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.

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 15 Preview


dohyo-iri-15

Final Day Of the Osaka Tournament

It’s been a strange and crazy basho, and now we face the final day of competition. The yusho race had focused almost entirely on Kisenosato for the bulk of the tournament, but it’s now clear that bar some strange occurrence, Terunofuji will lift the Emperor’s Cup tomorrow. Prior to day 14’s henka against Kotoshogiku, most sumo fans would have cheered his return to glory, after more than a year of crippling injuries and constant pain.

Fans have commented on Tachiai, Twitter and Facebook that the henka is part of the sport. This is true, and there are times when it’s employment is kind of neat. What troubles me about day 14 is that Kotoshogiku was not going to be able to best Terunofuji’s kaiju mode. To me the henka this time smelled of cruelty. I restrain myself, I hope, from layering too many American / European idioms on what is a completely Japanese cultural phenomenon. But it was clear that Kotoshogiku intended to go out, guns blazing, giving his all every match. This was the match where his bid to return was to be lost, and he was not allowed to end with dignity.

So you may see some noise from the Japanese fan community about Terunofuji, and I worry, about the Mongolian contingent as a whole. This would be a huge mistake, in my opinion, as the Mongolian rikishi have hugely enriched the sport, and have done fantastic things for Japan and the Japanese people.

Key Matches, Day 15

Terunofuji vs Kisenosato – This one decides the yusho. If Kisenosato some how manages to win the first one, the two will fight a tie breaker after Harumafuji and Kakuryu fight the last match of the basho. Given that Kisenosato can’t really do anything with his left arm (and he’s left handed) it’s going to be a long shot. My hope is that Kisenosato can survive without additional injury, and Terunofuji does not do anything to further lose face.

Harumafuji vs Kakuryu – This bout has very little impact, save to see if Kakuryu can get to double digits this time. Both are out of the yusho race, Harumafuji is banged up and struggling. I hope no one gets hurt and both can recover soon.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – If Takayasu can win this one, it means that he will need 10 wins in May to become Ozeki. It’s still a tall order, but a 12-3 record might also give him Jun-Yusho status for the first time in his career. Tamawashi will likely stay at Sekiwake for May, but needs wins to start making the case for promotion to Ozeki himself.

Kotoshogiku vs Yoshikaze – I hope both of these well loved veterans have some fun with this match. Both have kachi-koshi, and both are looking at retirement in the not too distant future. Kotoshogiku will try to wrap up Yoshikaze, and Yoshikaze will try to stay mobile.

Kachi/Make-Koshi

A number of rikishi go into the final day at 7-7, and will exit the final day either with promotion or demotion as their next move. This includes

Ishiura vs Takarafuji – First meeting between these two, Takarafuji already make-koshi

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Both at 7-7, the loser gets a demotion. Prior meetings are evenly split, but Tochinoshin is a shadow of his former self.

Daishomaru vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has his first make-koshi of his sumo career, but Daishomaru has a chance of kachi-koshi if he can win.

Myogiryu vs Aoiyama – Should be an easy win for Aoiyama, Myogiryu already make-koshi

Ichinojo vs Ura – Maegashira 7 Ichinojo vs Maegashira 12 Ura. Ichinojo already make-koshi, Ura trying to stay in the top division. A huge mismatch in size and speed. This may be a strange one indeed.

Haru Day 14 Preview


Kise-kak-14

Kisenosato Will Compete Day 14

The results from day 13 were catastrophic for the Japanese sumo industry. Their home-grown Yokozuna was hurt in a bout, many would say needlessly. Some my wonder why I label this a catastrophe, it’s because Kisenosato’s ascension led to a huge uptick in sumo’s popularity and cultural prominence. Any long term injury could lead to some very hard feelings between the Japanese public and some of sumo’s top performers. This would be an utter disaster for the sport.

As of the moment this is being written (and one of the reasons it’s so late), Kisenosato has decided he is going to show up and face Kakuryu on day 14. I fear that he is not at 100%, and may in fact risk a grave injury. But Kisenosato is so proud to be a Yokozuna now, he wants to show Japan that he is going to be there, no matter how much it hurts.

In other news from day 13 (most of you will have watched video by now). Terunofuji defeated Kakuryu in a fairly amazing bout. I am not sure what happened to bring “classic” kaiju mode Terunofuji back, but I think everyone (including myself) figured he was gone for good. Now he is back, and he is tied for the lead in the yusho race with an injured Kisenosato.

Takayasu continued his typical out of gas / collapse on day 13, losing to Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze is now kachi-koshi, which delights me, but I was hoping to see Takayasu set his defeat aside and charge ahead. Kotoshogiku also managed a win over Shodai, a convincing one, to keep his return to Ozeki status alive by the narrowest of margins.

Yusho Race – It’s either Terunofuji or Kisenosato. God help us, but they will face off on day 15.

Key Matches Day 14

Kisenosato vs Kakuryu – How injured is the Shin-Yokozuna? Time to find out. I doubt Kakuryu is going to give him any quarter. Kisenosato tends to beat Kakuryu, their career record is Kisenosato 31, Kakuryu 17. But this is going to be a tough match with Kisenosato’s left arm hurt. It’s also a must-win for Kakuryu, who only has 8 wins so far.

Kotoshogiku vs Terunofuji – Well, it’s been nice knowing you Kotoshogiku. Terunofuji seems only to be increasing in strength and intensity, where it’s clear the past few days the Kotoshogiku is on fumes. Terunofuji has gladly granted his opponents a double-inside “death grip” the past few days, and then proceeded to make them suffer. Given that Kotoshogiku will try for that same grip to start his hug-n-chug, the results could be ugly. Kotoshogiku must win all remaining bouts to return to his Ozeki rank.

Takarafuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu may be convincing himself that things are tougher than they should be. He needs to break above 10 to help his Ozeki push, and he needs to be able to recover from a disappointing loss like day 11 if he is to excel at sumo’s higher ranks. Takarafuji is fighting well this basho, so this is not an easy match.

Expected Day 15 Matches

  • Kakuryu vs Harumafuji
  • Kisenosato vs Terunofuji
  • Kotoshogiku vs Yoshikaze
  • Takayasu vs Tamawashi

Haru Day 13 Preview


Preview-12

In Which We Skip A Day 12 Summary Post…

Hello Tachiai readers, you may have noticed no day 12 summary. I worked to cover the bouts that were pivotal to the story lines with some detail, but now find myself without enough time to really talk much about the rest of the action. A quick run down of what else happened day 12.

Kisenosato remains unbeaten at 12-0, the only rikishi in a position today is Terunofuji at 11-1. But this would require Kiesnosato to lose at least one, and Terunofuji to survive his Yokozuna bouts. Count on the NSK to try and have the ultimate battle be between Terunofuji and Kisenosato on the final weekend.

Ikioi, now that he has a clear make-koshi, has found his sumo, defeating Shodai today who now has his make-koshi too. Mitakeumi refuses to give up, and today defeated Takekaze to remain 6-6. Mitakeumi wants back in the San’yaku ranks and he is pushing for a kachi-koshi with everything he can bring. Hokutofuji lost today, but still has a glimmer of hope to escape his first ever make-koshi. Ura and Ishiura both lost on day 12, with their records now 6-6. I predict both of them will be take it right to the final day.

Haru Leader board

LeaderKisenosato
Hunt Group – Terunofuji
Chasers – Takayasu, Tochiozan

4 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Harumafuji vs Kisenosato – Kisenosato’s first real test will come as the final match on day 13, where he will face Harumafiji. The Horse has not been 100% this basho, but he still seems to have plenty of mojo, including enough to make Takayasu look like a forgotten sack of groceries. This bout is absolutely crucial for Kisenosato, as Terunofuji is likely to be his day 15 opponent, and he needs be the leader heading into that match. Harumafuji leads their career record 37-24. Be on the lookout for the mini-henke.

Terunofuji vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu seems to be running low on gas the past few matches. At the same time Terunofuji is in full kaiju mode, and may not be stoppable without summoning Mothra. If Kisenosato can win and Terunofuji lose, it more or less hands the yusho to Kisenosato. Kakuryu has a clear advantage overall with 7-3, but there is this kaiju mode that makes a lot of that irrelevant.

Yoshikaze vs Takayasu – I am a huge fan of both. In fact I have tegata of both on my wall. To me they represent all that I love about sumo. Both of these rikishi have the energy, power and skill to win this bout. In fact Yoshikaze, if he wins, picks up Kachi-koshi – he is doing pretty well this basho. This is a mental test of Takayasu. I fear he may now doubt his sumo, and will be hesitant. Given that Yoshikaze operates at a speed most rikishi can not even follow, any hesitation could equal a Yoshikaze victory.

Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – I fear it has come to Shodai, to some the symbol of the future of sumo, to drive a stake into the heart of Kotoshogiku’s revival. I still maintain hope that Kotoshogiku can bring it home, and exit sumo having restored his rank, but I fear the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan has a different course laid in. They have only fought 3 times before, with Kotoshogiku taking 2.

Shohozan vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji never gives up. He is one loss away from his first maki-kochi in professional sumo, but I expect he is going to find some way, any way to pull in a winning record if it takes him until day 15. This is the first match between these two.

Endo vs Tochiozan – Endo looked very good against Terunofuji on day 12, and it’s time for him to match against a surprisingly strong Tochiozan. This could be a very interesting match if no one goes stupid and tries a henka.

Ura vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma has his kachi-koshi secured, and Ura still needs 2 more wins. If I had to guess, Chiyoshoma won’t be giving away a freebee to Plasticman today, and we will need to see him figure out something other than “low and bendy” as a way to carry the day.

Ishiura vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi will be looking to pick up his kachi-koshi on the back of Ishiura, who is still pushing to get 2 more wins. Given that Okinoumi is a skilled veteran, this may be fairly one sided.

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.