Some of the storylines we’ve been following were wrapped up today, while others will keep us guessing until the final day (possibly until the final regulation bout, or even beyond).
Who will lift the Emperor’s Cup?
The outcomes of today’s bouts have in all likelihood reduced the field to three: hiramaku leaders M4 Shodai and M17 Tokushoryu, both 11-1, and a lone 10-2 pursuer, Ozeki Takakeisho. Seven rikishi with 3 or 4 losses remain in mathematical contention, but seem unlikely to figure in the race except by playing spoiler. Indeed, two of them will try to do exactly that when Shodai faces M11 Kagayaki (9-3) and Tokushoryu is matched with M9 Yutakayama (9-3). Takakeisho will battle the fading but always dangerous Takayasu. While the Ozeki’s remaining opponents are straightforward to predict (Asanoyama and Goeido, unless the schedulers really deviate from tradition), I’ll be really curious to see what the torikumi holds for our co-leaders. Perhaps Hokutofuji for Tokoshoryu and Endo for Shodai on Day 14, before pitting them head-to-head on senshuraku?
How many Ozeki will we have in Osaka?
Who will fill the Sekiwake and Komusubi ranks at Haru?
With his demotion-ensuring defeat of Goeido, East Sekiwake Asanoyama (7-5) moved to within 1 victory of retaining his rank. He can pick it up tomorrow against Takarafuji, whom he’s bested in 5 of their 6 prior meetings. Asanoyama’s win also keeps his Ozeki run alive for now. West Sekiwake Takayasu (4-8) will be demoted at least to Komusubi (with Goeido taking over his slot on the banzuke), and one more loss will see him fall into the rank-and-file. East Komusubi Abi (5-7) cannot afford any more losses if he wants to stay in san’yaku, while West Komusubi Daieisho (4-8) will be a maegashira in March. It’s still mathematically possible for all lower san’yaku slots to be full, but the likely number of open slots is two.
Shodai and Hokutofuji lead the promotion race, with Endo and Mitakeumi still in the picture. Tomorrow’s big bout in the fight for any open san’yaku slots pits Hokutofuji and Mitakeumi against each other.
Who could be fighting in Juryo in March?
Chiyotairyu and newcomer Kiribayama booked their Makuuchi tickets for the Haru basho today. Hapless Kotoeko (2-10) is the first still-competing rikishi now slated for a seat on Bruce’s infamous Juryo barge. Tsurugisho, Shimanoumi, and Kaisei still need a win apiece to avoid joining him, while Kotoshogiku, Azumaryu, and Ikioi probably need to win 2 out of 3.
J5 Daishoho (9-3) continues to head the promotion queue despite his loss to J13 Terunofuji today. The former Ozeki (12-0) can reach the top division with two more wins, as can J2 Kotonowaka (7-5) and J4 Nishikigi (8-4). For a handful of other hopefuls, a promotion to the top division requires winning out.