Kyushu Day 9 Highlights

Takakeisho-Tochinoshin

Day 9 action worked to narrow the yusho race somewhat, with the goal for the next 5 days being for someone to get dirt on Takakeisho. A single additional loss at this point for the leader could open up a multi-way contest for the Emperor’s Cup going into the final weekend. I would call special attention to what may be an emergent Ryuden-zumo doctrine. Twice in the last few days we have seen him grapple with his opponent, stalemating them and wearing them down. This approach requires almost superhuman stamina, but its amazing to watch. I am hoping we will see him use it a few more times before day 15.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Tokushoryu – Visiting the top division to even out the holes in the torikumi, Tokushoryu gets the business from Chiyoshoma, who is working hard to steer himself to the safety of kachi-koshi. The match did have a certain “dancing with the stars” quality to it.

Onosho defeats Daiamami – It’s clear that Onosho is dialed into his sumo by this point. He starts strong and increases the pressure on Daiamami, who is completely overwhelmed. Onosho’s sumo is not fancy at this point, but highly effective. He raised Daiamami up with a quick nodowa, and then focused his pushing against center mass. Onosho stays in the yusho hunt for day 9.

Aoiyama defeats Meisei – After a rough start, Aoiyama has settled into the basho and 7 consecutive wins. For a man of considerable mass, his maneuverability is impressive. Coupled with his long reach and the power he puts behind his tsuppari, Meisei could only react and try for a desperation throw at the tawara. Aoiyama also retains his slot in the group 1 behind Takakeisho.

Takanosho defeats Chiyonokuni – Notable because we can clearly see Chiyonokuni trying to protect that right arm. How hurt is he? He’s still showing up for matches. But he is 1 loss away from a make-koshi.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru puts some effort into it, but in a battle of the walking wounded, Yutakayama was just healthy enough to prevail. One more loss and Chiyomaru punches his ticket for a trip down to Juryo to sort out his health and his sumo.

Daieisho defeats Arawashi – Daieisho maintains his spot in the group 1 behind Takakeisho, and hands the injured Arawashi his make-koshi, ensuring he will be headed down to Juryo for January. Arawashi has had a terrible time with that leg, and needs to find a way to get healed up.

Takarafuji defeats Endo – Endo had nothing, zero today. Takarafuji really needed the win, but this match lacked any vigor or drive. There is a growing number of rikishi who really need the New Years break to get their bodies back together. These two especially.

Shohozan defeats Sadanoumi – Local rikishi Shohozan has the crowd driving him on, and his sumo was fast and brutal. Inside quickly after the tachiai, Shohozan did not let Sadanoumi generate any offense, and quickly pushed him out to the cheers of the hometown crowd.

Ikioi defeats Abi – Ikioi defeats an effective counter-strategy to Abi-zumo, attacking Abi’s arms from underneath until he is forced to abandon his morotsuki attack, and is an easy target for Ikioi’s counter-attacks.

Kotoshogiku defeats Kagayaki – The Fukuoka crowd was cranked to 11 for Kotoshogiku, and Kagayaki allowed him to set up the hug-n-chug. Kotoshogiku remains on a kachi-koshi trajectory for his home-town basho.

Takanoiwa defeats Nishikigi – Good to see some “A game” sumo from Takanoiwa. Though Nishikigi is getting quite close to the make-koshi line already, he has fared better than I expected at this high of a rank. There may be some future for him to visit the joi-jin and not be a completely free win.

Tamawashi defeats Asanoyama – Classic Tamawashi-zumo today, his stance, his thrusts, all of it is what we have come to expect out of him, and he gave Asanoyama little chance to respond. After an early volley to raise Asanoyama, he focused his attacks center-mass and controlled the flow and result of the match. Good sumo.

Myogiryu defeats Hokutofuji – Myogiryu continues to impress, and derails the Hokutofuji express service with a boisterous clang. Myogiryu reacted perfectly to Hokutofuji’s now familiar opening gambit, and used his own predictability to shut down any chance at offense.

Kaisei defeats Tochiozan – The wheels have come off of Tochiozan’s parade float, as he has lost 3 of the last 4 matches after a fantastic start. We know Kaisei is injured, and came back from kyujo, but today he did put together a much needed win. Why Tochiozan decided to go chest to chest with nearly a quarter of a ton of Kaisei will forever be a mystery.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – All the tricks in “Toon Town” can’t really do much against the Mongolian Boulder once he gets rolling. Its too early to declare that Ichinojo is going to finish strong and try to hold onto his rank, but it was nice to see him actually put some effort into his sumo.

Ryuden defeats Mitakeumi – Much like his win over Takayasu, what is fascinating to watch is how much Ryuden works to bring the match to a stalemate, then slowly grinds down his opponent. Takayasu used to do this all of the time, and I watched Takayasu lose to this approach in total fascination and disbelief. Mitakeumi simply did not have the stamina to endure the contest. Ryuden expends every erg of his strength to bind and limit Mitakeumi from moving, and just ratchets up the pressure moment by moment. It must be fairly brutal to be on the receiving end of this. I hope he continues to evolve this strategy. While it’s not flashy, for sumo nerds its like watching a car being crushed – terrible and fascinating at the same time.

Takayasu defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze tried a few things, valid and valiant moves, but Takayasu had his number from the tachiai. Better luck next time, berserker.

Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – A shameful henka. Absolutely shameful. Really Goeido, has it come to that? I know your sumo can defeat Chiyotairyu. For folks who may not know, this is perfectly legit, but quite disappointing for the top Ozeki in the sport to deploy against a rank-and-file rikishi (in my opinion).

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin was completely disrupted by the “wave action” and his fall at the west side tawara did not look good, as his fragile right knee moved in an unnatural way to my eye. It almost seemed to collapse has the Ozeki worked to maintain his footing. Takakeisho remains the sole leader.

Kyushu Day 8 Preview

Aki Day 1 Toys

Welcome to nakabe, the middle day of the basho. So far, the tournament has been a festival of the unusual and the unexpected, and it has kept fans, new and old, guessing what twist will come next. With the middle day, we start to look at the yusho race. At this moment it’s nearly wide open, with most of the crowd in contention being outside the normal ranks that one expects to take the yusho. With the Yokozuna all in dry dock, it was free fire for the Ozeki… But even they are facing losses in matches they should win, and none of them look to be dominant enough at the middle weekend to be considered a favorite. Out of the eight rikishi who are in serious competition for the Emperor’s Cup as of day 8, there is only one Ozeki and one Komusubi – the other six are from the rank-and-file Maegashira.

Kyushu Leaderboard

This is a huge leaderboard for day 8, showing how things are very evenly matched with no Yokozuna on duty, and most of the Ozeki too hurt or distracted to keep the ranks on losing streaks. As of today, any of these rikishi could take home the cup. It’s a barnyard brawl to senshuraku!!!

Leaders: Takakeisho, Daieisho, Onosho
Chasers: Takayasu, Tochiozan, Chiyotairyu, Abi, Aoiyama
Hunt Group: Goeido, Mitakeumi, Myogiryu, Hokutofuji, Tamawashi, Shodai, Yoshikaze, Sadanoumi, Okinoumi, Endo, Daishomaru, Daiamami, Meisei

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8
(As we are live blogging, we will be watching all of it!)

Kotoyuki vs Daishomaru – The question is, win or lose, how far will Kotoyuki end up in the zabuton section?

Onosho vs Meisei – Yusho co-leader faces Meisei, who is looking to bounce back after a day 7 loss. Onoshi is severely under-ranked right now, and is probably enjoying racking up the wins.

Arawashi vs Takanosho – First time match between two struggling rikishi. Arawashi’s bum leg continues to prevent him from really showing us much sumo, and Takanosho is struggling in his second ever Makuuchi tournament after an 8-7 finish at Aki.

Chiyomaru vs Endo – Chiyomaru maintains a glimmer of hope that he can pick up six more wins over the next eight days. He must do that or he returns to Juryo to sort himself out. His offense is completely missing, and his defense lacks any stamina. Endo will be tough for him to overcome in this state, although “Endo the Golden” is also struggling so far.

Chiyoshoma vs Yutakayama – After opening Kyushu with four straight losses, is Yutakayama finally starting to turn things around? With two wins already, he’s not too far from a safety buffer that would keep him in the top division for January. He has won 4 of the 5 prior matches with Chiyoshoma.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyonokuni – Two high intensity rikishi: Chiyonokuni will go for mobility and attacking at arms length, and Kotoshogiku will want to bring Chiyonokuni to his chest. As in the prior three basho, both are fighting well, but seem to lack the energy to finish the match with a win.

Okinoumi vs Daieisho – Daieisho shares a piece of the lead on day 8, and he will need to overcome his career 3-6 disadvantage over Okinoumi to keep it. Okinoumi is once again steering a course towards a comfortable but not over-performing kachi-koshi, and may not quite have enough genki in the tank to dispatch a surging Daieisho.

Abi vs Sadanoumi – Abi-zumo sputtered and wheezed on day 7, and a salty veteran like Sadanoumi may have a better chance of disrupting and overcoming the double-arm thrust attack that is every match for Abi. Does he win with it? Sure. Has it gotten boring? Yes.

Takanoiwa vs Shohozan – Takanoiwa went from hot (during Aki) to not (during Kyushu). Injuries, loss of an Oyakata, stable move, lawsuit with a former Yokozuna… need I go on? Takanoiwa is a shambles right now. He’s a solid rikishi, and we hope he can get himself re-centered soon. Shohozan got a rather blunt yorikiri on day 7, which frankly I thought he could have avoided. I want him to bounce back and score another white star today.

Takarafuji vs Kagayaki – Takarafuji to me seems to exemplify this basho. A solid rikishi, he seems hurt, tired, distracted and off his sumo. This is true for at least half of the rikishi right now. While it means that the competition space is quite even, it also means that there are frequent reminders that some good athletes are far below their best this November.

Ikioi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama is looking for his first ever win against Ikioi, who closed out a hot streak of 3 wins by losing yesterday to Kagayaki. Like Takarafuji, he’s a visible reminder that a large number of these “headline rikishi” are fighting far below their rated power.

Nishikigi vs Chiyotairyu – Coming off his loss to Ichinojo, Chiyotairyu will be looking to add more white stars to his score. I know I have poked fun at Nishikigi for his Maegashira 3 tenure, but I am quite delighted that he has two wins at the end of week 1, and that he seems to fight better than I expected. I think he might actually make a spot for himself in the upper Maegashira soon if he continues to improve.

Tochiozan vs Tamawashi – After opening strong, Tochiozan went to defeat two days in a row. He’s now looking to stem the losing streak against Tamawashi, over whom he holds a 12-2 career advantage. This is probably the point where the NHK live stream will begin.

Takakeisho vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu has never won against Takakeisho, but with the landscape of Aki a strange world of shadows and mirrors, any day could be the day everything changes. Myogiryu’s wins this tournament have come by yorikiri and yoritaoshi, so I am going to be interested to see how he defends against Takakeisho’s refined “wave action” attack.

Hokutofuji vs Kaisei – Hokutofuji will need every ounce of strength to take on Kaisei. Kaisei is not even at 90% genki, but he’s still a massive opponent, and can use his bulk with great effect. Hokutofuji’s approach will likely be similar to Takakeisho: raise him up at the tachiai and immediately bring him to the clay.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – About time we had a nice Sekiwake battle. Will we get passive Ichinojo, or the one that mounted the dohyo on day 7? Will Mitakeumi dial up the power, or phone it in? This will either be fierce, or like watching two bureaucrats argue at the end of a four-hour conference call.

Goeido vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze shocked Tochinoshin on day 7. Though he is getting older and fading a bit, he is capable of beating any rikishi any day he mounts the dohyo if the fight is on his terms. Their long history has Yoshikaze with a slight 13-11 lead, and I assume it will come down to Goeido getting Yoshikaze off balance at the tachiai. Given that Yoshikaze will likely lead with his face, there could be blood on the dohyo.

Ryuden vs Tochinoshin – After his surprising win over Takayasu, Ryuden may be over-stuffed with confidence, perhaps enough to give him a fighting chance against the flagging Tochinoshin, who is in real danger of ending Kyushu kadoban once again. We have not seen Tochinoshin’s “lift and shift” power sumo very much this basho, so maybe he can get the opening against Ryuden and deploy his super-human strength.

Shodai vs Takayasu – Takayasu has struggled for at lest a year with chronic strains and pains in his lower back. Following his loss in a marathon battle with Ryuden on day 7, the “Wooly One” stood gingerly, seemingly in pain. Shodai does not stand much of a chance against Takayasu’s tachiai, but if somehow he can keep his footing, Takayasu will have his hands full with the chaotic, flailing style of Shodai.

Kyushu Day 7 Preview

mitakeumi-tobizaru-hokutofuji-statue-2

A short preview tonight, as I am flying back to Texas from the snow encrusted tundra of New Jersey where I have spent this week. A reminder the fans that Saturday night into Sunday AM, NHK World will once again be live streaming the final hour of Makuuchi. So if you are the kind of person who would stay up late to watch the most compelling individual sport on the planet, get ready for some intense action on the middle day of this completely unpredictable Kyushu basho.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Onosho vs Arawashi – This is just cruel, Arawashi has one working leg, and some kind of wooden simulation for the other. I think Onosho will find an easy 6th win here.

Chiyoshoma vs Endo – This will be a good test for Endo, he and Chiyoshoma have a 5-4 career split, and come in with matching 3-3 records. Endo is not looking especially genki right now, but then again neither is Chiyoshoma. Might we get a mighty, flying henka?

Sadanoumi vs Aoiyama – Another matching pair of records, this time with 4-2. Both are quite mobile, but Aoiyama has an amazing reach. Sadanoumi will probably try to use his mobility to get Aoiyama off balance and overcommitted. Otherwise I see Aoiyama’s superior ranged attack likely carrying the match.

Abi vs Daieisho – Both come into this match 5-1 (spotting a theme here?). Daieisho does not have much of a reach, so I am going to guess we get to see day #7 of Abi-zumo work its magic.

Ikioi vs Kagayaki – Both big, strong and mobile. This should be a match worth watching, though Kagayaki has never won a match from Ikioi in 5 attempts.

Shohozan vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama needs to bounce back after 4 straight losses, but Shohozan is no easy mark. His day 6 win over Kotoshogiku is the most intense and entertaining of the basho thus far.

Nishikigi vs Tamawashi – You think, “sure – Tamawashi in a walk over win”. But then again think of what Goeido thought, or what Tochiozan assumed. Nishikigi, like Shodai, may actually have been replaced not long ago by a doodle from Toon Town, and now operate via the laws of cartoon physics. As such he is quite dangerous and somebody will have to deal with him.

Tochiozan vs Hokutofuji – Both rikishi lost on day 6, and today might be more about who’s rhythm was more disrupted by that loss. Hokutofuji has the size and intensity, and Tochiozan the moves and technique.

Myogiryu vs Kaisei – I think Kaisei is too hurt right now for quality sumo, and Myogiryu has been executing some of his best sumo in years. I would expect the Brazilian in the orange mawashi will rack up loss #6.

Chiyotairyu vs Ichinojo – I am starting to feel sorry for Ichinojo, because I am assuming he is not physically up to par. Chiyotairyu on the other hand seems to have hit his stride with his brand of “smash and grab” sumo. He’s gotten 5 wins so far, and I fear number 6 will happen today.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – Hey, Mitakeumi. You know that Sekiwake slot you have enjoyed? This guy says it’s time for you to turn it over to him. You know that Ozeki run? He says he’s going to show you how it’s done. Stand and deliver.

Yoshikaze vs Tochinoshin – A pair of 3-3 records, and a lot of unpredictability. Yoshikaze and and frequently does defeat anyone of any rank on any given day. This basho he has looked a shade less aggressive than September, but then again so has Tochinoshin.

Ryuden vs Takayasu – Ryuden won their only prior match, but Ryuden is looking highly disorganized this basho. I would think that Takayasu will get the job done without too much fuss today.

Goeido vs Shodai – Goeido needs to take this one quite seriously. Picking up a 4th loss on day 7 puts him in genuine mathematical risk of going kadoban again. Shodai on the other hand has all of toon town cheering him on, and a whole bag full of cartoon sumo tricks.

Kyushu Day 6 Highlights

Kyushu Day 6

We kicked off Kyushu Act 2 in fine style, and with just the Ozeki holding down the big end of the torkiumi, it’s makes for a really quick final division. While whoever wins this basho will always have an asterisk next to it (due to Nokozuna), its still an official tournament, and everything that happens does indeed count.

Somewhere in the stands today, our own “man in exotic lands” Josh was enjoying the matches. If I could guess, we may see some of his thoughts on this blog before the end of the day.

In other news, an off-hand remark I made in the day 6 preview seems to have severely impacted my weekend chanko recipe. This shall be painful, smelly and foul tasting. But it must be done.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Daiamami – It’s one thing to have Uncle Sumo visit the top division for a day, and it’s another thing (a special, wonderful thing) to have him unleash sumo magic. I am certain Daiamami was looking for a henka, instead Aminishiki drove inside and set up a rare kimarite: Amiuchi (aka The Fisherman’s Throw).

Arawashi defeats Daishomaru – Notable because for the injured Arawashi, this is his first win of the basho. As you can see post-match, he can put very little pressure on that injured leg. Ranked at Maegashira 16, a make-koshi is a return trip to Juryo.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – There seems to be almost no hope for “Love Chunks” Chiyomaru, as Onosho puts him up for adoption with the nearest Oyakata.

Aoiyama defeats Takanosho – Aoiyama appears to have reconnected with his sumo, and improves to 4-2, meanwhile Takanosho looks to be in trouble.

Chiyonokuni defeats Endo – After Endo’s day 5 match, people began to think he had his body and his sumo re-connected. However, Endo ceded control of the match to Chiyonokuni at the tachiai, and Chiyonokuni never let him do anything more that try to react to his sumo.

Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – This is Ikioi’s first win over Yutakayama, and it underscores the impact of Yutakayama’s injuries. Ikioi made fast work of him, and we saw no defensive pressure from Yutakayama.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – THE match of the basho thus far! These two went at it with gusto, and neither one let an offensive move go unanswered. As the battle raged across the dohyo, the two swapped roles, techniques and advantages. In the end I think it was all down to Shohozan outlasting the former Ozeki. The crowd went wild for these two hometown favorites. I loved the bow that Kotoshogiku gave at the end of that match, pure respect for a worthy opponent, and a match that might be the highlight of his year.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takanoiwa – Takanoiwa did not survive Chiyotairyu’s cannon-ball tachiai with his balance intact, and the burly Kokenoe rikishi advanced and pushed the still-recovering Takanoiwa clear of the tawara.

Abi defeats Asanoyama – Two happy rikishi enter, one rikishi leaves happy. Again the double arm tsuppari of Abi-zumo left his opponent unable to do anything other than get pounded into defeat.

Yoshikaze defeats Kagayaki – As thought, the overwhelming intensity of Yoshikaze’s berserker attacks proved more than Kagayaki’s strong low stance and solid fundamentals could absorb. Kagayaki opened strong, but Yoshikaze rallied at the tawara. I will say that Kagayaki is getting better at enduring that style of attack, which is good news for his future sumo.

Nishikigi defeats Tochiozan – No really, undefeated Tochiozan went down to the tragically over-promoted Nishikigi for his second win in a row. I am not sure what they did to him, but Nishikigi has decided to win. Wow…

Takakeisho defeats Kaisei – Stand him up, slap him down. Takakeisho is now the only unbeaten Makuuchi rikishi at Kyushu. Without any Yokozuna or credible Ozeki to contain him, Takakeisho is really racking up the wins.

Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Mitakeumi decided to bring his sumo today, and while Hokutofuji started strong, it was clearly a grade below Mitakeumi’s “A Sumo”.

Myogiryu defeats Ichinojo – I am starting to feel quite sad for Ichinojo, as he continues to fade. Myogiryu, however, is bringing fire and energy to each match, something that is sorely missing in many other rikishi at the top end of the banzuke right now.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi allowed the match to go chest to chest at the tachiai, and gave up his primary advantage: mobility. At that point it was Takayasu’s fight, and it ended as could be expected with the big man applying a straightforward but powerful yorikiri.

Goeido defeats Ryuden – The Goeido techs were able to wipe the “Bouncy Castle” zero day exploit from his battle control systems, and the Goeido 2.1 stack functioned normally today.

Shodai defeats Tochinoshin – Once again Tochinoshin allows his opponent to dictate the terms of the match. Unable to land any sort of grip, Tochinoshin was helpless to stop Shodai’s cartoon physics from completely disrupting his sumo. He drops to 3-3.

Everything You Need to Know After Act One of the 2018 Kyushu Basho

 

Takakeisho 4

The 2018 Kyushu Basho is turning into one of the most intriguing, unpredictable tournaments we’ve had this year. We’ve seen some stellar performances from unexpected places, and some abysmal sumo from some of the top stars. As a result, Kyushu has been something of a Bizarro World Basho and it feels like the sumo world has gone topsy-turvy. With Act Two on the horizon, here’s everything you need to know to get up to speed after Act One of Kyushu.

Yusho Race

Without a resident Yokozuna, and the Ozeki corps beginning to crack, the Yusho race is very much up in the air. At the head of the pack are two very surprising characters: Komusubi Takakeisho and Meagashira 2 Tochiozan, who both enter Act Two with perfect 5-0 records. Right behind them is a mob of rikishi including Daiamami, Onosho, Daiesho, Chiyotairyu, Abi, and Takayasu. All of these men have four wins and will be waiting eagerly for Takakeisho and Tochiozan to make a mistake.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

With Act One in the books, we now have a large group of rikishi who are at least halfway to their coveted kachi koshi. This list includes every member of the Yusho race listed above, and each one of them could have a winning record by the end of Act Two should they keep their losses to a minimum. On the flip side, we have a huge crowd who have four or more losses and are heading towards a losing record. At the very bottom of this list is the hapless Arawashi, who is 0-5 and looks too injured to put up a fight. Above him are Chiyomaru, Chiyonokuni, Takanosho. Yutakayama, Takarafuji, Nishikigi (though his only win did come from Ozeki Goeido) Ryuden, Kaisei (technically 1-2-2 after sitting out the first two days, but like the rest he still needs seven more wins to save his rank), and Ichinojo, who all have 1-4 records. These men will need to get their sumo in gear, or else face demotion for the New Year.

Kinboshi

Prior to his departure, Kisenosato gave out three kinboshi to Maegashira wrestlers. These lucky recipients were Hokutofuji, Myogiryu, and Tochiozan. Now that Kise is kyujo, the kinboshi number has been capped at three.

Kyujo

Speaking of Kisenosato, let’s address the elephant in the room. As I’m sure many of you know, Yokozuna Kisenosato went kyujo prior to the beginning of Day 5. It has since been revealed that Kise sprained his right knee during his first-day match with Takakeisho and as a result, pulled out of Kyushu following his fourth straight loss. This decision came after consulting his Oyakata, who told Kisenosato that he could not continue in his condition. According to Kisenosato, he wanted to compete for the fans as the sole Yokozuna but had to put his recovery first, and has been prescribed a month of treatment. The Yokozuna has also stated that he has no intention to retire and wishes to return in time for the winter jungyo. It is yet to be determined what action the NSK will take, and we could very well have witnessed the end of Kisenosato’s career on the dohyo. But for the time being, Kyushu is officially a Nokozuna Basho.

Act One of the 2018 Kyushu Basho has been a very dramatic one. For some, the “play” has been a thriller, for others, it’s been a tragedy. What can be said for sure though, is that this unpredictable Basho is just heating up!