Aki Basho Day 13 Preview

Hakuho-Kisenosato

With just three days left of what has been an exceptional tournament, things really ramp up on Day 13 of the 2018 Aki Basho. Our Yusho race has widdled down to one name at the top: Hakuho. The Boss’ record goes into Friday unblemished, with the trio of Kakuryu, Goeido, and Takayasu trailing him with two losses each. However, Day 13 will bring this group down to at least two men as Kakuryu and Goeido will go toe to toe in what should be the match of the day.

Yago vs. Chiyomaru

Most readers of Tachiai should at least be familiar with the name Yago, as he is the very talented young rikishi highlighted several times by Herouth in her Jungyo tour articles. With his kachi-koshi in hand, and several men at the bottom of Makuuchi with losing records, Yago is looking extremly likely to be making his Makuuchi debut come November. He’ll get his first taste of the top division on Day 13 when he faces Chiyomaru, who is right on the edge of demotion with seven losses.

Aoiyama vs. Takanosho

Top division newcomer Takanosho is just one win away from securing his spot in the Kyushu Makuuchi division, and he can punch his ticket with a win over the man mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama, who took care Ishiura today despite falling for his henka, is already make koshi and is in need of some wins to slow his fall down the banzuke. Takanosho has demonstrated some excellent skill this Basho, and could become a top division mainstay should he continue to hone his skills. Tomorrow marks the first time these two meet.

Hokutofuji vs. Nishikigi

after an excellent first week that saw Hokutofuji collect seven straight wins, the young up-and-comer has only eeked out one victory in the last four days. Luckily, that one win earned him that all-important kachi koshi, but Hokutofuji seems to have hit a wall and may not be able to replicate the fantastic numbers he put up at Nagoya. His Day 13 opponent, Nishikigi, is also looking for his kachi koshi. While tomorrow is the first time these two rikishi have met on the dohyo, Nishikigi holds a fusen win over Hokutofuji.

Kagayaki vs. Takanoiwa

Takanoiwa has been on one hell of a run since taking the Nagoya Juryo Yusho and returning to Makuuchi, and could improve his record to 10-3 tomorrow with a vicotry over the man in the golden mawashi, Kagayaki. Sitting with a 6-6 record, Kagayaki is at a crossroad and is just two wins away from a promotion in November. But on the flip side of that coin, he’s also two losses away from make koshi and will need to rely on his sound fundamental skills to avoid a drop down the banzuke. Neither men are strangers to one another, and their career rivalry sits at 7-4 in Takanoiwa’s favor.

Daieisho vs. Asanoyama

Daieisho has always been something of an enigma to me. He’s very talented, as shown by his long tenure in the top division, but with the exception of his 10-5 Makuuchi debut back in 2016, Daieisho has yet to do anything to really distinguish himself. Aki doesn’t seem to be bucking this trend, and while his solid sumo is enough to earn him a regular paycheck, I feel like he’s not living up to his full potential. Hopefully, he’ll show some of that potential tomorrow when he takes on Asanoyama, who is having another good tournament and is looking for his eighth win. These two young stars of the sport have a very interesting rivalry going, and Daieisho has dominated Asanoyama 3-1.

Onosho vs. Endo

This one may truly be the battle of the disappointments. Prior to Aki, I pegged Onosho as someone who could really shake things up this Basho, and I have to admit that I was wrong. Rather than making a big splash, Onosho has barely made a ripple and enters Friday with an abysmal 3-9 record. Luckily for him, he’s taking on a fellow rikishi whose underperformed this Basho in Endo, who only has one win to his name. While it appears that Onosho is still not fully rehabilitated from his knee injury, what’s afflicting Endo is something of a mystery. Regardless of how tomorrow goes, both men have a hefty demotion waiting for them come November.

Tamawashi vs. Takakeisho

Day 13 brings us the Komusubi clash, yet only one of these rikishi has a chance of retaining their rank for Nagoya. After twelve days, Tamawashi is 3-9 and will be a Maegashira once more in November, while Takakeisho could be one step closer to getting his kachi koshi if he wins tomorrow. Expect Tamawashi to go in swinging, and for Takakeisho charge in face first.

Chiyotairyu vs. Ichinojo

Seems that extra shove from Hakuho has awoken the sleeping giant Ichinojo, who recorded his first back to back win yesterday. It may be too little too late for the boulder, who is one loss away from losing his Sekiwake rank. Chiyotairyu, while already make koshi, has a chance to play spoiler FRiday, and hand Ichinojo his losing record unless the man from Mongolia gets into a pony spanking mood. Their rivalry is tied 3-3.

Mitakeumi vs. Myogiryu

Mitakeumi, what happened? A week ago it looked like you were well on your way to that Ozeki rank. Oh, gods of sumo, you giveth and you taketh away. After losing five straight matches, Mitakeumi comes into Day 13 with a record of 6-6 and his promotion hopes going up in smoke. He desperately needs to win his last three games to keep his Ozeki hopes alive, and gets a bit of a reprieve from the rest of the San’yaku on Day 13 when he takes on Myogiryu.

Shodai vs. Tochinoshin

Tochinoshin can remove his kadoban status with a win over Shodai on Day 13. However, he shouldn’t take the man in blue too lightly. Shodai is afflicted with very unpredictable bouts of excellent sumo, and already has one Ozeki scalp this basho. If he goes super saiyan Shodai on Friday, he could give the Georgian a run for his money. Their career rivalry is tied at five wins apiece.

Abi vs. Takayasu

Following his climatic Day 12 victory over Kakuryu, Takayasu gets rubber band man himself, Abi. With Endo proving to be about as harmless as a kitten this September, Abi has been getting his fair share of play time with the top members of the San’yaku. While this hasn’t done wonders for his record, the experience he’s receiving from taking on the best of the best will no doubt help his skill set grow. Plus you never know, it wasn’t that long ago the rubber band man beat Kakuryu, he may just surprise us all again tomorrow.

Kisenosato vs. Hakuho

This is it, the long-awaited, first ever Kisenosato-Hakuho Yokozuna showdown!!! Though how I wish the circumstances surrounding it were better. For someone who missed the dramatic events that led to his Yokozuna promotion, I never really got the whole Kisenosato craze. That being said, watching his redemption story unfold has been exhilarating and he’s made a true fan out of me. While there’s still three more days of sumo to go, I believe that Aki has been a tremendous success for Kise and I’m happy to see him back. Tomorrow, he faces his toughest competition: the Dai-Yokozuna and Yusho race leader, Hakuho. The Boss comes into Day 13 with Twelve wins and looks nearly unstoppable. While the deck is definitely stacked against Kise, I expect that with his Yokozuna pride on the line, he will bring his A-game when he meets Hakuho on the dohyo. Hakuho leads their rivalry 44-16.

Kakuryu vs. Goeido

As stated above, the Musubi no Ichiban for Day 13 has tremendous yusho implications. Both Kakuryu and Goeido find themselves tied for second place in the Yusho race, but one of them will leave the Kokukigan with their championship hopes potentially dashed, while the other will be hoping Hakuho slips up enough to force a Day 15 playoff. There is so much on the line for both men in this match. Kakuryu has dominated the series with Goeido 28-16.

Aki continues to be an all-time great basho, and now that we are reaching its end the dial is getting turned up to 11. The next three days of sumo are looking to be some of the best yet, and I’m so jealous that Bruce gets to be there to see it all live. Cheer extra loud for all of us!!!

Nagoya ’18 Banzuke Crystal Ball

Meisei_banzuke

Don’t want to wait for the official banzuke announcement on June 25th? The Crystal Ball is here to give you a good idea of how it’s likely to play out.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Goeido

Takayasu

O2

Tochinoshin

Natsu saw Kakuryu take the yusho, Hakuho put up a creditable performance, and Kisenosato sit out. As a result, there is no change in the Yokozuna rankings. Goeido at least showed up, unlike Takayasu, and as a result, he takes over the O1e slot, with the shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin entering the upper ranks at O2e.

Lower San’yaku

S

Ichinojo

Mitakeumi

K

Tamawashi

Shohozan

Ichinojo did just enough at 8-7 to stay at Sekiwake, and Tochinoshin’s promotion allows him to move over to the East side. Mitakeumi moves up to West Sekiwake. Both Komusubi slots are open, one by promotion and the other by demotion, and should go to M1e Tamawashi and M2e Shohozan, the two highest-ranked maegashira to earn winning records.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Shodai

Chiyonokuni

M2

Kotoshogiku

Ikioi

M3

Abi

Kaisei

M4

Kagayaki

Takakeisho

M5

Daishomaru

Yoshikaze

Due to the depletion of the San’yaku ranks by injury, everyone ranked in this part of the banzuke at Natsu took a turn in the meat grinder. Most actually held up pretty well, with Tamawashi and Shohozan earning San’yaku promotions, and 5 others (in bold) holding on to the upper maegashira ranks. M3e Daieisho and M4e Chiyotairyu only managed 5 and 6 wins, respectively, and will fall out of this group. Falling the hardest will be M3w Yutakayama, who could only eke out 2 wins in his first tournament in the joi.

The opposite outcome in this games of chutes and ladders belongs to Chiyonokuni, who earned 12 victories from M11w and whom I have moving all the way up to M1w. His career-high rank, M1e, was at Natsu 2017, and ended in a 2-13 beating, from which it took him a year to work his way back. Taking lesser jumps up the banzuke are those from the mid-maegashira ranks with positive records (in italic): Kagayaki, Takakeisho, Daishomaru, and Yoshikaze.

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Daieisho

Endo

M8

Chiyoshoma

Kyokutaisei

M9

Myogiryu

Onosho (J)

M10

Chiyomaru

Aoiyama

M11

Nishikigi

Sadanoumi

Being in this relatively safe part of the banzuke represents a promotion for Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu, Aoiyama, Nishikigi, and Sadanoumi and a demotion for Chiyotairyu, Daieisho, Endo, and Chiyomaru. Chiyoshoma and Takarafuji are treading water. Takarafuji, in particular, is forecast to benefit from good banzuke luck and hold on to his ranking at M6w despite a losing 7-8 record. He should be demoted, but the three guys I have ranked right below him all had worse make-koshi records and receive fairly lenient demotions as it is. Also making his Makuuchi return here is recent mainstay Onosho, who we hope continues his rapid re-ascent of the rankings.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Kotoeko (J)

Arawashi

M13

Asanoyama

Yutakayama

M14

Tochiozan

Okinoumi

M15

Ryuden

Hokutofuji

M16

Ishiura

Meisei (J)

Here we have the second-strongest promotion candidate from Juryo, Kotoeko, making his Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing out in the previous tournament. Kotoeko, 26, started in sumo in 2007, under a name which I kinda wish he’d kept just so we could listen to announcers trying to get it right—Kotokashiwadani. He’s been in Juryo for the past 12 tournaments.

The only Makuuchi holdover in this group with a kachi-koshi is Tochiozan, who moves up from M15e to M14e after going 8-7. Arawashi and Asanoyama each went 7-8 and get minimal demotions due to good banzuke luck, Yutakayama lands here after plummeting down the banzuke, while Okinoumi and, especially, the trio of Ryuden, Hokutofuji, and Ishiura are lucky to remain in the top division.

I have the last spot going to another rikishi making his Makuuchi debut—Meisei—who takes the place of Takekaze, the last man I have going down to Juryo. Meisei is only 22, having started in sumo in 2011. He’s had 7 fairly strong consecutive tournaments in Juryo, going 9-6, 9-6, 9-6, 7-8, 8-7, 7-8, and 10-5, so hopefully he’ll be ready for his first taste of the big leagues.

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 Undercard Preview

Undercard

2018 Haru Basho Banzuke has been published, and while there have been many developments at the top of the rankings, even more changes have happened at the far end of the Torikumi. The undercard, comprised of Maegashira ranks 17 to 9, is shaping up to be just as exciting as it was in January. So let’s take a quick look at the men who will be fighting for their Makuuchi lives this March.

Starting at the bottom, we have a few familiar faces making their return to primetime sumo. At M17 is everyone’s favorite man mountain Aoiyama. The hulking Bulgarian has not been in Makuuchi since November, and it appears his health woes are behind him. He is joined by Miyogiryu, who returns to Makuuchi with a Juryo Yusho in hand. The final Juryo callup is Hidenoumi, better known as the Pink Panther due to his bright fuschia mawashi. Haru marks the first time Hidenoumi has been in Makuuchi since November 2016. Also occupying the bottom rungs of the Undercard are Daiamami and Sokokurai, and the man from Inner Mongolia will try to put his horrible Hatsu Basho in the rearview mirror.

Just above them is a group made up of some of Hatsu’s biggest winners and losers. In the winner’s column, we have Nishikigi, Asanoyama, Ishiura, and Yutakayama, who all scored eight or more wins. Asanoyama stayed in contention up until Day 6 but went on a prolonged losing spree before finishing with a 9-6 record. Ishiura also finished 9-6 but resorted to several henkas to get there instead of using his unpredictable style of sumo. Yutakayama surprised many by picking up his first Makuuchi kachi koshi, while Nishikigi once again staved off demotion. These men are joined by Ikioi, Daishomaru, Kotoyuki, Tochiozan, Chiyoshoma, and Choyonokuni, all of whom had disastrous Januarys. Ikioi had a horrible time at Hatsu, losing all but four matches and subsequently fell nine ranks down the Banzuke. After withdrawing from competition due to injury, Tochiozan will be looking to have a much better tournament this March. Daishomaru and Kotoyuki just missed out on their winning records, while stablemates Chiyoshoma and Chiyonokuni scored matching 6-9 records.

At the very top of the undercard, we find two men who had drastically different New Year tournaments. Following a great showing last November, Okinoumi’s nagging injuries resurfaced, and he registered a 5-10 record at Hatsu. This poor performance resulted in a four rank demotion to East Maegashira 9. His M9 counterpart in the West position is Ryuden, who along with crowd favorite Abi took the undercard by storm last Basho. Fresh off a great 10-5 Makuuchi debut that saw him receive a kanto-sho special prize, it is yet to be seen if Ryuden will carry his success forward or have a sophomore slump.

The 2018 Haru undercard looks just as stacked as it did in January and features several longtime veterans and up-coming rikishi who are sure to put on some spectacular matches this March.

Haru Banzuke Crystal Ball

Aminishiki

Unlike the Hatsu banzuke mess, the Hatsu results should make for a fairly predictable Haru banzuke.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

The rankings aren’t in doubt, but nonetheless there are many questions about this group. Which if any Yokozuna will show up? Kakuryu (ankle) and Hakuho (toes) are nursing injuries. Kisenosato has declared that the next tournament he enters will be his make-or-break one—perform at Yokozuna level for 15 days or retire. My guess a month before the basho is that Hakuho is very likely to participate, Kakuryu is also likely to compete, and Kisenosato will most likely sit this one out.

Lower San’yaku

S

Mitakeumi

Tochinoshin

K

Ichinojo

Chiyotairyu

In the upper ranks, a kachi-koshi (winning record) is no guarantee that your position within the rank won’t change: witness the Yokozuna and Ozeki getting reshuffled based on their performances at the previous basho. This used to be the case for Sekiwake as well, with 8-7 East Sekiwake frequently moving to West Sekiwake for the subsequent tournament when a more deserving candidate for East Sekiwake existed. However, this seems to have changed about ten years ago (perhaps someone can shed light on the history), and an 8-7 record at Sekiwake (or Komusubi) now appears to guarantee retention of rank and side. A recent example of this is S1e Tamawashi not switching sides with S1w Takayasu even after their respective 8-7 and 12-3 performances at last year’s Haru basho. Long story short, 8-7 Mitakeumi will retain his S1e rank, with 14-1 yusho winner Tochinoshin joining him at Sekiwake on the West side. Ichinojo and Chiyotairyu, the highest-ranked maegashira with winning records at Hatsu, should take over the Komusubi slots vacated by Takakeisho and Onosho.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Endo

M2

Arawashi

Kotoshogiku

M3

Takakeisho

Takarafuji

M4

Shodai

Shohozan

M5

Chiyomaru

Onosho

Endo has been ranked M1 twice before, but has never broken through to San’yaku. Is this his time? Arawashi would similarly tie his highest rank, while Chiyomaru has never been ranked above M8. Everyone else in this group has been ranked in San’yaku, most of them within the last couple of years.

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Kaisei

Hokutofuji

M7

Yoshikaze

Kagayaki

M8

Abi

Okinoumi

M9

Chiyoshoma

Chiyonokuni

M10

Daieisho

Tochiozan

M11

Yutakayama

Ryuden

A mix of rikishi in a holding pattern in this part of the banzuke (Kaisei, Chiyoshoma, Chiyonokuni, Tochiozan), higher-ranked rikishi dropping down after rough Hatsu performances (Hokutofuji, Yoshikaze, Okinoumi), and up-and-comers making a move up the banzuke (Kagayaki, Abi, Daieisho, Yutakayama, Ryuden). Three of the rikishi promoted from Juryo for Hatsu put up good numbers and find themselves here.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Kotoyuki

Daishomaru

M13

Ishiura

Ikioi

M14

Asanoyama

Nishikigi

M15

Myogiryu

Sokokurai

M16

Daiamami

Hidenoumi

M17

Aoiyama


Predicted demotions to Juryo: Terunofuji, Aminishiki, Takekaze. Predicted promotions: Myogiryu, Hidenoumi, Aoiyama. Often, this area of the banzuke contains a bunch of poor performances from the previous basho, but the only one who really fits that bill is Ikioi, who is dropping from M6 after putting up a 4-11 record. Kotoyuki, Daishomaru, and Sokokurai put up mediocre numbers, but Ishiura, Asanoyama, Nishikigi, and Daiamami all earned kachi-koshi records at Hatsu. Nevertheless, they’ll be fighting for their Makuuchi lives again in Osaka, as everyone in this group needs a minimum of 6 wins (more for those closer to the bottom) to be safe from demotion.