Nagoya Banzuke Crystal Ball

After going kyujo for one basho, the crystal ball is back! The new rankings will be announced and mailed to supporters on June 21. In advance of this much-awaited event, let’s take a look at how they are likely to shake out.

Here’s my banzuke guess. Scroll down to see which ranks I think it’s most likely to get wrong.

Starting from the top, it’s not a certainty that Terunofuji will leapfrog Takakeisho as a result of the outcome of their playoff bout. Also, it would only qualify as a minor surprise if Endo got the nod for the West Komusubi rank over Meisei. And Daieisho and Ichinojo could switch spots.

Then we come to the biggest question mark on the banzuke—who gets to fill the hole in the rankings at M3w/M4e. M3w is a toss-up between M12e Kotoeko (9-6) and M14w Chiyotairyu (10-5). I went with the former for two reasons. First, their ranks on the east and west side, respectively, give Kotoeko a half-rank edge “by the numbers.” Second, it allowed me to keep Kotoeko and Okinoumi, who posted the same records at the same rank, at similar banzuke positions; otherwise, they’d be separated by 3 full ranks. The banzuke committee could easily go the other way, or even increase the gap by placing Chiyotairyu at M4e and Okinoumi at M7e.

Further down, Aoiyama and Chiyoshoma could easily swap sides at M8, as could Kaisei and Tochinoshin at M11, and in fact any rearrangement of the quartet I placed at M11-M12 wouldn’t surprise me. M15 is another rank where the decision to place Tsurugisho on the East side and Chiyomaru on the West basically came down to a coin flip.

I feel pretty good about the rest of the guesses, but I’m always surprised by at least a couple of the banzuke committee decisions when the official rankings are released. We’ll get to see them in a week; in the meantime, feel free to speculate in the comments.

Wrapping up May and looking toward July

Tachiai congratulates Ozeki Terunofuji (12-3) on a well-deserved victory. His playoff win over fellow Ozeki Takakeisho (12-3) should see him take over the top O1e rank in July, with Takakeisho moving over to the West side. Shodai (9-6) will occupy O2e, with kadoban Asanoyama (7-5-3) the bottom-ranked Ozeki, assuming he’s still on the banzuke.

Terunofuji is now clearly on a Yokozuna run, and a strong performance in July should seal the deal, though we don’t know whether that will require another yusho or merely a sufficiently good runner-up performance. There’s some discussion as to whether Takakeisho could also be in contention to get the rope in July, though he hasn’t shown the same consistency, and a 12-3 runner-up finish isn’t much of a foundation for a tsuna run in recent times.

The new san’yaku

East Sekiwake Takayasu (10-5) will retain his rank, and with 10 wins at Komusubi in March, he is on an Ozeki run. Chief judge Isegahama said that he would get re-promoted with a 13-win yusho in July, though we’ll have to see if they actually hold him to that high a standard should he fall just short of the target. On the West side, we will have Mitakeumi (10-5), who’ll be making his 15th appearance at the rank and his 25th in san’yaku, by far the most among active rikishi and high on the all-time list. It’s not completely out of the question that Mitakeumi himself could finally make Ozeki, but it would take a 14- or 15-win yusho.

We will have two debuts at Komusubi, both by rikishi who barely missed out last time due to terrible banzuke luck: M1e Wakatakakage (9-6) and M2e Meisei (8-7).

Upper maegashira

Continuing a recent trend, only 4 rikishi in the 21 ranks between M1e and M11e managed winning records, which is tied for the fewest in the modern era and is the worst performance by these ranks in over 20 years. With two of them moving up into the named ranks, there is a dearth of candidates to fill out the joi-jin. M8 Endo (11-4) should occupy the top M1e slot, followed by fallen Komusubi Daieisho (6-9), fallen Sekiwake Takanosho (5-10), and the other kachi-koshi upper maegashira, M6 Ichinojo (9-6). M1w Hokutofuji (6-9) should see a soft landing at M3e, but from there the choices get ugly. With the M5 duo of Hoshoryu and Onosho both finishing 7-8 and hence unable to move up, the hole in the banzuke from M3w-M4w must be filled through some combination of seriously under-demoting M2w Tobizaru (5-10) or the M4 duo of Kiribayama and Myogiryu, both 6-9, and way over-promoting the M12 duo of Kotoeko and Okinoumi, both 9-6, or M14w Chiyotairyu (10-5), the only maegashira aside from Endo to record double-digit wins.

Makuuchi-Juryo exchanges

Absentees Midorifuji, Ryuden, and Akiseyama will fall deep into the second division, and they’ll be joined by M17e Akua (5-10). The first three spots will be claimed by Juryo yusho winner J2 Ura (12-3) and the two runners-up, J1 Chiyonoo and J2 Tokushoryu, both 11-4. These returnees to the top division (Tokushoryu after 2 basho away, the other two for the first time since 2017) should be ranked higher than is typical for Juryo promotions. The final slot should go to J4e Yutakayama (8-7) for a very lucky return to Makuuchi, though there’s a slight chance they could go with J8e Ichiyamamoto (10-5) instead.

Juryo-Makushita exchanges

Four men should drop from Juryo: Chiyootori, Churanoumi, and Chiyonoumi, and Jokoryu. Their spots in the paid ranks will go to Ms7 Abi, the undefeated yusho winner, top-ranked Ms1e Kotokuzan (5-2), who inexplicably got passed over last time, Ms2e Kaisho (6-1), and Ms1w Yago (4-3), who won his final-day “exchange bout” against Jokoryu. Barring retirements before the banzuke committee meeting on Wednesday, Ms2e Tochimaru (4-3) will be left on the outside looking in.

Update: the Juryo promotions above are confirmed. The corresponding demotions are not announced, but it’s pretty clear it’ll be the predicted quartet.

Final Weekend: What’s at Stake?

The yusho race

Ozeki Terunofuji (12-1) leads by two over fellow Ozeki Takakeisho and M8 Endo. The leader faces Endo tomorrow, and presumably Takakeisho on senshuraku, and a win in either of those bouts will give him his second consecutive yusho and mark the first step in a rope run. So would a loss by Takakeisho to Shodai tomorrow and by Endo to his final-day opponent. A remote possibility of a two- or three-way playoff still remains.

The Ozeki

I won’t speculate here on the fate of Asanoyama. Shodai (8-5) hasn’t exactly impressed, but he did clinch his 8th win today and will remain Ozeki.

The san’yaku ranks

East Sekiwake Takayasu (9-4) has locked down his rank. With 10 wins at Komusubi in March, he is arguably on an Ozeki run already, but 10 or 11 wins will both look better and give him a more reachable target in July. On the West side, Takanosho has a mirror 4-9 record that will drop him out of the named ranks after 4 basho at Sekiwake. His slot will be taken by East Komusubi Mitakeumi (8-5), who’ll be making his 15th appearance at the rank and his 25th in san’yaku, by far the most among active rikishi and high on the all-time list.

West Komusubi Daieisho (5-8) will also be vacating his rank, leaving both Komusubi slots open. One is spoken for by M1e Wakatakakage (8-5), who’ll be making his san’yaku debut. The other is a three-man race between M2e Meisei (7-6), who has yet to clinch a winning record, the aforementioned Endo, and dark-horse contender M6 Ichinojo (8-5).

Makuuchi-Juryo exchanges

Absentees Midorifuji, Ryuden, and Akiseyama will fall deep into the second division. Their spots will be claimed by Juryo yusho leader J1 Chiyonoo (11-2), chaser and Tachiai favorite J2 Ura (10-3), and veteran J2 Tokushoryu (9-4).

From there, it gets complicated. M17e Akua, with his 9 losses on the last rung of the top division, should be going down. Ishiura, one rank higher and with one fewer loss, is also in trouble. Then there’s absent M3w Chiyonokuni, whose zero wins also place him in a demotable position. But after the three promotion leaders above, there aren’t any great candidates. The two best-placed men are J4e Yutakayama and J5e Kotoshoho, both 7-6, whom I would have expected to perform better in Juryo, and who still need another win apiece to even be eligible for promotion. I expect Chiyonokuni to just hang on to Makuuchi. Ishiura can reach safety by winning out, which would still likely result in one very lucky promotion.

Juryo-Makushita exchanges

Three men should drop from Juryo: Chiyootori, Churanoumi, and Chiyonoumi. There are also three clear frontrunners for promotion: Ms7 Abi, the undefeated yusho winner, top-ranked Ms1e Kotokuzan (4-2), who inexplicably got passed over last time, and Ms2e Kaisho (6-1), who won his “exchange bout” against Chiyonoumi today. The other endangered incumbent is J7 Jokoryu (3-10) who needs a win for safety. Ms1w Yago (3-3) and Ms2e Tochimaru (3-3) are the leading candidates to be left on the outside looking in.

Looking Toward the Natsu Banzuke

The 2021 Haru basho is in the books, and all the prizes have been handed out. How will the results reshuffle the rankings for the Natsu basho? As usual, I’ll have a full banzuke prediction posted once I’ve had more time for analysis, but here’s an early look at the key points.

The named ranks

Barring any unexpected further intai news, we will have Hakuho as the sole Yokozuna. The Ozeki ranks will see a reshuffle, with Asanoyama and Takakeisho, both 10-5, moving up to O1 East and West, respectively, newly kadoban Shodai falling to O2e, and re-promoted Terunofuji “debuting” at O2w.

All the other incumbents in lower san’yaku—S1w Takanosho, K1e Takayasu, K1w Mitakeumi, and K2w Daieisho are kachi-koshi. I think they’ll move up in tandem to S1e, S1w, K1e, and K1w, although there is a chance that Takayasu could leapfrog Takanosho (now there’s an image!).

Upper maegashira

Similar to the situation last time, we had three high-performing upper maegashira—M2e Hokutofuji (9-6), M2w Wakatakakage (10-5) and M3e Meisei (10-5), who would all deserve a san’yaku slot if any were available. The other upper maegashira all put up losing records that ranged from borderline to disastrous, and we have to go all the way down to M8w Tobizaru (10-5) to find the next winning record. This makes filling out this part of the banzuke a real challenge.

I think the least unfair way to accomodate the top trio is to place Wakatakakage at M1e (obviously), and then bump up Hokutofuji a measly half-a-rank to M1w, leaving Meisei, who really should be ahead of him, to settle for M2e. Tobizaru is then a lock for M2w, and remarkably, the surprise jun-yusho winner, M12w Aoiyama (11-4), is the best (and really only) candidate for M3e. What to do with M3w though? Here are your options, ladies and gentlemen: M9e Chiyonokuni, with 8 wins, M15w (!!!) Hidenoumi with 10, or M1w Onosho with his sterling 4-11 record. No, seriously, those are the best-placed rikishi, assuming they don’t promote someone with a losing record. Take your pick between a 5-rank over-promotion, a 7-rank over-promotion, or a 5-rank under-demotion.

Leaving the 7-8 M4 duo of Kiribayama and Myogiryu in place stops the bleeding a bit, but the choices for M5e, M5w, and M6e don’t look so hot either. After that, it’s two more 7-8 rikishi keeping their ranks—M6w Ichinojo and M7e Tochinoshin—and then the rankings return to some semblance of normalcy. And let’s not even think about what would need to happen if an extra Komusubi slot were created for Wakatakakage.

Makuuchi-Juryo exchanges

With a 9-man san’yaku, the M17e rank will reappear. And the exchanges should be pretty straightforward. Everyone in the top division finished with records that easily warrant a return, with the exception of M11 Kotoshoho (one win) and M15 Yutakayama (4-11). Those two demotions, plus Kakuryu’s retirement, open up three slots, and there are three clear promotion candidates: J2e Ishiura (9-6), J3e Chiyomaru (9-6), and J1w Akua (8-7). For the second basho in a row, no one will make a Makuuchi debut; before this March, we’ve had a newcomer in every tournament since Kyushu 2018. Just missing out on a return is M4e Enho (9-6), who will try again from the top spot in Juryo, where even 8 wins will be enough.

I’ll end this here, and cover what I think will happen in Juryo and upper Makushita after the new Juryo promotions are announced on Wednesday (it’s the only part of the banzuke we get to see early). Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think in the comments!