The yusho race won’t be decided until the Day 15 clash between the two top-ranked men on the banzuke, both undefeated going into the final weekend. Let’s look at what is at stake further down the banzuke.
Ozeki Shodai (7-6) needs one more win to avoid going kadoban, and unless he can upset Hakuho, he may have to get it against Takayasu on senshuraku.
Takayasu (7-4-2) similarly needs one more win to stay Sekiwake. He faces Terunofuji tomorrow and may also be in a must-win position on Day 15. On the bright side, he is guaranteed to fall no lower than Komusubi. Fellow Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7-6) needs one victory to hold rank, and has also already done enough to stay in san’yaku. Shin-Komusubi Meisei (7-6) is looking for a win to avoid an immediate return to the rank-and-file, while the other newcomer to the rank, Wakatakakage (3-9), has already failed to stave off demotion.
An interesting wrinkle here is that despite Wakatakakage‘s upcoming demotion, a san’yaku slot is not yet guaranteed to open. One or both Sekiwake could still finish with 7 wins, which would mean a drop to Komusubi. Suspended Asanoyama will be demoted from Ozeki to fill one Sekiwake slot, and if Meisei gets to 8 wins, that’s all four slots spoken for.
M2w Ichinojo (8-5) is the front-runner for the first open slot, but two consecutive losses, combined with victories by his pursuers, have greatly narrowed his lead. Promotion now seems most likely to go to whichever rikishi from among Ichinojo, M3e Hokutofuji (8-5), and M5w Hoshoryu (9-4) performs best on the final weekend. In the event that two losses by Meisei (plus wins by Mitakeumi and Takayasu) open up a second slot, other promotion candidates include M2e Takanosho (6-7), M6w Kiribayama (8-5), and even the double-digit duo M10e Tamawashi and M11w Kotonowaka, both 10-3.
At the other end of the scale, M14e Daiamami (3-10) now has a demotable record, and it will take two wins and a lot of banzuke luck to keep him in the top division. M15w Tokushoryu (5-8) needs to win out to lock down a place in Makuuchi. M13e Chiyomaru (5-8) and M17e Ichiyamamoto (7-6) are each looking for a victory to reach safety, while everyone else should be back in September.
Down in Juryo, J1e Yutakayama (10-3) is assured of promotion, while Juryo co-leader J6w Mitoryu (10-3) is one win away. J2e Kyokutaisei (7-6), J2w Akua (7-6) and J3 Wakamotoharu (7-6) must win out and hope for losses by the endangered incumbents.
A sad update: Kyokutaisei is kyujo after what looked like a bad landing in his loss to Tokushoryu, ending (at least for the moment) his quest to return to Makuuchi, after his two previous appearances there were both derailed by injury.
At the bottom of Juryo, injured Akiseyama and suspended Ryuden will be falling to Makushita along with J13w Kotokuzan (2-11). J12e Daishoho (5-8) is the other most-endangered sekitori, and probably needs to win out to keep his salary. Also not out of danger are J10w Kyokushuho (5-8) and J9w Midorifuji (4-9).
The race for promotion from the third division to the second will be fierce, with as many as 6 contenders for between 2 and 5 slots, and will feature a number of exchange bouts between those hoping to earn a salary and those hoping to keep theirs. One thing is for certain though: Hakuho’s protege Ms2w Hokuseiho (7-0) will be making his much-awaited sekitori debut after only six professional tournaments (not counting the one he sat out with the rest of his stable due to the virus). Hokuseiho’s record in the lower divisions stands at 39-3, with the full set of 7-0 yusho in Jonokuchi, Jonidan, Sandanme, and Makushita. Oh, did I mention he’s only 19?