Welcome to Senshuraku – the final day of the Kyushu basho. It’s been an odd and crazy sumo tournament, part of the rough and unpredictable road into a new era of sumo. While the yusho is decided, and we already know a bit about who is going to be demoted and promoted for January, there are 7 rikishi who enter day 15 with 7-7 records. In most cases they will face each other, creating what we at Tachiai call “Darwin matches”. Only one rikishi survives these encounters with a winning record, and the other leaves the dohyo with a demotion for the New Year. The competition this November was so evenly balanced, the tournament ended with an unusual number or rikishi whose records were 7-8 or 8-7.
The real action is in Juryo, where we will likely see a multi-way barnyard brawl for the yusho, with many long-serving favorites battling it out not just for the top finish in sumo’s second division, but promotion back to the top division to start 2020. This may include such well known names as Azumaryu, Tochiozan, Ikioi, and Kaisei.
Note to fans – in tournaments like this, you can get to day 15, and you will see some odd matches. Huge rank differences, fights that make little sense. But just go with the flow, and toast the poor torikumi committee, who had their hands full this basho.
What We Are Watching Day 15
Daiamami vs Nishikigi – You can say to yourself, why does this matter? Nishikigi is probably the first mate for the Juryo barge at this point, and with a deep make-koshi Daiamami is probably ready to put this tournament behind him. But in truth, this is probably to help figure out Juryo ranks for January.
Ishiura vs Daishoho – Ishiura has a chance to finish the tournament with nine wins, and that would be a great achievement for a rikishi who has been struggling. Ishiura’s sumo has undergone a welcome transition in the past two weeks, and I now have hope that he’s part of a team of small rikishi who will add a great deal of excitement to sumo.
Shimanoumi vs Chiyomaru – Likewise Chiyomaru has a chance to end the basho with a 10-5, and lets see if he can take out Shimanoumi on the final day. They have a tied up career record at 2-2.
Chiyotairyu vs Yutakayama – Yes, yes! Sweet Lordy-lord yes! The big, stampeding buffalo that is Chiyotairyu pays Yutakayama a special visit to see which one of them ends the tournament with win number 9. This is likely also to determine rank for January, and Yutakayama has lost the last 2 matches he has had against Chiyotairyu. Readers know I am expecting good things in 2020 from Yutakayama, so this is a fine test of how close to ready he might be.
Shohozan vs Kagayaki – Both of them are kachi-koshi, so this is just to basho and toss each other about for a while. I would say Shohozan has the home-town edge, but hey, Kagayaki’s simple sumo style has given him an 8-5 career lead. Plus Shohozan tends to ease up once he has made his 8. Probably part of the reason he has survived in the top division this long.
Daishomaru vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko can punctuate Daishomaru’s likely return to Juryo with a win today, but even that seems to be beyond him right now. For a toughs scrappy rikishi, he has certainly lost nearly all of his mojo this November. Tachiai hopes he can recharge and refresh in time for Hatsu.
Tsurugisho vs Terutsuyoshi – Somebody broke Tsurugisho last weekend, and we need to either reboot him or send him in for repair. Although Tsurugisho has a distinct size advantage, he seems to be in no condition to compete right now.
Aoiyama vs Kotoshogiku – I would love to see Kotoshogiku close out Kyushu with a final win. With his deep make-koshi, he is going to be rather far down the banzuke for January, and long term fans must wonder how much longer his body can hold up to top division sumo.
Tamawashi vs Sadanoumi – The first of our Darwin matches, it’s run-and-gun Tamawashi against compact battle-bot Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi holds a 9-2 career advantage over Tamawashi, and Sadanoumi has been fighting quite well this basho. Plans are to be well into the second bottle of sake by this match.
Takarafuji vs Meisei – Takarafuji needs to win if he wants to avoid double-digit losses for November, but he has never won against Meisei. Meisei tends to fight with high-energy opening gambits, while Takarafuji works to constrain, contain and maintain his opponents and wear them down.
Myogiryu vs Onosho – Next Darwin match! I would dearly love Onosho to win this one, but I am not sure he’s quite up to it yet. His balance has been poor this November. It’s likely a function of his knee surgery and ongoing recovery, but it means that a high agility rikishi like Myogiryu has a distinct advantage in this match.
Takanosho vs Okinoumi – Huge banzuke gap here (M12 vs M1), but why not? Their only prior match was Aki 2018, which Takanosho won.
Daieisho vs Enho – Lets call this one a half-Darwin. Enho gets the lucky match where his opponent, Daieisho, already has 8 wins, and is less motivated to put everything he has into the match. A kachi-koshi in November would see Enho join the joi-jin, which will be quite the spicy sauce for our Hatsu Basho.
Shodai vs Asanoyama – At first I thought, “What were you guys drinking…”. Then it made perfect sense. Some twisted oyakata decided to give Shodai a chance to share the jun-yusho with Asanoyama. Shodai is ranked at M10, Asanoyama is Komusubi 2. Please, Asanoyama, grab him and give him a fitting exit from this basho.
Hokutofuji vs Ryuden – This match has a lot of potential. Both rikishi tend to be highly aggressive, both of them are prone to moments of wild, high energy, high chaos sumo, and both are highly mobile. They have a 3-3 career record, and matching 6-8 records. This one could catch fire.
Kotoyuki vs Endo – Our final Darwin match of the day, it’s time for Kotoyuki the penguin to take on Endo the Golden. They have matching 7-7 records, and have a 4-4 career tally. It will come down to Endo getting that left hand grip, or Kotoyuki getting a solid hit center-mass. I just pray my supply of rice-crackers holds up.
Mitakeumi vs Abi – As if to punctuate Mitakeumi’s failure, he gets to fight the rikishi who has been qualified for Sekiwake for most of 2019, but has been blocked by one condition or another. Mitakeumi holds a 4-1 career advantage, but he is fighting poorly, and Abi still seems to have plenty of energy left to fight.
Takakeisho vs Hakuho – Hakuho already has the yusho, but there is zero chance he will ease off on Takakeisho. So I am expecting a rapid slap, a grab and a hearty roll to the clay. The chance Takakeisho has of stopping that will be something unexpected and possibly dangerous. Lets hope everyone stays safe.