The yusho race
Congratulations to Hakuho (13-1) on winning an unfathomable 43rd Emperor’s cup. The Yokozuna’s first basho at that rank was Nagoya 2007, more than 12 years ago. Of the 74 basho at sumo’s highest rank, he missed all or most of 10 with injuries. In the 64 tournaments he finished (or nearly finished this January), Hakuho has 40 yusho, plus 17 jun-yusho (3 of them involving playoff losses). He’s never finished a tournament as Yokozuna with less than double-digit wins, and he won 12 or more in 56 of the 64 basho.
The San’yaku ranks
Three of the four regular slots for Hatsu are now spoken for. We will have East Sekiwake Asanoyama (11-3), appearing once again at a career-high rank. The West Sekiwake rank will be taken over by Takayasu, who will need 10 wins in January to reclaim the rank of Ozeki. Finally, with his victory today, Abi (8-6) assured himself of another basho as the East Komusubi.
That leaves one open regular slot, and 3 contenders. Endo (7-7) is part of the “Darwin bout” crew, and must defeat Kotoyuki (7-7) to hold onto the West Komusubi rank. Daieisho (8-6) is now kachi-koshi at the top maegashira rank, so he would take Endo’s slot if it opens. If Endo wins, we know after Hokutofuji’s promotion last time that a 9-6 record at M1e is enough to force open an extra slot, but we don’t know what would happen if Daieisho lost to Enho (in what seems like a cruel bit of scheduling for the 7-7 pixie) to finish 8-7. Finally, Mitakeumi (6-8) can finish 7-8 by beating Abi. I believe a 7-8 record by a Sekiwake has been guaranteed to lead to only a one-rank demotion to Komusubi, even if this entails creating an extra slot, but it will be interesting to see what transpires. So just like last time, there may be room to argue about where between 2 and 4 the number of Komusubi at Hatsu will fall.
Despite his victory today, we can now add Daishomaru (5-9) to the list of certain demotions that already included Ichinojo, Wakatakakage, Daishoho, and Nishikigi. Even a victory tomorrow won’t save him, as there is, for once, a glut of promotion candidates in Juryo. Depending on the outcome of tomorrow’s action, this may push Tomokaze all the way down from M3 into the second division after all.
J1e Azumaryu, J2e Tochiozan, and J3e Ikioi, all 10-4, are assured of promotion. The J5 duo of Kaisei and Kiribayama, also 10-4, are in with victories, but losses by them could open the door to J1w Tokushoryu (7-7), J3w Chiyoshoma (8-6), and J7w Kotonowaka (10-4), who all need victories to stake a promotion claim and possibly force down Tomokaze.