Aki has been so wacky, sometimes it’s easy to forget the other five yusho races happening below Makuuchi! So let’s take stock of where we’re at in the lower divisions, heading into the final day.
As has been detailed, the yusho here comes down to the final day’s action and we may see a playoff. Kotoyuki (10-4) has it all in his hands. It’s nice to see both him and his stablemate Kotoshogiku turn it around and post competitive tournaments, having dropped down the banzuke to different degrees. Kotoyuki will almost certainly be back in the top division in Kyushu, but his road to the yusho runs through Abi, who is sitting one win behind, at 9-5.
Aminishiki, Daiamami, Kyokushuho, and Homarefuji are also in the hunt for a playoff should Kotoyuki lose, and none of them face each other. Of those four matches, Daiamami’s bout against Osunaarashi should be especially well contested as a 10th loss for the Egyptian would put his sekitori status in serious jeopardy. To summarize:
Kotoyuki wins vs Abi: yusho
Kotoyuki loses vs Abi: definite playoff, with as many as six rikishi in contention.
Two years ago, Kagamio was a mid-table Maegashira fighting against the likes of Tamawashi and Kaisei. This time, he takes the Makushita yusho for Kagamiyama-beya without needing a playoff, courtesy of his win over the younger and much heralded Mitoryu, who may now have a chance to make it to Juryo by Hatsu 2018. This is his second career yusho, having won the Juryo prize back at Natsu 2015.
The only division below Juryo that will definitely go to a playoff, Tachiai regular Enho of Miyagino-beya (fighting at Sandanme 18) will face off against the less heralded Matsuda of Minezaki-beya (fighting at Sandanme 82). Enho’s zensho streak is now at 3 and we will see him in Makushita in a couple months’ time regardless of the outcome. None of Matsuda’s opponents came from the top half of the division and he even gained a win by knocking Jonidan 34 Tokuda from the Jonidan yusho race, so on balance you’d make Enho the strong favorite.
18 year old Narutaki of Isenoumi-beya has won his first yusho from the depths of Jonidan 63. His previous best finish was a playoff loss at Jonokuchi level at Hatsu 2017. He only had to face one opponent in the upper half of the division, but at the same time all of his opponents bar one finished with a kachi-koshi. The yusho was won on Day 13 in a winner-take-all frantic showdown against Hokuyozan which lasted about 30 seconds.
My pre-basho pick and Tachiai favorite Wakaichiro’s stablemate Shoji of Musashigawa-beya swept all comers to his 7-0 record, and has wrapped up the yusho. Realistically his stiffest challenge came from fellow debutants Torakio and Sumidagawa.