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!

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.

Andy’s Mock Banzuke, Part Deux: The Upper Maegashira

Here’s my prediction for the top half of the March 2017 banzuke. I have Tochinoshin plummeting to Maegashira 8. It’s been hard to find any recent examples of winless komusubi but Kotoyuki had an awful two-win record in Nagoya last year, ending up at Maegashira 8 for the Fall Tournament back in Tokyo. If we go back to Haru 2015, Okinoumi lost four and then went kyujo. He fell to Maegashira 10 in the next tournament. So, it’s not unprecedented to have a massive drop like this.

Given the strong performances by Tamawashi, Takayasu, and Mitakeumi, I don’t see how Shodai’s losing record keeps him in sanyaku. The kyokai needs ozekis so they need to bring the good performers up the banzuke. I like Andrew Michael Daley’s “nozeki” term. Only the Kyokai likely know how serious the situation really is, but it appears pretty dire from my armchair heya in DC.

Ikioi was the only maegashira with a winning record among the gauntlet ranks. His wins over Terunofuji, Giku, and Kakuryu were not that impressive given their own terrible records and catalog of injuries. But, those wins seem emblematic of the issues facing our champions. Add in there the fusen victory from Harumafuji’s injury and I think we’ve got a flavor for what we can expect in March: many white stars and even a few gold stars for the young challengers.

OK, Takekaze’s not a young challenger – and neither is Sokokurai. These dudes are seasoned vets who are probably salivating as they get a whiff of ozekidom. Both wrestlers had 10+ wins last tournament. Add in to this Takanoiwa sitting on 11 wins. They can actually hope to get 10 more this time around. If they put together strong performances like that at M3, they will be in sanyaku with 20+ wins under their mawashi. This would be a worst-nightmare situation for the Kyokai. It will be interesting to see how they dance around elevation talk if either of them put together 33 wins now, even with 20 or more of those coming as rank-and-file wrestlers.

Terunofuji’s pre-promotion win-count included one tournament at M2. But he also had a yusho. Will they strengthen the requirement seeing as how their most recent ozeki promotions (Goeido and Terunofuji) have been busts? Can they even afford to with the nozeki situation looming? Right now, I’m sure the answer floating in their heads at the moment is, “This is fantasy. These guys can’t pick up double-digit wins ranked this high. Besides, Takayasu and Mitakeumi will be the next ozeki.” I actually agree but it’s fun to think of the possibilities. If Sokokurai puts up another 12, I’m going to enjoy the show, especially given his history, getting wrongly caught up in the yaocho scandal and then being reinstated after a two year banishment.

Yoshikaze is a sleeper. He’s not going to advance but he does pose a constant danger for serious upsets. Arawashi’s success may have been a fluke but it will be interesting to see where he’s seeded. I’ve got him falling out of the ranks where he’ll pose a danger to any sanyaku opponents. Rather, the  rest of these wrestlers should provide some great highlight bouts. The three heavyweights, Aoiyama, Ichinojo, and Kaisei will be great matchups (hopefully). They can be lethargic, inconsistent, and underwhelming but I’m thinking positively here.


Rank East West
M1 Shodai Ikioi
M2 Takekaze Sokokurai
M3 Takanoiwa Yoshikaze
M4 Shohozan Hokutofuji
M5 Chiyonokuni Aoiyama
M6 Ichinojo Takarafuji
M7 Arawashi Endo
M8 Kaisei Tochinoshin

Andy Takes a Crack at Mock Banzuke

I like Bruce’s systematic, mathematic approach to the banzuke. Mine, though, is based on gut. In my sanyaku projection, you’ll notice few differences. I flip Harumafuji and Kakuryu. Rather than basing it on wins, I based it on losses. Six losses for a yokozuna (Kakuryu)? Even injured it’s hard for me to put him in the top rank — so I didn’t. I preserve the two Sekiwake standard rather than making room for Takayasu. Also, I drop Shodai from the senior ranks and let him fall into the rank-and-file.

The Ozeki situation is just bizarre. Terunofuji is kadoban, again, and should be demoted. If by some (cough, cough, yaocho) miracle he wins eight and retains his rank, I command the NSK to sit his ass for two tournaments. Let him go kadoban after 0-0-15 in May, get demoted after 0-0-15 in July, and come back healthy with a shot to regain his rank in September. Meanwhile, Goeido’s injury appears very serious as well. He has the luxury of sitting out this tournament and coming back kadoban in May.

Given the apparent seriousness of both rikishi’s injuries, it is possible that we will not have any ozeki by July. Add in the injuries to two yokozuna, this opens the door very wide for a *new crop* (新米) of champions in sumo. The three at the top of my list are the three junior sanyaku rikishi: Tamawashi, Takayasu, and Mitakeumi. I believe there’s a 75% chance for new ozeki this summer, 100% chance of new ozeki (likely 2) by year end. If I’m wrong, I will eat a raw wasabi root – marinated in yuzukosho – and post the video on YouTube.

Key to any promotion is health. I will find that article my wife sent me which mentions Kisenosato’s anti-injury training this weekend and post again after the banzuke. He’s been incredibly resilient through his career. I seem to recognize a “tawara-awareness” where he doesn’t risk a nasty fall for a win on the edge. He fights but remains in control and on the dohyo.

Endo used to go for it all to try to pull off a win. I’ve noticed he’s trying to stay in control. If the opponent has position and isn’t off-balance (thus susceptible to a quick pivot) the best course of action is to step out. Don’t go out to a careless knee or back injury from an uncontrolled fall. If possible, tumble in a controlled fashion.

If I were to start a heya, controlled falls from the dohyo would be the first thing I’d teach my rikishi. I’d bring in Hollywood stunt doubles and Chinese tumbling acrobats to show my wrestlers how to brace and control their falls from any position. Then I’d say, if you can’t win with a pivot on the tawara, don’t destroy your knee. Just step out and beat the fucker gentleman over the head next time.

Below is my take on the sanyaku for March:

Rank East West
Y Hakuho Harumafuji
Y Kakuryu Kisenosato
O Goeido Terunofuji
S Kotoshogiku Tamawashi
K Takayasu Mitakeumi

Banzuke Forecast (Kyushu 2016)

Green Day came through DC last week and I’m gutted that I couldn’t get a ticket. They were playing the 930 club which is a pretty small venue so I’m not surprised. Nevertheless, I was online when the tickets went on sale and somehow they were all gone within seconds. However, the system still let us try for the next two hours. As a result of all of this bitterness, I’m going to rip off one of their song titles and butcher it for my pleasure. Here goes: “Wake Me Up When [October] Ends.”

The banzuke won’t come out for weeks but I wanted to give it a stab. I found it very difficult to make sense of the lower-level maegashira ranks since everyone below M10, save Endo, belongs in Juryo and none of the top-ranked Juryo wrestlers deserve promotion. If others want to try, I think we could try to score our attempts: 2 points if you get the right rank, 1 if you get the right side (E vs. W). I think I’ll score well from Sekiwake up…the rest is likely pretty far off but still fun to try.


Rank East West
Y Harumafuji Kakuryu
Y Hakuho
O Goeido Kisenosato
O Kotoshogiku Terunofuji
S Takayasu Okinoumi
K Mitakeumi Aoiyama
1 Tamawashi Tochiozan
2 Kotoyuki Yoshikaze
3 Chiyonokuni Shodai
4 Shohozan Nishikigi
5 Takekaze Kaisei
6 Sadanoumi Endo
7 Takarafuji Chiyoshoma
8 Takanoiwa Tochinoshin
9 Ikioi Myogiryu
10 Kagayaki Kyokushuho
11 Ichinojo Chiyootori
12 Daishomaru Daiki
13 Hidenoumi Sokokurai
14 Gagamaru Amakaze
15 Toyohibiki Chiyotairyu
16 Ishiura

September Day 2 Preview


After covering day one yesterday, lets dive into the scheduled action for the second day of the Grand Sumo September tournament in Tokyo. With Hakuho getting medical attention for lingering injuries sustained in Nagoya, the tournament is wide open. The fans in Japan are strongly hoping that Kisenosato can win, and secure his ascension to Sumo’s highest rank: Yokozuna.

The match schedule started strong on day one, with some amazing match ups coming right out of the gate. Day two is a bit more predictable, the expected march of a sumo tournament. Word to the readers – the match ups are determined a day or two in advance, and do not follow a set formula. The Sumo Association will frequently tailor the matches based on who has a winning and who has a losing record. So handicapping these daily “torikumi” publications are of great interest.

Ikioi v Tamawashi – I want, oh how I want Ikioi to have a good tournament. He has been hit or miss in the last year or so, but he has a strong following among the fans in Japan, and is a bit of a media darling. Tamawashi is yet another strong Mongolian who has also been bouncing up and down the banzuke. They are both pusher / thruster guys, so whatever happens, I predict a lot of pounding on each other.

Aoiyama v Chiyonofuji – Speed and guile vs mass and power. Sumo fans love this kind of match up, as it is really easy for sumotori to just turn into giant mounds of flesh as a proven way to rank. Then you have guys Chiyonofuji (and Harumafuji, too) that stay small, get strong and focus on strength and mechanics as a way to win. Prediction – lord knows, but it will be great to watch this one.

Takanoiwa v Takarafuji – Takanoiwa was in a three way tie to win Nagoya during the final week of that tournament. As a result he received a massive promotion and now faces some tough opponents. The ascendant Takarafuji was very strong in Nagoya, but Takanoiwa went 12-3 thanks to a lot of great technique, speed and creativity. Prediction Takanoiwa will try a couple of throws and then Takarafuji will give him a nice yorikiri

Kisenosato v Tochiozan – Tochiozan has been looking really good, in fact I think he could be Ozeki material himself. I look at this bout as more of a master class instructed by a great Ozeki, Kisenosato, to a up-and-comer. Tochiozan prefers thrusting attacks, where Kisenosato is hug and chug. My prediction is that Kise will help Tochiozan understand that the upper ranks of sumo focus on the mawashi (belt), where mass and strength (rather than lightning speed) pay the bills.

Harumafuji v Yoshikaze – Well, the rematch of the Nagoya “Street fight” was bound to happen some time, but I assumed they would save it for week two. Oh no, why do that? Let’s have these guys bash each other silly on day two! With all due respect to Nagoya champion Harumafuji – when it comes to Yoshikaze, you are a kinboshi (special prize when a rank and file wrestler defeats a Yokozuna) vending machine. Prediction – Blood on the dohyo

Mock Banzuke

OK, if the NFL can have its mock draft, I can have my mock banzuke. The real one comes out in a few hours but, while I wait…

      What we know:

    • Yokozuna & Ozeki mostly unchanged
    • New Sekiwake & Komusubi
    • Tosayutaka demotion
    • Kitataiki & Gagamaru promotion

With Kotoshogiku and Goeido securing kachikoshi, the upper ranks are pretty much set. I expect both of these rikishi to stay representing the West with Giku as W1, and Goeido as W2. I do think that Harumafuji and Kakuryu will swap places as Harumafuji takes W1 and Kakuryu takes E2.

Now, the hard bit. Did Ichinojo and Aoiyama do poorly enough to drop all the way out of the sanyaku and into the maegashira? I do not see either remaining as sekiwake with 9 and 10 losses respectively. Luckily for them, the upper maegashira were pretty well decimated so I expect both to stay at komusubi, though with Ichinojo’s better record, I think he’ll represent the East while Aoiyama will be komusubi for the West.

So, who gets to grab the sekiwake spots? Well, until the last day, I thought Goeido would get one. Now, despite a losing record, I think it’s possible Tochiozan will get one of the slots. Terunofuji was the only one among the top maegashira to get a winning record and with his special prize, I think he might leapfrog into sekiwake. Personally, I don’t think they’ll advance Tochiozan. So, Okinoumi gets the call into sekiwake with his 9-6 record. He had a very strong start to the last tournament but will get rocked during this one. His first week is going to be brutal, facing all yokozuna and ozeki. So, I’m calling Terunofuji as sekiwake for East and Okinoumi as sekiwake for West.

For the top maegashira, Tamawashi will bound to M1E and Myogiryu to M1W.

For the rest, the chips will fall where they may. I look forward to seeing Gagamaru and Kitataiki back among the upper-classmen. My only real question at this point is how far will Ikioi fall? I don’t think he’ll fall into Juryo but he’ll probably be looking up from M13. With this much easier schedule, I expect to see him pull himself together and get kachikoshi. I don’t think he’s going to want 10 or more wins, though, even among these weaker wrestlers. He needs to get some serious skill improvement before he faces the sanyaku again. I always enjoy his bouts and he always seems to go full bore into every match which is more than we seem to get from most maegashira after day 10.

Also, I’m not sure if Kagamio will hang around in the makuuchi. I think he’ll fall to J1E since he had makekoshi and one of his wins came by default.