As in day 13, we continue with wrestlers having their ultimate matches of this basho, which, based on their score, may be crucial (make-koshi or kachi-koshi, the Darwin matches), and for some are merely a means to extend their rise or try to limit their fall.
One special kind of fall rikishi want to avoid is the fall to “banzuke-gai” – “out of banzuke” status. This happens to anybody who is kyujo throughout a basho when ranked in Jonokuchi. Beside some material implications, there are two main reasons rikishi want to avoid that. First, it has a psychological effect. I think it was Ryuden who said “Going banzuke-gai would have felt like I’m not a rikishi anymore”. Second, going banzuke-gai means you have to do mae-zumo to be ranked again. If you have plans to make a comeback, you would not want to waste a basho on maezumo.
Which is why rikishi who are physically able to do it, use the trick I call “pulling a Ryuden” – because Ryuden had to do it for several consecutive basho to avoid banzuke-gai before he completed his rehabilitation and was ready to do real sumo. The trick is to be kyujo for six matches, and show up only for your last one.
So today we have a rikishi who is pulling a Ryuden. Otsuji from Takadagawa, here on the left, decided to do one match. The schedulers obliged him by matching him with… Hattorizakura. Very kind of them (although winning the “Ryuden” bout is not really required).
Sometimes – usually at the beginning of a basho – we see Hattorizakura offer some resistance. Not in this one. Otsuji is also very aware of whom he is facing and tries to be gentle.
Otsuji is a very fresh rikishi – he only did one full basho before going kyujo. We wish him a speedy recovery from whatever ails him.
Our next Jonokuchi match is one of the Darwin matches – both wrestlers are 3-3, the winner is kachi-koshi, the loser make-koshi. And as it happens, the two wrestlers are ones we have been keeping tabs on through these posts. On the left, we have Senho from Miyagino beya, and on the right, stick insect Chiyotaiyo from Kokonoe beya.
And Chiyotaiyo shows us the reason why Kokonoe oyakata recruited him, landing an impressive uwatenage. Senho is now officially the first ever of Hakuho’s uchi-deshi to get a make-koshi in Jonokuchi.
We have one “comfort zone” match, in which both wrestlers are kachi-koshi, and want to improve on it. On the left, Chiyohokkai, from Kokonoe beya. On the right, our bow-twirling, rope-braiding friend, Satonofuji from Isegahama beya.
It pains me to say this, but I think Satonofuji is attempting a henka here, and Chiyohokkai totally reads it. Ouch. Oh well, I’m sure at age 40, Satonofuji is not aiming for a sekitori career. He is 4-3 and Chiyohokkai 5-2.
We move on to the Darwin matches. Here is Chiyonosora from Kokonoe beya against Yuriki from Chiganoura beya.
Now this is what you’d expect from a bout like this – energetic, unrelenting sumo. Too bad many of these bouts end up with a henka instead (yes, it happens a lot in the lower divisions. I didn’t bother bringing you any of those).
Next we have our short-haired friend Roman from Tatsunami beya, who has fallen on bad times – I think he should be stronger than a 3-3 in Jonidan – facing Umizaru from Miyagino beya, here on the right. Umizaru’s only claim to fame is that he is part of a practical joke that was once circulated through Sumo social media, claiming that he is the third brother to himself and Hidenoumi, and that’s why his shikona is made of “Umi” and “Zaru” together. This is not true.
And the Sea Monkey (yes, that’s what the shikona means) is make-koshi, while Roman comes out of this basho winning.
Another “comfort zone” match has Daishomune from Jonidan (Jd3w) visiting Sandanme, and facing Kaishu from Musashigawa beya, whom we have been following. I’m not sure what the purpose of this upper-division bout is, as both are kachi-koshi, so it’s not an “exchange” bout like the ones we’ll see below in Juryo. Kaishu is on the right.
Daishomune tosses Kaishu away as if he is some used tissue. Kaishu ends 4-3, Daishomune 5-2. It will be fun to continue watching Kaishu. Although he is not a sekitori prospect by far, he is fun to watch.
On to the Darwin matches, and we have Hitachigo from Fujishima beya on the left, and Shoji from Musashigawa, one of our regulars, on the right. Both 3-3.
Shoji wins this one standing up. Literally. Poor Hitachigo does all the work, but it’s Shoji who ends up with the kachi-koshi.
Another Musashigawa man is Tokunomusashi – that’s a mouthful – who is sparring with Yoshoyama from Tokitsukaze beya, the Mongolian, here on the right.
Yoshoyama manages a kachi-koshi again. His career – since January 2018 – is made up of two exceptionally good basho (6-1), two make-koshi basho, and all the rest are 4-3 kachi-koshi. There are worse.
We start our climb through Makushita with a battle of misery. Both rikishi are make-koshi with 2-4. On the left we have Jokoryu, remember him? A former sekitori. On the right we have Terasawa, from Takasago beya. Yes, that’s right, the previous basho’s Sandanme yusho winner is make-koshi this basho. I guess the yusho propelled him too high up in Makushita. Terasawa is on the right.
This is a strange way to fall off the edge. The problem is that Terasawa’s feet have left the surface of the dohyo, so now both are “dead” and it’s a question of who initiated the move, or who touched first, etc. Unfortunately, I do not have the actual explanation, but the judges rule “gunbai dori”, that is, the referee’s decision is confirmed and Terasawa keeps his make-koshi at a minimum.
Next one is “Darwin”, with Sagatsukasa (Irumagawa, left) and Kizenryu (Kise, right) with 3-3 each. Kizenryu is yet another former sekitori. The video starts in mid-bout, Kizenryu has his back to us.
Kizenryu is make-koshi, and is getting even further away from the hell/heaven line.
Next “Darwin” is Byakko (Azumazeki, right) vs. the younger Hanai brother, Narutaki. This one ends in a strange way.
Narutaki performs an artistic pirouette on the tawara, and manages to confuse Byakko so much that he just steps off the dohyo of his own volition. There is no kimarite here. Only a higi – a “non-technique”. This one is a fumidashi, which is usually defined as the loser taking a step backward off the dohyo. I guess the makers of the rules didn’t believe anybody would be facing the tawara and still taking that unnecessary step.
Anyway, this means Narutaki is kachi-koshi.
Our Makushita comfort match is between Kyokusoten (left) and Chiyosakae (right). Both of them are safely kachi-koshi. Kyokusoten wants to get into the Makushita joi already (he is at his highest ever rank at Ms19e, and it has taken him 8 years to get there). So…
A quick pull. He is now 5-2, which may land him anywhere between Ms9 and Ms11.
An even more comfortable “comfort zone” match here is between Akua and Chiyootori. Both of them have only one loss (Akua owes his to Wakamotoharu, Chiyootori to Terunofuji) and want to keep it that way. Akua is on the left.
Chiyootori was a lot more impressive in his bout against Terunofuji. Akua is going to be ranked high enough in Juryo that he might be able to afford a make-koshi next basho and still keep his privileges.
And here we step right into the purgatory. Although the number of sekitori in competition is even, which would not usually require any rikishi from Makushita to appear in Juryo, the schedulers scheduled two such matches today, and quite on purpose. These are called “exchange matches”. They pit a make-koshi sekitori who is hanging on by a thread against a possible promotion prospect who is on the bubble in Makushita, to see who has a better claim to fame – and a salary, and a silk mawashi, and a private room etc. etc.
The first such match has Irodori, who is make-koshi with 5-8, at J13, fighting with Hoshoryu, who has an injured big toe, and is 3-3. If he wins it, he is kachi-koshi, and probably a sekitori, too, and Irodori is on his way to hell. If Hoshoryu loses, he is make-koshi, gets further from the salvation line, and Irodori may just keep his silk mawashi.
Hoshoryu is on the right.
Yesterday I was assessing Hoshoryu’s chances in this bout at 30%, as he has been less than impressive so far. But somehow, he manages to pull some proper sekitori sumo from a hidden corner of his Yokozuna heritage. He throws Irodori, wins his kachi koshi, and it looks like next basho, Tatsunami beya is going to have three sekitori (Meisei, Akua and Hoshoryu).
The next match is between Gagamaru – who is make-koshi with 5-8 at J10 – and Kototebakari, who is kachi-koshi at 4-2 and half a rank ahead of Hoshoryu. I’m sure you can see which one is Gagamaru.
This one goes the opposite direction than the previous one. Gagamaru is the one who wins, and probably ensures himself of salary for the next two months. Kototebakari is held back at a minimal 4-3 kachi-koshi. This is very significant, as experience shows that if two rikishi have the same score at a small difference of rank, the lower ranked may get the promotion if he won the “exchange” bout and the other didnt. That is, Hoshoryu is currently ahead of Kototebakari in the promotion rate. It now all depends on the results of the bottom Juryo as well as the result of tomorrow’s Darwin bout between Akiseyama and Chiyonoo.
But there are more Juryo bouts to watch, ones that are not connected to the demotion/promotion purgatory. Kyokushuho (Tomozuna, left) and Kiribayama (Michinoku, right) are both 6-7, both looking to avoid their 8th loss.
Kiribayama sticks to the basics today and yori-kiris Kyokushuho in this all-Mongolian match. Kyokushuho is make-koshi. Kiribayama will have a “Darwin” with Kizakiumi tomorrow.
Another rikishi who can’t afford to lose is Tokushoryu, with 6-7. He faces Kotonowaka, who has been rather strong this basho, for a complete newbie, with 9-4.
Kotonowaka’s defense ends up with him hugging Tokushoryu’s arm. This actually gives Tokushoryu an idea, and he grabs Kotonowaka’s arm and never lets go. Tottari. This is actually the 14th time Tokushoryu performs a tottari. He evades the make-koshi today, and they couldn’t find another 7-7 rikishi for him, so they pitted him against Ikioi.
Speaking of whom, Ikioi (right) has 11-2, and needs to win this bout to win the Juryo yusho. Here to stop him is Takanosho, who had an excellent basho this time with 9-4.
Boom, clash of heads. Maybe that’s the reason why Takanosho is a bit spaced out when Ikioi sidesteps and slaps down. Hatakikomi, and Ikioi wins the Juryo yusho. Congratulations, singing man!