The Yusho Race
Congratulations to Sekiwake Tamawashi on his first career yusho! With a 13-2 championship following a 9-6 record at M2 in Kyushu, will the long-time sumo veteran be considered for an Ozeki promotion in March, and if so, what is his target number of wins? After today’s non-promotion decision (see below), who knows!
After slow starts, Takayasu and Goeido rebounded with creditable 9-6 final records, and will once again be ranked O1e and O1w in Osaka. Injured Tochinoshin (0-5-10) will be kadoban at Haru, needing 8 wins to retain his Ozeki rank. The good news? He should finally be “promoted” from O2w to O2e after Kisenosato’s retirement removed the need to balance the banuke.
Takakeisho’s Ozeki Run
Today we learned that 33 wins in three basho while ranked in sanyaku isn’t always enough. There have been 38 prior instances of such performances in the six-basho era (since 1958), and 35 of them led to Ozeki promotion. Of the three exceptions, two overlapping ones involved Miyabiyama in 2006, and he is a special case, as he was trying to get re-promoted to Ozeki after being demoted from the rank 5 years earlier. The other instance was Baruto in 2009-2010, who was denied promotion after going K1e 12-3, S1e 9-6, S1e 12-3 with a jun-yusho. He responded by ensuring that he wouldn’t be overlooked again with a 14-1 jun-yusho in the March tournament. Can Takakeisho similarly force the issue in Osaka? By the way, Kisenosato’s retirement now means that there will be one fewer named rank on the next banzuke. Because the total number of Makuuchi rikishi is fixed at 42, there has to be one more maegashira slot, so 17e will reappear.
The two Sekiwake will retain their ranks at Haru. The only question is whether they will switch sides. As is often the case, the banzuke committee decisions make for confusing precedents. They used to regularly reshuffle the Sekiwake ranks based on their records in the most recent basho, just as they still do with the Yokozuna and Ozeki. But then the practice appeared to stop. For instance, after the 2017 March tournament, 8-7 S1e Tamawashi stayed on the East side, despite S1w Takayasu finishing 12-3. However, after winning the 2018 Nagoya basho, S1w Mitakeumi (13-2) was moved ahead of S1e Ichinojo (8-7). What made the difference? The extra victory, the yusho, or something else? If it was the yusho, we could see Takakeisho move down to S1w instead of up to the anticipated O2w.
The ripple effects of Takakeisho’s non-promotion include Mitakeumi moving over to East Komusubi, rather than up to West Sekiwake, and only one Komusubi slot opening up. Conveniently, there is only one strong promotion candidate: M2 Hokutofuji (9-6), who was the only rikishi of the ten ranked between M1 and M5 to finish with more wins than losses, and who will finally make his sanyaku debut after missing out despite going 11-4 at M3 in Kyushu in 2017.
Without a second open sanyaku slot, Kaisei will have to content himself with being the top maegashira. After that, the upper maegashira ranks are a mess. The next 10 spots on the banzuke will have to be filled with a mix of rikishi from the upper ranks who won’t be demoted far despite posting losing records, and those from down the banzuke who’ll receive overly generous promotions. The former group includes K1e Myogiryu (5-10), M1e Tochiozan (6-9), M1w Ichinojo (6-9), M2e Nishikigi (7-8), M3e Shodai (7-8), and M4w Okinoumi (7-8). The latter consists of M7w Daieisho (9-6), M9w Endo (10-5), M6e Chiyotairyu (8-7), and M6w Onosho (8-7). I’ll do my best to sort out their order in my upcoming regular banzuke prediction post.
The 7-7 Club
Half of this group succeeded in picking up their kachi-koshi, while the others lost to drop to make-koshi. Winning on the final day were M12 Meisei and M8 Asanoyama, while M15 Kotoeko and M5 Aoiyama ended the tournament on a down note.
The five clear open slots—vacated by Daishomaru, Daiamami, and Kotoyuki’s demotions and Kisenosato and Takanoiwa’s retirements—are spoken for by Tomokaze and Daishoho, who clinched promotion with final-day victories, and Terutsuyoshi, Ishiura, and Toyonoshima, who dropped their final matches, but had already done just enough (in fact, Terutsuyoshi lost on four straight days after securing his kachi-koshi, while Ishiura closed the tournament with three straight losses). It will be exciting to see at least three Makuuchi debuts—the most since there were four in May of 2013.
Kagayaki defeated Yutakayama to become the last man in the top division to reach safety. That leaves the 6-9 M14 duo of Yutakayama and Chiyoshoma on the bubble. In the Juryo bout matching two promotion contenders, yusho winner Shimanoumi prevailed over Chiyomaru, likely eliminating the latter from consideration. Will Shimanoumi’s 13-2 record from all the way down at J11 be good enough to ensure a Makuuchi debut and force down Chiyoshoma? I’d say yes, but it’ll be a close call—after the last two basho, rikishi with 6-9 records at M14w just hung on to the final rung of the top-division ladder. They could also drop Yutakayama in favor of Chiyomaru, but this seems less likely.