Haru 2020 Day Twelve Recap
It's the closing kick for the Haru basho. All of the end game scenarios are in sight, but we still have plenty of ways this thing could go. The yusho has a handful of contenders still, while plenty of wrestlers are in contention for a kachi-koshi. Here's what's still left to be decided.
The Yusho Race
Yes, Aoiyama is your sole leader after Day Twelve. After the unbelievability of what Tokushoryu did in January, this may not seem so crazy. Rest assured it is. He's no stranger to double-digit wins, but it's about a once a year occurrence. His best performance was a 13 win Jun-Yusho at Nagoya 2017. It's not as wild as Tokushoryu winning from the bottom of the Banzuke, but Maegashira 13 wrestlers just don't typically do this well.
The difficulty is that Aoiyama needs to be perfect and have all of Hakuho, Kakuryu, and Asanoyama falter. That could easily happen because those three will all face each other (and Takakeisho) over the final three days, should tradition rule the schedule making. Shodai's defeat of Hakuho showed he is not in full classic Hakuho form, while Asanoyama and Kakuryu both lost matches they shouldn't have earlier this basho.
Aoiyama knocked Mitakeumi from the one win back group, and Asanoyama did the same to Takanosho. They both still have an outside shot at the yusho, although it would likely take a playoff.
The Sanyaku Slots
Here is actually the biggest question about who might be in Sanyaku for May: how many places will there be? The best answer is usually to say the same number will hold, but there is a small chance at an Ozeki promotion. If Asanoyama wins out, he will have a 13 win Yusho with two wins over Yokozuna. (And maybe a playoff win, depending on how Aoiyama does.) That would give him 34 wins over three tournaments, with a Yusho, a Jun-Yusho, and two victories over Yokozuna.
That makes it sound much easier than it is. He is going to get Hakuho, then Kakuryu, and then Takakeisho to close his tournament, and he either needs to win all three or get two wins with one over a Yokozuna. The Yokozuna are direct rivals for the yusho. Takakeisho has been performing poorly, but if he can scrape together two more wins he will avoid a kadoban status for May. He will likely be desperate to get the bare kachi-koshi.
The identity of the other Sanyaku is hard to say. If Asanoyama is not an Ozeki, he will remain at Sekiwake East. Shodai not only beat Hakuho on Day Twelve, but put himself at 6-6 and a decent chance at getting an 8-7 to hold onto his Sekiwake West slot. Mitakeumi, with 9 wins at Maegashira 3, is the likeliest to join Sanyaku as a Komusubi. Daieisho, Okinoumi, and Yutakayama could all still get their kachi-koshi and slip into a Komusubi rank.
The Kachi-Koshi/Make-Koshi Line
21 sekitori have between 5 and 7 wins, meaning they could all get a kachi-koshi still. Obviously, they won't, because sumo is a zero-sum game and someone must lose every day. The schedule will also reveal a lot of kachi-koshi elimination matches. Every wrestler wants a winning record and a promotion, but for some it means different things.
For all those on the titled rank bubble mentioned in the previous section, the prestige of Sanyaku could await them with 8 or more wins. But at the other end of the Banzuke, a host of rikishi are fighting to stay in Makuuchi. The last six wrestlers in the top division, Chiyomaru, Azumaryu, Shimanoumi, Meisei, Daiamami, and Kotonowaka all can still go either way. 8 wins means a guarantee of staying in Makuuchi. Kotonowaka gets it with one more win, Chiyomaru and Shimanoumi need two, while the rest must win out.
A few rikishi could be in line for a Special Prize. Usually, double-digit wins as a Maegashira or signature wins in a kachi-koshi get it for a wrestler. Mitakeumi, Aoiyama, and Takanosho fit the first criteria, while Onosho fits the second. Kotonowaka wins out, he'll get 10 wins in his debut basho, which sometimes gets a prize. Asanoyama also could be in contention if he wins out.
Almost every match over the last three days could shift any of the conversations detailed above. Haru might have been bizarre, with no fans and a global pandemic looming over everything, but it's going to have a good finish.