Banzuke prediction for Haru 2020

The first basho has been pretty eventful, with a yusho deciding bout on senshuraku, a surprise winner, and, unfortunately, injuries and a big name retirement – Goeido.

The dust has vanished by now, so this should be a good opportunity to try to guess next basho’s banzuke !

First of all, let’s have a look back at last basho’s banzuke:

Who will drop out ?

How to demote an injured rikishi hasn’t always a clear-cut answer. However, having seen Tomokaze demoted to juryo in January hints at subsequent demotions for Kotoyuki (M3, 0-0-15) and Meisei (M5, 1-7-7). Apart from these inevitable downfalls, everybody looks to have hold up his own, except Kotoeko, whose 2-13 record asks for an obivous demotion – let’s hope he can bounce back.

Who will join maku’uchi ? Lower maegashira issues

Firstly, it’s important to note that, due to Goeido’s retirement, another slot will be opened at maku’uchi’s bottom. I wonder when’s the last time we had a maegashira 18 in the top division…

Just retired: former ozeki Goeido, now Takekuma

It means that the three demotions and Goeido’s retirement will provide four spots. I think the solution is quite easy this time – Nishikigi and Daimami’s impressive 11-4 records will bring them back to maku’uchi, whereas Kotonowaka and Hidenoumi’s 8-7 at juryo 2 has brought uncertainty, but they seem the ideal candidates to complete our banzuke. Kotonowaka would then be shin-maku’uchi.

Set for his maku’uchi debut ? Kotonowaka

Chiyoshoma (J1, 7-8), Wakatakakage (J5, 9-6), Daishoho (J5, 9-6) and Terunofuji (J13, 13-2) all seem to have narrowly missed their chance. But they will all be in good position to storm back to maku’uchi in May.

The middle of the pack – mid maegashira issued

Having determined who will (most likely) be demoted and promoted, let’s not see how our banzuke should shape up:

Our answers about promotions have settled a few spots at the bottom of the banzuke.

The middle of the banzuke has been pretty hard to draw. If you acknowledge Ryuden, Yutakayama and Kagayaki are due to fill some upper spots, and seeing a bunch of make-kochi starting from M9, the result looks a bit artificial.

I surprised myself, in particular, moving Aoiyama down to quite a few slots, despite an afwul 4-11 record at M8 – he finds himself no lower than M12.

Some rikishi (Takanosho, Sadanoumi, both 7-8) haven’t lost a single rank – they’ve just been moved from East to West.

Anyway, I think the banzuke has a pretty decent configuration.

The san’yaku battle – upper banzuke issues

Let’s finish our topic in original fashion – with the top ranks !

Both yokozuna, having won just one bout, should just retain their ranks. As a consequence, Kakuryu, the west yokozuna, will be marked as both yokozuna and ozeki – Takakeisho is the only remaining ozeki after Goeido’s retirement.

Asanoyama failed to get ozeki promotion but has secured his east sekiwake slot with a 10-5 performance.

The debate on who will fill the remaining places is wide open, and guessing right is no simple task. Three candidates are needed after Takayasu, Abi and Daieisho’s make kochi. All three are easy guesses, would I say – Endo (M1, 9-6), Hokutofuji (M2, 11-4) and Shodai (M4, 13-2).

Some believe Tokoshoryu will reach san’yaku. However, I’m quite certain he won’t be promoted that far. Remember Kyokutenho, back in 2012 ? He won the yusho at M7, with a 12-3 record – and ended up at maegashira 1.

Last basho’s surprise winner: Tokushoryu (left)

I might have promoted him a bit too shily, though…

Anyway, the order of Endo, Hokutofuji and Shodai’s promotion is anyone’s guess. I believe the key here is to have in mind that the board is looking for ozeki candidates – the sooner, the better. And I tend to believe Hokutofuji, of the three, will be first on their minds – hence, he’ll grab the second sekiwake slot. And finally, Shodai’s impressive 13-2 record should outclass Endo’s 9-6 result at M1.

What’s your opinion on this banzuke ?

What to expect from Hatsu’s second week ?

The Hatsu basho’s first week has been pretty eventful, seeing both yokozuna pulling out win just one win under their belts. The yusho race is open as ever, and a few interesting sidestories are quite promising, too. So, what should one expect from the seven last days of the tournament ?

1. Can the “ozeki old guard” salvage its status ?

This question, unfortunately, calls for a quick answer for Takayasu. Mathematically, he is still on track to regain is ozeki status, as the five losses he has allow him to hope for a 10-5 results. However, the chances to see that happen are very slim. Takayasu’s sumo is weak and sloppy ; his arm is in no good shape, and each bout looks like a pain for him.

Both in real trouble : sekiwake Takayasu (3-5, left) and ozeki Goeido (3-5, right)

It’s doutbul he’ll even manage to keep a san’yaku spot. Sadly, it looks like his late career will take place on the maegashira ranks.

What about Goeido ? For once, we have to say he’s fighting. The problem for hi mis that he’s kadoban, diminished, and with only three wins so far. He’ll need to end up 5-2, at least, to sake his ozeki rank ; otherwise, he’ll end up as an ozekiwake, like Takayasu this tournament.

Another problem for him ? He’ll have to face tougher opponents like Asanoyama, Takakeisho, etc. He might snatch a win against a weakened Takayasu, and perhaps find a way to pull down Enho tomorrow.

Still, the future for both rikishi looks grim.

2. What about the “ozeki new guard wanna-be” ?

The higher ranks are in increasingly urgent need for new blood. The situation that has arisen or that is about to rise may well lead, in my opinion, to one or two cheap ozeki promotions, as it already happened in the past. But who is likely to step up ?

Asanoyama has been the leading candidate for a few months, but an average 5-3 record is not really what one could expect from him. His losses were against Abi, Endo and Shodai – solid opponents, sure, but a solid ozeki should, at most, end such a first week with two losses – at most.

Disappointing so far : Asanoyama (5-3)

What does it mathematically mean for him ? Basically, ozeki promotion in Osaka is about to be over, unless he finished the basho with a storming 12-3 record. That would mean probably being jun-yusho at least, and, more significantly, having beaten both ozeki. He would have gotten 33 wins during the last three honbashos, and, given the aforementioned situation on the ozeki ranks, might be sufficient.

But it does not look likely to happen ; Asanoyama, on track for ozeki promotion, rather delivered a Mitakeumi-like performance. More reallistically, he’d better preserve his chances for the next tournament or two – that means, getting at least ten wins, and beating one of the two ozeki. If not, his tournament will have brought no quality, and he’ll be good to start all over again.

The situation is almost the opposite for Endo : having been 7-8 last tournament, he is in no run whatsoever, but delivered fantastic performances, beating both yokozuna in the process. That means, the current basho is an excellent start for an ozeki run. Being at 6-2, he’s perfectly capable to reach, say, 11-4, and kick on in Osaka.

Other possible future candidates have been quoted from time to time: Abi, Hokutofuji, Mitakeumi. But none of them does better than 5-3, so any ozeki talk is pretty much premature. A word about Mitakeumi, who aims to regain a san’yaku spot. It seems that this would be the best he can hope for – being 4-4, ozeki hopes are hibernating for the time being.

3. Who is in danger to drop to juryo ?

Kiribayama is the only newbie in makuuchi this tournament. He showed interesting things so far – today’s win against Kotoeko was good. But he’s been a bit irregular, and gave away some light losses – to Terutsuyoshi, for example. He’ll need a kachi koshi to save his makuuchi place.

No honeymoon in makuuchi : Kiribayama (4-4)

I like to watch his rise – having Kakuryu as mentor is of a great benefit for him. I’m afraid, however, the end of the tournament might prove a bit too tiring for him. He’ll perhaps finish at 6-9 and have to rise again from juryo. I’m not too worried about him having a bright future, though.

The situation is more critical for Ikioi, whose foot is a real worry for him during this basho. He’s at 2-6 and doesn’t seem to be able to produce consistent performances. He’ll probably drop again to juryo.

The “yo-yo old guard” – experienced rikishi who had to endure a recent juryo stint, like Kaisei, Tochiozan, Azumaryu, are doing pretty well, all at 5-3. Still, they’ll need to be careful to maintain their form, as they haven’t reach the safety zone yet. Azumaryu could be safe with just one more win, while Kaisei and Tochiozan need two, or three. While expressing a few doubts about Tochiozan, I believe they should scrap their way to safety.

A solid makuuchi return: Kaisei (5-3)

Ishiura raised expectations after a combattive Kyushu basho, but fails to deliver with a 2-6 record. He needs three more wins to be entirely safe. Having lost the first three bouts, and the three last ones, I’d advise him to start collecting wins sooner rather than later. Perhaps another juryo drop here.

Kotoeko is in real danger at maegashira 13, with a 2-6 record. He lost the five (!) last bouts, and will have to find solutions soon.

Shimanoumi is also one to watch. After a convincing start of the year 2019, and reaching a career high maegashira 6, he got make kochi is the two last tournaments, and his sumo seems to have evaporated. I’d tip him to join the juryo drops.

Tsurugisho had a big injury scare, which saw him use the wheelchair. Fortunately, the hospital report concluded that no bone had been broken, and that he was in sufficient condition to wrestle. If I expect him to end up the basho with a make kochi record, his relatively safe maegashira 12 spot may preserve him from the drop.

Still fit to fight ? Tsurugisho (3-5)

Things are different for Kotoshogiku. After a poor start, he seemed to find his energy back, and evened scored at 4-4. Fortunately, we’ll probably see him again in Osaka.

Let’s have a thought for Meisei, who had to pull out of the tournament. He’ll en dit up at 1-7-7, and may well drop from his maegashira 5 spot right to juryo. 

And, finally, the situation will be similar for Kotoyuki, the maegashira 3 who does not compete this basho.

4. Who will win this basho ?

My tip for the yusho : ozeki Takakeisho (7-1)

The most straightforward question for the end ! My answer will be as clear cut : Takakeisho. After a hesitant start, his sumo is looking good, solid, albeit still not perfect. Although he has serious rivals, I doubt Endo or Shodai could maintain their winning habits indefinitely – that’s exactly what happened to Endo today. Tokushoryu, Terutsuyoshi, Kagayaki and Yutakayama are having good tournaments, but don’t look likely to end up lifting the cup. Should they go on winning, they would be paired together, if not against stronger opposition.This is definitely Takakeisho to lose that one, and I wish him to finish strongly to initiate his yokozuna quest.

Hatsu Day 7 Highlights

Who Can Stop Him?

We enter the middle weekend with no Yokozuna, one Ozeki in the yusho chase and the other just trying to survive. The pall of injury seems to hang over the tournament and it may yet have claimed another key player in this drama.

The Bouts:

Kaisei defeated Tochiozan. Tochiozan had the more aggressive tachiai and was the instigator. It evolved into a belt battle. Tochiozan worked the pair over to the edge and forced the issue by tipping over but Kaisei was able to maintain his balance for a split second longer as they both fell. Kaisei is credited with an uwatenage but it seemed more like Tochiozan lost by gravity from his own throw attempt.

Azumaryu defeated Nishikigi with a quick pull after the solid tachiai. He put his arm on Nishikigi’s back and pushed down as he pulled back, text book hatakikomi.

Terutsuyoshi defeated Kiribayama in their first ever meeting. As Kiribayama charged at the tachiai, Terutsuyoshi pivoted in the direction of the gyoji, grabbing Kiribayama’s arm and wheeling Kakuryu’s protege around and out. Kotenage.

Tokyushoryu defeated Kotoeko. Kotoeko seemed very genki at the tachiai, appearing to want to drive things but Tokyushoryu wrapped Kotoeko up very quickly easily securing a belt grip and forced the lavender mawashi back and out for the yorikiri win.

Kotoshogiku defeated Ikioi. Ikioi met Kotoshogiku head on with a solid tachiai but Kotoshogiku was able to charge forward through the injured Ikioi who offered little resistance. The tawara provided no help, either as Ikioi stepped out. Yorikiri.

Chiyomaru defeated Shimanoumi with a Missy Elliot-themed pivot and pull. Chiyomaru sent blast after blast aimed at Shimanoumi’s face, forcing Shimanoumi high, then quickly “Reversed It”, pulled to the side while pushing down for a nicely executed hatakikomi.

Tsurugisho defeated Ishiura. Despite being carted off the dohyo yesterday, Tsurugisho showed up for his bout with Ishiura…only to vanish after the tachiai, leaving Ishiura to fall forward. Tsurugisho braced against Ishiura’s shoulders and pushed down while pulling away, using Ishiura’s forward momentum but aiming him at the clay, hikiotoshi.

Chiyotairyu defeated Yutakayama. Chiyotairyu attempted to follow Chiyomaru’s game plan with the upward blasts leading to a pull but Yutakayama snuffted it out, maintaining his balance and advancing toward the tawara. However, Chiyotairyu unleashed another powerful thrust from the side that sent Yutakayama sprawling. Tsukiotoshi.

Takanosho defeated Kagayaki by keeping his balance. Kagayaki really lost this one by ceding ground with a pull. He tried to push Takanosho down but stepped out first.

Sadanoumi defeated Aoiyama. Big Dan got the tsuppari engine going, laying into Sadanoumi but Sadanoumi grabbed hold of his right arm and pulled, forcing Aoiyama off balance. Another gentle shove sent Aoiyama over the straw bales and out for the hikkake win.

Ryuden defeated Shohozan. Shohozan was the aggressor, laying into Ryuden raining blows right to the head, preventing Ryuden from any sort of belt grip. But his follow-on pull was poorly executed as he seemed to forget to actually pull Ryuden with him…so Ryuden just stayed standing in the middle of the dohyo. Shohozan re-engaged but this time Ryuden grabbed Shohozan and flung him forward and out. Okuridashi.

Tochino-henka defeated Takarafuji. Hatakikomi. Let us move on.

Onosho defeated Meisei with raw power. Meisei locked up at the tachiai but Onosho dug his head right into Meisei’s face. That seemed rather uncomfortable and did the trick. Putting all that weight into Meisei got the pair moving forward. With Meisei effectively wrapped up there was nowhere to run but backwards and out. Yorikiri.

Okinoumi defeated Enho. Okinoumi led Enho back to the tawara and then squished him. At the start, Enho tried to keep Okinoumi away but Okinoumi continued to advance. Once he wrapped up Enho at the armpit, he moved forward, forcing Enho onto his back. Oof. Yoritaoshi.

Purple Endo defeated Tamawashi. Endo met Tamawashi with a weird, weak tachiai. As Tamawashi put his head down to drive forward through Endo, Endo shifted to the side and let Tamawashi bull himself forward over the bales. Is this the Imperial Roman purple? Tottari.

Mitakeumi defeated Daieisho. Mitakeumi used his considerable power to drive Daieisho to the bales but instead of redoubling his efforts to force him over, Mitakeumi tried for a pull. Daieisho kept his balance but his position was bad as he was half turned. Mitakeumi used that to then push Endo’s Oitekaze stablemate out the other side. Yorikiri. Mitakeumi seemed to tweak the knee in the win and was not able to squat with it, instead squatting with one leg, keeping the left out to the side. He also needed Yobidashi assistance to climb down from the dohyo.

Takayasu defeated Myogiryu. Myogiryu brawled and tried real hard to keep Takayasu away from his belt which was a smart idea, had he followed through. After Myogiryu wore himself out, he stood at the center of the ring, keeping Takayasu at bay. Takayasu seemed content to just wait him out and perhaps Myogiryu should have just let the stalemate continue, awaiting Takayasu to advance? Instead Myogiryu got bored and drove into Takayasu. This body contact allowed Takayasu to counter by getting a belt grip and as they tussled, Takayasu shifted his grip and improved it to the point where he was holding onto Myogiryu’s belt near the knot. Since Myogiryu was now sideways into Takayasu, the Sekiwake ushered Myogiryu forward and out. Oshidashi.

In this bout, Takayasu reminded me of fly paper or of those sticky mouse traps. As Myogiryu would wriggle to try to get free, Takayasu would envelope more of his opponent until he had him in that extremely awkward, sideways position.

Asanoyama defeated Hokutofuji. Solid tachiai. Asanoyama got a quick grip with the right hand in the front of Hokutofuji’s belt and simply drove forward through Hokutofuji. Hokutofuji tried to peel him off by thrusting at Asanoyama’s glowing face but power sumo prevailed. Yorikiri.

Goeido defeated Shodai. Bruce’s departure from Tokyo broke the enchantment Shodai had over this tournament. Shodai was the aggressor, pursuing Goeido throughout the bout. But at every turn Goeido thwarted Shodai’s advance and kept his balance at the straw bales. Goeido parried Shodai’s final charge, getting in behind and then pushing the leader over. Okuritaoshi.

Takakeisho defeated Abi. Abi’s slaps are often just a prelude to a pulldown. They’re not threatening or powerful on their own. After an initial slapfest from both, Takakeisho thrust out knocking Abi to the right and close to the bales. I do not know why Abi would choose this terrible position to try his hatakikomi pull but he did. With zero space behind him he effectively backed out. Oshidashi.


After a week of action, Shodai stumbles early in his prospective yusho run. So, to answer my question from the photo? Goeido can stop him. Goeido plays the hero in today’s drama. Wait, what? Anyway, now a crowded field of five leads with one loss, headed by Takakeisho. This pack includes Endo and Shodai from the Maegashira joi and Terutsuyoshi and Tokushoryu from the bottom of the banzuke. Sekiwake Asanoyama heads up a chase group of five more competitors one win back. Asanoyama is accompanied by a merry band of Okinoumi, Yutakayama, Kagayaki and Azumaryu.

Hatsu Banzuke Forecast Postmortem

With the January banzuke posted, it’s time to review how my forecast fared. This time around, the crystal ball was clear on the big picture, but cloudy on some of the details.

The banzuke committee decided, against [edit: what this Westerner would consider] common sense, to move Kisenosato up into the top East Yokozuna slot, despite his 0-5-10 record. Perhaps he can retire at the top. This dropped Hakuho and Kakuryu to Y1w and Y2e, respectively.

Following his 12-3 jun-yusho, Takayasu takes over the top East Ozeki slot from Goeido, who slides over to the West side. You might think the same “losses are better than absences” logic might move 8-7 Tochinoshin ahead of 8-4-3 Goeido, but the Georgian continues to occupy the O2w rank to balance out the two East-side Yokozuna.

As predicted, the Sekiwake ranks are manned by yusho winner Takakeisho (new career high rank) and by Tamawashi, who last held this rank exactly a year ago. I correctly forecast that the Komusubi slots would be held by Mitakeumi and Myogiryu, although in a surprising departure from past practice, Myogiryu (M1, 8-7) is ranked ahead of the former East Sekiwake (7-8).

In the maegashira ranks, my forecast tended to err in favor of rikishi with strong winning records. I correctly had Tochiozan, Ichinojo, and Nishikigi in the top three ranks, but I thought Shohozan’s 10-5 record would be good enough to jump him ahead of Hokutofuji and Shodai; the banzuke committee disagreed. I also had 11-4 Okinoumi ahead of 10-5 Kotoshogiku, 9-6 Daieisho ahead of the make-koshi duo of Chiyotairyu and Ryuden, and 9-6 Endo ahead of 6-9 Takanoiwa.

Toward the bottom of the banzuke, Kotoyuki and Kotoeko return from Juryo in higher positions than is typical. And Daishomaru gets to stay in Makuuchi despite a record poor enough to warrant demotion. Terutsuyoshi, who put up Kyushu numbers that should have been good enough for promotion, has to settle for the top rank in Juryo, to the disappointment of his many fans here at Tachiai. We’ll console ourselves with the fact that a winning record in Hatsu should definitely translate into a top-division debut for the diminutive rikishi who wrestles like a much bigger man.

In all, of the 42 Makuuchi ranks, I called 31 correctly, and in 20 of these, also got the East/West side right. Of the 11 misses, 6 were by half a rank, 4 by one rank, and one by a rank-and-a-half. That’s right, my biggest miss of the entire forecast was ranking Chiyotairyu at M7w vs. M6e.

With the official rankings now in the books, and hopefully more forecasting lessons learned by yours truly, it’s on to the basho!