The Yusho Race
What had been a very muddled picture became clear as a result of Day 14 action. Only three men, all with 11-3 records, still have a shot at lifting the Emperor’s Cup: Sekiwake Mitakeumi, Sekiwake Takakeisho, and, controversially, M8 Okinoumi. By scheduling the latter pair against each other—and forgoing the traditional Abi vs. Takakeisho bout—the torikumi committee has guaranteed that the yusho will be won with a 12-3 record, thereby eliminating 10-win Asanoyama and Tsurugisho from contention.
The scenarios are simple: should Mitakeumi lose, the winner of the Takakeisho vs. Okinoumi bout is the champion. If Mitakeumi wins, he will face that winner in a playoff for all the marbles. I recommend Josh’s excellent preview post for an analysis of the matchups.
Sadly, Tochinoshin’s quest to defend his Ozeki rank came to an end with his loss to Myogiryu today. He will be ranked at West Sekiwake for Kyushu, and the 10 wins needed to re-regain his rank seem like a big ask unless what ails him can somehow be fixed in six weeks. With 20 wins in 29 bouts over the last two basho, Mitakeumi probably needs 12 or 13 in November to finally become Ozeki, depending on tomorrow’s outcome, and beyond mere numbers, winning the yusho (or even losing a playoff) would certainly help his cause.
The Lower San’yaku
With Mitakeumi locked in as East Sekiwake, Tochinoshin falling to West Sekiwake, and both Komusubi recording at least 8 wins, all the regular slots are spoken for. According to Asashosakari, this is the first time that’s happened since Aki 2006. Neither Abi nor Endo can end the basho with 11 wins, which means that they will almost certainly stay where they are. M1e Hokutofuji can get to 9 wins, and M2w Asanoyama can get to 11, but it’s not clear whether either outcome would be sufficient to open an extra Komusubi slot; I’m guessing that we will see the duo as extremely hard-luck M1e and M1w, respectively.
Only five rikishi go into Day 15 with 7-7 records and their kachi/make-koshi fate on the line. And of course, four of them are matched up: it’s Tamawashi vs. Ishiura and Daieisho vs. Kotoeko. The 5th, Myogiryu, takes Takakeisho’s place against Abi. There are no major promotions or demotions on the line for this group—only the direction of their move for the Kyushu banzuke.
Here’s where things stand with one day to go. There are two definite demotions from Makuuchi: Toyonoshima and Takagenji. Conveniently, they are matched by two definite promotions from Juryo: Takanosho and Chiyomaru.
Beyond that, things are a bit murky. Tochiozan will be in serious trouble with a loss, and not completely safe with a win. The loser of its own kind of Darwin bout, Kagayaki vs. Azumaryu, will also be eligible for demotion, as will Terutsuyoshi with a loss. Daishoho’s win today makes his stay in the top division likely but not certain.
Whether or not any of these laggards actually end up on the boat to Juryo will depend on the existence of palatable promotion candidates there. J3 Wakatakakage (8-6) would probably qualify with a win, and might exchange places with Tochiozan should both lose. J5 Daishomaru (9-5) is in similar shape, while Juryo yusho winner and erstwhile Makuuchi mainstay J12 Ikioi (12-2) must win and hope for a lot of losses by others, as well as favorable treatment by the banzuke committee.
And down at the other end of Juryo, it looks to me like we’ll have one spot in the salaried ranks opening up via retirement (Yoshikaze) and five more via demotion: Seiro, Chiyonoumi, Takanofuji (unless he also “retires”), Asagyokusei, and Irodori. Who are the lucky six Makushita men ascending to “heaven”? At the moment, we have four qualified candidates in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone: Ms1e Wakamotoharu and Ms2e Akua, both 6-1, and Ms4w Kototebakari and Ms5e Hoshoryu, both 4-3. Yes, readers, barring anything unexpected, Hoshoryu should be a sekitori in November! One more rikishi will join them on the final day: the winner of a Darwin bout between Ms2w Chiyonoo and Ms5w Akiseyama, both 3-3. I am not sure what will happen with the 6th slot. It might go to Ms6e Churanoumi (4-2) if he can win his final bout, or else to Ms7w Chiyotoori (5-2). Or J13e Irodori might survive if he can manage a 6th win on senshuraku.