Chihaya and company are already through to the national karuta championship, as are their next rivals, Hokuo. If you think that means that these two teams are about to go easy on one another however, think again.
Despite having secured qualification, both teams are still hungry for success - in Hokuo's case, it's more of a hunger for revenge having been beaten by Mizusawa the previous year, while for Chihaya a victory is simply another step towards their team becoming Japan's best. With victory very much in mind, Hokuo look to gain the advantage thanks to Retro's ability to discern the opponents line-up with unnerring accuracy... however, it seems that Retro kun is looking to make this a fair and balanced fight rather than shooting for an optimal line-up to make for an easier win.
With both Retro's girlfriend and the matches reader offering surprises for Mizusawa, it's clear that this is going to be a tough game however, and we spend the remainder of the episode visiting a number of the games going on within this match to find Chihaya struggling on account of her determination to ape current Queen Shinobu, Mashima and Nishima having troubles of their own, and a triumphant rise for Kana.
In a way, it's a shame that this match was set-up with qualification already ensured, as despite its best efforts this does drain some of the tension from the match even from a viewer's perspective, and it simply isn't as gripping to watch this episode as a result, especially as it continues into next week's episode. Then again, it's still enjoyable to watch the show's main cast, explore their motivations and thought processes and , in Kana's case, see their abilities grow markedly due to their interests. Even during a relatively "weak" (and I use that term loosely) episode, Chihayafuru is still pretty darned great to watch, and hopefully the second half of this match next week can rediscover a little of that missing tension.