Here we are, with only one day of sumo left and some questions resolved – but many others yet to be answered. This makes for a particularly exciting senshuraku!
Who will take the yusho?
After Okinoumi’s loss to Kotoshogiku, the race comes down to Ozeki Takayasu and Komusubi Takakeisho, who are tied at 12-2 after the former prevailed over the latter in their head-to-head bout with an odd ending. By the way, Kotoshogiku has been the designated crusher of lower-rank hopes this basho, taking Aoiyama, Onosho, and Okinoumi out of contention in the last three days. [It’s Fukuoka. They love him for it. –PinkMawashi]
The key bouts tomorrow are Takakeisho vs. Nishikigi and Takayasu vs. Mitakeumi. If one of the leaders wins and the other loses, the winner raises the Emperor’s cup. Otherwise, we go to a playoff! The head-to-head records are 1-1 for Takakeisho and Nishikigi, with neither bout recent enough to be predictive, and 10-4 in favor of Takayasu, who’s dominated Mitakeumi, taking 7 of their last 8—although that one loss came the last time they met, in September. We haven’t seen a playoff since the memorable finale of Wacky Aki over a year ago, when Harumafuji, in his last full tournament, bested Goeido twice on the final day to take the yusho.
Will any of the Ozeki be kadoban in January?
After Tochinoshin’s easy defeat of Mitakeumi, the answer is no.
Who will be ranked in sanyaku in January?
The one certainty is that Takakeisho will be the new East Sekiwake. He also takes over the mantle of “next Ozeki”; let’s see if he wears it better than Shodai and Mitakeumi. With either 21 or 22 victories in the last tournaments, he’ll probably need 11 or 12 at Hatsu to ascend to sumo’s second-highest rank.
The two current Sekiwake, Mitakeumi and Ichinojo, are both 6-8. It’s hard to believe, given the expectations going in and their starts to the tournament, but with the fading Mitakeumi matched up against one of the leaders while Ichinojo faces a poorly-performing Kagayaki, the Boulder is actually more likely to stay in the named ranks.
A 7-8 record at Sekiwake almost always results in a demotion to Komusubi (unless there is a lack of suitable promotion candidates, which won’t be the case this time), while 6-9 more-or-less guarantees a drop into the rank-and-file. So we should see a new West Sekiwake at Hatsu, and it’s going to be M2w Tamawashi (9-5) unless he loses to Okinoumi (10-4) tomorrow (their H2H is even, but recent bouts strongly favor Tamawashi) and Tochiozan (8-6) defeats Shodai (7-7), in which case the slot would go to Tochiozan by virtue of his M2e rank. The H2H in the latter bout favors Shodai 3-1.
If both Sekiwake pick up wins tomorrow, they will occupy the two Komusubi slots, and some upper maegashira with winning records will miss out on deserved promotion. Losses by Mitakeumi and/or Ichinojo would open up additional slots. In addition to the aforementioned M2 duo, the others still in contention for promotion are M1e Myogiryu (7-7), M3e Nishikigi (8-6), and, possibly but unlikely, M7w Shohozan (9-4). Myogiryu and Shohozan must win to have a chance, while Nishikigi could sneak in with a loss if both Komusubi slots opened up.
Who is going down to Juryo, and who is replacing them?
Today’s loss by Takanosho to Juryo visitor Daishoho will see the Makuuchi sophomore demoted back down to the second division, where he will join Arawashi and Chiyomaru. That’s three open top-division slots for certain. Two of them have been locked down by Yago and Kotoyuki [This would be Yago’s highest ever rank, while Kotoyuki has bounced in and out of Makuuchi fairly regularly. –PM]. There are three additional promotion candidates: Kotoeko, Terutsuyoshi, and Daishoho, in this order in the promotion queue. If Kotoeko wins, he claims the third slot; if he loses and Terutsuyoshi wins, it goes to Terutsuyoshi, and if both lose, Daishoho can leap over them with a victory.
What happens to the other two promotion candidates? Daishoho must win to have a strong promotion claim, while Kotoeko and Terutsuyoshi have good cases already. Losses by Chiyoshoma and Daishomaru would put them in demotion territory and make this easy. However, victories would take them to safety, leaving Chiyonokuni and Daiamami on the bubble should they lose. So we could have anywhere from three to five exchanges, and men just on either side of the line with a reason to aggrieved, depending on how tomorrow’s matches play out.