The various storylines we’ve been followed are snapping into focus as we head into the final weekend.
The Yusho Race
Three men are still in it: Komusubi Takakeisho (12-1), Ozeki Takayasu (11-2), and Maegashira 11 Okinoumi (10-3). Tomorrow, we get the Clash of the Takas. Should Takakeisho prevail, he takes the yusho. A win by the Ozeki will leave things all tied up on senshuraku. Takayasu’s final-day opponent should be Mitakeumi. A win by Okinoumi against Kotoshogiku will probably see him matched up with Takakeisho, who otherwise is likely to face the highest-ranked remaining opponent, Nishikigi.
The Fight for Rank
Ozeki Tochinoshin prevailed today in a bout with a strange ending, taking his record to 7-6. He needs one more victory to avoid kadoban status, and will seek it tomorrow against Mitakeumi, who lost today and is barely clinging to his Sekiwake rank with a 6-7 record and has to face the two remaining (and motivated) Ozeki on the final two days. One loss drops him to Komusubi; two take him out of sanyaku altogether. It’s not clear at this point who Tochinoshin’s final-day opponent would be, as he’s fought everyone at the top of the banzuke down to Chiyotairyu. The next-highest-ranked option, Asanoyama, is already make-koshi, so Tochinoshin could get Abi if the latter can even his record to 7-7 tomorrow, or one of Shohozan, Kotoshogiku, or Okinoumi. Finally, Ichinojo’s last stand to remain in sanyaku in January continues tomorrow against the aforementioned Asanoyama.
The list of contenders for any open sanyaku slots got narrowed considerably today. The M2 duo of Tochiozan and Tamawashi picked up their kachi-koshi today, giving them the inside track. The only men still with a chance to leap over them should they falter are M1 Myogiryu and M3 Nishikigi, and this would take two losses by the leaders combined with two victories by the pursuers. Should both Ichinojo and Mitakeumi drop into the rank-and-file, Yoshikaze, Shohozan, Daieisho, Okinoumi, and Shodai could sneak into the promotion picture.
Key bouts tomorrow for the promotion hopefuls: Nishikigi vs. Takarafuji, Tochiozan vs. Shohozan, Takanoiwa vs. Tamawashi, Myogiryu vs. Yoshikaze, Shodai vs. Kaisei.
The Makuuchi-Juryo exchange could get messy depending on how the final days play out. So far, we have two clear demotions (Arawashi, who finally pulled out, and Chiyomaru), and what should be three clear promotions: Kotoyuki, Yago, and Kotoeko. Obviously, the number going up has to be matched by the number going down. Right now, Takanosho is that third man, but he could potentially save himself with two victories, starting tomorrow against Juryo visitor Daishoho, who himself would have a very strong promotion claim with two victories in the closing days. Fading Terutsuyoshi needs one more win to likewise be eligible for promotion. If you’re counting, that’s up to five possible promotions and only two certain demotions. Chiyonokuni’s top-division spot is probably safe, although another victory would help seal it. The other demotion candidates are Chiyoshoma and Daishomaru, who need a win each to escape this fate, and Daiamami, who should be safe with one victory but better off with two. We’ll check in again tomorrow to see if the picture has gotten any clearer and discuss the remaining senshuraku scenarios.