Let’s take things from the top.
Hakuho scored a quick (and to my eyes, uncontroversial) victory over Tochinoshin when the Yokozuna took advantage of a momentary lack of balance by the Georgian and threw him down. No epic belt battle this time. Hakuho is the only undefeated rikishi, and now leads the yusho race by two over an elite 10-2 chase group of Yokozuna Kakuryu and Ozeki Goeido and Takayasu. This group will be further reduced tomorrow when Kakuryu faces Goeido. Tochinoshin’s next chance to clinch his kachi-koshi and erase his kadoban status comes tomorrow against Shodai.
Kakuryu looked somewhat overmatched against a lower-ranked opponent for the second day in a row, losing to Takayasu by a hearty uwatenage. He will look to rebound against Goeido, against whom the Yokozuna is 27-12, including victories in their last three meetings.
Kisenosato scored an impressive, hard-fought win over Mitakeumi, putting the nail in the coffin of the Sekiwake’s Ozeki campaign. Nine wins looked like a very optimistic scenario for the Yokozuna at the start of the basho, and he can hold his head high heading into Kyushu. Tomorrow, he faces Hakuho, who can clinch at least a yusho playoff spot with a victory. Mitakeumi (6-6) now needs to focus on getting his kachi-koshi, and with Takayasu still on his fight card (probably on Day 14), his bout tomorrow against Myogiryu (who is taking over Yutakayama’s spot in the joi rotation) looks like a must-win.
Goeido stayed in the chase by patiently waiting for Abi to overcommit before dropping him to the clay. Abi has been rotated in for Endo, and tomorrow takes on Takayasu, who rebounded strongly from yesterday’s loss.
Ichinojo defeated Kaisei today in exactly the kind of prolonged mawashi battle Tachiai predicted, although the finishing move was an uwatenage throw rather than a yorikiri forceout. With his record now at 5-7, and only maegashira opponents left on his fight card, Ichinojo may have woken up just in time to save his Sekiwake rank, or at least a position in San’yaku.
Takakeisho is faring well in his late defense of his Komusubi rank, squaring his record at 6-6 with an easy victory against Shodai, who showed little interest in staying in the San’yaku promotion race. Tomorrow, the West Komusubi clashes with the East Komusubi, Tamawashi, who dropped to 3-9 against his nemesis Chiyotairyu today.
The number of available San’yaku slots could still be anywhere from 1 to 4, although I’m guessing it’ll be on the lower end of the range. If I’m wrong, the banzuke makers will have trouble scraping together replacement candidates, as everyone in contention lost today with the exception of Myogiryu (8-4), the only maegashira in the upper half of the rank-and-file to clinch his kachi-koshi. Among the other leading contenders, Kaisei and Shodai have losing 5-7 records, and need to win out to even be eligible for promotion, Asanoyama is both outranked by Myogiryu and trails him by a win, and Abi is 6-6 and probably looking at a final three-day slate of Takayasu-Tochinoshin-Mitakeumi.
At the other end of the banzuke, Ishiura and Kyokutaisei further cemented their trips to Juryo with a loss and an absence, respectively. Kotoyuki is now one loss away from joining them, and will try to avoid picking it up tomorrow against Tochiozan. Chiyomaru won the battle of the ‘marus today against Daishomaru, but remains on the bubble, needing at least one win and possibly two for safety. Tomorrow, he takes on Juryo visitor and top promotion candidate Yago. Aoiyama is the only other Makuuchi man still at risk of demotion, and he faces newcomer Takonosho, who locked down his stay in the top-division with his victory today.
Among the Juryo promotion candidates, Meisei and Yago won and only need one more win apiece to move up to the top division. Daiamami also won, but probably needs two more because of his lower rank. Arawashi lost, but remains in good shape because he is fighting from the top J1e slot, and should be back in the top division with another victory. The other contenders are Aminishiki, who needs two victories, and Takagenji, who needs three.
What of the Juryo yusho picture, you ask? There was some separation today, with 4 men now in the lead at 8-4, followed by 8 at 7-5, and 7 more at 6-6. If you’re counting, that’s 19 of 28 rikishi in the division still in contention (as Herouth notes, the five 5-7 rikishi are also mathematically still in it), so we can continue to hope for a senshuraku barnyard brawl. Oh, and Tachiai favorite Enho won today against ex-Makuuchi and current Makushita joi Toyohibiki, whose loss will probably keep him from rejoining the sekitori ranks. Enho’s win places him in the 7-5 octet and should ensure that he will stay in Juryo for the next basho. Video below:
Day12 interdiv bout, Juryo Enho 6-5 (R) vs longtime maegashira 4-2 Toyohibiki now in makushita. Used to seeing reverse – jo’i makushita Enho vs lower end juryo. #Sumolingo #akibasho pic.twitter.com/DdmwXxMvtK
— SumoSoul (@TheSumoSoul) September 20, 2018