With Thursday matches about to start in Japan, it’s almost assured that we will finish all 15 days of this tournament. I did not really think it likely when the rules were laid out weeks ago. No spectators, closed heyas, if 1 rikishi came down with COVID-19, it was all over. But somehow, against the odds, it looks like they NSK is actually going to get it done.
That naturally brings us to the next question – what about Natsu? The May tournament is back at the Kokugikan in Tokyo, and 2 months are a long time from today in epidemiology. We have no idea what the world will look like 2 weeks from now, let alone 2 months. But it’s my hope that they can move forward much as they did in Osaka. Though having now audience in the Kokugikan would be a let down, I am thankful for sumo, doubly so as so many other sports have thrown in the towel and gone on hiatus until matters improve.
Day 10 was odd in that all 5 rikishi that were 2 wins behind Hakuho and Aoiyama lost, removing our “Hunt Group” entirely from the leader board. The Yusho race is down to 6 rikishi, with 4 of them having prior top division yushos.
Leaders: Hakuho, Aoiyama
Chasers: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi ,Takanosho
4 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Kotoshogiku vs Nishikigi – Simply put, Nishikigi is a lost cause for the scope of Haru. I am sure it’s some kind of injury that is limiting his strength, his mobility or maybe even both. Already make-koshi, he’s going to face former Ozeki Kotoshogiku today in the first match of the top division. I am fairly sure that Kotoshogiku is going to take the lead in this match, and unless Nishikigi can produce some variation of his favored arm-bar hold, it will move Kotoshogiku a step closer to kachi-koshi.
Ishiura vs Kotonowaka – The winner of today’s match is kachi-koshi. A plain, simple head to head match up, but its the first time these two have faced each other on the dohyo. Kotonowaka has dropped his last 2 matches, and is looking to bounce back against the smaller and lighter Ishiura.
Meisei vs Terutsuyoshi – About as even a battle as you might want for the 3rd match of day 12. Both come in having won their last 2 matches, the career record is 3-4, and both are fairly compact powerhouses of sumo. They have mirror image 5-6/6-5 records, and both still have a good shot at a kachi-koshi if they can finish strong.
Sadanoumi vs Azumaryu – Make-koshi rikishi Sadanoumi holds a 4-2 career advantage over 5-6 Azumaryu, who has a reasonable chance at finishing Osaka with a winning record. They are well balanced in terms of sumo techniques, but to get the much needed win, Azumaryu will need to overcome the 2-4 career match deficit.
Daiamami vs Tochiozan – Can Tochiozan win 2 in a row? The battered veteran limps into day 12 action against Daiamami, looking ready for the scrap yard. We would love to see him avoid any risk of return to Juryo after having escaped the junior division in January.
Chiyomaru vs Tochinoshin – Chiyomaru will attempt to win his first match after returning from a 3 day fever kyujo in a match against Tochinoshin. In the grand scheme of things, Tochinoshin has never lost to Chiyomaru, but the last time they faced each other was 2 years ago, and Tochinoshin was on a tear pushing for Ozeki. The Tochinoshin of today is a battered relic that has to henka Kagayaki.
Shohozan vs Kaisei – With only 2 wins, Shohozan may provide Kaisei with the all important 8th win to secure a well deserved kachi-koshi. Under normal circumstances, it would be Shohozan’s move-and-strike sumo against Kaisei’s lumbering Newtonian style, but Shohozan has shown little of his traditional fighting energy this March.
Shimanoumi vs Kiribayama – Both of these rikishi are within range of completing the Osaka basho with a winning record. For Kiribayama, his second tournament in the top division has been a rough ride, and he has lost 4 of the last 5. I suspect one of these rikishi will end up in a day 15 Darwin match.
Takarafuji vs Chiyotairyu – The winner of this match will be kachi-koshi. Both of them have fought well, but Chiyotairyu is in the midst of a bit of a fade, having lost 3 of the last 4 matches. They are evenly matched at 8-8 over their career history, so it will come down to Chiyotairyu overwhelming Takarafuji’s defenses in the first few seconds, before he exhausts his stamina.
Ikioi vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi tends to dominate these matches, and their career record favors him 11-5. But it’s also clear that Tamawashi is fighting well below his ability this march, likely due to some injury, and Ikioi is fighting well enough to give him a good battle.
Yutakayama vs Abi – I have to say I am very excited for this contest, as we get to see them fight for the first time since January 2019. A lot has changed since then, and Yutakayama comes into this match having won the last 4 matches, including against Ozeki Takakeisho and presumptive Ozeki Asanoyama. My money is on the “Big Unit” today.
Aoiyama vs Mitakeumi – Looks like the schedulers have decided no more yushos from the bottom of the banzuke without a solid series of test matches against higher ranking foes. Up comes Big Dan Aoiyama to face Mitakeumi in what may be a yusho race elimination contest. But Aoiyama is not a starry eye shin-maku rikishi freshly escaped from Juryo, he is a seasoned veteran who has a 3-4 career record against Mitakeumi. This has the potential to be one hell of a fight.
Okinoumi vs Kagayaki – Matching 6-5 records, both are solid in fundamentals and take a lot of care in their sumo. Okinoumi will tend for a mawashi battle and Kagayaki will go for strike and move. Great clash of styles with two evenly matched opponents.
Myogiryu vs Tokushoryu – Both of them are make-koshi, so this is really more or less for entertainment value.
Daieisho vs Onosho – A Daieisho win today is kachi-koshi, and he has won the last 2 verses Onosho. But the Onosho of Haru 2020 is a strong, determined fighter who is more than able to stand up to Daieisho aggressive, strong oshi-sumo. As long as Onosho can keep his feet (and I expect Daieisho to do everything he can to disrupt that), it has potential to be a big battle.
Hokutofuji vs Enho – Enho is one loss away from make-koshi, but if he were to win his remaining matches, it would more or less be in keeping with many of his earlier bashos. Enho has a sad habit of going on losing streaks, and then pulling it together at the end. I think this basho he may also be nursing an injury. Oddly enough, this is the first time he has ever fought Hokutofuji, who got completely overrun by Enho’s stable mate, Yokozuna Hakuho yesterday.
Asanoyama vs Takanosho – The second yusho elimination match of the day, this is a first time meeting against two rikishi who have had great tournaments this March. Advantage would obviously go to Asanoyama, but a loss by the Sekiwake today would puncture any further hopes of promotion to Ozeki before the next tournament.
Takakeisho vs Ryuden – I think most sumo fans are just hoping that Takakeisho can make it to day 15 without further injury, even if he ends up kadoban for the next tournament. He holds a 3-1 career advantage over Ryuden, but that may not matter given the condition of his left leg.
Hakuho vs Shodai – I do hope that Hakuho is done playing around, and he crumples Shodai into a heap before tea-bagging that heap and pushing it off the edge of the dohyo, into the chikara-mizu bucket. Finish strong, Hakuho!
Endo vs Kakuryu – For the last several days, Yokozuna Kakuryu has been all business. Strong, decisive, and completley dominating his matches. I know Endo is going to go for that left hand shallow grip, but I expect that Kakuryu is going to shut it down rather than give him space to get into trouble.