Aki Day 13 Preview

lksumo already created a sterling post that details the storylines going into the final weekend of the Aki basho. There are a handful of high-interest matches for Friday, day 13 that I just wanted to comment on. Apologies if your favorite match is not listed here. So here we go!

What We Are Watching Day 13

Hoshoryu vs Ishiura – A first time match between smaller rikish, and Hoshoryu has make-koshi on the line. The best he can home for now is a day 15 Darwin match, which would be a fascinating shame. Ishiura is injured, so he may be an easy mark.

Enho vs Meisei – Enho’s sumo battery is reading 20%, and it’s been part of why I have found the third act of Aki a bit of a bummer. Some rikishi I really love to watch are on fumes, and not fighting at all well. On the positive side, a Meisei win would be kachi-koshi for him.

Tokushoryu vs Chiyotairyu – Loser is make-koshi. They both have matching 5-7 records, and a career record of 5-7 – with a 2 match advantage for Chiyotairyu.

Kotoeko vs Aoiyama – A win today is kachi-koshi for Aoiyama, he won their only prior encounter, and given that Kotoeko is not fighting well right now, it could be short and brutal. A loss today by Kotoeko is make-koshi for him.

Onosho vs Takarafuji – Their 10 prior bouts are split 5-5, and I am keen to see what a genki Onosho can do with Takarafuji’s defense today.

Kagayaki vs Tochinoshin – Part of me wants to see Kagayaki hand Tochinoshin his make-koshi, as he has been less than awesome this tournament. But Kagayaki is not genki himself, so lord knows how this one is going go. Their last match was in Osaka, when Tochinoshin slapped Kagayaki down.

Myogiryu vs Tamawashi – Loser make-koshi. Work it out guys!

Tobizaru vs Takanosho – Tobizaru has not beaten Takanosho in 5 attempts, but I think this is Tobizaru’s best sumo ever. Takanosho can do his stable make Takakeisho a huge favor and take the flying monkey down for a loss, knocking him out of the leader group. This one will be quite intense, I predict.

Terunofuji vs Wakatakakage – Both are already kachi-koshi, so they are fighting to determine promotion velocity. For Terunofuji, its about where he may end up in San’yaku, for Wakatakakage, I hope he does not end up over-promoted.

Shodai vs Takakeisho – Time to open the good stuff. A top of the banzuke show down between two co-leaders in the yusho arasoi. They have 11 prior matches, with Takakeisho holding a 7-4 lead. But worth noting – Shodai has won the last two (Hatsu and Osaka). Its going to come down to the first step, and I expect that Takakeisho is going to drive inside hard, perhaps too hard. If he can get a solid connection to Shodai’s chest, he can control the match. But I expect Shodai is ready for that, and I think we may see deflection from him and an attempt to use his superior balance and size to control the defensive aspect of the match. The winner of this match is going to be the yusho favorite, at least until tomorrow.

Asanoyama vs Mitakeumi – Not to be sold short, this match has a lot at stake. Mitakeumi needs to “win out” if he wants to reach double digits and keep any hope of his 4th or 5th Ozeki attempt alive. A win today by Asanoyama would give him a narrow but workable chance to challenge for the cup in the final days. Great end to day 13 with two solid, high stakes battles.

Aki Day 12 Highlights

The big news in this snoozer of a basho day is that Endo went kyujo, giving Takakeisho a much needed day off. The report cites ongoing trouble with a knee, requiring fluid to be drained from it repeatedly, and advising 4 weeks treatment. Takakeisho will face co-leader Shodai on day 13 for a match that may decide the Aki yusho. We saw Takakeisho struggle with his right arm / shoulder following his day 11 match against Takarafuji, so the time to recover was quite the gift from Endo (send him a couple of those Yoshinoya coupons).

With day 12 done, we can look ahead to the final 3 days of this basho. Should Shodai prevail on day 13, the subsequent match against Asanoyama will represent a narrow but real chance for the man that most sumo fans expected to be the yusho favorite to wedge himself back into the race. Should Takakeisho win the day 13 match against Shodai, the pivotal match will be the final, where Asanoyama and Takakeisho will face off at the end of day 15. Solid schedule building, and match making this Aki. My compliments to the NSK!

Highlight Matches

Kotoshoho defeats Ishiura – Ishiura’s dive to grab Kotoshoho’s mawashi at the tachiai missed, leaving Ishiura wide open for counter attack. It came swiftly, and overpowered anything else Ishiura may have wanted to do. That damaged right ankle really can’t take much pressure at all. That’s Kotoshoho’s 8th win, and he is kachi-koshi for September.

Kaisei defeats Shohozan – Also in the group that can’t generate much forward pressure is Shohozan, who picks up his 9th loss. Aki is pretty miserable for him, but at least Kaisei found win number 6.

Meisei defeats Chiyotairyu – One big hit at the tachiai from Chiyotairyu, and his follow up met Meisei’s step to the side. Chiyotairyu hits the clay. No exciting sumo so far today….

Shimanoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Shimanoumi concedes to go chest to chest with Kotoshogiku. In days past this was a sure route to a loss. But the Kyushu Bulldozer can’t really push ahead like he once could, and Shimanoumi is able to stalemate him. Kotoshogiku rallies and moves Shimanoumi with extra effort, but that big push left him unweighted. Shimanoumi reads it well and swings him down for a much needed win.

Enho defeats Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu had the better of the tachiai, but found himself on defense, trying to keep Enho’s hands from getting inside and grabbing whatever they could reach. Hoshoryu now one loss away from make-koshi and a risk of dropping out of the top division.

Tokushoryu defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo tried a pull early, it was poorly timed, and he was not at all set up to do it properly. In response Tokushoryu drove ahead against little resistance to avoid make-koshi another day. Ichinojo drops to 6-6.

Tobizaru defeats Wakatakakage – Co leaders in an elimination match? Oh yes indeed. The two are quite even in size, style and came into this with matching 9-2 records. This was their 6th match head to head, and it looked to me that Tobizaru anticipated each of Wakatakakage’s offensive moves. As a fan of the “Flying Monkey” for some time, I am delighted to see him doing well in his first top division tournament.

Aoiyama defeats Sadanoumi – It really seems to my eye that Sadanoumi’s knee is really limiting his sumo right now. He used a low velocity tachiai, and caught multiple volleys of Big Dan’s V-Twin. Sadanoumi held his ground for a few moments, but once Aoiyama gets that thing revved up, it’s really tough to overcome.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoeko – The “nap-time sumo” theme continues, as these two fail to make much of a fight out of it. It was Myogiryu overpowering a possibly injured Kotoeko. Both end the day at 5-7.

Ryuden defeats Terutsuyoshi – I do like that Ryuden did not advance in the tachiai – too many stunts by Terutsuyoshi this basho. As a result, Terutsuyoshi arrives low and a bit off balance. Ryuden gets a right hand outside grip, and carefully pulls Terutsuyoshi forward and down. More snoozy sumo, but very nicely executed by the already make-koshi Ryuden.

Hokutofuji defeats Tamawashi – Seriously, are all these guys so banged up right now that they are mostly going through the motions? Tamawashi has a solid opening gambit, but Hokutofuji rallies and pushes him out of the ring. It’s good to see Hokutofuji win one, but that Tamawashi seemed to throw in his best attack, and then give up. Both end the day 5-7.

Onosho defeats Terunofuji – Time to wake up! Onosho had one of his better tachiai this basho, getting his hands inside of Terunofuji’s defense by the second step. Terunofuji focused on getting that right hand outside, but Onosho went for morozashi. With his hands well planted on the front of Terunofuji’s mawashi, he advanced and threw the former Ozeki to the clay. Win #9 for Onosho.

Takanosho defeats Kagayaki – Dear, another snoozer. Maybe Kagayaki is hurt as well. He gets one good forward move in against Takanosho, and then Takanosho just overpowers him. Win number 8 for Takanosho, and he will be a candidate for San’yaku in November.

Okinoumi defeats Tochinoshin – More sleepy sumo as Tochinoshin works for a left hand outside grip, can’t maintain it, can’t maintain any forward pressure against Okinoumi, goes soft and gets escorted over the bales.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – A much needed tonic as these two well-rounded fellows decide they actually care to battle. It seems that now that he is less hurt, we can once again count on Takayasu to slam into things with a fierce grunt and maximum force. Today that was Mitakeumi, who took it fairly well. Mitakeumi looked like he changed his mind on attack strategy at least twice in the opening moments of the match, something that is tough to do while Takayasu is hitting you. The result was Mitakeumi losing his balance, and Takayasu swinging him down. Both men went twisting to the dohyo, but Mitakeumi rolled first. Both are now 7-5.

Shodai defeats Takarafuji – Back into snooze mode again, as even Takarafuji’s reactive / defense heavy sumo can do much against Shodai. Shodai looks focused but uninspired. But that’s win number 10 and he stays in the leader group.

Asanoyama defeats Daieisho – There was no chance that Daieisho was going to phone in a match, especially once against Asanoyama, whom he has a track record of beating, at least before Asanoyama entered the San’yaku. Daieisho had the offensive edge until he decided to try to pull the Ozeki down, and as we have seen too many times this September, that loss of forward pressure invited Asanoyama to overwhelm Daieisho, driving him back and eventually down. Win number 9 for Asanoyama, and he has to hope for an unusual series of events to take place over the final 3 days to give him any hope of still challenging for the cup.

Aki Day 11 Highlights

Welcome to the first day of act 3, where we sort everyone in to make/kachi-koshi group, and someone wins the Emperor’s Cup! The leader crew have yet to fade, and it may be the case that the only way to thin the pack is to have them fight each other. But in that leader group, it’s become a ritual of “what body part will Takakeisho grip while wincing in pain today”. For fans that like having the top division inhabited by named ranks and ultra-dominant rikishi, its a bit nerve wracking. But it may be the case that in the post Yokozuna era, the top division may (for a few tournaments) end up as Juryo Plus. We already see that with “any man can win” bashos , and rikishi at the bottom of the banzuke taking the cup.

Highlight Matches

Kaisei defeats Ishiura – Once Ishiura decided to go chest to chest with Kaisei, there was really only one way it was going to turn out. A great deal of respect for Ishiura’s optimism in that move, but physics is not interested in your hopes. Ishiura drops to 2-9.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – These two are hurt enough, that they are more or less going through the motions at this point. There was not a lot of energy from either Shohozan or Kotoshogiku. They are both injured veterans who are struggling to muddle through their last few basho. Shohozan improves to 3-8.

Ichinojo defeats Kotoeko – Ichinojo demonstrates the power he can bring to a match when he’s on his sumo. There was little that 116kg Kotoeko could do except try to pick a nice place to land.

Meisei defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi takes early control, but can’t keep it as Meisei backs him up to the tawara, and gives him a firm shove to the middle of his chest. At this point both men are just hoping to find a route to 8.

Tobizaru defeats Onosho – Some poor form from Tobizaru at the tachiai, his head is down and he’s on his toes as Onosho makes contact. This opened him wide up to a hitakikomi, but Onosho was looking to do straightforward power sumo today. But while Onosho was working to apply maximum force to Tobizaru’s face, Tobizaru got his right hand inside and under Onosho’s left arm, forcing Onosho to break off and defend. An Tobizaru attempt at a leg trip was and inspired choice, and it set up the combo where Onosho found his left arm pulling him forward and down. Never the master of his own balance, Onosho could not keep his feet. Onosho is knocked from the leader group, and Tobizaru improves to 9-2.

Enho defeats Shimanoumi – A welcome, small, but effective improvement in Enho’s sumo today. He was able to get in low, and keep Shimanoumi’s hands and arms busy. As is the case with some rikishi fighting Enho, they get so focused on hands and arms that they don’t really focus on moving forward or foot placement. In a moment, Shimanoumi remembers he should use his superior mass to win, and rushes ahead. Enho dodges and Shimanoumi rolls off the dohyo and into a shimpan, picking up the 3-8 spare.

Wakatakakage defeats Chiyotairyu – Wakatakakage deflects Chiyotairyu’s tachiai to the side, but maintains contact. Chiyotairyu responds by grabbing Wakatakakage’s face and pulling him forward. But he did not have nearly enough room on the dohyo to execute, and Chiyotairyu is driven out by Wakatakakage’s foward lunge. Wakatakakage maintains his spot in the leader group.

Tokushoryu defeats Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu goes chest to chest with Tokushoryu at the tachiai. Love the optimism and enthusiasm out of Hoshoryu, but again physical reality asserts itself and the mechanics of 107kg vs 170kg make themselves apparent.

Kotoshoho defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama tries a slap down, loses his balance and staggers forward off the edge of the dohyo. They gave Kotoshoho a hikiotoshi kimarite, but at the moment Aoiyama lost, Kotoshoho was practicing good social distancing.

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – A direct hatakikomi at the tachiai saw Hokutofuji step to the side, and in the blink of an eye, Ryuden picks up his 8th loss.

Takanosho defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi launched a moment early, but he gained no real advantage. Takanosho got his hands inside and underneath Tamawashi pushing volley, and took control of the match. Tamawashi’s feet were not set to defend, and he was forced back, and unable to reset. Takanosho was able to keep the pressure on, and the match ended in the blink of an eye.

Terunofuji defeats Myogiryu – Not sure I am digging Terunofuji’s late pushes this tournament. I get that he is fired up, but lets try to keep it clean, kaiju. It is good to know that Terunofuji did not take the moment of his day 10 loss to lose his composure and enter a losing streak. Instead to overpowers Myogiryu and gets his 8th win for September.

Tochinoshin defeats Endo – Tochinoshin applied a double hand pull on the back of Endo’s head, and Endo had no way to recover. Not really awesome sumo, but I am guessing Tochinoshin is just working on survival at this point. If this is going to be Tochinoshin’s “brand of sumo”, from here on out, I say “no thanks”. Endo make-koshi for September.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – Has Shodai become that strong, or has Takayasu gotten that weak? He was frankly overpowered by Shodai today, and more or less beaten at his own style of sumo. Shodai seems to have perfect the skill of absorbing a large amount of attack energy and keeping himself upright, on balance and in the fight. I think it was world war I German Admiral Scheer who declared that the first job of a warship is to stay afloat. Shodai has adapted this axiom for sumo, and I think it’s paying off.

Daieisho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Daieisho shows that you can defeat someone by repeatedly striking them in the face, and delivers Terutsuyoshi’s 8th loss in a painful manner. There is that one left hand jab / thrust to the chin that Daieisho applies just as Terutsuyoshi falls out of the ring that is particularly brutal.

Mitakeumi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki really had nothing in terms of offense, and rapidly found himself unable to defend against Mitakeumi’s forward pressure. Mitakeumi does appear to have gotten his traditional week 2 fade out of the way early, and is back to some solid sumo. Double digits are still possible for him, if he can keep his sumo focused.

Takakeisho defeats Takarafuji – Takakeisho got an open route to Takarafuji’s chest immediately at the tachiai, and never slowed down the attack. Of course Takarafuji attempted to defend, but could not find a way to keep stable under the blows to his chest. Of course there was that “what is going on with his right arm” moment as Takakeisho went to stand up following the win.

Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – Asanoyama went for right hand inside at the tachiai, and was able to sneak that hand inside Okinoumi’s defenses. A heartbeat later, the Ozeki rolled into the throw and got 150kg worth Okinoumi airborne. Is it just me, or was that reminiscent of Hakuho’s flying lessons?

Aki Day 10 Highlights

Asanoyama picked up his second fusensho (default win) today, as Kiribayama went kyujo. He did not look hurt following his day 9 match against Takakeisho, but we hope he recovers and can return strong and ready to fight. Elsewhere, I added to my regrettable predictions list, as Terunofuji lost his match against Takanosho, taking him out of the co-leader group for the yusho. This leaves five rikishi tied at 8-2, but only one—Takakeisho—with prior yusho experience. While it would be delightful to see 2, 4 or all 5 make it to senshuraku tied for the lead, the hype around the yusho race will become a distraction during the next 5 days. It can cause a rikishi to lose focus, and their sumo can suffer. I am eager to see how act 3 unfolds! [We’ll be down to at most 4 co-leaders tomorrow, as Onosho and Tobizaru have been matched up by the schedulers. -lksumo]

Highlight Matches

Wakamotoharu defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo started strong, but could not finish Wakamotoharu. A well executed grip change from Wakamotoharu with his heels on the tawara was the key that reversed the course of the match, and gave him a solid yorikiri against the much larger Ichinojo. Both finish the day 5-5.

Hoshoryu defeats Chiyotairyu – If that was a henka, it was so smart and crisp it actually was a thrill to watch. Hoshoryu moved right at the tachiai, and circled behind Chiyotairyu as sumo’s thunder god moved forward. Hoshoryu stayed to his rear and pushed Chiyotairyu out. Just when I think that Hoshoryu has run out of gas, he comes up with something that shows the seeds of greatness.

Ishiura defeats Kotoshogiku – Ishiura uses straight-ahead sumo, with sharp execution, and picks up a much needed win. Kotoshogiku attempt to set his hands for a pull-down opened a route for Ishiura to get the grip he used for the throw (shitatenage); points to Ishiura for reading the move and exploiting it. That’s loss number eight for Kotoshogiku.

Sadanoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Sadanoumi extends his career record to 5-0 over Shimanoumi. Sadanoumi opened the door for Shimanoumi with a tepid head pull, but was able to hold position and keep Shimanoumi from taking the initiative. Sadanoumi advances to 5-5.

Shohozan defeats Enho – Enho gets his hands inside and against Shohozan’s chest at the tachiai. Shohozan countered with an arm bar grip. With Enho trapped, he rotated and launched Enho across the bales. Sadly that’s loss number 8 for fan-favorite Enho, who has struggled all tournament.

Tokushoryu defeats Kaisei – When a pair of super-heavies face off like this, the action can be slow, but the amount of mass in motion is truly impressive. Kaisei fought for hand position as the two went chest to chest at the tachiai, and finding his left hand inside, he tried a throw. Tokushoryu is naturally very low, and Kaisei could not complete the move. Instead Tokushoryu consolidated his grip and forced Kaisei over the bales.

Wakatakakage defeats Kotoshoho – Wakatakakage keeps his share of the lead with the win, and reaches kachi-koshi. Kotoshoho tried a slap-down early, and that probably cost him the match. Wakatakakage was patient, strong and focused. A well timed grip shift collapsed Kotoshoho and won the match.

Tobizaru defeats Ryuden – Tobizaru picks up win #8 in this endurance contest with Ryuden. Tobizaru stayed low the entire match, and that’s some impressive strength to fight bent over and in battle for that long. Even when Tobizaru reached deep and grabbed Ryuden’s mawashi at the knot, Ryuden stayed strong, stable and fought back. Really strong sumo from both today.

Aoiyama defeats Meisei – Big Dan fired up the V-Twin early and applied a maximum beating to Meisei’s face straight out of the tachiai. Meisei’s only defense was to drive and dive inside, grabbing a generous handful of Aoiyama’s pasty-white flesh. Compliments to Meisei—he shut down the tsuppari attack, and had Aoiyama on defense. But it cost him most of his endurance, and Big Dan waited him out, keeping his balance centered as best he could. Sensing Meisei was trying to catch his breath and rally, Aoiyama lifted and tossed Meisei for win #6.

Onosho defeats Takayasu – Color me surprised—Onosho beat Takayasu, and looked quite solid doing it. Takayasu tried to open up with a forearm to Onosho’s face, which I am sure was painful, but it opened up his chest for Onosho’s opening attack. A shove back against the former Ozeki was answered by a lunge forward, and Onosho used this over-reaction to apply the hatakikomi. That’s an 8th win for Onosho, and he maintains his share of the lead.

Kagayaki defeats Kotoeko – A simple match, it was Kagayaki getting his hands inside at the tachiai, and just applying maximum force to Kotoeko’s chest. I think there were two big pushes and three steps total in that win.

Myogiryu defeats Hokutofuji – Myogiryu took advantage of Hokutofuji’s habit of trying to finish a match with a “drive and dive” move. He employs it frequently, and if he can center you and catch you as he lunges, it’s tough to survive. But Myogiryu was waiting for it, and deflected Hokutofuji’s leap, sending him to the dohyo.

Takanosho defeats Terunofuji – Takanosho once again proves to be Terunofuji’s nemesis, improving his career score to 3-0 over the former Ozeki. The loss knocks Terunofuji out of the leader group for the yusho, and I think it’s an important test for him. In the past, Terunofuji’s biggest problem was his own mind, and he would tend to go into a losing streak after losing a critical match.

Takarafuji defeats Okinoumi – It’s always great to watch two high-skill veterans go head to head, and these two did not disappoint. Okinoumi took control of the match early, though Takarafuji had his arms tangled up nicely. Okinoumi moved to free his hands, and that small change in balance and force was enough for Takarafuji to amplify and swing Okinoumi past him and to the clay. Great move, expertly executed.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – This match was all Tamawashi, with Endo finding himself trapped and gripped from behind just a few seconds into the match. Tamawashi improves to 5-5, and is a strong candidate for a day 15 Darwin match.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochinoshin – Mitakeumi chooses to go chest to chest with Tochinoshin, and makes it work. I have to assume that Tochinoshin’s knee is causing him a lot of pain, because after maintaining force against Mitakeumi for just a few second, he releases pressure and tries to pull Mitakeumi down. Of course that set up the loss just seconds later.

Shodai defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi launched early, and Shodai resorted to a “stand up” tachiai. This resulted in Terutsuyoshi being somewhat off balance when he finally reached Shodai (and that may have been part of Shodai’s intent). Leaving his bag of tricks at the heya this morning, Terutsuyoshi went for straight-ahead sumo, but what was Shodai doing? Wait, was that a waltz? After struggling to sort out who would lead that dance, Shodai lost patience and used a double hand plant on Terutsuyoshi’s face to throw him into the lap of a nearby shimpan. Shodai gets his kachi-koshi, and maintains his position as co-co-co leader.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – The Grand Tadpole seems to have overcome his injuries of the past couple of years, and is fighting well. Daieisho used his longer reach to attack Takakeisho’s face at will, but it seems Takakeisho is used to it. The Ozeki focused his tsuppari center-mass instead, and proceeded to get Daieisho moving back. Once that happens, it’s very tough to stop, and Daieisho could not find his footing to mount a defense. That’s 8 wins for Takakeisho, and he maintains his spot in the leader group.