What’s at stake going into the final weekend? A lot!
The Yusho Race
Daiesho (11-2) is the sole leader, chased by Kiribayama, Wakamotoharu, and Midorifuji with 3 losses, and Hoshoryu, Kotonowaka, and Kinbozan with 4. A Day 14 win by Daieisho against Midorifuji eliminates everyone except Kiribayama and Wakamotoharu, at least one of whom must win to extend the race to Day 15. If Midorifuji can pull off the upset (the head-to-head is 1-1), then he stays in contention, along with Kiribayama, Wakamotoharu, and any Day 14 winners from the 4-loss group, with the potential for a multi-way playoff for the cup!
Of the seven current Sekiwake and Komusubi, all except K2e Tobizaru (4-9) will stay in San’yaku; the only question is at what ranks. We’ll have at least 3 Sekiwake: S1w Hoshoryu (9-4) and S2e Kiribayama (10-3) by virtue of their winning records, and K2e Daieisho (11-2) by virtue of his 11 wins. They can still be joined by S1e Wakatakakage (7-6), who followed his ice-cold 0-5 start with a 7-1 stretch and needs one more win to defend his rank, as well as K1e Wakamotoharu (10-3) and K1w Kotonowaka (9-4), who need one and two wins, respectively, to hit the requisite 11. Similar circumstances gave us a record five Sekiwake back in 1972, and we could easily match or exceed that total!
So the incumbents could sort themselves into anything from 3S/3K to 6S/0K. Depending on how this plays out, we could have no, one, or two open Komusubi slots. The promotion contenders are M1w Shodai (8-5), M5w Midorifuji (10-3), and M2e Abi (8-5), who, unusually, have to hope for wins by the incumbents!
I see no way that J1e Asanoyama (11-2) and J3e Ichinojo (12-1) can be denied promotion. The Juryo yusho race also comes down to these two; Asanoyama has to keep winning and hope that someone can hand a loss to Ichinojo (they already met on Day 4, with Ichinojo prevailing).
Whose spots would they take? The top candidate is J14w Bushozan (4-9), who’d be exchanged for either even if he wins out. M11e Azumaryu (3-10) has rallied to win 3 of his last 4, but still needs to win out to avoid a demotable record. M17e Mitoryu (7-6), M15w Oho (6-7), and M16w Tsurugisho (7-6) each need a win, and given the strength of the two promotion cases and the current dearth of demotion candidates, I might not rest completely easy if I were M12e Kagayaki (5-8) or even M15e Hokuseiho (7-6). We may even see a very rare over-demotion of someone who should be safe by the numbers if it’s necessary to accommodate one of the Juryo leaders.
On the other hand, if those in danger start piling up losses, the door could open to J1w Tohakuryu (7-6), J6e Gonoyama (9-4), J3w Shonannoumi (7-6), or J5w Enho (8-5).
First, an update on the Makushita yusho race! Ryuo prevailed after a long battle with Kaizen to take his first honors of any kind after an 11-year career in the lower divisions. He should be up in the promotion zone next time, where he can take his first shot at earning a sekitori debut.
The promotion queue looks like this:
- Ms2w Chiyosakae (5-1)
- Ms3w Kawazoe (4-2) with a win
- Ms2e Fujiseiun (4-3)
- Ms3e Tokihayate (4-3)
- Kawazoe with a loss
Kawazoe is up in Juryo tomorrow, where he’ll try to ensure his own promotion and open up another slot by beating J11e Shimanoumi (4-9). With J14e Tokushoryu (4-9) and J12e Tochimusashi (4-9) already headed down, that means that there’s definitely room for Chiyosakae and Fujiseiun either way, with Chiyosakae and Tokushoryu trading divisions for the second-straight basho. If Kawazoe loses, he falls to 4th in line, and he and Tokihayate would have to hope for enough losses by Shimanoumi, J10e Kotokuzan (4-9), and J9e Tsushimanada (4-9) to create space for them.