This basho gets more and more intriguing. I’m really having fun watching it – not only because my favorite rikishi, Terunofuji, is unexpectedly on the leaderboard… I hope everybody shares my enthusiasm for this basho.
Let’s have a look at what’s at stake for the last days :
The yusho race
The last two days obviously have changed many things. Hakuho looked rather good during the first week, but it seems his body has abandoned him again. To be honest, I’m expecting a kyujo announcement, which would leave Asanoyama and Terunofuji fighting for the Cup. Sadly, the decider won’t happen on Sunday, as they will face each other as soon as tomorrow. If Terunofuji wins, he could well face the pair of sekiwake for the last two days – that would provide nice competition to the former ozeki, to justify him having the hands on the Cup – for the second time.
If Asanoyama wins, the schedule would be interesting to watch. He is still to face Shodai. Given Takakeisho’s absence, that match could take place on senshuraku – a musubi no ichiban with Shodai! Who else he would fight on Saturday, remains top be seen. Terunofuji would maybe get a lighter opponent on day 14, and face a second san’yaku opponent (Mitakeumi ?) on senshuraku, if he were to win on Saturday.
San’yaku traffic jam
I was first tempted to say that san’yaku talks will be quite calm, after that basho. There’s still room for speculation, though. True, Takakeisho has saved his rank, whereas neither Shodai nor Mitakeumi are on line for an immediate ozeki promotion, and will stay as sekiwake. Nevertheless, a third sekiwake sport might be opened for Daieisho, should he win out. His record would be 11-4, having defeated Hakuho in the process. The board could entice him to sustain his own ozeki quest, in that situation.
What about Okinoumi? He’s fighting pretty well, an dis one win away from his kashi koshi. Should he fail to do so, or should Daieisho get a sekiwake slot, the contenders to fill the gap(s) are: Endo (M1, 6-6) and Takanosho (M2, 6-6).
The race to survival
As we already know, Kotonowaka’s unfortunate knee injury, sustained during his bout against Kaisei on day 7, means the promising rikishi will have to return to the juryo scramble.
Uncertainty mars Abi’s fate. The tall wrestler is awaiting punishment from the board, after breaching the pandemic security measures. Mathematically, Abi would be safe; but this is not the first time he will get punished. As a consequence, juryo demotion would not appear too much a sanction…
Let’s turn to “mathematical” predictions. After today’s win, Kotoyuki is now 6-6. Being ranked maegashira 17, he’ll nevertheless need to win two of his last three bouts, in order to get his kashi koshi and be safe for Aki.
Nishikigi will also have to dig deep. He stands one rank higher than Kotoyuki, but has one less win (5-7). Here, too, Nishikigi should try to grab two wins, in order to remain in makuuchi next basho.
Chiyomaru is on the verge of demotion. Only a perfect record from now could perhaps lead him to a final makuuchi spot. The only problem is that there’s no reason to believe his level would spectacularly improve from now…
Shohozan’s disastrous tournament could put an end to an almost historical presence of the veteran in top division. Apart from a juryo stint during half the year 2015, Shohozan has been in makuuchi since 2011. Only a 5-10 record could eventually put the Fukuoka born rikishi to safety.
Shimanoumi still needs one more win to be assured of a place in makuuchi by Aki.
After a bright resurgence at the beginning of the year, Ikioi surprinsingly finds himself in a battle against demotion. The odds would remain open, should the Osaka born wrestler snatch one single win. Two wins or more would give Ikioi some breathing space.
And finally… Onosho ! It’s quite unbelievable to see such a high ranked rikishi – at maegashira 2 – being subject of demotion talks. The last man to be demoted to juryo directly from that rank is Tochitsukasa, back in 1990. The unfortunate rikishi was actually kyujo, and a 0-0-15 record proved fatal. Prior to that, we have to back to 1804 to find such an occurrence! That terrible record could be shared by Onosho, if he stays zenpai until the end. If he eventually finds his way to shonichi, he’ll be safe.
The others have already found their way towards safety.
Several makuuchi rikishi remain in danger of demotion, and a fair amount of them might end up in juryo. That would, as a consequence, allow some juryo wrestlers to enter the top division, even if their record would rather have suggested a slight move to the top juryo ranks.
Meisei ranked juryo 1, already has his kashi koshi and will return to makuuchi in Aki.Tobizaru is one win away from his own kashi koshi, and a likely first stint in makuuchi. Kyokushuho (J3, 6-6) and Daiamami (J4, 6-6) are outsiders, but could be pipped by likes of Kyokutaisei (J5, 8-4), Ichinojo (J5, 7-5) or even Hoshoryu (J6, 8-4), should they bolster their winning records as high as possible.
So let’s now see tomorrow’s schedule:
Chiyomaru v Tochinoshin. As said, Chiyomaru is in serious danger and will have to avoid Tochinoshin getting a grip on his mawashi, at any cost. Otherwise, it would be curtains for the Kokoe resident.
Shimanoumi v Kotoyuki. That’s a battle between two rikishi who have given themselves hope for survival, by impressive means: Shimanoumi has won his last two bouts, whereas Kotoyuki is on a five win streak! If Shimanoumi can sustain his opponent’s furious thrusts, he’ll be immune to demotion.
Wakatakakage v Myogiryu. Wakatakakage is also on a five win streak, and will face Myogiryu, who is starting to slow down after an impressive start, even if he rebounded well today with a win. Wakatakakage likes to finish strongly his tournaments, and will have to outsmart the veteran’s experience here.
Kaisei v Nishikigi. One of these wrestlers will get his make koshi tomorrow. Nishikigi is fighting for way more than Kaisei, who is likely to just face some demotion down the maegashira ranks. Furthermore, Nishikigi has been dominating debates in the past, leading the matchups 6 to 3.
Tamawashi v Kotoeko. Tamawashi is now out of the arasoi, having sustained a fourth loss today. Kotoeko’s impressive run continues, being now 9-3. He has the necessary weapons to overcome Tamawashi’s oshi zumo, but is yet to defeat the Mongolian.
Kotoshoho v Chiyotairyu. Kotoshoho’s battle for kashi koshi goes on, as he’s looking for his eigth win since day ten. The youngster is obviously struggling now, but could be helped with his opponent’s below-par form : Chiyotairyu is 5-7, and lost twice in a row.
Ishiura v Takayasu. That’s an interesting first matchup between the unpredictable Ishiura, and the no-nonsense Takayasu. There’s no doubt Ishiura will have something in mind before facing the former ozeki, if should he move sideways, he would undoubtly go to his right – Takayasu’s left side.
Sadanoumi v Tokushoryu. I was surprised to see that tomorrow’s bout will be the seventeenth between these two. Both are 6-6, and fighting hard to get their kashi koshi. That should be an interesting clash, Sadanoumi prefering yotsu zumo, whereas Tokushoryu deploys his trademark oshi zumo.
Kotoshogiku v Ryuden. Giku showed us he’s still far from done, right from the beginning of the basho. He’s starting to slow down here, though, and perhaps that will favour Ryuden, who has to win out in order to avoid being make koshi.
Terutsuyoshi v Kiribayama. Kiribayama is make koshi, having gotten an avoidable loss against Yutakayama. He showed no mercy to Enho, and could relish this pairing against another pixie. Terutsuyoshi just won by ashitori, right after the tachi-ai, and will have to produce something else against a dangerous opponent.
Shohozan v Onosho. Now, this is a bout with unexpected implications. Shohozan’s long makuuchi stay could be dealt a deadly blow by tomorrow, whereas Onosho’s mad run could bring him one step closer to an unbelievable demotion by Aki. Time to wake up, guys.
Takanosho v Takarafuji. Takanosho’s three loss in a row came to an end today, and he’s still in contention for his kashi koshi, which would see him reach a new career high in September. I expect him to produce a solid performance tomorrow, against Takarafuji, who is already make koshi.
Ikioi v Yutakayama. Yutakayama showed admirable resistance on today’s victory, given his terrible record. He’s back on winning ways, which could be problematic for Ikioi’s battle against demotion. The Osaka born rikishi, on the other hand, isn’t looking good at all.
Endo v Hokutofuji. Endo won his last four bouts, an dis finally showing what he’s capable of. Hokutofuji is doing quite well at 7-5, but struggles to get his eigth. Endo has been dominating the debates in the past, with eigth wins to four losses, and could well add another win here.
Enho v Okinoumi. Thanks to Seiyashi for noticing I missed on that bout! What a folly! Anyway, Enho is trying to avoid make koshi, while Okinoumi could be granted san’yaku survival. The Shimane-ken born rikishi’s form is good, and I tend to believe he’ll seal that win tomorrow. But it’s simply unwise to write off the L
Daieisho v Aoiyama. That will surely be a fun oshi zumo bout to watch between the two. Aoiyama has to win out to avoid being make koshi, whereas Daieisho could be tempted to set his sights on higher spots than komusubi. He basically needs to win out in order to do so, but will have to overcome a 3-6 deficit in his matchups against the Bulgarian.
Kagayaki v Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi will be in buoyant mood after his win against Hakuho. He’s 9-3, has defeated an ozeki and a yokozuna, and will look to add three more wins, to strongly bid for ozeki promotion in Aki. Kagayaki has failed to find the key against the sekiwake so far, having lost their two previous meetings.
Terunofuji v Asanoyama. And this is, really unexpectedly, the bout of the tournament. Terunofuji has done wonders, and gave the audience no reason to express fear for his knees. Tomorrow’s opposition, though, will be miles over what he had to face until now. It has to be said Terunofuji has the experience. But could he really defeat the shin ozeki, who’s faring excellently, at 11-1 ? I’d love to, but I doubt it.
Hakuho v Shodai. As already said, I’m not even expecting Hakuho to feature on the dohyo tomorrow. And iof he shows up, Shodai is no longer his favorite toy, the sekiwake having emerged victorious last basho. Given Hakuho’s obvious limp today, a win would be a great piece of business.