Christmas quiz !

We’d like to greet our great readers with a quiz focusing on the 2019 year in makuuchi. I hope everybody will enjoy it and that this thread will remind us some of the best moments in a tormented year 2019.

Good luck to all, and Merry Christmas !

1. How many honbasho have been won by a foreign-born rikishi ?

a. One

b. Two

c. Three

d. Four

2. Nobody won more bouts than Asanoyama in 2019. Who finished runner up ?

a. Abi

b. Hakuho

c. Hokutofuji

d. Mitakeumi

Asanoyama Hideki

3. And many wins have notched all three yokozuna combined ?

a. 72

b. 82

c. 92

d. 102

4. How many shin-makuuchi rikishis (newly promoted wrestlers to the top division) have we seen in 2019 ?

a. Four

b. Six

c. Eight

d. Ten

5. How many rikishi have made their san’yaku debut in 2019 ?

Note : we’re only talking about rikishi who have never, ever been in san’yaku before 2019 !

a. Two

b. Four

c. Six

d. Eight

6. What has been Enho’s record in makuuchi ?

a. 10-5 ; 8-7 ; 5-10 ; 6-9

b. 8-7 ; 7-8 ; 10-5 ; 9-6 ; 8-7

c. 6-9 ; 6-9 ; 12-3 ; 4-11 ; 8-7

d. 7-8 ; 9-6 ; 9-6 ; 8-7

Enho Akira

7. Abi had a fine year 2019. Which of these statements is true ?

a. He made his makuuchi debut in March 2018

b. He managed double digits once in 2019

c. He made his sekiwake debut in 2019

d. He managed six kachi koshi in 2019

Abi Masatora

8. Takakeisho had a mixed year 2019, having to cope with serious injuries. He did so quite impressively, however, going to a playoff in September, where he lost to Mitakeumi. Who was the last rikishi to lose a playoff in makuuchi ?

a. Kakuryu

b. Terunofuji

c. Ichinojo

d. Goeido

Takakeisho Mitsunobu

9. Terutsuyoshi luckily escaped juryo demotion after the Natsu basho 2019. Sumo gods’ lenience paid off as he produced an astonishing 12-3 result in Nagoya, finishing runner up for his third makuuchi appearance. Who did better ?

a. Goeido

b. Hakuho

c. Terunofuji

d. Ichinojo

Terutsuyoshi Shoki

10. How many foreign rikishi have made a makuuchi appearance in 2019 (having fought in at least one bout) ?

a. Ten

b. Twelve

c. Fourteen

d. Sixteen

11. Ishiura usually bounces from juryo to makuuchi, and from makuuchi to juryo. If M symbolizes makuuchi and J symbolizes juryo, how can one represent Ishiura’s year ?

a. J – M – M – J – M – M

b. M – J – J – M – J – M

c.  J – M – J – M – J – M

d. M – M – J – M – J – M

Ishiura Masakatsu

12. What about Chiyomaru ?

a. J – M – J – J – M – M

b. M – M – J – M – J – M

c. M – J – J – J – M – M

d. J – J – M – M – J – M

13. Azumaryu made a makuuchi return during the Aki basho. He last appeared in makuuchi in…

a. 2013

b. 2014

c. 2015

d. 2016

14. Which one of these rikishi have earned two kinboshi in 2019 ?

a. Nishikigi

b. Tomokaze

c. Asanoyama

d. Myogiryu

15. Which one of these wrestlers have produced six make kochi this year ?

a. Tochiozan

b. Kotoshogiku

c. Nishikigi

d. Kagayaki

Hatsu Banzuke Postmortem

The January rankings are out! Time to see how the banzuke committee treated your favorites, and how my forecast fared.

What the crystal ball got right

As predicted, we have an 8-person san’yaku—the minimum size it’s been in the modern era, and the first time it’s this small since 2005. Asanoyama was promoted to East Sekiwake, his highest career rank. Abi remains stuck at East Komusubi for the 4th consecutive basho, and he is joined on the West side by Daieisho, who makes his san’yaku debut.

The forecast was also on target for the upper maegashira ranks down to M6e, getting only the East/West order wrong at M1, M4, and M5. Notably, Mitakeumi does indeed fall out of the san’yaku ranks after 17 consecutive basho, and does not get any leniency, ending up at M2w.

From there, the forecast goes off the rails (see next section) until we get to the bottom ranks. I went back and forth on this, and while my posted predictions got some things wrong here, my final GTB entry correctly had Shimanoumi as the lowest-ranked Makuuchi holdover at M14w, followed by the six Juryo promotions: Azumaryu, Ikioi, Tochiozan, Kaisei, Kiribayama, and Tokushoryu. The last of these went 8-7 at J1w, which proved a strong enough promotion claim to push Tomokaze down into the second division. The six promotions are the most we’ve seen since May 2016.

What the crystal ball got wrong

I wrote that the biggest uncertainty was how far 2-win Tochinoshin would fall from Sekiwake. The banzuke committee treated him far more favorably than the range of possibilities I had envisioned, with the former Ozeki ending up at M6w, making this my biggest miss, by three and a half ranks. This had a knock-on effect on my picks for the subsequent slots, so that the next rikishi to be placed correctly didn’t come until Kotoshogiku all the way down at M13e.

The other discrepancy between my predictions and the official rankings was the strong tendency by the banzuke committee to favor losing records over winning ones. The most extreme examples, and arguably the snubs of the banzuke, are Yutakayama and Terutsuyoshi, who stayed at M9w and M14e, respectively, despite posting 8-7 records. This is the first time I’ve seen rikishi with winning records not get a promotion outside san’yaku. Similarly, Ishiura, Chiyotairyu, and Chiyomaru got only minimal half-rank promotions for their 9-6 performances, and Takanosho and Kagayaki only moved up a couple of ranks following double-digit kachi-koshi. I guess that in these cases, the committee considered that in going from a san’yaku with 11 rikishi to one with 8, staying at the same rank means being three spots higher on the banzuke. But no similar consideration appears to have been applied to make-koshi rikishi such as Aoiyama, Ryuden, and Sadanoumi, with the committee assigning them typical numerical ranks given their Kyushu banzuke places and performances.

Bonus: Makushita Joi

I also took a shot at guessing who’d end up in the top 10 spots in Makushita, from which promotion to sekitori is possible without a 7-0 record. Who’ll be fighting it out for a ticket to Juryo? As expected, the top three Juryo dropouts made it: Kaisho, Wakamotoharu, and Akiseyama. Joining them in seeking immediate re-promotion is Ichiyamamoto, whom I had on the bubble (he got the last Ms5w slot). Also as predicted, moving up from lower down in Makushita are Midorifuji, Shiba, Oki, Chiyonoumi, and Naya. Hakuyozan, another bubble rikishi, also made it. That’s all ten spots spoken for, which brings me to one surprise: former Makuuchi man Chiyonokuni, who went 3-4 at Ms2w, is just below the “invisible line” at Ms6e. I thought he’d done just enough to have another shot at Juryo at Hatsu; technically, he still does, but he’ll have to be perfect to do it.

Overall, the crystal ball acquitted itself creditably, given the many unusual features of the banzuke and departures by the committee from customary practices. On to the basho!

Quiz ! Yokozuna performances – the answers

1. Let’s start with a reasonable warm up: who is the only yokozuna who never won a single basho during his entire career ?

a. Futahaguro

Futahaguro Koji (born Koji Kitao) performed very well in san’yaku during the years 1985-1986, with (as an sekiwake) 11-4, 12-3, (as an ozeki) 10-5, 10-5, 12-3 and 14-1 records.

He lost in a playoff to Chiyonofuji, whom he defeated on day 15, during the Nagoya basho of 1986, after having accumulated these 14 wins.

With Chiyonofuji as the sole active yokozuna, five ozeki and another wrestler performing to ozeki standards, the board decided to promote Futagahuro to yokozuna, despite the fact that he hadn’t won a yusho.

That gamble proved to be a hugely bad decision. Futahaguro reached again one playoff, finished twice as a runner up, but no more.

Following a heated argument with his stablemaster, and allegedly with the stablemaster’s wife, Futagahuro became the first yokozuna to be expelled from the sport, and the first yokozuna of the modern era who never won a single yusho.

The answer to the first question : Futahaguro

At the opposite, Kotokaze and Kirishima never made it to yokozuna. Wajima won no less than fourteen yushos.

2. We have to look before the modern era to find the last ozeki to be promoted to yokozuna without having won a tournament. Who was it ?

Tip : unlike Futagahuro, he won yushos (two) after his promotion.

a. Terukuni

Terukuni was tied for first place with Futabayama and Akinoumi with a 13-2 record, during the May 1942 tournament. The yusho was awarded to Futabayama because he held a higher rank, as the rule was at the time.

His performances earned him nevertheless yokozuna promotion.

Terukuni also got promoted without a yusho win to his record

He had a decent yokozuna career, ending runner up two more times – five times during his whole career – before finally clinching two titles in a row, eight years after yokozuna promotion, during the Aki basho of 1950 and the Haru basho of 1951.

He retired in 1953.

3. Speaking about yushos, how many wrestlers have not won a single yusho during their yokozuna careers ?

Note : the yushos may have been won before 1958. We’re looking at the whole careers of yokozuna who have been active since 1958.

The correct answer of the first question is, of course, included !

b. Three

Apart from Futahaguro, Yoshibayama has been promoted to yokozuna after having won a yusho az an ozeki in 1954, but couldn’t reproduce that feat. He retired in 1958.

The other yokozuna is Wakanohana III. His record is in fact quite impressive, with five (!) yushos: one as a komosubi, four as an ozeki, but none as a yokozuna. After a decent start at the rank and 10-5, 12-3, 9-6 and 13-2 records, he suffered a serious injury which prevented him from competing properly. He had to retire by the year 2000, less than two years after his yokozuna promotion.

Yokozuna Wakanohana (right), alongside Takanohana (left)

4. How many yokozuna have been make-koshi despite competing all fifteen days ?

b. Two

That might sound unbelievable. However, both yokozuna, Onokuni (in Aki 1989) and Wakanohana III (in Aki 1999) were diminished through injury, and could not perform at their best.

5. What happened to him / them ?

d. The Yokozuna Deliberation Council did not consider resignation

To be exact, Onokuni submitted his resignation papers, but the board instead told him to « toughen up », as his bad performances were due to his injury.

Yokozuna Onokuni, during his retirement ceremony.

Wakanohana III, with the support of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, did not consider offering his resignation at all, also due to the fact that injury prevented him from competing properly.

6. And how many yushos has he / have they won, combined, afterwards ?

a. None

Sadly, both yokozuna’s injuries proved too much of a mountain to climb.

Wakanohana III sat out of the two next bashos, before going 2-4-9 in Osaka 2000 and retiring thereafter.

After sitting out of five more tournaments, Onokuni had a late surge with 10-5, 10-5 and 12-3 records, finishing runner up of the latter. He sat out again the next tournament, and retired after a final 4-5-6 performance.

7. Of the ten last yokozuna, how many have earned promotion without winning two yushos in a row as ozeki ?

a. Two

The last two ones, Kakuryu and Kisenosato. Kakuryu lost a playoff in January of 2014, before winning the next basho in Osaka, and was promoted.

Kisenosato’s final dohyo-iri

Kisenosato finally won his first yusho in January of 2017, after thirteen runner up performances. The council promoted him after his first win, too.

Let’s single out Harumafuji who put ut the best numbers with back to back yushos in 2012 – despite Hakuho’s presence.

8. How many dai yokozuna were active during the modern era ?

c. Twelve

Kitanofuji (10), Wakanohana I (10), Tochinishiki (10), Akebono (11), Musashimaru (12), Wajima (14), Takanohana II (22), Kitanoumi (24), Asashoryu (25), Chiyonofuji (31), Taiho (32) and Hakuko (43).

9. Sumo year 2017 saw a quartet of yokozuna, composed of Hakuho, Harumafuji, Kakuryu and Kisenosato. Which year saw the creation of the previous quartet ?

a. 1990

Asashifuji earned yokozuna promotion after consecutive 14-1 wins in May and July of 1990. He joined Onokuni, Hokutoumi, who were both yokozuna since 1987, and Chiyonofuji, yokozuna since 1981.

Edit : thanks to TubeWings for correcting that one… seems I missed the last quatuor which appeared in 1997, where Akebono, Takanohana, Wakanohana and Musashimaru were yokozuna.

10. The four yokozuna were…

c. Chiyonofuji, Onokuni, Hokutoumi, Asashifuji

11. What can we say about the situation that happened after eleven bashos ?

d. There were no more yokozuna

Serious injuries caused an unfortunate wave of retirements : Chiyonofuji in May 1991, Onokuni in July 1991, Asashifuji in January 1992, and Hokutoumi in May 1992.

12. By the way, what is the highest combination of yokozuna seen at the same time ? The question covers the period from 1909 to 2019

b. Four active yokozuna and a fifth awaiting retirement ceremony

Kagamisato was promoted to yokozuna after having won the Haru basho of 1953. Terukuni had just announced his retirement. Still awaiting the ceremony, he was a yokozuna – albeit no more active – alongside Kagamisato, Chiyonoyama, Azumafuji and Haguroyama.

13. Back to the modern era, the three yokozuna to have won six yusho in a row are…

d. Taiho, Asashoryu, Hakuho

Taiho won the five last basho of the year 1966. Incredibly, he did not win more bouts than anyone during that year, as he sat out during the January basho. Kashiwado racked up 71 wins, two more than Taiho.

Taiho also won the January basho of 1967, before seeing Kitanofuji ending his streak.

Asashoryu won from Fukuoka 2004 to Fukuoka 2005. Seven in a row. Wow.

Hakuho won the five last honbashos of 2010, as well as the January basho of 2011. He was ultra dominant, with 86 wins in 2010, out of 90.

The March 2011 tournament was cancelled. The winner of the next basho was… Hakuho, before Harumafuji finally stopped that streak, in July 2011.

14. The feat of winning seven yusho in a row has been accumplished by…

c. Asashoryu

Asashoryu won in Fukuoka in 2004, as well as every honbasho of the 2005 calendar year. He won an impressive total of 84 bouts during that year.

Yokozuna Asashoryu

His stream came to en end after Tochiazuma clinched the January basho of 2006.

15. And many foreigners have been promoted to yokozuna ?

c. Six

Two Americans, Akebono (promoted in 1993) and Musashimaru (promoted in 1999); four Mongolians, Asashoryu (2003), Hakuho (2007), Harumafuji (2012) and Kakuryu (2012).

Recap :

– If you’ve got less than 5 correct answers : you’ll drop to juryo next tournament.

– If you’ve got between 5 and 7 correct answers : you’re make-koshi, but avoid demotion. Maegashira 10 is your spot.

– If you’ve got 8 or 9 correct answers : you’re finally delivering, and everyone’s curious to see your san’yaku debut as komosubi next time.

– If you’ve got 10 or 11 correct answers : you’re a strong sekiwake, pushing hard for ozeki promotion.

– If you’re got 12 or 13 correct answers : we’re glad to have a talented ozeki in our ranks…

– If you have 14 or 15 correct answers : congratulations, shin-yokozuna !

Akebono Among Guests At Azumazeki-Oyakata Funeral

Former Yokozuna Akebono and former Sekiwake Takamiyama said their good-byes to the late Ushiomaru (Azumazeki-oyakata). Both Hawai’ian greats have strong connections to Azumazeki-beya. Takamiyama fought under Takasago beya but upon retirement received the Azumazeki kabu, opening the stable which would be home to Akebono. Takamiyama reached retirement age in 2009, passing the baton to Ushiomaru.

Since being hospitalized from his own health issues, updates on Akebono’s condition have been rare but we are very happy to see him. Judging from the comments and tweets I’ve seen about this news the sentiment is shared throughout the sumo fan community.

It is wonderful to see Akebono, especially since there is rarely any news on his condition. On a personal note, a very little known fact: Akebono was one of our very first Twitter followers and I still remember freaking out, and the startled look on my wife’s face when I realized it was actually him. This fanboy got into this awesome sport to begin with by watching Akebono highlights on ESPN. (Long before gigabit streams in HD.) Hosted by Larry Biel, they would show half-hour digests of a whole tournament…and with that taste, I was hooked. We extend our best wishes and all hope to hear more good news on his recovery.