Within every basho, there are several tournaments unfolding simultaneously. Most obviously, there is the yusho race. Near the top of the banzuke, rikishi also battle to maintain or gain one of the upper ranks, while near the bottom of the Makuuchi banzuke, and the top of Juryo, a tussle takes place over a limited number of slots in the top division. This is not to mention various special prizes and lower-division races, which I will leave to others to cover.
While a lot can change in the final five days, the first ten days of competition have thinned the field in the different categories. Here’s where things currently stand, and I will keep an eye on them as the Kyushu basho moves toward culmination.
The yusho race
The one Yokozuna standing, Hakuho, is 10-0 and leads by 2 over his closest pursuers, M2 Hokutofuji and M12 Okinoumi. Hakuho has already defeated Hokutofuji, and seems unlikely to be matched with Okinoumi, so the chasers need to win out and get help from at least two other rikishi. Tomorrow, Okinoumi faces Kagayaki, while Hokutofuji has a huge bout against Goeido.
The battle for the upper ranks
The two Ozeki are 7-3, and each needs just one more win in the remaining five days, Takayasu to clear his kadoban status and Goeido to avoid becoming kadoban for the 7th time. Tomorrow, Takayasu takes on Ichinojo, and if today’s Ichinojo shows up, we could see a prolonged epic battle.
The two Sekiwake are not ready to surrender their ranks. Mitakeumi is 6-4 and needs two more wins, while 5-5 Yoshikaze has a harder task, needing three. They will face each other in the coming days in a potentially pivotal bout. Tomorrow, Yoshikaze takes on Hakuho, whom he’s bested once in 16 attempts, while Mitakeumi takes on the fearsome Chiyotairyu.
We know that at least one Komusubi slot will be open for Hatsu—that surrendered by Kotoshogiku, who was handed his make-koshi today. A couple of days ago, it looked like Onosho would also drop out of San’yaku, but he donned the red mawashi and started fighting back. He is now 4-6, and needs to go 4-1 from here on out. That road starts with 1-9 Tochiozan tomorrow.
There is heated competition for any open San’yaku slots. The leading contenders are the two maegashira 1, Tamawashi and Takakeisho, both 7-3, and the aforementioned Hokutofuji, 8-2. If this trio doesn’t stumble, then whichever of them has the best record from here on out should have the inside track for promotion. Should Tamawashi or Takakeisho get to 10 wins, or Hokutofuji to 11, they may force the creation of an extra Komusubi slot (or two). If the leading contenders do stumble, Ichinojo and Arawashi are waiting in the wings. In addition to Goeido-Hokutofuji and Takayasu-Ichinojo, the key matchups tomorrow are Kotoshogiku-Takakeisho and Tamawashi-Arawashi.
The battle for Makuuchi
At the opposite end of the banzuke, two Makuuchi slots should open up by the demotions of the absent Takanoiwa and Ura. Fighting for their Makuuchi lives are Daiamami, who probably needs to win 4 out of 5 to be safe, Aoiyama, Takekaze, and Nishikigi, who need 3 victories each, and Asanoyama, Kotoyuki, and Myogiryu, who need 2. Uncle Sumo (aka Aminishiki) is safe for Hatsu!
Tomorrow, Daiamami takes on Chiyomaru, Nishikigi has a difficult matchup against Endo, Kotoyuki fights Daieisho (who is not entirely safe himself), and Aoiyama and Asanoyama face off, as do Takekaze and Myogiryu. Myogiryu seems to have Takekaze’s number, winning 12 of 15, including the last 7.
Of course, the number of Makuuchi demotions has to equal the number of Juryo promotions, and right now only Yutakayama, Abi, and Sokokurai have convincing cases, while Ishiura, Ryuden, and Kyokutaisei have some work to do in the remaining days.