The Yusho Race
The two Sekiwake both won today, meaning that Tamawashi kept his lead with 12 victories, followed by Takakeisho with 11 apiece. Everyone else is out of contention. The schedulers opted to pass over the one sanyaku opponent Tamawashi hasn’t faced, struggling soon-to-be ex-Komusubi Myogiryu (5-9), and instead matched up the leader with fan favorite M9 Endo (10-4), who is, remarkably, in contention for sanyaku promotion (see below). The two have met 15 times, with Endo taking the first 6 bouts and Tamawashi prevailing in the last 9. Takakeisho will meet Goeido in the final match of the tournament (which, unusually, will not feature the highest-ranked rikishi, O1e Takayasu). The career series favors the Ozeki 5-3. The scenario is simple—a loss by Tamawashi and a win by Takakeisho force a playoff between the two; any other combination of outcomes gives the 34-year old Mongolian veteran his first yusho.
Both remaining Ozeki picked up their 8th victories against opponents who either weren’t there (Hakuho) or might as well not have been there (Mitakeumi). That leaves Tochinoshin (0-5-9) as the only kadoban Ozeki for Haru.
Takakeisho’s Ozeki Run
Today’s victory was the Sekiwake’s 33rd in the last three basho, meeting the usual criterion for Ozeki promotion. He is also guaranteed at least a share of the jun-yusho. Various statements have been made by members of the sumo association as to whether the current total of 11 wins, or even 12, will be enough for promotion in Takakeisho’s first tournament as Sekiwake, and a special meeting will be held tomorrow after the bouts to decide. Personally, I think he is a lock with 12 wins and likely to be promoted even with 11, but the shimpan department has been known to surprise me.
Today’s bouts have finally produced some clarity in the race for promotion to the named ranks. M2 Hokutofuji (8-6), the only member of the joi with a winning record, has locked up the one Komusubi slot we know will open for sure. This will mark Hokutofuji’s long-awaited sanyaku debut. His two consecutive forfeit victories over Kakuryu and Mitakeumi loom large here.
Assuming a second slot is opened by Takakeisho’s promotion, there are four rikishi in contention. Kaisei will claim the slot with a victory over Takayasu, while Endo could grab it with an upset against the tournament leader and a loss by Kaisei. The two face tough opposition, and losses by both would open the door for the M6 duo of Chiyotairyu and Onosho, each of whom could claim the slot with a victory, with the tiebreaker going to Chiyotairyu by virtue of his more prestigious East-side rank.
The 7-7 Club
For four rikishi, final-day bouts will determine whether they end the basho with winning or losing records (kachi-koshi and make-koshi, respectively). Somewhat unusually, the schedulers have opted against “Darwin matches” pitting these wrestlers against each other, so they could all succeed (or fail) in their quest for the all-important 8th victory. M15 Kotoeko (7-7) will go against M7 Ryuden (5-9), M12 Meisei (7-7) takes on Onosho (8-6), M8 Asanoyama (7-7) is paired with M11 Ikioi (9-5), and M5 Aoiyama (7-7) faces Hokutofuji.
We know that Daishomaru, Daiamami, and Kotoyuki will be dropping to Juryo. Their demotions, plus the two retirements, open up 5 promotion slots. One should go to Terutsuyoshi by virtue of his kachi-koshi at the top rung of the Juryo ladder. There are six contenders for the other 4 slots, and only two of them are matched up on the final day, so this could get crowded. There are also three Makuuchi rikishi who are not completely safe from demotion—Kagayaki and Yutakayama, who are matched up, and Chiyoshoma—though recent decisions by the banzuke committee make me think that all will get to stay in the top division.
The six Juryo promotion contenders are Ishiura, Toyonoshima, Chiyomaru, Tomokaze, Daishoho, and Shimanoumi. One will likely be eliminated when Chiyomaru meets Shimanoumi. Daishoho (7-7) must win to remain in the running. Ishiura, Tomokaze, and Toyonoshima control their destinies, while the others need help. The promotion picture may clear up tomorrow, or may remain messy until the banzuke announcement.