Looking Toward the Aki Banzuke

Congratulations to Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho on his unprecedented 45th yusho and 16th zensho-yusho, and to Yokozuna-in-waiting Terunofuji on another dominant tournament. Each man completed an improbable comeback to stand atop the sport. They should occupy the East and West Yokozuna positions, respectively, on the September rankings chart.

Ozeki Shodai (8-7) got a much-needed final-day win to avoid going kadoban. He will be the East Ozeki at Aki, with kadoban Takakeisho (1-2-12) on the West side.

Two Sekiwake slots are spoken for: one by the incumbent Mitakeumi (8-7) and the other by suspended and about to be demoted Ozeki Asanoyama. There is talk of a third Sekiwake position being created (presumably for Meisei), but I consider this unlikely. Instead, I expect shin-Komusubi Meisei (8-7) to move over to the East Komusubi rank, with the West slot occupied by demoted Sekiwake Takayasu (7-6-2). This would leave no san’yaku slots open for the well-performing upper maegashira.

If this scenario plays out, M2w Ichinojo (10-5) will have the most reason to complain, although we’ve seen two equally unlucky non-promotions in the past year: Daieisho in November and Wakatakakage in March. Like the latter, Ichinojo will probably have to settle for the top maegashira rank, where he’ll be joined on the West side by M2e Takanosho (8-7). The final-day bout between M5w Hoshoryu (10-5) and M3e Hokutofuji (8-7) will end up deciding only which side of the M2 rank the two will occupy.

With san’yaku shrinking by one slot, the joi would extend at least down to M4, though Asanoyama’s guaranteed absence would move it down to M5e, and it could extend further with other absences. These upper maegashira ranks will be filled out by M11w Kotonowaka (12-3), who’ll blow past his previous career high rank of M8, M6w Kiribayama (9-6), M10e Tamawashi (11-4), the falling Komusubi Wakatakakage (5-10), M1w Daieisho (5-10), and M7w Chiyoshoma (8-7).

Aside from Ichinojo, Takanosho, Hokutofuji, and Hoshoryu, the upper maegashira took a beating. Daieisho’s 5-10 record was matched by Okinoumi, and they were the best of the bunch, with Tobizaru and Chiyotairyu posting ugly 4-11 scores, Kotoeko recording an abysmal 2-13, and Endo pulling out for a final line of 1-4-10 (not coincidentally, Okinoumi, Tobizaru, Chiyotairyu and Kotoeko were the beneficiaries of extreme banzuke luck that saw them placed much higher on the July banzuke than their May performances warranted). Exactly how far these rikishi will drop—especially Endo and Kotoeko—is one of the major uncertainties in drawing up the Aki banzuke.

Then there’s the bottom of the banzuke. We have one guaranteed exchange between Makuuchi and Juryo, with M14e Daiamami (4-11) going down and J1e Yutakayama (10-5) taking his place. But what to do with the Juryo champion, J6w Mitoryu (12-3)? His record is clearly good enough for promotion, but whose place would he take? M17e Ichiyamamoto (8-7) removed himself from consideration by clinching his kachi-koshi on the final day. M15w Tokushoryu (7-8) should also be safe, albeit just barely, which leaves M16e Chiyonokuni (7-8), whose rank and record would normally ensure a stay, but Mitoryu’s case may be strong enough to force him down.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Any other banzuke matters you’d like to see me cover?

Nagoya Promotion/Demotion Picture, Day 14

Sumo fans all over the world can’t wait for the Day 15 clash between the two top-ranked men on the banzuke, both 14-0 for only the 6th such matchup in sumo history. Let’s look at what is at stake further down the banzuke.

Ozeki Shodai (7-7) needs one more win to avoid going kadoban. He will have to get it in what is set to be one heck of an undercard “Darwin bout” against Takayasu (7-5-2) on senshuraku.

Two Sekiwake slots are spoken for: one by the demotion of suspended Ozeki Asanoyama and the other by the newly kachi-koshi incumbent Mitakeumi (8-6). Takayasu (7-4-2) can claim a third by defeating Shodai. A loss would drop him to Komusubi. If Takayasu wins and shin-Komusubi Meisei (7-7) loses his own “Darwin bout” against Kagayaki, two Komusubi slots will open. The opposite set of results would leave none, while anything in between will leave just one.

M2w Ichinojo (9-5) has now locked up the first slot, should one open. If a second Komusubi slot becomes available, it will go to the winner of the bout between M3e Hokutofuji (8-6) and M5w Hoshoryu (9-5).

At the other end of the scale, we have one guaranteed exchange between Makuuchi and Juryo, with M14e Daiamami (4-10) going down and J1e Yutakayama (10-4) taking his place. Beyond that, things are less clear. J6w Mitoryu (11-3) has a promotable record, but there isn’t yet a second demotable top-division rikishi. The candidates for the infamous “Juryo barge” are M15w Tokushoryu (6-8), the last man on the banzuke—M17e Ichiyamamoto (7-7)—and potentially M16e Chiyonokuni (7-7), who faces a man 14 ranks above him, M2e Takanosho (7-7), in—you guessed it—another Darwin bout. A loss there and wins by Mitoryu, Ichiyamamoto, and Tokushoryu could yet send Chiyonokuni down.

The only other man in the mix for promotion is J2w Akua (8-6), who most likely needs to beat Ishiura and have Ichiyamamoto and Tokushoryu lose in order to return to the top division.

Finally, we have an exciting yusho race in Juryo. In addition to Mitoryu, former top-division mainstay Abi also sports an 11-3 record. The two have already faced off, so if one wins and the other loses, there’s your champion. If both win, we’ll have a playoff rematch, while if both lose, the playoff will be joined by the winner of the bout between Yutakayama and Kaisho (10-4), who is having a breakout tournament. Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Nagoya Promotion/Demotion Picture, Day 13

The yusho race won’t be decided until the Day 15 clash between the two top-ranked men on the banzuke, both undefeated going into the final weekend. Let’s look at what is at stake further down the banzuke.

Ozeki Shodai (7-6) needs one more win to avoid going kadoban, and unless he can upset Hakuho, he may have to get it against Takayasu on senshuraku.

Takayasu (7-4-2) similarly needs one more win to stay Sekiwake. He faces Terunofuji tomorrow and may also be in a must-win position on Day 15. On the bright side, he is guaranteed to fall no lower than Komusubi. Fellow Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7-6) needs one victory to hold rank, and has also already done enough to stay in san’yaku. Shin-Komusubi Meisei (7-6) is looking for a win to avoid an immediate return to the rank-and-file, while the other newcomer to the rank, Wakatakakage (3-9), has already failed to stave off demotion.

An interesting wrinkle here is that despite Wakatakakage‘s upcoming demotion, a san’yaku slot is not yet guaranteed to open. One or both Sekiwake could still finish with 7 wins, which would mean a drop to Komusubi. Suspended Asanoyama will be demoted from Ozeki to fill one Sekiwake slot, and if Meisei gets to 8 wins, that’s all four slots spoken for.

M2w Ichinojo (8-5) is the front-runner for the first open slot, but two consecutive losses, combined with victories by his pursuers, have greatly narrowed his lead. Promotion now seems most likely to go to whichever rikishi from among Ichinojo, M3e Hokutofuji (8-5), and M5w Hoshoryu (9-4) performs best on the final weekend. In the event that two losses by Meisei (plus wins by Mitakeumi and Takayasu) open up a second slot, other promotion candidates include M2e Takanosho (6-7), M6w Kiribayama (8-5), and even the double-digit duo M10e Tamawashi and M11w Kotonowaka, both 10-3.

At the other end of the scale, M14e Daiamami (3-10) now has a demotable record, and it will take two wins and a lot of banzuke luck to keep him in the top division. M15w Tokushoryu (5-8) needs to win out to lock down a place in Makuuchi. M13e Chiyomaru (5-8) and M17e Ichiyamamoto (7-6) are each looking for a victory to reach safety, while everyone else should be back in September.

Down in Juryo, J1e Yutakayama (10-3) is assured of promotion, while Juryo co-leader J6w Mitoryu (10-3) is one win away. J2e Kyokutaisei (7-6), J2w Akua (7-6) and J3 Wakamotoharu (7-6) must win out and hope for losses by the endangered incumbents.

A sad update: Kyokutaisei is kyujo after what looked like a bad landing in his loss to Tokushoryu, ending (at least for the moment) his quest to return to Makuuchi, after his two previous appearances there were both derailed by injury.

At the bottom of Juryo, injured Akiseyama and suspended Ryuden will be falling to Makushita along with J13w Kotokuzan (2-11). J12e Daishoho (5-8) is the other most-endangered sekitori, and probably needs to win out to keep his salary. Also not out of danger are J10w Kyokushuho (5-8) and J9w Midorifuji (4-9).

The race for promotion from the third division to the second will be fierce, with as many as 6 contenders for between 2 and 5 slots, and will feature a number of exchange bouts between those hoping to earn a salary and those hoping to keep theirs. One thing is for certain though: Hakuho’s protege Ms2w Hokuseiho (7-0) will be making his much-awaited sekitori debut after only six professional tournaments (not counting the one he sat out with the rest of his stable due to the virus). Hokuseiho’s record in the lower divisions stands at 39-3, with the full set of 7-0 yusho in Jonokuchi, Jonidan, Sandanme, and Makushita. Oh, did I mention he’s only 19?

Nagoya Promotion/Demotion Picture, Day 12

There’s not much to say about the yusho race that hasn’t been said already. Let’s look at what is at stake further down the banzuke.

Ozeki Shodai (7-5) needs one more win to avoid going kadoban, and unless he can upset one of the two leaders, he may have to get it against Takayasu on senshuraku.

Takayasu (7-3-2) similarly needs one more win to stay Sekiwake, and may also be in a must-win position on Day 15. On the bright side, he is guaranteed to fall no lower than Komusubi. Fellow Sekiwake Mitakeumi (6-6) needs two victories to hold rank, and one to stay in san’yaku. Shin-Komusubi Meisei (6-6) is looking for two wins to avoid an immediate return to the rank-and-file, while the other newcomer to the rank, Wakatakakage (3-9), has already failed to stave off demotion.

M2w Ichinojo (8-4) is the front-runner for the open Komusubi slot. Should he falter, or should more slots open up, the other promotion candidates include M5w Hoshoryu (8-4), M3e Hokutofuji (7-5), M2e Takanosho (6-6), and M6w Kiribayama (8-4).

At the other end of the scale, several rikishi have yet to do enough to ensure a stay in the top division. In the worst shape are M14e Daiamami (3-9) and M15w Tokushoryu (4-8), who need to win out. J1e Yutakayama (9-3) is assured of promotion, and Juryo co-leader J6w Mitoryu (10-2) is one win away. At the moment, J2e Kyokutaisei (7-5) sits on the promotion/demotion bubble with M13e Chiyomaru (4-8). The promotion hopes of J2w Akua (6-6) and J3 Wakamotoharu (6-6) rest on piling up wins and hoping for losing streaks by M12e Tochinoshin (4-8) and M17e Ichiyamamoto (7-5).

At the bottom of Juryo, injured Akiseyama and suspended Ryuden will be falling to Makushita along with J13w Kotokuzan (2-10). J12e Daishoho (4-8) is the other most-endangered sekitori. The race for promotion from the third division to the second should get clearer tomorrow, but one thing is for certain: Hakuho’s protege Ms2w Hokuseiho (6-0) will be making his much-awaited sekitori debut after only six professional tournaments (not counting the one he sat out with the rest of his stable due to the virus). Ahead of his yusho-deciding bout against collegiate sensation Ishizaki, Hokuseiho’s record in the lower divisions stands at 38-3, with 7-0 yusho in Jonokuchi, Jonidan, and Sandanme.