We have ourselves a yusho race! It’s down to four men, who are paired up tomorrow. And 2020 is still up to its tricks, as one of the two co-leaders is another unheralded lower maegashira. Shimanoumi and Ozeki Takakeisho, both 11-1, face off tomorrow, and the winner will have 12 wins, eliminating everyone except Terunofuji (10-2) and Ryuden (9-3), who are matched up, from even mathematical contention. At the moment, the co-leaders and Terunofuji control their own destiny, while Ryuden must win out and rely on 3 losses in four weekend bouts by Takakeisho and Shimanoumi just to get into a playoff.
Only Terunofuji has clinched a san’yaku slot for January, but Takayasu, Mitakeumi, and Takanosho are all one win away, so we may see little or no turnover here, although places within san’yaku could be exchanged. Daieisho is the leading candidate for any slot that may come open, and could potentially force an extra one to be created if he wins out.
Makuuchi demotion candidates
Absent Kotoyuki will be dropping deep into Juryo. Enho is alone in the zone of greatest danger, and needs to win out to save his place in the top division, while Sadanoumi needs 2 wins. Yutakayama, Ichinojo, and Chiyoshoma stand one win from safety. Akua and Terutsuyoshi could use an insurance victory. Everyone else will definitely be back in Makuuchi in January.
Juryo promotion candidates
There aren’t many. J2e Midorifuji (8-4) continues to be the leading candidate, but could use one more win for a strong promotion case. J1e Akiseyama (6-6) still needs 2 wins, as does J3e Ishiura (7-5). J4e Chiyomaru (7-5) and J5w Hidenoumi (7-5) need to win out and hope for some banzuke luck, while everyone else is out of contention. For the record, the last time we had only two exchanges between Makuuchi and Juryo—which seems like a real possibility this time—was March 2015. The last time there was only one—unlikely, but possible—was 1999.
Juryo demotion candidates
Four second-division slots are guaranteed to open: three via demotions of Abi, Fujiazuma, and Nishikifuji, and one with Kotoshogiku’s intai. Takagenji and Ikioi stand one win away from safety. Everyone else will stay in the paid ranks.
Makushita promotion candidates
One man certain to make his sekitori debut is Ms1w Naya, who can finish no worse than 5-2. Ms15w Ryuko (6-0) will join him if, and only if, he can best Ms35w Ito (6-0) in the yusho decider. Ms2e Yago (4-3) can finish no worse than 4th in the promotion queue, so with at least 4 Juryo slots opening up, he should be all set. Ms3e Kitaharima (4-2) is in with a win, which would mark a record-tying 9th Juryo promotion for him, and has a decent shot even with a loss. Ms2w Shiraishi (3-3) needs to win and hope for losses by either Kitaharima or Ryuko, or for a 5th slot to open. Three other members of the Makushita joi, all with 3-3 records (Bushozan, Terasawa, Kotokuzan), each need a final-bout victory and help from others to ascend to “heaven.”