Looking Ahead to the Kyushu Banzuke

Congratulations to Tamawashi on a well-deserved second yusho. He displayed Yokozuna-grade sumo on his way to a powerful 13-2 championship, two wins clear of anyone else. Along the way, he defeated the Yokozuna, all three Ozeki, two Sekiwake, and all of his direct challengers for the yusho head-to-head. In doing so, Tamawashi becomes the oldest modern champion, only the second man to win two yusho without reaching Ozeki, and arguably the best wrestler below that rank of his generation. Oh, and he’s accomplished all this while being the only sekitori and one of only four rikishi in his heya—the other three being his Makushita-ranked brother-in-law and two recent recruits in Jonidan. This is how the man has to train:

Now, let’s take a look of what the results of the Aki basho mean for the November rankings. With only a handful of wrestlers posting more than 10 or fewer than 5 wins, this is generally not a banzuke with a lot of big movements, unlike last time.

Yokozuna and Ozeki

Y1e Terunofuji will remain the sole Yokozuna, though I expect to see him on the banzuke but not on the dohyo in Kyushu. O1e Takakeisho (10-5) will stay at that rank, as will O1w Shodai (4-11), who will be kadoban and need a winning score to avoid losing his rank. O1w Mitakeumi (4-11) will lose his rank after just 4 basho and fall to Sekiwake, where he will have one chance to record 10 wins for immediate re-promotion.

Sekiwake

S1e Wakatakakage (11-4) will stay at that rank and aim higher. With his 19 wins at Sekiwake in the past two basho, an Ozeki promotion in November is not out of the question, especially given the current state of that rank, but it would probably take a yusho with a score of 13-2 or better. More likely, a good November performance would lay the foundation for a January promotion. S1w Hoshoryu (8-7) will join Wakatakakakage at the rank, while Mitakeumi will occupy S2w.

Komusubi

This is where things get interesting. K2w Kiribayama (9-6) clinched a stay at Komusubi but didn’t do enough to warrant a promotion to Sekiwake without a slot being open; I expect him to move to K1e. The other incumbents, absent Abi and 6-9 Ichinojo, will drop into the rank and file. That leaves one open slot, but more than one rikishi has a strong claim.

One is S2e Daieisho (7-8), as no Sekiwake with that record has been dropped to maegashira since 1992, and we’ve had about 50 instances since then. The other two are our champion, M3e Tamawashi (13-2), who seems impossible to deny, and the equally compelling surprise of the basho M1e Tobizaru (10-5), as no top maegashira with a winning score—much less double-digit wins—has missed out on promotion in over 50 years. So I am pretty sure that we will have four Komusubi, although their order is debatable. As that is already the most we’ve ever had, M4w Takayasu (11-4) is in all likelihood out of luck.

Upper Maegashira

Who will be fighting the named ranks in Kyushu? The list starts with Takayasu, who should be joined at M1 by M2e Kotonowaka (8-7). The slot Kotonowaka vacates is the only option for M2w Meisei (8-7). Then, it gets a little crowded, with M1w Midorifuji (7-8), M3w Ura (8-7), M6e Wakamotoharu (10-5), and M5w Sadanoumi (9-6) all deserving to be ranked at least M2, and Ichinojo also in the mix. In any case, these 5 in some order will fill out the ranks down to M4w. His late collapse will see M8w Hokutofuji (10-5) ranked just outside the joi, followed by the other double-digit performers, M10e Nishikifuji (10-5) and M12w Ryuden (11-4).

Juryo-Makuuchi Exchanges

There are three cut-and-dried exchanges. M15w Tsurugisho (5-10), M14w Yutakayama (4-11) and M16e Mitoryu (5-10) all have irredeemable rank-record combinations. Their places in the top division will go to the top three promotion contenders in Juryo: Azumaryu, Kagayaki, and Atamifuji. We’ll see if Azumaryu can finally manage a winning record in his 9th basho in the top division. Atamifuji’s debut is one of the more eagerly awaited ones in recent memory.

Final-day losses left M15e Terutsuyoshi (6-9) and debutant M16w Hiradoumi (7-8) on the bubble. Hiradoumi has a slightly better numerical case to stay, but also went make-koshi at the lowest rung of the Makuuchi ladder. At least M16w should still be on the next banzuke. I don’t think both will go down, as there isn’t a good enough fifth promotion claim in Juryo. The question is whether either trades places with J3w Tohakuryu (8-7), and if so, which. Tohakuryu’s case isn’t all that strong, and given his negative style of sumo, I wouldn’t mind it if he missed out.

Juryo-Makushita Exchanges

Dropping are lovable but ineffectual thruster J13w Tochimaru (2-13) and absent J5w Asanowaka (unless his withdrawal due to post-COVID effects rather than active infection receives unexpected leniency). Their spots should go to Ms1w Roga (4-2) and Ms4e Tsushimanada (5-2).

J12e Gonoyama (6-9) is on the bubble. He lost to Ms4w Tsukahara (4-3) on senshuraku, but it’s not clear whether this was a true “exchange bout.” With a marginally demotable score, Gonoyama could keep his spot anyway, or it could go to either Tsukahara or Ms5w Shonannoumi (5-2). Unlike other banzuke decisions, Juryo promotions will be released in a couple of days, so this mystery at least will be solved. For the rest, we’ll have to wait until October 31 (Halloween!). In the meantime, please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments.

Day 13 Demotion Watch

With just two days remaining, it’s time for an update on how many wins various rikishi need to avoid losing rank.

The Named Ranks

We are down to at most three Sekiwake. One is soon-to-be-demoted Ozeki Mitakeumi (4-9). Another is incumbent Wakatakakage (9-4). Hoshoryu (7-6) should stay in Sanyaku no matter what, but needs 1 more win to remain Sekiwake. Daieisho (5-8) will lose his rank and needs to win out to limit his fall to Komusubi.

Absent Komusubi Abi will drop into the rank and file, as will Ichinojo (4-8). Kiribayama (7-6) is a win away from holding rank.

Depending on the results of Hoshoryu, Daieisho, and Kiribayama, anywhere from zero to two Komusubi slots may open up. Having secured his kachi-koshi at M1e, surprise of the basho Tobizaru (9-4) should get a promotion even if this means creating an extra slot. Yusho leader M3e Tamawashi (11-2) can also stake a claim with a strong finish, as could M4w Takayasu (10-3), so we may see an expanded lower San’yaku for the second straight basho.

Juryo Danger

M15w Tsurugisho (4-9), M14w Yutakayama (4-9) and M16e Mitoryu (5-8) now have demotable records, and need to win out and hope for very favorable banzuke luck to avoid a trip to Juryo. M15e Terutsuyoshi (5-8) can reach safety with 2 wins. M16w Hiradoumi (7-6) still needs one more victory, as does M13e Ichiyamamoto (5-8). Everyone else is safe for November. At the moment, Tohakuryu, Kagayaki, and Azumaryu lead the promotion race, followed by Atamifuji and, more distantly, Hokuseiho.

Makushita Danger

Lovable but ineffectual thruster J13w Tochimaru (2-11) is now certain to captain the Makushita barge. Absent J5w Asanowaka will in all likelihood join him, unless his withdrawal due to post-COVID effects (rather than active infection) receives unexpected leniency. Two more wins are needed to ensure safety for J12e Gonoyama (5-6), although one might be enough. Everyone else is safe. M1w Roga (4-2) should be the first Makushita rikishi to go up. Ms4e Tsushimanada (5-2) is the second, assuming at least two slots open. Tomorrow, Ms5e Fujiseiun (4-2) will try to state his case in a crossover bout against Gonoyama. Hanging on to faint promotion hopes are Ms4w Tsukahara (3-3) and Ms5w Shonannoumi (4-2).

Day 12 Demotion Watch

With four days remaining, it’s time for an update on how many wins various rikishi need to avoid losing rank.

The Named Ranks

Ozeki Mitakeumi (3-8) is make-koshi and will drop to Sekiwake for November. Two Sekiwake slots are spoken for by him and incumbent Wakatakakage (8-4). Daieisho (5-7) needs to win out to defend his rank, although 2 wins should only drop him to Komusubi. Hoshoryu (6-6) needs 2 wins to remain Sekiwake and 1 to stay in San’yaku.

Absent Komusubi Abi will drop into the rank and file, as will Ichinojo (4-8). Kiribayama (7-5) is a win away from holding rank.

It’s still not clear if any regulation San’yaku slots will open. Having secured his kachi-koshi at M1e, surprise of the basho Tobizaru (9-3) should get a promotion even if this means creating an extra slot. Yusho leader M3e Tamawashi (10-2) can also stake a claim with a strong finish, as could M4w Takayasu (9-3), so we may see an expanded lower San’yaku for the second straight basho.

Juryo Danger

M14w Yutakayama (3-9) and M16e Mitoryu (4-8) now have demotable records, and need to win out and hope for very favorable banzuke luck to avoid a trip to Juryo. M15w Tsurugisho (4-8) saved himself for the time being by winning two in a row, but still needs 3 more to avoid a drop. M15e Terutsuyoshi (5-7) and M16w Hiradoumi (6-6) can reach safety with 2 wins. Chiyotairyu and Ichiyamamoto are not completely out of the woods, while everyone else is safe for November. The list of plausible promotion candidates in Juryo has been whittled down to four: Tahakuryu, Kagayaki, Atamifuji, and Azumaryu.

Makushita Danger

Absent J5w Asanowaka will in all likelihood drop to Makushita. J13w Tochimaru (2-10) is now certain to join him. Two more wins are needed to ensure safety for J12e Gonoyama (5-6), while 14w Takakento (7-5) only needs one. M1w Roga (4-2) is the first Makushita rikishi to clinch promotion; for the rest of the candidates, see my Makushita post. The only change today is that M3w Daishomaru (3-4) lost his crossover bout to J13e Oshoma (7-5), eliminating the former and securing a Juryo stay for the latter. Tomorrow, Ms4e Tsushimanada (4-2) will try to clinch a promotion against Gonoyama.

Day 11 Demotion Watch

With four days remaining, it’s time for an update on how many wins various rikishi need to avoid losing rank.

The Named Ranks

Ozeki Mitakeumi (3-8) is make-koshi and will drop to Sekiwake for November. He has one shot to regain his rank by posting double-digit wins. Of the recently demoted Ozeki, Tochinoshin managed it the first time but not the second, Takakeisho regained his rank and has kept it ever since, Takayasu failed, and suspended Asanoyama of course didn’t have the opportunity to try.

So two Sekiwake slots are spoken for, with Wakatakakage (8-3) overcoming a slow 0-3 start to clinch a 5th straight basho at the rank. Daieisho (4-7) needs to win out to defend his rank, although 3 wins should only drop him to Komusubi. Hoshoryu (5-6) needs 3 wins to remain Sekiwake and 2 to stay in San’yaku.

Absent Komusubi Abi will drop deep into the rank and file, while fellow Komusubi Ichinojo (4-7) needs to win out to hold rank, and Kiribayama (6-5) needs to win 2 of 4.

It’s not clear if any regulation San’yaku slots will open. Having secured his kachi-koshi at M1e, Tobizaru (8-3) should get a promotion even if this means creating an extra slot. Yusho leader M3e Tamawashi (10-1) can also stake a claim with a strong finish, so we may see an expanded lower San’yaku for the second straight basho.

Juryo Danger

M15w Tsurugisho (3-8) saved himself for the time being with a henka against Onosho, but must still win out to avoid a drop. Joining him with their backs to the wall are M14w Yutakayama (3-8) and M16e Mitoryu (4-7), while M16w Hiradoumi (5-6) can reach safety with 3 wins. The list of plausible promotion candidates in Juryo has been whittled down to four: Kagayaki, Atamifuji, Tahakuryu, and Azumaryu.

Makushita Danger

Absent J5w Asanowaka will in all likelihood drop to Makushita. J13w Tochimaru (2-9) is now all but certain to join him. Two more wins are needed to ensure safety for J14w Takakento (6-5) and J12e Gonoyama (5-6). M1w Roga (4-2) is the first Makushita rikishi to clinch promotion; for the rest of the candidates, see my Makushita post.