New Juryo for Aki

The banzuke committee met today to hash out the rankings chart for September. Most of the results won’t be announced until August 31st. The one bit of information we get now is who’s been promoted to Juryo, so that the new sekitori can get ready for their expanded duties.

As expected, four promotions were announced. Two are making their second-division debuts: Oki, Ms2w, 5-2 (Shikoroyama-beya), and Nishikifuji, Ms3e, 5-2 (Isegahama). Two are returning to the paid ranks: Kitaharima, Ms3w, 5-2 (Yamahibiki), and former top-division mainstay and Makushita champion Chiyonokuni, Ms12w, 7-0 (Kokonoe). Just missing out is former Komusubi Jokoryu, Ms4w, 5-2.

Reading the tea leaves, the corresponding demotions from Juryo should be J10 Asabenkei (3-12), J14 Chiyonoumi (6-9), and J13 Takagenji (6-9); the fourth slot is made available by Tochiozan’s retirement.

Also, four (rather than 5) promotions mean that Abi’s resignation proposal wasn’t acted on by the time of the meeting, and the new banzuke was presumably made without taking the likelihood of his retirement into account. This is bad news for the prospects of Nishikigi’s survival or Ichinojo’s promotion.

Wrapping Up The July Basho

Tachiai congratulates former Ozeki Terunofuji (M17e, 13-2) on his incredible comeback and storybook victory. The “Kaiju” should be ranked much higher in September, and will likely face a regular slate of san’yaku opponents. If he can retain his current form, I wouldn’t bet against a repeat performance. Let’s take a look at what the results mean for other moves up and down the banzuke.

Yokozuna and Ozeki runs

A 12-3 jun-yusho was a strong performance by Asanoyama in his Ozeki debut, but should not put him on any sort of Yokozuna run. Neither Sekiwake will be promoted to Ozeki despite excellent 11-4 records. Shodai, whose previous result was 8-7 at Sekiwake, probably needs a 14-win yusho to be promoted in September; more likely, he’ll need double-digit wins in the next two basho. With 10 wins at M3 in March, including a 5-2 record against san’yaku opponents, 11 here, and his long record of consistent san’yaku performances, not to mention 2 yusho, Mitakeumi may be the more likely of the pair to get the nod at Aki, possibly with 11-12 wins.

The san’yaku ranks

Both Sekiwake will remain at the same ranks. After his breakout performance, Komusubi Daieisho (11-4), is, in my opinion, likely to get an extra Sekiwake slot, despite two of his wins being fusensho. This would also open up the West Komusubi slot for M1e Endo (8-7), and free the banzuke committee from having to either not promote him or create a precedent-setting extra Komusubi slot. M2 Takanosho (8-7) and M5 Hokutofuji (9-6), the only other upper maegashira with winning records, will have to settle for the two M1 slots.

The demotion picture

We have three clear demotions to Juryo: M15 Chiyomaru (4-11), M17 Kotoyuki (6-8-1), and M13 Kotonowaka (4-6-5). Two additional rikishi have demotable records: M16 Nishikigi (6-9) and M9 Ikioi (3-12). M12 Shohozan (5-10) secured a stay in the top division with three victories (one by default) in the final three days. My guess here is that Ikioi saved himself with his final-day victory, as there isn’t a strong enough promotion contender to take his place (see below). Nishikigi, on the other hand, should be returning to the second division, his reputation for Houdini-like escapes notwithstanding.

Promotions from Juryo

Three promotions are certain: Juryo yusho winner J1e Meisei (10-5), J2e Tobizaru (9-6), who just missed out last time, and the star of “A Normal Life”, J5e Kyokutaisei (10-5). I believe that they will be joined by J6e Hoshoryu (10-5), who will take Nishikigi’s spot. Narrowly missing out will be J5w Ichinojo (9-6), who lost his “exchange bout” against Shohozan.

The Juryo-Makushita exchange

Three rikishi will be dropping out of Juryo: J10 Asabenkei (3-12), J14 Chiyonoumi (6-9), and J13 Takagenji (6-9). With Tochiozan’s retirement, that’s four open slots. These will go to the Makushita yusho winner, former top-division mainstay Ms 12 Chiyonokuni (7-0), Ms2w Oki (5-2), Ms3e Nishikifuji (5-2), and Ms3w Kitaharima (5-2). Three members of the Makushita joi (Ms1-Ms5) will not move up to Juryo despite winning records, including former Komusubi Ms4w Jokoryu (5-2) and Ms5e “Prince” Naya (4-3).

The field for the new Makushita joi is crowded. The contenders include the 3 Juryo dropouts, although Asabenkei could fall below Ms5, Ms1 Kotodaigo (3-4), and the trio missing out on ptomotion: Ms4e Sakigake (4-3), Jokoryu, and Naya. That fills either 6 or 7 of the 10 slots. Two more will go to Ms6e Kaisho (5-2) and Ms10w Shiraishi (6-1). And a lack of strong winning records above him likely means that fan favorite Ms19 Ura (6-1) should continue his comeback from within the promotion zone!

I think that’s it, but if there’s anything I didn’t cover, please let me know in the comments. I will cover the Juryo promotions when they’re announced on Wednesday, and will have a full banzuke prediction post up in the coming weeks.

What’s At Stake On Senshuraku

The yusho race

Former Ozeki Terunofuji (M17e, 12-2) remains the sole leader. He is trailed by the three highest-ranked men retaining in the tournament, new Ozeki Asanoyama and the Sekiwake duo Shodai and Mitakeumi, all 11-3. And all the leaders are matched up in the final two bouts tomorrow, making for what could hardly be a more exciting conclusion to the tournament. First, it’s Terunofuji vs. Mitakeumi (head-to-head 4-2). If Terunofuji can prevail, he lifts the Emperor’s Cup for the second time in his career. If Mitakeumi wins, both participants enter a three-way playoff with the winner of the final bout between Asanoyama and Shodai!

Yokozuna and Ozeki runs

If Asanoyama can take the yusho, he would be on Yokozuna watch at Aki, although a 12-3 playoff win against a diminished field would likely require nothing less than a strong second yusho in September for promotion.

Both Sekiwake are in somewhat complicated situations. Shodai’s last two basho results were a 13-2 jun-yusho at M4, with a 5-1 record against san’yaku opponents, followed by 8-7 at Sekiwake. A 12-3 here would give him 33 wins in 3 tournaments, and several successful Ozeki runs have started at upper maegashira, so he could get the nod, especially if he lifts the Cup. Otherwise, he’ll probably need 13-14 wins in September to earn promotion.

Mitakeumi had a losing record in January, so he certainly can’t be promoted this time. But 10 wins at M3 in March, with a 5-2 record against san’yaku opponents, combined with at least 11 here, and his long record of consistent san’yaku performances, should put promotion within reach with 11-12 wins at Aki.

The san’yaku ranks

Unless Shodai gets promoted and/or Komusubi Daieisho (10-4) forces an extra Sekiwake slot to be created with an 11th win against Myogiryu tomorrow (not guaranteed with two of those wins being fusensho), there won’t be any open san’yaku slots. What happens in that scenario if Endo (7-7) wins tomorrow? We know from last September that 9-6 at M1e is enough to force an extra Komusubi slot to be created, but it’s less clear if 8-7 is. The last time an M1e with this record was denied promotion was in 1969, but as far as I can tell, there have only been three instances since then of an extra slot being created in this scenario, with the most recent in 1995, when this practice was much more common. M2 Takanosho (8-6) would get the potential open slot should Endo lose.

Special prizes

I’m guessing these will be dominated by the trio of Shodai, Mitakeumi, and Terunofuji, with the exact allocation determined by tomorrow’s outcomes. Daieisho could also be in line for a prize. No other performances jump out at me, but I welcome speculation in the comments.

Darwin bouts

Only 3 rikishi enter the final day with 7-7 records, meaning that their make/kachi-koshi fate hasn’t been decided yet: the aforementioned Endo, who will feature in the only “Darwin bout” against Tokushoryu, and Sadanoumi, who is matched with Nishikigi (6-8). The latter also has a lot on the line, as discussed in the next section.

The demotion picture

We have two clear demotions: M15 Chiyomaru (4-10) will be headed to Juryo along with M17 Kotoyuki (6-8). Two additional rikishi already have demotable records, but could save themselves with final-day wins if there aren’t enough strong promotion cases in Juryo: M9 Ikioi (2-12) and M13 Kotonowaka (4-5-5). Two more can reach safety by winning their final bouts: M12 Shohozan (4-10) and M16 Nishikigi (6-8).

Promotions from Juryo

J1e Meisei (9-4) has clinched a return to Makuuchi. Others still in contention, and probably in this order, are J5e Kyokutaisei (10-4), J2e Tobizaru (8-6), J5w Ichinojo (9-5), and J6e Hoshoryu (9-5). Kyokutaisei and Tobizaru can guarantee promotion by winning, while Ichinojo and Hoshoryu need victories and some losses by the Makuuchi demotion candidates. In that regard, Ichinojo controls his destiny, as he fights Shohozan in a likely “exchange bout.”

The Juryo yusho race

Strap in everyone, this could get wild. Kyokutaisei and the last man on the banzuke, J14w Mitoryu, lead the field at 10-4 (Mitoryu defeated the top man on the banzuke, Meisei, in an excellent bout today). The leading duo is chased by six strong rikishi with 9-5 records. The matchups for tomorrow are such that all eight could end up with 10-5 records! How fun would that playoff be? Amazingly, this did happen once, exactly 19 years ago. In the key bouts for forcing a playoff, Mitoryu faces Hoshoryu, who likely also has top-division promotion on the line, while former Makuuchi regular Daishomaru (7-7) gets the task of slowing down Kyokutaisei.

The Juryo-Makushita exchange

Three slots are already open in Juryo: one by Tochiozan’s retirement, and the other two by the performances of J10 Asabenkei (3-11) and J14 Chiyonoumi (6-8). These will be taken over by the Makushita yusho winner, former top-division mainstay Ms 12 Chiyonokuni (7-0), Ms2w Oki (5-2), and Ms3e Nishikifuji (5-2). The final possible exchange will be decided in the crossover bout between J13 Takagenji (6-8) and Ms3w Kitaharima (4-2). Ms5e “Prince” Naya will spend at least one more basho in Makushita despite a winning 4-3 record in the promotion zone, and Tachiai favorite Ms19 Ura (6-1) will also be looking for a return to sekitori ranks at Aki, although it’s not clear yet whether he’ll make it into the Makushita joi (Ms1-Ms5), or need a 7-0 record for promotion from below “the invisible line.”

July Basho Storylines, Day 13

The yusho race

After today’s epic showdown, and the withdrawal of Yokozuna Hakuho, your surprise day 13 sole leader in former Ozeki Terunofuji (M17e, 12-1). He is trailed by the man he vanquished, new Ozeki Asanoyama (11-2). Also in the race, at least mathematically, are the Sekiwake duo Shodai and Mitakeumi, both 10-3. Both will certainly feature prominently in the yusho race, as Shodai will face Terunofuji tomorrow and Asanoyama on senshuraku, while Mitakeumi will almost certainly be pitted against Terunofuji on the final day.

The future of the Ozeki corps

Asanoyama is having a strong debut tournament at sumo’s second-highest rank. Fellow Ozeki Takakeisho (8-4-1) cleared kadoban, although his withdrawal is concerning given his injury history. Reinforcements may be on the way: both Sekiwake will finish with no fewer than 10 wins, and this could even be considered the second basho of an Ozeki run for each, depending on how high they can run up the final score.

The san’yaku ranks

The Sekiwake will retain their ranks. Both Komusubi will also remain in san’yaku, having recorded the required 8 wins. Daieisho (9-4) could force an extra Sekiwake slot to be created if he wins out, while Okinoumi (8-5) is kachi-koshi for the first time in seven appearances in the named ranks. Unless Daieisho is promoted, there won’t be any open san’yaku slots, though Endo (6-7) could make the banzuke committee’s life difficult by finishing 8-7 at the top maegashira one East rank. M2 Takanosho (7-6) is the current front-runner should a slot open, with M5 Hokutofuji (8-5) the only other man in a position to pass him. Of course, should Terunofuji take the yusho with a 14-1 record, he could also have a claim, notwithstanding the recent precedent set by Tokushoryu, who wasn’t a former Ozeki.

The ex-Ozeki quartet

Our four former Ozeki are all kachi-koshi and will be moving up the banzuke, reversing their recent trends. M11 Tochinoshin, M13 Takayasu, and M14 Kotoshogiku are all 8-5, and the aforementioned M17 Terunofuji is 12-1, for a combined 36-16 record. Of the six possible bouts among them, four have taken place, with Takayasu going 2-0, Tochinoshin 1-1, Terunofuji 1-1, and Kotoshogiku 0-2.

Darwin bouts

At the moment, 8 rikishi have 6-7 or 7-6 records, meaning that their make/kachi-koshi fate hasn’t been decided yet. Two of the 6-7’s and two of the 7-6’s are matched up on day 14, leaving at most 6 (and as few as 2) 7-7 rikishi going into senshuraku. Sorry, Bruce, so opportunities for 7-7 winner-take all bouts on the final day are going to be fairly limited.

The demotion picture

We have one clear demotion: M15 Chiyomaru will be headed to Juryo, having already recorded 10 losses. Several rikishi need to win their final two bouts for safety: M9 Ikioi (2-11), M12 Shohozan (3-10), M13 Kotonowaka (4-4-5), who makes a possibly ill-advised return tomorrow in an attempt to save his top-division spot, and M17 Kotoyuki (6-7), who appeared to be hurt after today’s loss. M16 Nishikigi (6-7) should be safe with one more win. I should mention 0-13 M2 Onosho, who should survive even if he remains winless. There was one demotion of an M2 in 1990, but that was when the banzuke only went down to M14. A number of winless M2’s have survived, but all were absent for all or part of the basho. Picking up 15 losses on the dohyo is extremely rare, having happened only 4 times in the history of the top division, so who knows what the banzuke committee will do. And then there’s Abi.

Promotions from Juryo

J1e Meisei (9-4) has clinched a return to Makuuchi. Others still in contention, and probably in this order, are J5e Kyokutaisei (9-4), J2e Tobizaru (7-6), J6e Hoshoryu (9-4), and J5w Ichinojo (8-5). All of them still need wins, and some banzuke luck, to make it to the top division.