Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball

It’s time for me to try to predict the sumo rankings for the Aki basho ahead of their official release on August 26th. I’ll go through some of the key uncertainties of this particular banzuke; scroll down to see my projections and let me know what you think in the comments.

Biggest Question Marks

From the top of the banzuke:

  • Will there be two or three Sekiwake? Mitakeumi will stay at East Sekiwake after posting 9 wins. Takakeisho will be demoted to Sekiwake from Ozeki. It seems pretty clear to me that this accounts for the two available slots, leaving no room for East Komusubi Abi (8-7) to move up. However, I’ve seen the argument that the committee would first promote Abi to West Sekiwake, and then create a third S2e slot for Takakeisho. I personally don’t buy it, and neither do most of the commenters in the Sumo Forum thread, but there’s not an exact precedent that would tell us for sure.
  • Who will be West Komusubi? I believe that Endo’s 10-5 record at M2w trumps Hokutofuji’s 9-6 at M1w, that their senshuraku bout was set up as the decider, and that Hokutofuji’s win total wasn’t high enough to force an extra slot. It’s been suggested that the crunch this creates at upper maegashira would be reason enough to create an extra slot, either at Komusubi or at Sekiwake as described above, but I don’t see the banzuke committee doing anything unusual.
  • What will they do with Asanoyama (M1w, 7-8), Ichinojo (M4w, 9-6), and Tomokaze (M7w, 11-4)? Assuming the usual four lower san’yaku slots, there are six rikishi whose performances in Nagoya warrant ranks of M2 or better. Obviously, that’s 2 too many. Hokutofuji Aoiyama, and Daieisho all posted winning records and must receive promotions, and keeping these to the minimal half-a-rank places them at M1e, M1w, and M3e, respectively. That leaves M2e, M2w, and M3w for the other three. The problem is, ranking any of them M3w would be unprecedentedly harsh. Well, Kotonowaka Sr. did fall from M1e to M4e back in 2001, but otherwise M3e is the lowest historical rank following any of their combinations of rank and record.
  • How far will Ryuden fall after managing only 4 wins as the West Komusubi? The last man with that performance, Tamawashi at Aki 2018, received an extremely lenient demotion to M2w, but that was due to unusual banzuke luck. More typical recent placements have been in the M4-M6 range, and I have Ryuden at M6w, at the expense of Kotoshogiku, who falls from M5e to M7e after a 7-8 record.
  • How high will Terutsuyoshi rise from the lowest rank on the last banzuke after posting 12 wins?
  • At what rank will Tsurugisho make his Makuuchi debut after winning the Juryo yusho with a 13-2 record from the fairly low rank of J6e?
  • How will the other highly likely promotions from Juryo—Ishiura, Yutakayama, and Azumaryu—fare in the rankings relative to each other and to the poor performers in the lower half of Makuuchi?
  • Will Takagenji (and, less likely, Tochiozan) end up getting demoted to the second division? If so, who would take their place? Takanosho (J4w, 9-6) is the most likely contender, with Daimami (J8e, 11-4) probably ranked too low and Chiyoshoma (J3e, 8-7) likely lacking sufficient wins?

With all that out of the way, here’s the guess:

The Yokozuna Chronicles One: Akashi Shiganosuke

Since the inception of the Yokozuna rank in 1789, only 72 men have been recognized as the greatest sumo has to offer. But who are the men behind the numbers? What made them stand out from the rest? And where do they belong in the pantheon of sumo’s most historic competitors?

I aim to answer these questions in my new series, The Yokozuna Chronicles, where work my way through the long history of sumo and I uncover the lives of its most prestigious athletes. In Chronicle One, I outline the legendary life of the first Yokozuna, Akashi Shiganosuke. A man more myth than material, Akashi Shiganosuke’s impact on sumo and the rank of Yokozuna is felt to this very day.

Sumo News Round Up – July 28th

First up, the Aki banzuke will be released 4 weeks from today. Lksumo has already presented an idea of where the banzuke will end up, and we expect a high-resolution prognostication in a few weeks. While it might seem like an eternity to sumo fans, there are some actions in the world of sumo worth noting.

Fans may recall Ikioi, a popular, long time veteran of the top division (41 basho!) who suffered injuries and maladies aplenty in Osaka. His 2-13 record was enough to punt him to Juryo 1w, but he has not really recovered. His 5-10 performance in Nagoya from Juryo 8w have many worried that at 32 years old, he is too banged up to compete, and may soon find himself demoted back into the mosh pit that is Makushita, a rank he has not seen since 2011. Naturally, thoughts turn to intai.

Now word that the person (the former Shotenro) who has been using Ikioi’s kabu (elder position) has vacated that position and taken up another. This is a fairly good signal that Ikioi is starting to prepare for a post competition career, should Aki continue his poor performance.

The summer Jungyo is starting today, with any luck Herouth will bring us video clips and reports scavenged from the web and from twitter. There are a host of rikishi who are not on jungyo: Takayasu, Goeido, Tochinoshin, Takakeisho, Yoshikaze, Kaisei and Takagenji. With many of these rikishi being part of the “over 30” club, fans are right to be concerned about the long term health of sumo’s stars. Goeido and Tochinoshin will both be kadoban in September, Takakeisho will be fighting for 10 from Ozekiwake, Yoshikaze may still be in dry dock, but should be dropped to Juryo.

For some more sunny news, Yokozuna Hakuho was active on the first day of the jungyo, so whatever problems he still has with his elbows are not keeping him from the dohyo.

New Juryo for Aki

Although the full Aki banzuke won’t be released for a few days, those rikishi gaining sekitori status were announced today, so that they have ample time to prepare for their new duties. As expected, Seiro and Irodori are returning to the salaried ranks, and Tamaki (who is getting a new shikona, Asagyokusei) is making a first appearance. More surprisingly, the fourth promotion is Ms4w Kaisho (4-3), who will be making his Juryo debut. Expert opinion had Ms5w Wakamotoharu (5-2) ahead of him in the promotion queue. Although the corresponding demotions are not announced, we can infer that in addition to Ryuko and Akiseyama, Arawashi will also be dropping out of the sekitori ranks.