The yusho race
Hakuho leads by one win over Hokutofuji and Okinoumi. Everyone else has been mathematically eliminated from the yusho race. On day 14, Hahuko faces…Endo? Why do the schedulers hate Endo? Sure, he is doing well with 9 wins, but at M9, it’s not like he’s run out of opponents closer to his own rank with reasonable records. Also, why isn’t Hakuho fighting Arawashi, who at M5 is the highest-ranked rikishi he hasn’t faced, and who also sports a very respectable 8-5 record? Or, for that matter, why not Okinoumi?
Hokutofuji faces a resurgent Onosho, who needs to win both of his remaining bouts to maintain his Komusubi rank. Onosho leads the series 4-1.
Okinoumi gets another big step up in the quality of his opposition. He managed to get past a less-than-full-strength Tochinoshin. Now he gets M1 Tamawashi, who is looking genki indeed and who still needs wins to lock down a San’yaku slot (and possibly rise all the way to Sekiwake).
The battle for San’yaku
We know that at least one slot will open up in San’yaku, as Kotoshigiku will definitely drop into the maegashira ranks for Hatsu. Terunofuji will also drop out of San’yaku, but he occupied an extra Sekiwake (or, as we’ve been calling it, Ozekiwake) slot that will not be available to others. The other 3 incumbents are still in limbo. S1e Mitakeumi is 7-6, and a win tomorrow against Arawashi or on senshuraku against Yoshikaze would clinch his kachi-koshi and his rank for Hatsu. Even if he loses both bouts, he shouldn’t drop down further than Komusubi, so he won’t open up another slot—it’s only a question of what flavor the one slot will be. S1w Yoshikaze is 6-7, and needs to win tomorrow against Ichinojo and on Sunday against Mitakeumi to hold rank. If he wins one of the two, he should also not get demoted further than Komusubi, but two losses would drop him out of San’yaku. Finally, there’s K1w Onosho, who needs to win twice to extend his stay at Komusubi. Add it all up, and between one and three slots could be open.
Who are the contenders for these slots? Hokutofuji leads, followed by Tamawashi and Takakeisho, and then Ichinojo. With 11 wins, Hokutofuji may have already done enough to lock down a slot no matter what happens, and a win in the final two days should almost certainly do it. Both Tamwashi and Takakeisho can each lock down a slot with another win; the only way Ichinojo has a shot at getting in is if they both lose twice and he wins out. Tomorrow, Takakeisho takes on the tricky sumo villain Chiyoshoma, who’ll be looking for his kachi-koshi.
Just to recap, the six key bouts that will start to unravel the rather tangled state of affairs at the top of Makuuchi are:
The battle for Makuuchi
We know of two definite demotions from Makuuchi: the kyujo Takanoiwa and Ura. After his loss today, Aoiyama also very likely faces demotion. Nishikigi is in a lot of trouble, and Daiamami and Myogiryu are in only slightly better shape. Asanoyama and Takekaze could use another win apiece to be assured of another basho in the top division, while everyone else has done enough to be safe.
How are things down in Juryo? The one certainty is that 12-1 Sokokurai will be back in Makuuchi after a two-basho absence. Ryuden, Ishiura, and Abi each need another win to ensure promotion, while Kyokutaisei and Yutakayama need two apiece to have a claim.