Natsu State of Play, Day 14

The Yusho Race

Ichinojo’s win over Hakuho had two major consequences, the first of which was to knock the Yokozuna out of yusho contention. Hakuho can still play spoiler though. I’m sure he’d love to prevail over Kakuryu in the senshuraku clash of the Yokozuna. Should he do so, and should Tochinoshin beat Ikioi, we will have a two-man playoff for all the marbles. Otherwise, it’s Kakuryu’s yusho. Hakuho holds a 39-6 career edge over Kakuryu, while Tochinoshin has defeated Ikioi 7 times in 11 bouts.

Remaining matches

Day 15: Tochinoshin vs. IkioiHakuho vs. Kakuryu

The San’yaku

The other consequence of Ichinojo’s victory is that we know he and Mitakeumi will occupy the two Sekiwake slots in Nagoya. The two meet tomorrow, with only pride at stake.

However, there is still a lot to settle on senshuraku in terms of who will take over the two vacant Komusubi slots. Shodai remains in pole position, and can clinch promotion with a win over Tamawashi, simultaneously knocking the latter out of the race. Should Tamawashi prevail, he would get his kachi-koshi and claim one slot, with the other going either to Shodai, Shohozan if he beats Takarafuji, or Abi if he beats Yoshikaze and Shohozan loses. Should Tamawashi, Shohozan, and Abi all lose, going make-koshi and hence being ineligible for promotion, then four men would be in contention, in the following rank order: Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Chiyonokuni, Kagayaki (with the last two facing each other). The highest-ranked member of this quartet to win should get the slot.

The Line Between Makuuchi  and Juryo

Takekaze’s loss today will probably send him down to join his fellow elder statesman Aminishiki in Juryo. A loss tomorrow to Okinoumi will seal his fate.  If he wins, he still needs to hope for at least two losses among the trio of IshiuraDaiamami and Ryuden. Ishiura may have a lifeline in the form of a bout with Juryo visitor Kyokushuho, while Daiamami faces Ryuden in what could well be a playoff for the last spot in Makuuchi. Arawashi reached safety with today’s win, leaving Hokutofuji as the only other maegashira at less than 100% safety.

KotoekoOnosho and Meisei should all be in the top division in Nagoya, although Meisei’s loss today, which knocked him out of the Juryo yusho race, leaves him one win short of being guaranteed promotion. He’ll try again tomorrow against Kotoyuki. J5 Akiseyama has a slim chance of promotion if he beats Terutsuyoshi and things really go south for the men above trying to hang on to Makuuchi.

Natsu State of Play, Day 13

The Yusho Race

Well, well, well. Tochinoshin did not display his usual patience and went down in defeat to, of all people, Shodai! This result means that the yusho will come down to the final bouts on senshuraku. Kakuryu won, matching Tochinoshin at 12-1, and Hakuho also won, moving to one off the lead at 11-2. With the two leaders meeting tomorrow, we know that the winner will go into the final day with 13 victories. Thus, the yusho will be won with either a 14-1 or a 13-2 record. This means that Hakuho can’t win it outright, and must defeat Ichinojo tomorrow and Kakuryu on senshuraku to have a chance of getting into a playoff.

The winner of tomorrow’s clash between Tochinoshin and Kakuryu is guaranteed at least a spot in the playoff, and can clinch the yusho with a final-day victory. The loser needs the winner to lose on senshuraku to have a chance at a playoff. So the possible scenarios still include a Tochinoshin outright yusho, a Kakuryu outright yusho, a playoff between any pair of the three contenders, or every fan’s dream, a three-way playoff. Four matches, with 16 possible outcomes, will determine which we get, and Herouth has put together a handy spreadsheet to track the possibilities.

Remaining matches

Day 14: Tochinoshin vs. KakuryuHakuho vs. Ichinojo

Day 15: Tochinoshin vs. Ikioi (?), Hakuho vs. Kakuryu

The San’yaku

Mitakeumi won today to clinch a San’yaku slot and a promotion back up to Sekiwake. Ichinojo lost, and needs one more win to ensure that he remains Sekiwake.

With his upset victory, Shodai is in the pole position for promotion to San’yaku. He takes on Mitakeumi tomorrow, and, I am going to predict, Tamawashi on senshuraku. The winner of Tamawashi-Ikioi tomorrow will take the lead in the race for the second open slot. ShohozanAbi, and  Kotoshogiku all still have a chance at promotion, and even M11 Chiyonokuni, the only rikishi outside the Big Three to earn double-digit victories, is on the outskirts of the San’yaku picture.

The Line Between Makuuchi  and Juryo

If the tournament ended today, the men going down would be AminishikiIshiura, and Takekaze. The latter two may save themselves by winning both of their remaining matches. Arawashi, Daiamami and Ryuden need one win apiece for safety, and the latter two might need two. Given that three men in Juryo have clearly earned promotion, absent Hokutofuji is looking less than 100% safe.

KotoekoOnosho and Meisei should all be in the top division in Nagoya. J5 Akiseyama has a slim chance to join them if he wins his final two matches and things really go south for the men above trying to hang on to Makuuchi.

Natsu State of Play, Day 12

The Yusho Race

Kakuryu outlasted Ikioi, and Tochinoshin prevailed over Hakuho in an epic battle. Congratulations, Shin-Ozeki! Going into the final three days, Tochinoshin leads at 12-0, followed by 11-1 Kakuryu and 10-2 Hakuho. Tochinoshin obviously controls his destiny: win out, and he claims a zensho yusho. He also has the easiest remaining schedule. Kakuryu also controls his destiny: if he can win out, defeating Tochinoshin on Saturday, the yusho would likely come down to a playoff between the two on senshuraku. Hakuho needs a lot of help to get into a playoff: even if Kakuryu defeats Tochinoshin, he needs the Georgian to pick up a second loss in one of his other two matches. If Tochinoshin defeats Kakuryu, he’d have to drop both of his other matches, which seems unlikely.

Remaining matches

Day 13: Tochinoshin vs. Shodai, Hakuho vs. Ikioi, Kakuryu vs. Ichinojo

Day 14: Tochinoshin vs. KakuryuHakuho vs. Ichinojo

Day 15: Tochinoshin vs. Ikioi (?), Hakuho vs. Kakuryu

The San’yaku

Two San’yaku slots will open up with Endo’s demotion and Tochinoshin’s promotion. Mitakeumi lost today and still needs to pick up a win to make sure it’s not three. A lot is on the line: if he can win one of his remaining 3 matches, he’ll move up to Sekiwake; if not, he’ll drop out of San’yaku altogether. Ichinojo also lost, and needs one more win to ensure that he remains Sekiwake. One of them is guaranteed to pick up a win when they face off on senshuraku, and this may be Ichinojo’s best chance, as his other remaining bouts are against the two Yokozuna. Mitakeumi has Kotoshogiku tomorrow, and likely Shodai on Saturday.

Ikioi and Shodai lead the promotion candidates for now, followed by Kotoshogiku and, surprisingly, Tamawashi, whom we’ve written off but who may yet get back to San’yaku if he can win all three of his remaining matches. Shohozan and Abi dropped off the paces with their losses today, and also need to win out to have a chance.

The Line Between Makuuchi  and Juryo

One slot in the top division will open up with Aminishiki’s demotion. Ishiura won today, but still needs to win out to survive, while Takekaze lost, putting him in the same position. Arawashi probably needs to win twice to be safe, while Daiamami and Ryuden need one win apiece. Everyone else has done enough to remain in Makuuchi in July.

Kotoeko has guaranteed a top-division debut, while Onosho has locked up a quick return to Makuuchi. Meisei still needs a win to join them, and that rounds out the list of legitimate promotion candidates in Juryo.

Natsu State of Play, Day 11

The Yusho Race

No change today, with the Big Three all winning. Tomorrow, we get the undercard of Kakuryu vs. Ikioi, followed by the headline event of the basho, Hakuho vs. Tochinoshin. We could emerge with anything from a 3-way tie to a commanding lead for our next Ozeki.

The San’yaku

It looks increasingly likely that exactly two San’yaku slots will open up, one with Endo’s now certain demotion and the other with Tochinoshin’s promotion. With his win today, Ichinojo cemented a San’yaku rank and needs one more win to ensure that this rank remains Sekiwake, while Mitakeumi lost and still needs one win to move back up to Sekiwake. His next chance comes tomorrow against Chiyotairyu.

The promotion picture is quite muddled. Ikioi is currently in the lead. Shohozan’s win over Abi gives him the advantage between the two, and Shodai and Kotoshogiku remain very much in the picture. Tomorrow’s key matches include Kotoshogiku vs. Ichinojo, Abi vs. Daieisho, and Shohozan vs. Shodai.

The Line Between Makuuchi  and Juryo

Aminishiki is definitely headed back down to Juryo. Ishiura needs to win out to survive, and takes on Aminishiki tomorrow in what’s likely his easiest remaining match. Takekaze’s loss today puts him next in line for demotion.

With victories today, J2 Kotoeko and J1 Onosho have almost certainly clinched promotion. J4 Meisei also won, putting him in good position to move up should a third Makuuchi slot open up.

Tochinoshin to Face Hakuho on Day 12!

Not sure what the schedule makers are thinking, but arguably the highlight bout of the basho will take place well before the final weekend, on Day 12. I’m surprised, as this would make a lot more sense as a Day 14 bout, especially with Hakuho yet to face Ichinojo. Anyway, even if tomorrow’s matches don’t alter the yusho race, this one on Thursday is certain to.

In other matches of note, Ikioi takes his turn in the joi against Kakuryu, and a lot of rikishi mass will be on the dohyo when Ichinojo faces Kotoshogiku.

Natsu State of Play, Day 10

We are deep enough into the basho to resume this series of posts that look at where things stand and what the various outcomes are likely to be.

The Yusho Race

Barring something really unexpected, this should come down to the two Yokozuna, both 9-1, and Sekiwake Tochinoshin, 10-0. The trio will have round-robin matches on Days 13, 14 and 15. The most likely order of the bouts is Kakuryu vs. Tochinoshin on Day 13, Hakuho vs. Tochinoshin on Day 14, and of course the Yokozuna face-off on senshuraku. Of the three, Tochinoshin has the easiest remaining schedule outside the round robin, with only maegashira opponents left to face. He starts with Kotoshogiku tomorrow, most likely followed by Shodai on Day 12 before he takes on the Yokozuna pair. Hakuho still has Ichinojo on his dance card, probably on Day 12, while Kakuryu has both Ichinojo and (tomorrow) Mitakeumi.

The San’yaku

I’m going to disagree with Bruce and say that Tochinoshin is a near-lock for Ozeki promotion with 11 wins, and a mortal lock with 12 or more, regardless of “win quality.” His promotion would open up a Sekiwake slot, and Endo’s likely demotion (unless he somehow wins out) would open up a Kumusubi slot. Mitakeumi needs one more win to move back up to Sekiwake, and after facing Kakuryu tomorrow, has Ichinojo and three maegashira opponents left on his schedule. Ichinojo needs two victories to lock down his rank (and one to stay in San’yaku), and has a harder path, with both Yokozuna still on his schedule.

Should two Komusubi slots open up, as seems likely, the two leading contenders for them are currently Ikioi and, wait for it, none other than Abi! Close behind in the race for promotion, should either man falter, are Shodai and Kotoshogiku. These four rikishi have clearly been the class of the upper maegashira ranks.

The Line Between Makuuchi  and Juryo

Unlike the mess at Haru, there is a better match this basho between the Makuuchi rikishi likely to warrant demotion and Juryo men likely to earn promotion. Sadly, Aminishiki is nearly a lock to go back down to Juryo. Ishiura needs to start winning, and fast, if he is to avoid joining him there. He probably needs to win 4 out of 5 to survive. The next demotion candidate is the other elder statesman, Takekaze, although he is in a virtual tie with Arawashi for that dubious honor. The two face off tomorrow, with the winner getting a big leg up in the race for survival. Other rikishi who are multiple victories short of safety are Tochiozan, Daiamami, and Sadanoumi, while several others can clinch a top-division stay with one more win.

Down in Juryo, there are three strong promotion candidates: J2 Kotoeko, who may have already done enough and would clinch promotion with one more victory, erstwhile Makuuchi rising star J1 Onosho, fighting his way back from injury, who needs one more win to secure his return to the top division, and J4 Meisei, who, like Kotoeko, is looking to make his Makuuchi debut.

Endo Returns, Goeido Pulls Out

It sounded like Endo withdrew with a serious injury that would require surgery and substantial recovery. Yet the Day 10 torikumi has him facing Hakuho in the musubi no ichiban! I sincerely hope that this means that his injury was much less severe than reported, and not that he’s rushing back into the fray in an ill-advised attempt to cushion his fall down the banzuke. Facing the Dai-Yokozuna is a rough way to return in any case.

Other Day 10 matches of note:

Kakuryu vs. Kotoshogiku

Shodai vs. Ichinojo

Tochinoshin vs. Chiyotairyu

Mitakeumi vs. Ikioi

Update: As commenter Scott points out, the Absent Rikishi page does indeed show Endo returning, but also shows Ozeki Goeido withdrawing, along with Juryo 1 Sokokurai. More to come.

Natsu Recap Heading Into Final Week

 

Eight days of the Natsu basho are in the books; seven days remain. We’ve seen a lot of exciting sumo, and more is in store, as almost everything is still in play. Only Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin has come through the first week unscathed, and only vastly over-promoted M3 Yutakayama (previous career-high rank: M11) has yet to record a victory, despite some valiant efforts, and should occupy a slot in more comfortable banzuke territory in Nagoya.

The Yusho Race

Each of two the active Yokozuna only has one blemish on his record, and both are very much in the yusho race at 7-1. They trail only Tochinoshin, who has yet to face Hakuho or Kakuryu. The matches among those three may well prove decisive, though there’s plenty of time left for wrenches to be thrown into the works. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the other 7-1 rikishi, M11 Chiyonokuni, isn’t really going to figure into the yusho race by the final weekend, but if he keeps winning, he can make things interesting, as can someone in the six-man 2-loss group.

The San’yaku

As Bruce noted, the Ozeki corps is in sorry shape. Injured Takayasu is absent and will be kadoban in Nagoya. The one competing Ozeki, Goeido, has lost 3 in a row and 5 of the last 6 to drop to 3-5. He can only afford two more losses if he doesn’t want to join Takayasu on “probation”, has yet to face any of the “big three”, and I wouldn’t install him as a big favorite against Ichinojo tomorrow, or Mitakeumi, or his likely remaining maegashira opponents (Shodai and Kotoshogiku?). We can only hope Tochinoshin wins the requisite number of his remaining matches (somewhere between 2 and 4) to earn promotion and shore up the depleted second-highest rank!

In lower San’yaku, Endo’s very sad injury will open up a Komusubi slot. Tochinoshin’s promotion would open up a Sekiwake slot. The other Sekiwake, Ichinojo, is 4-4, and has shown us both unstoppable sumo and his old habit of giving up with only token resistance. He needs 4 more wins to defend his rank and 3 to stay in San’yaku, and has yet to face the two Yokozuna, Goeido, or Mitakeumi. The other Komusubi, Mitakeumi, is 5-3, and if he can avoid one of his recent second-half fades, he has a good chance of moving back up to Sekiwake.

It’s way too early to predict how the upper maegashira ranks will shake out, especially with some of them already having faced all of their San’yaku opponents and others just starting to do so, but the 6-2 trio of Shodai, Kotoshogiku, and Ikioi currently has the inside track for San’yaku promotion.

The Demotion Zone

Uncle Sumo, Aminishiki, is in the worst shape at 1-7 and with no room for error at M16w. He would need to win out to stay in Makuuchi, which would take a miracle. Ishiura and Arawashi are also not looking good with their 2-6 records, although they have plenty of bouts left to improve their fortunes.

Everyone ranked M5 or higher is safe from demotion, with the exception of luckless Yutakayama, who seems certain to pick up the one win he needs in the last 7 days. Also safe after eight days are Takarafuji, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni, Kagayaki, Yoshikaze, Chiyomaru, and Hokutofuji (who seems to be back from the dead). I will update this list as the remainder of the basho unfolds.

 

 

Natsu Banzuke Prediction Postmortem

Natsu 2018 Banzuke

Well, the May tournament rankings are out. As usual, my forecast got a lot right, and some things wrong.

The Hits

I got the composition of the Sanyaku right on the money, and missed only which side the two Komusubi would be ranked on, which was always a tossup (Mitakeumi got the more prestigious East side, although I’m sure Endo is content with finally making it into the named ranks). Similarly, the only discrepancy in the M1-M3 ranks is the side switch between Shohozan and Abi at M2. Tamawashi moves to one rung away from a Sanyaku return, and Kaisei, Abi, Daieisho, and Yutakayama get well-deserved big promotions. It will be interesting to see how Abi and Yutakayama fare in their first tournament in the joi (and Daieisho in his second; his first, exactly a year ago, also at M3e, ended in a 4-11 record).

In total, I predicted 16 of the 42 slots on the banzuke exactly, and for a further 13, I had the rikishi at the correct rank, but on the wrong side. An additional 5 misses were by half a rank (e.g., I had Shodai at M5e, while the official ranking has him at M4w), and 3 were off by one full rank. That accounts for 37 of the 42 slots.

The Misses

In the Haru banzuke, the rikishi who finished at 7-8 in the previous tournament were dropped to a lower numerical rank. My predictions followed that pattern, but the banzuke committee allowed 7-8 Shodai to keep his M4w rank, and merely moved Kagayaki from M8e to M8w, while Yoshikaze, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni and Ishiura all dropped in rank; hard to see the consistency there.

I knew the M4-M6 area of the banzuke would be difficult to forecast, and so it proved. In addition to keeping Shodai at M4w, which resulted in a lower rank for Ikioi, the committee also switched my rankings of Chiyoshoma (M10e, 9-6) and Chiyotairyu (Ke, 4-11). This resulted in two of my two-rank misses. The other came when the committee moved Aoiyama all the way from M17e to M13w, although he only went 8-7. Perhaps they were giving him credit for his “loss” to Myogiryu on Day 5?

The other big misses came at the bottom of the banzuke. I changed my mind multiple times on the promotion/demotion scenarios. To recap, there were six Makuuchi rikishi who deserved to be demoted, yet only three Juryo men clearly earned promotion. Beyond the obvious three, the banzuke committee opted to demote Onosho, who was kyujo for the whole tournament, yet kept in Makuuchi both Myogiryu and Nishikigi with records that had always resulted in demotion in previous tournaments. The beneficiary of Onosho’s trip to Juryo? Uncle sumo, Aminishiki.

Three rikishi benefiting the most from banzuke luck: Chiyotairyu, Takakeisho, Aoiyama. No rikishi really have a big complaint.

 

Natsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

I started writing these prediction posts exactly a year ago, so this will be my seventh banzuke forecast for Tachiai. The accuracy has varied from basho to basho, though I think it’s fair to say that the forecasts give a very good idea of roughly where each rikishi will land—in most cases, within one rank or closer.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

No changes here from the Haru banzuke.

Lower San’yaku

S

Tochinoshin

Ichinojo

K

Endo

Mitakeumi

With his 7-8 record, Mitakeumi will lose his Sekiwake rank, but should only fall to Komusubi. Tochinoshin moves over to the East side, while Ichinojo moves up to Sekiwake. Endo finally gets his San’yaku promotion, and is a sufficiently strong candidate with his 9-6 record at M1e that I have him on the East side, although the banzuke committee could certainly switch him and Mitakeumi.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Kaisei

M2

Abi

Shohozan

M3

Daieisho

Yutakayama

M4

Chiyoshoma

Ikioi

M5

Shodai

Kotoshogiku

What’s certain is that there will be a lot of turnover in this area of the banzuke, as with the exception of Shohozan, everyone in the M2-M5 ranks checked in with a losing record, and only Shodai limited his losses to 8. Many in the ranks immediately below this group also did not distinguish themselves, meaning that we have to reach far down the banzuke for viable promotion candidates. Exactly how this will play out is much less certain, as there are many possible scenarios, and the considerations going into them are complex.

Let’s start with the easy part. Both Tamawashi and Kaisei did well enough to earn promotions to San’yaku, but since there are no open slots for them, they will have to be content with the top maegashira rank. Abi and Shohozan are the only plausible candidates for M2, although their ordering is uncertain. Abi will jump 5 ranks, and will join the joi in only his third top-division basho after earning 10-5 records in the first two. Similarly, Daieisho is the only plausible candidate for M3e. He will also jump 5 ranks, matching his highest career rank.

From here, things get complicated. The next best numerical score belongs to Shodai, but he can’t take the M3w slot due to his make-koshi record at M4w. The best he could do would be to remain at his current rank, though it’s more likely he gets a minimal demotion to M5e. Kotoshogiku could technically  be only demoted from M3e to M3w, but given his 6-9 record, this seems overly generous, and he should really be ranked below Shodai. The next best candidate for M3e is none other than Yutakayama, whose 10-5 record could vault him 8 ranks up the banzuke, all the way from M11.

If we put Shodai and M5e and Kotoshogiku right below him at M5w, who fills the M4 slots? The choice is between the next two strong kachi-koshi records, which belong to Chiyoshoma (9-6 at M10) and Ikioi (11-4 at M14), and the other two high-rankers due for big demotions, Komusubi Chiyotairyu (4-11) and M2 Takarafuji (5-10). My forecast favors the guys moving up the banzuke over those moving down. If the banzuke committee agrees, six out of the ten rikishi in this group would be moving up at least 5 ranks!

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Chiyomaru

Ryuden

M8

Yoshikaze

Hokutofuji

M9

Kagayaki

Daishomaru

M10

Okinoumi

Daiamami

M11

Chiyonokuni

Takakeisho

At Natsu, this area of the banzuke will serve primarily as the landing zone for higher-ranked rikishi who achieved make-koshi records ranging from just below .500 (Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni) to horrific (hello, Chiyotairyu and Takakeisho). The only bright spots are Ryuden, who moves up from M9 with a minimal kachi-koshi, and the Oitekaze stablemates Daishomaru and Daiamami, who vault up and out of the demotion danger zone with their 9-6 and 10-5 records.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Asanoyama

Arawashi

M13

Ishiura

Sadanoumi

M14

Takekaze

Tochiozan

M15

Aoiyama

Kyokutaisei

M16

Aminishiki

Kotoeko

M17

Gagamaru


The bottom of the banzuke is complicated by the fact that there are 6 Makuuchi rikishi who earned demotions by the usual criteria (in order from most to least deserving of demotion: Hedenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Onosho/Nishikigi, and Myogiryu), but only 3 Juryo rikishi who clearly earned promotion: Sadanoumi, Takekaze, and Kyokutaisei. Aminishiki is borderline, and the next two best candidates, Kotoeko (10-5 at J8) and Gagamaru (8-7 at J5), are ranked too low to be normally considered for promotion with those records. Obviously, the numbers moving up and down have to match. What to do?

My initial inclination was to demote Nishikigi in favor of Aminishiki, and save Onosho (who was kyujo) and Myogiryu. Over on the sumo forum, Asashosakari suggested that they could instead demote Onosho and save both Nishikigi and Myogiryu. The solution I’m currently favoring, given how poor their records were, is that both Nishikigi and Myogiryu will be demoted, as will Onosho. I’m guessing that the banzuke committee will be more likely to promote kachi-koshi Juryo rikishi with insufficiently strong records (after all, this has happened in the past) than to keep in the top division rikishi who failed to defend their places there. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this play out in any number of ways. We’ll find out on April 26th!

 

Haru Wrap-up and Predictions for Natsu

The Haru basho is in the books, and while the final day was filled with exciting bouts, the results did not make it easy on your humble prognosticator. Both the Sanyaku picture and the Makuuchi/Juryo exchange scenarios are quite muddy.

The Sanyaku

In the upper ranks, Kakuryu has solidified his standing as Yokozuna 1e with his fourth yusho. We hope that he is even more recovered from his injuries for Natsu, and that he is joined by at least one if not both of the other Yokozuna. Reports say that Hakuho is participating in the spring jungyo and that his toes are much improved. No word on Kisenosato. Both Ozeki got their kachi-koshi and so don’t have to worry about their rank in Natsu. There’s some talk about Takayasu being on a Yokozuna run with consecutive 12-3 jun-yusho, but I don’t buy it.

The Sekiwake ranks are also clear. After today’s bout between the two, Tochinoshin will move over to the S1e slot vacated by Mitakeumi, while Ichinojo will take over Tochinoshin’s current slot. With his 10-5 record following his 14-1 yusho at Hatsu, Tochinoshin is now on a legitimate Ozeki run, and will need at least ten wins at Natsu to claim sumo’s second-highest rank.

Komusubi is where things get complicated. There are four rikishi who each deserve to hold one of the two slots: Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7-8), M1e Endo and M1w Tamawashi, both 9-6, and M6 Kaisei, 12-3. In recent years, a 7-8 record at Sekiwake has guaranteed a demotion to no lower than Komusubi. An M1e with a 9-6 record has never missed out on promotion, and neither has an M6 with a 12-3 record (although there are fewer instances of the latter). An M1w with a 9-6 record missed out once—none other than Tochinoshin after the 2015 Natsu basho, under similar circumstances. I think this will play out as Endo making his Sanyaku debut at K1e, Mitakeumi falling to K1w (although they could easily switch sides), Tamawashi getting a hard-luck minimal promotion to M1e, and Kaisei rising to M1w. Tamawashi can’t jump over Endo with the same record, and none of the records are strong enough to force the creation of an extra Komusubi slot. It’s possible, but seems highly unlikely, that Kaisei would get the Komusubi slot over Endo.

The New Joi

Apart from the two strong M1 performances, the upper maegashira ranks returned to being the meat grinder, with only Shohozan earning a winning record. This should elevate him to M2, where he will be joined by Abi, who more than held his own at M7 in his second ever top-division tournament. Beyond that, it’s hard to find worthy candidates for the M3-M5 ranks. Daieisho and Yutakayama will be making big moves up the banzuke into the joi-jin, with Daieisho likely equaling and Yutakayama far exceeding their previous highest ranks. Chiyoshoma and Ikioi are the other candidates to move up into this range, while Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Chiyotairyu, and Takarafuji have claims to having their demotions not drop them below M5.

The Bottom of the Banzuke

Hanging on to spots in the M13-M17 range, and fighting again for survival at Natsu: Ishiura, Tochiozan, Aoiyama. Definitely demoted to Juryo: Hidenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Nishikigi (whose luck has finally run out after 5 basho in Makuuchi, always ranked M13 or lower, and never performing better than 8-7). The spots vacated by this quartet will be taken by Sadanoumi, Takekaze, Kyokutaisei, and Aminishiki. Yes, Uncle Sumo is back, and joined by the other elder statesman, Takekaze, both returning after one-tournament visits to Juryo. Sadanoumi returns after 3 basho away, and does it in style as the Juryo champ, while Kyokutaisei makes his long-awaited Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing promotion last time.

There are two other rikishi whose records would normally get them demoted. One is Myogiryu, who struggled to a 6-9 record at M15w and lost to two Juryo rikishi, including Aminishiki on senshuraku. The other is Onosho, who was kyujo (0-0-15) at M5w, which has always resulted in demotion since the kosho seido system was abolished. However, there’s a dearth of additional promotion candidates in Juryo. With several contenders near the top of the Juryo banzuke dropping to 7-8 on the last day, you’d have to reach all the way down to J8 Kotoeko (10-5) or way over-promote J5 Gagamaru (8-7), so Myogiryu and Onosho might dodge the bullet.

Haru State of Play Day 14 Update

The Yusho Race

This is settled. Congratulations to Yokozuna Kakuryu.

At least a share of the jun-yusho will go to the winner of tomorrow’s bout between Kaisei and Ikioi, both 11-3. Presumably at least the winner, and possibly both, will also get a special prize? The winner could be joined by Ozeki Takayasu if he can defeat the just-crowned champion in the final bout on senshuraku.

The Sanyaku

Mitakeumi battled valiantly today but came out on the losing side, dropping to 6-8 and relinquishing his Sekiwake rank. Hello, Sekiwake Ichinojo! Tomorrow, Mitakeumi will try to cushion his fall against Goeido. A win, and he drops to Komusubi. A loss, and he’s out of sanyaku altogether for the first time in seven tournaments.

Current (and future) Sekiwake Tochinoshin battles future Sekiwake Ichinojo tomorrow. Tochinoshin leads the career series 10-5, but it’s been very even recently. Both looked in good form today, and while the matchup is always one to look forward to, a double-digit win total is also on the line, as both men’s records stand at 9-5. For Tochinoshin, reaching double-digits would put him in a good position for promotion to Ozeki with a strong performance at Natsu. Ichinojo could get an Ozeki run of his own going with a third straight 10-win tournament. One final wrinkle: I’m not sure if a win by Ichinojo might jump him over Tochinoshin to the East side.

It seems like Endo’s 9th win today may have clinched his long-awaited promotion to the open Komusubi slot, though I’m not absolutely sure a 9-6 record at M1 beats a 12-3 record at M6 should Endo lose and Kaisei win tomorrow. Endo can make sure by beating Shohozan and reaching double-digits. The other Komusubi slot comes down to Mitakeumi (who would lock it up with a win), Kaisei, and Tamawashi, who takes on Chiyomaru.

Special Prizes

These seem a little unpredictable. Does Tochinoshin get one for being the only one to get dirt on the yusho-winning Yokozuna? Kaisei, Ikioi, and Yutakayama would seem to have a claim with double-digit-win performances, and Daiamami and the winner of AbiDaishomaru have a chance to join them.

The Demotion Zone

Today’s victory takes Tochiozan to safety. Myogiryu won today, but to stay out of Juryo, he must win again tomorrow against none other than Aminishiki, who remarkably has a chance at a top-division return with a victory. Nishikigi may or may not be able to save himself with a win, and his chances don’t look great against Chiyoshoma, who has looked much better and whom Nishikigi has yet to defeat in 4 attempts.

The three definite demotions are Sokokurai, Kotoyuki, and Hidenoumi. (Onosho’s fate is unclear, though a 0-0-15 record at M5 or lower usually leads to demotion.) The three definite promotions are Sadanoumi, Kyokutaisei, and Takekaze. Five or six additional men in Juryo have a shot with a win tomorrow.

Haru State of Play Day 13 Update

The Yusho Race

The torikumi committee’s Kaisei gambit didn’t pay off, as Kakuryu had the big Brazilian down on the dirt in a fraction of a second in a highly anticlimactic bout. In retrospect, Mitakeumi might have given the Yokozuna a bigger challenge. As it is, Kakuryu (12-1) now leads Takayasu, Kaisei, and Ikioi by 2 wins with two days to go.

Tomorrow, the Yokozuna can clinch the yusho with a victory against Goeido. Their career record (27-12) favors Kakuryu by slightly more than 2:1, and he has the big prize on the line, while Goeido is fighting for (ahem) pride, so I’d give the Yokozuna even better odds. Should he lose, and if any of the chasers win, then Kakuryu would need to beat Takayasu, against whom he’s 12-6, on senshuraku to avoid a playoff. [We at Tachiai.org are not betting against the Yokozuna. –PinkMawashi]

On Day 14, Takayasu faces Mitakeumi, who took advantage of the schedulers’ gift to break a 5-match losing streak and get an all-important 6th win, and who will be highly motivated to try to hang on to his rank, or at least a place in sanyaku. Kaisei drops back into the maegashira ranks to face Daishomaru, while Ikioi goes up against Ishiura.

The Sanyaku

Tochinoshin picked up his 5th and arguably his worst loss of the tournament today, as he was simply beaten by Shodai in a belt battle – a huge letdown after yesterday’s huge win, perhaps? He faces Chiyomaru tomorrow and likely Ichinojo on senshuraku, and needs to win both to carry a credible Ozeki run into Natsu. Ichinojo went meekly today against Shohozan, and seems satisfied with his 8 wins, which should see him at Sekiwake if Mitakeumi loses another bout.

With his win today, and losses by Kaisei and Tamawashi, Endo takes a clear lead in the race for the first open sanyaku slot. This is Endo’s first kachi-koshi in ten tries from a rank of M4 or higher, and we may finally see him break through into the named ranks. He faces Hokutofuji tomorrow, and probably Shohozan, Shodai, or Abi on senshuraku.

Remaining intra-sanyaku bouts (my predictions for Day 15):

Day 14: Takayasu vs. Mitakeumi; Kakuryu vs. Goeido

Day 15: Tochinoshin vs. Ichinojo; Goeido vs. Mitakeumi; Kakuryu vs. Takayasu

The Demotion Zone

With his win today, Daiamami earned his kachi-koshi and a place in the top division for Natsu. Tochiozan still needs a win, Nishikigi lost today and needs one or two, while Myogiryu staved off demotion with a win but still needs to win out.

Haru State of Play Day 12 Update

The Yusho Race

Kakuryu (11-1) leads by one over Kaisei and by two over Takayasu, Goeido, Daishomaru, and Ikioi.

As I noted yesterday, the torikumi committee has given us the gift of Kakuryu vs. Kaisei on Day 13! Should the Yokozuna prevail, as he has in all 11 previous meetings between the two, the yusho is more or less his—he would lead by two with two days to go. If Kaisei somehow pulls off the upset, the race could go down to the wire. The two would be tied, and the winner of tomorrow’s Ozeki clash would be one off the pace and control his own destiny, as Kakuryu still has to face both Ozeki. There are also two dark-horse contenders lurking far down the banzuke in Daishomaru and Ikioi. Needless to say, anyone who wants to see an exciting conclusion to the basho should be cheering for the big Brazilian.

The Sanyaku

Tochinshin’s huge win over the previously undefeated Yokozuna earned him his kachi-koshi, preserved his Sekiwake rank, and kept his Ozeki hopes alive. He’s almost certain to be moving over to the East side, given how the other Sekiwake has been performing lately.

With his loss against Shodai, which dropped him to 5-7, Mitakeumi  now needs to win all three of his remaining matches to stay at Sekiwake, and two of three to stay in sanyaku. The schedulers gave him a huge break by allowing him to dodge the Yokozuna tomorrow in favor of Hokutofuji, but that’s hardly a gimme, given that Mitakeumi has lost his last 5, while Hokutofuji has won 4 in a row. I assume that Mitakeumi will still have to face the two Ozeki, though with the schedulers’ new-found flexibility, who knows? [Edit: If Kaisei wins tomorrow, does he take Mitakeumi’s place in Day 14/15 matches? Or has the torikumi committee decided to swap the two already?]

With victories today, Endo and Tamawashi kept pace in the race for promotion to sanyaku. Tomorrow, Endo faces the big surprise of the basho, 6-6 Chiyomaru, while Tamawashi has the seemingly easier task of taking on the struggling Yoshikaze.

Remaining intra-sanyaku bouts (my predictions for Days 14 and 15):

Day 13: Takayasu vs. Goeido; Kakuryu vs. Mitakeumi

Day 14: Takayasu vs. Mitakeumi; Kakuryu vs. Goeido

Day 15: Tochinoshin vs. Ichinojo; Goeido vs. Mitakeumi; Kakuryu vs. Takayasu

The Demotion Zone

Daiamami could use one more win, and Tochiozan definitely still needs one. Nishikigi needs at least one win and possibly two, while Myogiryu needs to win out. With his withdrawal, Sokokurai joins Kotoyuki and Hidenoumi in Juryo.

Day 13 Torikumi Released

The Day 13 bouts were just posted, and there’s a surprise! As expected, Takayasu faces Goeido in the Ozeki clash. But rather than matching Kakuryu with the struggling Sekiwake Mitakeumi, the schedulers give us the undefeated Yokozuna vs. 10-1 Kaisei! Depending on how tomorrow’s bouts go, this one could go a long way to decide the yusho. It’s unusual to say the least for a Sekiwake not to face a Yokozuna during a basho, but this departure from tradition is a welcome one for the fans.