The yusho race
The race for the Emperor’s Cup is going down to the wire! The sole leader, once-and-future Ozeki Terunofuji (11-3), can claim the title outright with a victory over Ozeki Takakeisho (10-4). Should the latter prevail, the pair will head into their second playoff in three tournaments, only this time joined by the winner of the bout between Komusubi Takayasu and under-the-radar contender M12 Aoiyama, both 10-4. Takayasu, loser of 3 of his last 4 bouts, has gone from leading the yusho race by 2 wins after Day 10 to trailing by a win after Day 14, while Aoiyama is riding a 6-day winning streak. Oh, and the lifetime series between the two is tied at 11 wins apiece!
Terunofuji, with 13, 11, and either 11 or 12 wins in his past three tournaments, should now be an absolute lock to regain the second-highest rank in sumo. Shodai (7-7) must defeat fellow Ozeki Asanoyama (9-5) in the musubi-no-ichiban to avoid kadoban status in May.
The san’yaku ranks
East Sekiwake Terunofuji will free up his slot via promotion. Takayasu is guaranteed a Sekiwake rank, and may take Terunofuji’s spot on the next banzuke. West Sekiwake Takanosho (7-7) needs to win his “Darwin bout” against M7 Tochinoshin (7-7) to hang on to his rank, but he would only drop to Komusubi with a loss. That’s two san’yaku slots spoken for. The other two will go to the incumbent Komusubi, Mitakeumi and Daieisho, both 7-7, if they can prevail over M6 Ichinojo (7-7) and M12 Akiseyama (7-7), respectively, in their own “Darwin bouts.” Should one or both falter, any open slots will be fought over by the three upper maegashira with 9-5 records: M2e Hokutofuji, M2w Wakatakakage, and M3e Meisei. The M2’s are matched up in a first-ever meeting, and the winner of that bout will lead the promotion queue. Meisei can leapfrog the loser by winning what seems like an easy bout against M14 Tsurugisho (9-5), but suprisingly, the latter leads their head-to-head 6-1.
One extra slot in the top division is opened up by Kakuryu’s retirement. Two others will be vacated by Kotoshoho and Yutakayama. Conveniently, the three openings have now been claimed by J2e Ishiura (9-5), J3e Chiyomaru (9-5), and J1w Akua (8-6). The only other endangered incumbent in M10e Midorifuji (4-10), who will be safe if he can best the much-higher-ranked M5 Okinoumi (3-11). If Midorifuji loses, he should still be safe unless J4e Enho (8-6) wins; in that scenario, it’s not clear which of the pair would get the final spot.
There are two near-certain demotions from Juryo: Yago and newcomer Bushozan. Still looking for victories on the final day are Chiyonoumi, Nishikifuji, and Nishikigi. So that’s a least three openings in the salaried ranks, and possibly as many as six. Remember that fully half of the 10 rikishi in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone are absent due to virus precautions, so things are looking good for those competing and kachi-koshi. Ms2e Oho (4-3) should bounce right back up to sekitori, and he’ll be joined by Ms2w Daishoho (5-1) and Ms3e Kotokuzan (4-2). Ms4e Tochimaru (4-3) will be hoping for losses among the endangered Juryo incumbents, and should more than one of them stumble, slots may even open for men not normally in line for promotion: Ms6e Roga (4-3) and either Ms6w Murata (4-3) or Ms7w Kaisho (5-2).