Break the sacred macaron of victory out of its fortress transportation case, and tell the yobidashi to apply a fresh coat of paint, for senshuraku is upon us, and the final disposition of many trophies, awards and honors shall be decided as the sumo world looks on.
Once again, lksumo has done a masterful job of teeing up what’s at stake for the tournament’s next and final day. In addition to all of the permutations for yusho, promotion and demotion, there are a fair number of koshis left to be decided. That makes for a number of high-stakes win-or-else matches on the final day, which will likely culminate in the highest stake san’yaku bouts and possibly a playoff for the cup.
A reminder that NHK World will have Grand Sumo Live starting at 2:30 AM US Eastern time, 11:30 PM Pacific to bring you the final 90 minutes of the tournament, including at least a half hour of speeches, trophies and celebrations.
What We Are Watching Day 15
Kotoshogiku (M9e) vs Meisei (M15w) – As lksumo pointed out, the Kyushu Bulldozer has been the crusher of Makuuchi dreams this tournament. I would guess the winner gets a special prize, and the loser gets a bowl of chanko. As a bonus, this is their first ever match, so there is a fair chance that Meisei will get to enjoy the hug-n-chug for the first time.
Ikioi vs (M8e) vs Chiyomaru (M16w) – Walking contusion Ikioi goes up against the bulbous Chiyomaru, whom he has never beaten in five tries. Someone has a bit of a mean streak, it seems, and I predict Ikioi will retire to the nearest onsen shortly afterwards to ease his aches.
Daiamami (M15e) vs Asanoyama (M5w) – Daiamami needs to take a white star from the already make-koshi Asanoyama to keep from riding the ferry back to Juryo. Sadly, Asanoyama has a 5-3 advantage over Daiamami.
Aoiyama (M12e) vs Yoshikaze (M4w) – Yoshikaze comes to this match 7-7, with this result deciding his winning or losing record for November. Aoiyama is looking quite genki in the second week, and is probably looking forward to having the compact Yoshikaze to bat around. They are evenly matched 9-11 for their career, but this November, Aoiyama looks stronger. Good luck berserker!
Tochiozan (M2e) vs Shodai (M4e) – The other Maegashira 4 also decides his his koshi today. He holds a 3-1 career advantage over Tochiozan, who has lost his drive in week 2. We are hoping for some solid cartoon sumo from Shodai, and a chance to remain in the top of Maegashira ranks.
Myogiryu (M1e) vs Chiyotairyu (M5e) – Darwin match, both are 7-7. Only one will emerge kachi, the other make-koshi. Myogiryu has looked focused and strong in his past two matches, and will need to stay mobile against the overwhelming up-front strength of Chiyotairyu. Their career record is 5-5. Chiyotairyu will try to blast him into pieces at the tachiai, so if Myogiryu can survive that, it’s game on.
Takakeisho (K1e) vs Nishikigi (M3e) – Already examined well in the earlier mentioned post, but Nishikigi has been full of surprises. With Takakeisho this genki, it may seem like a foregone conclusion, but I choose to keep an open mind and let events unfold as they will. [Not betting to eat anything unwise? –PinkMawashi]
Mitakeumi (S1e) vs Takayasu (O1w) – Does Mitakeumi have anything left in the tank? He has shown he can beat Takayasu, but it’s not a common event (4-10). A win for Takayasu could seal his first ever yusho, and there would be talk about his future as an eventual Yokozuna.
Brief update for the day 14 action: This was some solid sumo for a Saturday, and a fine set up for Sunday’s final. Also, remember that NHK World will be streaming the last 50 minutes of Makuuchi live with their “Grand Sumo Live” program. Do note, day 15 features less sumo, and a lot of coverage surrounding the yusho ceremony. Having now gotten to see the yusho ceremony in person, I have to admit I kind of like it. The wacky trophies, the tossing of the gyoji – good times.
Daishoho defeats Takanosho – Daishoho visits from Juryo, and gets his 8th win by testing the structural integrity of Takanosho’s right arm and shoulder.
Meisei defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni remains consistently just 5% short of what he needs to win. I am a fan of the guy, and I like his sumo, but I keep hoping that he will find that extra energy to win.
Kotoshogiku defeats Okinoumi – Kotoshogiku gets his preferred set up, and immediately engages hug-n-chug mode, with its usual effect. Kotoshogiku is now at 9 wins, and it would be great to see him get double-digits in front of his home town fans.
Aoiyama defeats Daieisho – Aoiyama finally gets to deliver the pounding he had envisioned for Takakeisho. Daieisho stands there and takes it for a time, but then wisely decides it’s time to run. This only encourages Aoiyama who chases him down to finish the job. Good mobility from Aoiyama today.
Ikioi defeats Chiyoshoma – The Tylenol maximum pain match, both men look like hell as they crouch next to the dohyo, mustering the energy to stand and return to the ring. Chiyoshoma is now make-koshi.
Onosho defeats Abi – The first bout ended with both rikishi in flight and no clear winner. The torinaoshi (rematch) was all Onosho, who now has double digit wins. Abi is make-koshi with this eighth loss.
Chiyomaru defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki continues to fade as Chiyomaru finally finds his sumo and his energy. Chiyomaru worked to stalemate Kagayaki for the opening moments of the bout, with great effect. When Kagayaki faltered, Chiyomaru drove forward with energy and force, setting up a flurry of thrusts that took Kagayaki out.
Nishikigi defeats Takarafuji – Count me as celebratory that Nishikigi picked up his 8th win. Granted it was in a No-kozuna tournament, but this is a real achievement for a man who had struggled at any rank above Maegashira 9 in the past, and had a constant berth at the bottom of the banzuke for the longest time. In the interview following his match, the reporter asks him how he feels facing Takakeisho for day 15. The look is priceless.
Shohozan defeats Tochiozan – Shohozan rallies after stumbling and having Tochiozan back him up to the bales. Another home town rikishi who has performed well in front of his fans. Tochiozan’s multiple attempts at pulling left him in a defenseless position, and likely cost him the match.
Myogiryu defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze’s dohyo exit fall was broken by the yobidashi’s pedestal, more or less to the lower back. Yoshikaze, being the consummate warrior, gets up and exits the arena without any sign of pain or injury. But you know that had to hurt.
Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai finds its mark today, connecting immediately with Ryuden’s neck. Hokutofuji raises Ryuden, and charges for the inside position. Now in control of the tempo and format of the match, Hokutofuji bats Ryuden around for a while before forcing him over the bales.
Ichinojo defeats Asanoyama – The Mongolian Behemoth shows surprising mobility today, delivering an angled tachiai against Asanoyama and rapidly landing a deep left hand grip. From this position, there is zero Asanoyama can do to resist Ichinojo’s forward motion, and the match is over in a flash. Solid, excellent sumo from the soon-to-be-former Sekiwake.
Takayasu defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho was clearly on offense from the tachiai, and the first wave to break against the Ozeki blasted him backward and put him dangerously off balance. As Takakeisho set up the second blast, he lost footing at the same moment Takayasu pivoted, and Takakeisho could not remain on his feet. Nice defensive gambit by Takayasu that paid off due to fortunate timing. This could set up a day 15 playoff that would be for all the prizes, including a giant pile of mushrooms.
Tochinoshin defeats Mitakeumi – Tochinoshin lands his left hand grip early, and Mitakeumi has no leverage to counter in any way. Mitakeumi gets his 8th loss, and will vacate his long held Sekiwake slot (8 of the last 9 basho), just 2 tournaments after winning the yusho. Tochinoshin scores win #8, and does not have to fear kadoban for January.
Final Weekend of the second “No-kozuna” tournament of this year. Some fans are quite upset as they must endure “sumo light” yet again, and perhaps they feel that without the Yokozuna active and battling lower ranks that it’s just not quite sumo. Sadly for them, this format is likely to be more frequent over the next 2 years. As the current Yokozuna continue to fade out, and with the Ozeki corps nursing an increasing inventory of injuries, the future belongs to the young, healthy and eager. Thankfully for sumo there are waves of these guys eagerly advancing into the top division and the top ranks. One has to look no further than how dominant the “tadpole” cohort has become, and they show no sign of slowing down. If you think about the “freshmen” cohort (Abi, Yutakayama, Asanoyama, Ryuden), they are just starting to come into their own – maybe 18 to 24 months behind the tadpoles. Looking across Juryo and Makushita, we can see potential for at least 2 more waves over the next couple of years.
Action today features the kanban match of the basho, the “Taka Bowl” featuring Takayasu and Takakeisho to possibly determine the yusho. If Takakeisho wins, we will see him hoist the magnificent red fish of victory. If he loses, we may see a playoff on day 15 between these two to decide it all. If their history is any indicator, the Ozeki will repeatedly go for a slap down or some other pulling maneuver. When you are as big, fast and strong as Takayasu, this can be quite effective. But in recent matches the Ozeki has been unbalanced and “light” when he unloaded these pulls, and perhaps Takakiesho will be able to exploit that tendency. Takayasu is also a very competent yotzu-zumo practitioner, and can wear just about anyone down to a gasping, exhausted puddle by the time he is done with them. While that approach has fewer “all or nothing” moves, it requires that the Ozeki survive and overcome the “Wave Action” attacks to lock Takakeisho up chest to chest. Should he do this, I predict that there will be little that Takakeisho can do to win.
Sumo fandom waits as the next eight hours or so count down to this pivotal match. In the mean time there are quite a few “koshis” to be decided, including the fate of Nishikigi, who at the start of this basho looked like he was the chump in the November poker tournament. Like the survivor he is, he might actually pick up his 8th win today against Takarafuji. I can’t compliment the guy enough on entering the stadium each day ready to do what it takes to win. Then there is the case of Shodai, who is one loss away from his 8th. On day 14 he faces Kaisei, whom he has never beaten (0-7). But Kaisei’s apparent injury on day 13 might change that math, and possibly give Shodai enough of an advantage that he could take his first white star from the Brazilian powerhouse.
We had a solid day of sumo for Friday, a good number of ‘koshis were decided (make- and kachi-), and everyone works their sumo while fans wait for what Team Tachiai stalwart PinkMawashi calls the “Taka Bowl”. With the basho in a No-kozuna status since Act 1, the completion has been impressively equal. With no grand champions harvesting white stars from the upper Maegashira (like we saw at Aki), and the Ozeki corps only ⅔ genki, the field has been wide open. The result is not quite the sumo that some fans are used to, with a handful of ur-rikishi winning everything every day with overwhelming sumo.
The Juryo ranks finds Mr 5×5 – Kotoyuki, with double digits wins. At Juryo 3, we will likely seem him return to the top division yet again, where he always seems to struggle, and frequently crowd-surf. The other story is the strength of Yago and Kotokaze, two rikishi from Oguruma who are young, strong and on the ascent. With Yago on the ferry to Makuuchi for January, and Kotokaze on the path for later in 2019, we could see a lot of new power from the stable that gave us long-serving veterans Yoshikaze and Takekaze.
Daishomaru defeats Yutakayama – Don’t blink. Solid tachiai, then Daishomaru outright decks Yutakayama, sending him sprawling to the clay. Boom! Yutakayama gets a headache, and his make-koshi.
Chiyoshoma defeats Sadanoumi – Chiyoshoma hands Sadanoumi a make-koshi while avoiding one himself. Impressive lift and twist at the tawara! There was a brief mono-ii as the shimpan wanted to make sure Chiyoshoma’s toe did not touch out during the lift. Sadanoumi went from a solid opening week to a string of losses. Injury? Stamina?
Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – Onosho succumbs to the Kyushu Bulldozer’s preferred attack, and rides the hug-n-chug express all the way to kuroboshi (black star) land. Kotoshogiku secures kachi-koshi in front of his adoring home town crowd, and everyone can celebrate that.
Takanosho defeats Ikioi – Takanosho maintains his enthusiasm and finds a way to stalemate Ikioi’s repeated attempts to throw him. To be fair, Ikioi is a big, sore mess right now. Takanosho uses Ikioi’s perpendicular throwing stance to advance and motor him out. Both are now 4-9.
Okinoumi defeats Shohozan – Okinoumi goes to double digits with a big win over Shohozan. It’s impressive that Okinoumi managed to get Shohozan contained, and then packaged for shipment for a clay facial. When Okinoumi is in good health and his body cooperates, he is a solid sumotori for mid-rank Maegashira. May his fine health continue.
Meisei defeats Abi – Abi-zumo seems to be past its sell-by date for now, as fellow shiko-peacock Meisei shrugs off the double-arm attack in the opening seconds. A quick left hand to the armpit and a strong lateral shove and down goes Abi.
Endo defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s normally un-glamorous sumo seems to have taken on a lethargic sludge in week 2, and Endo finds his 8th win against the increasingly make-koshi Kagayaki. We know Kagayaki is strong, and is becoming quite the master of sumo mechanics, so we have to wonder if he’s nursing an undisclosed injury.
Nishikigi defeats Daiamami – Maegashira 3 vs Maegashira 15, you have to wonder what this match was for except to transfer a white star to Nishikigi. Granted, I am really impressed by what Nishikigi has been able to do in Kyushu, and he made fairly easy work of Daiamami, who ends the match with a make-koshi.
Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – The experience and efficiency of Tochiozan’s sumo was on display in this match. Asanoyama put a lot of vigor and energy into his sumo, but it’s striking to see how minimal Tochiozan’s body movements are. The bout ends with Tochiozan hurling Asanoyama from the dohyo in dramatic fashion. Tochiozan kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2, interesting times indeed.
Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi expertly executes a mini-henka (a completely different animal from the henka), and Hokutofuji buys it. I still see a great potential for Hokutofuji, but in this basho he has gotten himself too far forward more than a few times. Part of it is that handshake tachiai, which – when it works – gives him a half-step advantage in the match. But it also broadcasts he’s coming forward with authority. If you can watch the match in slow-motion replay, note that Hokutofuji lowers his head and takes his eyes off of Tamawashi’s center mass. Tamawashi times his move to the left perfectly to coincide with this breaking of focus, and by the time Hokutofuji senses the opening gambit, he is unrecoverable. Tamawashi is also kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2. There’s going to be a scramble for the higher slots, I think.
Myogiryu defeats Shodai – Shodai has found an interesting solution to his tachiai mechanics. He has become increasily skillful at absorbing the initial charge and rapidly gaining control of the initial merge. Myogiryu was fast enough and strong enough to maintain the inside position, and kept Shodai reacting.
Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Notable in that it looks like Kaisei appears to have tweaked his left leg as he resisted Ryuden’s effort for a throw. Kaisei went down in an awkward way, and was visibly hurt following the match.
Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – Takakeisho remains in the lead, but Aoiyama made him work for it. Aoiyama can deliver a IJN Yamato class pounding when he can get set up, and certainly brought the big armament out today. But what really caught my eye was that Takakeisho was not quite able to set up his wave action attack. Aoiyama’s solid offense and long reach (compared to Takakeisho’s much shorter reach) seems to have kept the yusho race leader constrained. But impressively, Takakeisho adjusted and tossed the man-mountain to the clay anyhow.
Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – Excellent example of just how powerful Ichinojo is. Yoshikaze was tossed around like a pony, and had almost nothing to say about it.
Chiyotairyu defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi inches closer to the make-koshi line against some off-balance but effective sumo from Chiyotairyu. I don’t think Chiyotairyu had a firm stance for any moment of this bout, but he managed to maintain control of Mitakeumi and win. For Mitakeumi fans (which includes me), many Ozeki applicants fail their first attempt, and are forced to swallow demotion, re-group and re-ascend in stronger form. I look forward to the next evolutionary stage of Mitakeumi!
Tochinoshin defeats Takanoiwa – A much needed win for the Ozeki, who struggled a bit even though he was able to land a left hand grip on Takanoiwa. Takanoiwa’s athleticism and keen balance were on display today, as he managed to thwart Tochinoshin’s offense against several solid, strong moves to win. The match ended with Takanoiwa losing grip on the dohyo, and falling backward, with the kimarite listed as koshikudake (inadvertent collapse), and is considered a non-winning move.
Takayasu defeats Daieisho – Though the outcome was fairly certain, Daieisho put up a good fight, and the Ozeki put up an odd offense. Multiple attempts to pull Daieisho down left Takayasu off balance, but Daieisho was too reactive to capitalize on these moments. Will Takayasu uses this strategy in the Taka Bowl on day 14? I think that Takakeisho won’t pass up these openings. Bring on the doom-match of day 14!
Day 12 was a solid day of sumo, but it did bring a couple of questions to the front. The first for me is that with a number of lower ranked rikishi approaching double digits, and fighting very well this basho, will the NSK once again decide that “nobody deserved a special prize”? Many fans were shocked by that declaration at Aki, as several rikishi put together successful campaigns in the face of a resurgent Yokozuna and Ozeki corps.
The yusho race narrowed considerably, and that was clearly intended given the day 12 schedule. The matches involving the chasers were all solid sumo that saw each candidate produce a fierce effort.
For those readers who are keeping up with Juryo (and who wouldn’t with Herouth doing a masterful job covering it), Oguruma rising star and certified sumo battle-cruiser Yago secured his kachi-koshi at Juryo 1 East, meaning short of some kind of bizarre incident, we will see this sumo phenomenon in the top division in January. He has been in Juryo for the past 5 tournaments – 7 total over his short 10 basho career. His sumo looks strong, low and heavy.
Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – A notable match because Chiyonokuni goes for the mawashi and engages in a solid yotzu match against Daiamami. Is it just me, or is Daiamami looking surprised there? Even though he is make-koshi, it’s great to see Chiyonokuni rack up a much-needed win.
Okinoumi defeats Meisei – Okinoumi continues to rack up wins, and it’s wonderful. Meisei denied a kachi-koshi today, and he seems a bit frustrated. Okinoumi could hit double-digits this tournament, and might end up with a substantial re-ranking upward for January. While his fans might cheer this, Okinoumi suffers from a chronic medical condition that sometimes impacts his sumo, and I would hate to see it worsen.
Yutakayama defeats Endo – Yutakayama very effectively kept Endo from going for his mawashi, and instead set the tone and format for the match, which took the form of a windmill thrusting contest. Endo’s last minute attempt at a pull down failed, and Yutakayama got a much needed win.
Kotoshogiku defeats Aoiyama – As much as I admire and respect Kotoshogiku, I was really pulling for Aoiyama to prevail. Aoiyama opened strong, and began with his expected thrusting attack, but could not stop Kotoshogiku going chest to chest with him. At that point, I think Aoiyama began to worry, and that may have been the start of trouble. The Kyushu Bulldozer’s knees are not what they once were, but he contained and pushed with enough force to move Aoiyama out. With this loss, Aoiyama falls out of the group 1 loss behind Takakeisho.
Onosho defeats Daieisho – Yusho leader Takakeisho’s friend Onosho does him a solid favor and quenches the higher ranked Daieisho’s aspirations for a day 15 parade. From the match you can see just how much Daieisho was putting into this match, he met Onosho thrust for thrust, but left himself open for the hatakikomi at just the wrong moment.
Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – I bring this match up because it’s clear just how hurt Ikioi is, watching him gather his strength just to stand following his defeat. The man is a true competitor, and its amazing to see true determination and courage on display.
Takanoiwa defeats Chiyoshoma – Bit by bit we see Takanoiwa get his sumo back. I would assume by the middle of 2019 he is back to being a serious full time contender for the upper Maegashira / lower San’yaku. Chiyshoma is now one step closer to make-koshi, and he is perilously far down the banzuke for end November with a losing record.
Kagayaki defeats Takanosho – Both men are make-koshi, but this is a match to watch. Firstly, Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals carries the day. Second, is I have started to take note of Takanosho, this guy, much like Asanoyama, seems to have a very positive attitude about competition, even on days when he loses.
Shohozan defeats Chiyotairyu – If any wonder why I call Shohozan “Big Guns” or refer to him as a “Street Fighter”. Behold exhibit A. His match with Chiyotairyu featured a few loud and forceful blows the the face that probably left a mark, and certainly got the crowd’s attention. Chiyotairyu goes chest to chest, removing the immediate threat for more blows to the face. Sadly for Chiyotairyu, he’s somewhat stuck at this point, as his yotzu card is not strong, and his stamina tends to be expended in the first few seconds. Shohozan correctly waits him out, injecting a few harassing moves moment to moment, and bides his time. Shohozan wins his kachi-koshi, and the home town fans are delighted.
Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – The happy rikishi staves off make-koshi for another day, but its sadly at the expense of long suffering Takarafuji.
Yoshikaze defeats Abi – As expected, Yoshikaze learned well from Ikioi, Endo and Okinoumi. You can see him apply upward pressure at Abi’s elbows, disrupting his preferred double arm thrust attack. Time and again Yoshikaze drives inside, just to be awarded a hand to the face. His persistence is rewarded by control of the inside, and he pushes Abi back, back and out. Although it’s at a bit slower speed and lower energy than a few years ago, Yoshikaze still has the goods when he can rouse his fighting spirit.
Tochiozan defeats Myogiryu – I have to wonder if Myogiryu has run low on stamina, his brilliant opening week seems to have turned into a bit of a rout. Tochiozan succeeds in getting him turned sideways, and off balance for the win.
Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – Wow, Shodai was on his sumo today. Hokutofuji put a fair amount of genki into the tachiai, but Shodai absorbed it masterfully, and kept Hokutofuji from executing any successful offense. Shodai instead stalemated Hokutofuji, and waited for his opening, which he found and exploited with exquisite timing.
Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Takakeisho seems close to unstoppable at this point. Tamawashi always has strength and balance, but in reaction to the “Wave Action” attack, it seems that few can maintain their footing for long. After the second wave, Tamawashi is too far forward, working to bring maximum force to bear on Takakeisho, who senses the imbalance and deftly steps aside.
Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – As stated in the preview, Nishikigi surprises every couple of days, and today he was somehow able to use an off balance position to load up enough energy to push Kaisei out. Dare I say it? Nishikigi could still end this basho with a winning record at Maegashira 3. A new day in sumo indeed.
Ichinojo defeats Ryuden – In hitting his make-koshi, Ryuden gave Ichinojo a solid fight. But it seems the Mongolian giant is working through whatever pain or injuries are blunting his sumo. Twice Ryuden had Ichinojo’s heels on the tawara, twice he rallied. Ichinojo closes the match with a hearty lift and drop. Well fought both.
Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – I am worried about Tochinoshin, and I think Goeido’s kyujo may rescue him from a make-koshi and a kadoban status for New Years. Takayasu seems to be focused and driven to bring himself to his eventual showdown with Takakeisho as a fierce contender who is ready to claim the Emperor’s cup by eliminating the upstart contender.