We’ve made it through nakabi, the middle Sunday and the midpoint of the basho. In these storylines posts, I’ve often used “if the tournament ended today” as a figure of speech, but we have to take that possibility more seriously this time. Every day of sumo we get is a gift that cannot be taken for granted.
What would NSK do if the basho were forced to end prematurely? Would the Emperor’s Cup be awarded to the leader? And how would abbreviated records factor into the rankings for the next tournament? Let’s hope we don’t find out!
The yusho race
Yokozuna Hakuho in the only undefeated rikishi in the top two divisions. He’s clinched a kachi-koshi (winning record) in the minimum possible time for a mind-boggling 49th time; the all-time great Chiyonofuji is second with 25 8-0 records on nakabi. On 33 of the 48 previous occasions, Hakuho ended up lifting the Emperor’s Cup.
While there are two 7-1 rikishi down the banzuke (M9 Takanosho and M13 Aoiyama), Hakuho has put two wins between himself and more credible contenders—fellow Yokozuna Kakuryu, Sekiwake Asanoyama, and M3 Mitakeumi. M11 Chiyotairyu, M12 Ishiura, and M18 Kotonowaka also hold 6-2 records.
The upper ranks
Our lone Ozeki, Takakeisho, hasn’t looked 100%. 5-3 is a decent first-week score, but with the meat of his fight card ahead of him, 3 losses to rank-and-filers is not great for an Ozeki. Still, Takakeisho should be able to pick up the 3 wins in 7 days he needs to avoid going kadoban. Any talk of a Yokozuna run is on hold.
Asanoyama’s Ozeki bid is looking shaky. Unless promotion criteria are relaxed, he needs to finish with a 12-3 record, which means going 6-1 or better the rest of the way, and he still has to face his four highest-ranked opponents. That starts tomorrow against fellow Sekiwake Shodai (4-4), who’s taken 3 of their prior 5 bouts, including the last two.
We can probably put to rest any talk of Ozeki runs by Shodai, Hokutofuji, and Endo, but at least Shodai and Endo hold even win-loss records and a decent chance of retaining san’yaku rank. At 2-6, Hokutofuji has left himself an awful lot of work to do to reach his eight, and while he’s been known to rally in the second week, he has not yet faced Shodai or Hakuho. At the moment, M1 Daieisho (5-3) and Mitakeumi are best-positioned to take over any san’yaku slots that open up.
It’s still early (we hope!) but injured Tsurugisho is almost certainly headed down. Nishikigi, Daiamami, and Meisei are currently in greatest demotion danger, with Tochiozan, the only winless sekitori among those still competing, not far behind. Terunofuji, Kotoeko, and Wakatakakage have stated the strongest early cases for a return to the top division.