The Yusho Race
It all comes down to the final bout between our two active Yokozuna. If Kakuryu wins, he claims the championship. A Hakuho victory would mean a second, playoff bout between the two for all the marbles.
For now, the only open slot is West Komusubi, being vacated by 4-10 Ryuden. East Komusubi Abi‘s record stands at 7-7, and he will fight Kotoshogiku tomorrow with his rank on the line. If Abi prevails and there is only one promotion, the lucky rikishi will be the winner of the bout between M1w Hokutofuji and M2w Endo, both 9-6. An extra victory by Endo would overcome the one-rank difference between them on the banzuke.
Should Abi lose, the winner of Hokutofuji-Endo would be East Komusubi, but the identity of West Komusubi is unclear.
The leading contenders are M7e Tomokaze (11-3), M3w Daieisho (8-6), and Abi himself. Also in the conversation are M2e Aoiyama (7-7) and M4w Ichinojo (8-6). Tomokaze should get it with a win, unless he gets the “Asanoyama treatment” from the banzuke committee—ranked outside the joi, hasn’t been in san’yaku before, etc. Daieisho will be the leading candidate with a win and a Tomokaze loss. If both lose, the committee might opt to merely slide Abi to the West side with a 7-8 record, as they did with Mitakeumi after the March tournament, and victories by Aoiyama or Ichinojo might not be enough to alter that equation. Never mind; I forgot that if Abi falters, the loser of Hokutofuji-Endo will be in pole position for the second slot, although Tomokaze could be in with a chance if he goes 12-3 and Endo goes 9-6.
- Definite demotions from Makuuchi: Kaisei, Yoshikaze, Yago.
- Needs a win and banzuke luck: Tochiozan.
- Will be safe with one victory: Chiyomaru.
- Probably safe, but could use another win: Takagenji (Toyonoshima is safe with today’s victory).
- Definite promotion from Juryo: Tsurugisho, the Juryu yusho winner.
- Very likely promotion: Yutakayama.
- Likely promotion, but could use another win: Ishiura.
- Could earn promotion with another win: Azumaryu, Chiyoshoma.
- Need a win and banzuke luck: Wakatakage, Takanosho, Daiamami.
With only 3 definite open slots in Makuuchi, 3 additional top-division rikishi in danger of demotion, and up to 8 Juryo men still nursing promotion chances, there is a lot at stake on the final day.
At the bottom of Juryo, we still have only two clear demotions and one retirement. Chiyonoumi, Arawashi, and Kotonowaka need final-day victories to be safe, and the schedulers are not making this easy. Chiyonoumi is matched with 7-7 Kyokushuho, who is going for his kachi-koshi. Arawashi is up against promotion-seeking Azumaryu. And, as I predicted yesterday, Kotonowaka will fight Ms5w Wakamotoharu, 5-1, for a place in the paid ranks.
Both Makushita 1s, Seiro and Irodori, will make an immediate return to Juryo. Wakamotoharu will likely be third in line with a win and 4th with a loss, with Hoshoryu vanquisher Tamaki occupying the other place in the promotion queue. Finally, Ms4w Kaisho (4-3) probably has a good-enough record if a 5th Juryo slot opens.