Yokozuna, Ozeki, and Sekiwake
There are no surprises in the top three ranks. Terunofuji, the sole Yokozuna, occupies Y1e for the 7th straight time, although he is all but certain to miss the basho after his recent knee surgery. Takakeisho is the top-ranked East Ozeki, and he is joined on the West side by Shodai, who needs 8 wins to keep his rank. Mitakeumi fell to Sekiwake, and as is traditional for a demoted Ozeki, he is in the lowest spot at that rank, which, to balance Terunofuji on the banzuke, is S2w. He has a one-time opportunity to regain Ozeki with 10 wins at Kyushu. The regular East and West Sekiwake slots continue to be occupied by Wakatakakage and Hoshoryu, respectively, as they both finished Aki with winning records.
And as predicted, there are four Komusubi: Tamawashi, Kiribayama, Tobizaru, and Daieisho. The only thing the Crystal Ball got wrong is the order of Tamawashi and Kiribayama.
This is the first time that the “Christmas tree” banzuke pattern of 1 Y, 2 O, 3 S and 4 K has ever happened. The last time lower san’yaku contained 7 rikishi was 1992, with 4 S and 3 K. You have to go back even further, to 1974, to find 3 S and 4 K, with only one other instance in 1960. In all, 7 S/K has happened only 7 times, and it has been exceeded on only one occasion, when a 4-basho stretch in 1962 featured 4 Sekiwake and 4 Komusubi.
At the crowded top of the rankings, Aki runner-up Takayasu indeed got the M1e slot. M2e Kotonowaka, M2w Meisei (8-7), and M3w Ura each posted 8 wins at Aki and all move up by half a rank. What surprised me is that M1w Midorifuji (7-8) got a demotion by two full ranks to M3w so that falling Komusubi Ichinojo (6-9) could only drop to M2w; such a harsh demotion at his rank has only happened once before in … wait for it … 1770.
We knew that a wildcard in the middle of the rankings was the placement of Abi, who missed the entire Aki basho while ranked at Komusubi. The Crystal Ball placed him at M10w, while the banzuke committee went with one rank higher. What I did not expect was to see Takarafuji, who went 5-10 at M5e, drop only 3 ranks to M8e, where I had placed M10w Takanosho (8-7). The math favors Takanosho, and Takarafuji wasn’t in the joi, so I have to wonder if the fact that he is in Isegahama beya played a role here.
The Crystal Ball got this exactly right (in fact, it was spot-on for all ranks M11-M16). It was clear that Tsurugisho, Yutakayama, and Mitoryu had to go down, and that their places in the top division would go to Azumaryu, Kagayaki, and Atamifuji. And as predicted, Terutsuyoshi and Hiradoumi just hung on to M16e and M16w, with Tohakuryu having to settle for the top rank in Juryo.
Overall, the Crystal Ball placed 30 rikishi at the exact spot on the banzuke, and 5 more at the right rank but on the wrong side. Of the 7 misses, two were by half a rank, four by one rank, and one (Ichinojo, whom I had foolishly bumped down to M4e) by a rank and a half. I am happy with that prognostication accuracy.
Now, on to the basho!