Aki Day 12 Preview


Goeido-Entry

We are working our way towards the conclusion of this really crazy Aki basho, and it’s clear that another loss by Chiyotairyu, and Goeido will be able to claim the yusho. Short of injury, there is very little chance that Goeido can be derailed. Many sumo fans will grouse about his early match strategy of avoiding the fight, but a win is a win, and this yusho will be just as valid as all the others. In fact, having a well known rikishi able to step up and dominate the field of newcomers is probably quite important for fans and actually for the newcomers too. Too much fame too soon can be a poison to any athlete or performers career.

Goeido is now fighting daily like his old self from Aki 2016, and in this mode he is a worthy champion indeed. At one point a few days ago, a reader on Facebook accused Tachiai of “Goeido Bashing”. Some thoughts on that (Bruce’s opinion only here):

I have heard from some readers and fans that they are weary of Tachiai’s Goeido bashing. I welcome all comments and opinions here that come from our readers, as truly the site is nothing without you. So perhaps I can offer an explanation. Let’s start with a contrast.

Take a look at our coverage from Aki last year. We were unabashed raging Goeido enthusiasts, his sumo was amazing, and his accomplishment was literally record-setting. Some links for those who may not have been with us then

Goeido – Redemption
It’s Goeido!
Aki Day 13 Preview
Kisenosato Defeated – Day 11

The team at Tachiai more or less love everything about sumo, and we think that every rikishi has a part to play in this wonderful and amazing sport. We have expectations of the top men of sumo, and we don’t feel they are unfounded, and when there is someone who is amazing as Goeido who choses to win easy rather than win big, we call him on it.

You can bank on the fact that when he does use his amazing offensive techniques to win, we are cheering him on. Tachiai loves sumo. Good, action packed, burly, crazy sumo. We cheer those who deliver, and chide those who would rather not.

Aki Leader board

Short of injury, there is very little chance that Goeido can be derailed from claiming his second yusho. Many sumo fans will grouse about his early match strategy of avoiding the fight, but a win is a win, and this yusho will be just as valid as all the others.

Leader – Goeido
Chaser – Chiyotairyu

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Endo vs. Sadanoumi – Endo has kachi-koshi on the line today, while there are few reasons for Sadanoumi not to worry about a fast ramp down to Juryo for November. Their career record is 4-3 favoriting Endo, but in this tournament, Endo has been looking fairly strong.

Yutakayama vs. Chiyomaru – Yutakayama looking at maki-koshi and a return to Juryo as well should he lose today’s bout. Chiyomaru has faded in the second week, but should be able to give Yutakayama a good fight.

Ishiura vs. Daishomaru – Hapless Ishiura will likely be the prey for Daishomaru’s kachi-koshi bout. I am going to have to assume that at this point Ishiura is damaged in some why, and we just don’t know about it. He can’t seem to buy a win.

Asanoyama vs. Arawashi – Time to see if Mr Happy is going to be able to press for a sansho special prize. He will need to get two more wins before the end of the tournament for consideration, but day 12 against a resurgent Arawashi will be a stiff test. This is their first time meeting, but I would give the advantage to Arawashi.

Kaisei vs. Takarafuji – Takarafuji looks for his kachi-koshi win against a much improved Kaisei. Their career record is 11-9, with Kaisei in the lead, though Takarafuji holds the bulk of the more recent wins. I am expecting a somewhat methodical match between these two.

Onosho vs. Chiyonokuni – Onosho, like many of the tadpoles, faded in week 2. The brutal rotation of this bottom heavy basho has taken its toll on the newcomers, and Onosho is still looking to pick up his 8th win to secure his place for Kyushu. Chiyonokuni has been fighting well, but not winning as much as his frantic action on they dohyo might indicate. Chiyonokuni took their only prior match.

Tochinoshin vs. Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is facing his second career make-koshi today. But Tochinoshin is in “limp home” mode now to be certain. It’s still possible for Hokutofuji to turn things around and eek out a winning record, but he needs to win everything from here on out.

Chiyotairyu vs. Kotoshogiku – Interesting strategic play here. A Chiyotairyu loss would hand the yusho to Goiedo. If you are Kotoshogiku, do you throttle back? I am going to say “no”. A win here today and Kotoshogiku also secures his winning record, and begins to make the case for his return to San’yaku. The Kyushu Bulldozer leads their career totals 5-1, so if Chiyotairyu does not blast him at the tachiai, I look for the hug-and-chug express to be applied with gusto.

Mitakeumi vs. Shodai – Another match of the disappointments. Both are at 5-6, both are looking really stale and ineffective. Shodai holds a slights 5-4 advantage in their career stats, but that may not matter too much for day 12. For Mitakeumi fans, don’t fear for him. Even if he is maki-koshi this time, he will be back. He is an excellent sumotori, but setbacks are to be expected along his road.

Takakeisho vs. Yoshikaze – Now this one has a lot of potential. Both of them are high intensity mobile attack platforms. Takakeisho has shown a preference for yo-yo maneuvers on his opponents, a repeated pattern of strike and retreat. We know that Yoshikaze has a deep bag of kimarite that he does not always reach too deeply into, but I am hoping he can uncork some fun attack got quell Takakeisho. Yoshikazen won their only prior match.

Shohozan vs. Goeido – Big Guns Shohozan will be against Goeido 2.0 or maybe even 2.1 on day 12. I love me some Shohozan power sumo, but Goeido is allowing himself to really execute his attacks at full power now. Goeido holds a clear series advantage at 10-5 against Shohozan.

Tamawashi vs. Harumafuji – Tamawashi has been delivering some really burly sumo the past week, and we know that Harumafuji is soldering on in spite of the pain and the problems. I think all of Harumafuji’s fans just want him to win 3 more and be able to exit Aki with some Yokozuna dignity in place.

Aki Day 10 Preview


Yumitori-shiki

Day 9 stripped the leader group down to the lone Ozeki, Goeido. He claimed his kachi-koshi with his win over Aoiyama, and for the 6th time in his career, removed a kadoban mark next to his name. While he is the current leader, the Aki basho has been unpredictable, and I would caution any Goeido fans to prepare for a fight right up till the end.

For fans and readers worrying about Yoshikaze, and his daily blood facial, this is not uncommon for “The Berserker”. It’s sad, it’s ugly, it likely hurts and it’s probably further damaging that guy’s face, but in many past basho, Yoshikaze has gotten a cut on his face, and every subsequent day, his opponents make a point to re-open that wound.

Both Yoshikaze and Mitakeumi have a decent chance to hang onto their Sekiwake ranks for Kyushu, and if that is the case, they will be joined by Ozekiwake Terunofuji, provided he is healed enough to compete. This will create a 3 Sekiwake situation we last saw with Kotoshogiku. This is referred to as a “haridashi” or “overhang”. During the Kotoshogiku Ozekiwake era, the promotion lanes were full, and nobody had a chance to move into the San’yaku for several tournaments, with Takayasu and Tamawashi holding down the standard Sekiwake slots, and Kotoshogiku holding down the overhang.

Aki Leader board

Goeido is now in sole possession of the lead for the Aki yusho. But 4 rikishi are chasing him, the most interesting (to me) is Takanoiwa. A Takanoiwa / Goeido match is unlikely in the next few days, but would resolve many questions.

Leader – Goeido
Chasers – Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, Daishomaru
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Takarafuji, Arawashi, Daieisho, Asanoyama

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Endo vs. Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu is headed back to Juryo, short of some kind of miracle. Endo has a chance to deal him a make-koshi on day 10, and seal his doom. Of their 6 prior matches, Endo has won them all.

Nishikigi vs. Asanoyama – Mr Happy is looking to continue his 3 match wining streak, and Nishikigi is really feeling the heat to push for wins to stave off a return to Juryo. In their only prior match, Nishikigi prevailed.

Yutakayama vs. Arawashi – Arawashi is performing very well this basho, and his sumo seems to be dialed in. This should be a fairly easy match against a struggling Yutakayama.

Chiyoshoma vs. Daishomaru – Daishomaru needs to best Chiyoshoma to maintain his distance one behind Goeido, and hope for a chance to compete for the Emperor’s cup. But Chiyoshoma has a 3-2 lead in their career match-ups.

Ishiura vs. Takarafuji – Ishiura looks injured or demotivated, or both. He has not been fighting well, and the overwhelming sumo that he displayed when the blasted his way in the Makuuchi is nowhere to be found. This is sad because I really liked that guy. Takarafuji continues to methodically, quietly keep winning his matches.

Chiyonokuni vs. Daieisho – Chiyonokuni fights harder than any other losing rikishi I have seen in quite some time. His day 9 loss was another heartbreaker for him, and now he gets a turn with former co-leader Daieisho. Chiyonokuni holds a career lead of 3-1 over Daieisho. I am expecting another wild pushme-pullyou war that rages across the dohyo 3-4 times.

Ichinojo vs. Takanoiwa – This is going to seem odd, but I think Demon Hunter Takanoiwa represents an interesting threat to Goeido in the days to come, but we shall see if the schedulers give him a shot. Ichinojo is back to seeming vague and uncertain, which is not where he does his best sumo. Ichinojo leads the series 3-1.

Shohozan vs. Kagayaki – Kagayaki can’t buy a win. So he should just own that, go out and have some fun. Take a page from Asanoyama’s book. Treat this like the greatest day to do sumo in your whole life. Lift Shohozan by the mawashi butt-strap and give the knot a tug. Sure it will stop the match, but the fans will remember that moment forever, while 100,000 little old ladies in Tottori Prefecture alone will all be madly mashing the “pause” and “rewind” buttons on their DVR.

Tochinoshin vs. Chiyotairyu – Speaking of a rikishi who is unfortunately doomed, the bell tolls for thee, Tochinoshin. Now that you are maki-koshi, why not see if you can get Chiyotairyu to fall and put a dent in the dohyo? Hell, in Nagoya some bout resulted in a portion cracking and falling away. Though Tochinoshin leads the series 2-1, it’s clear Tochinoshin is pretty banged up, and needs to regenerate some knee tissue.

Onosho vs. Kotoshogiku – You know what Kotoshogiku has shown the last few days? Lateral movement! Go back and watch the matches. I have to think that either he has a better tap job on his knees, or he found some way to get the old patella stable. This is the first match between these two, and I am going to be very curious if Onosho can avoid the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Mitakeumi vs Aoiyama – I think today Aoiyama will decide to use the “stand and deliver” strategy that could have served him with Goiedo. They have split their prior 2 matches, but I would give an edge to Mitakeumi, as I think Aoiyama is still not at 100%

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze will bleed some more, Shodai will struggle a bit and go out for a nice yorikiri.

Tochiozan vs Goeido – Don’t dismiss this bout. Tochiozan is a volatile substance, and it’s tough to predict what he will do or how it will turn out. Clearly he is not at 100%, but a veteran like him with a 35 match history with Goeido has to know a lot about how the Ozeki will pursue this match. Goeido wants to preserve his lead, and he’s not going to let Tochiozan near his mawashi. Goeido leads their career totals 22-13.

Takakeisho vs Harumafuji – Harumafuji will probably give Takakeisho a lesson in maneuverability. I don’t see Takakeisho having a big opportunity against the Yokozuna here, but he has explosive strength, if he can line up his attack.

Further Comments On Aki Day 7


harumafuji-old

The old order is battling back, tamping down the rising wave of young rikishi and re-asserting it’s dominance. That dominance is thread-bare now, but it is backed by year after painful year on the dohyo. The veterans of Makuuchi are survivors, and they persist in the top division not because of favoritisms or some quota to meet. They persist because they are skilled combatants, and in some cases some of the best that there has ever been.

Day 7 continued the trend we saw on day 6, and it seems that perhaps the loose and clanky bits of this basho may have been shaken off, and we are down to solid sumo. If you did not read it overnight, Aoiyama is making his return on day 8. Lord only knows what is going through that man’s head, but I do hope he is healthy. Most rikishi take a couple of days to come up to competition level from the start of the basho, but Aoiyama is being thrown into the fire against Harumafuji straight away.

In astounding news, Goeido decided to do some Ozeki sumo today, and did it well. Thanks you big plate of Okonomiyaki, now keep that going. In less surprising but no less welcome news, Harumafuji did an outstanding Harumafuji imitation, and gave hope to his fans that he can still deliver the goods.

Match Comments

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – Marathon bout against visiting Juryo riskishi Daiamami, Asanoyama / Mr Happy has a reason to be happy today. After moving Daiamami to the tawara, Asanoyama executed a rather clean sukinage for the win.

Daishomaru defeats Tokushoryu – Today Tokushoryu really applied himself, but he is so very very front heavy that it’s not difficult to topple him once he gets forward momentum. Daishomaru still only has one loss!

Chiyomaru defeats Kaisei – Bloody outstanding battle today between these two. I am quite sure Kaisei decided he had become too massive and his mobility was suffering, he appears to be at least 6kg lighter, and his sumo is much better now. Chiyomaru really brought his sumo today, and these two put on quite a fight.

Daieisho defeats Sadanoumi – I have to wonder if Sadanoumi yet regrets his return. So far no wins, but perhaps that will improve. Daieisho shows once again the power of the tadpoles and why he is on the leaderboard. There is much rejoicing in Oitekaze beya these days.

Takekaze defeats Endo – Well past time for Takekaze to win one. Endo looked very vague, and it’s safe to wonder if Endo has the juice to compete higher up the banzuke with what is probably a tender ankle.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Some controversy on this one over who touched out first. The bout ended with a flying mess at the tawara, and gyoji Konosuke gave it to Ikioi. But replays show them touching down at almost the exact same time.

Arawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – These two were really going at it! The match reminded me of pre-war sumo footage, where the fighting style was very different, and featured a lot of leg trips and upper body throws. Both of these rikishi were out to win no matter what, and their even match up resulted in a fantastic bout. Double bonus points for the two way Shimpan lap-dance.

Takanoiwa defeats Kagayaki – Brutal street fight. I am sure some of those tsuppari were heard in Ibaraki. If you want to see two rikishi pound each other to exhaustion, this is your match.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takakeisho – Sumo-Elvis takes one from the bowling ball. Takakeisho has a lot of drive and a lot of talent, but it’s time for him to broaden his sumo if he wants to advance.

Onosho defeats Hokutofuji – Onosho overwhelmed Hokutofuji, who seems to be off his sumo the last couple of days. Onosho stays at one loss and tied for the lead.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Eternal blessings to Tamawashi for helping to put the ugly threat of “Kotoshogiku Day’ to rest at long last. Kotoshogiku made him work for it, but Tamawashi carried the day.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is always hit or miss. With his bad leg he can be amazing one day, and weak the next. Today he tried a henka on Yoshikaze, but the Berserker was having none of it. He pivoted and to Tochinoshin’s surprise, opened up a blistering thrusting attack. For whatever reason, Tochinoshin decided to reply in kind. That was, of course, a risky move, and Yoshikaze made him pay. Congratulations to Yoshikaze for his 1000th Makuuchi bout.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan is a shadow of his Nagoya self, and Mitakeumi dismantled him easily today. I am refreshed that Mitakeumi seems to have settled down and gotten his sumo back.

Goeido defeats Shodai – At long last, today Goeido was a worthy combatant. He took the fight to Shodai (as indeed he would need to) and administered a severe jostling to the boy in blue before vigorously thrusting him over the edge of the dohyo. Thank you Goeido, more like that, please.

Harumafuji defeats Shohozan – Shohozan jumped early, but Harumafuji was not going to wait around for the matta. Shohozan is a weight lifting fool, and is impressively strong. But Harumafuji stood up to the blows and began a series of right and tsuppari to Shohozan’s face. Again and again to slapped his face like Shohozan was some petulant child. This did seems to disrupt Shohozan, and Harumafuji latched a double inside grip on Shohozan’s mawashi. A brief atomic wedgie later, and it was Shohozan out and finished. The crowd loved it, and so did I.

Aki Day 6 Preview


Harumafuji-Kohei

With news of Ozeki Terunofuji’s withdrawal, the upper rank blood bath continues. For Kyushu, he will be ranked Sekiwake. Provided Takayasu can return to action, there will be just 2 Ozeki for the Kyushu basho. For some bright news, Sadanoumi has come out of kyuji status, and will be in Friday’s torikumi.

Thus we enter the middle third, or second act of Aki. This is where we get our first look at who might be in contention for the Emperor’s Cup. Typically the middle weekend of any basho features several high-stakes match ups, but with so many (5 out of 7) of the named ranks out, the schedulers are going to be struggling to create a compelling torikumi.

While there will be a lot of great sumo action today, there are a few matches that are actually pivotal in the emerging yusho race. The match of the day is, without a doubt, upstart Maegashira 3 Onosho vs Kadoban Ozeki Goeido. Goeido has been pulling punk moves in his last several matches, and as a fan I find it very disappointing. All we have to do is tee up footage from Aki 2016 to see what the real Goeido is capable of. We can only assume that he is hiding an injury, and is desperate to hang on to his Ozeki rank.

Second of the headline matches will be Chiyotairyu facing Yokozuna Harumafuji. Harumafuji currently has a losing record, and if for some reason he should lose on day 6, we can expect him to go kyujo. Nobody wants that to happen, so we are all counting on Chiyotairyu to come out of the tachiai, rampaging forward recklessly, like an insane water buffalo.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Nishikigi vs. Endo – Nishikigi has never beaten Endo, but “Mr Popular” is competing with a partially healed ankle, and is far short of his full capability. Nishikigi is still working to ensure he won’t be back in Juryo any time soon, so he’s pushing hard for every win.

Daishomaru vs. Asanoyama – Mr happy goes up against Daishomaru’s 4-1 hot streak. Asanoyama sits on the bottom rung of Makuuchi, but is doing fairly well at 3-2, but my gut tells me Friday will not be his day. This is their first match.

Yutakayama vs. Sadanoumi – A hearty welcome back to Sadanoumi, he faces a struggling Yutakayama who has been unable to really finish off anyone. His offense is sloppy, but not without potential. Sadanoumi has missed the first 5 days due to injury, and we hope he is healed enough to survive his return.

Ishiura vs. Takekaze – 38 year old veteran Takekaze is still struggling for his first win at Aki. He faces an Ishiura who seems to be lacking real vigor in his sumo. Ishiura has massive potential, but every basho he spends 8-7 or 7-8 in the middle of Makuuchi is an opportunity lost.

Daieisho vs. Arawashi – Battle of the 4-1, this is likely to be a real contest, as both of these rikishi are in the hunt group for the leadership.

Ichinojo vs. Kagayaki – Large asian men hitting each other, slowly. One of them will fall down.

Tamawashi vs. Tochinoshin – Hapless Tochinoshin is still hunting for his first win. Tamawashi is eagerly trying to start piecing together his kachi-koshi. Tochinoshin is capable of a win here, but he needs to get his gamey left leg to cooperate.

Mitakeumi vs. Kotoshogiku – Now that Kotoshogiku’s unbeaten run has ended, perhaps Mitakeumi will feel up to getting his own record up to 3-3. Mitakeumi will need to stay mobile and not let the Kyushu Bulldozer lock him up and chug him across the bales.

Onosho vs. Goeido – I am fine with Goeido winning this one, as long as I see him actually move forward and execute at least one sumo move. But given what happened to Harumafuji on day 5, Goeido will be lucky if he is not forced into some involuntary yoga position on his way to the upper deck.

Chiyotairyu vs. Harumafuji – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, please give us one more triumphant Harumafuji death-spin. Let Chiyotairyu launch from the dohyo like a North Korean missile headed for Guam, but land safely in the lap of some lovely and adoring fan.

Aki Day 3 Preview


Harumafuji-Dohyo-Iri

We have yet to start day 3, and it’s already fair to say this will be unlike any other basho for the last few years. We face the possibility of losing 2 more from the top ranks and a crowd favorite Maegashira. If all 3 who were injured on day 2 drop out of Aki, that means that both Tagonoura sekitori (Kisenosato and Takayasu) will be out, and the primary Kensho magnet (Takayasu) will be gone.

I know some readers here (and we dearly love our readers!) were uncomfortable with my prediction that Sumo’s injury problems were in the process of boiling over. But as we say in Texas, “Hold my beer”.

But it can and should rightly be pointed out that we are looking at a sekitori population that has multiple kanban rikishi at or above the average age of retirement, and that given the current sumo schedule, there are few windows for medical treatment and recovery without rather stiff demotions. Sumo is a very Darwin environment – the strong advance and the injured or lesser skilled fall away.

But even if there are no other rikishi that go kyujo this tournament, we are now up to possibly as many as 8 from Makuuchi, and half of those maybe from the Yokozuna/Ozeki ranks. Sumo as a brand stakes a lot of their draw and publicity on these top two ranks, and their decimation at Aki may take some time to recover.

Please note that some of the below matches will possibly have fusen wins if one of the rikishi announced they are withdrawing from the tournament

What We Are Watching Day 3

Tokushoryu vs Aminishiki – The REAL Ojisan, Uncle Sumo Aminishiki, comes to Makuuchi to give battle to the bulbous Tokushoryu. With NHK show it on their highlight reel? We can dare to hope.

Endo vs Kaisei – Ends has not come out strong, in spite of only having to face the lower end of the Makuuchi banzuke. Now he goes against the Kaisei, who has not been showing much in terms of speed. Their career series is nearly tied, but it will be interesting to see if Endo can muster his sumo to overpower the large Brazilian.

Daishomaru vs Okinoumi – I am very happy that Okinoumi has started 2-0, and I hope that he has his injuries under control, at least for this basho. He has beaten Daishomaru in their only prior meeting, which was at Nagoya, and one of his 5 wins for that basho.

Takanoiwa vs Ishiura – Takanoiwa has started strong, and he may be well positioned to have a “good basho” provided that he can stick to mid and lower Maegashira for the remaining bouts. Ishiura is still hit or miss, and we have to wonder if he has some chronic injury that is sapping him of his strength.

Chiyonokuni vs Ikioi – A pair of dedicated oshi-zumo practitioners, I would give a slight edge to Ikioi, who has two straight wins and leads the career total 5-2. Ikioi also bests Chiyonokuni in total mass.

Shodai vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho is eagerly throwing himself into his offense so far. He explodes off the tachiai and delivers a relentless torrent tsuppari from the start. Shodai on the other hand is looking slow and comes in high at the tachiai. Takakeisho has never won against Shodai, but I think day 3 changes that.

Ichinojo vs Ura – I expect Ura to be kyujo before this bout. If he insists on competing, I expect Ura will be kyujo after this bout. Ichinojo is looking especially unpolished this basho, but all he has to do is push Ura hard and he might break him at this point.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochiozan – Someone activated Chiyotairyu’s “Beast Mode” and he has been coming off the line strong, and overwhelming his opponents. Tochiozan, by comparison, is looking vague and overwhelmed in each of his matches. It’s hard to tell if some injury is slowing down Tochiozan, but I am going to give an edge to Chiyotairyu this match.

Tamawashi vs Onosho – Tamawashi may be able to gamberize and make it to his day 3 match. But he faces Onosho, who is delighted to have a big target like Tamawashi for his match. Onosho is the real deal right now, strong, fast and completely sure his sumo will win each time. A healthy Tamawashi could delivery a brutal lesson to the young contender, but given day 2’s wrenched ankle, Tamawashi is not likely to be at full power.

Mitakeumi vs Shohozan – Mitakeumi received a lot of elevated expectations going into the basho, but now finds himself with a cold 0-2 start. I doubt that Mitakeumi picked up any injury, so I am going to assume it’s all in his mind right now. Day 3 he faces Shohozan, who has brought his big guns to each match and unleashed hell upon his opponents. Will this be the match where Mitakeumi turns it around?

Yoshikaze vs Goeido – Yoshikaze is also suffering a cold start. And on day 3 he faces Goeido, who is likewise struggling. These two are actually a very good match, with Yoshikaze leading their career total 12-9. I would expect for Yoshikaze to try to disrupt Goeido’s attempt to overwhelm Yoshikaze at the tachiai.

Takayasu vs Hokutofuji – If Takayasu is not too injured to compete, he is going to get a strong workout from Hokutofuji. They have only met once before (in Nagoya), and Hokutofuji was the winner. But my money is on Hokutofuji getting a fusen win.

Terunofuji vs Tochinoshin – Our favorite kaiju is really struggling now, he as no wins in his first 2 days, and we can assume he is not yet even close to 100% healthy. Tochinoshin is likewise winless, but I think he has a real chance to take one from Terunofuji day 3, even though Terunofuji dominates their career totals at 8-2.

Kotoshogiku vs Harumafuji – These two veterans have met 62 times in their careers. But it is Kotoshogiku who holds a slight edge at 34-30 over Harumafuji. If Kotoshogiku can take a win against the lone surviving Yokozuna today, it would in fact be Kotoshogiku’s first kinboshi.

Aki Day 1 Preview


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Welcome To Aki!

After a long summer break, it’s time once again for sumo. Fans, keep in mind that for the first few days, all of the rikishi may appear a bit rusty. This seems to be common until about day 3, so don’t let yourself be alarmed. As everyone knows, there is a huge lack of Yokozuna this basho, and this has a lot of really fun implications for the tournament. Let’s take a look at a few.

Harumafuji is the sole survivor, and he’s in poor shape. The guy has the heart of a lion, but there is no way to deny that he has problems with both knees and both elbows. He competes by sheer force of will alone some days, and his will is indomitable. But I will point out that he tends to lose matches. I call him the “Kinboshi Machine” at times, because he seems to drop bouts to rank-and-file rikishi with some regularity. This means that we can expect him to be a yusho contender, but we can also expect him to drop several bouts. Will he actually finish the tournament? I hate to be gloomy, but I would not put it at higher than a 50/50 chance.

This is fantastic news for the Ozeki. Two of them are kadoban, and they no longer have to worry about winning matches against Yokozuna to make their 8 wins. They just have to defeat the lower San’yaku and the Maegashira for the most part. Terunofuji does not even have to face Harumafuji at all – double bonus! As a result I am going to say it is VERY likely that both Ozeki drop their kadoban status well before day 15. This is also a great opportunity for Takayasu. He is, for the most part, unhurt. With this mix of opponents, he is capable of winning the yusho. But for Takayasu, it’s all in his head. If he can stay focused and stay positive, he can make it happen.

For the lower ranks, it’s open season. They have more freedom to excel than in any basho in the last 2 years. In fact, I expect we are going to see an intensity unlike anything we have enjoyed for some time. It’s much easier to get double-digit wins when you are not going to face Hakuho, Kisenosato or Kakuryu.

So if you are wondering about the viability of the Aki basho – keep in mind you are likely more hard-core than 95% of the Japanese public, or you would not be reading Tachiai. Most of our readers love sumo, from the Jonokuchi up to the Yokozuna, and the start of a basho means it’s time for action. So buckle up, and let’s enjoy what might be a most unusual tournament.

One last note – with fewer daily Makuuchi matches, we overseas viewers get a greater percentage of the total bouts on our NHK highlight reel!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Honestly, I am watching all of it. But let’s discuss some of the big ones

Endo vs Okinoumi – These two are far down the banzuke at Maegashira 14. Both have been major rikishi in the past. Endo is coming off of surgery this past month, and Okinoumi has a chronic injury that cannot be repaired without ending his career. This will be a good exam on how far along in his recovery Endo is.

Ishiura vs Arawashi – Ishiura has been struggling to find a way to advance his sumo since his amazing initial basho in Kyushu last year. Arawashi is just plain strugging and is likely getting towards the end of his career. Arawashi holds a 4-3 edge in their career match-ups.

Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho took a brutal beating in Nagoya. A rikishi’s first time in the joi is often marked by double digit losses, but Takakeisho had to also endure one of the stranger bouts in recent years at the hands of Hakuho. He can start his road back to upper layers of the banzuke with a win over struggling giant Ichinojo.

Shodai vs Ura – Ura was hurt pretty severely in Nagoya. In fact he was on mandatory “light duty” during the summer jungyo, and it was not certain he would start Aki. But it seems that Mr Cherry Blossom is going to give it a go. He faces a man with the worst tachiai in Makuuchi. This will be a good early view in how well Ura’s knee has healed up.

Tamawashi vs Shohozan – Tamawashi was perhaps a bit too comfortable at Sekiwake, and his make-koshi in Nagoya relegated him down to Komusubi. So I look for him to battle back strongly. He faced “Big Guns” Shohozan, who holds a massive 11-1 series lead.

Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Another possibly really fun match. While many rikishi come in rusty and a bit slow to their first step, Yoshikaze is always dialed up to 11 in the first few days. In addition, he has delivered some really nice kimarite in his early matches over the past few basho, so I have hopes for day 1 against Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu though always gives Yoshikaze a good battle, but he is behind 3-5 in their career meetings.

Mitakeumi vs Onosho – Battle of the Tadpoles! We get to see the really wonderful Mitakeumi face off against hard charging newcomer Onosho. Onosho has yet to take a match form Mitakeumi, but Onosho is a man driven to win. I am hoping we can see some expansion to Onosho’s sumo this tournament. No better time than day 1.

Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Is Terunofuji healthy enough to compete? His pre-basho practice matches would seem to say yes. If we have a healthy Terunofuji, he can be counted on to deliver a lot of losses to his opponents. Even though Hokutofuji is not Kaio, he is a fierce competitor, and he knows that his own advancement relies on his being able to defeat top rikishi like Ozeki Terunofuji. interestingly enough, Hokutofuji won their only prior match.

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – We will get to see if Goeido 2.0 is on line and available at last. Although Ojisan Kotoshogiku is a pale ghost of the Ozeki he once was, he can still put up a good fight if he can lock Goeido up and use his hip-pumping attack.

Takayasu vs Tochinoshin – Battle of the strong! Both of these men like to use their amazing strength to overpower their opponents, so it’s going to be great to watch them crank up the sumo in the second to last match of the day.

Tochiozan vs Harumafuji – Tochiozan is a bit of a sleeper, he has had a couple of amazing tournaments this year, and he finds himself at Komusubi, and draws Harumafuji for day 1. He has only defeated Harumafuji 8 times out of their 33 prior matches, so the upper hand goes to the lone surviving Yokozuna.

Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball


image

My Nagoya banzuke predictions turned out to be reasonably accurate. This last basho created quite a mess, and a less predictable banzuke––I don’t envy the guys who have to make the real thing, which we will get to see on August 28. I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

No change in the Yokozuna pecking order after Nagoya. The real question is whether we will have more than one Yokozuna start, much less finish, the next basho. Takayasu takes over the top Ozeki spot after putting up the only reasonably solid Ozeki performance at Nagoya. Goeido and Terunofuji are both kadoban, and I hope Terunofuji can recover from his persistent injuries.


Lower San’yaku

Usually, this part of the banzuke is relatively predictable. Not so this time. Kotoshogiku drops out of San’yaku for the first time since 2010. The only certainties are that Mitakeumi will hold the S1e slot, and that Yoshikaze will remain in San’yaku after going 9-6 at Komusubi. Otherwise, there’s quite a logjam for the remaining slots, and a lot of uncertainty as to who will end up where. The contenders:

Tamawashi, who went 7-8 at Sekiwake and will drop at least to Komusubi after four tournaments at the higher rank.

Tochiozan, who had a great tournament at 12-3 as maegashira 5, defeating an Ozeki and both Sekiwake along the way.

Aoiyama, the Jun-Yusho and special prize winner, who went an amazing 13-2 as maegashira 8, but didn’t beat or even fight anyone of note until his defeat of a fading Yoshikaze on the final day.

Tochinoshin, who more than held his own in the meat grinder as maegashira 2, fighting all the big guns and defeating a Yokozuna, an Ozeki, both Sekiwake and a Komusubi on his way to a 9-6 record.

By the numbers, I would rank-order the 5 contenders for the 3 slots behind Mitakeumi as  Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, placing Tochiozan in the S1w slot, Yoshikaze and Aoiyama in the Komusubi slots, and leaving Tochinoshin and Tamawashi out in the cold. However, being in San’yaku confers certain privileges: Yoshikaze probably gets first dibs on the Sekiwake slot, and Tamawashi is unlikely to drop lower than Komusubi despite coming in last on the list above. Judging by past history, none of the performances were sufficiently strong to “force” the creation of extra San’yaku slots. So I’m going to go with the prediction below, much as it pains me to leave out Tochinoshin.

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4e ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition (as we saw in Nagoya, the exact “joi” boundary is fuzzy, and changes during the tournament after withdrawals and, to some extent, based on performances to that point).

The meat grinder ranks actually acquitted themselves relatively well in Nagoya, unlike the disasters of the previous two basho. Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji both earned their kachi-koshi, and each deserves to be one rank higher up the banzuke, but there isn’t room. Onosho should find himself at M3 after two extremely impressive 10-5 tournaments following his Makuuchi debut. He seems unintimidated by anyone, and may hold his own despite his lack of experience. Chiyotairyu and Shohozan put up the only other solid records in the mid-maegashira ranks, and find themselves vaulting up the banzuke from M10.

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

The rest of Makuuchi was a mess of of make-koshi records, ranging from bad to worse, and some weak kachi-koshi performances among the lower ranks. This makes it difficult to come up with a fair and consistent rank order. Rikishi with 7-8 records in a weak field are especially hard to place, as their computed rank may suggest a promotion, which as far as I know is never done for kachi-koshi records. One can start by dividing the rikishi into groups of similar projected rank, and then worry about the order within each group.

Group 1, M4w-M5w: Ura, Shodai, Takakeisho.

Everyone’s favorite Ura managed a 7-8 record at M4e despite being thrown into the meat grinder prematurely and getting injured as a result. Shodai and Takakeisho each went 5-10 at M1. It would be reasonable either to place Ura at M4w, with the other two at M5, or to flip this order. Given that Ura went make-koshi, that he was under-ranked last basho, and that Shodai tends to get over-ranked, I have a feeling NSK will do the latter, despite Ura’s slightly higher computed rank.

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

Ichinojo put up another lackluster performance, going 7-8. He should drop in rank, but there are no other reasonable contenders for M6e. Kagayaki has the best claim of the rest to M6w.

Group 3, M7-M9: Ishiura, Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, Takanoiwa, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji.

A mix of poor records higher up the banzuke and better records quite far down the banzuke. Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, and Takanoiwa deserve bigger drops in rank, but Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji did not earn this much of a promotion. Ishiura actually has the best computed rank, and deserves the M7e slot, but since he went make-koshi (7-8) at M8w, he can’t be ranked any higher than that. The main question in this group is whether to place him at M8w, or move him below the two kachi-koshi guys, Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji. As with Ura, I’m opting for the lower rank.

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

This is straightforward: M12 guys both went 8-7 and move up to M10.

Group 5, M11-M12: Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei.

This order drops Daishomaru (M11w, 7-8) below Chiyomaru (M15w, 9-6), but keeps him above Kaisei, the top Juryo escapee.

M4 Shodai
M5 Takakeisho Ura
M6 Ichinojo Kagayaki
M7 Ikioi Chiyoshoma
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyonokuni
M9 Takarafuji Ishiura
M10 Arawashi Takekaze
M11 Daieisho Chiyomaru
M12 Daishomaru Kaisei

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

Sadanoumi and Nishigiki earned Makuuchi stays by going kachi-koshi. Endo and Okinoumi suffer big drops but should be safe. Gagamaru earned a quick return to Juryo and should fall far down the Juryo banzuke, while Kotoyuki also definitely earned a demotion. Yutakayama and Asanoyama should definitely join Kaisei in Makuuchi, one of them at the expense of Sokokurai. This would mark a Makuuchi debut for Asanoyama. I think that Myogiryu will claim the last promotion slot, which will be vacated by Tokushoryu, and that Aminishiki will just miss out on promotion.

M13 Sadanoumi Endo
M14 Okinoumi Nishikigi
M15 Yutakayama Asanoyama
M16 Myogiryu
J1 Aminishiki Tokushoryu
J2 Sokokurai