Aki Storylines, Day 14

We’ve come down to the final day of the exciting Aki basho. Tomorrow, someone will claim the Emperor’s cup, special prizes will be handed out, a few rikishi will resolve their make/kachi-koshi status, and devision exchanges will be sealed. Let’s see where things stand.

The Yusho Race

Takanosho, Mitakeumi, and Takakeisho fulfilled their roles as barriers to lower-ranked challengers, knocking Onosho and Wakatakakage out of the race and leaving Tobizaru one off the pace. Shodai emphatically defeated an Ozeki opponent for the second consecutive day, eliminating Asanoyama and claiming sole possession of the lead at 12-2. Takakeisho and Tobizaru are still in the race at 11-3.

If Shodai can defeat Tobizaru tomorrow, he takes the yusho. Otherwise, the two would go into a playoff, where they could be joined by Takakeisho should he prevail in the Ozeki showdown with Asanoyama.

Special Prizes

Three special prizes can be given to rikishi below the rank of Ozeki who put up especially impressive performances, and each prize can be shared. From Wikipedia:

The three prizes are

  • Shukun-shō (殊勲賞), Outstanding Performance prize
  • Kantō-shō (敢闘賞), Fighting Spirit prize
  • Ginō-shō (技能賞), Technique prize

Typically the Ginō-shō is awarded to a wrestler or wrestlers who display the most skillful kimarite, or techniques; the Shukun-shō is awarded to a wrestler who defeats a yokozuna or the eventual tournament winner, or who otherwise displays outstanding performance relative to his rank; and the Kantō-shō to a wrestler who has most clearly fought tenaciously and to the best of his abilities.

I would guess that the Ginō-shō will go to Shodai, that Tobizaru will receive a  Kantō-shō, and that the Shukun-shō will go to the winner of the bout between them (although I could see them both getting one depending on the outcome of the yusho race). Finally, I think that both Wakatakakage and Onosho will have a Kantō-shō on the line, conditional on winning their final bouts.

The Named Ranks

It’s nice to see both Ozeki with double-digit wins before senshuraku; the word “kadoban” barely came up this basho. Takakeisho could still start a Yokozuna challenge with a yusho, while Asanoyama will have to wait. Shodai has successfully defended his rank, can still hope for an Ozeki promotion and, barring that, should only need double-digit wins to finish a successful run in November. Mitakeumi (8-6) will maintain his rank, and his Ozeki run is still technically alive, but he’ll need 13-14 wins in November.

Daieisho (4-10) will drop far out of san’yaku along with Okinoumi (4-10) and Endo (3-9-2). That opens up two san’yaku slots, and they’ll go to Takanosho and Terunofuji, in that order. Should Shodai create a third slot by earning promotion, the contenders are Wakatakakage, Takayasu, Onosho, Kiribayama, and Tobizaru.

Darwin Bouts

Eight rikishi hold 7-7 records, their fate balanced on a knife-edge. Six have been paired up in classic Darwin bouts: Kotoeko vs. Takarafuji, Kaisei vs. Kagayakai, and Sadanoumi vs. Hoshoryu. Aoiyama will look to pick up his 8th by upsetting Takanosho, while Ichinojo fights for his top-division place against Juryo visitor Chiyonoo.

Makuuch-Juryo Exchanges

Certain to drop to Juryo: Abi and Kyokutaisei.

Hard to see how they’d stay up, even with a win and favorable banzuke luck: Shohozan, Ishiura, Kotoshogiku.

Safe with one more win; might already be okay given 5 demotion candidates ahead of them and a dearth of strong promotion cases in Juryo: Shimanoumi, Ichinojo, Hoshoryu.

Moving up to the top division: J2w Kotonowaka (9-5), Juryo yusho winner J11w Chiyonokuni (13-1), J2e Kotoyuki (8-6).

Next in line, but need final-day wins: J4e Chiyoshoma (8-6), J6e Chiyonoo (9-5), J6w Akua (9-5), J10e Akiseyama (11-3). Someone is going to get very, very lucky.

Juryo-Makushita Exchanges

There are three certain openings in Juryo, one created by Kizakiumi’s retirement and the other two by Oki’s 0-14 sekitori debut and J14 Kitaharima’s (5-9) near-record 8th demotion. J12 Daishoho (6-8) needs 1 win for safety. Complicating matters are the mandated absences and uncertain banzuke fates of J7 Azumaryu and J14 Fujiazuma, as well as the possibility of Kotoshogiku’s retirement. So that’s at least 3 open sekitori slots, and as many as 7.

Two slots will go to Ms1e Takagenji (4-3) and Ms1w Jokoryu (4-3). At the moment, the leading contender for the third is Ms4w Naya (5-2), but Ms5w Ura (5-1) will have something to say about that (and about the number of open slots) when he fights Daishoho on the final day. Ms2e Chiyonoumi (4-3) will be 4th or 5th in line, and Ms5e Kotodaigo (4-3) will be 6th. A long-shot candidate for a possible 7th promotion could be Ms8e Yago (5-1) if he wins, although that’s unlikely to push down Daishoho even if the latter loses.

9 thoughts on “Aki Storylines, Day 14

  1. After all the talk about a wide-open race, and parity, we are one day away from what would be a rather conventional outcome: a yusho win by a sekiwake , and both ozeki with double digit wins. It’s true that Tobizaru could still create an upset, but to do so he’ll have to beat Shodai twice and possibly Takakeisho as well. If he can do that, good luck to him.
    Otherwise, it seems that order may be emerging from chaos when least expected.

  2. The maku’uchi/ juryo boundary has looked hellishly complictated over the last few days and the results aren’t giving us much help. I’m guessing that Akua, Chiyoshoma and Chiyonoo could get the nod if they win tomorrow. I suppose it will be a case of whether the banzuke comittee really want to shake the bag like they did last time. The juryo division has looked pretty weak to me this time and the way that Chiyonokuni has been able to dominate suggests that there aren’t any future champions present, with the possible exception of Kotonowaka.

    Likely and confirmed retirements, in addition to possible covid koshos make the juryo/makushita boundary even trickier. I just hope Jokoryu makes it back: he has earned it.

  3. Is there a reason why Fujiazuma should not be demoted to Makushita?
    That means 4 Juryo spots are certain to open up.

    Also, are Makushita visitors to Juryo bouts allowed to wear colorful mawashi? I guess we will soon find out.

    • Because Fujiazuma (and Azumaryu, along with the entire heya) were made to go kyujo as a covid precaution, and the NSK has said they’ll need to consider their banzuke status as a special matter after the basho concludes.

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