will probably get to stay over promotion candidates Ms4e Tsushimanada (4-3) and Ms5w Hokuseiho (5-2). I suppose Ms6e Chiyonoumi (6-1) deserves a mention, but as he is ranked just below Ms5, his only realistic promotion route was to take the yusho, which he lost to Ms34 Kinbozan (7-0), who himself will be vying for promotion in May.

And that’s a wrap. As usual, I’ll post a full banzuke prediction closer to its official release on April 25, and we’ll learn about promotions to Juryo in a couple of days. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

30 thoughts on “Looking Ahead to the May Banzuke

  1. When you bring up cases like Tochimaru, I wonder what the decision-making process is with that, and if there are ever “silent” discipline-related punishments or horse-trading with stables.

    • Based on some of the comments on the sumo forum, things like that do happen occasionally, though his case is readily explainable by bad banzuke luck I think.

    • So I looked up the 5 times he KKd from Ms1-5. His biggest problem is that all 5 of those MKs were 4-3s.

      Kyushu 2016: not promoted with 4-3 from Ms4w, 4-3 from Ms4e also not promoted

      Hatsu 2021: not promoted with 4-3 from Ms5e, 4-3 from Ms4w also not promoted

      Haru 2021: not promoted with 4-3 from Ms4e, 4-3 from Ms3e also not promoted

      Natsu 2021: not promoted with 4-3 from Ms2e, but there were literally no other demotion candidates from Juryo(next up would have been 6-9 from J7 which is nowhere near demotable), and the guys who went up ahead of him were 7-0 from Ms7(must go up), 6-1 from Ms2w, 4-3 from Ms1w, and 5-2 from Ms1e.

      The first time he had a legitimate grievance was last basho, when every other KK from Ms1-5 went up, but he didn’t even though Kotoyusho should have gone down.

  2. Why do they use O2W rank, keeping O2E empty?
    And if they push Takakeisho to O2W, is it not like demotion after kachi koshi?

    • To balance out the Y1e rank on the physical banzuke. And they always switch the yokozuna/ozeki order based on performance in the most recent basho; this is the one exception to the usual “no demotion” rule.

  3. If Wakatakakage were to get another score of 12 in the May basho, do you think they would promote hm to Ozeki? By the numbers that would be 33 in 3 tournaments – O.K. the initial 9 was not from sanyaku, but M1 is pretty close.
    My uninformed hunch is that 12 might not be enough…

    • Absolutely not; only wins at K and S count. 12-3 is a great start but he still needs two more 10+ tournaments. However, a July tournament win would definitely help him though if he turns up 1 win short in May, for example.

      • You are wrong! There have been multiple Ozeki promotions with the run starting in the m3 to m1 range. For example, Asashio, Futahaguro, Terunofuji (2015), Yutakayama, & Kaiketsu (1976) all come to mind.

        • Actually, looking at the DB Kaiketsu’s second promotion started at M4. So, one can conclude that if the quality of sumo is good a run can start in the Joi-Jin ranks.

    • totally Ozeki “material” no doubt, in fact on the top Ozeki class in my view. unfortunate i dont see any Yokozuna class tho, not since Harumafuji i am not pleased with other recent ones.

    • If Wakatakakage wins a second yusho in a row I am absolutely confident that they will promote him to Ozeki despite only two contests at Sekiwake. Yes, the Tochinoshin precedent does apply.

  4. “only wins at K and S count”
    There definitely are exceptions to this rule. E.g. Tochinoshin’s Ozeki run started with 14 wins at M3. I’m sure there are a few other examples…

    • There’s a massive difference between 14 wins and a yusho against 9 wins, no prizes and no yusho. I don’t think it will be counted at all.

      • “There’s a massive difference between 14 wins and a yusho against 9 wins, no prizes and no yusho.”
        Sure, I totally agree. But that is a different claim from: ‘only wins at K and S count’.
        (Also, if WKTKKG were to get 12 in May, then his Ozeki run would already include a yusho and a prize from this March tournament and probably another prize and a Jun-Yusho for getting 12 in May.)
        I totally agree that Tochi’s run was a very different case: he got like 37 wins and a bunch of prizes.
        And as I said in my original post: I don’t think that they will promote WKTKKG with just 12 wins in May. If he got 13 though….

        • The point is that when you say “absolutely not” it sounds like an “absolute” statement, no exceptions, and it “absolutely” isn’t.

      • Terunofuji’s first run started with 8 wins from M2W. 8 from M2W, 13J from S, 12Y from S got him promoted. If WTK goes 9 from M1E, 12Y from S, and 12J/Y from S, that is at least an equally strong run.

        And there were 3 Yokozuna and 3 Ozeki when he got promoted, so it’s not like they were desperate for ozeki(i personally don’t believe that is taken into account, but people seem to believe it does)

        • Thanks maglor! That sounds like some fairly good evidence that they would promote WTKKKG with 12 wins in May. So perhaps I was wrong to doubt. I still have a gut feeling that 12 may not be enough…

          • http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Query.aspx?show_form=0&columns=4&n_basho=4&sum_wins=33&form1_rank=M2-S&form2_rank=M2-S&form3_rank=M2-S&form3_wins=10-15&form4_rank=M2-S

            So I looked up every run from M2 or higher than had 33 wins, >=10 wins on the 3rd basho, that didn’t lead to an ozeki promotion. There are 5. Two can be explained by how young the candidate was (21/22) – Takanohana and Takakeisho. Miyabiyama didn’t get promotion because he had already had an unsuccessful ozeki career previously. So that leaves two – Baruto and Kotomitsuki – who were denied promotion. I can’t immediately remember why they weren’t promoted, but it is perhaps worth noting that those two finished not so strong with only 21 wins over their last 2 basho; while a potential 9-12-12 run from WTK would have 24 wins.

            • The fact that he’s a newcomer to the san’yaku ranks could play against him, as it did with Takakeisho.

              • Takakeisho had several things going against him. Being a “newcomer” (he had in fact been ranked there before, but fell to M10 before working his way back up) was probably the least of them. His previous stable master having pissed off 95% of the NSK, and his utterly one dimensional sumo would have been bigger issues.

          • In the 6 basho a year era (1959 and up), there have been 4 ozeki promotions with 31 wins in the run, and 9 with 32. Interestingly there have been 5 with only 30 wins. http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Query.aspx?show_form=0&columns=4&n_basho=4&show_sansho=on&show_total=on&op==&sum_wins=30&form1_rank=M4-S&form2_rank=M4-S&form3_rank=M4-S&form3_wins=10-15&form4_rank=o

            So he could technically be promoted with 9 wins. Not very likely, but it could happen. The biggest thing is, is he preforming like an Ozeki. To say is he dominating the lower ranks and being competitive with the Ozeki and Yokozuna consistently. He clearly was in this Basho. I’d say 11 quality wins with few is any losses to anyone ranked lower than him and he is in. Kiribayama seems to be the only one lower ranked than him that he is losing to lately.

            • I wrote a whole blog post about this a couple of years ago. All of those were before 1985, and how they do things has clearly changed. 32 has been the minimum for the last ~40 years. This basho he was certainly performing like an ozeki, but since they usually like to see 3 of those in a row, he’ll have to be at least as impressive in May, or wait until July. https://tachiai.org/2019/02/14/a-brief-history-of-ozeki-runs/

            • I think everyone is getting a bit overly excited. He has been performing at Ozeki level for exactly one basho (this basho). Also he had fairly weak competition comparatively (no Yokozuna, only 3 Ozeki and he lost 2 of those fights). Unless he wins very convincingly next time, I wouldn’t be surprised at all, if he got the Takakeisho treatment.

  5. i cant recall a better basho all these years i been watching sumo, i am glad terunofuji was out simply because he wears 4 metal knee supports which should be banned in my opinion ( not more than 1 or u go “home” to heal ) nontheless we got this great basho instead. i watched wakatakakage’s superb split second footwork and pulls like 100 times, epic ending.

  6. Speaking from personal experience, if he is missing significant cartilage in the knees which seems likely, then there is nothing to heal as cartilage does not regenerate. The lack of cartilage is painful and can make the knee unstable and both are helped with braces. Without braces, he’d have to retire.


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