Nagoya State of Play, Day 11

The yusho race

Undefeated Mitakeumi (11-0) leads by 2 wins over the M13 duo of Tochiozan and Asanoyama. Having finally overcome Kaisei, tomorrow the leader takes on another bugbear in Takayasu, who has defeated the Sekiwake in 6 straight bouts. Tochiozan faces Myogiryu, while Asanoyama moves way up the banzuke to take on Kaisei. The 3-loss group is down to four men: Goeido, Endo, Yutakayama, and Hokutofuji. And of course, the schedulers have paired them off for tomorrow (Goeido vs. Endo and Yutakayama vs. Hokutofuji), so tomorrow it will be down to two.

The upper ranks

Goeido got his all-important 8th win to clear his kadoban status. It will be interesting to see how much resistance he puts up against Endo, who has beaten the Ozeki the last four times they’ve faced off. Takayasu is still looking for his 8th after losing to a suddenly awake Ichinojo, who helped his own chances of staying in San’yaku. Tamawashi lost, putting his own San’yaku status in some doubt. Despite his loss to Endo, Takakeisho still leads the scramble for promotion to San’yaku, with IkioiChiyonokuni, Kaisei and Endo in pursuit.

The demotion danger zone

The group in danger of demotion dwindled considerably. Chiyoshoma, Chiyomaru and Ryuden still need a win apiece, while OkinoumiYoshikaze and Ishiura need two. If the basho ended today, going down would be Arawashi, who likely needs to win 3 of the last 4 to avoid this fate, and the two debutants, Kotoeko and Meisei, who both now have zero room for error.

Takanoiwa will definitely rejoin the top division in September, and he is most likely to be joined by Takanosho and Kotoyuki.

Nagoya State of Play, Day 10

The yusho race

Undefeated Mitakeumi (10-0) leads by 2 wins over the M13 duo of Tochiozan and Asanoyama—not exactly what anyone would have predicted before the basho! Tomorrow, the leader takes on 7-3 M4 Kaisei, whom he’s never beaten in 4 attempts. Tochiozan has a big bout against 7-3 M6 Chiyotairyu, while Asanoyama faces 5-5 M10 Nishikigi. At this point, Mitakeumi would have to lose three times in 5 matches for the large 7-3 group, which includes both remaining Ozeki, to come into contention.

The upper ranks

The kadoban Ozeki both stand at 7-3 and need one win apiece to be off “probation.” This could happen as early as tomorrow, with Goeido facing 3-7 M5 Daishomaru and Takayasu taking on listless Ichinojo.

We already know that Mitakeumi will retain his Sekiwake rank, while Komusubi Shohozan will be demoted back down to the maegashira ranks. The other Komusubi, Tamawashi, at 6-4 is in good shape to stay in San’yaku, and likely move up to Sekiwake, as 4-6 Ichinojo seems unlikely to go 4-1 against a slate of opponents that includes Mitakeumi and both Ozeki. Takakeisho leads the scramble for promotion to San’yaku, with Chiyonokuni and Kaisei close behind.

The demotion danger zone

One win in the final 5 days would remove Chiyoshoma, Kyokutaisei, Chiyomaru, Hokutofuji, and Ryuden from any danger of demotion, while even a single loss would seal the fate of MeiseiKotoeko needs 4 wins to reach safety, while Ishiura, Okinoumi, and Arawashi need 3. And then there’s Yoshikaze, whose 2 needed victories seem ever further out of reach…

Takanoiwa has likely already punched his ticket back to the top division. The other candidates for promotion from Juryo are TakanoshoKotoyuki, Daimami and Aminishiki.

Nagoya Nakabi Report

Heading into the final week of the basho, here’s where things stand.

The yusho race

Mitakeumi leads with 8 wins, followed by Endo and Asanoyama with 7 apiece and Takayasu, Chiyotairyu, and Tochiozan with 6. With seven days to go and no proven winners, it’s anyone’s game, and I wouldn’t even rule out the nine-strong 5-win group.

The upper ranks

Given the decimation of the upper ranks, 6-2 Takayasu and 5-3 Goeido seem very likely to pick up the 8 wins they need to clear their kadoban status. Sadly, injured Tochinoshin will be kadoban at Aki, although a healthy Tochinoshin should have little trouble achieving kachi-koshi in September.

With Mitakeumi driving for the yusho and the start of an Ozeki run, he has already met his basic goal of 8 wins, thereby ensuring that he will remain Sekiwake at Aki. At 5-3 and with only one tough opponent left to face (Takayasu tomorrow), Tamawashi is in good shape to defend his Komusubi rank, and possibly move up to Sekiwake. On the other hand, Shohozan, even with easier bouts coming up, seems unlikely to go 7-0 after starting 1-7, which is what it would take for him to remain in San’yaku. And 3-5 Ichinojo better wake up fast if he is to pick up the 5 wins required to remain Sekiwake, or even the 4 he needs to only get demoted to Komusubi. And he’ll have to do it against the toughest part of his schedule.

Endo is currently in the best position to take advantage of any San’yaku openings, with Takakeisho, Chiyonokuni, Kaisei and Chiyotairyu also in the mix.

The demotion danger zone

The two newcomers to Makuuchi are in serious trouble, having managed only 2 wins apiece. M16w Meisei, ranked at the very bottom of the top division, need to go 6-1 to avoid an immediate return to Juryo, while M14e Kotoeko has a little more breathing room, needing 5 more victories.

The rest of the M14-M16 crew is in decent shape, all having gone 4-4 so far, but because of their low rank, Hokutofuji, Ryuden, Ishiura and Okinoumi can’t rest on their laurels, and need 3-4 more wins to reach safe harbor. Joining them in this position are 3-5 Arawashi and 1-7 Kyokutaisei, while Chiyomaru, Sadanoumi and Aoiyama need two apiece, as does winless 🙁 Yoshikaze, who sadly seems to have really hit a wall this basho.

Four men down in Juryo are currently in the best position to move up to the top division in September: Makuuchi regulars Takanoiwa, Aminishiki and Kotoyuki, as well as possible newcomer Takanosho.

Day 6 Demotion to Juryo Danger Level

The following rikishi still need wins to avoid demotion to Juryo for Aki. The danger level corresponds to the approximate number of victories required in the remaining 9 days and ranges from low (Asanoyama, probably safe with one more win and definitely with 2) to high (Meisei, needs to go 6-3 or better to avoid going right back down after one top-division tournament).

Asanoyama 1.5
Nishikigi 2
Yoshikaze 2.5
Aoiyama 2.5
Onosho 2.5
Tochiozan 2.5
Chiyoshoma 3
Kyokutaisei 3
Chiyomaru 3
Okinoumi 3
Sadanoumi 4
Hokutofuji 4
Ishiura 4.5
Ryuden 4.5
Arawashi 5
Kotoeko 5
Meisei 6

Act One “Safe Harbor” Report

With the first third of the basho in the books, not much has been decided, as one would expect with ten days of competition still to come. However, one goal of all Makuuchi rikishi is to remain in the top division for the next tournament, and some have already done enough to accomplish this.

Not surprisingly, how many wins it takes to stay in Makuuchi depends on the wrestler’s rank. A single victory at M1 or M2 is sufficient, while nothing short of 8 wins will do at M16, with intermediate win thresholds between these two extremes. So where do we stand after Day 5?

Everyone ranked M4 or higher has done enough to be safe from demotion, as have the two M6s, Endo and Chiyotairyu, with their 4-1 records. M5e Daishomaru (1-4) and M5w Yoshikaze (0-5) still have work to do, while the M7 duo of Takarafuji and Daieisho (both 3-2) are right on the cusp of safety, as is M9 Myogiryu (4-1).

Obviously, 10 days is plenty of time for those not yet safe to earn enough victories, but while it’s too early for someone like M8 Kyokutaisei (0-5) to panic, M12 Arawashi (0-5) and M16 Meisei (1-4) need to start banking wins in a hurry.

 

How New Blood Fares in Makuuchi

mitakeumiIt struck me that we’ve seen lots of exciting newcomers to Makuuchi recently (Takakeisho, Onosho, Abi, just to name a few) and that the rikishi newly promoted to the top division seem to stick around. Obviously, given the fixed number of 42 Makuuchi slots, this would mean a fair bit of turnover. I decided to do a bit of research to see if this impression is accurate, and how top-division debutantes tend to fare.

There are many ways one could go about this analysis. To keep things simple, I looked up the rikishi making their Makuuchi debuts between Nagoya 2015 and the current tournament. This gave me a pool of 26 men. I first asked how many of them are fighting in the top division in Nagoya. The answer is 18, meaning that the majority (70%) of the recent newcomers have stuck around, and that almost half of the Makuuchi ranks from 3 years ago have turned over.

I then looked a little more closely at the 18 rikishi currently in Makuuchi, as well as the 8 who’ve dropped out of the top division since making their debuts. A few interesting categories emerged (the groupings below are somewhat subjective; please leave your own thoughts in the comments).

Head of the class

There are two clear standouts. Both made their debuts almost three years ago, one basho apart, rose rapidly through the ranks, and never dropped to Juryo, or come anywhere close. The difference between them is that while Mitakeumi (17 consecutive basho in Makuuchi) has become a San’yaku mainstay, Shodai (16 consecutive basho in Makuuchi) ascended rapidly to his highest rank of Sekiwake, but since then has dropped into the upper maegashira ranks. The potential is still there for him to take his sumo to the next level.

Makuuchi mainstays

Those in this group have been in Makuuchi for at least 10 consecutive basho and achieved a rank of M5 or higher. Daishomaru, Chiyoshoma, Hokutofuji, and Takakeisho have never dropped to Juryo since making their debuts; Kagayaki went back down after his first top-division tournament, but hasn’t looked back since rejoining Makuuchi a couple basho later.

Future mainstays?

The rikishi in the group so far lack either the seniority, the consistency, or the performance quality of the group above, but may well get there with time and good health. By necessity, this group is rather heterogeneous, and the fates of its members may diverge over time. It includes recent mainstay Daieisho, the underperforming but determined Nishikigi, former Komusubi Onosho, who is returning from injury, Asanoyama, who could use a ranking above M11 and a few more top-division basho under his belt, as well as Ishiura, Abi, Ryuden, and Yutakayama.

Too soon to tell

Kyokutaisei (second Makuuchi basho) and current debutantes Kotoeko and Meisei.

Up and down

Hidenoumi made the earliest debut of the entire pool of riskishi considered in this post (Nagoya 2015). Since then, he’s dropped back to Juryo 4 times, and returned to Makuuchi on 3 occasions, most recently in March. We’ll see if he improves, fades, or continues to yo-yo as his career progresses. Daiamami spent 3 basho in the top division following his debut, but dropped out after his 4-11 performance in May. He is currently ranked J2, and I expect to see him back.

The very, very sad injury

Ura 🙁

Cup of coffee

The following rikishi spent either one or two [edit: 3 for Seiro] tournaments in Makuuchi, none recently: Seiro, Akiseyama, Kitaharima, Amakaze, Chiyonoo (as Chiyoo).

Nagoya Banzuke Prediction Postmortem

Now that the official banzuke is out, it’s time once again to review how my predictions fared.

The San’yaku

Here, my forecast was right on the money: all ten slots were predicted correctly. There was some talk about whether Shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin would leapfrog the two incumbent kadoban Ozeki, Goeido and Takayasu, in the standings. Instead, as predicted, he begins his Ozeki career at O2w (the additional wrinkle here is that he is placed on the less prestigious West side, leaving the O1e rank empty, in order to balance the two sides).

It was clear that the Sekiwake ranks would be occupied by Ichinojo and Mitakeumi, although there was some question about the order. As predicted, the incumbent, Ichinojo, is ranked ahead of Mitakeumi, who is returning to the rank after spending a tournament at Komusubi, despite Mitakeumi’s better win total (9 vs. 8) and head-to-head victory over Ichinojo. Also as forecast, the Komusubi slots are occupied by Tamawashi and Shohozan, neither of whom is a newcomer to the rank. Shodai has to settle for M1e, and is in pole position for any potential San’yaku openings should he achieve kachi-koshi in Nagoya.

The Rank-and-File

Here the forecast record is a lot more mixed. Of the 32 maegashira ranks, I correctly predicted 16, and for 11 of these I also got the side correct. Of the other 16 predictions, 13 were off by one rank, typically as a result of a switch between two consecutively ranked rikishi (e.g. 10w Nishikigi and 11e Aoiyama) or a more complex local rearrangement.

This brings me to the three more substantial misses. Two that could have been anticipated resulted from the banzuke committee’s noted bias against promotions from Juryo. I tried to take this into account by dropping Onosho and Kotoeko, who by my formula should have been ranked M8 and M11, to M9 and M12, respectively. The banzuke committee was much harsher, ranking the two M11 and M14. This is especially surprising to me in the case of Onosho, a recent Makuuchi mainstay who was only back down in Juryo for a single tournament due to injury and won the yusho with an impressive 12-3 record from J1, but nevertheless got treated like someone making his top-division debut. (I’ll note parenthetically that I correctly forecast the three promotions, Onosho, Kotoeko, and Meisei, who occupies the final M16w rung, and the corresponding demotions of Takekaze (J1e), Daiamami (J2e) and Aminishiki (J4w)).

This brings us to by far my biggest miss in this or any previous forecast, by a whopping five ranks, and one where I find the banzuke committee’s decision completely baffling. M3 Yutakayama, after putting up a disastrous 2-13 record, finds himself demoted only 6 ranks, landing at M9. My forecast had him at M14, which one could argue was slightly harsh, but even M11 would have been extremely charitable, and M9 is beyond generous. For comparison, the next-worst-performing rikishi, Ryuden, was demoted 8 ranks despite a slightly better 3-12 record. Perhaps the quality of Yutakayama’s losses was taken into account, although this is not something the banzuke committee generally engages in. It’s hard to argue that his ranking is simply a consequence of good banzuke luck, as several rikishi with kachi-koshi or minimal make-koshi records deserve to be ranked ahead of him. If anyone has an explanation, I’d love to hear it.

 

Fun with Google Translate

Apparently former Ozeki Terunofuji is to undergo knee surgery? Or at least that’s what I think I gathered from Google’s attempt at translating the story below. Some of it seems rather alarming: “which knee to operate on the left or right is undecided” while other parts are downright poetic: “If it is all closed again, it will drop the ranking down to the bottom of the curtain at the autumn scene.” Perhaps someone with better (i.e. some) knowledge of Japanese can enlighten us further.

Mr. Tuno Fuji, knee surgery Nagoya place full leave master “tightly cure”

6/13 (Wed) 6: 01 distribution

Sponti Annex

 Ten two Teruno Fuji (26 = Isekehama room) will surgery his knees during this month, and it is expected that the Nagoya place (the first day of July 8, Dolphins Arena) will be completely closed. Master teacher Ise Kohama (former Yokozuna and Asahi Fuji) on Saturday, Osaka Prefecture Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, “I will operate the knee (in Nagoya place) without thinking in common sense. I will not cure it firmly. ” It is undecided which knee to operate on the left or right is undecided, “I have been going to a hospital today, after listening to the results.”

Tuno Fuji is a left knee meniscus injury twice in the past. The right knee anterior cruciate that hurt in 15 years had been treated without surgery. In the summer of May, 9 nines and 6 holidays ended, and in Nagoya place it is definitely the first time ever to fall as a former Ozeki. If it is all closed again, it will drop the ranking down to the bottom of the curtain at the autumn scene.

Nagoya ’18 Banzuke Crystal Ball

Meisei_banzuke

Don’t want to wait for the official banzuke announcement on June 25th? The Crystal Ball is here to give you a good idea of how it’s likely to play out.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Goeido

Takayasu

O2

Tochinoshin

Natsu saw Kakuryu take the yusho, Hakuho put up a creditable performance, and Kisenosato sit out. As a result, there is no change in the Yokozuna rankings. Goeido at least showed up, unlike Takayasu, and as a result, he takes over the O1e slot, with the shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin entering the upper ranks at O2e.

Lower San’yaku

S

Ichinojo

Mitakeumi

K

Tamawashi

Shohozan

Ichinojo did just enough at 8-7 to stay at Sekiwake, and Tochinoshin’s promotion allows him to move over to the East side. Mitakeumi moves up to West Sekiwake. Both Komusubi slots are open, one by promotion and the other by demotion, and should go to M1e Tamawashi and M2e Shohozan, the two highest-ranked maegashira to earn winning records.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Shodai

Chiyonokuni

M2

Kotoshogiku

Ikioi

M3

Abi

Kaisei

M4

Kagayaki

Takakeisho

M5

Daishomaru

Yoshikaze

Due to the depletion of the San’yaku ranks by injury, everyone ranked in this part of the banzuke at Natsu took a turn in the meat grinder. Most actually held up pretty well, with Tamawashi and Shohozan earning San’yaku promotions, and 5 others (in bold) holding on to the upper maegashira ranks. M3e Daieisho and M4e Chiyotairyu only managed 5 and 6 wins, respectively, and will fall out of this group. Falling the hardest will be M3w Yutakayama, who could only eke out 2 wins in his first tournament in the joi.

The opposite outcome in this games of chutes and ladders belongs to Chiyonokuni, who earned 12 victories from M11w and whom I have moving all the way up to M1w. His career-high rank, M1e, was at Natsu 2017, and ended in a 2-13 beating, from which it took him a year to work his way back. Taking lesser jumps up the banzuke are those from the mid-maegashira ranks with positive records (in italic): Kagayaki, Takakeisho, Daishomaru, and Yoshikaze.

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Daieisho

Endo

M8

Chiyoshoma

Kyokutaisei

M9

Myogiryu

Onosho (J)

M10

Chiyomaru

Aoiyama

M11

Nishikigi

Sadanoumi

Being in this relatively safe part of the banzuke represents a promotion for Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu, Aoiyama, Nishikigi, and Sadanoumi and a demotion for Chiyotairyu, Daieisho, Endo, and Chiyomaru. Chiyoshoma and Takarafuji are treading water. Takarafuji, in particular, is forecast to benefit from good banzuke luck and hold on to his ranking at M6w despite a losing 7-8 record. He should be demoted, but the three guys I have ranked right below him all had worse make-koshi records and receive fairly lenient demotions as it is. Also making his Makuuchi return here is recent mainstay Onosho, who we hope continues his rapid re-ascent of the rankings.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Kotoeko (J)

Arawashi

M13

Asanoyama

Yutakayama

M14

Tochiozan

Okinoumi

M15

Ryuden

Hokutofuji

M16

Ishiura

Meisei (J)

Here we have the second-strongest promotion candidate from Juryo, Kotoeko, making his Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing out in the previous tournament. Kotoeko, 26, started in sumo in 2007, under a name which I kinda wish he’d kept just so we could listen to announcers trying to get it right—Kotokashiwadani. He’s been in Juryo for the past 12 tournaments.

The only Makuuchi holdover in this group with a kachi-koshi is Tochiozan, who moves up from M15e to M14e after going 8-7. Arawashi and Asanoyama each went 7-8 and get minimal demotions due to good banzuke luck, Yutakayama lands here after plummeting down the banzuke, while Okinoumi and, especially, the trio of Ryuden, Hokutofuji, and Ishiura are lucky to remain in the top division.

I have the last spot going to another rikishi making his Makuuchi debut—Meisei—who takes the place of Takekaze, the last man I have going down to Juryo. Meisei is only 22, having started in sumo in 2011. He’s had 7 fairly strong consecutive tournaments in Juryo, going 9-6, 9-6, 9-6, 7-8, 8-7, 7-8, and 10-5, so hopefully he’ll be ready for his first taste of the big leagues.

Natsu Wrap-up and Nagoya Forecast

Upper San’yaku

Kakuryu added to his Yokozuna bonafides with his second consecutive yusho, his 5th overall. He has to be the early yusho favorite going into Nagoya. Hakuho showed some rust and was clearly fighting at less than 100%, but nevertheless stayed in yusho contention until the penultimate day. I hope that we see a stronger and more motivated dai-Yokozuna in Nagoya. Whither Kisenosato? Who knows.

Both of the current Ozeki will be kadoban in Nagoya, Takayasu after sitting out the entire tournament and Goeido after withdrawing on Day 9 with a 3-5 record. We can only hope that they will be sufficiently recovered from their injuries to attempt to achieve the 8 wins they need to maintain their rank. And of course, the big news of the basho is that we will have a third Ozeki, Tochinoshin!

Lower San’yaku

Ichinojo did just enough to defend his Sekiwake rank, and Mitakeumi will join him after recording 9 wins. Nagoya will be Mitakeumi’s 9th consecutive tournament in San’yaku, and will mark his return to sumo’s third-highest rank, which he held for 5 straight basho before Natsu.

The Komusubi ranks were determined on the final day, and should go to M1e Tamawashi and M2e Shohozan. Tamawashi has been a San’yaku regular in recent years, and only bad banzuke luck kept him in the maegashira ranks for Natsu. Shohozan will match his highest career rank, which he previously held 4 times, most recently in 2014. Both men had to overcome tough starts, which is typical for the upper maegashira ranks: Tamawashi needed to win his final 5 bouts to achieve kachi-koshi, while Shohozan won 6 of his last 7.

Upper Maegashira

Narrowly missing out on promotion in a final-day de facto play-off with Tamawashi was Shodai, who should hold the top maegashira slot in Nagoya. He will be joined in the joi by M11 Chiyonokuni, who’ll make a huge leap up the banzuke after his best-ever 12-3 tournament. His previous trip to the top of the maegashira ranks resulted in a 2-13 implosion, so hopefully he’s better-equipped to handle that level of competition. Despite their losing records, Abi and Kaisei acquitted themselves well enough for another turn in the meat grinder, and while Kotoshogiku and Ikioi got roughed up after being pressed into joi duty at M5, and did not quite do enough for promotion, their 8-7 records will place them firmly in the joi in Nagoya. With the San’yaku ranks being replenished to ten, the joi line might not extend as far down the banzuke, but standing ready to take their turns if injury strikes are the top performers from the mid-maegashira ranks: Kagayaki, Takakeisho, and Daishomaru.

Lower Maegashira

Makuuchi newcomer and special prize winner Kyokutaisei fought his way out of the M12-M16 danger zone, as did Aoiyama and the habitual basement-dwelling duo of Myogiryu and Nishikigi, who both uncharacteristically earned double-digit victories. Taking another turn in the lower portion of the banzuke are Arawashi, Asanoyama, Sadanoumi, Tochiozan, and Ishiura. They’ll be joined by the worst performers from the mid-maegashira ranks—Okinoumi, Ryuden, and Hokutofuji—as well as by M3 Yutakayama, who predictably got pummeled after jumping 8 ranks into the joi, and who’ll continue his roller-coaster ride by dropping about 10 ranks. Yutakayama fought well despite the heavy loss total, and we can expect a much better performance from him in a more comfortable region of the banzuke.

Promotions and Demotions

Ishiura saved himself with his final-day victory, while Takekaze’s win was too little, too late, and he’ll be returning to Juryo. Daimami lost the elimination bout to Ryuden, and will also be going down. And Aminishiki will be seeing more of today’s Juryo opponent, Takonosho, in Nagoya.

Juryo yusho winner Onosho and runner-up Kotoeko should be ranked fairly high for Juryo promotees on the Makuuchi banzuke in Nagoya, while Meisei should occupy the very last M16w rung (Tochinoshin’s promotion eliminates the M17e rank). Just missing out is Akiseyama, who will have the opportunity to earn his second trip to the top division from J1.

Natsu State of Play, Day 14

The Yusho Race

Ichinojo’s win over Hakuho had two major consequences, the first of which was to knock the Yokozuna out of yusho contention. Hakuho can still play spoiler though. I’m sure he’d love to prevail over Kakuryu in the senshuraku clash of the Yokozuna. Should he do so, and should Tochinoshin beat Ikioi, we will have a two-man playoff for all the marbles. Otherwise, it’s Kakuryu’s yusho. Hakuho holds a 39-6 career edge over Kakuryu, while Tochinoshin has defeated Ikioi 7 times in 11 bouts.

Remaining matches

Day 15: Tochinoshin vs. IkioiHakuho vs. Kakuryu

The San’yaku

The other consequence of Ichinojo’s victory is that we know he and Mitakeumi will occupy the two Sekiwake slots in Nagoya. The two meet tomorrow, with only pride at stake.

However, there is still a lot to settle on senshuraku in terms of who will take over the two vacant Komusubi slots. Shodai remains in pole position, and can clinch promotion with a win over Tamawashi, simultaneously knocking the latter out of the race. Should Tamawashi prevail, he would get his kachi-koshi and claim one slot, with the other going either to Shodai, Shohozan if he beats Takarafuji, or Abi if he beats Yoshikaze and Shohozan loses. Should Tamawashi, Shohozan, and Abi all lose, going make-koshi and hence being ineligible for promotion, then four men would be in contention, in the following rank order: Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Chiyonokuni, Kagayaki (with the last two facing each other). The highest-ranked member of this quartet to win should get the slot.

The Line Between Makuuchi  and Juryo

Takekaze’s loss today will probably send him down to join his fellow elder statesman Aminishiki in Juryo. A loss tomorrow to Okinoumi will seal his fate.  If he wins, he still needs to hope for at least two losses among the trio of IshiuraDaiamami and Ryuden. Ishiura may have a lifeline in the form of a bout with Juryo visitor Kyokushuho, while Daiamami faces Ryuden in what could well be a playoff for the last spot in Makuuchi. Arawashi reached safety with today’s win, leaving Hokutofuji as the only other maegashira at less than 100% safety.

KotoekoOnosho and Meisei should all be in the top division in Nagoya, although Meisei’s loss today, which knocked him out of the Juryo yusho race, leaves him one win short of being guaranteed promotion. He’ll try again tomorrow against Kotoyuki. J5 Akiseyama has a slim chance of promotion if he beats Terutsuyoshi and things really go south for the men above trying to hang on to Makuuchi.

Natsu State of Play, Day 13

The Yusho Race

Well, well, well. Tochinoshin did not display his usual patience and went down in defeat to, of all people, Shodai! This result means that the yusho will come down to the final bouts on senshuraku. Kakuryu won, matching Tochinoshin at 12-1, and Hakuho also won, moving to one off the lead at 11-2. With the two leaders meeting tomorrow, we know that the winner will go into the final day with 13 victories. Thus, the yusho will be won with either a 14-1 or a 13-2 record. This means that Hakuho can’t win it outright, and must defeat Ichinojo tomorrow and Kakuryu on senshuraku to have a chance of getting into a playoff.

The winner of tomorrow’s clash between Tochinoshin and Kakuryu is guaranteed at least a spot in the playoff, and can clinch the yusho with a final-day victory. The loser needs the winner to lose on senshuraku to have a chance at a playoff. So the possible scenarios still include a Tochinoshin outright yusho, a Kakuryu outright yusho, a playoff between any pair of the three contenders, or every fan’s dream, a three-way playoff. Four matches, with 16 possible outcomes, will determine which we get, and Herouth has put together a handy spreadsheet to track the possibilities.

Remaining matches

Day 14: Tochinoshin vs. KakuryuHakuho vs. Ichinojo

Day 15: Tochinoshin vs. Ikioi (?), Hakuho vs. Kakuryu

The San’yaku

Mitakeumi won today to clinch a San’yaku slot and a promotion back up to Sekiwake. Ichinojo lost, and needs one more win to ensure that he remains Sekiwake.

With his upset victory, Shodai is in the pole position for promotion to San’yaku. He takes on Mitakeumi tomorrow, and, I am going to predict, Tamawashi on senshuraku. The winner of Tamawashi-Ikioi tomorrow will take the lead in the race for the second open slot. ShohozanAbi, and  Kotoshogiku all still have a chance at promotion, and even M11 Chiyonokuni, the only rikishi outside the Big Three to earn double-digit victories, is on the outskirts of the San’yaku picture.

The Line Between Makuuchi  and Juryo

If the tournament ended today, the men going down would be AminishikiIshiura, and Takekaze. The latter two may save themselves by winning both of their remaining matches. Arawashi, Daiamami and Ryuden need one win apiece for safety, and the latter two might need two. Given that three men in Juryo have clearly earned promotion, absent Hokutofuji is looking less than 100% safe.

KotoekoOnosho and Meisei should all be in the top division in Nagoya. J5 Akiseyama has a slim chance to join them if he wins his final two matches and things really go south for the men above trying to hang on to Makuuchi.

Natsu State of Play, Day 12

The Yusho Race

Kakuryu outlasted Ikioi, and Tochinoshin prevailed over Hakuho in an epic battle. Congratulations, Shin-Ozeki! Going into the final three days, Tochinoshin leads at 12-0, followed by 11-1 Kakuryu and 10-2 Hakuho. Tochinoshin obviously controls his destiny: win out, and he claims a zensho yusho. He also has the easiest remaining schedule. Kakuryu also controls his destiny: if he can win out, defeating Tochinoshin on Saturday, the yusho would likely come down to a playoff between the two on senshuraku. Hakuho needs a lot of help to get into a playoff: even if Kakuryu defeats Tochinoshin, he needs the Georgian to pick up a second loss in one of his other two matches. If Tochinoshin defeats Kakuryu, he’d have to drop both of his other matches, which seems unlikely.

Remaining matches

Day 13: Tochinoshin vs. Shodai, Hakuho vs. Ikioi, Kakuryu vs. Ichinojo

Day 14: Tochinoshin vs. KakuryuHakuho vs. Ichinojo

Day 15: Tochinoshin vs. Ikioi (?), Hakuho vs. Kakuryu

The San’yaku

Two San’yaku slots will open up with Endo’s demotion and Tochinoshin’s promotion. Mitakeumi lost today and still needs to pick up a win to make sure it’s not three. A lot is on the line: if he can win one of his remaining 3 matches, he’ll move up to Sekiwake; if not, he’ll drop out of San’yaku altogether. Ichinojo also lost, and needs one more win to ensure that he remains Sekiwake. One of them is guaranteed to pick up a win when they face off on senshuraku, and this may be Ichinojo’s best chance, as his other remaining bouts are against the two Yokozuna. Mitakeumi has Kotoshogiku tomorrow, and likely Shodai on Saturday.

Ikioi and Shodai lead the promotion candidates for now, followed by Kotoshogiku and, surprisingly, Tamawashi, whom we’ve written off but who may yet get back to San’yaku if he can win all three of his remaining matches. Shohozan and Abi dropped off the paces with their losses today, and also need to win out to have a chance.

The Line Between Makuuchi  and Juryo

One slot in the top division will open up with Aminishiki’s demotion. Ishiura won today, but still needs to win out to survive, while Takekaze lost, putting him in the same position. Arawashi probably needs to win twice to be safe, while Daiamami and Ryuden need one win apiece. Everyone else has done enough to remain in Makuuchi in July.

Kotoeko has guaranteed a top-division debut, while Onosho has locked up a quick return to Makuuchi. Meisei still needs a win to join them, and that rounds out the list of legitimate promotion candidates in Juryo.

Natsu State of Play, Day 11

The Yusho Race

No change today, with the Big Three all winning. Tomorrow, we get the undercard of Kakuryu vs. Ikioi, followed by the headline event of the basho, Hakuho vs. Tochinoshin. We could emerge with anything from a 3-way tie to a commanding lead for our next Ozeki.

The San’yaku

It looks increasingly likely that exactly two San’yaku slots will open up, one with Endo’s now certain demotion and the other with Tochinoshin’s promotion. With his win today, Ichinojo cemented a San’yaku rank and needs one more win to ensure that this rank remains Sekiwake, while Mitakeumi lost and still needs one win to move back up to Sekiwake. His next chance comes tomorrow against Chiyotairyu.

The promotion picture is quite muddled. Ikioi is currently in the lead. Shohozan’s win over Abi gives him the advantage between the two, and Shodai and Kotoshogiku remain very much in the picture. Tomorrow’s key matches include Kotoshogiku vs. Ichinojo, Abi vs. Daieisho, and Shohozan vs. Shodai.

The Line Between Makuuchi  and Juryo

Aminishiki is definitely headed back down to Juryo. Ishiura needs to win out to survive, and takes on Aminishiki tomorrow in what’s likely his easiest remaining match. Takekaze’s loss today puts him next in line for demotion.

With victories today, J2 Kotoeko and J1 Onosho have almost certainly clinched promotion. J4 Meisei also won, putting him in good position to move up should a third Makuuchi slot open up.