State of play heading into the final act


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.

9 thoughts on “State of play heading into the final act

  1. Excellent info, thanks. I wish I knew more about how the promotions and demotions worked though, anyone have a link to a good explanation?

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    • The only hard and fast rule is that you can’t be promoted with a losing record, or demoted with a winning one. Usually, a winning record gets you promoted, unless there’s no “room”, and a losing record gets you demoted, unless there’s no good contender for your slot. Beyond that, how far up or down you move is a combination of rank, record, and various subjective factors as weighed by an NSK committee after each basho…

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      • The bit about potentially opening up a new komusubi slot is interesting. Is something like that rare or does it just require enough people to have winning records around the top maegashira ranks?

        Also, the number of slots in maegashira can vary too right?

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        • As far as I know, and barring exceptional circumstances, the number of slots in Makuuchi is fixed at 42. So the number of maegashira slots will vary only as the number of San’yaku slots changes. For instance, given Terunofuji’s drop into the maegashira ranks for Hatsu, there will be only ten San’yaku slots (barring, umm, other developments), so there will be 32 maegashira slots M1e-M16w.

          In terms of extra Komusubi slots, historically this has happened on the few occasions that a maegashira 1 achieved double-digit wins and there was no open San’yaku slot…this is is similar to how an extra Sekiwake slot is created when a Komusubi gets 11 wins (most recently Tochiozan at Hatsu 2014).

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  2. I have a question for Iksumo. How high do you have to be in juryo to be eligible for promotion? Daiamami won the division from J8 in July but did not get immediate promotion. It was the same story for Abi (J11) in September and something similar happened to Mitakeumi a couple of years back. The reason I ask is that Sokokurai looks very likely to win from J7- would that be good enough?

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    • It’s a question of record, not just winning the division. For instance, back in July 2013, Endo was promoted all the way from J13 when he won the Juryo yusho with a 14-1 record. If Sokokurai finishes 11-4 or better, he should be in good shape.

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  3. The yusho race just got interesting.

    First, the two chasers held their own.

    And then that thing with Hakuho. When it happened to Harumafuji in Aki, it basically sent him spiralling down and he only got back on track after accruing several losses.

    Now, Hakuho is not Harumafuji, and may well be able to regain his composure by tomorrow. But he faces Mitakeumi, who already beat him once this year and who is still looking for his kachi-koshi.

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