Natsu Day 5 Highlights


Kisenosato-5

Kisenosato Gut Checks The Universe, Universe Blinks

At end of all things and at the end of time, I belive Kisenosato will be there, continuing to refuse to give up, or let anything, including the laws of nature stop him. More on that in a moment.

It was the final Kokugikan day, and I am sad to leave my in-person sumo behind. I leave with a greatly expanded appreciation for the sport, it’s fans and most especially it’s contestants. Getting over here and doing this is hideously expensive, but it was (at least for me) transformative.

A note on Juryo, though I think it’s kind of a mess right now, for some reason Planet Gagamaru is gunning hard to return to Makuuchi for Nagoya, and he may be brining Yamaguchi with him. Nothing has really changed, and Gagamaru has not really improved, but it seems he’s the guy who is losing the least.

Match Highlights

Daishomaru defeats Yutakayama – Daishomaru supplied a huge shoulder blast at the tachiai, and followed up nicely with a relentless pushing attack. Yutakayama was dispatched shortly afterwards.

Tokushoryu defeats Kaisei – Tokushoryu really was in command of this bout from the start, with an initial nodowa that really seemed to disrupt Kaisei for a moment, but he found Tokushoryu’s mawashi, but he was still too high and Tokushoryu was able to put him down at the edge.

Ishiura defeats Arawashi – Arawashi can’t buy a break

Kotoyuki defeats Ura – As with yesterday, Ura was late off the line, almost in matta territory, and Kotoyuki took command. it’s also clear that Ura loves to put his head down at the start, and take his eyes off his opponent. This is sually where he loses control of the match. Let’s just say he is still working on his Makuuchi formula, but it is certainly coming along.

Kagayaki defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo seems to have nothing to offer but his own ponderous bulk. Showing no maneuverability really, Kagayaki was in complete control from the start and simply waltzed him out.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – Takakeisho owned this match from the start, though Hokutofuji put up a valiant fight. Takakeisho consistantly kept Hokutofuji off balance. With Hokutofuji’s center of gravity high, it was only a matter of time before Takakeisho’s repeated pull down attempts worked.

Tamawashi defeats Yoshikaze – Tamawashi establshed control of this match quickly, and never let Yoshikaze plant his feet or get his weight forward, which is essential for his early bout strategies.

Takayasu obliterates Endo – Takayasu easily put Endo away. Endo started a pushing match but Takayasu was able to lock up a mawashi grip and control Endo. At this point Takayasu’s overwhelming strength and size took charge and Endo was done. Takayasu now needs 5 wins for Ozeki – he can lose half his remaining matches and still get the job done.

Goeido defeats Chiyonokuni – The last two days have been Goeido 2.0, I do hope he can stay, because I really like that guy’s sumo. Fast, aggressive and unstoppable.

Terunofuji defeats Kotoshogiku this was the bout the fans wanted in Osaka. Solid tachiai, Kotoshogiku set up his hug and chug, and Terunofuji stopped it DEAD., he then took over and put Kotoshogiku in the dirt with a an overarm throw. Fantastic job from Terunofuji. My condolences oojisan Kotoshogiku. I seriously wonder if I was present for his last win as an active sumotori.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – The Boss is in form, and everyone else is going down to defeat. Even Mitakeumi who is fighting close to Takayasu’s level now. Mitakeumi brought some pressure early to Hakuho, but he rapidly countered and diverted Mitakeumi attack. The tachiai featured Hakuho’s favored shoulder blast. It’s good to see the Michael Jordan of sumo back in fighting form.

Okinoumi gets a fusen win over Kakuryu – Okinoumi first and only win this tournament.

Harumafuji defeats Daieisho – Harumafuji wins by his mini-henka – seriously, what is Daieisho doing matched against these guys?

Ancient Jōmon guardian spirit posseses Kisenosato, defeats Chiyoshoma – Dear god, what a champion. After a matta (Kisenosato jumped early?), they were off. Everyone is hitting his left side hard because they know Kisenosato is wounded. Chiyoshoma was on him like a wad of wet noodles, but Kisenosato would not relent. Somehow he got Chiyoshoma out and down. To everyone who wondered what kind of Yokozuna Kisenosato would make, now you know. How does it feel to be defeated by a one arm man? Ask Chiyoshoma.

Natsu Banzuke Prediction Post-mortem


Two key criteria for developing good predictions are: (1) quantitative evaluation of the prediction and (2) accountability. With that in mind, I take a look at how my banzuke prediction performed.

Upper San’yaku was “chalk” as expected. In the lower San’yaku, I (and other predictions on this site) correctly had Yoshikaze filling the komusubi slot vacated by Shodai. I don’t understand the order of the three sekiwake ranks, as it appears unchanged despite the very different performances at Haru that had all of us predicting the order as Takayasu 1E, Kotoshogiku 1W and Tamawashi 2E.

In the maegashira ranks, of the 31 predictions, I had 11 “bulls-eyes” (correct rank and side” and 3 more correct rank predictions. This is way fewer than I expected or would have liked. The 17 misses were mostly not too bad: 13 missed by one rank, 3 missed by two ranks, and I had Osunaarashi (J1) moving up to M16 and Myogiryu (M15) dropping to J1.

There are three parts to the prediction: the computed ranks, tie-breaking among rikishi with identical ranks, and the departures I make from the computed ranks based on past banzuke patterns. Let’s look at these in turn.

The computed ranks were quite accurate: the official banzuke departs from these in only a couple of places. The computed rank would have Takarafuji at M3, but because of his make-koshi at that rank at Haru, the prediction and the banzuke moved him down to M4. Shodai (one of my two-rank misses) should be down at M7, and I still feel like the NSK cut him way too much slack after his 4-11 performance. And Arawashi and Ishiura would switch sides (but not ranks).

My tie-breaker was higher rank at Haru. This largely resulted in both of my other two-rank misses, as Takanoiwa should have been ranked above Tochiozan (and Aoiyama) by this rule. Presumably his 6-9 record at Haru led to his being dropped further down, although this is not necessarily consistent with past banzuke patterns. In a number of other cases, the tie-breaker got the relative order right, and I will need to look closely to see if the tie-break part of the prediction can be improved.

So, on to the departures from the computed rank order. One rule that resulted in many of my misses was to drop rikishi with 7-8 make-koshi records one spot from their rank at Haru, even if the computed rank would have them retaining their rank. This has often (but not always) been done in past banzuke. Although this rule correctly placed Takarafuji at M4, it placed Kagayaki, Tochinoshin, Ishiura and Daishomaru one slot too low, which also led to one-rank misses in the other direction for Ura, Arawashi, Kotoyuki and Onosho. It seems that the NSK is inconsistent in this scenario, and I’ll have to see if any pattern can be identified.

So overall, I am happy with my computed ranks, need to think more about the tie-break procedure, and need to be more careful with subjective departures from the computed ranks (this also includes demoting Myogiryu in favor of promoting Osunaarashi, even though Myogiryu had a better computed rank).

Others can chime in with how they fared. There will be another opportunity to predict the Nagoya banzuke after Natsu is the in books, and in the meantime we’ll have some actual sumo to watch!

Handicapping The Natsu Banzuke – Part 3


banzuke2a

The Fish Tank & Fresh Faces

*Updated after reader lksumo pointed out that my spreadsheet had somehow skipped special prize winner Takakeisho. This caused a complete re-compute of the lower 8 ranks.

In the last of our series prognosticating the banzuke for Natsu, we take a look at the lower half Makuuchi, including the rikishi who are likely to be demoted down to Juryo and promoted out of Juryo to the upper division.

As stated in the prior posts, the records at the end of Haru left a chaotic mess for predicting the Natsu banzuke. There were a number of strong finishers in Juryo, and a lot of losing records in Makuuchi. In fact the lower Maegashira suffered a preponderance of losing records, and in fact it was difficult this basho not to promote rikishi with losing records, simply because there were so few winning records, and most of those had already moved up the banzuke into upper Maegashira.

Gone from the upper division is Nishikigi, who had been a lower Maegashira for some time. He will go back to Juryo to adjust and try again. His rank velocity was a horrific -7.5, as he went 5-10 in March. Also back to Juryo is Chiyoo, who was injured and withdrew on day 11, after already having secured his make-koshi. We hope he has recovered and is ready to dominate in Juryo.

Also gone from Maegashira is Sadanoumi who had a 4-11 record in March. His rank velocity was -7, and he was tagged for a return to Juryo fairly early on. Joining him is Mongolian Kyokushuho, whose 5-10 record from Maegashira 14 was his ticket back to the second division.

Joining Makuuchi from Juryo is a set of hard charging rikishi ready to compete in the top division. Chief among these is Juryo yusho winner Toyohibiki, who returns after a single basho in Juryo. Tachiai also predicts that veteran Chiyotairyu’s winning record will return him to lower Maegashira as well.

We also predict that Onomatsu beya’s Onosho will be making his Makuuchi debut. This up-and-comer has been in Juryo for 13 tournaments, and finally appears to be ready to join the top division. When filling in the banzuke, it was clear that there needed to be one more name kept in Makuuchi, or brought up from Juryo. I am going out on a limb here, but I am going to predict that Osunaarashi will make his return once more to the top division.

Running everyone’s scores through the magic computations gives us the following list:

East Rank West
Hokutofuji Maegashira 8 Shohozan
Arawashi Maegashira 9 Ichinojo
Kagayaki Maegashira 10 Ura
Tochinoshin Maegashira 11 Toyohibiki
Ishiura Maegashira 12 Onosho
Kotoyuki Maegashira 13 Tokushoryu
Chiyotairyu Maegashira 14 Kaisei
Daishomaru Maegashira 15 Oyanagi
Osunaarashi Maegashira 16

First up at Maegashira 8; Hokutofuji, who drops 2 ranks after turning in his first career losing record. Hokutofuji displays significant skill, strength and fighting spirit. I am going to assume that he will start Natsu with a burning desire to continue his march up the banzuke. At 8 west we find Shohozan, who is part of Kisenosato’s dohyo-iri team. He drops 5 places from Maegashira 3, after receiving a brutal pounding in March.

At Maegashira 9 we find Arawashi who suffered a 5 rank demotion after going 4-11. Arawashi has a lot of potential, but for some reason he was out of his element in Osaka. Joining him is Mongolian giant Ichinojo, who drops from Meagashira 7. In spite of a strong losing record, he was actually less terrible than some of his peers, so his demotion is less severe.

Journeyman Kagayaki, who is still struggling to put together a winning plan for surviving his Makuuchi bouts, holds the east slot for Maegashira 10. Ura was one of the few bright spots in March’s lower Maegashira, and he rises 2 ranks to take the west slot of the 10th rank.

Leading Meagashira 11 is Tochinoshin, who has been seriously hurt for a few tournaments now, and is a shadow of his former self. Juryo yusho winner Toyohibiki joins in the west slot, and we predict he will feel right at home resuming his Makuuchi duties after a single basho in Juryo.

Ishiura has been struggling to put together a consistent winning strategy for Makuuchi. His compact size, excellent speed and outstanding strength supply him with a lot of building blocks, but we wait for him to come up with a knock-out combination that shows us what he is really capable of. I suspect he may be getting ready to bounce back from a pair of somewhat disappointing tournaments. Joining him, Onosho makes a strong Makuuchi debut at the rank of Maegashira 12.

Kotoyuki, falls 4 ranks given his dismal 5-10 results from the Haru basho to Maegashira 13. Computationally, I suspect that Kotoyuki will be further down the banzuke, but at the present my calculations are a bit fuzzy on where the Juryo promotees will be inserted into Makuuchi. At 13 west, Tokushoryu, who was one of the few kachi-koshi sumotori from March. He gets a bump up 2 ranks and hopefully can turn in a second winning record in May.

For Maegashira 14, Chiyotairyu returns from a single basho in Juryo. He achieved a winning record from Juryo 1 rank, and will return to Maegashira for May. On the west, we find Kaisei still hanging on to a bert in the top division. Kaisei sat out several days of Haru with injuries, and then joined and had a miserable time of it. Somehow this guy is able to evade demotion to Juryo every time, and I predict that he will somehow survive yet again, albeit at a much lower rank.

Daishomaru drops two ranks to Maegashira 15, after a 7-8 result in Osaka. If he has another losing record he will likely return to Juryo to tune himself up. Bring promoted from Juryo is Oyanagi. This will only be his 8th basho! Oyanagi has experienced a meteoric rise, and is now in Makuuchi after only 3 tournaments in Juryo.

Bringing up the final slot in Makuuchi, is my wish-casting of yet another return of the sandstorm, Osunaarashi, to Maegashira. His last Maegashira appearance saw Osunaarashi become injured, and unable to compete strongly. I will be surprised to see him actually re-joing the top division, but as stated earlier, the lower end of Makuuchi ranking was very difficult this time.

That’s Bruce’s guess for Natsu 2017. As always, please feel free to post your ideas too!

Haru Day 11 Preview


Bow-Twirling

Opening The Third Act

The third act of any basho is where dreams are crushed, the heroes are crowned, and legends are made. The 2017 Haru basho has progressed in new an exceptional ways, but with the final 5 days in front of us, it’s time to truly test those who vie for the Emperor’s Cup, and bring about a winner.

First and foremost, of course, is the remarkable performance of Kisenosato and Takayasu. They complete the firs 10 days of Haru undefeated. In fact, they seem to be able to shake of normal threats such as the day 10 Takanoiwa henka, and the several times that Kisenosato allowed his opponent to gain a brief, fleeting advantage. Unless something strange happens, one of these men will take the Yusho on Sunday. That something strange would be both Kisenosato and Takayasu losing at least once. The only rikishi that can catch them is the resurgant Terunofuji, who looms like a menacing storm front, one win behind the leaders. While Tochiozan has been going strong, he would be unlikely be able to beat all / any of the other three sekitori.

That’s not to say that the schedulers are going to let either Takayasu or Kisenosato have an easy road to yusuf. In fact I expect it will be as brutal as they can make it, in spite of the fact that most of the formidable opponents have been defeated already.

The next question, which many of our readers are starting to ask – Kotoshogiku. He needs three more wins to reclaim his Ozeki rank. He has certainly put on a remarkable performance in Osaka, and some would say he has already earned his way back. But those 3 wins are in part down to scheduling. They could have him face easy wins for the last 5 days, or they can have him face spoilers. Ringers include rikishi like Ikioi (who are excellent, but having a bad basho) and spoilers would include rikishi like Yoshikaze, who can flatten anyone on the right day.

Note, unless the leaders drop matches, there is no Chasers group now. Both Kakuryu and Chiyoshoma lost their day 10 bouts, and are now 3 losses off the pace.

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Tochiozan

5 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Ura vs Kyokushuho – Era is still pushing to get 8 wins, where a loss by Kyokushuho would put him clearly in Make-koshi. They only gave one prior match, which Ura won.

Ishiura vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki, who has been a pretty solid rikishi in the past, secured his Make-koshi already, and is going to sink down the banzuke for May. Ishiura is pushing for 3 more wins to hold rank. This will be their first match.

Daishomaru vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma has been turning in a solid performance this basho, and is one win away from Kachi-koshi. For some reason they sent him down to rough up Maegashira 13 Diashomaru. They two have even split their 4 prior matches.

Chiyonokuni vs Tochiozan – Great test match to see if Tochiozan is strong enough to match higher up the banzuke. Having already secured his Kachi-koshi, the NSK is likely seeing how high they can safely rank him in May. Chiyonokuni has been fighting with strength and skill this March, and needs one more win to secure his rank.

Kaisei vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is a fascinating story. He has yet to have a losing record in any of his tournaments. After a really weak start, it looked like he was going to have to swallow his first Make-koshi. But he has battled back with determination, refusing defeat at every turn. He has a tough path though, requiring 4 wins of his next 5 matches.

Kotoshogiku vs Ikioi – Ikioi is a solid rikishi, but Maegashira 1 is a crappy slot in the banzuke, and it usually leaves the rikishi defeated and demoralized. This should be an easy win for Kotoshogiku, who must win 3 of the next 5 to secure his return to Ozeki. Kotoshogiku has won 7 of their 11 prior matches

Arawashi vs Terunofuji – Roadkill. Terunofuji stays one behind.

Harumafuji vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi cannot be discounted, especially when “The Horse” is playing hurt. My gut tells me Harumafuji takes this one, but Mitakeumi puts up a great fight.

Takayasu vs Kakuryu – Crucible day for Takayasu’s yusho hopes. Takayasu has won 5 of the 16 prior matches with Kakuryu, or you can think of it as Kakuryu wins twice for every 1 of Takayasu. Kakuryu is fast, smart and inventive. This will be a tough match for Takayasu.

Yoshikaze vs Kisenosato – Yoshikaze overcame Kakuryu on day 10, and he is no slouch. If he defeats Kisenosato, it would be kinboshi #8, which would time him with Aminishiki for top kinboshi count among active rikishi. But then again, whatever Kami has taken up residence in Kisenosato’s tsuna seem to be indomitable, and it’s possible that 12 men armed with Louisville sluggers would be unable to defeat him.