Meisei’s upset of Yokozuna Terunofuji (10-2) creates the potential for a lot of drama down the stretch. Could the Aki basho once again live up to the “Wacky Aki” moniker coined in 2017 when Yokozuna Harumafuji, trailing Ozeki Goeido by 3 wins after Day 11, caught him and won the yusho in a playoff, one of only 3 times in the modern era that the top division championship was claimed with only 11 wins?
Terunofuji still controls his own destiny, but should he lose to Mitakeumi tomorrow, all bets are off. Four rikishi, ranked between M6 and M11, are one win behind with 9. An additional four, including the 3 highest-ranked contenders on the banzuke (Shodai, Takakeisho, and Mitakeumi), plus the man at the very bottom of the rankings, M17e Chiyonokuni, are one more win off the pace with 8. The Day 13 matchups are such that we could end up with anything from a 5-way tie for the lead to 8 men trailing the leader by one win going into the final weekend.
Mitakeumi has locked down his East Sekiwake slot for his 17th appearance at the rank, which will tie for 8th all-time. Takayasu (4-8) will vacate his Komusubi slot. The other two san’yaku slots are still in play: Meisei (5-7) needs to win out to extend his maiden appearance at Sekiwake, but can limit his fall to Komusubi if he goes 2-1. Ichinojo (6-6) needs to go 2-1 or better to stay at Komusubi, and could even move up to Sekiwake if Meisei falters.
M2 Kiribayama (7-5) and M6 Onosho (9-3) are in a virtual tie for the first open san’yaku slot. A long-ish list of rikishi are still in contention, led by M1w Takanosho (6-6), M4 Daieisho (7-6), and M8 Okinoumi (9-3).
M16w Tokushoryu (3-9) is the first man to book his seat on the Juryo barge. The M15 duo of Ichiyamamoto and Chiyonoo, both 4-8, likely need to win out to avoid a drop. M14e Kaisei (4-8) needs at least two wins for safety, and three wouldn’t hurt. M16e Chiyomaru (7-5) is probably safe already, and one more win would make this a certainty, while M13w Tsurugisho (5-7) needs another win to ensure a stay in Makuuchi. I’d put the over-under on the number of open promotion slots at 3.5.
Who are the contenders for these slots? The leaders, with records that are already just good enough, are J1w Akua (8-4) and none other than J5e Abi (10-2), who could reclaim his place in the top division after more than a year away. Other contenders, who still need victories to buttress their case, are former Makuuchi mainstays J3w Sadanoumi and J4e Shohozan, both 8-4, and dark horse yusho race co-leader J9e Nishikifuji, 10-2.