Little has been settled by Nakabi (middle Sunday) of the Nagoya basho, but let’s take an early look at the storylines we’ll be following in the final week of the tournament.
The Yusho Race
The two grand champions are also your undefeated Day 8 leaders: East Yokozuna Kakuryu and West Yokozuna Hakuho. They are trailed by one win by West Ozeki Takayasu (7-1). Another win off the pace are East Sekiwake Mitakeumi (6-2) and a trio of rank-and-filers.
Questions surround all four remaining san’yaku contenders. In the six basho since his last yusho in May of 2018, Kakuryu has 3 withdrawals and 3 bad second-week fades. Both of Hakuho’s arms are less than 100%, but Takayasu’s left seems in even worse shape, putting his continued participation in doubt. And Mitakeumi notoriously tends to fade in week two. Nevertheless, it’s hard to see the winner coming from outside this quartet. By the way, the decimation of the Ozeki corps (see below) means that the remaining upper-rankers will face opponents down to at least M5e Kotoshogiku.
The Ozeki Corps
Not so much a storyline as a fait accompli. We will already have two kadoban Ozeki at Aki needing 8 wins to save their rank—Tochinoshin and Goeido—as well as “Ozekiwake” Takakeisho, who needs 10 to regain his. All three, of course, are out of the Nagoya basho. Unless Takayasu’s arm holds up long enough for him to pick his 8th win, we will have three kadoban Ozeki for only the second time since the current system was established in 1969. The previous occurrence was at Kyushu 2012, when Kotoshogiku and Kotooshu were able to defend their ranks, but Baruto was demoted to Sekiwake, failed to put up 10 in the next basho, and retired a few tournaments later. Having four Ozeki with fewer than 8 wins in the same basho would be unprecedented in modern sumo.
One Sekiwake slot at Aki is spoken for by Takakeisho. Mitakeumi is in good shape to extend his san’yaku streak to 16 tournaments, needing only one more victory to do so and two to remain Sekiwake. Tamawashi (1-7) seems all but certain to drop back into the rank-and-file. The Shin-Komusubi duo of Abi and Ryuden each posted 3-5 records in the first week, and need to go 5-2 or better in the second week to defend their rank. Ryuden is done with his higher-ranked opponents, while Abi has yet to face the two Sekiwake. It looks like anywhere between zero and two san’yaku slots will open. While it’s way too early to know who will be in contention for promotion, M1w Hokutofuji (5-3) is currently the best-placed.
Rather neatly, everyone ranked M9e and above has already done enough to remain in the top division, while everyone ranked M9w and below still has some work to do. The only certain demotions look to be the absent Yoshikaze and M15w Kaisei (1-7), who would need a second-week miracle to avoid a fall to Juryo. Others who need more wins than losses the rest of the way to guarantee another tournament in Makuuchi are M15e Yago (3-5), M14e Toyonoshima (3-5), and M12e Tochiozan (2-6).
There’s not exactly a long queue of promotion candidates down in Juryo. At the moment, J2e Ishiura (5-3) leads the field, followed by J1w Azumaryu (4-4) and J3w Yutakayama (5-3).