It’s early Friday in Tokyo. There are three days remaining in the Hatsu basho. With losses by both Asanoyama and Meisei on day 12, all focus shifts to Daieisho and Shodai. Shodai’s remaining 3 matches are far more challenging than Daieisho’s. But Shodai has already won a yusho, and can possible endure the mental pressure better. It will be a fascinating to watch the final three days unfold.
What is also starting to become clear is just how topsy-turvy March is likely to be.
In reality, unless something very odd happens today and tomorrow, only the two leaders will be in any position to vie for the Emperor’s Cup.
Leaders – Shodai, Daieisho
Hunt Group –Asanoyama, Terunofuji, Meisei, Ichinojo, Kotonowaka
4 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 13
Yutakayama vs Akiseyama – The winner of this match is kachi-koshi for Hatsu, so both should have the throttles wide open. Akiseyama snapped a 5 match losing streak with his day 12 win over Akua, so maybe he won’t be quite as discouraged as he had been. Could be a solid fight.
Ichinojo vs Sadanoumi – I worry that Ichinojo is abandoning him “Boulder” sumo now that he has his 8 wins. His day 12 kachi-koshi victory was good enough, but I hate to see him roll the dice on a pull. Sadanoumi is faster and more compact than Onosho, and I doubt it will have the same effect.
Kotonowaka vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama is dangerously close to a make-koshi now with 7 losses, and I have to wonder if he might muster the mojo to really put the power in the V-Twin attack for the last 3 days. Kotonowaka has 8 wins, and some rikishi back off the intensity just a bit once they reach kachi-koshi. Even if he wins, Aoiyama needs to “win out” to hit 8 from this score.
Shimanoumi vs Hoshoryu – Another match where the winner takes home kachi-koshi. I would like to see Hoshoryu use straight ahead sumo and fight this one out. Yes, I know henka is a legitimate sumo move, but it has gotten a bit stale going into day 13.
Midorifuji vs Myogiryu – First time match between these two, and I have to wonder how many katasukashi under shoulder swing downs we get in a single honbahso. I would say 15 is a good number, so do try to supply, Midorifuji! Myogiryu, at 6-6, seems to be getting into position for a Darwin match on day 15.
Terutsuyoshi vs Kiribayama – If Terutsuyoshi can some how manage to win his remaining 3 match and exit Hatsu with a kachi-koshi, it will be a most remarkable case of gamberizing. His left arm is for all intents useless, and he has been fighting with just his right hand. The fact that he has managed to dig out 5 wins going into the final weekend is a testament to this guys’ resourcefulness.
Tochinoshin vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko can still hit kachi-koshi if he can win 2 of his last 3 matches. His day 13 against Tochinoshin may be a solid chance to get one of them. Right now Tochinoshin is struggling to do any kind of sumo, offensive or defensive. I think his damaged knee is just not able to support much mobility at all, and his meager 3-9 record is the result.
Meisei vs Onosho – Day 13 can be redemption time for Onosho if he can bounce back from getting too far forward against Ichinojo and eating dirt day 12. He’s drawn Meisei who comes in with 8 wins, but he is not the kind to ease up into the final weekend. I expect that Onosho is going to be a bit more conservative with his balance, and these two should make for a fine oshi-zumo match. Meisei holds a 5-2 career advantage. An Onosho win would be kachi-koshi.
Kotoshoho vs Akua – Battle of the scratch and dent bin. We have Kotoshoho who has some undisclosed problem that has robbed him of his good sumo. He’s up against Akua, who sufffered a moderate bout of COVID-19 in December. A word from friends who had a similar outcome, their blood oxygen level is still below normal, and it’s tough to muster the energy to do much of anything. If true, this could spell big trouble for Hakuho in March.
Takarafuji vs Tobizaru – Oh good, I was wondering if we were going to get this tasty morsel. Mr optimum defense vs the flying monkey, and I will be really watching how Takarafuji works to shut down Tobizaru’s blistering combo attacks. The did it with great effect in their only prior match, which Takarafuji won. A repeat performance and that will be kachi-koshi for him.
Ryuden vs Daieisho – Ryuden has somewhat be-clowned himself with the pre-tachiai pelvic gyrations at this point. I guess he did it to distract his opponents, but it seems to mostly have distracted himself. He has yusho race co-leader Daieisho today, and I think he’s going to get knocked about and ejected in less than 10 steps.
Hokutofuji vs Tokushoryu – Ok, fine. Hokutofuji is probably going to win this one, and will continue his march toward 7-8 final record, going from straight losses to straight wins. I am sure there is a clever Japanese sumo term for this, but I can’t quite fight it out of my dilapidated brain-meat or the Internet. Some kind reader, please do add it to the comments if you know.
Kagayaki vs Mitakeumi – Kagayaki has never beaten Mitakeumi, and given the way Kagayaki is fighting this Hatsu, that won’t change today. Should this be the outcome, it will be make-koshi for Kagayaki with a complimentary kachi-koshi for Mitakeumi.
Takayasu vs Tamawashi – Twenty eight career matches between these two. This is another match where the most likely outcome results in a kachi/make-koshi pair. The other more interesting route would be a Tamawashi win, and both get guided toward Darwin matches on day 15.
Terunofuji vs Endo – Terunofuji’s sumo looks really good this January. When you take into account how poorly his knees are, it’s nothing short of amazing. He is seeking 10 wins or better, and his next stop could be giving Endo his make-koshi on day 13. They have only met once in the past year, and that was Aki where Terunofuji completely dominated him.
Asanoyama vs Okinoumi – Asanoyama, I am looking for you to revert to your calm, controlled and smooth form this match. His balance and foot work has been all over the place this basho, and it’s hurt his performance. Sure he’s kachi-koshi, and has cleared kadoban, but in a tournament with no Yokozuna, I expect he would be contending for the yusho at this point. An Okinoumi win would be kachi-koshi for him.
Takanosho vs Shodai – The heat is on Shodai, who must match Daieisho win for win to stay in yusho contention. His day 13 opponent, Takanosho, is no easy mark, and has take 2 of the last 3 from Shodai. Shodai will need to be at his defensive best to keep himself from handing the cup to Daieisho. Should Takanosho prevail, it will be kachi-koshi for him.