I’ve been thinking a bit more about what’s likely to happen in the race for the cup. There are 3 bouts tomorrow matching up the six remaining contenders:
- Takanosho (10-3) vs. Mitakeumi (10-3)
- Hakuho (11-2) vs. Aoiyama (11-2)
- Asanoyama (10-3) vs. Kakuryu (11-2)
The first bout will leave us with one rikishi at 11-3, and one eliminated from the race, so the outcome here really doesn’t matter (except, obviously, to the rikishi themselves!).
The pivotal bouts are right at the top of the torikumi. Should Kakuryu and Hakuho prevail, and move to 12-2, their head-to-head matchup on the final day will be for the yusho, with everyone else eliminated from contention.
If Hakuho wins and Kakuryu loses, things get a lot more interesting: Hakuho would take the yusho with a win on senshuraku, but Kakuryu would be in a position to force a playoff, and Asanoyama, Aoiyama, and the winner of Takanosho vs. Mitakeumi would all have a shot at joining it.
A similar scenario holds if Aoiyama pulls of the giant (pun intended) upset, and Kakuryu loses: Aoiyama’s senshuraku opponent (presumably Asanoyama) could hand him a 3rd loss, providing an opening for the two Yokozuna, Asanoyama, and the winner of Takanosho vs. Mitakeumi to enter a playoff.
Finally, should Aoiyama and Kakuryu win, the scenarios would come down to senshuraku scheduling. If the schedulers really change things up and pair the two leaders, we get scenario one above: a winner-take-all bout for the cup. But given the expected pairing of the Yokozuna, Hakuho could force at least a three-way playoff with help from Aoiyama’s opponent, and the winner of Takanosho vs. Mitakeumi would have an opportunity to join it.
Please let me know if you spot any errors in my logic. We all have our rooting preferences, but I for one will be pulling for Asanoyama, as a win would not only bring him a big step closer to Ozeki promotion, but also guarantee to keep things interesting into Day 15.