Welcome to act 3, the final act of the Haru Basho. I frankly had my doubts we would get this far. I suspected that some poor rikishi would come down with COVID-19 before day 9, and the tournament would be shut down. I am quite pleased to have been wrong. With so many other sports canceling their remaining games, or delaying the start of their seasons, it’s quite welcome that my favorite sport, sumo, has found a way to continue.
Act 3 is all about sorting kachi-koshi from make-koshi, and crowning a yusho winner. Right now, there are clearly a cadre of rikishi who are injured and have either withdrawn or are desperately limping through their final 5 matches by any means available. It’s tough to see some of these legends limp along, but just maybe they can bounce back in May, with their bodies in a better state and their fighting spirit renewed.
With Hakuho’s day 10 loss, the race for the yusho has been greatly expanded. While I don’t pretend that Hakuho has anything to fear from Aoiyama, there are some tough matches for him in the days head, including the day 15 bout with Kakuryu.
Leader: Hakuho, Aoiyama
Chasers: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi ,Takanosho
Hunt Group: Daieisho, Takarafuji, Chiyotairyu, Ishiura ,Kotonowaka
5 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 11
Kotonowaka vs Aoiyama – Another first time match, featuring shin-maku rikishi Kotonowaka. Today he has the pleasure of facing the normous, overwhelmingly powerful and genki Aoiyama. And the pleasure is likely to be Aoiyama’s. He is currently tied with Hakuho for the lead, so I expect that his motivation will be quite high, and Kotonowaka is going to receive the “full treatment”.
Kotoshogiku vs Chiyomaru – He’s back! Its Chiyomaru, who was on a fast track to a kachi-koshi, takes a few days off for a fever. While the sumo world was holding their collective breath, his record started racking up losses. Now he’s back, and he needs 3 more wins out of the last 5 matches to 8. He’s got Kotoshogiku today, and the former Ozeki is looking increasingly questionable.
Daiamami vs Ikioi – Ikioi enjoyed a good start to Haru, but as the days tick by, the injuries seem to be slowing him down a bit more each day. Today’s match against Daiamami is especially troublesome, as he holds a 5-1 career advantage over Ikioi. Ikioi needs 3 more wins to reach his 8.
Azumaryu vs Terutsuyoshi – Both come into day 11 with 5-5 records, and their career record is 2-3. Terutsuyoshi won the last two, but both of them are just as likely to pull the other one down as anything else. Fans, including myself, would love to see another leg pick from Terutsuyoshi today.
Chiyotairyu vs Kaisei – A Chiyotairyu win against Kaisei will seal a kachi-koshi, but he has to overcome the 4-12 career disadvantage, and the fact that Kaisei seems to be fairly genki this March. Chiyotairyu has been showing some of his best sumo in some time, but he has lost 2 of his last 3.
Sadanoumi vs Meisei – Sadanoumi has lost the last 3 in a row, and is staring at the business end of a make-koshi for Osaka. The only comfort he can take is that he faces the lack luster Meisei on day 11. Neither one of these rikishi have anything to enjoy right now, and given the restrictions on the stables, I am sure they have not even had a chance to enjoy any of Osaka’s legendary cuisine.
Takanosho vs Ishiura – A win today will be kach-koshi for Ishiura, great news? No, his match is against red-hot Takanosho, who has been winning match after match. In fact he has won 4 of the last 5. This should be a big fight.
Nishikigi vs Kiribayama – Once again, Nishikigi will struggle to avoid make-koshi in his match with Kiribayama. They have never fought before, so it’s anyone’s guess where this will go. I am certain that Nishikigi will do his best to get his favored arm-bar hold, but Mongol Kiribayama’s sumo may prove too quick and nimble for that trap.
Shohozan vs Shimanoumi – Shohozan, injured, make-koshi – what does this guy have for motivation? I guess reducing the demotion for May. Shimanoumi at 5-5 can still have hope, so I would give motivation, and a 2-1 career record advantage to him.
Tochiozan vs Tamawashi – More sadness in the scratch and dent bin. Although Tochiozan holds a 13-3 career record over Tamawashi, but not today. My guess is that injured Tochiozan has no power to present much defense to Tamawashi, and Tamawashi will avoid make-koshi for another day.
Tochinoshin vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has never beaten Tochinoshin in their 4 prior matches. The Tochinoshin of today has battled back a 1-5 start, and has 4 wins headed into day 11. He can still salvage his record, or at least limit the damage with a win today over Mr Fundamentals – Kagayaki.
Yutakayama vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji is one win away from a kachi-koshi, and I think he has a good chance of picking it up today against “Big Unit” Yutakayama. Takarafuji’s body seems to be in good condition, and his defensive sumo has been working very well this basho. Yutakayama tends to throw a lot of energy into his attacks, and it will be fun watching Takarafuji deflect, dodge and re-direct that energy.
Enho vs Tokushoryu – There has been speculation that Enho is injured, and that is why his sumo has lacked impact this basho. There may be the factor that for the crowd, there is no rikishi who elicits more enthusiasm and more noise. In the silent basho, all of that is gone. With Tokushoryu already make-koshi, will he still muster enough energy to give Enho a solid fight? An Enho loss today would be his 8th.
Okinoumi vs Myogiryu – These two have a 24 match career history, and they are split 12-12. Okinoumi tends to win by Oshidashi, Myogiryu by yorikiri. So it looks like the form of the match may gate who has the advantage. Chest to chest, and Myogiryu may avoid his 8th loss on day 11.
Daieisho vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi finds himself once again within striking range of the Emperor’s cup. Like his prior campaigns, he seems to be holding strong into week 2, and his sumo seems unstoppable. Daieisho needs a win today to reach kachi-koshi, but he would need to overcome a 3-7 career deficit against Mitakeumi.
Onosho vs Endo – Onosho stunned sumo fans with his day 10 win over Hakuho, and now he comes up against Endo, who has lost 3 of his last 4 matches. His 4-1 career advantage may not matter much, as the Onosho hype machine is at full power.
Asanoyama vs Ryuden – Having made his 8, Asanoyama is assured to retain his Sekiwake slot for May. But he has to take 4 of the last 5 to make 12, and to reach the mark of 33 wins over the basho that is sometimes considered the minimal threshold for consideration to be promoted to Ozeki. He holds a 7-5 career advantage over Ryuden, who is on a 3 match losing streak. This is one of a few “easy” matches that Asanoyama has left before he starts his tour of the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps.
Takakeisho vs Abi – Takakeisho is in real danger of ending the basho make-koshi, and having to clear Kadoban in the next tournament, which we all hope will be in May. As the lone surviving Ozeki, I am quite sure the NSK has to be worried that he may have a serious injury behind his decreasing sumo power this March. If it helps, Abi is a bit of a mess as well.
Shodai vs Kakuryu – Shodai has never beaten Kakuryu in 12 attempts. Shodai is also, typically, part of Yokozuna Kakuryu’s dohyo iri team. I would look for a vigorous but honorable loss by Shodai today.
Hakuho vs Hokutofuji – I am sure that Hakuho is quite frustrated with his loss to Onosho on day 10, and I am hoping that frustration converts into some high energy sumo, where Hakuho takes the match seriously, and rather than trying to beat his opponent with their own style, he bring Hakuho style sumo and wins with authority.