Hatsu 2020 Day Twelve Recap
Three matches left for anyone, barring playoffs of course, and that leaves some big questions about how the Hatsu basho will finish.
Who will win the yusho?
Mathematically, anyone with 8 wins could still win, but that would involve a lot of weird coincidences before a playoff among 11-win rikishi. Realistically, there are three actual contenders, Ozeki East Takakeisho, Maegashira 4 West Shodai, and Maegashira 17 West Tokushoryu. As weird as those ranks are, even weirder is that Shodai and Tokushoryu are sitting at 11-1, while Takakeisho is at 10-2. Takakeisho has already lost to Shodai, and he might get Tokushoryu if no one gives him another loss.
Takakeisho is the favorite based on past history (i.e. he has won a yusho before), although Shodai has probably been fighting the best and Tokushoryu keeps pulling out some amazing wins. Some comments should be given for the 9 win trio of Hokutofuji, Kagayaki, and Yutakayama. Hokutofuji had his three losses in a row on Days 5 through 7, but has been red hot since. Kagayaki and Yutakayama got their third losses on Day 12.
All of the six men mentioned in this section will look to win out, because they probably would all need it for a yusho. They've also all been fighting the best of anyone in Makuuchi this basho.
Who is fighting for a Sanyaku rank?
Let's start with the Ozeki, because Day Twelve guaranteed there will be one Ozeki in March, current Ozeki East Takakeisho. Goeido lost to Asanoyama to guarantee his demotion to Sekiwake for Haru. (He'll have the chance to return to Ozeki with ten wins in March, but his form in Hatsu makes that seem doubtful.) Asanoyama's win got him closer to being the other Sekiwake, although he needs one more win in the last three days. If he can't do that, Shodai might well jump up to Sekiwake.
The identity of the Komusubi for Haru is still up in the air. Shodai's currently at 11 wins, so if Asanoyama gets a kachi-koshi he'll be a Komusubi. Current Komusubi East Abi needs to win out to get a winning record, which means he could easily fall back into Maegashira. Komusubi West Daieisho has already suffered 8 losses, so he is gone. Hokutofuji is already at 9 wins from Maegashira 2 and rightly deserves a Komusubi rank. But Endo is at Maegashira 1 with a chance at 8 wins still. This is going to be confusing.
Who will get a kachi-koshi?
A full 19 rikishi of the 38 still competing are between 5 and 7 wins, meaning they could get either make-koshi or kachi-koshi. While every wrestler says they're fighting for more, the basic requirement is to win more than you lose and get a promotion. If any of the 8 rikishi with 5 wins lose on Day Thirteen, they are more likely to avoid injury and be careful in the last two days. The same is probably true for anyone who secures an 8th win.
One reason many wrestlers are able to get a bare kachi-koshi still is because the basho has been incredibly even. These wrestlers are beating each other consistently, so lots can happen among all of these wrestlers in the last few days.
Who will be demoted to Juryo?
The absolute bottom of the Banzuke has been fairly strong in Hatsu. Tochiozan, Kiribayama, and especially Tokushoryu have done enough to stay in Makuuchi. Azumaryu, Ikioi, and Kaisei are all in the middle, with chances to get kachi-koshi or make-koshi. They are low enough a 7-8 would be demotion worthy.
Well, maybe. At Maegashira 13 West, Kotoeko has been atrocious. His 2-10 is already enough to send him down. Also, Tsurugisho is underwater and struggling with a knee injury at Maegashira 12. Also, Kotoyuki sat out the entire basho, while Meisei struggled to 1 win and then went Kyujo. They, too, could be facing demotion based on past precedent.
Confusing this is that there are not obvious promotion candidates. Ex-Ozeki Terunofuji is sitting undefeated at Juryo 13 in his comeback from serious injuries. That puts him three wins clear of Juryo 5 West Daishoho. The top ranks have been various kinds of bad, from under .500 to terrible. Nishikigi at Juryo 4 is standing out with 8-4 through 12 days. Who goes where is tough to figure out now and might only be worse.
The last three days will be worth watching at every level. Here's hoping they live up to expectations.