Kyushu Banzuke Crystal Ball

Your humble prognosticator hasn’t been able to devote the usual amount of time to banzuke prediction for the past month, and so my forecast is late and less polished than usual, but I’m getting it in under the wire before the banzuke is released on Monday (late Sunday in the US, about 48 hours from now).

The Guess

Winning records in green, losing records in red, Juryo rikishi in blue.

Biggest Question Marks

There’s one giant question mark hanging over this banzuke: how many Komusubi will there be? The issue is that Hokutofuji and (to a slightly lesser extent) Asanoyama recorded performances at Aki that warrant san’yaku promotion, but all four regular slots are spoken for by the incumbents posting winning records (with Takakeisho and Tochinoshin swapping spots). In particular, Hokutofuji posted a 9-6 record while occupying the top M1e maegashira slot, so that there is no room to promote him without moving him up to san’yaku (a lesser consideration is that this is his second-consecutive 9-6 record at M1). No kachi-koshi M1e has been denied promotion since Ryuko (8-7) in 1969—which is something like 86 consecutive promotions.

But that argument is not quite as compelling as it sounds, since only 6 of those 86 instances required the creation of an extra Komusubi slot, and this hasn’t happened in over 20 years, since Kaio was promoted to K2 in January of 2019. And while the K2 rank used to be employed commonly, especially in the 1990’s, when it was used over 20 times, we haven’t seen it since Kyushu 2006, when M3w Aminishiki (11-4 at Aki) and M1w Roho (10-5) were promoted to K2e and K2w, respectively. Since that time, several upper maegashira with records that would have forced an extra Komusubi slot in previous years (9-6 at M1w, 10-5 at M2, 11-4 at M3) have had to bide their time in the rank-and-file.

So what will happen this time? I’d put the probabilities of 2, 3, and 4 Komusubi at 35%, 40%, and 25%, respectively. The argument for 2: “We simply don’t create extra ranks any more unless the claim is overwhelming, plus it leads to over-promotion for the rest of the banzuke.” The argument for 3: “We must promote the top-ranked maegashira with a winning record, but we don’t have to promote Asanoyama.” The argument for 4: “A 10-5 record at M2 counts as stronger than a 9-6 record at M1, so if we promote Hokutofuji, it’s only fair to promote Asanoyama.” Note that in this scenario, I would predict that Asanoyama would be K2e and Hokutofuji K2w, analogous to the placements of Aminishiki and Roho the last time this happened.

Note that I’ve gone with what I view as the slightly less likely default option of 2 Komusubi. While the other options will mean simply sliding most rikishi up one or two slots, it’s not always that straightforward, as make-koshi rikishi such as 7-8 Tomokaze and Tamawashi cannot be placed above their current rank, leading to bigger bumps for some lower-ranked kachi-koshi wrestlers.

Biggest Rises

I am projecting that 11-win Okinoumi, who was in yusho contention on the final day, will be rewarded with a 6-rank promotion from M8 to M2. There were three 10-win performances in the lower half of the banzuke, and they should see Meisei rise from M10 to M5, Tsurugisho from M14 to M8, and Yutakayama from M16 to M10. These promotions would get more generous with more than two Komusubi slots—for instance, with four Komusubi, I’d slot in Meisei all the way up at M3e.

This is also a good place to note those projected to make the jump from Juryo to the top division. At the top of the list is Takanosho, whom I have making his Makuuchi return (following 5 tournaments in Juryo) at M13 after posting a 10-5 record from J2. Joining him should be J1 Chiyomaru (after a one-basho absence), J3 Wakatakakage (making his top-division debut) and J5 Daishomaru (after a four-basho absence). I have all three just barely doing enough for promotion and therefore occupying the very bottom rungs on the Makuuchi ladder.

Biggest Falls

Some of the joi maegashira really underperformed at Aki and will be fighting much lower down the banzuke in Kyushu. It’ll be interesting to see how much damage they can do down there if they can recover their form and health. The biggest projected drop belongs to one-win Ichinojo, who withdrew with an injury on Day 5 and will see his rank plummet from M2 to M12. Just below him on the predicted banzuke is 2-win Chiyotairyu, who falls from M5 to M13. Faring slightly better is 3-win Shodai, who should drop from M4 to M11, which would be by far his lowest rank since he made his Makuuchi debut at M12 in January of 2016. For all the grief he gets from Bruce on this site, Shodai is usually a solid bet to maintain a rank in the M1-M4 range.

And falling all the way out of the top division: M14 Toyonoshima, M17 Takagenji, M16 Tochiozan, and M15 Azumaryu. For veteran Tochiozan, who started the year ranked M1 but posted 5 consecutive losing records, this would mark his first-ever return to the second division following his Makuuchi debut all the way back in March of 2007.

Tune in on Sunday/Monday to see what the actual banzuke looks like and how these predictions fare.

The Sumo World Salutes Jacques Chirac

Yesterday, I retweeted a respectful note from a former Yokozuna, mourning the passing of former French President, Jacques Chirac. However, it wasn’t until I read this wonderful article from written by Yohann, I realized just how big of a fan he was.

The infamous, and beloved, macaron has not always been awarded by la Republique. Indeed, Chirac instituted a beautiful little trophy in the year 2000. Again, Yohann’s excellent piece has a great little history about la coupe Jacques Chirac. I highly recommend hopping over for a read. Ozeki Hakuho was the last to win the prize in 2007 when Chirac left office.

After Chirac’s trophy was retired, a new prize was instituted by the Ambassador of France. The new cup has the heads of a couple of roosters but we always take note of the giant replica macaron. The winner actually gets a big box of Pierre Hermes macarons to enjoy.

Chirac visited sumo events several times and often watched and kept tabs on television. He also hosted sumo wrestlers in Paris. Notably, the largest event was the three day Tournament of Bercy (Bercy Basho?) that he hosted a few months after he won the Presidential election in 1995.

Nicolas Sarkozy learned a little lesson in diplomacy when he insulted the sport, creating a little international firestorm. He attempted to insult Chirac by proxy, claiming that it wasn’t exactly an “intellectual’s” sport.

Since culinary lore has it that François Mitterrand’s last meal was the ortolan delicacy, I would not be surprised if Chirac had a bowl of chanko.

ICYMI: The Month in Sumo

Aki Post Banner

It has been an incredible month, sumo fans! Thank you for joining us on the journey through Wacky Aki and beyond. In case you missed some key posts from this month on the site, here are some highlights:

  • Mitakeumi won the Emperor’s Cup in the Aki basho following the first top division playoff in two years. It is the second yusho of his career.
  • In very sad news, Izutsu-oyakata (former Sekiwake Sakahoko) passed away. Izutsu oyakata followed in his father’s footsteps in running the stable, and raised the 71st Yokozuna Kakuryu.
  • Following protracted discussions – including the question of whether Kakuryu and friends would move to Izutsu’s brother Shikoroyama’s stable – eventually it was decided that they would move to Michinoku beya, headed by ex-Ozeki Kirishima (a former deshi of the previous Izutsu).
  • The 72nd Yokozuna Kisenosato had his danpatsushiki/intai-zumo ceremony at Kokugikan. Former top division rikishi Satoyama also held a similar ceremony a day earlier.
  • Beloved fan favourite Yoshikaze retired following a struggle to recover from injury sustained earlier this year. He takes up the Nakamura kabu.
  • Rising star Takakeisho booked his return to Ozeki status with ten wins in the tournament from the rank of Sekiwake, and Tochinoshin will be demoted to sekiwake in the next tournament, facing the same challenge.
  • Takakeisho was subsequently hurt again, this time with a pectoral injury, and faces a long spell on the sidelines.
  • The much vaunted Hoshoryu (nephew of the 68th Yokozuna Asashoryu) and Kotoshoho (formerly Kototebakari) will be Shin-Juryo for the Kyushu basho.
  • Chiganoura’s ex-Takanohana beya rikishi Takanofuji found himself embroiled in another scandal, again for abusing a tsukebito. Eventually, his twin brother Takagenji was found to be involved as well. He currently is protesting the NSK’s intai recommendation.

In terms of exclusive site features you may have missed:

And of course, we featured daily coverage of the top division, and highlights from the lower divisions in sumo. Be sure to dig back in – and look forward to many exciting updates that we have coming over the following days and weeks!