Tachiai Natsu Banzuke Podcast


What? No Video?

Hello fans, Andy and I recorded a podcast tonight on our thoughts around Natsu.  Sadly there were horrific video sync issues, so this one is audio only.  I will also let you know, as we were discussing things at length, it is a Ichinojo sized 45 minutes of sumo audio love.

So put on some headphones and grab a drink as Andy and Bruce bring you their thoughts on Natsu.

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!

Banzuke Weekend


After many weeks of meager sumo news, the start of another tournament cycle is upon us. That’s right sumo fans, this weekend we will get our first look at the official Japan Sumo Association banzuke.

Of course our contributors and commenters have all taken a stab at where the rikishi will be ranked, but there is no substitute for the real, genuine thing.

We anticipate it first appearing on the NSK site mid-afternoon US time, and there will likely be another Tachiai video podcast later that night featuring at least myself (and hopefully Andy) talking about the upcoming Natsu basho.

Stay tuned everyone, our coverage will shortly bounce back to active mode as we prepare for what should be a pivotal tournament.

Guess the Natsu Banzuke 2.0

In my previous guest post, I made predictions for the Natsu banzuke right after the conclusion of the Haru basho. With the release of the official Natsu banzuke only 10 days away, I thought I’d update my predictions, based partly on the feedback I received from Tachiai readers. In addition to pointing out the inherent unpredictability of the banzuke due to subjective NSK committee decisions, commenters noted that the committee tends to favor higher-ranked rikishi over lower-ranked ones to a greater extent than my predictions did. With that in mind, here is a second attempt at the Natsu banzuke.

Rank East West
K Mitakeumi Yoshikaze (3)
M1 Chiyonokuni (3) Endo (4)
M2 Okinoumi (3) Chiyoshoma (4)
M3 Daieisho (4) Takanoiwa (5)
M4 Takarafuji (4) Aoiyama (5)
M5 Takekaze (6) Ikioi (6)
M6 Tochiozan (5) Hokutofuji (6)
M7 Shodai (7) Takakeisho (6)
M8 Shohozan (8) Sokokurai (9)
M9 Ichinojo (10) Ura (11)
M10 Kagayaki (10) Arawashi (13)
M11 Tochinoshin (11) Kotoyuki (14)
M12 Ishiura (12) Tokushoryu (14)
M13 Toyohibiki (14) Onosho (15)
M14 Daishomaru (14) Chiyotairyu (16)
M15 Kaisei (17) Oyanagi (17)
M16 Osunaarashi (18)

I rank-ordered the rikishi by a score based on their rank in the previous basho and their win-loss record. This score, given in parentheses, roughly corresponds to the rank the wrestler “deserves,” (i.e. 3 = M3), though of course the actual rank is affected by the ranks of others and the need to fill all the slots. So for instance, this time around, even though nobody below Mitakeumi had a score above 3, the KW, M1 and M2 slots still needed to be filled.

I then generally simply filled in the ranks from K1W to M16E in this order, with ties broken in favor of higher rank at Haru. The main consistent departure from this order is that those with make-koshi must drop a rank; this affected Takarafuji, Kagayaki, Tochinoshin, Ishiura, and Daishomaru, who otherwise might have been placed a rank or two higher. Takanoiwa, Ura, Arawashi, Kotoyuki, and Onosho benefited by being ranked a bit higher as a result of this rule.

I’ve indicated other deviations from this rank order by italics. I gave the nod to Endo over Okinoumi for M1W given Endo’s popularity and higher rank. I placed Tochiozan at M6 instead of M5 so that Takekaze and Ikioi, who had identical Haru performances at the same rank, would remain at the same rank. And I brought Osunaarashi back to makuuchi in favor of Myogiryu, who drops to Juryo, along with Sadanoumi, Kyokushuho, Nishikigi, and Chiyoo.

Differences in rank from my previous prediction are in color, red for higher and blue for lower; bold indicates differences of more than one step in rank. These predictions are more sensitive to assumptions about how rikishi with identical or very similar scores are ranked relative to each other, and therefore have lower confidence.

Have at it with your own predictions! I might try to compile how we did after the banzuke is released.

Mitakeumi & The Sekiwake Squad Face Down 1972

This man has some more winning to do.

I’ve focused quite a bit on mathematics in my first couple of posts, so I wanted to formulate a minor Natsu banzuke prediction in this post based more on history. As I detailed in looking at the shift in first week results, much of the change we’re seeing has come down to those at the Sekiwake rank punching above their weight. And much of the debate around the new banzuke seems to be focused on how many such ranked rikishi we may see as we prepare for the next tournament in Tokyo.

So let’s go back 45 years and look at an interesting turn of results that led the banzuke to shift from the standard 2 Sekiwake up to an incredible 5:
Continue reading

Turbold Baasansuren Debuts in Makushita & Test of Translation Engines

Today’s headlines bring more news about how the May banzuke will shake out. According to the Mainichi newspaper (Mainichi literally means “Every Day” re: “Daily”), two college yokozunas have had their professional debuts approved. They will debut in makushita division at makushita 15. I didn’t see shikona in the article and haven’t found anything on the Sumo Kyokai website but will bring that to you as soon as I can. Their real names are Turbold Baasansuren, the first foreigner to achieve Yokozuna rank in amateur sumo, and Takanori Yago, both from Chuo University. Several other headlines discuss Turbold because, as a foreigner from Mongolia who chose college over immediately going pro, he’s a bit of a trailblazer. Anyway, getting to the actual headline:


With a hat tip and thanks to reader Asashosakari, I decided to test out the other translation engines he suggested. In the comments of an earlier post, he pointed out that Yahoo! Japan and Excite Japan have their own Japanese to English translation engines. Today, I thought I’d toss this headline in each engine and see which word sausage tastes best. Google, by any account, tastes like stale McDonalds breakfast sausage. The other two were much better but not perfect, definitely some good pub bangers, though. Much more satisfying. Japanese is really hard to translate, especially for machines, and especially given the context of sumo which is not exactly a day-to-day usage.

According to Google: “Approved two curtain gifts.”
Yahoo! Japan: “I begin to acquire a junior division and approve two people.”
Excite Japan: “2 makushita bills are approved.”

All three engines picked up the important verb at the end, “approve” (承認). The rest of Google’s attempt clearly just gets a WTF response from me. Context! C’mon guys, context! Well, Yahoo knew that makushita was the junior division but leaving it as makushita, as Excite did, is fine too. At least Yahoo! recognized and used the counter for people (人), so I’d probably give their translation the edge this time.

But getting to our translation, we’re sumo fans and know that Makushita(幕下) is the junior division. You should also recognize the next character as the last part of “banzuke,” that wonderful list we’re all eagerly anticipating. But together with -dashi, when we’re talking about sumo, we’re talking about a debut as they’re out on the list for the first time. As for -dashi (出し), you will see this character (出) all over the place, meaning “out,” especially for “exit,“ or deguchi (出口).

Putting it all together, we’ve got “Makushita Debut of Two Approved.” This was a bit too simple of a headline so this is the first one where I decided to challenge us to read the first paragraph. Luckily, this whole article was one, very short paragraph and very simple. It mentions their names, the school they came from and the heyas they are joining. The only term I want to highlight for now is 日本相撲協会. This is the Nihon Sumo Kyokai, or Japanese Sumo Association, thus a very important term to know and a great resource for us fans.

We see that these translation engines do have difficulty with contextual Japanese but the Yahoo! and Excite ones are much more helpful that Google, so far. We’ll keep going and testing all three and trying to find others. But I cannot stress enough the need for basic Japanese for sumo fans so I hope you will find these articles helpful.