Apologies that these posts have been sparse, but I’ve had my hands full with the local response to COVID-19. Anyway, here is a brief update on where things stand with three days of sumo remaining.
The yusho race
Your sole leader? None other than [checks notes] M13w Aoiyama. Now, “Big Dan” is a former Sekiwake who was ranked at Komusubi less that a year ago and scored a 13-2 jun-yusho a couple of years back, so he isn’t exactly Tokushoryu. Still, it has to rank as a big surprise that he is leading the yusho race this late in the tournament. And after his defeat of M3w Mitakeumi today, which knocked the latter out of the yusho race, the schedulers are running out of upper-rankers to throw at him. Win or lose against Takanosho tomorrow, Aoiyama will at worst be tied for the lead going into the final weekend. It doesn’t look like the schedulers will depart from the customary Yokozuna-Ozeki round-robin, nor does it seem likely that they’ll skip the Takakeisho vs. Asanoyama bout on senshuraku, given the potential high stakes for the Ozeki and the Ozeki hopeful. That probably leaves them with Shodai, Endo, Daieisho, and Yutakayama to chose from.
Aoiyama is trailed by a trio of heavy-weight chasers: the two Yokozuna and Asanoyama. Hakuho faces Asanoyama tomorrow, and, barring unusual scheduling, Takakeisho on Day 14 and Kakuryu on Day 15. Kakuryu fights Takakeisho tomorrow, and should see Asanoyama across the shikirisen from him on Day 14.
The upper ranks
Our lone Ozeki, Takakeisho, has an even 6-6 record after 12 days, and needs to win 2 of 3 to avoid going kadoban. He’ll have to do it against the highest-caliber, heavily incentivized opposition: a trio of yusho-chasing upper-rankers one of whom is also pushing for an Ozeki promotion.
Asanoyama’s Ozeki bid comes down to both his performance in running the gauntlet of the next three days and the vagaries of the NSK decision-making process. Winning his final three bouts against two Yokozuna and an Ozeki to go 13-2 with at worst a jun-yusho should guarantee promotion. Two out of three would meet the usual ask of 33 over 3, and would likely see him get the nod. Anything else would require grading on a curve to account for the depleted state of the upper ranks, especially if Takakeisho is staring at having to win
10 8 in the next tournament to avoid demotion.
K1e Hokutofuji (3-9) will be back down in the rank-and-file next basho. S1w Shodai and K1w Endo hold even win-loss records, and each needs two more victories to hold rank, although Shodai would only drop to Komusubi if he goes 7-8. So anywhere between one and four (if Asanoyama is promoted) san’yaku slots could open up, although I would set the over/under at two. M3w Mitakeumi (9-3) and M1e Daieisho (7-5) head the promotion queue, trailed by M3e Yutakayama (7-5) and M2e Okinoumi (6-6). Other hopefuls include Takanosho, Onosho, Takarafuji, and Aoiyama.
Guaranteed demotion: Tsurugisho. Likely needs to win out to avoid demotion: Tochiozan. Two wins probably enough for safety: Daiamami, Meisei, Nishikigi, Azumaryu. Need one more win to stay in the top division: Kotonowaka, Shimanoumi, Shohozan (!), and possibly Chiyomaru. Everyone else is safe.
One more win should lock in promotion from Juryo: Kotoshoho. One or two wins needed: Terunofuji, Kotoeko. Two wins required: Wakatakakage, Tobizaru, Kotoyuki. In with a chance if they win out: Hidenoumi, Kyokushuho. Everyone else is most likely eliminated from the promotion race.