We are deep enough into the basho to resume this series of posts that look at where things stand and what the various outcomes are likely to be.
The Yusho Race
Barring something really unexpected, this should come down to the two Yokozuna, both 9-1, and Sekiwake Tochinoshin, 10-0. The trio will have round-robin matches on Days 13, 14 and 15. The most likely order of the bouts is Kakuryu vs. Tochinoshin on Day 13, Hakuho vs. Tochinoshin on Day 14, and of course the Yokozuna face-off on senshuraku. Of the three, Tochinoshin has the easiest remaining schedule outside the round robin, with only maegashira opponents left to face. He starts with Kotoshogiku tomorrow, most likely followed by Shodai on Day 12 before he takes on the Yokozuna pair. Hakuho still has Ichinojo on his dance card, probably on Day 12, while Kakuryu has both Ichinojo and (tomorrow) Mitakeumi.
I’m going to disagree with Bruce and say that Tochinoshin is a near-lock for Ozeki promotion with 11 wins, and a mortal lock with 12 or more, regardless of “win quality.” His promotion would open up a Sekiwake slot, and Endo’s likely demotion (unless he somehow wins out) would open up a Kumusubi slot. Mitakeumi needs one more win to move back up to Sekiwake, and after facing Kakuryu tomorrow, has Ichinojo and three maegashira opponents left on his schedule. Ichinojo needs two victories to lock down his rank (and one to stay in San’yaku), and has a harder path, with both Yokozuna still on his schedule.
Should two Komusubi slots open up, as seems likely, the two leading contenders for them are currently Ikioi and, wait for it, none other than Abi! Close behind in the race for promotion, should either man falter, are Shodai and Kotoshogiku. These four rikishi have clearly been the class of the upper maegashira ranks.
The Line Between Makuuchi and Juryo
Unlike the mess at Haru, there is a better match this basho between the Makuuchi rikishi likely to warrant demotion and Juryo men likely to earn promotion. Sadly, Aminishiki is nearly a lock to go back down to Juryo. Ishiura needs to start winning, and fast, if he is to avoid joining him there. He probably needs to win 4 out of 5 to survive. The next demotion candidate is the other elder statesman, Takekaze, although he is in a virtual tie with Arawashi for that dubious honor. The two face off tomorrow, with the winner getting a big leg up in the race for survival. Other rikishi who are multiple victories short of safety are Tochiozan, Daiamami, and Sadanoumi, while several others can clinch a top-division stay with one more win.
Down in Juryo, there are three strong promotion candidates: J2 Kotoeko, who may have already done enough and would clinch promotion with one more victory, erstwhile Makuuchi rising star J1 Onosho, fighting his way back from injury, who needs one more win to secure his return to the top division, and J4 Meisei, who, like Kotoeko, is looking to make his Makuuchi debut.