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


mitakeumi
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:
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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 11 Recap


Terunofuji-11

Outstanding Sumo All Around

As suggested in our preview of day 11, Kakuryu defeated Takayasu to narrow the yusho race to on very large, powerful rikishi for now – Shin-Yokozuna Kisenosato, who remains undefeated and alone in the lead for the Emperor’s Cup. In addition, Kotoshogiku’s bid to restore his Ozeki rank took a serious blow, when injured Ikioi kept mobile and was able to slap down the Kyushu Bulldozer as he was chasing Ikioi down.

Overnight, Kokonoe rikishi Chyoo withdrew citing a foot injury, and will likely end up back in Juryo for May, as he was Maegashira 15 and already make-koshi. But his default loss brought Takakeisho to 7-4, one win away from securing his kachi-koshi and ensuring a returning slot in Makuuchi.

Ura was able to defeat Kyokushuho, partially by confusion and surprise in one of the sloppiest matches yet. Ura went in very low, stayed low and wriggled his way around, but managing to stay upright until Kyokushuho stepped out. Kyokushuho now make-koshi and likely headed back to Juryo as well.

Ishiura’s bout with Kotoyuki featured a monoii, where the Shimpan award the win to Ishiura after reviewing the video. It was very close on who was out first, as Kotoyuki was falling as Ishiura stepped out. Kotoyuki seems to have sustained some damage in the fall.

Aoiyama won over Kagayaki via a rather ungraceful henka.

Tochiozan keeps winning, this time defeating Chiyonokuni. He remains part of the group (now 3 strong) that are one off the pace. The first bout started with a Tochiozan henka, and ended with a simultaneous throw that triggered a monoii. The Shimpan declared that the match would be re-fought, and in the second bout, Chiyonokuni henka’d, but Tochiozan was all over him and drove him quickly out.

Hokotofuji managed to win again, this time against the hapless Kaisei. A few days ago it looked like Hokotofuji was headed to his first career make-koshi. Today it looks like he is not ready to surrender, and has battled back to 5-6. Very impressive performance from this young college sumo champion.

Arawashi gave Terunofuji a great bout, but as expected Terunofuji prevailed and remains one behind Kisenosato. At one point Terunofuji tried to lift and carry Arawashi, but Arawashi was able to escape Takakaze’s fate. Both rikishi traded throw attempts multiple times, neither able to get the other off balance enough to complete the move. Amazing sumo.

Harumafuji’s win over Mitakeumi happened in the blink of an eye. Harumafuji launched out of the tachiai and his momentum drove Mitakeumi out in one single fluid move. This is the Harumafuji style we love to see.

The final bout of the day saw Yoshikaze pour on the attack against Kisenosato. The outcome of the bout was very much in doubt as Kisenosato was purely reactive at first, and struggled to find an opening to switch to offense. Eventually he was able to get an arm hold on the Berserker and maneuver him to be pushed out. Fantastic effort by Yoshikaze, and excellent recovery by Kisenosato, who is looking very much like the man to beat.

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.

Haru Day 9 Preview


Takayasu-8

Tagonoura’s Untouchables

Today both Kisenosato and Takayasu achieved the Kachi-koshi. This matters not for Kisenosato, but for Takayasu it guarantees that he will stay in San’yaku and likely Sekiwake for the May basho. Thus far no one has been able to defeat either of these two rikishi, though Ikioi and Shohozan came terribly close today.

Shohozan had Kisenosato locked up with the double inside grip (moro-zashi), which usually indicates an impending loss. But somehow Kisenosato was able to overcome this advantage and defeat Shohozan. I really applaud Shohozan’s fantastic effort, as it was significant and well executed. Ikioi really put the pressure on Takayasu in an earlier bout, but he could not close the deal. In fact Takayasu seems to almost enjoy locking up someone like Ikioi in the center of the dohyo. If you re-watch that match, you can see Takayasu’s arm go limp, he does this when in this kind of bout. He forced Ikioi to support as much of Takayasu’s amazing mass as possible, wearing Ikioi down. Once he sensed that Ikioi’s strength was waning, he went into action and won.

Some things to look forward to in the Yusho race

  • Terunofuji vs Kisenosato – Oh yes, these two have not met yet this basho. With Terunofuji one off the leader pace, a win against Kisenosato would change the landscape dramatically.
  • Takayasu vs Harumafuji – If the Horse has the strength and health, he can and could defeat Takayasu with any number of his typical winning moves. I repeat that Takayasu’s mighty tachiai is just begging someone to throw in a henka
  • Kakuryu vs Kisenosato – If Kakuryu sticks to his reactive sumo, he can goad Kisenosato into over-reacting and then exploit his mistakes.

Any way you look at it, the chances of the two rikishi from Tagonoura remaining undefeated are still quite long.

On the other hand, Kotoshogiku does indeed have a chance of reclaiming his Ozeki glory. He only needs to win 4 of the remaining 7 matches. He has already faced 2 of the 3 Yokozuna.

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Tochiozan
Chasers – Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Kotoshogiku, Chiyonokuni, Chiyoshoma, Tokushoryu

7 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Myogiryu vs Ura – Ura is really struggling for a formula that is consistent for his Makuuchi matches, and he has yet to figure it out. Fortunately he is 4-4, for Kachi-koshi is not out of the question. His opponent Myogiryu tends to win against Ura, having defeated him 5 times in their prior 8 matches.

Tokushoryu vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan is not attracting much press, but he has only one loss thus far, and is tied for second place with Terunofuji on the leader board. I am going to assume at some point if he keeps winning, the schedulers are going to have Tochiozan face Terunofuji. But today he gets Tokushoryum whom he should be able to defeat easily. Tochiozan has won all 3 of the prior matches.

Kagayaki vs Ishiura – In his third Makuuchi basho, Ishiura seems to be holding his own at last. He is fighting well, and he is finding a way to overcome and win. Kagayaki is struggling and needs to keep working on his sumo. Ishiura leads their prior meetings 5-0.

Endo vs Okinoumi – This is likely to be a highlight bout, as both of these men are performing well this basho. I expect a lot of mawashi action and maybe an attempt at a throw or two. Endo leads their career meetings 3-2.

Shohozan vs Kaisei – Shohozan is one loss away from Make-koshi, which is a shame given how well he has been competing. Today he faces hapless Kaisei, which should be an fairly easy victory.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – This was bound to happen at some point. I like watching Shodai, but he needs to fix his tachiai. If he can do that, he can be a contender. Mitakeumi has been fighting well, but is starting to suffer a string of losses. Both rikishi come into this bout at 3-5, Shodai leads their career match ups 4-2.

Takekaze vs Takayasu – Takayasu must be prepared for Takekaze’s henka. If he falls to it, he has no one but himself to blame. In a flat out fight, it’s Takayasu’s advantage, but Takekaze is well equipped with many really nice, unexpected moves.

Ikioi vs Terunofuji – Ikioi looked hurt after his bout with Takayasu. Now he is going to face a resurgent Terunofuji, and I am just hoping that Ikioi survives undamaged. If Terunofuji wins, which I expect, this will be his Kachi-koshi and his kadoban status will be erased. Ikioi has only defeated Terunofuji once in their prior 8 bouts, and it was during a basho where Terunofuji was clearly injured.

Kotoshogiku vs Kisenosato – This is actually a big challenge for Kisenosato. Kotoshogiku has a habit of beating him, especially when Kisenosato needs to win. Kotoshogiku actually leads their career series 33-30. If he lets Kotoshogiku land a solid grip, like he allowed Shohozan to do on day 7, this will get ugly. Kisenosato needs to keep things moving and not let the human bulldozer get to work.

Haru Day 7 Recap


Testicle-blow-by

Better Late Than Never!

There were few surprises in today’s action, but there was a massive amount of great sumo. We continue to see the lower San’yaku out-perform their historical averages, and this is led by Takayasu really dominating every match. This is, without a doubt, the best I have seen Takayasu perform ever, and he has been a strong contender for over a year. Pleasant surprises continue with Kotoshogiku, who seems to have survived the Sekiwake “hell” week with a winning score, and the possibility or racking up 10 wins. While in general I would encourage him to retire and move on to his new career of being a coach, it would be outstanding if his last act as a sekitori were to regain his Ozeki title.

Also in Ozeki land, Terunofuji – the real Terunofuji – has been gracing the dohyo once more after a long and miserable absence. If you have recently started to follow sumo, his performance this basho is more in line with the kind of sumo that made him Ozeki, and once made him actually feared.

Highlight Matches

Takakeisho defeats Ura – Takakeisho was in charge the whole time, even though Ura twice attempted his space-time defying back bend. Ura fans, like myself, need to keep in mind that there will be an adjustment period where he figures out Makuuchi. My only desire for him this basho is Kachi-koshi. Ura’s apology to the shimpan for the spontaneous lap dance was nice – the guy is total class.

Sadanoumi defeats Kyokushuho – Huge effort from both rikishi, this battle was a strength contest that played out across the dohyo of an extended period. Great effort from Kyokushuho in spot of his hurt knee.

Ishiura defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi is totally hapless these days, and I kind of feel sorry for him. Today’s bout with Ishiura was no exception, where the two grappled to a stalemate, then Ishirua unleashed an improvised move that turned into a rare kimarite: shitatehineri. Or as I would call it an under arm tea-bagging.

Tochinoshin defeats Myogiryu – via a dirty henka

Okinoumi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan is no longer undefeated, and Okinoumi made it look easy.

Endo defeats Chiyoshoma – Outstanding technicals on this bout. Every time I think Endo has lost his mojo, he has a day like today where he does some really nice “if you are watching closely” stuff and stumps his opponent.

Hokutofuji defeats Arawashi – Hokutofuji went yotsu-zumō today, and it worked really well. Arawashi had a good chance at a throw, bout could not close the deal. As a college Yokozuna, I hope that Hokutofuji will employ mawashi fighting more now that he is in the top division.

Chiyonokuni defeats Yoshikaze – This lasted only a second, and Chiyonokuni won via hikiotoshi, or if you watch it the kimarite was really the “testicle-blow-by technique” deftly employed by Chiyonokuni. I would not be surprised to find out later that Chiyonokuni broke wind as Yoshikaze went sailing past his nethers. Strange and wonderful sumo indeed.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Shohozan repeated Mitakeumi’s mistke: Hey, lets go chest to chest with the human bulldozer! Once again, having done the hard work for him, Shohozan was out backwards over the tawara before he could react.

Takayasu defeats Sokokurai – Winning technique should have been “Tachiai so strong that it loosened three fillings”. Not sure what kind of magic Takayasu is using, but he is ripe for a Henka in the coming week. That Tachiai is brutal and strong.

Terunofuji defeats Takekaze – Or should read, Terunofuji picks up 330 pound Takekaze like a bale of hay and removes him from the dohyo. If Terunofuji gets tired of sumo he can seek gainful employment as a piece of heavy machinery.

Kisenosato defeats Mitakeumi – Of course he does. Can anyone stop the great pumpkin now? He is so in his grove and his sumo is exactly what he wants every time. Everyone who thought he was not Yokozuna worthy can now get to the back of the line.

Harumafuji defeats Shodai – This bout made me very happy. Not because I don’t love me some Shodai, but Harumafuji looked more like his own self for the first time this basho. Word to Shodai, you are always too high on the tachiai. I know you are trying to protect your face, but it’s how you lose in the first moment of battle. You have to decide if you want to stay pretty or be good. Keep in mind, Yoshikaze was once a very handsome man.