Aki 2018 day 13 highlights


Kise-Hak 2
Photo courtesy of the Japan Times

The end of a fantastic basho draws near. As the day starts, the yusho is not yet decided for certain, although Hakuho is the clear front-runner. Tochinoshin still lacks the kachi-koshi he needs to escape from kadoban, Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid is shot down in flames and he simply struggles to stay Sekiwake, most of the juryo promotions and demotions are as yet undecided, the bulk of Makuuchi still has neither eight wins nor eight losses, and there’s everything to fight for. Most amazingly of all, and an immensely refreshing change from the last year of sumo: the three Yokozuna and three Ozeki are still fighting every day and they’re all looking pretty genki!

Since Bruce – the lucky git – is watching this in person, I’ll be giving you my Youtube-eye view of today’s bouts with the benefit of slow-motion replay but the detriment of not being able to feel the roar of the crowd or eat delicious bento boxes.

Yago – Chiyomaru. As much as I like Chiyomaru, I’m really rooting for the Juryo newcomer! At 8-4 and J2w, he stands a decent chance of securing a promotion to Makuuchi for the first time. Sadly, he can’t manage it, but this is a fun, spirited bout. Although Chiyomaru is usually considered an oshi-zumo specialist, Yago is able to drive him back with pushes and thrusts, twice resisting being slapped down, and then goes chest-to-chest, gets the belt grip, drives forward… and is thrown down. Chiyomaru avoids make-koshi for another day, and it looks like he’ll be able to stay in Makuuchi.

Sadanoumi – Ishiura. With nine losses already, Ishiura was going back to Juryo regardless of the outcome of this match. Ishiura’s low sumo is spirited, but a slap-down attempt sees him stagger almost all the way across the dohyo, and while recovering he’s levered upright and driven out.

Yoshikaze – Daishomaru. A head-cracker tachiai followed by a brief struggle, with Daishomaru staggering out from remarkably little contact. The secret is in the slow-motion replay: when Daishomaru tries to pull away, his foot slips and his head collides firmly with Yoshikaze’s next hand thrust, which seems to knock him silly for a moment. Daishomaru is now make-koshi.

Hokutofuji – Nishikigi. Wow. Match of the day material right here! This is the first meeting between these two (the 0-1 record is actually the result of a fusen), and they seem remarkably well-matched! Nishikigi’s tachiai is shodai-like in its slothfulness, and he spends the first half of the match in frantic retreat – but then he establishes a good, strong right-overarm left-underarm grip and Hokutofuji just cannot manage the grip change. Lifted onto tiptoes and driven back to the bales, Hokutofuji attempts a risky utchari throw, and appears to prevail! However, the slow-motion replay footage shows Hokutofuji’s heel touching down outside the tawara during his throw, the gyoji’s verdict is overturned by the shimpan, and Nishikigi gets a very hard-fought kachi-koshi.

Ryuden – Kotoshogiku. This one should be interesting, given Ryuden’s skill at getting a moro-zashi and Kotoshogiku’s skill at keeping his opponent’s arms bound high while his belly does the work. My prediction? This will be decided on the tachi-ai. If Ryuden gets a good belt grip, he’s won; if he gets his arms locked up he’s lost.

My prediction turns out to be entirely accurate – Ryuden gets a solid grip with both hands, left-inside right-outside, and while Kotoshogiku does manage to dislodge that left hand he can’t keep it off. Ryuden all the way.

Takarafuji – Chiyoshoma. Showing shades of Hokutofuji’s style, Chiyoshoma launches directly into a nodowa right from the tachiai. Takarafuji seems to be completely unable to deal with it right up to the point where Chiyoshoma lets it drop, sidesteps, and slaps him into a stagger that ends with him doing the splits.

Kotoyuki – Tochiozan. Nine-rank difference. The schedulers are not feeling kind to Kotoyuki. He launches into a strong offense with thrusts and nodowa, and just as I think he might be winning, Tochiozan isn’t there any more and Kotoyuki goes bowling into the crowd. Kotoyuki is make-koshi and unless he wins out, he’ll be going to Juryo for sure. A 7-8 record might just see him demoted to M16w.

Kagayaki – Takanoiwa. A tricky match to follow, since the critical thing is the way they control each others arms. You’ll want to watch the slow-motion replay a few times, I think. Takanoiwa takes entirely too long to realize he’s losing, and by the time he starts a throw attempt he’s already going out.

Daiesho – Asanoyama. Another fun match! Daiesho has a clear power advantage, but the number of times Asanoyama makes a miraculous recovery is truly impressive. Sadly, he can’t keep it up forever and is forced out.

Chiyonokuni – Kaisei. Chiyonokuni’s offence is good but he just can’t move that much weight. In the end, his tsuppari is deflected, giving Kaisei a perfect opportunity to seize a left overarm mawashi grip, and it’s all over.

Tamawashi – Takakeisho. Takakeisho’s wave-action tsuppari just blows his opponent away. Next!

Chiyotairyu – Ichinojo. Can Chiyotairyu’s power-tachiai and tsuppari barrage move 500 lbs of wrestler? Ahahaha. No. Not even close. Ichinojo avoids make-koshi for another day, and Chiyotairyu looks so lacklustre I worry he’s injured rather than just demoralized.

Mitakeumi – Myogiryu. After a blistering start, Mitakeumi is at a woeful 6-6 and people are saying his Ozeki bid might have to start over from scratch rather than being just delayed by another tournament. Myogiryu, being just outside the joi-jin, has his kachi-koshi already, although it looks like the schedulers are eager to have him fight lower san’yaku opponents now. Mitakeumi wins it – as he really should do – but his sumo looks slothful and underpowered compared to the first few days of the basho. Injury? Unlikely. Morale problems? Maybe. Plain lack of stamina? That would be my guess.

Shodai – Tochinoshin. Amazing bout. It’s definitely Nodowa Day – even Tochinoshin is getting in on the throat-pushing action before the battle goes chest-to-chest. The Ozeki has the strength and he has the reach, but he just can’t seem to get the grip he wants. He manages to force Shodai back to the bales anyway, and then he lunges, gets the grip for the barest moment, loses it, lunges again with the other hand and gets the right inside grip… and is thrown down beautifully. Had the bout gone the other way, Shodai would be MK and Tochinoshin would be KK. Tochinoshin will get Abi tomorrow, and Takayasu the day after. There are worse situations than “your last chance to clear your kadoban status is against a very genki-looking Takayasu”, but not many.

Speaking of Tochinoshin’s future opponents…

Abi – Takayasu. We’ve seen lots of answers and attempted answers to Abi’s long-limbed tsuppari barrage. This might be a new one. Takayasu spends the entire bout leaning to the right. I don’t really understand the mechanics of this – I assume he’s trying to deflect the tsuppari so he can reach in and get a belt grip on one side or the other, but he never manages it. Eventually, after maneuvering around the ring, he launches into a tsuppari barrage of his own and sends Abi out – pausing to catch him and avoid an injurious fall.

Kisenosato – Hakuho. Kisenosato already has a good enough record to stop worrying about intai for now, and while he undoubtedly wants more, Hakuho is undefeated and two bouts away from a certain yusho. It’s pretty clear who’s going to be the most motivated to succeed. And while Kisenosato does put up a very strong defense, he doesn’t manage to outlast Hakuho’s stamina or find a weakness, and is ultimately forced out. With a win over Goeido tomorrow, Hakuho will clinch yet another yusho.

Kakuryu – Goeido. I’m not sure what quirk of scheduling caused the two-Yokozuna match-up to be before the musubi-no-ichiban, but here we are. Until his two defeats against the other Ozeki, Kakuryu was looking unbeatable. After an unexpected matta from Kakuryu, the bout is over in the blink of an eye – Goeido is clearly on the ball and eager to do his own style of forward-moving sumo, the Yokozuna retreats, and Goeido is so fast that there’s simply no time for the attempted pull-down. Kakuryu is now out of the yusho race regardless of what happens to Hakuho.

Aki Basho day 11 – Lower Makuuchi results

All eyes might be on Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Hakuho and Kakuryu, but I’m going to keep my spotlight aimed at mid and lower Makuuchi for a bit longer, because some of these bouts were very good sumo, and because I’m eagerly watching to see who can and can’t avoid demotion.

Ryuden – Kotoyuki. As I said before, Kotoyuki really needed this win, and I didn’t expect it to be easy for him. However, he pulled it off, a fine display of oshi-zumo keeping Ryuden at arms’ length and stopping him getting anything resembling a mawashi grip. It was really more Ryuden’s loss than Kotoyuki’s win, since the Takadagawa-beya man misjudged his place in the ring and stepped outside while retreating, but Kotoyuki definitely deserves credit for clearly winning the tachiai and preventing Ryuden from ever getting a touch of the belt.

Ishiura – Nishikigi. Another “must-win”, and although Ishiura’s sumo looked solid yesterday, he can’t pull it off again. Nishikigi’s rising arms prevent the low tachiai, and Ishiura finds himself entangled, controlled, and forced out. He can’t disengage, he can’t get low enough to lever Nishikigi upright, and with only a right outside grip he can’t manage a throw. Ishiura is now make-koshi and his return to Juryo is all but assured.

Okinoumi – Takanosho. Both come in to their first ever meeting with 5-5 scores. Takanosho puts on an excellent display of no-tricks, chest-to-chest sumo without a mawashi grip, and is able to drive Okinoumi (ten years his senior) out with pure force.

Kyokutaisei has apparently decided that if he tries to wrestle on that leg again, it will just come off at the knee. Chiyomaru gets the fusensho and avoids make-koshi for one more day.

Sadanoumi – Chiyoshoma. The Villain of Kokonoe-Beya has no interest in moving forwards, and after his hatakikomi attempt fails, his arm-pull fails, and Sadanoumi goes chest-to-chest with arms high, he’s able to perform a Sukuinage (beltless overarm throw) right at the bales and secure a win. I’m still not sure how he manages to find the leverage for that throw and end up on top, although he faceplants down the side of the dohyo for his trouble.

Yoshikaze – Daieisho. Daiesho looked almost like a shorter, rounder Abi in this, with an absolutely unceasing windmill of tsuppari and thrusts that slowly drove Yoshikaze back to the tawara and out.

Takanoiwa – Kotoshogiku. Takanoiwa has a plan here. In the first few seconds of the bout, he’s able to get a good firm belt grip first on the right outside and then the left inside, which does wonders to neutralize the gaburi-yori attack. After Takanoiwa makes two failed attempts to lift him, Kotoshogiki struggles mightily to get the bulldozer into first gear, but Takanoiwa is able to rotate and throw him down with that underarm grip (shitatenage).

Shohozan – Hokutofuji. This bout seems to be all Hokutofuji. With a firm nodawa, an excellent ability to deflect Shohozan’s thrusting attacks, and enough stability to withstand slap-down attempts, Hokutofuji drives Shohozan on two complete laps of the dohyo before finally shoving him out. With this win, Hokutofuji is kachi-koshi.

No-one is going to call Aoiyama – Onosho a highlight with a straight face. Onosho is now disappointingly make-koshi. It was at least better sumo than Daishomaru‘s henka win over Asanoyama.

Myogiryu – Takarafuji. Myogiryu gets both hands inside from the tachiai, and when Takarafuji tries to retreat to avoid being caught in a full moro-zashi, he’s able to follow, withstand the kotenage attempt, and drive him out.

Since the rest of the torikumi involves rikishi from the joi-jin (the upper 16), I’m going to leave that to Herouth to cover.

Aki lower Makuuchi, Day 10

Iksumo has already done a stellar job of reviewing the top of Makuuchi, where all eyes are probably firmly glued to Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi’s struggle and to the Yusho race. Here, though, I’d like to take a moment to discuss the bottom of Makuuchi.

Who’s struggling to avoid demotion? Well, starting from the bottom of the Banzuke and working up, we immediately find M16w Ishiura in the very lowest spot, with a 3-7 record. Compounding his problems is the fact that, at the bottom of the division, his opponents generally come from higher and higher in Makuuchi as the basho goes on. If he doesn’t win every single one of his remaining matches, he’ll very likely be dropping back to Juryo just in time to meet his stable-mate Enho on the way up. He fights a fairly genki Nishikigi tomorrow, an opponent against whom he has a decent winning record of 7-5.

M16e Kotoyuki‘s 4-6 record puts him in nearly as much trouble, but it’s worth noting that he had a run of three losses at the start of the basho during which his sumo was, to put it frankly, terrible. He’s since sorted that out, and although he’s picked up another three losses, it’s possible that he’ll be able to scrape together a bare kachi-koshi. His opponent tomorrow is Ryuden, though, who is in good fighting form and against whom Kotoyuki has two losses and no wins. It’s not looking great for the owl.

M14w Chiyomaru‘s cuteness won’t save him, but the small buffer between his current position and the bottom of the division might. A 3-7 record isn’t good, but if he finishes at, say, 6-9, he might just about stay in Makuuchi. Worse than that, though, and he’ll be rolling back to Juryo.

The other thing that might save Chiyomaru is some minor disasters from higher up the banzuke. M11w Kyokutaisei is the eternally round one’s opponent tomorrow, he has only managed one win so far, and he is pretty obviously injured. If he can’t make a near-miraculous recovery, he’ll be back out of Makuuchi after holding on for three tournaments.

Glancing a little higher we have Aoiyama, who I would normally consider as safe as houses at M10e, but his 2-8 record and obvious knee injury put him in real peril. His opponent tomorrow is Onosho, which isn’t quite as bad for the Bulgarian as it sounds because Onosho hasn’t been fighting particularly well either this basho.

Juryo Yusho Arasoi

Out of these five in-trouble rikishi – plus new Makuuchi entrant Takanosho, who at 5-5 and M14e could go either way in the last few days – how many are likely to fall to Juryo? Well, frankly, your guess is as good as mine because seriously look at this nonsense.

To the right is the Juryo leaderboard for day 10. Basically everyone is either 6-4 or 5-5. There could be six or more prospective promotees, or there could be zero. Arawashi seems likely to make a Makuuchi comeback, since from his J1e position, he’ll now mostly be facing opponents from mid- rather than upper-Juryo, and Meisei and Yago seem well placed to accompany him. Although, of the three, only Arawashi has faced a Makuuchi opponent so far.

This would be Yago’s Makuuchi debut, and I know Herouth at least is very much looking forward to it. Plus, he’ll finally be allowed a shikona.

Natsu Banzuke – Some more commentary

The results for Haru can be seen here, and the newly-released banzuke here.

The San’yaku and Joi

As said in Bruce’s post, Tochinoshin is looking at the last leg of an Ozeki run (ten wins should be enough), and Takayasu could – in theory – be considered for Yokozuna with a particularly strong Yusho (and would finally have to take a shikona). These two are both very popular wrestlers in the English-speaking sumo community, so I’d expect all eyes to be on them for the first part of the tournament.

Mitakeumi got off very lightly. Not only did he luck out of having to face Yokozuna Kakuryu in March (he got Hokutofuji instead, and pulled out a win where an additional loss would almost certainly have resulted in him being demoted out of San’yaku altogether), the banzuke committee decided to let him keep the East side which gives him an edge in re-promotion.

Whether the torikumi will shake out in his favour is a question of which San’yaku show up. If everyone starts the basho, Mitakeumi gets treated to a day one bout against Hakuho. But if someone (probably Kisenosato) goes kyujo from the beginning, there will be not be enough combinations to have two intra-san’yaku bouts every day, and Mitakeumi’s first match will probably be against M3w Yutakayama. Regardless, his fellow Komusubi (and San’yaku newcomer) Endo gets to start off with the top-ranked Yokozuna. This is a career-high rank for Endo, and I for one wish him the absolute best. He had a difficult year clawing his way back up the banzuke following an ankle injury, and his efforts very much deserve the prestigious rank he now holds.

It’s a good bet that at least one of the Yokozuna will either not start the tournament or will drop out early, so the Joi – the group of upper-Maegashira who have to face San’yaku opponents – goes down to M4w Shodai. Most of these rikishi have been here before and frequently put in strong performances at their rank, but two stand out as likely to have a rough time of it: Daieisho was over-promoted from M8w to M3e with a 9-6 record. His previous visit to upper Maegashira, in Natsu 2017, was a 4-11 catastrophe in which he didn’t manage to beat a single San’yaku opponent. Yutakayama is at a career-high rank of M3w, leaping from M11w with a 10-5 record that would normally only get him to around M6. This is only his fourteenth ever Honbasho, and this time last year, he was getting pasted 4-11 at M16 before regrouping in Juryo. We’re all familiar with seeing a young rikishi go on a tear up the banzuke before hitting the San’yaku and bouncing off, and I fully expect it to happen again here.

Kaisei‘s impressive 12-3 Jun-yusho earned him one of the famously tough M1 spots. After a disastrous late 2016-early 2017 saw him slide back down into Juryo, he seems to have regained what made him great. It would not surprise me to see him regain his career-high Sekiwake rank later this year, but at the moment the top ranks have no shortage of very big and very strong rikishi, and Kaisei has never done well against the contingent of Yokozuna and Ozeki (of his five ever wins over Ozeki, one was against the ghost of Terunofuji and one against a fading Baruto. The other three were all against Goeido, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything but is somewhat amusing).

Abi‘s presence at M2w has been remarked upon. I don’t expect it to go very well for him, personally. The top ranks will know exactly what to look out for and will punish that over-commitment problem of his with a quick hatakikomi, just as they did with Onosho last year.


Kotoshogiku is just outside the likely joi. He may be a long way from his former Ozeki self, but I expect him to put in a good tournament at this rank. He won’t be facing the San’yaku who are familiar with his straightforward but effective sumo, and will instead get to employ the belly-bump on a group of mid-rankers who don’t know how to deal with it.

Also narrowly outside the joi: Ikioi! He put in a stellar effort last basho despite being obviously in considerable discomfort, turning in an 11-4 record, and while his final day loss may have caused him to miss out on a special prize, the nine-rank promotion is probably welcome compensation. Avoiding a battering from the San’yaku might well work out in his favour where a 12-3 would have almost certainly seen him in the joi.

Chiyoshoma really seemed to find his sumo in the second half of Haru, and his 9-6 record has left him at the M6e spot. I’m really hoping he can be just as strong – and as entertaining – at the start of this basho as he was at the end of the last!

Hokutofuji is one of those who hit the Joi and bounced off. Hopefully he’ll be able to arrest his slide down the banzuke at M9e. He has no shortage of talent but he’s had a rough time of it in the last couple of bashos. I’m looking forward to seeing him challenging the upper ranks again.

Takakeisho‘s unfortunate and injury-affected record dropped him to M10w. Takakeisho is far more than a mid-Maegashira talent, and if he is free from injury, there’s a good chance he will simply demolish all around him.

Arawashi‘s shambolic 2-13 record sees him drop to M12e, where I’m actually quite happy to see him. His judo-like throws don’t seem to work too well on the most experienced guys at the top of the banzuke, but in the middle, he’s a very entertaining wildcard.

Aoiyama goes up a slightly silly four ranks from a bare-minimum kachi-koshi, but we’ve already seen he can do just fine at higher ranks.

The Juryo-Makuuchi promotion line

The Tachiai.org team noticed that lower Makuuchi had a lot of demotion candidates while upper Juryo was short on people to promote into their vacated spaces. Since the sizes of the upper two divisions are fixed, this led to some tough decisions for the banzuke committee.

Those we thought were likely demotion candidates:

  • Hidenoumi, 3-12 from M16w.
  • Myogiryu, 6-9 from M15w. (Spared at M16w)
  • Sokokurai, 5-7-3 from M15e.
  • Nishikigi, 5-10 from M14w. (Spared at a skin-of-his-teeth M17e)
  • Kotoyuki, 1-13-1 M12w .
  • Onosho, held the respectable rank of M5w but was Kyujo all tournament.

Sokokurai and Onosho fell to the J1 spots, which really feels like Sokokurai got off very lightly, and gives me hope to see them both back in Makuuchi sooner rather than later. Sometimes it feels like Nishikigi is attached to the bottom of Makuuchi with duct tape, but it seems very unlikely that the banzuke committee will let him get away with another make-koshi this time.

The hard-working promotees:

  • Kyokutaisei, from J1e to M15w with 8-7, his first time ranked in Makuuchi. Let’s see if he can make it last!
  • Takekaze, from J1w to M14w with 9-6. A long way from his career-high rank of Sekiwake, but at the age of 38 he’s the second-oldest rikishi still competing above sandanme.
  • …and here’s the oldest. Aminishiki, Uncle Sumo, Isegahama-beya’s lone victorious Sekitori, most likely rikishi to be described as “wily”, oldest rikishi ever to return to Makuuchi from Juryo… and now he’s done it a second time. From J2e to M16w with an 8-7 record, and while I don’t exactly expect him to do great things, he should be very happy to be back in the top division.
  • A third veteran, Sadanoumi, took the Juryo Yusho with an 11-4 record from J4e, and has been rewarded with a jump to M14e. He’s a good deal younger than Takekaze and Aminishiki, though, and he may well be hoping to start climbing back towards his career-high M1 rank.

Hatsu Day 4


It wouldn’t be much* of an exaggeration to say that today’s Makuuchi matches consisted entirely of highlights.

Daiamami – Myogiryu. In the initial clash, Daiamami secures a good, strong, overhand left grip, and although the uwatenage attempt doesn’t send Myogiryu over, it does turn him around so Daiamami can easily show him out.

Ishiura – Nishikigi. Ishiura’s tachiai is quite low – not a proper submarine, but enough to get his head planted into Nishikigi’s chest. But Nishikigi gets an arm hooked under Ishiura’s chin to lever him upright, and soon has the smaller rikishi on the bales. Ishiura realizes he can’t win the test of strength, grabs the left arm with both hands and pulls hard (from the position, I’d almost say he was trying for something like an Ipponzeoi shoulder throw). But he can’t manage it – Daiamami’s footing is just too good, and Ishiura tumbles out of the ring.

Abi – Ryuden. This could be the bout of the day! Abi’s go-big-or-go-home tsuppari versus Ryuden’s beltwork. Abi has to give a lot of ground to keep Ryuden off the belt, trying for slap-downs which get Ryuden stumbling but not down. Just as it looks like he’s in real trouble at the bales, he manages to hook the back of Ryuden’s neck and pull him down and forward while sidestepping. That’s enough to get a good overarm mawashi grip and roll him down with an uwatenage.

Asanoyama – Yutakayama. Asanoyama might be Mr Happy, but he’s taking his sumo seriously, battling through some face-rearranging pushes to get a very deep left underarm grip. Yutakayama fights back with a credible attempt at gaburi-yori, but it leaves him off-balance, allowing Asanoyama to swing him around and out. Tomorrow, Asanoyama’s opponent is J1w Kyokutaisei, against whom he has two wins and no losses, so I would not be at all surprised to see him undefeated a third of the way in and competing for the yusho from Maegashira 16. Again.

Takekaze – Daiesho. Daiesho looks eager to start! He opens with a powerful oshi attack, but once he’s chest-to-chest with Takekaze, he doesn’t relent for a moment. This bout is all Daiesho, and he looks great.

Sokokurai – Kagayaki. A short one. Right after the tachi-ai, Sokokurai finds himself unbalanced by a double-handed shove, and the match is over a split second later. Sokokurai may be a victim of over-promotion; the competition in Makuuchi is much stronger than the guys that he minced for the Juryo yusho recently.

Kotoyuki – Daishomaru. From the tachiai, you might be expecting a repeat of Daiesho’s bout. Daishomaru has his hands down well in advance, and launches straight into a thrusting attack – but apparently Kotoyuki had been watching that one too. He turns to the left, putting a hand just below Daishomaru’s left shoulder to help him along, and Daishomaru’s enthusiastic tsuppari just results in him staggering past his opponent. Kotoyuki gives him a finishing shove a moment later.

Shohozan – Aminishiki. I really thought Uncle Sumo had this one for a moment! His slap-down doesn’t work, but he goes straight into a throw attempt, assisting his kotenage by lifting Shohozan’s leg with his foot. Unfortunately for the old man of sumo, Shohozan’s balance is just a bit too good. He gets his leg back down and it’s Aminishiki who goes over. Excellent throw counter from Shohozan.

Chiyomaru – Kaisei. Slow-motion replay not required as two rikishi who really need to lose some weight shove each other glacially around the dohyo. Chiyomaru’s “hikiotoshi” win is really more of a sidestep, Kaisei toppling like a column with very little help.

Chiyoshoma – Tochiozan. Chiyoshoma seems to be going for the rarely-seen kubinage (headlock throw), but he just can’t do anything about Tochiozan’s incredibly deep inside right grip, and is powered out. Their fifth honbasho meeting, and Tochiozan has now won all five.

Chiyonokuni – Ikioi. Ikioi finally picks up a win, surviving first a kotenage and then an uwatenage attempt on the way to forcing Chiyonokuni out.

Okinoumi – Takarafuji. Takarafuji’s seventh straight win against Okinoumi. He quickly gets a good, deep Hidari-yotsu (left hand under, right hand over) grip, and Okinoumi can’t break it, can’t establish a good grip of his own, and can’t keep himself low enough to resist being shoved out.

Endo – Arawashi. Endo does a fantastic job of preventing Arawashi from getting a good mawashi grip while forcing him back. Arawashi’s foot slides wildly on the clay, and his desperation hatakikomi attempt doesn’t work. It seems he realizes he’s done, and steps out.

Chiyotairyu – Shodai. This was the big let-down of the day. Chiyotairyu’s knee buckles less than a second into the bout, without Shodai doing a thing, and he hits the clay. Tsukihiza; take a drink.

Mitakeumi – Takakeisho. Mitakeumi grabs a handful of mawashi on the tachi-ai but can’t keep it, and a strong back-and-forth oshi-zumo battle breaks out. It ends with a perfectly-timed backstep from Mitakeumi, sending Takakeisho pitching forwards to the clay.

Onosho – Tamawashi. Onosho seems to cotton on to what he’s doing wrong, and despite several slap-down attempts from Tamawashi, doesn’t lose his footing. After some vigorous oshi-zumo, it’s Onosho who gets the hatakikomi win!

Goeido – Hokutofuji. The first half of this bout was cringe-worthy as Goeido retreated, looking for hatakikomi and hikiotoshi opportunities, letting Hokutofuji control the pace of the bout and looking like he was heading for an inglorious defeat. Thankfully for him and for all of us who enjoy his sumo, he apparently managed to reboot in the middle of the bout and started moving forward again. He secured an ottsuke to keep Hokutofuji’s right arm off the mawashi, drove him back, and pitched him out.

Tochinoshin – Takayasu. Two of the biggest, strongest rikishi collide with earthquake-like force. Takayasu had to retreat to keep Tochinoshin off the mawashi – including a nail-biting toes-on-the-tawara moment – but the big Georgian resisted the slap-down attempts and eventually caught up to him and got a strong belt grip. Takayasu, of course, is big and strong enough that he can fight Tochinoshin in a yotsu battle (although apparently he’d rather not). Tochinoshin pulls, Takayasu pushes, and the Ozeki runs out of balance a split-second before his opponent runs out of dohyo. A very, very close fourth win for Tochinoshin, and a very impressive bout from both of them.

Kakuryu – Ichinojo. Kakuryu looks awesome so far. And, full credit to Ichinojo, he battled on the tawara for a lot longer than he usually does! He even got the Yokozuna back to the bales early in the match, but he couldn’t finish it, and Kakuryu was able to force him out. No reactive sumo or tricks here, just straightforward yorikiri against the biggest man in the division.

Kotoshogiku – Kisenosato. Oh dear. Kotoshogiku locks up quickly with little resistance from Kisenosato and gets the gaburi-yori rolling. The Yokozuna isn’t so easy to move, though, and even away from the tawara, Kotoshogiku is bouncing away to little visible effect. He changes tactics and goes for a throw – and, amazingly, it works. Kisenosato hits the clay. While I’m happy to see Kotoshogiku earn a win (and a kinboshi), I’m rather worried that this may be Kisenosato’s last basho.

Hakuho – Yoshikaze. Are we sure this is Hakuho? He can’t muster sufficient force to drive Yoshikaze back, and when he goes for the retreating slap-down, it’s Yoshikaze who slaps him down. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a loss like that from the dai-yokozuna.

*Goddamnit Chiyotairyu.

Torikumi predictions

It’s nearly time! The torikumi (match schedule) for days one and two of the next basho will be published soon. Can we predict it in advance, though?

Firstly, we need to know who’s actually participating. If someone announces kyujo before the torikumi is published, they’re not scheduled for any bouts on the first two days. This involves a bit of guesswork: I’m going to assume that Kisenosato will take more time to recover and train – because if he shows up and doesn’t put on a Yokozuna level performance, he’s toast – but that everyone else in Makuuchi will be participating. Kakuryu is under pressure to show up and go the full 15 days. Terunofuji should not participate, but that was true for the last two bashos as well, and we all saw what happened then. Takayasu might take this basho off – since he’s not currently kadoban, he can afford to skip a basho without being demoted straight away, but I don’t think he’ll go kyujo from the start. He’ll turn up for the first day and see how it goes.

Assuming this prediction is correct – and if it’s not, I’ll update this post as and when kyujo announcements happen – we have eight San’yaku from eight different heya. This means they can all fight each other, so that’s 28 possible match-ups. At a wild guess, the San’yaku schedule will be 1 bout per day for the first three days, then two per day for eleven days, then three on senshuraku.

On day one, the musubi-no-ichiban is generally the lowest ranked San’yaku against the highest. We work backwards to fill out the previous seven bouts with upper Maegashira against San’yaku opponents, in order of ranking.

Y1e Hakuho – K1w Onosho: The red mawashi is powerful, but I’m not sure it will be enough.
Y2e Kakuryu – M1e Hokutofuji: Normally I feel sorry for the M1e guy who gets the roughest schedule in the banzuke, but after seeing Hokutofuji’s performance last basho, and knowing he’s probably pissed at missing out on the San’yaku spot, it might by the Yokozuna who needs my sympathy.
O1e Goeido – M1w Ichinojo: If they both want to do good sumo, this could be a great bout. But often, these two don’t really feel like doing good sumo. Goeido is prone to retreating and looking for slap-downs rather than employing his actually very powerful forward-moving sumo, while Ichinojo often gives up the moment his heels touch the tawara (which may be fear of injury; not irrational when you’re the heaviest man in Makuuchi).
M2e Yoshikaze – O1w Takayasu: A real test of the structural integrity of the dohyo as they slam into each other like a pair of angry trains.
S1e Mitakeumi – M2w Kotoshogiku: Mitakeumi has a 6-3 advantage in their history, and is currently on a four-win streak. Kotoshogiku was unconvincing last basho, and if Mitakeumi’s foot has healed, I know who the favourite is.
M3e Chiyotairyu – S1w Tamawashi: Again, there’s a clear advantage in winning history: 6-2 in Chiyotairyu’s favour. That said, Tamawashi did win their last two bouts (and looked like the much stronger rikishi last basho), so maybe he’s figuring it out now.
K1e Takakeisho – M3w Tochinoshin: We’re all eager to see if the big Georgian is healed up enough to cut it in the Joi, but Takakeisho is not what I’d call a typical San’yaku (no disrespect to him intended; just that his bouncy-ball sumo is very different from that of the rikishi around him). I’ll be cheering Takakeisho here, but I know Tochinoshin has a lot of fans.

Below that, everyone just faces their partner at the same rank:

M4e Shodai – M4w Arawashi
M5e Okinoumi – M5w Endo: The “startling recovery” squad match up. I’m really looking forward to this one, they were both great last basho.
M6e Takarafuji – M6w Ikioi
M7e Chiyoshoma – M8e Tochiozan: Little swap because Chiyoshoma and Chiyonokuni are from the same heya.
M7w Chiyonokuni – M8w Kaisei
M9e Shohozan – M9w Chiyomaru
M10e Terunofuji – M11e Kotoyuki: And another.
M10w Aminishiki – M11w Daishomaru
M12e Sokokurai – M12w Kagayaki
M13e Takekaze – M13w Daieisho
M14e Abi – M14w Yutakayama
M15e Ishiura – M15w Nishikigi
M16e Ryuden – M16w Asanoyama
M17e Daiamami – J1e Myogiryu


The day two torikumi is, as always, less predictable. Onosho got a San’yaku opponent on day one, so it’s Takakeisho’s turn. Assuming I’m correct about absences, he’ll face Kakuryu. Also, the rikishi within each San’yaku rank “cycle” in the torikumi order, to give everyone a slot in the more prestigious matches later in the day.

I’m not sure it’s always possible to predict with certainty which upper-Maegashira get matched against which San’yaku on day two.

Y2e Kakuryu – K1e Takakeisho
Y1e Hakuho – M1e Hokutofuji
M1w Ichinojo – O1w Takayasu
O1e Goeido – M2e Yoshikaze
M2w Kotoshogiku – S1w Tamawashi
S1e Mitakeumi – M3e Chiyotairyu
M3w Tochinoshin – K1w Onosho

Then everyone in lower Maegashira faces the nearest person that they haven’t fought yet, but today, the west rikishi get the later matches. Many thanks to Sakura for pointing this out in the comments.

M5e Okinoumi – M4w Arawashi
M4e Shodai – M5w Endo
M7e Chiyoshoma – M6w Ikioi
M6e Takarafuji – M7w Chiyonokuni
M8e Tochiozan – M8w Kaisei: This pairing didn’t happen on day one because of the need to avoid matching Chiyoshoma against Chiyonokuni.
M10e Terunofuji – M9w Chiyomaru
M9e Shohozan – M10w Aminishiki
M11e Kotoyuki – M11w Daishomaru
M13e Takekaze – M12w Kagayaki
M12e Sokokurai – M13w Daieisho
M15e Ishiura – M14w Yutakayama
M14e Abi – M15w Nishikigi
M17e Daiamami – M16w Asanoyama
M16e Ryuden – J1w Kyokutaisei


Day 5 – The Mighty Uncle

As the fifth day of the Kyushu basho concludes, the torikumi that Leonid was so excited about turned out to be just as excellent as predicted, although not necessarily for the expected reasons.

Uncle Sumo
No knees? No problem.

Tokoshoryu – Myogiryu. Lots of pre-tachiai sizing up, but when the bout starts, Tokoshoryu looks totally outmatched. Myogiryu wraps his arms around high up his opponent’s torso in a double-underarm grip, and simply walks him out.

Kotoyuki – Nishikigi. Matta from Kotoyuki – there seems to be a lot of it going around this basho. The actual bout starts well, but Kotoyuki honestly just looks like his heart isn’t in it. He gets a solid tachiai, but he attempts to maneuver around to Nishikigi’s left and just ends up losing ground in an oshi-zumo battle. He’s driven back easily, and just sort of steps out. Maybe he lost track of his position on the dohyo and tripped on the bales?

Daiamami – Aminishiki. Aminishiki raring to go, Daiamami looks like he’d much rather be eating chanko and watching Takekaze and Ikioi go at it. The bout starts with what I was sure was going to be a matta…

Then the match of the day happens. I am frankly blown away at Aminishiki’s performance here. First he gets a solid left-hand grip on the mawashi right off the tachi-ai, swings Daiamami around, and goes for a knee pick. Daiamami narrowly avoids it by getting his right leg back under him in time, turns head-on to the older rikishi, and forces him back to the bales – but not out. Aminishiki is leaning way forwards, but his grip (right underarm, left overarm) is too strong for Daiamami to just slap him down, and it seems Daiamami doesn’t want to risk back-pedalling.

Daiamami keeps Aminishiki on the bales, slowly levering him upright, dragging both arms up hard, but can’t break his left overarm mawashi grip. Then Aminishiki kicks him in the left shin and forces him to step backwards, taking the opportunity to get off the bales and around to the left. Daiamami drives forward again, but Aminishiki has room to maneuver now, and he backs up fast, overbalancing Daiamami forwards, and executes a sukuinage that I kind of want to print out and frame. Then he saunters back to the west, checking his nails.

This is why we love Uncle Sumo. Even Daiamami looks kind of star-struck.

Takekaze – Ikioi. After the last bout, anything would be a bit of a disappointment. This was a perfectly solid performance, but nothing outstanding.

Kaisei – Kagayaki. Kagayaki opens well, turning Kaisei to the left on the tachiai and moving around to his side, looking for the okuridashi. Kaisei recovers with a deftness and speed that we definitely weren’t seeing from him a couple of tournaments ago, gets back into a more comfortable migi-yotsu, and uses his superior strength to drive Kagayaki out.

Okinoumi – Daieisho. Okinoumi is able to keep Daiesho at bay with slaps and nodowa, but when Daiesho gets closer he’s forced to retreat, with one hand hooked around the back of Daiesho’s neck. As Daiesho leans in harder, Okinoumi shifts his grip, grabs his opponent by the upper arms, and drags him down, denying him anything to hold on to.

Endo – Asanoyama. An excellent yotsu-zumo match, with lots of fighting for a favourable grip. Eventually, Endo gets what he wants, swings Asanoyama around, and forces him out. If you’re a fan of yotsu-zumo, watch this one several times, and find a recording that lets you see it from different angles. You can really see how the rikishi will sacrifice positioning on the dohyo while they struggle to obtain or keep the grip that they want. In the end, despite being driven way back, Endo wins because of that grip.

Chiyomaru – Tochinoshin. Clash of styles here; Chiyomaru is very oshi-zumo focussed while Tochinoshin is a pure yotsu guy. If you look at Chiyomaru’s profile, the vast majority of his losses come from yorikiri – and that’s what happens here. The tsuppari barrage can’t force Tochinoshin back or even keep him at bay, and he soon has a left overarm, right underarm grip, and begins to drive the eternally round one back. When on the tawara, Chiyomaru pulls his right arm out, although I’m not sure what he expected it to achieve at this stage, and he’s out a moment later.

Shodai – Arawashi. I love the sumo that these two put on. Shodai’s tachi-ai looks a bit more committed than usual, but Arawashi absorbs it and starts into the throw attempts straight away. He starts out pinning both Shodai’s arms from the outside, preventing the morozashi, then tries for a kotenage, doesn’t land it, and finds himself being controlled and driven back by Shodai. After three or four attempts, Arawashi finally makes the kotenage work, dragging Shodai over his extended right leg and sending him tumbling.

Takarafuji – Daishomaru. This one was just really unexciting compared to the last few, I’m sorry to say. They both looked so hesitant! Takarafuji wins by yorikiri, but honestly, it’s more like Daishomaru lost by poorly-timed sidestep.

Chiyoshoma – Ichinojo. Chiyoshoma opens with tsuppari, forcing Ichinojo to lean into him, and tries for the slap-down but the mountainous rikishi stays on his feet (though not going anywhere fast). Chiyoshoma changes tactics, moving in and securing a right overarm grip, then turns almost completely around for a high-power uwatenage attempt. It’s not enough to send Ichinojo over, but it unbalances him, turns him sideways, and puts him between Chiyoshoma and the edge of the dohyo. Then it’s just an easy push-out, and Ichinojo’s first loss.

Chiyonokuni – Hokutofuji. If Endo – Asanoyama and Shodai – Arawashi were excellent technical yotsu bouts, this is the other end of the yotsu spectrum: A display of bulging muscles and exhausting effort. No grip change attempts, but Hokutofuji does pull back for a moment to drop his head and plant it against Chiyonokuni’s chest. He drives, Chiyonokuni tries for an uwatenage that doesn’t end the match but does offbalance Hokutofuji enough to fight back away from the bales. Chiyonokuni can’t restore his right inside grip, goes for a kotenage instead, and Hokutofuji pulls away entirely then re-attacks from the side and easily shoves Chiyonokuni out. Well, maybe “easily” is putting it a bit lightly, nothing about this match looked easy.

Kotoshogiku – Chiyotairyu. We enter the San’yaku bouts with a kind of sad trombone sound. Chiyotairyu can’t even get the tsuppari barrage started. Kotoshogiku is inside, gaburi-ing away, and the bout is over like that. ‘Giku needed the win; Chiyotairyu is not having a good basho. It’s his first time in the joi, so not really surprising that the first week would be a bit nasty. He gets Goeido tomorrow.

Mitakeumi gets the fusensho win since Terunofuji has finally accepted the complete futility of trying to do San’yaku-level sumo in his current state. I will never understand why he thought participating in the jungyo was a good idea.

Takakeisho – Yoshikaze. This wasn’t the highlight bout I was expecting, but it’s a good reminder that Takakeisho is improving rapidly. They bounce off each other at the tachiai, Takakeisho thrusts Yoshikaze away to the right when he tries to rush back in, then takes advantage of Yoshikaze’s poor positioning to oshidashi him out.

Tamawashi – Takayasu. Takayasu’s slaps and thrusts aren’t enough to keep Tamawashi at bay. He gets in close right off the tachiai, secures an actual left ottsuke (as opposed to whatever Kisenosato had the other day), and manages to drive Takayasu backwards the length of the dohyo as if doing butsukari. The big guy gets turned around at the end and shown out – Takayasu’s first loss of the basho. Will Takakeisho hand him another one tomorrow? The run of four wins was a good start, but Takayasu is under-trained, is kadoban, and I worry for my favourite rikishi.

Goeido – Onosho. After a solid tachiai, Goeido hops backwards and drags Onosho down. Not much to say about the match itself, but I hope this use of retreating sumo was just a one-off to defeat Onosho (who has a serious overcommitment problem), rather than a return to the overly-reactive style that we’d all rather he stay away from. Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with reactive sumo – it’s just that Goeido is so much better when he’s on the attack! And since he faces Chiyotairyu tomorrow, the attack is where he wants to be; backing away from Chiyotairyu just means you spend longer getting pummelled by tsuppari.

Tochiozan – Hakuho… What? That wasn’t just a matta, even the Gyoji wasn’t in position yet! Did Hakuho lose track of what point in the pre-bout ritual they were at?

Hakuho easily wins the actual bout, holding Tochiozan at bay with one hand then quickly pulls him forward, sidesteps, and easily pushes him out the rest of the way – adding an extra little unnecessary shove off the dohyo. Boo, hiss.

Tochiozan is now the only non-kyujo rikishi in the division with no wins. Tomorrow, he gets to try to change that against Kisenosato.

Kisenosato – Shohozan. Yep, Shohozan was watching yesterday’s bout. He attacks the left side relentlessly, controlling Kisenosato’s weak left arm, trying throws and force-out techniques until he finally gets the yokozuna to the bales. Kisenosato isn’t finished, though, and pulls off an amazing last-moment throw, landing on top of Shohozan for the win. But it’s not the sort of win that a Yokozuna should be proud of.

I’ve got to say, I’m unhappy with the state of affairs at the Yokozuna ranks. Kisenosato is not putting on yokozuna-like sumo. Hakuho is not showing yokozuna-like conduct. Kakuryu has been kyujo for six of the last ten basho. And Harumafuji, well, I don’t really want to talk about that. But that’s a sour note, and the vast majority of today has been cracking good fun.