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.

Hatsu Day 11 Preview

Welcome to the start of act 3! In the final 5 days of the basho, we crown the yusho winner, and sort the winners from the losers. The race is under Daieisho’s control, and as long as he wins each day, he takes home the cup. If he goes down once, he’s fair game for Shodai, if he loses twice, well it gets a bit more interesting. The chance of that are not good, however. Daieisho is fighting very well, and looks completely comfortable in his sumo. This will maybe crack a bit on days 13/14/15, but Daieisho may run short of credible and challenging opponents.

Hatsu Leaderboard

Leader – Daieisho
Chaser – Shodai
Hunt GroupAsanoyama, Meisei, Yutakayama

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Akua vs Sadanoumi – Akua is already make-koshi, but he needs to rack up a few more wins to make sure he stays in the top division. Given how diminished he looks right now, I am fairly sure that 5-5 Sadanoumi will have the upper hand.

Akiseyama vs Kotoeko – Akiseyama has lost the last 4 in a row after opening 6-0. I am going to put a wager on injury day 6 or 7, and he’s got to find a way to come up with 2 more wins, or get on the barge back to Juryo. Kotoeko at 4-6 should be in better shape in staying in the top division from Maegashira 11. Akiseyama holds a 6-4 career advantage, so maybe things will go his way today.

Yutakayama vs Aoiyama – Yutakayama seems to be clicking along quite well going into act 3, so I think he will have the edge against “Big Dan” today. The two have a 3-3 match history, but Aoiyama has been a bit below par this January. He needs 3 more wins to reach the safety of kachi-koshi.

Shimanoumi vs Kotonowaka – A pair from the 6-4 pack, and it should be a good one. Both of them are young, strong and oshi-zumo specialists. if Kotonowaka gets the first hit, I would expect him to quickly work to set up a throw, vs Kotonowaka moving to thrust and push his way to a win.

Ichinojo vs Myogiryu – So, Myogiryu, do you want to go into a belt battle with Ichinojo? Make it a perfect trifecta of smaller, high output rikishi who try to grapple with the Boulder? He holds a 9-4 advantage over Ichinojo, so there is some real concern that he can get it done where Midorifuji could not.

Hoshoryu vs Kiribayama – First time match, and it’s time to check out how well Hoshoryu’s bounce back from his 0-5 start when he comes up against Kiribayama. Both come from the Mongolian school of sumo, so with any luck they may try to leg trip each other.

Tokushoryu vs Midorifuji – Tokushoryu, at 8 losses, has to have a focus on racking up enough wins to not be demoted from M14 East. Maybe, lksumo will post some information on that later in the basho. This is another first time match, and I am hoping we get to find out of Midorifuji can employ his under shoulder swing down on such a massive opponent.

Ryuden vs Terutsuyoshi – Both at 4-6, and I am favoring Ryuden, mostly due to Terutsuyoshi’s injured arm. With any luck he can somehow find 4 more wins before day 15 with only his right arm.

Kotoshoho vs Tobizaru – Why does Kotoshoho keep fighting? Well, he’s going to donate another white star today. This time to Tobizaru, who at 4-6, could certainly use a few.

Takarafuji vs Meisei – A Meisei win today would be kachi-koshi, but Takarafuji is an arch-spoiler. Meisei needs to act before Takarafuji can set up his defense, or it may be quite the long fight.

Onosho vs Daieisho – Onosho has an 8-5 career record over Daieisho, and for today – that matters. Clearly Onosho has the recipe to win over Daieisho, and this January he seems strong and healthy enough to actually take the fight to the Yusho race leader. A loss today would open the door for Shodai.

Hokutofuji vs Kagayaki – Now that Hokutofuji has a 2-8 make-koshi, maybe he will start winning matches. This would not be the first time this has happened to Ol’Stompy. He holds an 8-2 career advantage over Mr. Fundamentals, Kagayaki, and I think we just may see him use the handshake tachiai today, and get Kagayaki on the run.

Tochinoshin vs Mitakeumi – A Tochinoshin loss today would be make-koshi for him, so I expect him to throw everything he can into this match. Mitakeumi needs 3 more wins for kachi-koshi, but given how hit or miss his sumo has been, its tough to know what he is going to bring to todays match.

Takayasu vs Endo – Takayasu will bring wild energy to this match, and Endo will be efficient and precise. A great conflict of sumo styles, and it could be the kind of battle that deserves watching in slow motion a dozen times or so. It will be shoulder blast vs battle crouch, and if Endo gets that frontal grip, it will be Endo on the attack.

Terunofuji vs Tamawashi – Terunofuji needs to win 4 of his last 5 matches to hit double digits, which he wants to stoke a run to return to Ozeki. Tamawashi has been fightings surprisingly well for a man of 35, and he hold just a slim 5-7 minority against Terunofuji. Could be a solid match.

Asanoyama vs Takanosho – Asanoyama can clear kadoban with a win today, and I expect him to dispatch Takanosho with little trouble.

Okinoumi vs Shodai – The big if – can Shodai continue to win? He has a 4-5 record against Okinoumi, and needs to stay focused because Okinoumi has a vast library of sumo to use to counter anything Shodai might try. Will it be time for more cartoon sumo? I certainly hope so.

Hatsu Day 10 Highlights

With a thunderous kyujo, act 2 comes to a close. I do mean Takakeisho, yes. While he has had poor performance from the start, he was was the center of attention in the days before the basho, as he had taken the cup in November and had an opportunity to make a bid to be promoted to Yokozuna. It seems at some point early in the tournament he injured his ankle, but frankly I think there may be more than that. He has looked unwell since the joint practice in the basement of the Kokugikan. I hope that he can get his body together a bit later this year and try again.

In the rikishi still active, there was no change at the top of the leader board as both Daieisho and Shodai won their matches today, and remain #1 and #2 respectively. This only gets interesting if someone can drop Daieisho at least once during act 3, which starts tomorrow. Personally I like the chances of another loss (at least 40%) due to the mental pressure of considering the yusho may cause some loss of focus during the daily bout. The chance is high we won’t know who will take the cup until day 15, and that is how it should be.

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Akiseyama – Akiseyama has now lost 4 in a row, and is on a genuine cold streak. He had been tied for the lead at one time, and is now struggling. Is it a cold streak, or did he pick up an injury? Either way, Azumaryu picks up a much needed win to improve to 3-7.

Hoshoryu defeats Kotonowaka – Ok, Hoshoryu seems to have found his sumo for real! He beats Kotonowaka for the first time in 4 attempts by slamming him to the clay after a leg trip attempt. He has won the last 5 in a row after losing the first 5 from opening day.

Ichinojo defeats Midorifuji – You have to admire Midorifuji’s courage, he has to have seen Kiribayama’s day 9 attempt to grapple Ichinojo, and he somehow said to himself, “I am going to try that too!”. Well, it was just as pointless as once you get a hold of Ichinojo, he gets a hold of you, and you realize you have no way to let go. So you try to bide your time, but Ichinojo is quite comfortable and possibly napping. You then realize that you are simply going to have to make it look good. Ichinojo advances to 7-3 to remain at the edge of the group chasing Daieisho.

Sadanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama had the early advantage, and fired up his thrusting attack. Sadanoumi took the punishment and got inside and them got Aoiyama moving back. I notice that Sadanoumi’s leg was not as heavily wrapped today as it had been in earlier matches. Maybe that gave him some of his speed and mobility back. Both end the day 5-5.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Myogiryu – Well, they traded push back mattas, and it was clear they were annoyed with each other. When they got underway on the 3rd attempt, Myogiryu attempted a double hand slap down, but could not make it stick. Myogiryu found himself without any defensive elements to the match, and Terutsuyoshi blasted him out to improve to 4-6.

Akua defeats Tokushoryu – Sharing is caring, they say, and today Akua gave Tokushoryu the gift of make-koshi, which he received on day 9 from Tobizaru. This was another extended chest to chest match, though nothing on the scale of Ichinojo’s long duration endurance challenge. I did not like the way Tokushoryu’s left knee / leg collapsed at the end. I hope he is not injured. Both end the day at 2-8.

Meisei defeats Kiribayama – It was a battle of the slap / pull down attempts, and while it was not pretty, it all worked out for Meisei. Meisei tried one first, giving the advantage to Kiribayama who responded moments later and that loss of forward pressure was all Meisei needed. Why do these guys try to respond to a dumb move with their own version of the dumb move? I see it far too much in sumo. Meisei improves to 7-3 and stays 2 behind Daieisho.

Kotoeko defeats Tobizaru – Another day with a flying hands of fury match involving Kotoeko. He has the right partner for that activity in Tobizaru, and they two went at it like a pair of tabbies jacked up on catnip. Sometimes I do love a good “kitchen sink” match, and this was pretty close to that, with Kotoeko ultimately giving Tobizaru a powerful shove over the bales for the win. Both end the day 4-6.

Ryuden defeats Yutakayama – Ryuden did a fantastic job of robbing Yutakayama of his offensive tools. He locked him up early and drove him back and out within 5 steps, leaving Yutakayama no room to maneuver, and no room to push back. Ryuden has won 3 of is last 4 and improves to 4-6.

Kagayaki defeats Shimanoumi – Possibly the best sumo from Kagayaki so far this tournament. He stayed low, kept his stance wide, kept his feet heavy and his shoulder square. Shimanoumi battled back well, but once Kagayaki gets into this mode, he’s quite powerful. Kagayaki improves to 5-5.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho continues his relentless drive toward a 0-15 result, which is slightly easier to obtain than a zensho result. Its heart breaking, as the guy really has some excellent sumo. Kotoshoho came close today when Takarafuji fell out of the ring with Kotoshoho, but it was clear that Takarafuji’s hand touched down after Kotoshoho’s foot it the janome. Takarafuji improves to 6-4.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with (once again) The Most Powerful Make-Koshi in Sumo! Hokutofuji had a couple of good hits, but this was all Daieisho, and he improves to 9-1 and maintains sole possession of the lead.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Takayasu had some great hand placement, catching Tochinoshin under the armpits with a meaty shove that ruined his balance and left him wide open to be attacked and moved out. Takayasu improves to 6-4.

Mitakeumi defeats Onosho – Ok, maybe Mitakeumi has his act together now. He takes down fellow tadpole Onosho and knocks him out of the group 2 losses behind Daieisho. Mitakeumi guessed that Onosho would bring his center of balance as far forward as he could, and timed his release of pressure and pull down superbly. He improves to 5-5.

Takanosho defeats Terunofuji – I am gobsmacked by this one. On what planet was Takanosho the winner. Oh well, anyone surprised that Terunofuji got the short end of another monoii? I sure am not. Takanosho’s gymnastics to stay airborne as they both went out were spectacular. Both end the day 6-4.

Asanoyama defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi opened with a powerful combo, which Asanoyama absorbed well, got his hands around Tamawashi and took control of the match. He improves to 7-3 to remain 2 behind Daiesho.

Shodai defeats Endo – Endo is a master tactician, and had a great formula for today’s match against Shodai. He had the Ozeki off balance and dancing around to maintain footing, and then the cartoon sumo kicked in. Shodai’s in the middle of being thrown, and suddenly he pivots and its Endo thats off balance. Shodai continues the rotation and they both crash over the bales. The gumbai goes to Shodai, and I am left wondering what I just saw. Of course there was a monoii, as they all say in unison “What the hell was that?” But no, the cartoon sumo worked once again, and Endo lands first, and it’s kachi-koshi for Shodai.