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.