Aki Banzuke Review

The long-awaited Aki banzuke is out, and any attempt to divine what the banzuke committee would do under the unprecedented circumstances turned out to be a fool’s errand. The general principle with regard to the COVID withdrawals seems to have been to freeze the ranks of everyone who left before recording 8 wins or 8 losses, and to promote/demote those who did clinch a winning/losing record, but the application was far from consistent.

The named ranks

First, the obvious placements. Terunofuji (11-4) remains the sole East Yokozuna. East Ozeki Takakeisho (11-4) keeps his spot, while fellow Ozeki Shodai (10-5) moves up from O2w to O1w. Likewise, East Sekiwake Wakatakakage (8-7) stays where he is.

Things get less predictable from here. As widely expected, Mitakeumi (2-4*) gets to keep his Ozeki rank, but switches spots with Shodai. Presumably, he’ll be kadoban again, though I haven’t heard anything official. The next big question was what to do with S1w Daieisho (6-6*). As I expected, they concluded that it would be unfair for him to lose his rank. But, apparently, they also decided that it would be unfair for him to block K1e Hoshoryu (9-6) from moving up, even though the Komusubi did not post the 11 wins that normally warrant an extra Sekiwake slot. So, he will make his Sekiwake debut at S1w, with Daiesho at S2e.

With Hoshoryu moving up, Abi (8-7) slides over from K1w to K1e, opening up a Komusubi slot. As expected, this goes to the July champion Ichinojo (12-3 at M2w). And, at least in these circumstances, an 8-7 record at M1e is apparently still enough to create an extra Komusubi slot, so Kiribayama will be K2w. I expected a 10-member san’yaku, with exactly this composition, but I thought it would be 2 Sekiwake and 4 Komusubi, not 3 of each, and had Daieisho and Hoshoryu in the wrong rank order.

The rank and file

With the two extra san’yaku slots, and the top division fixed at 42 rikishi, the M17 rank disappears, so we’re looking at M1-M16. And we got an answer to one key question right at M1e. It seemed like M2e Kotonowaka (7-3*) would have by far the strongest case, as even a single win in the 5 bouts he missed would have made him a lock. But the banzuke committee decided not to promote anyone with fewer than 8 wins (or fewer than 4, in the lower divisions). For Kotonowaka, the difference is a single rank, but for others (most prominently Ichiyamamoto in the top division, but also the likes of Oshoma in Juryo and Oshoryu in Makushita), the cost was much higher. So instead, M6w Tobizaru (8-4*), who just got his 8th win before pulling out, will occupy the top maegashira rank, despite having the same win-loss differential as Kotonowaka and being ranked 9 spots lower.

Applying the same logic, I would have expected to see M8w Nishikigi (8-4*) at M1w, but apparently he wasn’t given credit for a full 4-win differential, as the M1w and M2w ranks instead went to M11w Midorifuji (10-5) and M10w Meisei (9-6), respectively, representing historically large over-promotions. After that, the committee simply left the M3 rikishi (Tamawashi, 5-7* and Ura, 7-8) in place to avoid additional over-promotions, and finally slotted in Nishikigi at M4e, followed by the absent Takayasu at M4w.

Among other decisions that struck me as odd, Endo (3-9*) falls only from M5e to M6w; I guess his is the flip side of Nishikigi’s case, so that the movement is in the right direction but by fewer ranks than expected based on win-loss differential (in effect, they were treated as though they went 8-7 for Nishikigi and 6-9 for Endo). Takanosho, with only one win at M1w, was lucky to only drop to M10w, while the bias against Juryo rikishi pushed division champion Ryuden (12-3 at J1e) down to M12w; nevertheless, he returns to the top division.

As expected, leaving the division are M9e Shimanoumi (1-14), M17w Chiyomaru (6-9), and M16w Daiamami (2-10*). All of them put up rank-record combinations that were impossible to keep, but Ryuden had the only legitimate promotion case, so the replacements who will occupy the now-lowest M16 rank must count themselves very lucky. They are J4 Mitoriyu (9-6) and J8 Hiradoumi (10-5), both making their top-division debuts. They took rather different paths to get here. Mitoryu (28 years old) entered ozumo at Ms15TD back in 2017, reached Juryo by January 2018, and then stayed there for 27 consecutive tournaments (four and a half years). Hiradoumi actually started earlier, in 2016, via the more standard maezumo route, and is only 22. He took almost 6 years to get to Juryo, but is jumping up to Makuuchi after only 5 basho in the second division.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a bonus. Former Ozeki Asanoyama’s Sandanme yusho saw him move up to M15e. While we had a good general idea of where he’d be ranked, the precise placement is important, as M15 is the lowest rank at which a 7-0 record means a near-automatic promotion to Juryo, potentially shortening Asanoyama’s return to the top division (and, dare we hope, his highest rank?) by an entire basho compared to being placed one rank lower.

I’ll wrap it up here, but there’s no shortage of discussion points for this highly unusual banzuke, so let me know what you think in the comments.

24 thoughts on “Aki Banzuke Review

  1. Yeah, you’ve accurately described the only way that the rankings make sense at all. No KK or MK? Stay put. Get a KK? You lost the rest of your matches. Get an MK? You won the rest of them. I think it’s perfectly logical once you make those assumptions, but those assumptions are absolutely ludicrous.

    • After Isegahama spoke, I kinda figured they were going to leave the no KK/MK records in place, but I never would have guessed how they’d treat the others.

  2. Well, as it was predicted, this is the result of the stupid rule of collective withdrawal due to covid cases:
    a ridiculously unfair banzuke. The only thing we can do is aknowledge the ranks were updated and move on

  3. There’s one thing on the new Banzuke I dislike the most: the little “retired” at Makushita#1 Kaisei :(

  4. Perhaps fittingly due to the level of unpredictability connected with my ineptitude, I did surprisingly well on GTB. I am particularly glad that I got Hoshoryu rank right. I was aware that it was a supporter decision rather more than a sound prediction, but it turned out ok. For the rest, I guess it was a most unfair banzuke from a foreigner prospective, but it kind of makes sense from a Japanese perspective. Not that I know anything directly about it, but it is the feeling that I get from this excellent community as well as the sumo forum. Good or bad, this is the thing. I cannot wait for aki to start. I missed you guys!!!!

  5. As a Midorifuji fan, I hate the overpromotion of him in this banzuke. I’m afraid that rocketing him right into the joi-jin is a recipe for a losing Aki for him. I love watching him defeat larger rikishi through the maegashira ranks, but I think he’s going to have a lot of trouble against sanyaku.

    • I wonder, if you are someone like Midorifuji, would you rather have the overpromotion from M11 to M1W, give it your best against the Sanyaku, end up 5-10 and maybe drop to M5 for the next basho but always be able to say you reached a career best of M1…. Or would you rather just be promoted to M6, go 8-7 with an easier schedule and still end up at M5?

      • He might be able to have a good tournament with a few surprise wins in there. He won’t face Terunofuji, he’s unknown to many of the sanyaku, he’s undefeated against Hoshoryu in 4 bouts, Abi in 1, and he’s not really outsized by Kiribayama, Tobizaru, Ura, or even Meisei or Tamawashi. Ichinojo seems to have his number, though. The more I look into this, the more I think he’s a great “dark horse” or “sleeper” call.

      • Eh, it’s one basho, and unlike most combat sports athletes rikishi are used to losing regularly due to the competition format, so the “was never the same again” factor for bad defeats doesn’t really come into play in sumo. And he could be tearing his ACL in any random juryo bout and never reach makuuchi without this fluky promotion. I doubt Hiradoumi would want fans to be sad on his behalf here, it’s an opportunity for him to present himself on the big stage early.

  6. I read your predictions yesterday alongside the official Banzuke rankings and thought you did really well, all things considered.

    As for Asanoyama, something tells me they know that Terunofuji’s knees will only hold for so long, the current ranks of ozeki will produce one yokozuna at best, and hope that Asanoyama’s punishment will lead him to change his ways and reach his full potential. That and/or people in the know realize he’s doing things the right way in his comeback, because it would’ve been trivial for them to rank him at M16 or M17 without argument.

    • Or maybe they plugged Asanoyama’s record into their calculator(the same one that promoted Hokuseiho to Ms15 with a 7-0 from Sd21, or Jokoryu to Ms15 with a 7-0 from Sd23), and by the math he should have been ranked at Ms15, so they put him there.

  7. One surprise for me is the promotion of Hoshoryu to Sekiwake. A pleasant surprise but a surprise none the less given that the JSA doesn’t really like him very much and seem to take no end in deligting to screw him in close matches. I was thinking they were going to continue the screw-job and make it 2 Sekiwake, and 4 Komusubi and not promote him.

    Regardless, I hope he can put together a solid 10 or more wins tournament and establish a baseline for an Ozeki run.

  8. Very late to the party here, but the two comparisons that struck me as bizarre were Endo with 3-9 dropping one place (as highlighted) while Takanosho with 1-5 dropped 9 places – not sure why that was lucky for him? The other is unrelated to covid – Takarafuji at 9-6 from M12 ends above Sadanoumi at 7-8 from M5. I like the Lustrous One, but cripes..

    • Takanosho’s withdrawal wasn’t covid-related, so he was treated as 1-14 as is usual. I agree Takarafuji is high, but it’s not like they could have moved Sadanoumi up with a make-koshi…the only real alternative at M5e was letting Wakamotoharu drop just one rank from M4e with a 6-9.

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