The Kyushu basho is picking up speed, and as mentioned earlier, the scheduling team have forestalled the much anticipated match between Takakeisho and Takayasu until at least day 13. While all eyes are on the yusho race, there is another race unfolding that impacts a broad number or rikishi. I am talking about 9 rikishi who ended day 11 at 5-6. These men are on a perilous road that increasingly runs the risk of a day 15 “Darwin” match where two 7-7 rikishi face off with only one able to walk away with a winning record [the torikumi committee love these bouts because they reduce the risk of “lethargic sumo” on the last day –PinkMawashi]. Slightly less perilous are the 6 rikishi who finished the day at 6-5. What is quite amazing to me is that the competition has been even enough that there are this many men who could end up make or kachi-koshi.
In the yusho race, there are two names that continue to impress me: Daieisho (M9w) and Aoiyama (M12e). While they are much further down the banzuke (and it could be said had easier schedules), that both of them have reached day 12 with nine wins underscores that they are having terrific tournaments. Aoiyama looked weak and disorganized for the first two days, and has been on a full-throttle nine-bout winning streak ever since. He has not just been winning, but completely dominating his matches. When the Man-Mountain is healthy, he is a very effective combatant.
Chasers: Takayasu, Daieisho, Aoiyama
Hunt Group: Goeido, Okinoumi, Onosho
4 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Chiyonokuni vs Daiamami – I really feel for Chiyonokuni. He starts day 12 already make-koshi, with only 3 wins. But he competes every day with fire and vigor, and frankly looks like he should or could win many of these matches. To be honest, though, this has been the case for most of his upper division career. I remain hopeful he can find the key to unlock the last 5%, and achieve greatness.
Meisei vs Okinoumi – I am likewise pleased and surprised to find Okinoumi a member of the hunt group, two losses back from Takakeisho. Okinoumi is a long serving veteran, who seems to have hot and cold tournaments, and Kyushu seems to be on the warm side for the man from rural Shimane prefecture. Should Meisei win today, it would secure his kachi-koshi.
Endo vs Yutakayama – If this goes as expected where Endo wins and Yutakayama loses, Endo would walk away with a kachi-koshi and Yutakayama with his make-koshi. I maintain that Yutakayama is still not back together after his disastrous posting to Maegashira 1 during the brutal Aki basho.
Kotoshogiku vs Aoiyama – Will Aoiyama be able to keep the Kyushu-bulldozer away from his mawashi? Kotoshogiku holds a 13-5 career lead, so this will be just the match to test the Man-Mountain’s ability to enter the final weekend in competition for the cup. Kotoshogiku is a member of the 6-5 club, but draws a lot of energy from the enthusiastic Fukuoka crowd.
Onosho (M13) vs Daieisho (M9) – Onosho’s day 11 loss knocked him out of the group one win behind his friend Takakeisho, and now he has a chance to return the favor by dropping Daieisho down a notch. He holds a small 4-2 career advantage, but this will come down to who gets inside at the tachiai and establishes the offensive position first.
Ikioi (M8) vs Daishomaru (M14) – We all assume Ikioi is hurt to some extent, but normally he will be up for giving Daishomaru a solid fight (3-3 career). But Ikioi seems to be resorting to an “all or nothing” opening gambit this tournament, likely reflecting his desire to resolve matches quickly before his injuries wear him down.
Takanoiwa (M6) vs Chiyoshoma (M14) – Another even match with a huge gap in rank. I liked what I saw from Takanoiwa on day 11. He looked more like his old self, and I am sure fans are hoping that he is finding his sumo again. Both are members of the 5-6 danger club.
Chiyotairyu vs Shohozan – Shohozan’s triumphant win over Onosho on day 11 lies in stark contrast to Chiyotairyu’s loss via slippiotoshi [if you watch closely, it may have been a harite knockdown -lksumo]. Both men are brawlers, Chiyotairyu has his cannonball tachiai, and “Big Guns” Shohozan likes to start beating his opponents around the head and neck early. Chiyotairyu has a 7-2 series advantage, largely owing to the fact that Shohozan does not always survive the tachiai.
Abi vs Yoshikaze – Two members of the 6-5 club face off. Yoshikaze is a thinking man’s rikishi, and is quite the smart fellow himself. I would assume he has watched Abi’s opponents disarm the double-arm attack the past few days, and will apply similar measures to shut down Abi-zumo.
Myogiryu vs Tochiozan – It’s always tough to deliver a kachi-koshi as Maegashira 1, but Myogiryu has been fighting with a lot of heart and a lot of power. In fact better than I have seen him compete in years. He enters day 12 as a member of the 5-6 “danger club”, and he dearly needs a win against Tochiozan. They have an evenly balanced 13-12 career record.
Shodai vs Hokutofuji – Two more members of the 5-6 “danger club” face off in a mini “Darwin” match. Both men seem to have faded into week 2, which happens as a rikishi’s stamina starts to run dry. Hokutofuji has never won against Shodai, so here’s to hoping that he gives it his all on day 12.
Takakeisho vs Tamawashi – The yusho leader steps up against one of the most powerful oshi-zumo men left in the basho. This will be an epic battle of pushing, slapping and possibly a haymaker or two. Takakeisho will try to set up his devastating wave attacks, and Tamawashi needs to land the first couple of blows. If he can get Takakeisho to react to him rather than attack with his own sumo, he could carry the day and blow the yusho race wide open.
Nishikigi vs Kaisei – Day 12 brings us a battle of the “nice guys”, and frankly I couldn’t even begin to guess how this one is going to unfold. Nishikigi continues to surprise every couple of days, but I always try to imagine anyone short of Ichinojo or Tochinoshin being able to move a man that big, and just shrug. I get the impression that this contest might be better solved by putting two kegs on the dohyo, and seeing which rikishi could drain theirs first.
Ryuden vs Ichinojo – Ryuden is one loss away from make-koshi, but has improved into the second week (in my opinion). Taking on Ichinojo is always a logistical challenge, as he is one enormous fellow. Seriously, seeing him in person at fairly close range, you can’t believe how big this guy is. But Ryuden is up for a challenge, and I am sure he will do his best against the Boulder.
Goeido vs Mitakeumi – The member of the “danger club” I am most worried about is dear old “Future Ozeki Mitakeumi”. It’s apparent his Ozeki bid is reset to zero, and that he needs to regroup. Will he be distracted going into day 12? Will Goeido use his “surprise” move against him? Guys, please don’t make this boring. [With Goeido’s withdrawal, Mitakeumi gets a crucial 6th win by fusen (default) -lksumo]
Tochinoshin vs Takayasu – Not an easy match for either Ozeki, but both of them need the win. Tochinoshin is perilously close to the “Darwin” trajectory, and I would rather not see him struggle during the final weekend. Takayasu needs to win in order for the hoped for showdown with Takakeisho to have full impact. They hold a series 8-9 score between them, so this is as even as you could want.