Kyushu Banzuke Crystal Ball


Like every tournament, Wacky Aki will have reshuffled the wrestlers’ ranks. The new banzuke for Kyushu won’t be announced until October 30, two weeks before the start of the basho on November 12. But if you want to get a good idea of where your favorite rikishi will end up being ranked, without having to wait a month, you’ve come to the right place. The banzuke forecast below should be accurate to within one or at most two ranks. There’s one real wildcard this time around, where the forecast might miss wildly, but we’ll get to that later in the post.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Harumafuji Hakuho
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Goeido Takayasu

As the only Yokozuna to start, finish, and win the tournament, Harumafuji takes over the top spot, switching places with Hakuho. The other three Yokozuna retain their rank order relative to each other. As the only Ozeki to finish Aki, as runner-up no less, Goeido takes over the O1e rank, switching places with Takayasu, who will be kadoban at Kyushu. And of course, we are down to two Ozeki: Terunofuji will drop to Sekiwake for Kyushu, with one chance to reclaim Ozeki status with double-digit wins. Whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to participate, much less get double-digit wins, is an open question; the same goes for Takayasu, who will need 8 wins to retain his rank.

Lower San’yaku

S1 Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
S2 Terunofuji
K Kotoshogiku Onosho

Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze both did just enough at Aki to retain their rank, each going 8-7. They will return as Sekiwake 1e and Sekiwake 1w, respectively. Terunofuji appears at the slightly unusual rank of S2e. Both Tamawashi (7-8) and Tochiozan (6-9) will vacate their Komusubi slots after failing to get their kachi-koshi. Among the higher-placed rank-and-filers, only Kotoshogiku and Onosho earned double-digit wins, and will take over the Komusubi slots.

Upper Maegashira

M1 Tamawashi Chiyotairyu
M2 Takakeisho Tochiozan
M3 Hokutofuji Shohozan
M4 Chiyonokuni Ichinojo
M5 Takarafuji Arawashi

This group is a mix of upper-ranked rikishi who are dropping in rank, but not very far (Tamawashi, Tochiozan, and Hokutofuji) and those in the upper half of the maegashira ranks with the strongest performances at Aki. Depending on the health and participation of the San’yaku ranks in Kyushu, some or all of this group will make up the joi. A case can easily be made for switching the positions of Hokutofuji and Shohozan.


M6 Chiyoshoma Daishomaru
M7 Tochinoshin Shodai
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyomaru
M9 Endo Ikioi
M10 Daieisho Kaisei
M11 Aoiyama Asanoyama

Twice as many kachi-koshi as make-koshi records in this group. Daishomaru, Endo, and Asanoyama make big jumps up the banzuke after earning double-digit wins at Aki. Conversely, the injured Tochinoshin and Aoiyama take big tumbles. This group also contains the underperforming Shodai and Ikioi. A case can be made for dropping Shodai (and, less likely, Tochinoshin) below Takanoiwa and Chiyomaru, and for dropping Ikioi below Daieisho and Kaisei.

Lower Maegashira

M12 Kagayaki Takekaze
M13 Okinoumi Aminishiki
M14 Kotoyuki Ura
M15 Nishikigi Myogiryu
M16 Daiamami

This group contains one of the worst performers at Aki, Kagayaki, as well as two rikishi who narrowly held on to their places in Makuuchi: Okinoumi and Nishikigi. It also contains the four rikishi who should be promoted from Juryo: top-division returnees Aminishiki, Kotoyuki and Myogiryu, as well as the amusingly named newcomer Daiamami Genki—may he live up to his family given name in his Makuuchi debut. These four take the places of rikishi demoted to Juryo: Ishiura, Tokushoryu, Yutakayama, and Sadanoumi.

Now, the wildcard: our favorite pink-sporting rikishi, Ura, who badly aggravated his already injured knee and had to drop out after two days and only one win. Based on a very limited history of similar cases, I placed him at M14w. I’d be surprised to see him ranked much higher, and he could be ranked as low as M16e, or even demoted from Makuuchi altogether, in favor of marginal promotion candidate Homarefuji. Of course, Ura’s participation in Kyushu is a huge question mark at best, but being ranked in the top division would limit the rate at which he drops down the banzuke if he sits out one or more tournaments.

For a Juryo forecast, I don’t think I can do any better than point you to predictions made on SumoForum by frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari and others.

Aki Winners and Losers

Winner: Harumafuji. Obviously. What a comeback!

Winner: Goeido. Cleared his kadoban status and ended up in the yusho playoff.

Winner: Kotoshogiku. Dipped into the maegashira ranks for one basho, picked up a kinboshi on his way back up to San’yaku.

Winner: Mitakeumi. Sure, hopes were much higher, but I consider staying at sekiwake a win.

Winner: Yoshikaze. Much blood and no Ozeki run after another late fade, but the berserker also stays at sekiwake and picks up his 4th Gino-sho to boot. He had a pretty unusual basho: LLLLWWWWWWWWLLL.

Winner: Onosho. Third straight basho with double-digit wins, another Kanto-sho, and an express trip to San’yaku.

Winner: Chiyotairyu. He faded badly with 5 straight losses after a red-hot 8-2 start, but a kachi-koshi at M3 and a stay in the joi is a win.

Winner: Takakeisho. Shukun-sho, kinboshi, and a strong bounce-back after his 5-10 performance in Nagoya.

Winner: Shohozan. Kachi-koshi against a tough slate.

Winner: Chiyonokuni. He continues to work his way back up the banzuke after his disastrous Natsu basho, was responsible for many of the best matches at Aki, and should be in or near the joi in Kyushu.

Winner: Ichinojo. 8-7 despite being pulled up from M6 to fight the “big boys.” Hope to see more from him in Kyushu, as he is a force to be reckoned with when he is focused on his sumo.

Winner: Takarafuji. 9-6 and a nice jump up the banzuke.

Winner: Arawashi. 9-6, right in the thick of things, lots of exciting sumo.

Winner: Daishomaru. Double-digit wins.

Winner: Endo. Looks like the ankle is healing well. Double-digit wins even after being pulled up to fight opponents way up the banzuke. Should be solidly in the mid-maegashira ranks in Kyushu, without taking too big a jump too soon.

Winner: Kaisei. Looks like he’s back for real after his Juryo sojourn in Nagoya.

Winner: Asanoyama. One of the biggest winners, actually. Improbably in the yusho race until day 14, double-digit wins in his Makuuchi debut, Kanto-sho, 1-1 against the M3 bruiser boys. Hopefully a sign of things to come; would be great to see him work his way up the banzuke and join the likes of relative newcomers Mitakeumi, Onosho, and Takakeisho in the upper ranks.

Loser: Goeido. Losing the yusho after leading by 2 wins with 3 days to go has to hurt, not to mention letting a golden chance to start a Yokozuna promotion run amid depleted Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks slip through his fingers.

Loser: Takayasu. An injury and kadoban status in only his second basho as Ozeki. Wishing him speedy healing and a strong bounce-back in Kyushu.

Loser: Terunofuji. Injured again, loses Ozeki rank, needs 10 wins in Kyushu to earn it back. Hopefully he’s either healthy enough to do it or wise enough to sit it out and let his knees heal properly.

Loser: Tamawashi. It looked like he may have to pull out after injuring his ankle in the same day 2 bout that claimed Takayasu. He stayed in, and fought his way to a 7-8 record against tough opposition. Kudos. Still, he drops out of San’yaku for the first time in a year.

Loser: Tochiozan. Unable to follow up his strong Nagoya basho, and drops out of San’yaku after one tournament at komusubi.

Loser: Tochinoshin. Obviously injured again after a strong Nagoya basho, and will take a big tumble down the banzuke.

Loser: Shodai. Another disappointing performance. He needs to fix his technique, his focus, or both. We were hoping for him to become a mainstay in the upper ranks with the other rising young guns; instead he tumbles into the mid-maegashira territory.

Loser: Ikioi. What’s up with Ikioi? How does someone with his size and talent go 6-9 at M7?

Loser: Aoiyama. The talk of Nagoya was injured between tournaments, came back mid-basho to successfully defend a place in Makuuchi, but will take a huge drop in rank.

Loser: Kagayaki. He seems spirited enough, but his sumo has been…not good. At this rate, he may find himself in Juryo in a basho or two.

Loser: Ura. Came in injured, aggravated it, on the verge of dropping out of Makuuchi but that may be the least of his problems. Given how unique his style is, and what a joy he is to watch, may the sumo gods save his career.

Loser: Ishiura. He did not look like he belonged in Makuuchi in most of his bouts, and will have a chance to work out the kinks in Juryo.

Loser: Tokushoryu. Should have been in Juryo for Aki; will be in Juryo for Kyushu.

Loser: Yutakayama. Matches his 4-11 record from his first trip to Makuuchi at Natsu and goes back to Juryo to figure things out.

Loser: Sadanoumi. Came back from injury to try to stay in Makuuchi, but unable to do much on the dohyo.

The Aftermath of Aki

After all the twists and turns of Wacky Aki, form held, and the lone participating Yokozuna took the yusho. Harumafuji looked positively rejuvenated in the last few days of the basho. This yusho was hard-won and must taste sweet. The Horse is a warrior and a total class act. Omedetōgozaimasu.

We did see only the third 11-4 yusho in history, and the first in 21 years. In addition to settling the yusho race, senshuraku answered a number of other open questions, though some uncertainty remains at the bottom of the banzuke.

The muddled San’yaku situation resolved cleanly. Mitakeumi narrowly defeated Yoshikaze to earn his kachi-koshi. These two will keep their sekiwake rank, and will be joined by “ozekiwake” Terunofuji.

Tamawashi lost to Takakeisho, thereby going make-koshi and dropping out of San’yaku. With Mitakeumi staying at sekiwake, both komusubi slots are open, and there are two obvious promotion candidates who separated themselves from the rest by earning double-digit wins in the joi-jin: the old veteran ex-Ozeki Kotoshogiku, and the youngest man in Makuuchi, rising star Onosho.

It’s hard to know how far down the banzuke the joi ranks will extend in Kyushu, depending on who in the San’yaku ranks is healthy enough to participate. At Aki, the rank-and-filers all the way down to M5 faced a full (well, depleted) San’yaku slate, with M6e Ichinojo making 3 appearances. In Kyushu, the top maegashira ranks should look something like this:

M1 Tamawashi Chiyotairyu
M2 Takakeisho Tochiozan
M3 Hokutofuji Shohozan
M4 Chiyonokuni Ichinojo
M5 Takarafuji Arawashi

At the other end of the banzuke, Nishikigi’s win should cement his place in the top division for Kyushu, while Ishiura’s loss drops him down to Juryo. He seemed to offer no resistance today, and could use some easier competition to regroup. Ishiura joins Sadanoumi, Yutakayama, and Tokushoryu in earning a trip to Juryo. At least Yutakayama doubled his win total from his last visit to Makuuchi. (Edit: my memory was faulty. He also went 4-11 at Natsu). Their slots in Makuuchi will be occupied by Aminishiki, Kotoyuki, Myogiryu, and Daiamami. Aminishiki takes over from Takekaze as the oldest man in Makuuchi. But unlike Takekaze, he looks every bit his age, and then some. He reminds me of that old guy in a pickup basketball game, every joint taped, dressed in ratty old gym clothes and reeking of Bengay, who keeps nailing funky shots from odd angles.

The Makuuchi-Juryo bubble consists of injured Ura and Juryo runner-up Homarefuji. Had Homarefuji won the Juryo yusho, I would have been really concerned for Ura, but I’m hoping that Homarefuji’s playoff loss will keep Ura in the top division. Whether or not he’s able to participate is a different matter.

Aki State of Play, Day 14

Well, probability prevailed. No chaos, alas. Instead, we got the 50% likelihood scenario, with both Goeido and Harumafuji winning, though it was a bit touch-and-go, especially for the former. With Asanoyama (M16) pulled up to fight M3 and rather genki Onosho, he predictably dropped out of the yusho race with a loss. So tomorrow we get Harumafuji-Goeido for all the marbles. I’m not making any predictions, but the Yokozuna has looked like, well, a Yokozuna the last two days.

With Mitakeumi losing and Tamawashi winning, the San’yaku promotion picture stays muddled, with zero, one, or two open slots still possible depending on the outcomes of tomorrow’s Mitakeumi-Yoshikaze sekiwake clash and Tamawashi-Takakeisho. Kotoshogiku has probably locked down the first open komusubi slot, and Onosho the second.

At the bottom of the banzuke, Okinoumi won and is now safe from demotion. Nishikigi and Ishiura both lost, and are on the bubble. Ura is on the bubble as well, though I sincerely hope the NSK keeps him in Makuuchi, given his unfortunate injury.

On to senshuraku!

Aki State of Play, Day 13, Part II: promotions and demotions

Depending on how the remaining days play out, there may be zero, one or two open San’yaku slots. Today’s loss by Tochiozan drops him out of San’yaku, and today’s win by Mitakeumi keeps him in. Tamawashi won and needs to win his remaining bouts to defend his rank. So either one or two komusubi slots will be open. The complication here is that we already have two occupied sekiwake slots: Yoshikaze has successfully defended his, and one will belong to Terunofuji. One more win by Mitakeumi keeps him at sekiwake, but should he lose to Harumafuji and Yoshikaze, he would get demoted to one of the komusubi slots.

Right now, Kotoshogiku is the lead contender for promotion (and parenthetically, Kotoshogiku Day remains a mathematical possibility, however distant). Right behind him are Onosho and Chiyotairyu, with Takakeisho and Shohozan still in the hunt.

The demotion picture hasn’t changed much: Nishikigi and Okinoumi need a win apiece to assure Makuuchi stays, and Ishiura needs two to stave off demotion.

Aki State of Play, Day 13, Part I: the yusho

Let’s start with an interesting historical note: since the basho length went to 15 bouts in 1949, only two Makuuchi yusho have been won with an 11-4 record, first in 1972 and second and last in 1996. There’s never been a 10-5 winner (although this is not uncommon in Juryo). We are quite likely to see an 11-4 winner at Aki, and 10-5 is within the realm of possibility.

So, the ever-changing yusho race. Here are some scenarios, depending on the outcomes tomorrow:

  1. Harumafuji and Goeido both win. Likelihood: ~50%. A Goeido win on senshuraku would clinch the yusho. A Harumafuji win would force a playoff, possibly 3-way with Asanoyama.
  2. Harumafaji wins, Goeido loses. Likelihood: ~20%. Senshuraku winner takes all, unless Asanoyama forces a playoff.
  3. Harumafuji loses, Goeido wins. Likelihood: ~20%. Goeido clinches either an outright title or a playoff with Asanoyama.
  4. Harumafuji and Goeido both lose. Likelihood: ~10%. This is the best Wacky Aki scenario, as it opens the door to chaos.
    1. Goeido wins on senshuraku, takes the yusho or goes into a playoff with Asanoyama. Likelihood: ~3%.
    2. Goeido loses on senshuraku. Asanoyama wins his final two matches and lifts the Emperor’s Cup as the lowest man on the banzuke. I’d give this an overall likelihood of ~1%, but the fact that it’s not zero is delightful. Various playoff scenarios raise the likelihood of an Asanoyama yusho to a few percent.
    3. Goeido loses on senshuraku, Asanoyama loses at least once. This opens the door to the free-for-all melee playoff among Harumafuji, Goeido, Asanoyama if he wins one bout, and any of the current 8-5 crowd that wins out. And we’d have our first-ever 10-5 champion! Chaos likelihood: ~6%.