Kyushu State of Play, Day 13

The various storylines we’ve been followed are snapping into focus as we head into the final weekend.

The Yusho Race

Three men are still in it: Komusubi Takakeisho (12-1), Ozeki Takayasu (11-2), and Maegashira 11 Okinoumi (10-3). Tomorrow, we get the Clash of the Takas. Should Takakeisho prevail, he takes the yusho. A win by the Ozeki will leave things all tied up on senshuraku. Takayasu’s final-day opponent should be Mitakeumi. A win by Okinoumi against Kotoshogiku will probably see him matched up with Takakeisho, who otherwise is likely to face the highest-ranked remaining opponent, Nishikigi.

The Fight for Rank

Ozeki Tochinoshin prevailed today in a bout with a strange ending, taking his record to 7-6. He needs one more victory to avoid kadoban status, and will seek it tomorrow against Mitakeumi, who lost today and is barely clinging to his Sekiwake rank with a 6-7 record and has to face the two remaining (and motivated) Ozeki on the final two days. One loss drops him to Komusubi; two take him out of sanyaku altogether. It’s not clear at this point who Tochinoshin’s final-day opponent would be, as he’s fought everyone at the top of the banzuke down to Chiyotairyu. The next-highest-ranked option, Asanoyama, is already make-koshi, so Tochinoshin could get Abi if the latter can even his record to 7-7 tomorrow, or one of Shohozan, Kotoshogiku, or Okinoumi. Finally, Ichinojo’s last stand to remain in sanyaku in January continues tomorrow against the aforementioned Asanoyama.

The list of contenders for any open sanyaku slots got narrowed considerably today. The M2 duo of Tochiozan and Tamawashi picked up their kachi-koshi today, giving them the inside track. The only men still with a chance to leap over them should they falter are M1 Myogiryu and M3 Nishikigi, and this would take two losses by the leaders combined with two victories by the pursuers. Should both Ichinojo and Mitakeumi drop into the rank-and-file, Yoshikaze, Shohozan, DaieishoOkinoumi, and Shodai could sneak into the promotion picture.

Key bouts tomorrow for the promotion hopefuls: Nishikigi vs. Takarafuji, Tochiozan vs. Shohozan, Takanoiwa vs. Tamawashi, Myogiryu vs. Yoshikaze, Shodai vs. Kaisei.

Demotion Danger

The Makuuchi-Juryo exchange could get messy depending on how the final days play out. So far, we have two clear demotions (Arawashi, who finally pulled out, and Chiyomaru), and what should be three clear promotions: Kotoyuki, Yago, and Kotoeko. Obviously, the number going up has to be matched by the number going down. Right now, Takanosho is that third man, but he could potentially save himself with two victories, starting tomorrow against Juryo visitor Daishoho, who himself would have a very strong promotion claim with two victories in the closing days. Fading Terutsuyoshi needs one more win to likewise be eligible for promotion. If you’re counting, that’s up to five possible promotions and only two certain demotions. Chiyonokuni’s top-division spot is probably safe, although another victory would help seal it. The other demotion candidates are Chiyoshoma and Daishomaru, who need a win each to escape this fate, and Daiamami, who should be safe with one victory but better off with two. We’ll check in again tomorrow to see if the picture has gotten any clearer and discuss the remaining senshuraku scenarios.

17 thoughts on “Kyushu State of Play, Day 13

  1. Ichinojo’s win against Yoshikaze reminds me of the “henka-Not-Henka” (per Kintamayama) of Haramufji. An immediate shift after the tachiai would be quite a weapon for Ichinojo because his opponents have to blast out of the gates on the tachiai to deal with his bulk. This move also plays into one of his strengths (throws) too. We’ll have to see if he uses this tactic more often in the future. I hope he does.

    • I just watched it again and don’t see the HNH—it was full front-on engagement at the tachiai, followed by a quick throw. An Ichinojo henka would be something :lol: Agree though that more mobile and less predictable sumo would be a good thing for Ichi!

      • Haramafuji’s HNH was really speedy, so I don’t think Ichinojo can match it 100%. ;) I think Yoshikaze was thrown because he was just as flabbergasted as the audience! :D

  2. Who would have thought that after day 13 we would be entertaining the possibility of komusubi Nishikigi. Not me, that’s for sure. There are still so many possibilities and uncertainties regarding the lower sanyaku that I am tempted to stop thinking about the situation and consider something simpler, like Brexit or the Botvinnik Variation of the Semi-Slav Defense or the Riemann hypothesis, or why I always have one odd sock left over after I empty the drier.

    As for demotion/promotion, as you rightly point out, this is likely to be one of those situations where there are more promotees than demotees, so there are likely to be a few deeply disappointed juryo guys come January.

    • I completely agree. There’s a lot of complicated decisions that are going to have to be made in both sekitori divisions. The next two days are going to be really important for a lot of rikishi.

      I am also really pleased with Nishikigi! Based on what we’re seeing in this basho, there is going to be A LOT of competition across the board for at least the next year. The only really “poor” performers in the top division are obviously injured or rumored to be dealing with one. Considering the jumps in rank some rikishi have had, the records that we’re seeing are pretty impressive.

  3. With yokozuna participation in each basho an open question and two ozeki prone to injury, the availability of top talent to thrash the joi will be highly variable. One tournament might feature total dominance by the named ranks and the next a surge from the rank-and-filers. I expect this situation to persist until the current top rikishi age out.

    • Relating to this, when I consider who Nishikigi has beaten and to whom he has lost this basho I come to think that he’s benefited a fair bit from the absence of top talent this basho; if he plateaus at his current level of performance then he’ll be at about the same level as Takarafuji has been for a long while. I consider Takarafuji to be a rikishi whose performance has been stable enough that he can be used as a standard — if you can beat him reasonably consistently then you belong in the joi and if you can’t you don’t. This would be huge jump up for Nishikigi, who up until this point has been a consistent double digit (in the sense of rank, not basho score) maegashira.

  4. I find it interesting that all the small guys in Juryo Terutsuyoshi, Enho, Tobizaru all rushed out of the gates and now in week 2 face a major slow down. Wakatakage has a more balanced basho and if I would still consider Ishiura a rikishi, same would be true for him. Noticeably with Enho, a lot of the bigger guys he faced in week 2 figured out that Enho just can’t move them, if they don’t help him.
    Best story for me though is that Toyonoshima is in the Yusho race still. I’m also very positively surprised by Kotoyuki. Obviously Tomokaze is a huge positive surprise, especially after starting the basho 2-3 by winning 8 straight as well, but he is still a relative unknown to me.
    The opposite to Tomokaze is Abi in Makuuchi, who totally hit a roadblock. Abi sumo seems to have lost all it’s magic. Maybe Onosho will alreay hand him his Makekoshi, after being in the chasing group all through week 1.
    The Sanyaku is really a mess this basho. WIth all 3 Yokozuna out, one would have expected all but injured Kaisei to cruise to a kachikoshi, but as of now it looks like all but Takakeisho could drop out.
    Aoiyama is the biggest surprise for me. He looked completely lackluster the first 2 bouts and then regained his sumo. Even thought he lost today, he even had Takakeisho if not for that unnecessary curious slip in the end.

    • Abi’s “problem” is the same “problem” that Kotoshogiku has. They have one tactic that is lights out amazing most of the time. But, the more they use it in the top division, the more their opponents figure out how to stalemate it. This is also why Ishiura is in Juryo and why he has to henka every two matches or so. In order to succeed in the top division, rikishi have to evolve their skills. Abi is doing that (as is Ryuden who is doing decently this basho), but it takes time to gain confidence in new skills and really iron out the kinks.

      • I predict that Abi and Ryuden will become competent at their new skills about the time Ura returns to the top division. Can you smell the awesome?

        • Ura should be ranked somewhere around Makushita 23 in January. A strong performance there would move him into the Makushita joi in March, so he could be in Juryo as early as May, and perhaps Makuuchi in September…

          • I can see Ura moving quickly through Makushita. Juryo is a completely different kettle of fish. It’s possible for him to only spend one basho there, but he’d have to completely blitz through the other rikishi there. I don’t know if he’s completely up for that yet. We’ll have to see. Either way, I am super excited to see Ura/Enho and Ura/Tobizaru.

            • Tough to get through Juryo in one basho; even Tochinoshin took two. The last one to do it? Endo, with the following line: 2013.05 Ms3e 5-2 2013.07 J13w 14-1 Y 2013.09 M13e 9-5-1

        • I am still anxiously awaiting the time when both Ura and Enho are top division, and we get to watch the two little acrobats square off. THAT will be a bout for the ages!

      • I’m very aware of Abi’s problem, but he has been in Makuuchi the whole year and in the upper half of Maegashira for the last 4 basho, so it’s a bit surprising that opponents in week 1 still got caught in complete surprise by his style and opponents in week 2 just turned on a switch. I mean look at the guys he lost to … outside of Daieisho and Okinoumi none of them is having a great basho. During week 1 he beat Takanoiwa (despite 6-7 fighting a decent basho), Shohozan (having a good basho), Takarafuji (very consistent and experienced), etc.
        It don’t think its his opponents being better prepared, but rather his confidence taking a dip.

  5. Rooting for Takakeisho!! Very friendly when I met him a couple of years ago while he was in juryo fighting as Sato. I am a big fan of the fighting spirit he has shown over a number of basho, in the sense he believes he has a chance of beating anyone, irrespective of their rank.

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