Natsu Day 15 Highlights

Enho Gives Everything In His Day 15 Match With Shohozan
Image courtesy of friend of Tachiai, NicolaAnn08 on Twitter

Described by one friend as “Anti-climatic”, day 15 in general was a study in how many rikishi were hurt and fighting poorly vs a small core who managed to stay healthy. The schedulers threw in a good number of “Darwin Matches” where both rikishi were 7-7, and one walked away with winning record, the other with a losing record and demotion. The atmosphere in the Kokugikan was off, as vending machines were taken off line, there were hour long lines to be screened to enter, and there were protective guards everywhere. But some solid sumo did take place, and the final day of the Natsu Basho went off without a hitch.

As expected, US President Trump did appear with Prime Minster Abe, and both handed trophies to Asanoyama who looked happy, overwhelmed and just a little bit uncertain. President Trump was courteous, and at times appeared very happy (handing over the Presidents Cup) and bored (during some of the matches). If the President or any of his staff find themselves taken with the notion of sumo, I strongly recommend reading Tachiai, watching Jason and Kintamayama, and listening to Grand Sumo Breakdown during the next 2 months to be primed for what should be an epic battle in Nagoya.

We are all eagerly awaiting lksumo’s crystal ball post due up later today, but I can say that this basho was a death march for far too many rikishi. A few big names were missing, and the ones who hung in there were fighting well below their normal capabilities. I think this basho greatly underscored just how tough it is to keep a group of 40 or so rikishi healthy, fighting and fit.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Chiyoshoma delivers a slap and a pull to drop Ikioi to 4-11. Is this the end of Ikioi as we know him? Clearly he is still too hurt to fight effectively. Its tough to see long time favorites go out banged up and down.

Shohozan defeats Enho – The first of the Darwin matches, Shohozan threw in all of his unsavory behavior including multiple matta (one with a full charge and slap) before the match could get underway for real. When the match did finally start, it was a wild brawl with Enho dodging and weaving at his best, but Shohozan was clearly in charge. The two went chest to chest, and Enho struggled to get leverage over the larger Shohozan, but “Big Guns” remained upright and stable, while Enho became increasingly tired. Eventually Enho’s attacks left him too low, and Shohozan helped him to take a face full of Natsu clay. Huge effort by Enho, and typical crummy attitude from Shohozan, but he did pick up his 8th win.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – Second Darwin match, Onosho’s propensity to put too much pressure in front of his ankles was no worry with Chiyomaru’s mass to push against, and Chiyomaru found himself without any room to work, or any chance to move to the side.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Both men end the basho 5-10, with Ishiura likely headed to Juryo. Ishiura lost the last 5 consecutive matches, and is in dire need to regroup. The entire Pixie contingent looks to have faded through week 2, as Enho also lost his last 6 consecutive matches, after a strong start.

Tomokaze defeats Sadanoumi – Another Darwin match, Tomokaze lets Sadanoumi come to him, then employs superior strength and stability to overpower, lift and eject Sadanoumi. Tomokaze has yet to endure his first make-koshi of his professional career.

Meisei defeats Daishoho – Meisei has over-performed this basho, finishing with a 10-5 record, and a solid win over Daishoho. Meisei took a mae-mitsu grip early, and never gave an inch.

Shodai defeats Kotoeko – Shodai finishes with double digit wins, after finishing Osaka with double digit losses. I think his sumo looked better, and his opponents were in worse condition this tournament. I insist if this guy could improve his tachiai, he would be a force of sumo.

Tokushoryu defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze puts forth an effort to win on the final day, but the amount of force he can put into any move seems to be just a fraction of his normal. This comes after double digit wins in Osaka. His performance is either on or off the past 18 months, and I have to wonder if he’s starting to eye that kabu now.

Shimanoumi defeats Takarafuji – Two time Juryo yusho winner Shimanoumi came roaring back from a middling start to win his last 6 in a row, and end with at 10-5 record. That was a lot of Makuuchi jitters and ring rust to scrape off, but once he settled in he produced some solid sumo. He may find himself in a tougher crowd in Nagoya.

Abi defeats Tamawashi – Two false starts by Abi left him a bit slow at the tachiai, but he still landed his double arm shoulder attack, and used Tamawashi’s lateral move to send him arcing into the clay. Both men end Natsu 10-5, and Abi receives the Kanto-sho.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This bout was a mess, it featured a solid forward start from Chiyotairyu, followed by a lateral collapse that saw the big Kokenoe man hit the clay, but win because Tochiozan had already stopped out.

Daieisho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Both rikishi end Natsu make-koshi, with Terutsuyoshi following a cold start to the basho with a week 2 fade. There are a good number of rikishi at the bottom of the banzuke with really terrible records, and it may be another log-jam in the demotion queue that sees some incredible banzuke luck bestowed on the least terrible of the lot. Will that include Terutsuyoshi?

Endo defeats Yago – Endo catches Yago’s tachiai, lets him begin to push and then drops him to the clay. Simple, easy, effective.

Kotoshogiku defeats Okinoumi – A fairly traditional Kotoshogiku hug-n-chug win, but his hip pumping was less focused than normal, and it took quite a bit of time and effort to finish Okinoumi. Both men end the basho with losing records.

Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji’s “Handshake Tachiai” pays off as Nishikigi puts all of his hopes into grabbing a piece of Hokutofuji’s mawashi, and comes up with air. Left without anything to hold on to, Nishikigi is quickly propelled out for an oshidashi loss.

Mitakeumi defeats Asanoyama – Many fans will declare this a bellwether match, as it shows that Asanoyama did not have the mettle to be the Natsu champion. They may have a point, but that’s not how honbasho works. Mitakeumi is able to enact his preferred sumo strategy, and try as he might, Asanoyama cannot get into the grip and foot placement we have seen him use to rack up 12 wins prior to today. Does this foreshadow Asanoyama’s upcoming opponents in Nagoya? Probably, yes.

Ryuden defeats Aoiyama – Ryuden finishes with double digits, and I have to say his sumo was dead on this tournament. Aoiyama was only a fraction of his normal strength by this stage of the tournament, and Ryuden masterfully absorbed everything Aoiyama delivered in terms of tsuppari.

Ichinojo defeats Myogiryu – When Ichinojo is “on” he turns his opponents into rag-dolls and tosses them around at his leisure. This happened today with Myogiryu, who looked like an play-thing in a giant’s toy box.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Both of these rikishi are fighting hurt, and are only at a fraction of their expected power and speed. Takayasu takes a big chance going chest to chest against Tochinoshin, but rather than set up the sky crane, Tochinoshin oddly decides to try and pull Takayasu, which was all the Ozeki needed to rush forward and take Tochinoshin to the clay. Yeah, Tochinoshin is clearly hurt, and that was crap sumo compared to his first week performance.

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – They made a good match of it, no shady moves, no cheap sumo here, the top two surviving rikishi finished the day with a solid yotsu match that saw the Yokozuna take his 11th win.

That’s it for our daily highlight coverage. Thank you, dear readers, for sharing the Natsu Basho with us!

Natsu Day 14 Highlights

Edo or Tokyo? – The Classic Stylings of Asanoyama

Day 14 showed us another look at the future of sumo. We have been getting these a few times a year since Hakuho has gone into an on again / off again mode, and can no longer be counted on to dominate a basho. With Harumafuji out of sumo all together, the mainstays that would keep the lower ranks beat down have been removed, and new champions are free to emerge. We have moved from the homogenized “Every yusho is Hakuho” world into an environment where a hard working, dedicated and skilled Maegashira 8 can take the yusho. Our hearty congratulations to Asanoyama.

We noticed Asanoyama some time ago, and he distinguished himself early with his solid sumo, and his fantastic attitude. Every day he mounted the dohyo, no matter what the score, he was just happy to be doing sumo that day. Since his top division debut, I made and used the somewhat humorous tag “Asanoyama ❤️ Sumo”, but it really shows. Some time in the past year, he has dialed in a classic style that looks straight out of a 19th century wood block print, and has used it this May with great effect.

Congratulations to Asanoyama, it could not have happened to a nicer guy.

Highlight Matches

Toyonoshima defeats Ishiura – Toyonoshima picks up his 8th win, and more or less ensures that Ishiura will be headed back to Juryo. Ishiura is still struggling to enact a working pixie sumo formula, and Juryo is a fine place to sort that out once again. But Hakuho’s dream of having a dohyo-iri with Enho and Ishiura is on hold for a while longer.

Shimanoumi defeats Enho – After a cold start, Shimanoumi comes roaring back to score at least 9 wins for Natsu, and putting Enho on the make/kachi-koshi line. Enho is clearly still suffering from whatever happened to his right thigh, and it may have gotten worse in his day 14 loss.

Shohozan defeats Terutsuyoshi – That’s 2 of the 3 pixies with make-koshi records for May. The entire cohort faded into week 2, but I hope nobody thinks this is a repudiation of the pixie sumo style. They will be back after some tune-ups. But this many losing records at the bottom of the banzuke raises the question of who is going back to Juryo.

Daishoho defeats Tochiozan – Daishoho once again executes well, picking up his 9th win while giving Tochiozan his make-koshi. The match was really all Daishoho, who took the inside road at the tachiai, and did as he pleased with Tochiozan.

Kagayaki defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi’s opening gambit fails, and he finds himself without workable defensive foot placement. Kagayaki plows ahead and bodily removes Sadanoumi from the dohyo for the win.

Yago defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s preferred arm-bar hold seems to have run out of gas at least for this basho. He manages to pin Yago’s left arm, but after consoldiatinlg his position, Yago uses a maemitsu grip to maneuver Nishikigi over and out for a loss.

Tomokaze defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma goes down to his 10th loss, and will be deep back in the Juryo pack for July. Tomokaze has one more day to secure his 12th consecutive kachi-koshi.

Abi defeats Meisei – I cringe now when I see a monoii in the top division. It’s like “What kind of nonsense is Onomatsu oyakata going to utter this time?”. They give the win to Abi, both men advance to a respectable 9-5.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tokushoryu – Out running Chiyoshoma in the race back to Juryo is Tokushoryu, who has looked absolutely terrible this basho. His sumo is so much better than this, and I just have to assume some new or old injury has limited him.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoeko – Tamawashi goes to double digits, and complicates the Nagoya San’yaku picture somewhat. His sumo is back to being strong, focused and able to overcome quite a bit. Will he he turn it up to 11?

Endo defeats Onosho – Did you see the point where Onosho is driving forward, and decides he wants to try to pull Endo down? Yes, that’s the moment where the match was lost. Endo is too sharp to throw that kind of opportunity away.

Daieisho defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru seemed to have zero power today, and Daieisho was fully charged. Solid center-mass thrusting attack from Daieisho for the win. Although he is make-koshi, his sumo is holding up well into the end of the second week.

Hokutofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze’s sumo is completely broken right now. His style is usually fast paced strike-and-move combos that leave his opponents reacting, usually at least a half step behind. Whatever is plaguing you, Yoshikaze, we hope you can heal.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku held the advantage in this match until he got a bit too eager to close the deal, giving Myogiryu a narrow window to rally and execute a throw. Great kubinage in a tight spot from Myogiryu.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama decides to pull, and gets it stuffed in his mawashi by Okinoumi. Cut it out guys!

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji – Mitakeumi picks up his 8th win and secures a return to at least Komusubi for July. This match was all Mitakeumi, with him gaining the inside grip at the tachiai, staying low and just driving ahead.

Ryuden defeats Ichinojo – Ryuden picks up win 9 in this well executed match against Ichinojo, who is fighting better than I expected given his injury. I think we are just starting to see what Ryuden is capable of.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – Takayasu is a complete wreck this basho. He seems to have neglected the superior lateral mobility that Shodai brings to nearly every match, and finds his forward pressure against Shodai’s chest instantly transformed into a tumbling move into thin air.

Asanoyama defeats Goeido – Good sumo today from Goeido, but Asanoyama was better. Congratulations to overcoming both an Ozeki and an Ozekiwake to take the cup! His only losses where to hard core oshi-power rikishi (Tamawashi and Onosho) who shut down Asanoyama’s yotsu attack. Goeido took him on chest-to-chest, but Asanoyama kept low and focused his power forward.

Tochinoshin defeats Kakuryu – Well, can’t put it off any more. That henka had really no place at this level of sumo. I get why he did it; he’s hurt, he needed one more win to get back to Ozeki, and he thinks he was robbed day 13. He needed one more white star by any means he could get one. Kakuryu should have known this and made him eat it, but Kakuryu is himself at only about 80% genki, and is probably expecting the left hand outside followed by the sky crane. Welcome back to Ozeki Tochinoshin. If you don’t get your body back in fighting shape, you are going to be right back here again by Kyushu.

Natsu Day 13 Highlights

My Thoughts Exactly, Ma’am

Dear Sumo – What the hell was that? It’s time to set Onomatsu oyakata in a corner as he is a menace to orderly sumo. This is not the first time he has completely bumbled a call, and left everyone upset and more than a little confused. Tradition and seniority my broad, hairy Scottish backside. This guy is a disaster.

For those of you who many not know, head shimpan Onomatsu oyakata made a howler of a call in the match between Asanoyama and Tochinoshin that very well may cost Tochinoshin his return to Ozeki. In the final moments, Tochinoshin’s foot is on the tawara as he swings Asanoyama to the clay, and in what may be the longest monoii in the modern era, they gave the win to Asanoyama. Was Tochinoshin’s sumo extra sloppy today? It was – his foot placement was poor, his ring sense was nowhere to be found. But that decision is going to offend plenty of sumo fans, and not just readers of this blog.

Highlight Matches

Wakatakakage defeats Ishiura – The highest ranking Onami brother visits the top division to give Ishiura his make-koshi, and possibly send him back to Juryo once again to sort out his hot and cold running sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu worked his tail off to get back to the top division only to turn in a double-digit make-koshi. Tokushoryu is actually a skilled, talented and experienced rikishi. For long term fans it’s sad to see him fade this hard. Back to Juryo with him.

Shimanoumi defeats Kotoeko – After a cold start that saw Shimanoumi lose 3 of his first 4, he rallied to a kachi-koshi in fine fashion. This fellow won the Juryo yusho two times in a row, and has managed to get his 8 in his debut Makuuchi tournament.

Daishoho defeats Shohozan – Daishoho racks up his 8th win against a listless Shohozan, who is getting close to his 8th loss now.

Onosho defeats Chiyoshoma – Is Chiyoshoma finally going to Juryo again? Another loss and he goes to double digits, which is fine with me as he seems hurt and needs to throttle back his competition and recover.

Kagayaki defeats Yago – Yago lost this when he decided, “Hey, lets pull!”. This has happened a lot this basho. A strong, competent rikishi is executing a great attack plan, suddenly tries to pull his opponent down and loses the match by throwing away his forward pressure to the pulling move. Yago, get it together man!

Nishikigi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi launches a leg pick, but Nishikigi expertly shuts it down and gives Terutsuyoshi a face full of Natsu clay. Great attack move, excellent defense move. I loved this match.

Meisei defeats Enho – The big news here is that it looks like Enho may have injured his right thigh, as he was limping badly following the match. Meisei is one win away from double digits this basho, and he has been fighting much better than his normal.

Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – The Yoshikaze the fans love is simply not in right now. Chiyotairyu did a great job of executing his usual sumo with great effect. I did like his move to arrest Yoshikaze’s impending fall at the end of the match.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Maybe this is why everyone is trying a pull right now. They see Tamawashi stick one on Kotoshogiku to hand him his 8th loss. Yes, I was wishcasting Kotoshogiku to kachi-koshi this tournament and maybe return to San’yaku for Nagoya.

Hokutofuji defeats Daieisho – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai pays off today, and completely disrupts Daieisho. Daieisho exits the dohyo with his 8th loss but has a win over an Ozeki and a Sekiwake to show for his posting to the joi-jin.

Ryuden defeats Mitakeumi – What tactic lost this match for Mitakeumi? Oh yes, he decided to try to pull Ryuden down. To be fair, I think Mitakeumi is still fighting hurt, and Ryuden is really fighting his best ever. Still 2 more chances for Mitakeumi to pick up his 8th win, but the traditional week 2 Mitakeumi fade is well in effect.

Aoiyama defeats Abi – This mess was a triple decker sloppy joe with extra sauce. Everyone was all over the place, and it was anyone’s guess who was going to lose first. Arms, legs, mawashi flying everywhere. I guess Abi exited first…

Asanoyama defeats Tochinoshin – The match that shall live in infamy. An embarrassment of a sumo contest, not that either competitor did anything wrong. I mean that 7 minute monoii. Points against Tochinoshin for having almost no forward pressure, trying to pull Asanoyama and that quarter-assed kotenage attempt at the bales. I am going to guess that we are not seeing the sky crane because our glass cannon Tochinoshin is once again hobbled with an injury.

Ichinojo defeats Endo – When Ichinojo is genki, this is what you get. I watch this match and it’s like Endo is some kind of doll that Ichinojo is playing with. The level of force that goes into even his casual movements must be enough to overpower any normal rikishi. Good lord, what a brute.

Goeido defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo for Shodai today, no chance to move laterally and inject chaos vectors into his opponent’s battle plan. Goeido does a masterful job of containing Shodai to keep him centered and in front.

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – Anyone else breathe a sigh of relief on this one? Takayasu gets his 8th with a well timed side step of Kakuryu’s charge.

Now just think – if that call in the Tochinoshin match had not been botched, we would have Ozeki Tochinoshin in a 3 way tie for the yusho heading into the final weekend. Everyone say thanks to Onomatsu oyakata for being a block-head today.

Natsu Day 12 Highlights

No commentary this morning, straight to the matches!

Highlight Matches

Takagenji defeats Tokushoryu – Takagenji looked solid today in his 11th win of the tournament, using a combination of oshi and yotzu techniques to shut down Tokushoryu. Takagenji is running away with Juryo yusho, and will make his Makuuchi debut in July.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Yago – Yago was controlling this match until he tried to pull Terutsuyoshi down by the neck. Given the size difference and how the mechanics would work, a pull down against a much shorter opponent was foolish. Bad habits I suppose.

Sadanoumi defeats Shohozan – When Sadanoumi can get into his offense immediately at the tachiai, he tends to win. Shohozan knew he had trouble, and tried to pivot into a throw, but could not follow through.

Daishoho defeats Kagayaki – I am not sure what is plaguing Kagayaki, but he’s running the risk of resetting to Juryo. Daishoho had him beat in foot placement, body placement and grip. Daishoho is one win away from a kachi-koshi.

Onosho defeats Enho – Enho took Onosho on face to face, and found that while Onosho may over-commit, when you are in front of him, that can work to his advantage.

Chiyomaru defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze inching closer to his first make-koshi (it’s ok, everyone gets them in the top division). Chiyomaru keeps Tomozake in front of him, and keeps his thrusting attack running well.

Shodai defeats Tochiozan – Look at Shodai’s stance as Tochiozan is working on pulling him down, that is some solid sumo foot work. Tochiozan decided he was going to try to pull Shodai down twice, each time giving up about ⅓ of the dohyo, and he found himself at the bales, off balance and in trouble. Shodai had the sumo sense to give him enough of a shove to send him out. Shodai is now kachi-koshi.

Yoshikaze defeats Ishiura – I like Yoshikaze’s tachiai in this match, he stands up kind of slowly, keeping his eye on Ishiura the whole time. Ishiura seems to lose whatever battle plan he might have, and Yoshikaze slaps him around for his troubles.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi picks up make-koshi, after getting Myogiryu in the double arm lock that Nishikigi prefers. Twice Nishikigi tried to pivot into a throw, but Myogiryu was just too stable to get rolled.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoeko – I again call readers attention to Okinoumi’s foot work. Foot placement is the primary sumo defense mechanism, and Okinoumi’s foot movement is quiet, controlled and deliberate compared to Kotoeko jumping about.

Tamawashi defeats Asanoyama – We knew this was coming, Tamawashi drives inside and keeps thrusting against center-mass. Asanoyama’s got excellent defensive foot placement, but there is just too much power behind Tamawashi’s sumo, and Asanoyama goes back, back, and out. Tamawashi is kachi-koshi while Asanoyama gives up sole possession of yusho race leadership.

Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s attempt to pull early in the match opened the door and Endo walked right through, getting inside, then a left hand inside, then morozashi. Hokutofuji gave it his all, but Endo had is “good” sumo on today.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu’s canon-ball tachiai seemed to only have half power today, and Kotoshogiku took the hit and got his double inside grip. Advancing, he did not engage the hug-n-chug, but rather loaded a tsukiotoshi, and rolled Chiyotairyu to the clay. Kotoshogiku’s experience may carry him to 7 or 8 wins in the final days, when some others are running out of focus or stamina.

Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – Mitakeumi swithces back to the burgundy mawashi after a bad run in the burt orange one, and his sumo has returned to a better form, too. Now one win from kachi-koshi and a likely return to Sekiwake.

Ichinojo defeats Aoiyama – A strength battle with a combined 400 kg or so on the dohyo. For us Americans, thats 900 pounds of rikishi battling it out. This quickly turned into a mawashi battle, and I am pleased to say that Aoiyama recused himself well, but there was just too much Ichinojo to move, to toss or to pull down. Great match today from the Boulder.

Meisei defeats Tochinoshin – Many fans expected Tochinoshin to pick up #10 today, but Meisei got Tochinoshin’s balance shifted to his heels at the tachiai, and just kept driving forward. The last 2 days we have not seen Tochinoshin generate much in the way of forward pressure, has he re-injured that foot?

Abi defeats Takayasu – Exact same recipe used against Tochinoshin on day 11, Abi uses Takayasu’s shoulder blast as the energy source to raise him up and slap him down. The look on Abi’s face when presented with that pile of kensho is priceless.

Goeido defeats Takarafuji – As expected, Takarafuji gave a very technical, workman like match to Goeido, but Goeido did not lose his patience today, and masterfully controlled Takarafuji in nearly every facet of this match.

Kakuryu defeats Ryuden – After some crummy sumo day 11, we see some strong, powerful work from the Yokozuna today. That right hand grip is nearly perfect, and Kakuryu’s foot placement was exactly right. Not that Ryuden’s form was poor today, just that Kakuryu was excellent.

At the end of day 12, Kakuryu and Asanoyama share the lead in the yusho race with 10-2, with Tochinoshin one loss behind.

Natsu Day 12 Preview

After day 11, it’s going to be a crazy run to the finish. For the most part I expect it to be down to Kakuryu and Tochinoshin now, unless one of them gets (more) hurt. I think both Ozeki will make their 8, but it’s clear they are not at 100% this basho, and are just looking to survive. I would urge Takayasu to take special care with Abi today, he could very well surprise you.

Speaking of surprises, for reasons that we can never know, Ichinojo returns to the dohyo today. Already make-koshi, I am going to guess he is looking to soften the drop down the banzuke for July. I doubt his knee is any better, but as we have seen many times, a rikishi will return hoping a few more wins will help, and just cause himself more problems. He is, however, welcome fodder for the rotation through the top ranks.

Natsu Leaderboard

How’s this for novel – Asanoyama sits alone atop the leader board! I am quite sure they will find some opponent that will put dirt on him once or twice, but for a young guy like him, this is quite an event! With both Ozeki losing day 11, they fall off the pace and only Kotoeko remains 2 behind the leader.

Leader: Asanoyama
Chasers: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Hunt Group: Kotoeko

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Tokushoryu vs Takagenji – With Ichinojo back, the banzuke imbalance has returned, and we will see a visitor from Juryo. Today it’s the runaway yusho leader for Juryo, Takagenji. I am going to assume that Takagenji will make his Makuuchi debut on July, and we will see “Cab Forward” Tokushoryu back in Juryo.

Enho vs Onosho – Enho is still farming for #8, and this is going to be an interesting match for him. Onosho is big, round, and tends to move a lot. He has balance issues these days, so there is that to work with. But should Onosho be able to connect with his pushing attack, 99 kg is not going to take a lot of force to get headed skyward. First time ever match for these two.

Chiyomaru vs Tomokaze – Both men are at 5-6, and I have to think that the advantage is going to go to Tomokaze, mostly due to his better foot placement and balance. Chiyomaru will come out strong, slapping and swatting at Tomokaze. All Tomokaze has to do is stay upright and moving until Chiyomaru runs out of steam.

Shodai vs Tochiozan – Shodai going for kachi-koshi today against the veteran Tochiozan. Shodai showed a lot of endurance, balance and strength against Shohozan on day 11, and I would assume that Tochiozan will focus more on center-mass than Shohozan did.

Ishiura vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze is make koshi already, but I doubt he has given up, no matter how rough his sumo looks. Ishiura wants to be more mobile than his opponent, but Yoshikaze is typically excellent at move and strike sumo.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – Both rikishi are 4-7, and the loser walks away make-koshi. Myogiryu comes directly from a kinboshi against Yokozuna Kakuryu, maybe he will bring some of that fighting spirit to this match.

Asanoyama vs Tamawashi – Yusho race front runner Asanoyama faces a master of oshi-zumo today, and chances of Asanoyama leaving the dohyo with win 11 are fairly slim. Should Tamawashi prevail, it would mark his kachi-koshi.

Hokutofuji vs Endo – Another “loser gets make-koshi” match between two rikishi with a lot of potential who could not seem to muster their winning form this basho. Endo holds a 4-2 career advantage, and I think that will carry on in day 12 action.

Daieisho vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi finds himself 2 wins short of his 8th, with 4 matches left. I am sure he wants back in the Sekiwake slot, but his sumo has seemed a notch lower than some of his better performances in the past year.

Ichinojo vs Aoiyama – Clash of the Titans. All we need now is Russel Crowe to shout “Release the Kraken!”. This much mass in motion on the dohyo, I think the chances are high that one of these rikishi is going to get hurt. Ichinojo holds a 7-3 career advantage.

Meisei vs Tochinoshin – The Ozekiwake needs one more to resume his role at sumo’s second highest rank; can he take #10 from Meisei? It’s a first-time meeting between these two.

Abi vs Takayasu – Takayasu’s sumo is back in chaos mode, and that is good news for Abi. A Takayasu who tries to start a match with a bull-charge and a shoulder blast really works well for Abi-zumo. A win today would make it 8 for Takayasu.

Goeido vs Takarafuji – Goeido holds a 13-5 career advantage over Takarafuji, but where Takarafuji seems incredibly patient, Goeido seems to lose patience about 10 seconds into any match, and tries anything that comes to mind. Goeido will try to close the day on win 8 at the tachiai.

Ryuden vs Kakuryu – I do hope that the loss to Myogiryu re-focused the Yokozuna, and that we see him revert to his winning form. Ryuden’s sumo is certainly ascendant, but I have confidence that Kakuryu will be able to stalemate him for a time, find a mistake, and exploit it for the win.

Natsu Day 11 Highlights

We all knew that with Hakuho out, it was going to get wild, and while there had been some fun days leading up to the start of act 3, the opening day of the final third of this basho decided to unleash the unexpected, and take this tournament into overdrive.

For starters, the Ozeki corps, including the Ozekiwake, ate clay today in matches that saw their opponents deliver better sumo than they could. Furthermore, Yokozuna Kakuryu paid the price for one of his “bad habits” by delivering a cherished kinboshi to Myogiryu, summoning the zabuton rain at the Kokugikan.

However, Asanoyama won, leaving the Maegashira 8 in sole possession of the lead at the end of day 11. I will state that this guy deserves at least a special prize. His sumo has been dead on since the start, and so far he is not showing any fade into week 2. Now the pressure of being the leader rather than the underdog may crack him as soon as tomorrow, but I think it’s an indication that Asanoyama is going to be one of the stars of sumo in the new era.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Kotoeko – Today Chiyomaru’s sumo was working, and he completely disrupted Kotoeko’s attempts to attack or evade.

Yago defeats Daishoho – A very evenly balanced shoving match that saw no clear advantage until Yago dropped his hips and put more travel in his oshi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tochiozan – Terutsuyoshi’s effective submarine-tachiai allows him to lift Tochiozan by the mawashi and charge forward for a much needed win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki looks completely lost in this match. His oshi attacks are focused high, when he runs out of ideas he takes Chiyoshoma to his chest, and that is where he really shut down. I am going to guess that Kagayaki ends up deeply make-koshi.

Tomokaze defeats Enho – Some nice gymnastics out of Enho today, especially recovering his footing and balance after Tomokaze nearly pushes him into a seated position. I still assume Enho will hit kachi-koshi before Sunday.

Nishikigi defeats Tokushoryu – Once again, Tokushoryu’s cab-foward design causes him to have huge trouble slowing his forward momentum. Nishikigi uses this today with great effect.

Asanoyama defeats Sadanoumi – In the first “What the hell was that” moments, the shimpan call a monoii, and then completely confuse everyone, including themselves with their resulting narrative. They eventually called the match for Asanoyama, after explaining how Sadanoumi was the winner. From the replay, it’s clear Asanoyama had won the match, and they knew it too, but could not communicate it.

Meisei defeats Ishiura – Meisei gets lower, stays lower and pushes harder to take the match. Ishiura still has some work to do.

Shodai defeats Shohozan – The whole time, Shodai is far too high, but his feet stay stuck to the clay, and he wears Shohozan down, and then finishes him off. Good job Shodai!

Shimanoumi defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze manages some offense today, but it’s only a fraction of what he is capable of, and Shimanoumi shoves him from the dohyo. Yoshikaze make-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Onosho – There probably should have been a monoii on this one, but after the Asanoyama debacle, I am guessing the shimpan did not want to further confuse matters with a rambling, babbling explanation that left everyone puzzled and anxious.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyotairyu – Solid Tamawashi sumo today that ends with a Chiyotairyu slippiotoshi. Tamawashi takes the initiative at the tachiai, and Chiyotairyu is left struggling to keep his balance.

Okinoumi defeats Daieisho – When you watch this one, pay attention to Okinoumi’s feet. I love how they barely leave the clay. That’s excellent defensive sumo skill on ample display.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – After a matta, Kotoshogiku sets up his favorite hold and applies the hug-n-chug with great effect. Hokutofuji seems likely to end up make-koshi, and he needs to refine his sumo to effectively operate at this rank. I have confidence he will get there.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Endo gets mae-mitsu early, and has firm control of the match, Mitakeumi backs away and attempt to load a throw, but the pivot fails and leaves Endo behind him in control.

Abi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s triumphant 10th win is delayed as Abi employs his best Abi-zumo with devastating effect. It seems Tochinoshin ramped up the forward pressure the counter Abi’s expected double arm thrusts, and Abi turned that forward lean into the seed of the winning hatakikomi.

Ryuden defeats Goeido – Goeido got into trouble when Ryuden landed his right hand grip and used it to keep Goeido leading forward to compensate. This was not Goeido doing crappy sumo, this was Ryuden really doing fantastic sumo.

Aoiyama defeats Takayasu – Frankly some of the best sumo I have seen from Aoiyama in a year or so. He was low, he was relentless and he never let Takayasu really enact any offense.

Myogiryu defeats Kakuryu – Kakuryu gets stalemated, loses patience, decides to pull, and Myogiryu is waiting for it. Excellent planning and execution by Myogiryu, and I am sure Kakuryu is chiding himself for falling into his bad sumo.

Natsu Day 10 Preview

Myogiryu: “Then Takayasu said, pull my finger..”
Goeido: “No matter what, don’t pull Takayasu’s finger!”

We come to the end of act 2 now, and we have sorted the rikishi nicely into piles: the ones we know are doing well, the ones we know are doing poorly, and the third group who are struggling to stay afloat. For myself, I find the zero-sum game that is sumo quite fascinating. Every win comes at the expense of some other rikishi’s loss. When you have basho like Osaka, the devastation can be remarkable.

Launching into act 3, we are going to sort everyone into make and kachi koshi, and crown a tournament champion. With a broad front of 3 rikishi with 1 loss with 2 more just behind, there is a lot of competition left to play out this May. Starting on day 10, we will see a larger span of ranks in some matches, as the schedulers work to find pairs that keep the competition interesting and fair. Our worries about the 2 surviving Ozeki and the lone surviving Yokozuna seem to have been laid to rest, and we are all enjoying a re-energized Tochinoshin. I think that Team Pixie has really made a huge impression this basho, and I have to say that Enho may not be their captain, but he is certainly their heart. We are also watching Asanoyama have a great tournament, and we hope he can sustain this level of performance for the rest of the year.

Who has caught your eye this basho? Let us know in the comment section.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin, Asanoyama
Chasers: Enho, Kotoeko
Hunt Group: Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Abi, Ryuden, Shodai, Shohozan, Daishoho

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Chiyomaru vs Daishoho – Chiyomaru: a man of substance who has been mugged by elves a couple of days in a row. His record is in tatters, and I am sure he wonders how he finishes out with 8 wins now. Going up against Daishoho is not going to help. Daishoho is near the bottom of the banzuke for Natsu, but he’s fighting well and dominating his matches. The NHK-G showed the comically large soaking tub in the rikishi’s changing room – I encourage one of Chiyomaru’s tsukibeto to have that thing loaded and steaming hot for day 10.

Ishiura vs Sadanoumi – Ishiura has been able to conduct some good “Enho inspired” sumo the past few days, but he has taken his time to develop his attack before being able to close the deal. The issue with Sadanoumi is that he is a “fast mover” – his plan is on the dohyo and executing at fast forward speed. If Sadanoumi can keep Ishiura in front of him, it’s win #6 for the Sakaigawa man.

Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Both of these rikishi are struggling to stay close to the line that takes them to a winning record, so the schedulers put them head to head. But Terutsuyoshi holds a 4-1 career advantage, and seems to be finally in touch with his sumo.

Chiyoshoma vs Yago – Chiyoshoma, clinging to the bottom left corner of the banzuke, desperately needs a win, but then again, so does Yago. Is it time for Chiyoshoma to bring out his henka paddle and start evading the tachiai?

Enho vs Tochiozan – Enho might get his 8th win today, but the challenge is that Tochiozan is not large enough that the submarine tachiai is going to phase him, not slow enough that the normal scampering pixie sumo is going to baffle him, nor inexperienced enough that he is going to worry if Enho puts his face into his navel. First time match between these two.

Kagayaki vs Tokushoryu – Loser of this match receives a brand new make-koshi, and a hearty invitation to regroup and come back in July with their normal top-division class sumo. Kagayaki has stayed true to his form, but has bungled nearly every match. Tokushoryu has forgotten his form, but done what he could with whatever sumo came to mind. Try again guys.

Kotoeko vs Onosho – Although Kotoeko is 5 ranks lower on the banzuke, I personally think he may take this one from Onosho this time. Kotoeko seems to have some of his best sumo going in some time, and Onosho is still struggling with what seems to be a persistent balance problem.

Shodai vs Asanoyama – Someone on the scheduling team is really pushing my buttons, as they pair Shodai with Asanoyama. I am looking for some solid cartoon sumo out of Shodai day 10, and depending on what Asanoyama was doing most Saturday mornings as a child, he may have no idea what happened to him. Shodai won their only prior match, after opening a box from Acme moments before walking down the hanamichi.

Shohozan vs Meisei – Meisei has this “Little Engine That Could” vibe going on right now, so I am sure he will do his utmost. Shohozan seems to have gotten his punk moves out of his system, and has settled own into some first rate sumo in the past few days. This might be a really exciting match.

Takarafuji vs Tomokaze – Tomokaze has a 3 match losing streak going, and all of the piano time he wants is not fixing his sumo. But Takarafuji won’t take any pity on the Oguruma man, as Takarafuji is going to always execute his plan, no matter who he’s facing.

Nishikigi vs Yoshikaze – I predict this will result in Yoshikaze getting his make-koshi. What has been plaguing him for the past several basho? He’s not telling. I just hope that he’s ok when this is all done.

Myogiryu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi has a real chance to be back in San’yaku, and maybe even back at Sekiwake. Myogiryu will have a very different opponent than his day 9 match with Takayasu – this one will be sharp, short and intense. There will be plenty of kinetic energy in play, Myogiryu will just need to make sure it’s working for him instead of Tamawashi.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu – Both come in with 3-6 records, and are looking at the make-koshi line racing toward them. Only one of them will exit with a much needed win. These schedulers are being complete bastards, aren’t they?

Daieisho vs Kotoshogiku – I know I commented on lksumo’s day 5 storyline post that I liked Kotoshogiku for a possible San’yaku slot. Of course that was the cue for the Kyushu-Bulldozer to suffer a performance-robbing breakdown. Since then Kotoshogiku has been unable to produce much in the way of offense, and looking poor. If it’s any help, he has a 4-1 career advantage over Daieisho.

Aoiyama vs Endo – Much like that Hokutofuji/Chiyotairyu match, team “3-6” throws two more onto the dohyo for a beating, this time the rubbery man-mountain Aoiyama and the perpetually “almost genki” Endo. Aoiyama holds a 7-3 career advantage, and may just smack Endo around for a while before sending him a loss closer to that make-koshi-bound angry bouillabaisse stewing in that soaking tub near the shitaku-beya.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin got a day away from competition with the Takakeisho re-kyujo, so he comes to this match rested and ready. Sure, he’s going to try to to land the left hand outside, and engage the sky crane. We just want to see what Mitakeumi is going to do about it. I am sure Mitakeumi is well aware of the 7-3 Tochinoshin career advantage, and has no desire to make it 8-3.

Ryuden vs Takayasu – Did you know Ryuden (aka Shin-Ikioi) holds a 2-0 career lead over Takayasu? Sure, one of them is from Makushita in 2009, but this certainly removes some air of invincibility around the Ozeki. Takayasu seems to be working well enough that he can figure out a win on whatever terms evolve during the course of a match, so I think Ryuden has his hands full.

Goeido vs Okinoumi – You know what would go really well in the make-koshi hot tub? Some fresh Shimane Taimeishi! I am sure Okinoumi will give him a solid, but ultimately losing, fight. (The two have a long 25-bout history, which the Ozeki leads 19-6, though Okinoumi pulled off the upset the last time they met, in January. -lksumo)

Abi vs Kakuryu – These two have split their 2 prior matches, and I think Abi is due a win or two this week. I can see someone getting dirt on the Yokozuna at least one more time, and it may as well be a nice kinboshi.