Osaka Day 9 Preview

Time for day 9, the day I originally predicted might be the final day of this basho. Given the slow forward grind of COVID-19 in the world, there was a brave attempt made to conduct this Osaka tournament, in spite of the risk to the over 600 men competing. A number of new rules were put in place to keep everyone as safe as they could, and allow the competition to go forward. There have been a few withdraw with fevers, the most high profile of which is none other than Chiyomaru. Is it influenza? a cold? the dreaded doom virus? Well, we won’t know any time soon. So let’s just wish him well and press ahead. I am sure there will be plenty of time later to worry about it once the tests are back.

It’s time to start week 2, and our march toward next Sunday’s awarding of the Emperor’s Cup. In spite of the concern and lack of crowd, the sumo will go on. During the second week, some of the veterans may run low on stamina, and some of the rikishi with a lot on the line may lose their mental edge. It’s a fascinating time to be a sumo fan – who has the steel to accelerate into the final weekend?

With Chiyomaru out, we get a Juryo rikishi visiting to fill the torikumi. No, not Terunofuji, none other than Kise heya’s Hidenoumi, who was last seen in the top division at Osaka 2018, where he finished with a pride obliterating 3-12. Still, it nice to see him, even if just for a day, and we hope he has a good match.

High interest matches today? Asanoyama has to beat Shodai in the Sekiwake battle, Takakeisho needs to gamberize and win against “Big Unit” Yutakayama, and Hokutofuji takes on Mitakeumi in a match that may feature a lot of action.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: Takanosho, Aoiyama
Hunter Group: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Chiyotairyu, Ishiura, Kotonowaka

8 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Kotonowaka vs Hidenoumi – Welcome back for the day, Hidenoumi. We know it’s been a while, so with any luck you will rally and make a return to the top division this year. Kotonowaka as split the series 1-1 with you, so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen today.

Azumaryu vs Daiamami – Daiamami has lost 2 of the last 3, and Azumaryu has lost 3 of the last 4. It’s a battle to try and save a kachi-koshi for these two today.

Kaisei vs Meisei – After a terrible start, Kaisei has won 4 of the last 5, and I think his Newtonian sumo is going to continue strong today in his first ever match against struggling Meisei, who clocks in with an astonishing disadvantage of 70 kg. Advice to Meisei – go find a music store and spend a couple hours bench pressing whatever pianos they have in the showroom.

Ishiura vs Ikioi – In spite of his age, and apparent bodily damage, Ikioi has been doing well. He has split the prior 6 matches with Ishiura 6-6, but I hope his normal high-energy tachiai is tempered today, as Ishiura may be feeling henka-envy from his stable mate Enho.

Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Both rikishi come in with 4-4 records, and are looking to get closer to the magic 8. Both can work in high-mobility matches, so I expect this one will be a running fight that will come down to who loses balance first.

Chiyotairyu vs Aoiyama – Oh my this is a good one. Both of them big, strong and quite genki this March. Both have solid winning records, and if Aoiyama wins today, its his kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – These two have met 41 times over the years, and Kotoshogiku holds a 1 match edge after all of that. But today is not a good day to put that rivalry to the test. Its clear that Tochiozan is a shade of his normal self, and will offer only token resistance to Kotoshogiku, provided the Kyushu Bulldozer has any mojo left in those knees.

Shohozan vs Nishikigi – A loss today, and Nishikigi is make-koshi. Sad though it is, its pretty obvious he too is hurt.

Takanosho vs Tamawashi – Also prominently featured in the “likely damaged” list is Tamawashi, who comes into day 9 with just 2 wins. A Takanosho victory would be kachi-koshi for him. This is their first ever match.

Takarafuji vs Kiribayama – Another glorious first time meeting, veteran and patience sumo master Takarafuji will take on Kakuryu’s stable mate Kiribayama. Both are in good shape to make their 8 wins this March, and I am interested to see if Takarafuji’s defensive style is less effective against Kiribayama, given his training sessions with Yokozuna Kakuryu.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – One day, maybe today, Sadanoumi’s speed sumo is going to be the deciding factor in a match. He has to win 5 of the next 7 matches for a kachi-koshi, where Kagayaki only needs 3.

Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – 24 career matches between these two, and where did it get them? Even at 12-12. Both of them are having terrible tournaments, with Tochinoshin one bad fall from a extended outage with that gamey leg, and lord knows what is hampering Myogiryu. Should Myogiryu lose today, that would be his 8th and a make-koshi.

Onosho vs Tokushoryu – Much as we have loved the Tokushoryu Cinderella story, a loss today and the Hatsu yusho winner will be make-koshi. He seems to have reverted to mostly Juryo class sumo, rather than his winning style in Tokyo. Onosho is still on a solid path for a kachi-koshi, which might put him closer to the named ranks. I am eagerly hoping for Onosho – Takakeisho battle in week 2.

Daieisho vs Okinoumi – Both of these rikishi have managed to keep a respectable record through the first half of the basho, and both have a kachi-koshi in reach. If Okinoumi can make it to 8, it would be his highest ranked kachi-koshi since 2016. He leads their career series 10-4.

Enho vs Endo – Its the Ishikawa home town battle of the cutest, and which one will end up the most kawaii? Their only other match up (Hatsu), Enho was declared fairest of the land.

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – I expect Hokutofuji to continue to work on “The most powerful make-koshi in sumo” today, although I have to ask what the hell happened to Mitakeumi on day 8. They are evenly matched, but right now Hokutofuji needs to win 6 out of the next 7 to save his position at a named rank.

Asanoyama vs Shodai – The Sekiwake fight we have anticipated. Shodai shrugged off his his losses on day 5,6 and 7 to bounce back against Ryuden. He could well and truly destroy Asanoyama’s Ozeki bid for March with a win today. I am sure Asanoyama knows this, so this is a great test of how he performs in the clutch.

Takakeisho vs Yutakayama – These two oshi-zumo hard hitters are going head to head, and they have only met once before (Takakeisho win). Given some of the visuals from day 8, Takakeisho might not be quite alright. I am going to guess Yutakayama will go low and inside at the tachiai and try to shut down the tsuppari machine before the first wave.

Abi vs Kakuryu – Is Abi even healthy enough for this match? He looked a bit shattered at the end of his match with Hakuho on day 8, and I have to wonder if that knee is going to make it the final 7 days. Fingers crossed.

Hakuho vs Ryuden – Calling it now, Ryuden gets a flying lesson. Hakuho continues his march towards 15.

Opening New 2019 Sumo Cards!

Hello sumo fans! I’m back with another sumo card opening video. This time I have six packs of the brand new 2019 sumo card series, and 2019 may be the best series yet. To get your own sumo cards, or anything else sumo related, head on over to bigSUMOfan.com. The shop’s owner, Robert, is a dedicated sumo fan and is working to make sumo merch more accessible to fans in North America and abroad.

Stay tuned for the beginning of a new series of informative videos starting next week!

If you have any suggestions for things I could cover or videos you want to see, please comment and let me know. LiamLovesSumo is a youtube channel made by a sumo fan, for sumo fans!

Natsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

I started writing these prediction posts exactly a year ago, so this will be my seventh banzuke forecast for Tachiai. The accuracy has varied from basho to basho, though I think it’s fair to say that the forecasts give a very good idea of roughly where each rikishi will land—in most cases, within one rank or closer.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

No changes here from the Haru banzuke.

Lower San’yaku

S

Tochinoshin

Ichinojo

K

Endo

Mitakeumi

With his 7-8 record, Mitakeumi will lose his Sekiwake rank, but should only fall to Komusubi. Tochinoshin moves over to the East side, while Ichinojo moves up to Sekiwake. Endo finally gets his San’yaku promotion, and is a sufficiently strong candidate with his 9-6 record at M1e that I have him on the East side, although the banzuke committee could certainly switch him and Mitakeumi.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Kaisei

M2

Abi

Shohozan

M3

Daieisho

Yutakayama

M4

Chiyoshoma

Ikioi

M5

Shodai

Kotoshogiku

What’s certain is that there will be a lot of turnover in this area of the banzuke, as with the exception of Shohozan, everyone in the M2-M5 ranks checked in with a losing record, and only Shodai limited his losses to 8. Many in the ranks immediately below this group also did not distinguish themselves, meaning that we have to reach far down the banzuke for viable promotion candidates. Exactly how this will play out is much less certain, as there are many possible scenarios, and the considerations going into them are complex.

Let’s start with the easy part. Both Tamawashi and Kaisei did well enough to earn promotions to San’yaku, but since there are no open slots for them, they will have to be content with the top maegashira rank. Abi and Shohozan are the only plausible candidates for M2, although their ordering is uncertain. Abi will jump 5 ranks, and will join the joi in only his third top-division basho after earning 10-5 records in the first two. Similarly, Daieisho is the only plausible candidate for M3e. He will also jump 5 ranks, matching his highest career rank.

From here, things get complicated. The next best numerical score belongs to Shodai, but he can’t take the M3w slot due to his make-koshi record at M4w. The best he could do would be to remain at his current rank, though it’s more likely he gets a minimal demotion to M5e. Kotoshogiku could technically  be only demoted from M3e to M3w, but given his 6-9 record, this seems overly generous, and he should really be ranked below Shodai. The next best candidate for M3e is none other than Yutakayama, whose 10-5 record could vault him 8 ranks up the banzuke, all the way from M11.

If we put Shodai and M5e and Kotoshogiku right below him at M5w, who fills the M4 slots? The choice is between the next two strong kachi-koshi records, which belong to Chiyoshoma (9-6 at M10) and Ikioi (11-4 at M14), and the other two high-rankers due for big demotions, Komusubi Chiyotairyu (4-11) and M2 Takarafuji (5-10). My forecast favors the guys moving up the banzuke over those moving down. If the banzuke committee agrees, six out of the ten rikishi in this group would be moving up at least 5 ranks!

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Chiyomaru

Ryuden

M8

Yoshikaze

Hokutofuji

M9

Kagayaki

Daishomaru

M10

Okinoumi

Daiamami

M11

Chiyonokuni

Takakeisho

At Natsu, this area of the banzuke will serve primarily as the landing zone for higher-ranked rikishi who achieved make-koshi records ranging from just below .500 (Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni) to horrific (hello, Chiyotairyu and Takakeisho). The only bright spots are Ryuden, who moves up from M9 with a minimal kachi-koshi, and the Oitekaze stablemates Daishomaru and Daiamami, who vault up and out of the demotion danger zone with their 9-6 and 10-5 records.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Asanoyama

Arawashi

M13

Ishiura

Sadanoumi

M14

Takekaze

Tochiozan

M15

Aoiyama

Kyokutaisei

M16

Aminishiki

Kotoeko

M17

Gagamaru


The bottom of the banzuke is complicated by the fact that there are 6 Makuuchi rikishi who earned demotions by the usual criteria (in order from most to least deserving of demotion: Hedenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Onosho/Nishikigi, and Myogiryu), but only 3 Juryo rikishi who clearly earned promotion: Sadanoumi, Takekaze, and Kyokutaisei. Aminishiki is borderline, and the next two best candidates, Kotoeko (10-5 at J8) and Gagamaru (8-7 at J5), are ranked too low to be normally considered for promotion with those records. Obviously, the numbers moving up and down have to match. What to do?

My initial inclination was to demote Nishikigi in favor of Aminishiki, and save Onosho (who was kyujo) and Myogiryu. Over on the sumo forum, Asashosakari suggested that they could instead demote Onosho and save both Nishikigi and Myogiryu. The solution I’m currently favoring, given how poor their records were, is that both Nishikigi and Myogiryu will be demoted, as will Onosho. I’m guessing that the banzuke committee will be more likely to promote kachi-koshi Juryo rikishi with insufficiently strong records (after all, this has happened in the past) than to keep in the top division rikishi who failed to defend their places there. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this play out in any number of ways. We’ll find out on April 26th!

 

Haru Final Day Highlights

Kakuryu Yusho.Parade

You might not know it by watching the matches today, but it was the final day of the Haru basho. Across the torikumi, everyone was fighting with some of their best sumo of the tournament. It was one of those days where it will be a good idea to seek out Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama on YouTube to see all the bouts, and not just the highlights from NHK.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – It’s kind of magical to me that we may see Uncle Sumo back in the top division yet again for Natsu. This guy should be an inspiration to everyone to stick to their dreams and keep working. Good things happen for those who refuse to give up. The match starts with a henka-matta, so Uncle Sumo needs to re-set and goes for a simple hatakikomi.

Daiamami defeats Yutakayama – Daiamami gets to double digits, but Yutakayama really made him earn it. A close-quarters thrusting match in which both men stayed low and kept applying the pressure. Daiamami closed the deal when he finally got inside on Yutakayama and drove forward.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni reminds us that he is a real battle machine with his energetic win over Hidenoumi. He finishes make-koshi, and we have to wonder what it will take for him to get his sumo to the next level.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – Chiyoshoma’s leaping henka results in an airborne uwatenage. Go watch it! It’s amazingly acrobatic.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Ryuden secures kachi-koshi on the final day. Asanoyama took him to his chest out of the tachiai, and from there it was a struggle. Multiple times Asanoyama went to throw Ryuden, but Ryuden somehow found a way to block the uwatenage. Great, great sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – After a strong start to the basho, Aoiyama faded down the stretch. Part of this may have been from the fact that he started facing much higher ranked rikishi, and some of it may be some unreported injury or just plain exhaustion.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a straight ahead fight, and can’t find a way to blunt Kagayaki’s forward drive. Ishiura seems to have forgotten some of his sumo from a year or two ago, or maybe his opponents are just much bigger / tougher now.

Abi defeats Daishomaru – A leaping hatakikomi at the edge gives Abi the win after a monoii. Impressive ring sense there! For his second tournament in a row, Abi is able to rack up double digit wins.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Sadly Ikioi could not pick up the special prize, but he has nothing to apologize for this basho. Even with a bandaged head, he met Kaisei with vigor and strength. But there is a lot of Kaisei to move, and even for Ikioi, it was a tall order. Ikioi has been progressively more injured each day of the basho, so I hope he goes and heals up.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Even though he is make-koshi, Shodai seems to have found his sumo. Daieisho knew when to put him off balance and send him across the tawara. I do hope that Shodai can focus on returning in this form for the start of Natsu. He still has massive potential if he can get his sumo under control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are deeply make-koshi, but you would never know it from watching their bout. This was one of the better matches of an already awesome day. The two men were chest to chest for most of the match, but neither seemed to be able to employ their favorite sumo attacks for more than a moment. In the end, it was Kotoshogiku who set up his hip-pump attack and ended the match.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – Is anyone surprised? Kotoyuki ends the the basho with a single win.

Yoshikaze defeats Arawashi – Arawashi needs to go heal. Yoshikaze finishes 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Tamawashi is likely back in San’yaku for May, and will try again to muscle his way to his preferred Sekiwake position. Chiyomaru, meanwhile, is headed for the buffet table.

Shohozan defeats Endo – It takes a powerful tachiai from Shohozan and a couple of quick thrusts to put Endo the Golden back and out. Shohozan is kachi-koshi on the final day, after an alarming cold streak starting on day 6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This looked like a Tochiozan win, and the gyoji gave the gumbai to Tochiozan, but then the sideburns of Chiyotairyu called out to the spiritual world, and the shimpan rose to their feet in abeyance. The monoii did not so much give the match to Chiyotairyu, but more to his sideburns. What did we learn here? Chiyotairyu must never remove his sideburns again. Whispered legends say that the kami that inhabits them is the same that gave Takamiyama his might, and they will only live in the facial hair of one who is worthy. [What. –PinkMawashi]

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Two enormously powerful rikishi test each other’s strength. After Ichinojo decided to lift Tochinoshin, he decided he was done playing and dialed his muscles to “Hulk” mode, finishing the boulder. With his 10-5 record, Tochinoshin has started an Ozeki campaign. Protect that knee, sir!

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Mitakeumi seems to have given Goeido 1.5.1 a solid match, and dropped the Osaka favorite on his backside in the middle of the ring. His sumo against both Ozeki has been great to watch. Maybe he is on the cusp of elevating his technique after all?

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – The initial call by the gyoji went to Kakuryu, and it looked like Takayasu may have injured his right leg and maybe even re-damaged his right thigh. But just before they hand Kakuryu the kensho diorama of Osaka-jo, the shimpan decide it’s time to review it. The replays show Kakuryu’s heel touching out, so it’s torinaoshi time, with Takayasu limping. This time, Takayasu centers the Yokozuna and drives forward with his considerable strength. Kakuryu can’t plant his feet to defend, bringing the match and the basho to an exciting end as it’s Takayasu who hoists the kensho fort from the gyoji’s gumbai.