Kyushu Day 15 Highlights


Kensho-Pile

It’s going to be light for the commentary today, as I am traveling to faraway lands on business. There was some fantastic action today, including a great yusho speech from Hakuho. Scandal hounds are, however, locked to the pounce position waiting for the post-basho fireworks.

As I am sure lksumo will describe in due time, there is another San’yaku log-jam, with a crowd of high-performing rikishi all clamoring for a pair of vacated slots. While it’s great to see so many press for higher rank, this is a function of the devastated Ozeki and Yokozuna corps. Had the full roster been present and healthy, many of these men would be lucky to eke out an 8-7 kachi-koshi. Instead, we have, once again, significant score inflation due to a lack of top predators culling the herd. When there is Hakuho with his overwhelming sumo, and a crowd of everyone else, you have a rotating list of who gets to lose to Hakuho, and then everyone else slugging it out on more or less even footing. This makes the yusho race predictable, but it makes for exciting times lower down the banzuke.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Chiyoshoma – Uncle Sumo defeats the increasingly annoying Chiyoshoma to secure a storied kachi-koshi on the final day. Aminishiki was visibly emotional, and the Fukuoka Kokusai Center erupted in joy to see the veteran succeed in his quest. With his victory, he picks up the kanto-sho special prize.

Chiyonokuni defeats Takekaze – Takekaze delivered a brutal tachiai, but Chiyonokuni seems to fear no pain and blasts Takekaze over the edge. Sadly Chiyonokuni appeared genuinely injured after the match. The loss leaves Takekaze make-koshi.

Aoiyama defeats Shohozan – Shohozan has fought well this basho, but he achieved an absolutely miserable 3-12 record. The win by Aoiyama in the final match may slightly cushion the man-mountain’s fall down the banzuke.

Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – The match itself was quite straightforward, as there was really nothing left for Okinoumi to push for. Takakeisho’s oshi-zumo is quite impressive, and the team at Tachiai are waiting to see if he broadens his sumo to include more mawashi attacks as he strives for higher rank.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi made short work of Hokutofuji, and both men finish the basho with impressive 11-4 records. As with the prior bout, neither rikishi was going to push too hard and risk an injury, as both had achieved much and secured healthy promotions for Hatsu.

Onosho defeats Takarafuji – The red mawashi once again activated in a moment of need, powering Onosho over Takarafuji to place the mighty tadpole in competition for Yoshikaze’s vacated Sekiwake slot. Onosho had this match at the tachiai and easily picked up his kachi-koshi win. Takarafuji battled well this tournament but leaves with a 7-8 make-koshi. Scoff at the red mawashi superstition, but after starting the basho 1-6, Onosho reverted to his red mawashi and racked up 7 wins over the final 8 matches. It may have been as simple as a physical change to allow Onosho to emotionally re-focus his sumo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Ichinojo – In spite of a matta and re-start, the tachiai was mistimed and sloppy. Fans of local rikishi Kotoshogiku were thrilled to see the “Kyushu-bulldozer” lower the blade and push the Mongolian giant around the dohyo and into the abyss. Ichinojo finishes 10-5 and is at long last looking to be a serious competitor once more.

Mitakeumi defeats Yoshikaze – The all-Sekiwake bout was all Mitakeumi. With Yoshikaze injured, he picked up his 9th loss, and will likely be out of San’yaku for Hatsu. Mitakeumi improved to 9-6 after struggling with injuries to his foot at the start, but is still under-performing to launch an Ozeki campaign.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Goeido put a strong effort into his sumo today, but Hakuho has been unstoppable this tournament, and after going chest to chest, the Yokozuna dispatched Goeido with his preferred uwatenage.

Kyushu Day 14 Highlights


onosho

Day 14 saw a conclusion to the battle for the Emperor’s Cup, with Yokozuna Hakuho winning his 40th career yusho among a decimated field of upper ranked rikishi.

Some fans are already complaining that the Kyushu basho was somehow boring or anti-climatic. True, there were few legitimate challengers to Hakuho, but then again that would likely be true no matter what. Out of the 8 rikishi in sumo’s two highest ranks, only two men are able to mount the dohyo on the final day of this tournament. Some readers took exception to Tachiai’s early forecast that the relentless Jungyo-Honbasho schedule currently in force was crushing sumo as a marketable televised sport, but now with a string of basho piling up where the top men are not present, that prediction may be worthy of examination.

The good news is that a large, vigorous crop of young men are ready to fill the gap, but first, the Kyokai will need to nudge several long-suffering athletes into retirement. Thus far it has not happened, but we may see that change in the next few months.

Sumo has enjoyed a rather welcome revival in its home country of Japan. First and foremost, Grand Sumo is a business, and we can trust the Sumo Kyokai to do what it thinks is best to keep sumo’s revival healthy and growing.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Asanoyama – Kotoyuki went straight for a nodowa and marched the struggling Asanoyama backward off the dohyo. After a terrible start in Kyushu, Kotoyuki rallied and is now kachi-koshi.

Ikioi defeats Kaisei – A power sumo battle dominated by Kaisei who landed a left-hand outside grip early. Ikioi was able to pivot at the tawara and land the Brazilian out and down to pick up his 8th win.

Chiyomaru defeats Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo’s bum legs have a tough time generating too much force, especially when he is facing a hefty rikishi like Chiyomaru. For the 4th straight day, Aminishiki failed to pick up his 8th win.

Tochinoshin defeats Kagayaki – After a somewhat shaky tachiai, both men battled to get an inside grip. Tochinoshin landed his right hand inside and took control of the match. His win gives him a kachi-koshi, while at the same time Kagayaki’s defeat secures his make-koshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tochiozan – With Tochiozan seeming to suffer problems with his lower body, this mobile battle of tsuppari favored Chiyonokuni from the start. Both men are suffering painfully disappointing records this basho, and desperately need to regroup.

Tamawashi defeats Okinoumi – Tamawashi has employed the push-then-pull tactic before in this basho, and Okinoumi was on the defensive straight out of the tachiai. Where Okinoumi prefers to get some kind of grip established, Tamawashi was not going to let that happen. Tamawashi is looking like a strong contender to return to San’yaku for January.

Takakeisho defeats Chiyoshoma – From the tachiai, Chiyoshoma started aiming to land blows on Takakeisho’s damaged face and lip. Sadly for Chiyoshoma, this really seems to have gotten Takakeisho very motivated. While Chiyoshoma was focusing on Takakeisho’s face, Takakeisho landed his left-hand grip and quickly proceeded to give Chiyoshoma a vigorous exit from the dohyo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Both men have deep make-koshi records, both are local favorites, and both decided to turn it up to 11. The highlight of the match, and possibly the day: Shohozan uses Kotoshogiku’s solid grip on his body, to lift and swing the former Ozeki around, with his feet flying off the ground. But Kotoshogiku landed both feet back on solid earth and began his hug-and-chug attack. When he can set it up, there are few ways to counter the Kyushu Bulldozer, and it was seconds later that Shohozan was out.

Onosho defeats Hokutofuji – “The power of the red mawashi could not be undone” –  After a matta appetizer, the main event saw Hokutofuji quickly drive Onosho to the edge. But that was all that was needed for the red mawashi to activate, and Onosho basted back, driving Hokutofuji backward and out. After losing 6 of his first 7 matches, Onosho reverted to the red mawashi and has now won 6 of the last 7. A win tomorrow would lock in a great come from behind kachi-koshi. With Hokutofuji’s loss, the door was now open of Hakuho to clinch the yusho.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze clearly is having a lot of problem with the foot he injured earlier this week and has very little defensive or offensive push available. Thus Ichinojo only needed to use his massive size and strength to push Yoshikaze out. Yoshikaze is now make-koshi, and will possibly be out of San’yaku for January.

Mitakeumi defeats Arawashi – Mitakeumi locks in his kachi-koshi, overcoming a set of lower body injuries as well. While not yet performing at a level that could indicate a chance at campaigning for an Ozeki rank, his ability to hang onto San’yaku has been worthy of note. Mitakeumi’s 6th winning tournament this year.

Goeido defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji put up great resistance to Goeido’s offense, but the Ozeki carried that day. Goeido was in control of the match from the tachiai, and for a moment both men struggled for grip. Goeido landed a right hand inside early, and proceeded to use that leverage to progressively contain Takarafuji, and force him out.

Hakuho defeats Endo – This was always an odd match, with Endo not in a rank range that would typically face a Yokozuna, especially this late in the tournament schedule. But with so many Ozeki and Yokozuna out with injuries, it was pretty much “anything goes”. The match was over in a flash, with Hakuho’s tachiai blasting Endo completely off balance, and on his way off the dohyo. Hakuho then finished the job but sadly applied one of his dame-oshi at the close.

Kyushu Day 13 Highlights


Hakuho

Hakuho’s Chasers Keep Up The Pressure.

An impressive number of rikishi are still sitting one win away from kachi-koshi, and it looks like the final weekend will be what I call a “Darwin Torikumi”, with the schedulers pairing up the folks that need just one more win to (as much as possible) put make/kachi koshi on the line. Several of these “Darwin” rikishi had been on losing streaks, rallied and are now pressing to secure a winning record – examples of this are Ikioi and Shodai. Still others waltzed up to the 7 win mark, but can’t seem to make it across into the happy valley of kachi-koshi – an example of this is Uncle Sumo, Aminishiki.

Takayasu re-injured his right thigh on day 12 and is kyujo, which gave a fusen-sho to Goeido, securing his kachi-koshi. I am very happy Goeido won’t, yet again, be kadoban. He has been fighting well this basho but seems to be missing something. Reminder to readers that he recently had his ankle surgically rebuilt, and it’s impossible to know how much that limits his sumo. With Takayasu’s kyujo, that makes 3 Yokozuna and 1 Ozeki out for Kyushu. Clearly, sumo continues to have difficulty fielding its top-line talent. We are only a few months from a probable house-cleaning, in my opinion.

Highlight Matches

Ikioi defeats Aminishiki – Not even a tough bout. Aminishiki has bad knees and tends to win through misdirection and guile. When he faces rikishi who know his tricks, defeating him is a matter of simple sumo mechanics. Both men are one win away from kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Asanoyama – Kaisei picks up his kachi-koshi against sumo’s happiest rikishi, who picked up his make-koshi via the same bout. Kaisei has looked better this basho than he has in about a year, and we are happy to see him back in fighting form. Asanoyama has faded from his stellar performance at Aki, but we think he will be a force in the future.

Shodai defeats Kotoyuki – Shodai blows the tachiai (naturally), and Kotoyuki makes him pay. But before Kotoyuki can take him out, Shodai rallies and turns it into a real match. Kotoyuki again advances, but Shodai pulls a Kotenage at the edge. Sloppy, but still a win. Shodai was on a losing streak but has remembered some of his sumo, and is now one win away from kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi defeats Tochinoshin – Okinoumi defeats the big Georgian to remain one win behind Hakuho. For fans of the man from Shimane-ken, it’s been tough to watch him struggle to overcome a chronic, painful injury. Somehow he has it all wired together this basho and is fighting well. At the tachiai, Okinoumi established a right-hand inside grip early, which he improved to a moro-zashi as Tochinoshin advanced. With the Georgian pushing him to the tawara, Okinoumi used his grip to throw Tochinoshin. Nice win, and Okinoumi goes to 11 wins.

Takakeisho defeats Tochiozan – Traditional Takakeisho yo-yo sumo again today. Tochiozan’s multiple pain points keep him from being a credible threat anywhere in the torikumi, and we hope that he can recover by New Years. Takakeisho keeps up the pressure to take a san’yaku slot for the next basho.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – This was a great test match for Endo: just how recovered are you? The answer is, “Not quite enough to defeat Tamawashi”. We are likely to see Endo in the joi for Hatsu, so this match may have been to help decide if he is ready. The tachiai was a bit mistimed, but the fight continued (see how it’s done Hakuho?). Tamawashi stays even with Takakeisho in the “Make me San’yaku” derby.

Onosho defeats Shohozan – After dropping the majority of his bouts at the start of Kyushu, Onosho reverted to the holy red mawashi of the ancients and began kicking ass. Now up to 6 wins, he is two away from kachi-koshi. Home-town boy Shohozan has not been able to produce wins this basho, but he shows up every day and fights like a madman.

Ichinojo defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is solidly in the “can’t get to 8” club, and today he was completely outmatched by Ichinojo. Mitakeumi is competing with a painful foot injury, and it limits how much defensive pressure he can apply to anyone’s attack. When your attacker is 400 pounds of Mongolian rikishi, you try to make your dohyo exit safe.

Hokutofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Also squarely in the busted foot club, Yoshikaze took his turn with the surprisingly genki Hokutofuji, who remains 1 behind Hakuho. As is always the case, there are no easy wins over Yoshikaze, but it was clear the Berserker was only at about 80% today. Chances of Yoshikaze going make-koshi are up quite a bit post foot injury, and that would open a coveted Sekiwake slot for all of the team pressing to launch into San’yaku.

Hakuho defeats Takarafuji – What a fantastic effort from Takarafuji! A perfectly timed move to the left as the Yokozuna leaped to put him off the dohyo sent Hakuho sailing perilously close to the tawara, but he arrested his overshoot and re-engaged. Takarafuji pressed the advantage, but he was no match for the Yokozuna, who was able to slap him down. My compliments to Takarafuji. Please note that Hakuho’s normal tachiai face-slap missed, most likely due to computational errors stemming from his intended target’s lack of neck, which places Takarafuji’s face in an unexpected location.

 

Kyushu Day 12 Highlights


Ichinojo-smiles

There are three rikishi that have stood out this basho.  Okinoumi is fighting very well in spite of a chronic injury to his lower pelvic region that most days makes it difficult to walk normally, let alone dominate on the dohyo. Ichinojo, after many tournaments languishing around with never a strong winning or losing record, is somehow healthy enough that he is returning to his 2015 format.  In that era, he was so big and so strong that he was considered somewhat unstoppable. Then back injuries, compounded by his enormous 400-pound bulk, kept him from being much more than a sumo oddity. Hokutofuji continues to impress, he is young enough to be a dominant rikishi for the next several years, as many veterans that we know and love today start thinking of retirement.

Highlight Matches

Okinoumi defeats Aminishiki – Okinoumi continues to look strong, and for another day Aminishiki is denied his kachi-koshi.  Given Okinoumi’s chronic injuries, it’s too much to hope that he is “well”, but we can say that for Kyushu, he is doing well. He is now 10-2, one behind Hakuho.

Kotoyuki defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama is in miserable shape with his knee, and Kotoyuki (who is on an upswing now) made very quick work of shoving him out of the ring. For a time I considered Kotoyuki likely to return to juryo, but now he is one win away from kachi-koshi.

Ikioi defeats Daiamami – It’s great to see Ikioi fighting well in spite of his back injury. He wrapped up Daiamami immediately out of the tachiai, and manhandled him out directly. Thought it is a long shot, Ikioi could still reach kachi-koshi as he improves to 6-6. Daiamami is make-koshi with this loss.

Endo defeats Myogiryu – Endo is showing no signs of slowing down, clearly wanting to stake a spot higher up the banzuke in January.  Myogiryu put up a good fight in this oshi-zumo struggle, but it was never in doubt. Endo now 9-3.

Shodai defeats Kagayaki – After a pathetic start, Shodai is back to doing some level of sumo. He dominated Kagayaki today, with a nice leg-thrust at the end to push Kagayaki out.

Arawashi defeats Kaisei – Arawashi struggled to throw the big Brazilian, but there is simply too much of him for all but the strongest to toss. After two failed attempts, he simply pushes him over the tawara.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Both men headed higher in the banzuke, and this bout may have decided which one of them gets the better promotion. Another oshi-zumo fest, Tamawashi struggled to deal with Takakeisho’s impressive balance and subterranean center of gravity. With the win, Takakeisho picks up his kachi-koshi. The damage he took to his mouth on day 10 looks terrible!

Onosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu lands his make-koshi in a fairly straightforward bout against the Red Mawashi (I am convinced it has magical powers). Onosho did a much better job of keeping his mass centered over his rather small feet.

Chiyonokuni defeats Yoshikaze – With two street brawlers like these fighting, there is always a chance for a crazy battle that covers the dohyo. This match delivered, with both men launching into a blistering tsuppari contest, with Yoshikaze eventually sacrificing his face (again) to switch over to a mawashi grip. Much to everyone’s delight, Chiyonokuni rallied in the midst of being thrown and won the match. Fantastic sumo.

Ichinojo defeats Goeido – Goeido was again denied his kachi-koshi, this time by an Ichinojo who was dialed in and ready for some mega-sized power sumo. Recent fans may wonder where this Ichinojo has been: he was always there, just a bit too hurt to actually compete this way. Goeido gave it everything he had, but when battling an opponent that appears on most maps, options are limited. Ichinojo picks up a well-earned kachi-koshi, and my gratitude for bringing back landmass-scale sumo.

Hokutofuji defeats Takayasu – First off, Hokutofuji continues to impress. Secondly, I am going to chalk up Takayasu’s sumo this basho to his incomplete recovery from his torn thigh muscle.  He has only made limited use of his primary attack style, which is a very strong yotsu-zumo that exploits his immense strength and almost inhuman stamina. Today he let Hokutofuji dictate the match, and it was all Hokutofuji. Now with 10 wins, he is one behind Hakuho.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – Quick and simple affair. The boss chose to move away from yesterday’s misunderstanding by focusing on sumo and leaving little doubt that few can beat him.

Kyushu Day 11 Highlights


WTF

For readers who don’t want to know the details of today’s bouts, including some oddities around Hakuho: stop reading now, and wait to see the NHK highlights later today. There will likely be a significant amount of discussion here and in other forums to examine that match, and we will cover it below. Yes, we are flying the rare but useful “What the hell was that?” tag on this post.

In order to give readers a bit of visual buffer on the page, let’s start from the lower Makuuchi matches of note…

Highlight Matches

Okinoumi defeats Kagayaki – After multiple basho of middling or weak performance, Okinoumi seems to be cleaning up in lower Makuuchi. After a brief oshi contest following the tachiai, Okinoumi established a solid right-hand grip on Kagayaki’s mawashi and marched Kagayaki backward and out for an easy win.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – The Man-Mountain Aoiyama has no strength in his injured legs, and in sumo, defense starts with the lower body. Asanoyama, who appeared to be headed towards make-koshi, is rallying and may finish with a respectable record.

Kotoyuki defeats Daieisho – Kotoyuki goes for the face straight out of the tachiai and puts Daieisho in a reactive mode. From there Kotoyuki keeps up the pressure and the oshi attack until Daieisho loses balance, handing Kotoyuki a much-needed victory.

Endo defeats Nishikigi – I would say that maybe, just maybe, Endo is back to workable health. At the tachiai, Endo tries to land a grip but is repelled by a solid thrusting attack by Nishikigi, forcing Endo back and to the bales, where he finally does land his right hand. From here Endo takes control and gets them chest to chest. Points to Nishikigi who rallies and moves to throw Endo, but can’t finish it. Instead, Endo improves his grip steadily and wins by yorikiri. Endo is now kachi-koshi and looking genki for the first time in what seems like ages.

Daiamami defeats Chiyomaru – A surprisingly solid match between two oshi-zumo men. The battle raged across the dohyo, with these two behemoths each testing their strength, and discovering that weighty men are difficult to push around. After tiring of this, the two go chest to chest and lean on each other for a time, breathing heavily. Daiamami returns to the attack first and neatly shoves Chiyomaru out.

Shodai defeats Aminishiki – A great effort from Uncle Sumo trying to prevent Shodai’s win. As always, Shodai comes in high in the tachiai, and Aminishiki begins to try and pull him forward and down. Clearly, Shodai is expecting this (and at this point, who isn’t) and manages to land a right-hand grip during all of the tugging. From there he takes control of Aminishiki, who knows that he has a problem. Both men work to throw the other, but it’s Shodai who seals the deal by reversing and pulling Aminishiki down. For a second day, Aminishiki misses out on his first Makuuchi kachi-koshi in a long time.

Kaisei defeats Chiyoshoma – Kaisei wins the tachiai, landing inside Chiyoshoma and putting a solid grip under both arms, and pressing forward with his enormous mass. Chiyoshoma counters well, landing his left hand on Kaisei’s mawashi, and loading up for a throw. But the giant Brazilian won’t go over. Chiyoshoma adds juice to the throw by trying to trip Kaisei, but even that is not enough, as Kaisei maintains excellent balance on his left leg alone. Time and again Chiyoshoma works to throw Kaisei, each time Kaisei counters until at the edge he manages to get him over, but sadly lands before Kaisei does, losing the match. Remember sumo fans, if you know you are going to fall, make sure you fall last.

Takarafuji defeats Shohozan – It seems that maybe Shohozan skipped anatomy class, as he repeatedly attempts to apply a strong nodowa against a man with no neck. This provides ample time for Takarafuji to patiently, methodically work his sumo while Shohozan blazes away against a nonexistent body part. Suddenly distracted by the absurdity of the situation (how does he breathe, speak or even swallow without the organs located in the neck?), Takarafuji slaps the medically stupefied Shohozan to the clay.

Tamawashi defeats Arawashi – In the Oshi-Washi battle, it’s clear that Tamawashi wants back in San’yaku, and with a performance like this, he shall have it. With this win, he picks up his kachi-koshi and makes a strong case for at least a Komusubi slot.

Tochiozan defeats Onosho – In spite of the red mawashi of power, Onosho once again over-commits, gets his weight too far forward, and Tochiozan makes him pay. Onosho is a solid, up and coming rikishi, and this is his primary weakness now. Sadly for him, everyone now sees it and exploits it when Onosho makes the mistake.

Kotoshogiku defeats Takakeisho – The Kyushu Bulldozer denies Takakeisho his kachi-koshi, in a brilliant display of containment and ejection strategy. The crowd loved it, and so did I. Takakeisho tends to win by applying some truly powerful oshi, but he made the mistake of allowing Kotoshogiku grab a piece of him with both hands. This is really all this guy needs to give you a bumpy ride back to the dressing room, and we got to see a very rough and chaotic version of this dance today.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – In spite of foot problems, Mitakeumi is gamberizing well. He took a very short time to shove Chiyotairyu out, and inches closer to his kachi-koshi and returning to Sekiwake.

Takayasu defeats Ichinojo – The Ichinojo we saw on day 1 did not make an appearance. Fans were hoping that these two would take a 5-minute lean-to siesta in a show of mass vs force, but it was not to be. I hope that Ichinojo did not re-injure his back during his match with Hakuho.

Hokutofuji defeats Goeido – This match was a thing of beauty, as I think we got a glimpse of a possible future Ozeki Hokutofuji. Goeido was fast and fighting with strength and skill, but Hokutofuji held on and prevailed. Goeido landed a strong right hand inside grip straight out of the tachiai, and in many cases, that’s all he needs to have his way. Hokutofuji moved to counter, and the two separated, just to clash again. In Goeido’s second charge, Hokutofuji sidestepped deftly and got behind the Ozeki. Now Goeido is off balance and in a weakened position. Hokutofuji charges forward strongly, but Goeido deflects and again establishes a mawashi grip. Hokutofuji holds tight, lands his own grip and struggles as Goeido writhes in defense. Somehow Hokutofuji keeps his left hand on Goeido’s mawashi knot, and works the Ozeki sideways, then pushes with everything he has left. Goeido sails backward and out. Excellent match from both.

Yoshikaze defeats Hakuho – This match is one of those sumo moments where you can only throw up your hands in disbelief and perhaps a bit of frustration and move on. Yoshikaze is the kind of rikishi that can, and will, beat anyone on any given day. Both men lined up on the shikiri-sen, and as is typical, Yoshikaze went into his launch position with his hands firmly on the clay early and stayed put. Hakuho took longer and went into a Konishiki-style crouch before accelerating into the tachiai. Like normal, the Yokozuna led with his face slap and was perhaps a bit early. But keep in mind, Yoshikaze had already given consent for the match to begin. Rising late, he landed moro-zashi, as it seemed Hakuho eased up, expecting a matta to be called. Instead, the gyoji kept the match running. Yoshikaze charged forward, under minimal resistance from the matta-expectant Hakuho, who went for a ride into the second row of zabuton. What followed was quite awkward, as Hakuho waited below the dohyo for the shimpan to call a monoii, and decide to run the match “for real”. Sadly for him, Yoshikaze gave consent, Hakuho took it and launched into battle. His opponent accepted the challenge and finished the match victorious. This gives Hakuho his first loss of the basho, which will not deter him from his likely yusho.

More from the Japan Times:

Hakuho got quickly rammed out by sekiwake Yoshikaze in the day’s final bout at Fukuoka Kokusai Center and in a rare act unfitting of a yokozuna, raised his arm in protest at the referee’s decision.

Hakuho (10-1) took his foot off the pedal after the charge, suggesting he thought Yoshikaze (6-5) had made a matta (false start). He left the ring shaking his head.

“The yokozuna thought it was a matta and eased up but I heard even more clearly than usual the referee say nokotta (you’re still in it),” said Yoshikaze.

“I got the okay so just had to keep charging forward. I will try and wrestle well for the remaining four days.”

Everything You Need to Know After Act Two


Sumo wrestlers line up as they pray before the start of the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan

The curtain has dropped on act two. The stage is now set, and the actors are ready for the grand finale of the Kyushu basho. While the early days of this tournament were overshadowed by scandal, the sumo took center stage in act two. So far we’ve seen triumph, defeat, skill and and even a little luck. But the best is yet to come! Here is a quick run down of everything you need to know going into the last five days of sumo in 2017.

Yusho Race

After two acts, only one man remains lord on high in the yusho race: Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho. With a 10-0 record and a two-win cushion separating him from second place, this is truly Hakuho’s yusho to lose. The story is not over yet, however, as two men are trailing Hakuho, just waiting for him to make one crucial mistake that will bring them closer to yusho contention. These rikishi are Okinoumi and Hokutofuji, who both ended day 10 with eight wins apiece. Should he keep his record spotless, Hakuho can clinch the yusho with a win on day 14, if not sooner.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

There were only three men who secured their kachi koshi by the end of act two. In addition to Hakuho, only Okinoumi and Hokutofuji have earned a winning record so far, and are safe from demotion for the New Year Tournament. Conversely, there are three rikishi with make koshi losing records, beginning with Tochiozan who went winless in his first eight bouts. Chiyonokuni and Kotoshogiku also have losing records and can expect to move down the banzuke for January. For a closer look at the kachi koshi and make koshi  projections, please see this article by fellow Tachiai authour lksumo.

Kinboshi

Yokozuna Kisenosato surrendered three more kinboshi during the second act of the kyusho basho, bringing the overall total to six. These kinboshi were claimed by Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, and Takarafuji respectively. Having lost to five Maegashira rikishi, Kisenosato tied the record for the most kinboshi given up in a single basho since 1949.

Kyujo and Absences

On day 3 it was announced that Aoiyama had withdrawn from competition due to issues with his ankle. He returned to action on day 8 in what many believe to be a desperate attempt to stave off a major demotion down the banzuke. Since the end of act one, only one more rikishi has joined those who have pulled out of the Kyushu basho. Early in day 10, Kisenosato withdrew from the competition due to ankle and lower back issues. This marks the third time he has had to end a tournament prematurely this year. The kyujo and Absentee list so far includes Kakuryu, Ura, Takanoiwa, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, and Kisenosato.

Tozai-Sei

After ten days, the West now leads the East by a score of 104-85. The West side of the banzuke is really beginning to pull away from the East, mostly due to Hakuho, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, and Arawashi, who have all won seven or more matches. That being said, the East has been far more affected by injuries and has lost many top point-earners this basho. The next five days will see the crowning of the first unofficial Tozai-sei championship.

Like a play, each act of the Kyushu basho has been better than the last. There’s still so much fantastic sumo that awaits us as we head into the final days of competition. So with that, let’s open the curtain on act 3. Let the finale begin!

Kyushu Day 10 Highlights


Fukuoka

Many fans were eager to see the Hakuho-Ichinojo match from day 10. I can tell you now that it was, in fact, a fantastic bout that saw each man give everything they could to win. The look on Hakuho’s face at the end speaks volumes. For people at the top of their profession, be it sports, technology, art or medicine, there is a sad fact that many tasks that some might marvel at can become rote and boring. Many top performers yearn for a proper challenge, a way for them to grow and excel. When a situation brings you an enormous challenge, skillfully overcome, it is quite rewarding. I think we saw a glimpse of that on Hakuho’s face today.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Aoiyama – Uncle Sumo wins one by not pulling and against the massive (but injured) Aoiyama. Clearly, the big Bulgarian is having traction problems due to the injury to his right ankle in his bout against Okinoumi.

Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – Nishikigi teeters on the edge of demotion with a make-koshi, and rallies to force out Kaisei. Kaisei is no light fellow, but Nishikigi is clearly motivated in this match.

Okinoumi defeats Daishomaru – The chronically injured Okinoumi picks up his kachi-koshi on day 10, with a convincing win against Daishomaru. Should his performance in Kyushu signal that Okinoumi has overcome his chronic injuries, he makes a very convincing upper Maegashira.

Shodai defeats Ikioi – This match is tough to watch, because everyone wants Shodai to do better, and knows that Ikioi has a bad back. The match is very sloppy, as you might expect with these two, with Ikioi mounting a haphazard and uncoordinated pushing attack, which is countered at the tawara by Shodai.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daieisho – After yesterday’s slap to Hokutofuji, Chiyoshoma has seen his popularity plummet with the crowd in Kokusai Center. Today’s match against Daieisho started with thrusting, but both men went chest to chest early and struggled for grip. Daieisho touted a solid defense and had a strong left hand inside grip. Several times Chiyoshoma rallied, but Daieisho strongly countered. The win came when Chiyoshoma was able to lift Daieisho over the tawara, and the crowd reaction told the story of what they think of this fellow. Hey, Chiyoshoma – don’t feed the “Mongolians are jerks” meme in Japan, please. It’s bad for sumo.

Tochinoshin defeats Takekaze – Takekaze tried a hit and shift at the tachiai, but veteran Tochinoshin was expecting the move, and countered strongly, using his massive strength to slap away Takekaze’s “emergency thrusters”. Tochinoshin continued to swat Takekaze to the edge and then picked him up and shoved Takakaze over the tawara. Takakaze one loss from make-koshi and a likely demotion to Juryo.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyomaru – Takarafuji seems to have been emboldened by his win over Kisenosato. His bout with Chiyomaru was a solid oshi match, and while Chiyomaru was landing the majority of blows, including a lot of nodowa, Takarafuji kept moving forward. Excellent effort from one of the surviving Isegahama rikishi.

Endo defeats Arawashi – Notable in that Endo gave Arawashi no opening at all. Endo charged strongly at the tachiai, put Arawashi on defense and then drove strongly forward. Endo looking very good this basho, and Endo fans hope that he has his body together and working now.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyotairyu – Kaio’s doppelgänger faced off against sumo-Elvis, and took a pounding. Chiyotairyu at one point had a grip on Hokutofuji’s face and jerked it back and forth. Hokutofuji stayed focused, stayed on his feet and kept moving forward. Chiyotairyu realizes he is not going to be able to pull him down and the real tsuppari attack begins. Hokutofuji’s upper body is clearly on defense, and taking some punishment, but his lower body is on offense and after falling back for a moment, resumes marching forward. For a moment both men rest against each other’s shoulders, clearly, this match is close to a stalemate. In the end, Chiyotairyu may have run out of gas, and Hokutofuji pushed him out. Great oshi bout. Hokutofuji kachi-koshi.

Takakeisho defeats Shohozan – another solid battle between two rikishi swatting each other into submission. When they were fully engaged, it was a blur of fury as Shohozan’s well-muscled arms were punishing Takakeisho’s upper body. But Takakeisho did not give ground and launched a powerful shoving attack against Shohozan’s torso. This seems to be Takakeisho’s go to offense, and once again employed it for victory.

Onosho defeats Tamawashi – The return of the red mawashi seems to have marked a return of Onosho’s sumo prowess. Tamawashi has been a tough contestant this basho, but Onosho gets him face-down on the clay shortly after the tachiai. Onosho needs to win 4 of the next 5 to get his kachi-koshi, but maybe the magic red mawashi has enough power to get him there.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochiozan – So many Yoshikaze fights are freewheeling, running battles, and today was a great example of what happens when rikishi face the Berserker. Tochiozan gave as good as he got for a time, but Yoshikaze seems to think and move faster than nearly anyone else. He can and does spot an opening and then makes his opponent pay. Tochiozan is really not strong this basho, and we hope that his left knee can get healed by Hatsu.

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – I am not going to fault Goeido in this bout, he was strongly committed to his offense. As described, Goeido 2.0 mode leaves no room for his own defense, and I applaud Mitakeumi for taking advantage of that to Goeido’s detriment. To be clear, Mitakeumi’s win shows his excellent ring sense and exquisite timing. Had Mitakeumi missed that one even by a moment, it would have gone the other way.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Sadly this marks Kotoshogiku as make-koshi. Kotoshogiku went strongly on offense, and Takayasu gave ground, but Kotoshogiku overcommitted, and Takayasu was able to slap him down at the edge of the ring. By staying airborne for a few moments, Takayasu ensured that Kotoshogiku landed first. Not a strong showing from Takayasu, but a win is a win. He is now one victory from clearing kadoban.

Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – This one lived up to its billing. Ichinojo came ready for some sumo, and everyone loved it. Although being enormous is not a strategy in upper division sumo, Ichinojo used his incredible size for all he could today, and it gave Hakuho a lot of trouble. Do yourself a favor, watch the replay and only look at Ichinojo’s feet. It was clear that he thought that his first task was not to overpower Hakuho, but to maintain a steady defense to prevent the Yokozuna from winning. Time and again Hakuho could not set up leverage enough to drop Ichinojo, and it was clear that Hakuho was really enjoying the challenge. But Hakuho kept moving a bit at a time, working to improve his position and his grip. At one point Ichinojo almost lands a left hand outside grip, and we see Hakuho make an emergency move. Outstanding effort form both rikishi, and I am really impressed with Ichinojo. Great sumo.