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.

Day 15 Osaka Recap


sansho-osaka

Beyond The Yusho

In addition to one of the more dramatic ends to a sumo basho that I have ever witnessed, there was a lot of great action on the dohyo for the final day. As we highlighted earlier, a lot of rikishi were still battling to secure a winning record (Kachi-koshi), and bid for promotion on the May ranking sheet.

First and foremost, in the Yokozuna battle, Kakuryu was able to prevail over Harumafuji, and finish the tournament with 10 wins. While not earth-shattering, his double digit score puts him squarely in the territory expected for a Yokozuna. Harumafuji’s loss continues to worry, as it’s clear he was hurt most or all of Haru, and competed anyhow.

Special Prizes

  • Outstanding Performance / Shukun-sho: Takayasu (3rd shukun-sho, 8th sansho overall)
  • Fighting Spirit / Kanto-sho: Takakeisho (1st kanto-sho, 1st sansho overall)
  • Technique / Gino-sho: not awarded

I thought there were some great kimarite unleashed in Osaka, and the Gino-sho should have been awarded.

Match Results

Takayasu was able to beat Tamawashi in the battle of the Sekiwake, and pushed his record to 12-3. Firstly, don’t worry about Tamawashi, he finished 8-7, and will remain at Sekiwake for May. Takayasu, however, now only needs 10 wins in May to secure an Ozeki promotion. This also marks a shift, as in prior basho, Takayasu would have a big early winning streak, run out of gas, get a disappointing loss, and then proceed to continue losing. This time, he pulled out of his losing streak and racked up 2 additional wins.

Kotoshogiku, in what may be his final match as a sekitori, faced another veteran Yoshikaze. After a good tachiai, Kotoshogiku quickly established his favored inside grip, and applied his familiar hug-n-chug (gaburi-yori) to the Berserker, and rapidly had him out. Yoshikaze already had his kachi-koshi, and this was (possibly) a goodbye match. I was happy that Kotoshogiku could end on a high note, while Yoshikaze lost nothing.

Mitakeumi finished strong as well, defeating Tochiozan, and confirming he is a contender for higher rank soon. Since turning from a pure pusher-thruster into a hybrid mawashi / thruster, Mitakeumi has improved greatly. I expect that he may take another dip or two down the banzuke in the coming months, but he has the size, speed, strength and skill to be a sumo leader.

Endo was also able to secure a winning record on the last day, taking it from Tochinoshin, who needs to visit whatever clinic gave Terunofuji his legs back. Ura also was able to defeat Ichinojo through a rather clever use of leverage and balance. It was different enough, the judges called a Monoii, but eventually gave Ura the win. Ichinojo is so tall, I swear it took him 30 seconds to finish falling.

Lastly, thank you readers of Tachiai. You have made this our biggest Basho yet, and it’s been wonderful to have all of you spend time on our site, sharing our love of sumo.

Haru Day 15 Preview


dohyo-iri-15

Final Day Of the Osaka Tournament

It’s been a strange and crazy basho, and now we face the final day of competition. The yusho race had focused almost entirely on Kisenosato for the bulk of the tournament, but it’s now clear that bar some strange occurrence, Terunofuji will lift the Emperor’s Cup tomorrow. Prior to day 14’s henka against Kotoshogiku, most sumo fans would have cheered his return to glory, after more than a year of crippling injuries and constant pain.

Fans have commented on Tachiai, Twitter and Facebook that the henka is part of the sport. This is true, and there are times when it’s employment is kind of neat. What troubles me about day 14 is that Kotoshogiku was not going to be able to best Terunofuji’s kaiju mode. To me the henka this time smelled of cruelty. I restrain myself, I hope, from layering too many American / European idioms on what is a completely Japanese cultural phenomenon. But it was clear that Kotoshogiku intended to go out, guns blazing, giving his all every match. This was the match where his bid to return was to be lost, and he was not allowed to end with dignity.

So you may see some noise from the Japanese fan community about Terunofuji, and I worry, about the Mongolian contingent as a whole. This would be a huge mistake, in my opinion, as the Mongolian rikishi have hugely enriched the sport, and have done fantastic things for Japan and the Japanese people.

Key Matches, Day 15

Terunofuji vs Kisenosato – This one decides the yusho. If Kisenosato some how manages to win the first one, the two will fight a tie breaker after Harumafuji and Kakuryu fight the last match of the basho. Given that Kisenosato can’t really do anything with his left arm (and he’s left handed) it’s going to be a long shot. My hope is that Kisenosato can survive without additional injury, and Terunofuji does not do anything to further lose face.

Harumafuji vs Kakuryu – This bout has very little impact, save to see if Kakuryu can get to double digits this time. Both are out of the yusho race, Harumafuji is banged up and struggling. I hope no one gets hurt and both can recover soon.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – If Takayasu can win this one, it means that he will need 10 wins in May to become Ozeki. It’s still a tall order, but a 12-3 record might also give him Jun-Yusho status for the first time in his career. Tamawashi will likely stay at Sekiwake for May, but needs wins to start making the case for promotion to Ozeki himself.

Kotoshogiku vs Yoshikaze – I hope both of these well loved veterans have some fun with this match. Both have kachi-koshi, and both are looking at retirement in the not too distant future. Kotoshogiku will try to wrap up Yoshikaze, and Yoshikaze will try to stay mobile.

Kachi/Make-Koshi

A number of rikishi go into the final day at 7-7, and will exit the final day either with promotion or demotion as their next move. This includes

Ishiura vs Takarafuji – First meeting between these two, Takarafuji already make-koshi

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Both at 7-7, the loser gets a demotion. Prior meetings are evenly split, but Tochinoshin is a shadow of his former self.

Daishomaru vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has his first make-koshi of his sumo career, but Daishomaru has a chance of kachi-koshi if he can win.

Myogiryu vs Aoiyama – Should be an easy win for Aoiyama, Myogiryu already make-koshi

Ichinojo vs Ura – Maegashira 7 Ichinojo vs Maegashira 12 Ura. Ichinojo already make-koshi, Ura trying to stay in the top division. A huge mismatch in size and speed. This may be a strange one indeed.

Haru Day 13 Preview


Preview-12

In Which We Skip A Day 12 Summary Post…

Hello Tachiai readers, you may have noticed no day 12 summary. I worked to cover the bouts that were pivotal to the story lines with some detail, but now find myself without enough time to really talk much about the rest of the action. A quick run down of what else happened day 12.

Kisenosato remains unbeaten at 12-0, the only rikishi in a position today is Terunofuji at 11-1. But this would require Kiesnosato to lose at least one, and Terunofuji to survive his Yokozuna bouts. Count on the NSK to try and have the ultimate battle be between Terunofuji and Kisenosato on the final weekend.

Ikioi, now that he has a clear make-koshi, has found his sumo, defeating Shodai today who now has his make-koshi too. Mitakeumi refuses to give up, and today defeated Takekaze to remain 6-6. Mitakeumi wants back in the San’yaku ranks and he is pushing for a kachi-koshi with everything he can bring. Hokutofuji lost today, but still has a glimmer of hope to escape his first ever make-koshi. Ura and Ishiura both lost on day 12, with their records now 6-6. I predict both of them will be take it right to the final day.

Haru Leader board

LeaderKisenosato
Hunt Group – Terunofuji
Chasers – Takayasu, Tochiozan

4 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Harumafuji vs Kisenosato – Kisenosato’s first real test will come as the final match on day 13, where he will face Harumafiji. The Horse has not been 100% this basho, but he still seems to have plenty of mojo, including enough to make Takayasu look like a forgotten sack of groceries. This bout is absolutely crucial for Kisenosato, as Terunofuji is likely to be his day 15 opponent, and he needs be the leader heading into that match. Harumafuji leads their career record 37-24. Be on the lookout for the mini-henke.

Terunofuji vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu seems to be running low on gas the past few matches. At the same time Terunofuji is in full kaiju mode, and may not be stoppable without summoning Mothra. If Kisenosato can win and Terunofuji lose, it more or less hands the yusho to Kisenosato. Kakuryu has a clear advantage overall with 7-3, but there is this kaiju mode that makes a lot of that irrelevant.

Yoshikaze vs Takayasu – I am a huge fan of both. In fact I have tegata of both on my wall. To me they represent all that I love about sumo. Both of these rikishi have the energy, power and skill to win this bout. In fact Yoshikaze, if he wins, picks up Kachi-koshi – he is doing pretty well this basho. This is a mental test of Takayasu. I fear he may now doubt his sumo, and will be hesitant. Given that Yoshikaze operates at a speed most rikishi can not even follow, any hesitation could equal a Yoshikaze victory.

Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – I fear it has come to Shodai, to some the symbol of the future of sumo, to drive a stake into the heart of Kotoshogiku’s revival. I still maintain hope that Kotoshogiku can bring it home, and exit sumo having restored his rank, but I fear the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan has a different course laid in. They have only fought 3 times before, with Kotoshogiku taking 2.

Shohozan vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji never gives up. He is one loss away from his first maki-kochi in professional sumo, but I expect he is going to find some way, any way to pull in a winning record if it takes him until day 15. This is the first match between these two.

Endo vs Tochiozan – Endo looked very good against Terunofuji on day 12, and it’s time for him to match against a surprisingly strong Tochiozan. This could be a very interesting match if no one goes stupid and tries a henka.

Ura vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma has his kachi-koshi secured, and Ura still needs 2 more wins. If I had to guess, Chiyoshoma won’t be giving away a freebee to Plasticman today, and we will need to see him figure out something other than “low and bendy” as a way to carry the day.

Ishiura vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi will be looking to pick up his kachi-koshi on the back of Ishiura, who is still pushing to get 2 more wins. Given that Okinoumi is a skilled veteran, this may be fairly one sided.

Terunofuji Contains And Defeats Endo


Terunofuji-12

Breathing Down Kisenosato’s Neck

Sumo fans have been pleasantly surprised to see an old friend return to the dohyo in Osaka. None other than a ferocious competitor of massive strength and stature, Ozeki Terunofuji.

Terunofuji is not a newcomer to the sport, but what has been missing is the form, power, strength and sheer offensive focus that propelled him from rank-and-file into an Ozeki slot in mid 2015. This has been due to a series of injuries to his legs and his back, that had left him a ridiculous shell of his former self. For a time during his meteoric ascent in rank, some rikishi were actually worried about facing him, as he had a habit of mangling his opponents (Terunofuji’s Kaiju-Mode).

All of that seems to be back, at least for one basho. Looking back from day 12, it’s clear that Terunofuji was being groomed this entire basho as the spoiler, the sharp tool that could be used to derail upper ranked rikishi marching towards yusho. Today, it was Endo’s turn to face the Kaiju, and while Endo put up a glorious effort, Terunofuji has his mind fixed at bypassing Kisenosato, and once again hosting the Emperor’s Cup in victory.

Endo quickly established advantage in the match, and early had Terunofuji’s heels on the tawara, hip pumping to force to big Ozeki out. But Terunofuji rallied, picked up Endo and marched him to the center of the dohyo. Having rendered his opponent helpless, Terunofuji belly flopped onto a supine Endo, crushing him. The kimarite is recorded as Abisetaoshi (backward force down).

The final three days will Terunofuji fight 2 Yokozuna: Kisenosato and Kakuryu, and it would be my guess that Kisenosato will come day 15. At this point, the only rikishi who has a chance of derailing a Kisenosato yusho is Terunofuji, and the NSK will likely play this for all it’s worth.

Haru Day 12 Preview


12

Pressure Is Still On Takayasu

Now that Takayasu has his first defeat, he has been dropped back to the group chasing Kisenosato. His bout with Kakuryu was excellent in many ways, but as long as Kakuryu kept moving, Takayasu was marking time until he lost. But Takayasu’s troubles are not over, as he still will face Harumafuji. As stated earlier, in past basho, Takayasu has a problem fading out at the end, either by losing concentration, giving up on a goal or just because he doubts his own ability. Everyone who wants him to earn his Ozeki rank knows he must over come this. So Harumafuji represents a test of this flaw. Will he rise to the challenge?

Elsewhere on the Torikumi, Terunofuji has yet to face real resistance, but we can assume that he will have Kisenosato on one of the last three days. With 3 Yokozuna and 1 Ozeki active, the final days will be a round robin between the 4 of them. So the chances of Terunofuji playing a day 14/15 spoiler are questionable as well.

That leaves us with Tochiozan. On day 12 he is bottom feeding on Maegashira 14 Myogiryu, which really seems to be tough to understand. He has yet to face anyone above Maegashira 6, which would seem reasonable given that he went into this tournament at Maegashira 10. But as he is now tied with second place, it would seem reasonable that he get someone like Yoshikaze to size himself against.

Haru Leader board

Leader – Kisenosato
Hunt Group – Takayasu, Terunofuji, Tochiozan

4 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Gagamaru vs Kyokushuho – Planet Gagamaru comes to visit from Juryo. He faces off against Kyokushuho who is already make-koshi, so this match is mostly for entertainment purposes only. Gagamaru has really been underperforming in the last several basho, so I am not sure there will be much here.

Daieisho vs Sadanoumi – Daieisho shows a lot of promise, and could pick up his kachi-koshi today against Sadanoumi, who I have to assume is hurt in some way, as he is not quite as potent as he was in January.

Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho is also a young rakish with a lot of promise, today he will try for his kachi-koshi against the lumbering giant Ichinojo, who may once again be suffering from an injured back. This is the first time these two have ever faced off.

Chiyonokuni vs Ishiura – Two powerhouse rikishi, with Chiyonokuni gunning for his kachi-koshi, and Ishiura working to refine his Makuuchi moves. In their past 3 matches, Chiyonokuni has won them all.

Kotoshogiku vs Takarafuji – Kotoshogiku must win 3 of his last 4. His first step on finishing that journey is defeating Takarafuji. Takarafuji is not showing overwhelming sumo this tournament, so Kotoshogikum has a decent shot at a win here. But I would guess the rikishi have figured out that if you keep moving, he can’t employ his sumo. Watch for Takarafuji to stay mobile.

Endo vs Terunofuji – A few moments of struggle, then Terunofuji tosses him away like a used baby-wipe. I love me some Endo, but he is not dialed up high enough to put a dent in this Mongolian Monster when he is operating in Kaiju mode.

Arawashi vs Kisenosato – Arawashi is not in a winning mode, so that indicates that Kisenosato will be able to defeat him while looking like he’s ready for his ukiyo-e close up. But then again, Arawashi took out Harumafuji a few days ago. Best not to underestimate him, because he has a history of surprises.

Harumafuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu has beaten The Horse 4 times in the past. So it’s possible if Takayasu thinks he can do it. This is a mental and emotional test for him. Harumafuji is pushing hard through a lot of pain right now, but he is still an amazing fighter. Advantage here to Harmuafuji, unless Takayasu can tap his best sumo and make it happen.

Haru Day 10 Recap


Yoshikaze-Kinboshi

Kinboshi #7 For Yoshikaze

A wild and wonderful day of Sumo at Osaka overnight saw no change to the leaderboard, as the top 4 rikishi all won their matches. But there was plenty of drama, and a healthy dose of the unexpected. Because both Kakuryu, Chiyoshoma lost on day 10, there is really no one outside of Terunofuji or Tochiozan who can hope to challenge the unbeaten leaders Kisenosato and Takayasu.

Ura continues to struggle, but has kept an even record and hopes of kachi-koshi alive.

Ishiura seems to be a step ahead of Ura in his adjustment to the world of Makuuchi. Today he showed some amazing strength and balance in overcoming Takakeisho. Every so often he pulls a move that betrays his uncommon power to size ratio, and fans are left wondering “did I just see that”?

Tochiozan’s win over Diashomaru was henka powered, and that’s rather sad given he is one of the leader group. But Diashomaru was off balance at the tachiai, and may have not survived long anyhow. Tochiozan is either having a great streak, or has revived is prior winning ways, we hope he can maintain this going forward into May.

There was a monii in the Aoiyama vs Okinoumi bout, where once again the “dead body” policy played a role. Aoiyama applied a powerful throw which sent Okinoumi flying head-first off the dohyo, but stepped out a fraction of a second before Okinoumi landed. The Shimpan awarded the bout to Okinoumi.

Kotoshogiku keeps hope alive by winning decisively over Takekaze. He needs 3 more wins to regain his Ozeki rank, and at this point I think he may actually be able to do it if the schedulers give him a chance.

Takanoiwa deployed a henka against Takayasu. As Takayasu charged ahead strongly at the tachiai, Takanoiwa leapt to the side. In one of the more impressive moves I have seen in sumo, many hundreds of pound of sumotori came to a screeching halt, maintained balance, pivoted and attacked. With a single blow to the side of Takanoiwa’s head put him on the clay.

Just when I think Shodai is all hype, he gave Terunofuji a big fight, and nearly won. He’s still too high on his tachiai, but yes, he has promise still. Terunofuji continues to impress, and you can scarcely believe it’s the same rikishi who has limped and hobbled throughout the last year of sumo.

Yoshikaze, in my favorite match of the day, completely and utterly overwhelmed Kakuryu. Yoshikaze had control of the bout front the tachiai, and kept pressing the attack. As is frequently the case, Kakuryu was waiting to exploit an off balance move or mistake by Yoshikaze. I just checked with the EDION arena, he’s still waiting. Kinboshi for the mobile combat platform, the berserker Yoshikaze.

It’s no surprise that Tamawashi failed to provide much of a challenge for the apparently unstoppable Kisenosato, who seems destined to close strong in Osaka. Fans are hoping for a pair of 15-0 combatants facing off on the final day for the gusto, but there are still many challenges to overcome before that is a real possiblity.

Endo was not too much work for Harumafuji, who seems to be back in his grove in spite of his ever increasing roster of physical injuries. Harumafuji shows up every day and gives it his all.