Eight days of the Natsu basho are in the books; seven days remain. We’ve seen a lot of exciting sumo, and more is in store, as almost everything is still in play. Only Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin has come through the first week unscathed, and only vastly over-promoted M3 Yutakayama (previous career-high rank: M11) has yet to record a victory, despite some valiant efforts, and should occupy a slot in more comfortable banzuke territory in Nagoya.
The Yusho Race
Each of two the active Yokozuna only has one blemish on his record, and both are very much in the yusho race at 7-1. They trail only Tochinoshin, who has yet to face Hakuho or Kakuryu. The matches among those three may well prove decisive, though there’s plenty of time left for wrenches to be thrown into the works. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the other 7-1 rikishi, M11 Chiyonokuni, isn’t really going to figure into the yusho race by the final weekend, but if he keeps winning, he can make things interesting, as can someone in the six-man 2-loss group.
As Bruce noted, the Ozeki corps is in sorry shape. Injured Takayasu is absent and will be kadoban in Nagoya. The one competing Ozeki, Goeido, has lost 3 in a row and 5 of the last 6 to drop to 3-5. He can only afford two more losses if he doesn’t want to join Takayasu on “probation”, has yet to face any of the “big three”, and I wouldn’t install him as a big favorite against Ichinojo tomorrow, or Mitakeumi, or his likely remaining maegashira opponents (Shodai and Kotoshogiku?). We can only hope Tochinoshin wins the requisite number of his remaining matches (somewhere between 2 and 4) to earn promotion and shore up the depleted second-highest rank!
In lower San’yaku, Endo’s very sad injury will open up a Komusubi slot. Tochinoshin’s promotion would open up a Sekiwake slot. The other Sekiwake, Ichinojo, is 4-4, and has shown us both unstoppable sumo and his old habit of giving up with only token resistance. He needs 4 more wins to defend his rank and 3 to stay in San’yaku, and has yet to face the two Yokozuna, Goeido, or Mitakeumi. The other Komusubi, Mitakeumi, is 5-3, and if he can avoid one of his recent second-half fades, he has a good chance of moving back up to Sekiwake.
It’s way too early to predict how the upper maegashira ranks will shake out, especially with some of them already having faced all of their San’yaku opponents and others just starting to do so, but the 6-2 trio of Shodai, Kotoshogiku, and Ikioi currently has the inside track for San’yaku promotion.
The Demotion Zone
Uncle Sumo, Aminishiki, is in the worst shape at 1-7 and with no room for error at M16w. He would need to win out to stay in Makuuchi, which would take a miracle. Ishiura and Arawashi are also not looking good with their 2-6 records, although they have plenty of bouts left to improve their fortunes.
Everyone ranked M5 or higher is safe from demotion, with the exception of luckless Yutakayama, who seems certain to pick up the one win he needs in the last 7 days. Also safe after eight days are Takarafuji, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni, Kagayaki, Yoshikaze, Chiyomaru, and Hokutofuji (who seems to be back from the dead). I will update this list as the remainder of the basho unfolds.