Haru Day 15 Preview

Once More…

It’s been a big crazy ride! Haru has been 14 days of the legends of sumo stomping with force through the rank and file, taking white starts wherever they go. Not a single kinboshi this tournament, let that sink in. Now that we are down to 2 Yokozuna, and they are both in fairly good health, the chances of a gold star are down. Looking at Kakuryu, there is a chance that his ankle is not quite right again, but with just one day left to go, I don’t think we will see him go kyujo.

The battle of day is, with no doubt, Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin. The landscape of the final day of the basho has been set up expertly by lksumo, as is his custom, but I wanted to examine this match. Tochinoshin is a mawashi rikishi, and he likes to use “lift and shift” sumo to remove his opponents bodily from the dohyo. When he is in good health, he can and does do it to anyone, including Ichinojo. Frequently this is accompanied by his opponent pedaling their legs furiously as the are lifted to height and carried to the janome like a crate of green bottles on Wednesday in Sumida. If Tochinoshin can get a hold of you, there is simply no way to stop it. It has even worked on Hakuho.

Takakeisho is a finely honed oshi-fighter, with the focus being primarily on thrusting / pushing attack and less on slapping his opponents around. He has perfected what we sometimes call a “wave action” attack, which features both arms working in tandem or near tandem to apply overwhelming force to his opponents body. This works best when he can get inside, and he can focus on center-mass. The day 14 match broke down when, for reasons we can’t explain, Takakeisho targeted Ichinojo’s neck, with absolutely zero effect. This double arm push is repeated in rapid succession, like a series of waves breaking against his opponent’s body. The result is that his opponents must constantly react and fight for stance and balance, all the while Takakeisho is moving them rapidly to the tawara.

The fight will hinge on if Takakeisho can move fast enough at the tachiai to land his first push before Tochinoshin can get a hand on Takakeisho’s mawashi. If Tochinoshin can grab a hold of this tadpole, it’s likely to Takakeisho’s doom. Tochinoshin’s sumo typically relies on him being able to set his feet and brace his shoulders and hips for his “sky crane” lift; this means if Takakeisho is landing wave after wave of heavy force thrusts against him, he won’t have a chance to use his lethal move.

A real clash of sumo styles and approaches, and on the line is who gets that 3rd Ozeki slot. The stakes could not be higher, and the rikishi nearly opposites.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Shohozan vs Chiyoshoma – The bottom man on the banzuke needs one more win to hold on to Makuuchi. Shohozan has lost 4 of the last 5, and seems out of gas. Should Chiyoshoma lose, he will join the platoon of rikishi that are eligible for return to Juryo.

Ryuden vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has had a great tournament, and this is his highest score since his January 2016 yusho (14-1), but it seems to me he has run out of stamina, and he may be picked off by Ryuden on day 15. Many fans, myself included, are a bit let down that the schedulers did not put Kotoshogiku against Toyonoshima for their final match. Some of these guys need to take nostalgia into account.

Asanoyama vs Kotoeko – Asanoyama has been fighting for that 8th win for the last 4 days, and his chances are good on day 15, as he holds a 4-0 career advantage over Kotoeko.

Ishiura vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji is also in the 7-7 category, and will need to keep Ishiura in front of him to pick up #8. Ishiura may as well henka this one, in my opinion. But do make it acrobatic!

Kagayaki vs Abi – Abi, old bean, I worry you won’t diversify unless you lose more matches. Won’t you give something else a try? Your double arm attack is solid, but is that all you can do? You have so much talent. Ok, go ahead and win day 15, and while you are at it, give Kagayaki some reason to look a bit more excited. The poor fellow looks a bit like the walking dead some days. Thanks, signed: your fans.

Okinoumi vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze at 10 wins, Okinoumi at 7 wins… Yeah, I think Okinoumi gets this one.

Chiyotairyu vs Myogiryu – Although Chiyotairyu needs a win to get to 8, I am going say that Myogiryu has an advantage here due to his shorter stature, and his strength. Chiyotairyu can and does hit like a wrecking ball, but he loses stamina in a hurry.

Daieisho vs Ichinojo – “Hulk Smash!”

Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – The big match, in my book. It may only last seconds, but it’s going to leave someone out in the cold.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Both Ozeki have 10 wins or better, so I see this as a “test match” of Takayasu’s tuned up sumo style. Goeido is going to blast in fast with everything he has. In the past that is sometimes enough to actually bowl the burly Takayasu over. But Takayasu has changed his “contact” stance a bit at the tachiai, and I think we may see this shift into a battle for grip in the first 4 seconds. If Takayasu can stalemate Goeido to the point his frustration leads Goeido into an attempt to pull, he will have his opening to strike.

Hakuho vs Kakuryu – The Boss goes up against Big K for the final match. Should Hakuho go down for some reason and Ichinojo prevail, we will get one more tasty sumo morsel before the long break leading up to Natsu. Wise money is on Hakuho to contain, constrain and then maintain his perfect record. But it will be fun to watch.

18 thoughts on “Haru Day 15 Preview

  1. Much as I would have liked to see Kotoshogiku against Toyonoshima, their ranks were too far apart for them to be matched in the early days of the tournament, and unfortunately after that their records diverged too dramatically…

  2. It’s too early…but I don’t care…14-1 is a hell of a way to start an Ozeki run by Ichinojo…if he can keep this form, there is no reason he can’t win 10+ the next two basho…some people have complained about him slapping down guys not being elegant…I don’t care…line’em up, knock him down…whatever it takes to get a W for the big guy!

    • This doesn’t count as the start of an Ozeki run. You have to be at least in the Joi-jin and facing all of the top ranks before a basho is valid as part of an Ozeki run, and Ichinojo was at M4 and didn’t face either of the Yokozuna.

      • When I looked at the history of Ozeki runs, M4 is the lowest rank at which successful runs have started. There are no hard-and-fast rules, and while he probably wouldn’t get promoted with (say) 9 and 10 wins, even though that would be 33, if he puts up two more strong double-digit tournaments, he’ll be Ozeki.

      • The joi is not an all-or-nothing thing. Kaisei, Endo, Daieisho and Nishikigi had 9 sanyaku opponents, Myogiryu had 8, while Shodai and Tochiozan, though technically in the top 16, had 6 and 3. Ichinojo was in the 17th slot on the banzuke and faced 5 sanyaku opponents, defeating 4 of them, including two Ozeki and the Ozeki-in-waiting, in dominant fashion I’d add.

  3. Most international sports lovers would find it distinctly odd that the #1 and #2 athletes, not having met previously, are not paired on the final day of this format. I’ve been following Sumo long enough to recognize how much attention the schedulers pay to the rankings – that’s just the way it is – but not giving the runner-up a direct shot at the leader still seems a little bit off.

    • What I find odd is that Ichinojo could win it all in a playoff scenario when Ichinojo has not faced the same caliber as opponents as Hakuho. Ichinojo did not fight Hokutofuji nor Tamawashi for instance.

  4. Okinoumi vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze at 10 wins, Okinoumi at 7 wins… Yeah, I think Okinoumi gets this one.

    …. are you saying that Yoshi is going to be naughty? If you are into odds and probability, it should be Yoshi who gets the kachi.

    • There have been many many statistical studies that show if a kachi-koshi rikishi faces a rikishi with 7 wins on the final day, there is an overwhelming likelihood that the 7 win rikishi gets his 8th.

      Not saying anything other than that.

      • According to Freakonomics it wasn’t overwhelming even before the yaocho scandal — it was 80%. Afterward it dropped to 50%, in line with what would be expected given no co-ordination.

        It’s worth saying that no explicit co-ordination is really needed. In a somewhat similar fashion, retired politicians get sinecures with companies whose lobbying they favored not because they were explicitly promised any such but because companies want to signal active politicians. Nobody has to say anything out loud.

    • I’d say it’s not really a question of naughtiness — it’s a question of motivation on Okinoumi’s part and, perhaps, an impulse toward the kind of sympathy/altruism that undermines competitive drive on Yoshikaze’s part.

        • I imagine that if you’re already KK and your opponent is 7-7, trying too hard is seen as sort of a dick move.

          (I suspect it’s different if you’re near the top of Makushita or Juryo, where the potential promotion comes with some really significant perks, or if you’re Komusubi or Sekiwake and looking to start that Ozeki run, but Yoshikaze is neither of those.)

  5. Thank you for the interesting and well done commentary throughout this basho. As for the Tochinoshin-Takakeisho bout, it’s interesting that Takakeisho has a 5-1 career advantage, with at least some of those matches occurring when Tochinoshin was healthy, which, of course, he is not at the moment. Tochinoshin can win three ways: 1. henka (as he did against Ichinojo); 2. hatakikomi (which is what Ichinojo did to Takakeisho, and something he is often vulnerable to); and 3. on the mawashi, although with his bad right knee it’s not as certain a win as it would normally be.

    I’d imagine both rikishi will be nervous, although Tochinoshin has a big advantage in experience. The smart bet is Taka, but I hope Tochi can pull through somehow.

  6. I have absolutely nowhere to put this but I have to say something, so: UNCLE SUMO!!! Win #900! That’s a beautiful thing.

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