Hatsu 2021 Day Seven
Match of the Day
Maegashira 14 East Hoshoryu versus Maegashira 11 West Kotoeko
Neither Hoshoryu nor Kotoeko has had a great basho so far. Perhaps their desperation made them put in the extra effort on Day Seven. They latched onto each other's mawashi fairly early and danced around the dohyo. This led to a contest as to who could successfully throw the other first. Naturally, the young Mongolian managed the uwatenage for the win.
Daieisho over Takanosho
Churanoumi over Sadanoumi
Give Daieisho the credit for beating every Sanyaku wrestler actually competing in Hatsu. He is not just undefeated, but has had a banzuke ranking upset in all seven wins. This performance has been incredible.
Terutsuyoshi executed a tottari, arm bar throw, on Yutakayama that looked like they were making an instructional video. Hoshoryu's uwatenage on Kotoeko was similarly ideal.
There is just one undefeated rikishi left. Daieisho's win over Takanosho has put him in sole possession of the top of the leaderboard. It has also closed the book on Daieisho's battles against the Sanyaku. This creates an interesting dilemma in building the Torikumi. There is no natural path for the man in the lead.
If there is an ideal form of a sumo basho from the Sumo Association's perspective, it would be the two Yokozuna facing stiffer and stiffer competition as the basho goes along and winning the whole time. Eventually, they would have to face each other at 14-0 on the final day, with the winner lifting the Emperor's Cup. That basically never happens exactly, but a sumo tournament should essentially be an elimination tournament as the top-ranked, best-performing beat each other in the closing days.
Look at the top of the Banzuke, that double goose egg in the Yokozuna slots means that ideal basho isn't happening. Even in a nokozuna situation, the JSA had to think there would be a three-way batlle at the end between the Ozeki. Perhaps Terunofuji would make it a four-way battle with his recent form. Only Shodai has held up his end of the bargain on that front for Hatsu. All the others are now at least three wins off the pace.
This does present an odd conundrum with regards to the schedule. Shodai probably does need to face the rest of the Sanyaku if they are still competing. Daieisho gets to feast on lower-level rikishi. Yet by performance, this may give Shodai the edge. He gets Mitakeumi on Day 8, then has the Sekiwake and fellow Ozeki left. His other 3 matches will presumably feature some of the best performing Maegashira. Daieisho might have to be the elimination matchup for the lower-level rikishi with few wins.
As always, sumo is a zero-sum game, and someone must win and someone must lose. This is partly why a zensho yusho is so rare among non-Hakuho rikishi. The other reason is that fifteen days of performing at your very best in anything is difficult. Daieisho probably doesn't need to be absolutely perfect. Only Shodai and Akiseyama are within one win, and they could easily stumble themselves. Akiseyama and Daieisho are also likely to see each other sooner rather than later. Who can hold up is the real question.