A look at the last winners of the most matches in a calendar year

Sumo’s last honbasho of the year 2019 came to an end, and dai-yokozuna Hakuho sealed a record extending 43th Emperor’s Cup, thanks to a rock-solid 14-1 performance. However, Hakuho’s absences thorough the year means another rikishi won the most matches during the current year – namely Asanoyama.

Seeing Asanoyama top the 2019 calendar year might look surprising at first sight; however, a string of great performances meant Asanoyama’s recent success was no fluke. In any case, it gives us the opportunity of a quick review of the past winners of that symbolic award.

Hakuho Sho – 2007 to 2015 ; 2017

The road to the top

It’s hard to say something that has not already been said about the GOAT. A few figures may well show how meteoric his rise to the top has been :

– Hakuho entered maezumo in March 2001, and entered Makuuchi in May 2004.

– It took him just four tournaments to enter san’yaku by the year 2005, after impressive 12-3, 11-4, 8-7 and 12-3 records.

– He became an ozeki in May 2006, and his ozeki results were: 14-1, 13-2, 8-7, kyujo, 10-5, 13-2, 15-0. Woah.

Hakuho getting his first yusho after defeating Miyabiyama in a playoff, in May 2006

Hakuho won most bouts during a calendar year from year 2007, as Asashoryu was still the other active yokozuna, exchanging fabulous bouts in the process.

Hakuho’s last bout of the May 2007 basho – before yokozuna promotion

However, the new yokozuna benefited from Asashoryu’s issues (he was suspended during the two last honbashos of 2007) and injuries (missing all or part of the three last bashos in 2008), during his late career. Still, Hakuho had to surrender three bashos during that period to his great rival.

Asashoryu wrestled free of absences during the whole year 2009, but his presence did not stop Hakuho from collecting stratospheric numbers, with 14-1, 15-0, 14-1, 14-1, 14-1 and 15-0 records.

After Asashoryu’s retirement in 2010, Hakuho entered a period of utter dominance, notching 86 wins out of 90 in 2009 and 2010. He collected « only » 66 wins in 2011, but let’s not forget that the March tournament had been cancelled.

 Hakuho’s final bout against Asashoryu in January 2010

Hakuho continued his dominance during the next years; however, numbers tend to be a bit deceptive as the dai-yokozuna saw the emergence of other rivals.

Hakuho piled up 76 wins out of the 90 possible in 2012, which is quite impressive. However, Hakuho’s dominance wasn’t absolute. Below his best, he secured just ten wins in May, and had to surrender the Cup twice to Harumafuji, who became that year a yokozuna alongside the great man.

Hakuho’s loss to Harumafuji in Aki 2012 sealing Harumafuji’s promotion

2013 was another great year for him with a mouth-watering 82 wins. But it’s worth mentionning another great rival’s performances: then ozeki Kisenosato finished the four last bashos of the year as runner-up. He came mightily close from beating the dai-yokozuna on day 14 of the May tournament, which would probably have cemented a first yusho for one of Hakuho’s sternest challengers.

Hakuho’s numbers remained excellent in 2014, even if that year saw fellow Mongolian Kakuryu’s rise to yokozuna. The dai-yokozuna piled up 81 wins. That year was the last to see him get more than 70 victories during a single year.

Hakuho’s loss to Kakuryu in Osaka 2014 which saw Kakuryu’s own promotion

Hakuho won again the most bouts in 2015 (66), but had to pull out of the Aki basho, which saw Kakuryu clinch his first yusho as a yokozuna. His dominance has been strongly contested by the Isegahama pair, composed by Harumafuji (who won the Kyushu basho, and helped Terunofuji clinch the May basho) and Terunofuji (with Harumafuji’s mirror achievements).

Injury issues meant we saw a rikishi other than Hakuho winning the most bout during 2016, namely Kisenosato.

Hakuho returned to the top of that chart in 2017, albeit by a mere 56 victories, the lowest he ever got while achieving that feat. Still not at his best, he paved way for Kisenosato, who won the first two bashos of the year. The rest of the year was more successful, winning in March, May and November (after seeing Harumafuji retiring from his duties).

What happened next ?

Recurring injuries limited Hakuho’s further appearances. He set up the Olympics in 2020 as his main target, and there’s speculation whether he’ll retire after. However, his weakened body nevertheless put its fingers on the Emperor’s Cup in Aki 2018, March and Kyushu 2019, and proved everyone that the greatest rikishi of all time is still very much present.

We’ll focus next time on the winner of the most bout during the year 2016 : Kisenosato.

Kyushu Day 15 Highlights

Thus the final basho of 2019 comes to a close. I will post my opinions on the basho and the state of sumo a bit later, perhaps tomorrow, to make way for the discussion of the matches themselves. There was plenty of exciting action for day 15, and with the broad slate of Darwin matches, much was on the line. Tachiai congratulates Yokozuna Hakuho for his record breaking 43rd yusho, marking another milestone for history’s winningest rikishi.

If you have been following lksumo’s excellent story line post series, you know that the Juryo to Makuuchi swap for January is likely to be broad. We are likely to see a resurgence of familiar names return to the top division. This basho, more than many in recent memory, has a broader set of inter-division swaps available for the next banzuke.

Thank you, dear readers, for joining us for the Kyushu Basho. It’s been mountains of fun sharing our love of sumo with the world, and we appreciate that you take the time to visit our web site, read our posts, and participating in the discussion.

Shout out to Kotoyuki for that awesome flex at the end of the Sanyaku Soroibumi. You absolute legend.

Day 15 Matches

Daiamami defeats Nishikigi – Whatever damage Nishikigi is carrying (maybe that taped left ankle) continues to rob him of his sumo. The hapless Daiamami punctuates his demotion to Juryo with a final loss. Readers know I have a soft spot for Nishikigi, and I hope he can get his body back to good health.

Ishiura defeats Daishoho – Ishiura 3.0 is back in full force. In fact I think he’s a better Enho than Enho is right now. Today’s match is a direct import of Enho’s sumo, as Ishiura finds the nearest body part and tugs for all he can muster. This completely derails whatever Daishoho wanted to do, as he moves to break contact. As Ishiura spins Daishoho around, his left hand finds a deep grip, and it’s time for phase 2. About this time, Daishoho realizes he’s caught, and Ishiura’s seeks position to load the throw. But throw he does, and it’s win number 9 for Ishiura.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Shimanoumi overcomes Chiyomaru’s giant belly and finds green silk. In reaction Chiyomaru launches into a mad-cap retreat and pull sequence, over and over, as Shimanoumi consolidates his position and delivers the yorikiri.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama completely failed to counter the predictable Chiyotairyu opening thrust. Chiyotairyu stood him up, then pulled him down. Yutakayama tends to struggle in the final weekend, and this basho follows that trend.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Kagayaki focused on fundamentals, left the head smashing to Shohozan and worked forcefully on Shohozan’s center-mass. Kagayaki, without flair or a lot of attention, has racked up double digit wins this Kyushu. Readers know I am a fan of his work ethic, and his relentless focus on sumo fundamentals.

Kotoeko defeats Daishomaru – Both men trade impotent pull attempts, with Kotoeko’s pull resulting him Daishomaru rushing forward to finish him. But Kotoeko keeps his head in the match and times a side step at the tawara that gives him the win. Both finish with a dismal 5-10 record.

Tsurugisho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Tsurugisho rallies on the final day, and stops his 6 match losing streak. It was not forward motion sumo, but at this point I am just happy he could close the basho with a win.

Kotoshogiku defats Aoiyama – This was a surprisingly fun and satisfying match. Aoiyama nearly finishes Kotoshogiku at the tachiai, but somehow the former Ozeki keeps his feet. Dan fires up the big V-Twin gets Kotoshogiku to give ground. In a bold double hand slap, Kotoshogiku disrupts Aoiyama’s thrusting attack, lowering Aoiyama’s arms. His chest now exposed, The Kyushu Bulldozer gets to work. Taking Aoiyama to his chest, he finds that Big Dan has too much forward pressure for him to engage the hug-n-chug attack, he gives ground to unbalance his foe, and rotates into a tsukiotoshi. The crowd and I are both delighted that Kotoshogiku got to finish with a win.

Tamawashi defeats Sadanoumi – Complete clash of opening gambits, as Sadanoumi takes the tachiai with his face. He’s still reaching for Tamawashi’s belt, but he has no balance to plant his feet, and Tamawashi powerful forward charge continues and it’s densa-meshi time.

Takarafuji defeats Meisei – This match is a fine example of how Takarafuji prefers to fight. He lets Meisei throw what he wants to in at the start of the match, and just focuses on blunting every attack, and keeping his feet, waiting for his opponent (Meisei today) to make a mistake. It comes about 12 seconds into the match, and Takarafuji switches to attack mode. Going chest to chest against Meisei, he knows Meisei was not ready to grapple, and his feet are in poor position. Takarafuji adjusts his stance, loads the throw and finishes him.

Myogiryu defeats Onosho – As predicted, Onosho did not have the balance today to counter Myogiryu, and is caught too far forward. Onosho has a lot of potential, but he’s still working through the impact of reconstruction surgery on that knee. Myogiryu finishes Kyushu with his 8th win.

Takanosho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi spent most of this match too far forward of his feet. While Takanosho played with him for a time, he soon figured out that releasing pressure might give him the win. It did and he finishes 10-5.

Enho defeats Daieisho – Not wanting to be out-done by stablemate Ishiura, has a great high-low feint at the tachiai that gets him a left hand inside grip. Though Daieisho charges ahead, using his superior mass, Enho is ready and rolls the sukuinage at the bales. Enho finishes Kyushu with a kachi-koshi.

Shodai defeats Asanoyama – This match had a number of odd things going on. Firstly, where did that tachiai come from Shodai? Where have you been keeping that? Second, Shodai’s feet are all over the place, which is common for him, but Asanoyama is completely overwhelmed and Shodai has little trouble forcing him out. For recent sumo fans, this is one source of Shodai frustration. In the past, he fought like this most of the time. He was a real up and coming rikishi. I reserve the right to change my mind about Shodai if he returns to good form.

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – For the second day in a row, we seek Hokutofuji tone down the mobility and work to maintain contact with his opponent. And for the second day in a row, it pays off as he completely dominates Ryuden to finish Kyushu 7-8.

Kotoyuki defeats Endo – For fans recently enjoying sumo, this seems to be the original Kotoyuki, who was a decent rikishi. Today he blasts the tachiai, preventing that left hand frontal grip attempt that everyone expects from Endo now. Kotoyuki is relentless against Endo’s center mass, and just keeps pressing the attack. He ends Kyushu with his 8th win, handing Endo his 8th loss.

Abi defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi, in spite of whatever injury has throttled back his sumo, gives Abi a solid fight. Twice Abi is forced to break contract and fall back. But Mitakeumi is a half step slower than his normal intensity, and Abi has exquisite mobility. Mitakeumi’s push to send Abi out of the ring was met with balance, as Abi remained in bounds just long enough for Mitakeumi to land. Sad to see Mitakeumi blow up his 3rd Ozeki campaign so badly, but my compliments to Abi for a great basho.

Hakuho defeats Takakeisho – This match was all down to the opening gambit, with Takakeisho needing to get a hand on Hakuho’s chest. I am sure he practiced against the Yokozuna’s predicted launch sequence, but Hakuho pulled out his quick-start that he used to use all the time against Harumafuji. As a result, he was able to take the lone surviving Ozeki to his chest. His primary weapon disabled, Takakeisho waited out the inevitable, and took the loss.

Kyushu Day 15 Preview

Welcome to Senshuraku – the final day of the Kyushu basho. It’s been an odd and crazy sumo tournament, part of the rough and unpredictable road into a new era of sumo. While the yusho is decided, and we already know a bit about who is going to be demoted and promoted for January, there are 7 rikishi who enter day 15 with 7-7 records. In most cases they will face each other, creating what we at Tachiai call “Darwin matches”. Only one rikishi survives these encounters with a winning record, and the other leaves the dohyo with a demotion for the New Year. The competition this November was so evenly balanced, the tournament ended with an unusual number or rikishi whose records were 7-8 or 8-7.

The real action is in Juryo, where we will likely see a multi-way barnyard brawl for the yusho, with many long-serving favorites battling it out not just for the top finish in sumo’s second division, but promotion back to the top division to start 2020. This may include such well known names as Azumaryu, Tochiozan, Ikioi, and Kaisei.

Note to fans – in tournaments like this, you can get to day 15, and you will see some odd matches. Huge rank differences, fights that make little sense. But just go with the flow, and toast the poor torikumi committee, who had their hands full this basho.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Daiamami vs Nishikigi – You can say to yourself, why does this matter? Nishikigi is probably the first mate for the Juryo barge at this point, and with a deep make-koshi Daiamami is probably ready to put this tournament behind him. But in truth, this is probably to help figure out Juryo ranks for January.

Ishiura vs Daishoho – Ishiura has a chance to finish the tournament with nine wins, and that would be a great achievement for a rikishi who has been struggling. Ishiura’s sumo has undergone a welcome transition in the past two weeks, and I now have hope that he’s part of a team of small rikishi who will add a great deal of excitement to sumo.

Shimanoumi vs Chiyomaru – Likewise Chiyomaru has a chance to end the basho with a 10-5, and lets see if he can take out Shimanoumi on the final day. They have a tied up career record at 2-2.

Chiyotairyu vs Yutakayama – Yes, yes! Sweet Lordy-lord yes! The big, stampeding buffalo that is Chiyotairyu pays Yutakayama a special visit to see which one of them ends the tournament with win number 9. This is likely also to determine rank for January, and Yutakayama has lost the last 2 matches he has had against Chiyotairyu. Readers know I am expecting good things in 2020 from Yutakayama, so this is a fine test of how close to ready he might be.

Shohozan vs Kagayaki – Both of them are kachi-koshi, so this is just to basho and toss each other about for a while. I would say Shohozan has the home-town edge, but hey, Kagayaki’s simple sumo style has given him an 8-5 career lead. Plus Shohozan tends to ease up once he has made his 8. Probably part of the reason he has survived in the top division this long.

Daishomaru vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko can punctuate Daishomaru’s likely return to Juryo with a win today, but even that seems to be beyond him right now. For a toughs scrappy rikishi, he has certainly lost nearly all of his mojo this November. Tachiai hopes he can recharge and refresh in time for Hatsu.

Tsurugisho vs Terutsuyoshi – Somebody broke Tsurugisho last weekend, and we need to either reboot him or send him in for repair. Although Tsurugisho has a distinct size advantage, he seems to be in no condition to compete right now.

Aoiyama vs Kotoshogiku – I would love to see Kotoshogiku close out Kyushu with a final win. With his deep make-koshi, he is going to be rather far down the banzuke for January, and long term fans must wonder how much longer his body can hold up to top division sumo.

Tamawashi vs Sadanoumi – The first of our Darwin matches, it’s run-and-gun Tamawashi against compact battle-bot Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi holds a 9-2 career advantage over Tamawashi, and Sadanoumi has been fighting quite well this basho. Plans are to be well into the second bottle of sake by this match.

Takarafuji vs Meisei – Takarafuji needs to win if he wants to avoid double-digit losses for November, but he has never won against Meisei. Meisei tends to fight with high-energy opening gambits, while Takarafuji works to constrain, contain and maintain his opponents and wear them down.

Myogiryu vs Onosho – Next Darwin match! I would dearly love Onosho to win this one, but I am not sure he’s quite up to it yet. His balance has been poor this November. It’s likely a function of his knee surgery and ongoing recovery, but it means that a high agility rikishi like Myogiryu has a distinct advantage in this match.

Takanosho vs Okinoumi – Huge banzuke gap here (M12 vs M1), but why not? Their only prior match was Aki 2018, which Takanosho won.

Daieisho vs Enho – Lets call this one a half-Darwin. Enho gets the lucky match where his opponent, Daieisho, already has 8 wins, and is less motivated to put everything he has into the match. A kachi-koshi in November would see Enho join the joi-jin, which will be quite the spicy sauce for our Hatsu Basho.

Shodai vs Asanoyama – At first I thought, “What were you guys drinking…”. Then it made perfect sense. Some twisted oyakata decided to give Shodai a chance to share the jun-yusho with Asanoyama. Shodai is ranked at M10, Asanoyama is Komusubi 2. Please, Asanoyama, grab him and give him a fitting exit from this basho.

Hokutofuji vs Ryuden – This match has a lot of potential. Both rikishi tend to be highly aggressive, both of them are prone to moments of wild, high energy, high chaos sumo, and both are highly mobile. They have a 3-3 career record, and matching 6-8 records. This one could catch fire.

Kotoyuki vs Endo – Our final Darwin match of the day, it’s time for Kotoyuki the penguin to take on Endo the Golden. They have matching 7-7 records, and have a 4-4 career tally. It will come down to Endo getting that left hand grip, or Kotoyuki getting a solid hit center-mass. I just pray my supply of rice-crackers holds up.

Mitakeumi vs Abi – As if to punctuate Mitakeumi’s failure, he gets to fight the rikishi who has been qualified for Sekiwake for most of 2019, but has been blocked by one condition or another. Mitakeumi holds a 4-1 career advantage, but he is fighting poorly, and Abi still seems to have plenty of energy left to fight.

Takakeisho vs Hakuho – Hakuho already has the yusho, but there is zero chance he will ease off on Takakeisho. So I am expecting a rapid slap, a grab and a hearty roll to the clay. The chance Takakeisho has of stopping that will be something unexpected and possibly dangerous. Lets hope everyone stays safe.

Kyushu Day 14 Highlights

Some fantastic sumo today, especially the Terutsuyoshi vs Enho match, and the mad-cap chaos war between Tamawashi and Endo. But the headline is the much expected 43rd yusho for the winningest rikishi in recorded history, the dai-Yokozuna for the ages, Hakuho. I don’t think he’s even close to 100%, but even banged up with a gamey right arm, he’s quite capable of another yusho.

Much as expected, we have a host of rikishi headed for Darwin matches on day 15. This is where two 7-7 men face off, the winner gets the kachi-koshi. In fact we have 7 rikishi in that situation, which is much higher than I have seen in quite some time.

On to the matches!

Day 14 Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Daishoho – Chiyoshoma comes to visit the top division…. annd… HENKA! Anyone who was surprised by this should go re-watch a few dozen Chiyoshoma matches.

Takanosho defeats Shimanoumi – Poor tachiai timing, should have been a matta, perhaps. But hey, the gyoji called “hakkeyoi”, so they fight. Takanosho (who was early in the tachiai) claimed the inside lane and never gave up the advantage.

Daishomaru defeats Kotoshogiku – Poor tachiai timing, should have been a matta, perhaps. But hey, the gyoji called “hakkeyoi”, so they fight. Daishomaru was early in the tachiai and was able to get the inside grip with Kotoshogiku at his chest. With that sort of advantage, there is little Kotoshogiku could do. Perhaps Team Gyoji was out kind of late at the pub last night?

Kagayaki defeats Yutakayama – A clean tachiai, thankfully, and Yutakayama goes to work on Kagayaki’s face. But Mr. Fundamentals is intent on attacking Yutakayama center-mass. Yutakayama goes for a nodowa, Kagayaki stays center mass. Yutakayama finds he can’t maintain forward pressure, and Kagayaki shoves him out. Once again, solid sumo fundamentals carries the match for Kagayaki.

Ishiura defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi gets the better of the tachiai, grabbing Ishiura by the arm-pits and lifting. Ishiura gives ground and grapples with great effect, and now has at least partial control over Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi advances, but Ishiura masterfully re-directs his forward motion to the side, and swings him to the clay. Ishiura is kachi-koshi, and Sadanoumi heads to a Darwin match on day 15.

Nishikigi defeats Tsurugisho – I have to wonder what happened to Tsurugisho. This is his 6th consecutive loss, and to hapless Nishikigi no less! Tsurugisho’s balance seems to be shot, so I have to wonder if it’s some injury.

Chiyotairyu defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko gets the better of the tachiai, but he makes the mistake of giving Chiyotairyu strong pressure to push against. Chiyotairyu advances with gusto and throws in a few thrusts to break Kotoeko’s balance. That’s kachi-koshi for Chiyotairyu.

Enho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Enho picks up win number 7 to advance to the Darwin round after submarining the diminutive Terutsuyoshi. Getting a deep left and shallow right hand grip, Enho gives Terutsuyoshi a ride on the tilt-o-whirl, showing how effective he is, even nearly doubled over.

Chiyomaru defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji does his best to stalemate Chiyomaru, but there is just too much of Chiyomaru to really contain. When Takarafuji lunges to go chest to chest with Chiyomaru, Chiyomaru turns to the side and guides him to the clay for his 9th win. Nice return to the top division you have going there, Chiyomaru!

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – Shodai drops out of the group 2 behind Hakuho with the loss, but at least we can enjoy that Myogiryu gets sent to a Darwin match for day 15! Shodai was effective at keeping Myogiryu from setting up any kind of planned offense, but Myogiryu was happy to improvise for the win.

Meisei defeats Shohozan – Meisei bravely invites Shohozan to a slap fest, and gives as well as he receives. But he soon realizes that a right hand grip would be better, and tries to swing Shohozan into a throw, which he disrupts. At this point the match gets wild and disorganized, as both rikishi throw whatever they can into the mix. Meisei emerges victorious as Shohozan can’t maintain balance against Meisei’s pull. Meisei advances to a Darwin match on day 15.

Daieisho defeats Onosho – Even clash until Onosho decided to try to pull, and gave up forward pressure on Daieisho. Daieisho reaches his kachi-koshi, and Onosho heads for a day 15 Darwin match.

Kotoyuki defeats Okinoumi – Kotoyuki gets the better of the tachiai, he gets inside Okinoumi’s reach and goes to work with his “Flipper Attack”. Okinoumi has the strength to push back, and advances into Kotoyuki’s attack. The two exchange volleys until Kotoyuki closes in and delivers a might shove to Okinoumi’s neck. Okinoumi is make-koshi, and “The Penguin” heads for his Darwin match on day 15.

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama secures the jun-yusho, and is clearly working toward an Ozeki bid in January. Ryuden absorbed Asanoyama’s opening gambit, converting it into a solid attempt at a throw, but Asanoyama kept his footing in spite of his poor stance. Asanoyama rallied, and used Ryuden’s left hand grip to swing him around and out for win number 11. With 11 wins, he may force a Sekiwake slot to open for January, if necessary…

Hokutofuji defeats Aoiyama – Hokutofuji is less helter-skelter today, and focuses his energy on Aoiyama’s expansive whishbone region. Although he could not pick up kachi-koshi in his second trip to Komusubi, his sumo was greatly improved over his March visit to san’yaku.

Endo defeats Tamawashi – What a great match. These two threw it all at each other, and when that did not carry the day, they found new energy and kept going. I lost count how many times the match style changed: Yotsu, Throws, Oshi, and around again. At the end it looks like Tamawashi lost balance at a poor moment and Endo applied the yoritaoshi (one of my favorites) for the win. BOTH men advance to Darwin matches on day 15.

Abi defeats Takakeisho – Abi’s superior reach allowed him to land his hands first, and Takakeisho pushed forward to close the gap. Abi adroitly moved to the side and Takakeisho found nothing but clay to meet him. I would call this a damn clever delayed henka, and it worked brilliantly. Did you know this is Abi’s 3rd straight kachi-koshi as Komusubi 1 East?

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – And just like that, we have Hakuho yusho 43. Congrats to the boss. Mitakeumi looks completely disrupted at this point, and hits his 8th loss for a make-koshi. The question now is: will he vacate san’yaku entirely?