Natsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

I started writing these prediction posts exactly a year ago, so this will be my seventh banzuke forecast for Tachiai. The accuracy has varied from basho to basho, though I think it’s fair to say that the forecasts give a very good idea of roughly where each rikishi will land—in most cases, within one rank or closer.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

No changes here from the Haru banzuke.

Lower San’yaku

S

Tochinoshin

Ichinojo

K

Endo

Mitakeumi

With his 7-8 record, Mitakeumi will lose his Sekiwake rank, but should only fall to Komusubi. Tochinoshin moves over to the East side, while Ichinojo moves up to Sekiwake. Endo finally gets his San’yaku promotion, and is a sufficiently strong candidate with his 9-6 record at M1e that I have him on the East side, although the banzuke committee could certainly switch him and Mitakeumi.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Kaisei

M2

Abi

Shohozan

M3

Daieisho

Yutakayama

M4

Chiyoshoma

Ikioi

M5

Shodai

Kotoshogiku

What’s certain is that there will be a lot of turnover in this area of the banzuke, as with the exception of Shohozan, everyone in the M2-M5 ranks checked in with a losing record, and only Shodai limited his losses to 8. Many in the ranks immediately below this group also did not distinguish themselves, meaning that we have to reach far down the banzuke for viable promotion candidates. Exactly how this will play out is much less certain, as there are many possible scenarios, and the considerations going into them are complex.

Let’s start with the easy part. Both Tamawashi and Kaisei did well enough to earn promotions to San’yaku, but since there are no open slots for them, they will have to be content with the top maegashira rank. Abi and Shohozan are the only plausible candidates for M2, although their ordering is uncertain. Abi will jump 5 ranks, and will join the joi in only his third top-division basho after earning 10-5 records in the first two. Similarly, Daieisho is the only plausible candidate for M3e. He will also jump 5 ranks, matching his highest career rank.

From here, things get complicated. The next best numerical score belongs to Shodai, but he can’t take the M3w slot due to his make-koshi record at M4w. The best he could do would be to remain at his current rank, though it’s more likely he gets a minimal demotion to M5e. Kotoshogiku could technically  be only demoted from M3e to M3w, but given his 6-9 record, this seems overly generous, and he should really be ranked below Shodai. The next best candidate for M3e is none other than Yutakayama, whose 10-5 record could vault him 8 ranks up the banzuke, all the way from M11.

If we put Shodai and M5e and Kotoshogiku right below him at M5w, who fills the M4 slots? The choice is between the next two strong kachi-koshi records, which belong to Chiyoshoma (9-6 at M10) and Ikioi (11-4 at M14), and the other two high-rankers due for big demotions, Komusubi Chiyotairyu (4-11) and M2 Takarafuji (5-10). My forecast favors the guys moving up the banzuke over those moving down. If the banzuke committee agrees, six out of the ten rikishi in this group would be moving up at least 5 ranks!

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Chiyomaru

Ryuden

M8

Yoshikaze

Hokutofuji

M9

Kagayaki

Daishomaru

M10

Okinoumi

Daiamami

M11

Chiyonokuni

Takakeisho

At Natsu, this area of the banzuke will serve primarily as the landing zone for higher-ranked rikishi who achieved make-koshi records ranging from just below .500 (Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni) to horrific (hello, Chiyotairyu and Takakeisho). The only bright spots are Ryuden, who moves up from M9 with a minimal kachi-koshi, and the Oitekaze stablemates Daishomaru and Daiamami, who vault up and out of the demotion danger zone with their 9-6 and 10-5 records.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Asanoyama

Arawashi

M13

Ishiura

Sadanoumi

M14

Takekaze

Tochiozan

M15

Aoiyama

Kyokutaisei

M16

Aminishiki

Kotoeko

M17

Gagamaru


The bottom of the banzuke is complicated by the fact that there are 6 Makuuchi rikishi who earned demotions by the usual criteria (in order from most to least deserving of demotion: Hedenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Onosho/Nishikigi, and Myogiryu), but only 3 Juryo rikishi who clearly earned promotion: Sadanoumi, Takekaze, and Kyokutaisei. Aminishiki is borderline, and the next two best candidates, Kotoeko (10-5 at J8) and Gagamaru (8-7 at J5), are ranked too low to be normally considered for promotion with those records. Obviously, the numbers moving up and down have to match. What to do?

My initial inclination was to demote Nishikigi in favor of Aminishiki, and save Onosho (who was kyujo) and Myogiryu. Over on the sumo forum, Asashosakari suggested that they could instead demote Onosho and save both Nishikigi and Myogiryu. The solution I’m currently favoring, given how poor their records were, is that both Nishikigi and Myogiryu will be demoted, as will Onosho. I’m guessing that the banzuke committee will be more likely to promote kachi-koshi Juryo rikishi with insufficiently strong records (after all, this has happened in the past) than to keep in the top division rikishi who failed to defend their places there. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this play out in any number of ways. We’ll find out on April 26th!

 

Haru Final Day Highlights

Kakuryu Yusho.Parade

You might not know it by watching the matches today, but it was the final day of the Haru basho. Across the torikumi, everyone was fighting with some of their best sumo of the tournament. It was one of those days where it will be a good idea to seek out Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama on YouTube to see all the bouts, and not just the highlights from NHK.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – It’s kind of magical to me that we may see Uncle Sumo back in the top division yet again for Natsu. This guy should be an inspiration to everyone to stick to their dreams and keep working. Good things happen for those who refuse to give up. The match starts with a henka-matta, so Uncle Sumo needs to re-set and goes for a simple hatakikomi.

Daiamami defeats Yutakayama – Daiamami gets to double digits, but Yutakayama really made him earn it. A close-quarters thrusting match in which both men stayed low and kept applying the pressure. Daiamami closed the deal when he finally got inside on Yutakayama and drove forward.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni reminds us that he is a real battle machine with his energetic win over Hidenoumi. He finishes make-koshi, and we have to wonder what it will take for him to get his sumo to the next level.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – Chiyoshoma’s leaping henka results in an airborne uwatenage. Go watch it! It’s amazingly acrobatic.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Ryuden secures kachi-koshi on the final day. Asanoyama took him to his chest out of the tachiai, and from there it was a struggle. Multiple times Asanoyama went to throw Ryuden, but Ryuden somehow found a way to block the uwatenage. Great, great sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – After a strong start to the basho, Aoiyama faded down the stretch. Part of this may have been from the fact that he started facing much higher ranked rikishi, and some of it may be some unreported injury or just plain exhaustion.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a straight ahead fight, and can’t find a way to blunt Kagayaki’s forward drive. Ishiura seems to have forgotten some of his sumo from a year or two ago, or maybe his opponents are just much bigger / tougher now.

Abi defeats Daishomaru – A leaping hatakikomi at the edge gives Abi the win after a monoii. Impressive ring sense there! For his second tournament in a row, Abi is able to rack up double digit wins.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Sadly Ikioi could not pick up the special prize, but he has nothing to apologize for this basho. Even with a bandaged head, he met Kaisei with vigor and strength. But there is a lot of Kaisei to move, and even for Ikioi, it was a tall order. Ikioi has been progressively more injured each day of the basho, so I hope he goes and heals up.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Even though he is make-koshi, Shodai seems to have found his sumo. Daieisho knew when to put him off balance and send him across the tawara. I do hope that Shodai can focus on returning in this form for the start of Natsu. He still has massive potential if he can get his sumo under control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are deeply make-koshi, but you would never know it from watching their bout. This was one of the better matches of an already awesome day. The two men were chest to chest for most of the match, but neither seemed to be able to employ their favorite sumo attacks for more than a moment. In the end, it was Kotoshogiku who set up his hip-pump attack and ended the match.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – Is anyone surprised? Kotoyuki ends the the basho with a single win.

Yoshikaze defeats Arawashi – Arawashi needs to go heal. Yoshikaze finishes 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Tamawashi is likely back in San’yaku for May, and will try again to muscle his way to his preferred Sekiwake position. Chiyomaru, meanwhile, is headed for the buffet table.

Shohozan defeats Endo – It takes a powerful tachiai from Shohozan and a couple of quick thrusts to put Endo the Golden back and out. Shohozan is kachi-koshi on the final day, after an alarming cold streak starting on day 6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This looked like a Tochiozan win, and the gyoji gave the gumbai to Tochiozan, but then the sideburns of Chiyotairyu called out to the spiritual world, and the shimpan rose to their feet in abeyance. The monoii did not so much give the match to Chiyotairyu, but more to his sideburns. What did we learn here? Chiyotairyu must never remove his sideburns again. Whispered legends say that the kami that inhabits them is the same that gave Takamiyama his might, and they will only live in the facial hair of one who is worthy. [What. –PinkMawashi]

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Two enormously powerful rikishi test each other’s strength. After Ichinojo decided to lift Tochinoshin, he decided he was done playing and dialed his muscles to “Hulk” mode, finishing the boulder. With his 10-5 record, Tochinoshin has started an Ozeki campaign. Protect that knee, sir!

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Mitakeumi seems to have given Goeido 1.5.1 a solid match, and dropped the Osaka favorite on his backside in the middle of the ring. His sumo against both Ozeki has been great to watch. Maybe he is on the cusp of elevating his technique after all?

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – The initial call by the gyoji went to Kakuryu, and it looked like Takayasu may have injured his right leg and maybe even re-damaged his right thigh. But just before they hand Kakuryu the kensho diorama of Osaka-jo, the shimpan decide it’s time to review it. The replays show Kakuryu’s heel touching out, so it’s torinaoshi time, with Takayasu limping. This time, Takayasu centers the Yokozuna and drives forward with his considerable strength. Kakuryu can’t plant his feet to defend, bringing the match and the basho to an exciting end as it’s Takayasu who hoists the kensho fort from the gyoji’s gumbai.

Tachiai’s Haru Day 11 Preview

Tochinoshin
The East Side’s Reaction To Goeido’s Henka

The devastation across the yusho race was amazing on day 10, as all but four men out of nine dropped from contention. Thus ends act 2, and the goal of the torikumi is revealed. The good have been separated from the great, and the yusho race is formed.

Act 3 is to find which of these four rikishi will take home the hardware, and barring any injuries, it’s looking very good for Yokozuna Kakuryu. The goal over the next 5 days is for someone to get dirt on Big K, and right now he is looking very genki given his known injuries.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu
Chasers: Kaisei
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Ichinojo

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Daiamami vs Kyokutaisei – Daiamami pushing for kachi-koshi in a very even match all around.

Daishomaru vs Hidenoumi – Another Oitekaze deshi going for kachi-koshi on day 11, they have done exceptionally well this basho, but the next two tournaments will tell if they just had a good basho, or if this is a step-change in their sumo.

Kotoyuki vs Yutakayama – Kotoyuki has yet to win one, so Yutakayama’s kachi-koshi looks pretty safe for today. If he continues to push he could be in range for a special prize.

Aoiyama vs Chiyonokuni – A rough and rowdy match today here, we are going to get speed and tenacity against reach and power. I am going to guess it will be a pretty good match, in spite of Chiyonokuni’s 8-3 career advantage.

Kagayaki vs Ikioi – Ikioi tries for his 8, after an unfortunate hair pulling incident on day 10. Like Kakuryu, Ikioi has persevered in the face of injuries and pain. The home town crowd loves him, and he is gamberizing.

Ryuden vs Yoshikaze – The loser of this match receives a make-koshi, and I fear it’ll be Yoshikaze. This is their first ever match, and it is a sad one to watch.

Shohozan vs Hokutofuji – both men have rallied in the last several days after difficult losing streaks. Shohozan is still a street brawler against the diligent and earnest Hokutofuji. I give the advantage to Shohozan.

Kaisei vs Takakeisho – Fans and readers may wonder what happened to Takakeisho, I can’t cite the news posting, but it seems he pulled his groin muscle on day 8 or 9. So he’s limping to the end of the basho for the most part. It’s his first ever match with Kaisei, who is likely going to keep jun-yusho in his sights.

Endo vs Takarafuji – Endo is still at .500, and needs to get that kachi-koshi for his first ever san’yaku posting. He has faded quite a bit since his opening week sprint. The flagging Takarafuji should be a solid match for him, and has beat Endo in 5 of their last 6 matches.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyomaru – Mitakeumi was fading into the second week, even before he managed to get himself hurt. Now he has to face to bulbous Chiyomaru in their first ever head-to-head meet up.

Shodai vs Goeido – Many people were very unhappy with Goeido’s mighty henka on day 10. I thought it was keeping in character for Goeido, who clearly encountered a bad driver and could not do real sumo today. Shodai has rallied, and is not as pathetic as he appeared in the first week.

Takayasu vs Tochinoshin – The schedule ends strong, with these two powerhouses up in the second-to-last match of the day. Tochinoshin is still smarting for swallowing Goeido’s henka with such vigor. Takayasu sometimes eases up once he gets his kachi-koshi, but I think he wants to keep chasing the Yokozuna.

Kakuryu vs Ichinojo – This is a dangerous match for the lone surviving Yokozuna. First and foremost is that Ichinojo could injure him if they are not both very careful. Secondly, Ichinojo could actually defeat Kakuryu. A loss on day 11 would open the yusho race to a mad scramble, with several worthy contenders suddenly within striking range. Nothing would please the lords of sumo more.

 

Haru Day 9 Highlights

Kakuryu-Happy

A few quick bites of the day 9 action – apologies to fans if their favorite rikishi is skipped due to lack of time. Act 2 is working its magic, as the leaderboard is being shredded by the bout schedule. Kakuryu and Kaisei are still undefeated. At the end of day 9, there are no 1-loss rikishi remaining, and a decent group have fallen out of the 2-loss crowd as well.

With the nearest competitors now 2 losses behind, the next task is to see if Kaisei and Kakuryu can go the distance. At this point, both men would need to pick up 2 losses to re-open the yusho race. While that would be great for fan excitement and TV ratings, it’s a tall order. Kakuryu seems to still be healthy, wily, fast and strong. Kaisei is plain enormous and is no easy man to move, even when he is not ultra-genki. [Kakuryu is matched up against Chiyomaru tomorrow. Since there are five days of basho left after that, and five san’yaku opponents still for Kakuryu to face, it is unlikely we will see Kakuryu vs. Kaisei unless the yusho goes to a playoff or someone goes kyujo. –PinkMawashi]

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Hidenoumi – Aminishiki picks up a much-needed win, but he sure does look rough. Uncle Sumo is clearly banged up all the time now, but I admire his drive.

Aoiyama defeats Sokokurai – Sokokurai really provided no significant challenge for the Bulgarian Man-Mountain. Aoiyama’s 7-2 (8-1?)

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – The happy sumotori drops the sole remaining man with one loss. It’s now two wins that separate the leaders from everyone else.

Daishomaru defeats Myogiryu – Daishomaru is not going to give up, he wins on day 9 to keep rooted in the 2 loss group.

Ikioi defeats Kotoyuki – A fight so nice, they did it twice. The shimpan called for a rematch after both men touched down in tandem, and Ikioi blasted Mr 5×5 over and out. Yep, Ikioi is part of that 2 loss crowd!

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyonokuni – Good to see Yoshikaze pick up a win. I would consider Chiyonokuni a possible heir to Yoshikaze’s berserker form in time, and he gave Yoshikaze a solid fight today. Double bonus points today for camera work. As Chiyonokuni drops to the clay, Yoshikaze has a grip on his mawashi knot, and it comes undone. With a palpable sense of urgency, the camera pans to the ceiling before Chiyonokuni can rise from the dohyo.

Abi defeats Okinoumi – Abi showed better form today, he kept his weight from getting too far forward and powered through Okinoumi’s defenses.

Kaisei defeats Ryuden – Again on day 9, there seems to be no stopping Kaisei. He faces Ichinojo on day 10, so it’s time to see how genki the Brazilian actually is.

Arawashi defeats Takarafuji – Arawashi finally gets his first win. Sadly it’s at the expense of Takarafuji picking up his make-koshi.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Endo needs to come up with a few new battle plans. This match was far too similar to prior bouts with Tamawashi, and it was all Tamawashi.

Ichinojo defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho looked hurt yesterday and looked more hurt today. Something about the right leg, or perhaps a groin pull. Ichinojo was surprisingly gentle with him once he won.

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – Wow, Tochinoshin looks really solid today. Shohozan is struggling now, after a fantastic start.

Kotoshogiku defeats Mitakeumi – Old school Kotoshogiku came from the shadows, with most of his strength but all of his skill today against Mitakeumi, and it was great to see. Mitakeumi is once again fading hard. What will it take for this guy to get double digits in san’yaku?

Chiyomaru defeats Goeido – Big surprise today, and it was the Ozeki who stepped out first by a wide margin in this “fling fest”. Goeido did not look bad today, he just had a mistimed step.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Takayasu delivers a mini-henka and rolls Chiyotairyu down. The surprise is that the spherical Chiyotairyu can actually stop before reaching Nagasaki.

Kakuryu defeats Shodai – This bout is one part Kakuryu’s reactive sumo in spades, one part “Dancing with the Stars”. As expected, Shodai is high at the tachiai, and Kakuryu plays with him for a few moments before evading Shodai’s charge.

Haru Day 9 Preview

Haru Day 8 Dohyo Iri

Act 2 is running on overdrive and rikishi are being shunted away from the yusho hunt, but our leaders – the undefeated Kaisei and Yokozuna Kakuryu – have yet to show any inclination to lose a single match. At this point, the main group of contenders are two wins behind, and we would need to see both men lose not just one, but two of their next six matches. Mathematically possible, but it could be a tall order.

The easier mark is, of course, Maegashira 6 Kaisei. But don’t be fooled, Kaisei is huge, powerful and seems to be quite determined to keep pushing forward. He is, in fact, a serious contender. Given that Kaisei has in the past served and even had a winning record in San’yaku, he is not a total stranger to the pinnacle of sumo competition.

But this entire yusho race pivots on Yokozuna Kakuryu. Once again we head into the second week with him as the lone Yokozuna, and undefeated. At Hatsu, he struggled in the second week because he sustained an injury to his ankle which robbed him of the ability to create any forward pressure. If we see him looking hesitant, or not moving strongly forward, let’s all do ourselves a favor and assume he’s hurt, rather than that he lacks the fiber, courage or endurance to be a Yokozuna. Frankly, in the back half of this year and into 2019, he may be the only Yokozuna that survives.

Day 9’s matches continue to act 2’s theme – the scheduling team are creating increasingly interesting pairings, working to create three distinct groups, the contenders, the defeated and the survivors.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Chasers: Daiamami
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Daishomaru, Ikioi, Aoiyama

8 Matches Remain

What We are Watching Day 9

(Abbreviated due to a shortage of time – apologies if I miss your favorite rikishi)

Aminishiki vs Hidenoumi – Uncle Sumo continues to suffer in Juryo. Now at 2-6, he is nursing a worsening of his injured knee. Likely a Hidenoumi pick-up.

Sokokurai vs Aoiyama – I am going to come out and say it. Aoiyama has only 2 losses. Had he not been robbed in the first week, he would be 7-1 and the second man in the chase group. No going back, but this would be the second time in 12 months that he would have been a contender. As it is, this match is strongly in favor of the Bulgarian.

Daiamami vs Asanoyama – The lone man with 7 wins steps off against Asanoyama. They are evenly matched at 3-3 over their career, but Daiamami is having a good basho, so I expect him to come in genki and strong.

Ikioi vs Kotoyuki – Mr 5×5 has been unable to produce any offense this tournament. I expect Ikioi to dispatch him with a wince and grimace of pain.

Abi vs Okinoumi – First meeting between these two, but it seems to have potential. Abi looked very good on day 8, but he will need to think fast as Okinoumi has a deep library of sumo knowledge and experience to draw upon.

Kaisei vs Ryuden – Odd fact that Kaisei has never beaten Ryuden, they have had two prior matches. But Kaisei is looking very genki, and this is almost a kind of cupcake for him, I would think.

Endo vs Tamawashi – This has the potential to be a great match. Endo’s ablative sumo on day 8 really caught my attention – he took a huge blast to land the grip he wanted, and he made his opponent pay. Tamawashi also likes to open big and open strong. They have had 12 prior matches, and they are split evenly 6-6.

Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – You can see the frustration on Takakeisho’s face now. His oshi attack will face a significant uphill struggle against the Boulder. Takakeisho has beaten him 3 times out of 4, so I think he has a plan, and it’s time to see which version of Ichinojo shows up day 9: The one that beat Takakeisho in January, or the one that lost in November.

Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Power and speed are in ample supply when these two are fighting. Shohozan will stay mobile and try to keep the Hatsu Yusho Winner away from his mawashi. Tochinoshin holds a career advantage, but Shohozan is looking to uproot Tochinoshin from the hunt group and return him to the survivor pool.

Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi is firmly in the survivor pool now, and it’s somewhat frustrating as I think Mitakeumi is going to contend for higher rank at some point, but he just can’t seem to muster any bold forward drive. Kotoshogiku has the aura or make-koshi hanging over him already, but Mitakeumi seems like he may have been hurt day 8.

Chiyomaru vs Goeido – Actually the first time these two have matched, I am going to give the nod to Goeido, as he seems to have a stable build of GoeiDOS 1.5.1 running right now.

Takayasu vs Chiyotairyu – Both of these giant men like to open with a huge overpowering tachiai. If Chiyotairyu were a little lighter, I would suspect a henka, as it would be an easy way to beat Takayasu if you can pull it off.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – Kakuryu loves to exploit mistakes of his opponents. We can assume Shodai will be high off the shikiri-sen and Big K will take over and put him down.