For those of you worried about spoilers, you can stop reading now until you have had a chance to watch your time-delayed broadcasts. This commentary will still be here later.
For fans who are outranged about today’s final match, I have some words to perhaps help explain. Mitakeumi is still the leader, and is still likely to take the yusho. He’s clearly on an Ozeki campaign now, and he is showing his best sumo ever. He lost nothing today, and possibly gained much. Its possible that on this day, when there was a chance for the shimpan to make a call, they chose to think about things in a broader strategic context. I do not agree with the way they decided this, but then again I am not a sumo elder, or a member of the NSK, or anything more than a sumo fan typing away on a blog.
Let’s look at the possible outcomes.
- Call the match for Mitakeumi – Well, it looks like Takayasu’s big toe touched the sand before Mitakeumi’s foot landed out. So, close enough. Mitakeumi goes to 12-0, and everyone else had 9 wins. The only way that the yusho might be contested in the last weekend is if Mitakeumi loses his last 3 matches.
- Call the match for Takayasu – Ok, Takayasu goes kachi-koshi, and clears kadoban. One of the few remaining kanban rikishi is protected and whatever injuries that are plaguing him have more time to heal before he feels the need to defend his rank. Mitakeumi exits the day still 2 wins ahead of everyone else, just the way it started, and there is a tiny tiny chance that someone with experience (Goeido) might be able to contest for the yusho. That goes double as Mitakeumi faces Goeido in day 13’s final match. This is good for competition, the fans, TV ratings and the sport. If NHK’s ratings follow similar ratios to Tachiai’s web traffic, the lack of kanban rikishi in this tournament have dropped viewership.
- Call for a torinaoshi / rematch – The last thing you want to do is have an already injured Takayasu possibly compounding his problems in a second bout against your rising star. Given what we could see on the replays, this looked like the right thing to do for the match, but I am going to guess the Shimpan took option 2 as the best thing to do for sumo.
Day 12 Matches
Takanoiwa defeats Kotoeko – Soon to be returning Takanoiwa dispatches soon to be departing Kotoeko in this first Makuuchi bout of the day. Takanoiwa seems like maybe he picked up some mass. Today’s match was a simple push-pull win.
Sadanoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries to submarine the tachiai, but Sadanoumi is unfazed and continues to march forward with Ishiura crumpled against his chest. Ishiura now one loss away from a likely demotion back to Juryo.
Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – Ryuden loses thanks to Aoiyama’s henka. Wait, what? Aoiyama henka? If you are Ryuden, are you more embarrassed that you lost, or that you let Aoiyama henka you?
Myogiryu defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan gets his third loss and drops back into the peloton. Myogiryu was fast and aggressive, and did not let Tochiozan disrupt his offense. Myogiryu gets his kachi-koshi.
Yutakayama defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji was once again low and fast at the tachiai, but he gave up the inside thrusting position to Yutakayama and was never able to gain offensive traction. Excellent sumo today from Yutakayama. While Hokutofuji fans would love to see him run up the score and be mid-Maegashira at Aki, his kachi-koshi is what he needed to pull back from the bottom edge of the Makuuchi banzuke. His sumo is looking strong and he seems to be past the injuries that had him underperforming. Yutakayama is looking very genki, and we may get to see him try the joi again after his disastrous 2-13 at Natsu.
Onosho defeats Chiyoshoma – Even though he beat Chiyoshoma today, I have gotten the impression that Onosho is not quite 100% right now. I don’t know if its lingering effects of his injury, or the heat of Nagoya or what. He needs one more win for kachi-koshi. I think we will continue to see him regrouping for at least one more basho. Hopefully by then the red mawashi will be back from the cleaners.
Kyokutaisei defeats Arawashi – With his heels against the make-koshi bales, Kyokutaisei has found the mojo to win yet again. Sadly Arawashi’s 3-9 record is bad enough he is getting close to what could be an aggressive demotion to Juryo line.
Daieisho defeats Meisei – Daieisho punches Meisei’s return ticket to Juryo by handing him his make-koshi with a pride obliterating side-step and pull down. I think its possible we will see a mighty Makuuhci-Juryo churn headed into Aki.
Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze continues to push the envelope on his unstoppable march to a totally winless anti-yusho. As a Yoshikaze fan, I just have to hope that whatever is wrong with him is not painful, fatal or crippling. Whats more, I think most of the rikishi know what’s going on, as you can see Chiyomaru take extreme care to keep him safe. And he’s not the first to do it this tournament.
Kaisei defeats Asanoyama – Kaisei gets a well earned kachi-koshi. His performance this basho has been above his recent average, and we hope he can stay healthy and genki. Asanoyama threw quite a bit of sumo at him, but Kaisei’s superior reach, and mass-driven stability carried the match. With this loss, Asanoyama also drops back into the peloton.
Takakeisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Takakeisho breaks out the “Wave Action” sumo again, and today it works against an increasingly frustrated Chiyotairyu, who just can’t seem to get that win that will give him kachi-koshi. Takakeisho will likely be top Maegashira / bottom San’yaku for Aki.
Ikioi defeats Takarafuji – Can two men turn ottsuke into a match long battle strategy? Hell, these two sure tried to do it. This was followed by an endurance lean-off at the shikiri-sen. After perhaps a minute, Ikioi rallies and tries to advance. And what is Takarafuji doing? Why more ottsuke of course. Alright, congrats to Ikioi on what was a somewhat ridiculous match.
Shodai defeats Daishomaru – Now that he is make-koshi, Shodai decides to show up and try some sumo today. With the exception of his normally high and flat tachiai, he actually executed well. Clearly the young man needs to regroup, as I still think there is hope for him and his sumo.
Tamawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni recovers brilliantly after he loses his balance early in the match, but Tamawashi chases him down and finishes Chiyonokuni with a kotenage, which like Kotoshogiku, seems to have injured his elbow. Sadly Chiyonokuni faces Ikioi day 13 rather than Shodai, because if Chiyonokuni were to go kyujo, we could have had one of the 2 fusensho men give the other 2 fusensho man a fusensho.
Abi defeats Shohozan – Abi works the double arm tsuppari attack successfully today, and the already make-koshi shohozan gets a close look at the tokudawara.
Ichinojo defeats Kagayaki – Ichinojo hands Kagayaki his make-koshi when Kagayaki’s sumo fundamentals break down as they are confronted by 500 pounds of pony tossing Ichinojo. Points to Kagayaki for trying to set the tone and form of the match against an opponent who has been far too docile this tournament, but Ichinojo was ready to fight today, and took Kagayaki to his chest and pacified him. Unable to improve his grip or get a firm hold against the boulder, Kagayaki was stalemated in a war of attrition. I was impressed by how well Kagayaki fought off the uwatenage when it came, but there was just too much force bundled in that move by Ichinojo to shut it down.
Goeido defeats Endo – Endo is ejected from the peloton by Goeido after a false start at the tachiai. Goeido wins in his preferred “good” mode: low, fast, and more or less unstoppable. Endo compounded the problem by trying to pull against Goeido’s denshamichi attack.
Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Fans were howling long before my alarm woke me this morning over this match, and I think rightly so. The match did achieve it’s strategic goal, which was to hand Miakeumi his first kuroboshi, and open up the yusho race heading into the final weekend. But Mitakeumi dominated that match, set the terms and the cadence of the fight, and literally made Takayasu dance to his sumo. The match ended with both men moving at speed over the bales on the north side of the dohyo, and visiting the VIPs in the first two rows of tawara. The gyoji loses his mind and points both east and west, and it’s clear the shimpan is going to sort this one out. To my eye, this was a very clear situation for torinaoshi (rematch). But the decision of the shimpan is best framed in that by awarding the match to Takayasu, they would achieve the strategic goal of day 12. So they did. Takayasu did a masterful job of staying airborne, and that was quite impressive. Takayasu gets his 8th win for kachi-koshi, and clears kadoban.