The yusho race
Former Ozeki Terunofuji (M17e, 12-2) remains the sole leader. He is trailed by the three highest-ranked men retaining in the tournament, new Ozeki Asanoyama and the Sekiwake duo Shodai and Mitakeumi, all 11-3. And all the leaders are matched up in the final two bouts tomorrow, making for what could hardly be a more exciting conclusion to the tournament. First, it’s Terunofuji vs. Mitakeumi (head-to-head 4-2). If Terunofuji can prevail, he lifts the Emperor’s Cup for the second time in his career. If Mitakeumi wins, both participants enter a three-way playoff with the winner of the final bout between Asanoyama and Shodai!
Yokozuna and Ozeki runs
If Asanoyama can take the yusho, he would be on Yokozuna watch at Aki, although a 12-3 playoff win against a diminished field would likely require nothing less than a strong second yusho in September for promotion.
Both Sekiwake are in somewhat complicated situations. Shodai’s last two basho results were a 13-2 jun-yusho at M4, with a 5-1 record against san’yaku opponents, followed by 8-7 at Sekiwake. A 12-3 here would give him 33 wins in 3 tournaments, and several successful Ozeki runs have started at upper maegashira, so he could get the nod, especially if he lifts the Cup. Otherwise, he’ll probably need 13-14 wins in September to earn promotion.
Mitakeumi had a losing record in January, so he certainly can’t be promoted this time. But 10 wins at M3 in March, with a 5-2 record against san’yaku opponents, combined with at least 11 here, and his long record of consistent san’yaku performances, should put promotion within reach with 11-12 wins at Aki.
The san’yaku ranks
Unless Shodai gets promoted and/or Komusubi Daieisho (10-4) forces an extra Sekiwake slot to be created with an 11th win against Myogiryu tomorrow (not guaranteed with two of those wins being fusensho), there won’t be any open san’yaku slots. What happens in that scenario if Endo (7-7) wins tomorrow? We know from last September that 9-6 at M1e is enough to force an extra Komusubi slot to be created, but it’s less clear if 8-7 is. The last time an M1e with this record was denied promotion was in 1969, but as far as I can tell, there have only been three instances since then of an extra slot being created in this scenario, with the most recent in 1995, when this practice was much more common. M2 Takanosho (8-6) would get the potential open slot should Endo lose.
I’m guessing these will be dominated by the trio of Shodai, Mitakeumi, and Terunofuji, with the exact allocation determined by tomorrow’s outcomes. Daieisho could also be in line for a prize. No other performances jump out at me, but I welcome speculation in the comments.
Only 3 rikishi enter the final day with 7-7 records, meaning that their make/kachi-koshi fate hasn’t been decided yet: the aforementioned Endo, who will feature in the only “Darwin bout” against Tokushoryu, and Sadanoumi, who is matched with Nishikigi (6-8). The latter also has a lot on the line, as discussed in the next section.
The demotion picture
We have two clear demotions: M15 Chiyomaru (4-10) will be headed to Juryo along with M17 Kotoyuki (6-8). Two additional rikishi already have demotable records, but could save themselves with final-day wins if there aren’t enough strong promotion cases in Juryo: M9 Ikioi (2-12) and M13 Kotonowaka (4-5-5). Two more can reach safety by winning their final bouts: M12 Shohozan (4-10) and M16 Nishikigi (6-8).
Promotions from Juryo
J1e Meisei (9-4) has clinched a return to Makuuchi. Others still in contention, and probably in this order, are J5e Kyokutaisei (10-4), J2e Tobizaru (8-6), J5w Ichinojo (9-5), and J6e Hoshoryu (9-5). Kyokutaisei and Tobizaru can guarantee promotion by winning, while Ichinojo and Hoshoryu need victories and some losses by the Makuuchi demotion candidates. In that regard, Ichinojo controls his destiny, as he fights Shohozan in a likely “exchange bout.”
The Juryo yusho race
Strap in everyone, this could get wild. Kyokutaisei and the last man on the banzuke, J14w Mitoryu, lead the field at 10-4 (Mitoryu defeated the top man on the banzuke, Meisei, in an excellent bout today). The leading duo is chased by six strong rikishi with 9-5 records. The matchups for tomorrow are such that all eight could end up with 10-5 records! How fun would that playoff be? Amazingly, this did happen once, exactly 19 years ago. In the key bouts for forcing a playoff, Mitoryu faces Hoshoryu, who likely also has top-division promotion on the line, while former Makuuchi regular Daishomaru (7-7) gets the task of slowing down Kyokutaisei.
The Juryo-Makushita exchange
Three slots are already open in Juryo: one by Tochiozan’s retirement, and the other two by the performances of J10 Asabenkei (3-11) and J14 Chiyonoumi (6-8). These will be taken over by the Makushita yusho winner, former top-division mainstay Ms 12 Chiyonokuni (7-0), Ms2w Oki (5-2), and Ms3e Nishikifuji (5-2). The final possible exchange will be decided in the crossover bout between J13 Takagenji (6-8) and Ms3w Kitaharima (4-2). Ms5e “Prince” Naya will spend at least one more basho in Makushita despite a winning 4-3 record in the promotion zone, and Tachiai favorite Ms19 Ura (6-1) will also be looking for a return to sekitori ranks at Aki, although it’s not clear yet whether he’ll make it into the Makushita joi (Ms1-Ms5), or need a 7-0 record for promotion from below “the invisible line.”