Hatsu Day 13 Preview

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.

Hatsu Leaderboard

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 GroupAsanoyama, 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.

Hatsu Day 12 Highlights

The yusho race is down to two rikishi – Daieisho and Shodai. Meisei comes up just short in spite of a superb effort, and Terunofuji dismantles and ejects Asanoyama in a show of how much his sumo has improved. The burden is now on both leaders to keep winning, the first one to lose will likely forfeit the cup to the other. This is a much harder road for Shodai as he has to face all of the rikishi that Daiesho already beat in week 1. Should they both win their remaining matches, or lose the same number, it will be a playoff at the end of day 15 to see who takes the cup home. At this point, the schedule favors Daieisho, but Shodai has the operational advantage. Having already taken a yusho, the distraction of leading into the final days may not be as severe as it is for Daieisho. Either way, it should be a great final 3 days.

Highlight Matches

Akiseyama defeats Akua – For the first time in 6 matches, Akiseyama manages to get a win. The critical move for him was shifting his left hand lower for the final push. He improves to 7-5, and may still find kachi-koshi yet.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi gets the early advantage, and charges a head. Kotoeko reverses position at the bales and drives forward for a come from behind win. He finishes the day 6-6.

Shimanoumi defeats Yutakayama – Shimanoumi with maximum effort today against Yutakayama. After a few probing thrusts from both men. Shimanoumi got a double inside grip just as Yutakayama tried to load up a throw. From that point on, it was Shimanoumi’s match. Both end the day 7-5.

Midorifuji defeats Aoiyama – I posed the question last night – could he make katasukashi work against Big Day? Why yes he did! Aoiyama was pounding away, but Midorifuji endured, got his position and gave that giant dumpling a quick trip to the clay. Midorifuji improves to 7-5.

Hoshoryu defeats Myogiryu – We get another day where Hoshoryu moves to the side at the tachiai, hopefully this is not his new favorite move. He rapidly gets behind Myogiryu and gives him a mighty shove to win. Hoshoryu improves to 7-5.

Kotonowaka defeats Kiribayama – Kotonowaka got his preferred grip at the tachiai, paused a moment, and drove forward for the win. Kiribayama tried for a grip change in all of that, but all it did was lessen the effort Kotonowaka needed to win. Kotonowaka gets his 8th win for kachi-koshi.

Tobizaru defeats Terutsuyoshi – An extreme mobility oshi-zumo fest, which seems to be common for any match with Tobizaru this January. This should have been a more even match, but Terutsuyoshi injured left arm prevented him from matching Tobizaru blow for blow. Tobizaru improves to 6-6, and may end up on the track for a Darwin match on day 15.

Kotoshoho defeats Tokushoryu – Kotoshoho finally gets his first win of the tournament, when Tokushoryu gets a little cheeky and tries what might have been ipponzeoi against Kotoshoho. It collapses with Kotoshoho on top as Tokushoryu belly flops. Kotoshoho shonichi at 1-11.

Ichinojo defeats Onosho – Ichinojo reads Onosho’s massive forward bias and just lets him roll forward, down and out. Not the greatest sumo to watch, but it’s kachi-koshi for Ichinojo at 8-4.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Takarafuji is the master at shutting down other people’s brand of sumo. He does it so well, and you can see it on display today. Kagayaki works to get his hands anywhere inside to start pushing, and Takarafuji just shuts him down. Takarafuji improves to 7-5.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochinoshin – There was that handshake tachiai again, and it’ finds Tochinoshin’s neck with great effect. Although Tochinoshin breaks that neck hold, Hokutofuji is inside and gets his pushing attack against Tochinoshin’s chest, taking him out three steps later. Hey, Hokutofuji? Where was this sumo last week? He improves to 4-8.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Daieisho survives a close one, and I have to compliment Meisei on maximum effort on this match. He took a lot of punishment and stayed focused on opening up an attack lane. He found one when his right hand connected with Daieisho’s mawashi knot, and he went to work. Daieisho managed a save at the edge to squeak out a win. But that left hand in Meisei’s chon-mage…. Daieisho maintains his share of the lead at 10-2.

Okinoumi defeats Takayasu – No kachi-koshi for Takayasu, as Okinoumi had this one under his control from the tachiai. Takayasu worked hard to get back to an offensive position, and tried to finish with a throw. Okinoumi read all of this well, and shut it all down. Both end the day at 7-5.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi took away any chance for Tamawashi to use his preferred oshi-zumo approach, locking him up early and dancing him around. I think that match ended with a twist down (makiotoshi), which I have not seen in a good long while. Mitakeumi improves to 7-5.

Takanosho defeats Endo – Endo’s opening gambit fell apart today, and it was all Takanosho after that. At one point Takanosho was to the side of Endo, and bucked him out like a farm hand chucking a bag of grain. Takanosho improves to 7-5.

Shodai defeats Ryuden – Oh dear, the butt is back. Shodai gets a double inside grip in the first step, turning Ryuden into a piece of struggling baggage. With the win Shodai improves to 10-2 and maintains parity with Daieisho for the lead.

Terunofuji defeats Asanoyama – With Meisei down, Asanoyama is the only rikishi left who might challenge the leader duo. At least until Terunofuji proves yet again that Asanoyama can’t find a way to win against the kaiju. I love how calm and efficient Terunofuji is in this match, while Asanoyama seems to go into struggle mode almost at once. I know Terunofuji has no knees to speak of, but this guy’s sumo is so spot on right now. A well earned kachi-koshi for Terunofuji as he claims an Ozeki scalp.

Hatsu Day 12 Preview

We have a interesting race for the Emperor’s Cup, with Shodai and Daieisho both entering today with 9 wins. They have already faced each other in week 1, so we won’t get a yusho leader head to head match this week unless they are tied at the end of day 15. Both of them have matches that they are favored to win today, and I think we will carry this on into the final weekend.

Hatsu Leaderboard

Leaders – Shodai, Daieisho
Chasers – Asanoyama, Meisei
Hunt GroupTerunofuji, Takayasu, Onosho, Ichinojo, Yutakayama, Kotonowaka

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Akua vs Akiseyama – I am interested to see if now that he has firmly secured make-koshi, if Akua will continue to win. The ultimate result of this would be a 7-8 result, and would probably keep him in the top division. Meanwhile, will Akiseyama get a 6th consecutive loss today.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – Sadanoumi has to win 4 of the last 5 to stay in the top division, and thats a pretty tall order when he is facing healthy, strong opponents like Kotoeko, who needs 4 of the last 5 to hit kachi-koshi, though I would guess if is safe for now.

Shimanoumi vs Yutakayama – A win today would put Yutakayama at 8 wins, and I think he should be able to hit at least 9 at this rank, if he is healthy.

Midorifuji vs Aoiyama – I want to see Midorifuji apply katasukashi to Big Dan Aoiyama, which would be glorious, and could end up giving Aoiyama a pair of black eyes. This is their first ever match, so anything goes.

Hoshoryu vs Myogiryu – Both enter the day at 6-5, and are looking for 2 more wins in the remaining 4 days. Myogiryu won their only prior bout, but Hoshoryu is on a bonafide hot streak right now, winning the last 6 in a row, so I am thinking he will have the advantage going into day 12.

Kotonowaka vs Kiribayama – Kotonowaka win is kachi-koshi for him today. Kiribayama has lost 3 in a row, so it might not be out of consideration that he will prevail today and pick up his 8th.

Terutsuyoshi vs Tobizaru – Both of these two have a tendency to put a lot of energy into their sumo. But with Terutsuyoshi’s arm injured and bandaged, he is not nearly the same threat that he should be. Given Tobizaru’s mobility and aggression this week, I would say that its his match to lose.

Kotoshoho vs Tokushoryu – Can Kotoshoho (0-11) get even a single win this basho? this is getting really sad.

Ichinojo vs Onosho – the winner gets kachi-koshi, and if Ichinojo can remain calm and patient, there is no real way for Onosho to do very much to move him. This is in spite of his tendency to load up a huge amount of force in his forward motion. Stay strong, stay still Ichinojo!

Takarafuji vs Kagayaki – Takarafuji’s defend and extend mode of sumo confounds and defuses anything Kagayaki can cook up. Takarafuji holds an 8-4 career advantage over Mr. Fundamentals, and a Kagayaki loss today would mean he would need to win all of his remaining matches to reach kachi-koshi.

Hokutofuji vs Tochinoshin – Both are 3-8 before this match. They share a 5-5 career match record, and both of them are not fighting anywhere close to their optimum this January. To my eye, it seems that Tochinoshin lacks enough knee mojo to mount any kind of credible forward pressure, and maybe not enough for there to be much mobility based oshi-sumo from him as well. I am going to guess this is going to be Hokutofuji’s match today.

Meisei vs Daieisho – Possibly the most interesting match of the day, Meisei has never won a match against Daieisho in 4 attempts. But if he manages to gamberize and overcome his tendency to eat clay in a match against Daieisho, he will hand Shodai a chance to take the lead. Both men are already kachi-koshi, so this is all about running up the score.

Takayasu vs Okinoumi – Takayasu holds a clear (15-4) advantage over Okinoumi, and I am looking for him to extend that lead today. A Takayasu win will be kachi-koshi and a chance to move up to Sekiwake for March.

Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi seems to have gotten his sumo together, and he needs to win 2 of his last 4 matches to hit kachi-koshi. He and Tamawashi have a 24 match record, with Mitakeumi leading 21-3.

Endo vs Takanosho – Endo has had a bit of a week 2 fade dropping 3 of his last 4. Can he rally? He’s up against a fairly genki Takanosho, and I think he may struggle if he can’t get Takanosho to fight him chest to chest.

Ryuden vs Shodai – Shodai holds a 5-1 career match record against Ryuden, so there is a strong chance that we will see him at least keep pace with Daieisho, or take the lead should Meisei succeed in finally winning against the yusho co-leader. A Ryuden loss would be make-koshi for him. Hopefully no more cartoon sumo from Shodai today.

Asanoyama vs Terunofuji – Asanoyama has not had a single win against Terunofuji in 3 attempts. A loss today to the kaiju would effectively knock him out of the yusho race, but keep him 1 win behind Shodai and Daieisho.

Hatsu Day 11 Highlights

The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan has seen fit to make this yusho race interesting, and even the events that took place to get us to this state about as unusual as you could want. Some people take exception to my describing some of Shodai’s sumo as “cartoon”, and a few take umbrage. As it in play today, perhaps an explanation. As a child, I watched cartoons, a lot of them. Mostly the classic such as the Looney Tunes (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc) with a few more contemporary hits thrown in. Things in the cartoon world don’t work the same as they do in the real world, and typically the protagonist will use some physics or geometry defying move to overcome the bad guy’s actions.

Forward to the present day. A few years ago, we saw Shodai get into trouble in a match, and suddenly do things that were tough to explain and most times reversed an almost certain loss. Sometimes it happened while Shodai was a few feet away. I could not figure out what was at work until it hit me – this is no different than “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, where the toons invaded the normal world, bringing their cartoon physics and props with them. Thus Shodai’s unexplainable escapes and wins were explainable, and Shodai was deemed to have “cartoon sumo”. He used it again today. Twice.

Highlight Matches

Akua defeats Sadanoumi – I had expected Sadanoumi to use his superior speed and agility to dominate this match, but instead Akua used his big body to shut down Sadanoumi’s mobility and just used good old Newtonian sumo to score his 3rd win for January.

Kotoeko defeats Akiseyama – Good grief! That’s 5 losses in a row for Akiseyama, who at one point was part of the leader group. Kotoeko over powered him quite effectively, which is an achievement given the difference in mass between the two. Kotoeko improves to 5-6.

Yutakayama defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama had this match on even footing, but then decided to try a neck pull against Yutakayama. Given he has done that at least twice in previous matches, it was easy to anticipate. Yutakayama improves to 7-4.

Kotonowaka defeats Shimanoumi – There is a tendency for sumo matches to spend at least some time in the present day as mutual nodowa exchanges. I find it rather boring, and I wish it would fall out of favor. These two had their moment of mutual nodowa, and it got them precisely nowhere. They went into a leaning mode, and Kotonowaka won by reversing and pulling Shimanoumi into a throw. He improves to 7-4.

Myogiryu defeats Ichinojo – Did Ichinojo use his ponderous bulk to his advantage today? No! He decided he wanted to pull straight out of the tachiai, and Myogiryu was ready. Dear Boulder. You should have had him try to push you around or hold you up for a minute or two first. Myogiryu improves to 6-5.

Hoshoryu defeats Kiribayama – This match had a lot of sumo fans talking, and much of it was critical of Hoshoryu. While I would rather have seen them fight it out, Kiribayama could have been ready for Hoshoryu’s henka. He improves to 6-5.

Midorifuji defeats Tokushoryu – The answer is “yes”, Midorifuji can apply the katasukashi to someone that large and rotund. It was over in a flash, and Midorifuji advances to 6-5.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Ryuden – Another match won at the tachiai, Terutsuyoshi steps to the side and picks up Ryuden’s left leg to win in a flash by ashitori. Terutsuyoshi improves to 5-6.

Tobizaru defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho now with 11 straight losses. He’s not a crummy rikishi, but he’s just not able to win right now for some reason. Tobizaru once again brings a lot of energy and movement to his sumo, and scores a much needed win to improve to 5-6.

Meisei defeats Takarafuji – For whatever reason, Takarafuji could not get step up to stalemate Meisei today, as Meisei kept the upward pressure on Takarafuji’s arms immediately from the tachiai. With the win Meisei improves to 8-3 and is kachi-koshi.

Onosho defeats Daieisho – Onosho does what we all hoped he would, handing Daieisho his second loss with a beautifully timed step to the side as Daieisho charges to send him over the bales. With this second loss, the one time sole leader is now within range of two Ozeki and Meisei, whom he will face on day 12. Onosho improves to 7-4.

Hokutofuji defeats Kagayaki – Sure, now that Ol’Stompy Hokutofuji has firmly secured “The Most Powerful Make-Koshi In All of Sumo”, here come the wins. We finally get to see that handshake tachiai, and it stands Kagayaki up. Kagayaki has long legs, and so his hips are high anyhow, and Hokutofuji uses these elements to get low and attack center mass. When Hokutofuji fights like this, he is unstoppable. He improves to 3-8.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochinoshin – Mitakeumi keeps Tochinoshin moving, and he is easy meat in that situation. Unable to set up any kind of position with his left leg to stop Mitakeumi’s charge, he’s out in a moment. Mitakeumi improves to 6-5.

Takayasu defeats Endo – Rather than going for a low frontal mawashi grip, Endo choses to meet Takayasu’s opening strike with his hands high. Trading thrusts and blows with Takayasu was never going to favor Endo, and he goes down on the 4th volley when Takayasu adds a pull. Takayasu improves to 7-4.

Terunofuji defeats Tamawashi – For a man with no knees, Terunofuji has impressive balance. He absorbs the disrupting pushing attacks from Tamawashi, and remains on his feet. With the win Terunofuji improves to 7-4. Keep the dream alive, Kaiju!

Asanoyama defeats Takanosho – Takanosho put up a great fight. Twice Asanoyama tried to get his preferred grip and stance against Takanosho, but Takanosho broke each attempt, and kept the Ozeki in motion. Again we saw Asanoyama revert back to his earlier oshi form, and pull out the combo that won the match. Asanoyama clears kadoban with his 8th win and is kachi-koshi.

Shodai defeats Okinoumi – First match: Okinoumi launches a moment earlier than Shodai, and starts the match chest to chest. But Shodai is able to move forward and runs Okinoumi to the bales. A twisting throw at the edge looks like an Okinoumi win as it happens, but the Shimpan want to review it. The call – rematch! Second match: A much more cautious tachiai from both, but once again its Okinoumi on offense. Shodai tries the same square dancing combo he pulled out on day 10 for a win, but Okinoumi shifts his offense seamlessly and puts Shodai on his back for what appears to be another win. But its close and the Shimpan want to review, again. Frame by frame shows that Okinoumi stepped out before Shodai slammed into the clay, and the match was awarded to the Ozeki with a kimarite scored as isamiashi or “accidental step out” non-winning move. Shodai improves to 9-2 and is tied for the lead with Daieisho, with Asanoyama and Meisei one behind.