Who will lift the Emperor’s Cup?
It’s now mathematically down to three rikishi: hiramaku leaders M4 Shodai and M17 Tokushoryu, both 12-1, and the lone 11-2 pursuer, Ozeki Takakeisho. Because the leaders have been pitted head-to-head on Day 14, we know that the tournament will be won with a score of 13-2 or 14-1, eliminating 10-3 Hokutofuji from contention.
The winner of tomorrow’s headline bout controls his destiny. He is guaranteed as least a spot in a potential playoff, and can claim the yusho outright with a win on senshuraku. The loser is not eliminated from contention, and can get into a playoff with a senshuraku win should the winner stumble. Takakeisho must defeat Asanoyama tomorrow to stay in the race.
What bouts will the torikumi committee give us on the final day? I’m guessing that Shodai will face M1e Endo, the highest-ranked rikishi he hasn’t fought, and, having already clinched his kachi-koshi and a likely san’yaku promotion, a credible opponent. And since Tokushoryu will remain in the race regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, it would make sense to match him up with Takakeisho, forgoing a pointless Ozeki clash between the latter and Goeido. Should the schedulers rigidly adhere to tradition instead, the next most credible opponent for Tokushoryu would be Asanoyama.
Who will fill the Sekiwake and Komusubi ranks at Haru?
East Sekiwake Asanoyama (8-5) has successfully defended his rank; he can be on an Ozeki run in March by winning his final two bouts. Soon-to-be-demoted Ozeki Goeido will also be ranked Sekiwake for the Haru basho. West Sekiwake Takayasu (4-9), East Komusubi Abi (5-8), and West Komusubi Daieisho (5-8) will all be fighting in the rank-and-file in Osaka, opening up both Komusubi slots.
Even with two slots open, the promotion picture is getting crowded. Shodai already has a strong claim, and it will be overwhelming with another victory or two. Hokutofuji (10-3) has recorded double-digit wins at M2e, with two more days to add to his total. Endo (8-5) is kachi-koshi at the top maegashira rank, and will be guaranteed promotion with another victory judging by what happened after Aki. And what do you do with Tokushoryu should he claim an improbable yusho from the last rung on the banzuke? My guess is that we’re likely to see at least one extra san’yaku slot created; whether it’s at Sekiwake or Komusubi will depend on how the yusho race concludes.
Who could be fighting in Juryo in March?
Kaisei and Shimanoumi should now be safe. Kotoeko (2-11) remains the only certain demotion, while Tsurugisho, Kotoshogiku, Azumaryu, and Ikioi can clinch a stay in the top division with a win in the final two days. This is not good news for borderline promotion candidates in Juryo, and for the absent “on the bubble” duo of Kotoyuki and Meisei.
J4 Nishikigi (9-4) is now the leading promotion candidate, and can likely book a top-division return with one more victory. Tomorrow, he will serve as the latest test for J13 Terunofuji (13-0), who’s already secured the Juryo yusho. The winner of that bout should be fighting in Makuuchi in March.
J5 Daishoho (9-4) is still looking for another win. J2 Kotonowaka (7-6), J2 Hidenoumi (7-6), J6 Daiamami (9-4), J1 Chiyoshoma (6-7), and J5 Wakatakakage (8-5) can complicate the promotion picture by winning out. Everyone else has been eliminated from consideration. Oh, and one final piece of Juryo news: J14 Hoshoryu (8-5) is now kachi-koshi and has earned a stay in the paid ranks for March.