Natsu Day 9 Preview

Are you ready to tear into the second half of this tournament? There is still quite a lot of sumo to be enjoyed, and we are not even close to resolving any of the story lines. Its time to start sorting out the kachi from the make-koshi, and start looking at who is going to play a role in the yusho race. But first, this public service announcement from Team Tachiai stalwart, Herouth:

I have been asked repeatedly on Twitter, so here to preempt the questions:

No, if Terunofuji wins the yusho he can’t become Yokozuna immediately, he needs two consecutive yusho (or equivalent) as an Ozeki to become Yokozuna.

But if he does, he will match Futabayama’s unique achievement of winning two consecutive yusho without being an Ozeki in the first.

Do take that to heart, dear readers. If Terunofuji should win his second consecutive yusho, there will be a wave of jubilation across the sumo world, but it’s only step 1 of a 2 step process. The Kaiju will have to win two in a row to make a bid for the rope. As we pointed out in week 1, he’s the only one consistently putting up Yokozuna scores right now, so it’s a matter of letting Terunofuji continue his work.

Natsu Leaderboard

It’s time for us to start tracking the leader board, and it tells the story we all expected: Terunofuji in sole command of the lead, Takakeisho one win behind, and the 7 chaser waiting for someone to put dirt on Terunofuji. I don’t expect we will see Ozeki to Ozeki matches until later in week 2, but the Terunofuji and Takakeisho match up could be the one for all the hardware. If things follow the normal order, with a 4 Ozeki crew, this could be the second to last match on the final day. Hint, the 3-2 career record narrowly favors Takakeisho.

But do keep an eye on Mitakeumi. I know the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan smiles on him, and he is in the group 2 wins behind Terunofuji.

Leader: Terunofuji
Chaser: Takakeisho
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Onosho, Ichinojo, Endo, Okinoumi ,Chiyotairyu

7 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Hakuyozan vs Chiyotairyu – Juryo 4 Hakuyozan comes up to fill a torikumi gap, and gets a chance to face Chiyotairyu for the first time. I am going to say Chiyotairyu is the favorite, but I am hoping we get to see him take the mawashi again today.

Kotoeko vs Akua – Akua is in a tight spot. He’s the bottom man on the banzuke, and he needs 6 wins out of the next 7 matches to avoid demotion. Suffice to say, he should book his ticket on the barge of the damned back to Juryo now, and avoid the rush. Kotoeko holds a 4-2 career record, and has been fighting quite well this May.

Ishiura vs Chiyoshoma – I believe in the magic of sumo, and it would be a magical day indeed if both of these evasive rikishi decided on a henka to start their 16th career match. It’s been a long time since we saw two largely unclad men leap away from each other as if they had simultaneously urinated on an electric fence. Please?

Tamawashi vs Chiyomaru – Alright, the dohyo is consecrated ground, and certainly would never be provisioned with an electric fence. But you could take a 5-3 Tamawashi and put him up against 5-3 Chiyomaru, and get a pretty good fight out of it. Now, it’s true that Chiyomaru has never won against Tamawashi. But maybe today can be the day.

Shimanoumi vs Daiamami – Oh dear, the schedulers are going for symmetry again. Now a pair of 4-4 rikishi face off, and there is a bit of a favor to Shimanoumi, who seems to have finally found his sumo. It’s always the last place you look, isn’t it?

Kaisei vs Endo – Why is this even happening? Oh yeah, Endo is significantly under-ranked this time out. But a M8 who normally is comfortable in the joi-jin up against a M15e lovable parade balloon might just be a bit much. Endo has a 9-6 advantage on the clay, so I am guessing Kaisei won’t get a rebound win after Ura gave him the business day 8.

Tsurugisho vs Terutsuyoshi – Symetery again with a pair of 2-6 rikishi, fighting it out like a pair of junk yard dogs trying to be the next guy to go make-koshi. Terutsuyoshi has been fighting hurt, and except for his day 8 mega-toss, this has been a forgettable basho for him. But he has a 5-8 career deficit against Tsurugisho.

Kotonowaka vs Takarafuji – First time match, and I urge you Kotonowaka, attack center mass, and don’t let him grab you and stalemate your sumo. Of course because Kotonowaka does not really know any better, that’s exactly what I expect to happen. The good news is that would allow Takarafuji to pick up his 4th win.

Okinoumi vs Ichinojo – Are you tired of the symmetry? Better not be, because here are a pair from that 6-2 chase group working to narrow the field. The ponderous bulk of Ichinojo presents problems for Okinoumi, as there is quite a lot of Ichinojo to try to move about. He has only beaten the Mongolian Boulder twice in 7 career matches.

Hidenoumi vs Kagayaki – Every time in the past week I have begun to hope that Kagayaki had broken through what must be an encrusting shell of ring rust or sumo atrophy, he just can’t seem to get it together. Maybe Kagayaki should just own up and ditch that black mawashi, and go back to his traditional bronze. Maybe he sent it to the cleaners, and it shrank. Imagine the difficulties that could impose…

Tochinoshin vs Myogiryu – Symmetry returns, and we are back to thrashing the poor crowd at 2-6, desperately trying to avoid make-koshi like plate of curry trying to escape Chiyomaru. Let’s face it, there is no escape at this point. But we get to see a hapless Tochinoshin limp around, and Myogiryu fight to his left side, putting maximum strain on Tochinoshin’s banged up right knee.

Aoiyama vs Kiribayama – Welcome back to Big Dan! I actually consider this match to be a bit of a long shot, as Kiribayama was in sad condition following his day 8 loss to Takayasu. But if he manages to get that toe re-attached, he gets the pleasure of facing a fresh and feisty Aoiyama, who may have a lot of pent up sumo to express on his first day back in competition.

Meisei vs Tobizaru – This could be make-koshi day for Tobizaru today, he comes in with just 1 win and seven losses. Should Meisei continue his 5-1 career winning record, it’s demotion zone for Tobizaru. As Team Tachiai commented in our pre-basho podcasts, Tobizaru is well above his skill level right now, and will need a couple of tournaments to re-group. But I expect him to be part of the top ranks of sumo in a year or two. Exit question – how far into the stands will he get today?

Mitakeumi vs Wakatakakage – To stay in range to play spoiler, Mitakeumi is going to need to put the “best of his career so far” Wakatakakage onto the clay. Wakatakakage has not taken a win in any of their 3 prior matches, and I think that he struggles with Mitakeumi’s combination of speed and girth.

Hokutofuji vs Takanosho – Both of these guys are on the make-koshi path right now, and both of them are in possession of solidly losing records in spite of them both fighting with energy and vigor. Hokutofuji continue to puzzle me by being just a bit less than what is needed to be a dominant rikishi. Should Takanosho fail to win 5 of the 7 remaining matches, he would likely vacate a Sekiwake slot, a rank he has held since November of 2020.

Takayasu vs Terunofuji – Hello high interest match! This one is a real challenge for Terunofuji, who has dropped 9 of the last 10 matches against Takayasu. If we find him with a white star at the end of today, it may be a bell weather that the Kaiju is going to sweep the upper ranks.

Shodai vs Hoshoryu – First ever match, and I think everyone will admit, we are hoping that Hoshoryu can surprise yet another Ozeki. Somehow, Shodai has reverted to his older, sloppy sumo mechanics. It’s to the point that his former senpai called him out on NHK during the day 8 broadcast. I think we have seen little of Shodai’s amazing recovery moves at the edge this basho, so maybe he is saving them for week 2.

Daieisho vs Takakeisho – The career record reads 8-5 in Takakeisho’s favor, but the real story is that Takakeisho seems to have a working, repeatable formula for putting Daieisho on the clay. The exception being Daieisho’s January march to the yusho, where he was able to get a hatakikomi against the grand tadpole. I am looking for Takakeisho to reach kachi-koshi today.

Asanoyama vs Onosho – I give up on Asanoyama for now. I think that ankle was iffy to start, and got no better after Hoshoryu used it to win his day 8 match. I just hope he can find 4 more wins and reach the safety of 8. That being said, I am curious what he is going to do about Onosho’s mega-thrust attack.

Natsu Day 8 Highlights

Top of the post, we have to salute Terunofuji, who is 8-0 at the end of Nakabi. The former and shin-Ozeki could go on vacation today, and not have to mount the dohyo again until September, and be just fine. But its clear that is not his plan. He is the favorite for the yusho now, and should he take the cup again in May, the talk of him beginning a campaign for Yokozuna would rightly begin. As we have laid out in prior commentary, Terunofuji’s win / loss record makes him the most dominant man in sumo right now. He has, at least by score, been turning in Yokozuna grade performance.

Further down the banzuke, Akiseyama has withdrawn from the tournament. He was 1-6 going into day 8, and was clearly not up to full power sumo this month. Whatever injury sidelined him, we hope he heals up and returns strong. This gives Akua a much needed second win to improve him to 2-6. Speaking of which, we look forward to seeing none other than Aoiyama tomorrow on day 9. It seems whatever crippling back pain he was suffering last week has passed, and he’s ready to come knock some heads. A rested up Aoiyama at the start of week 2 could be a formula for fun just as everyone is pushing to get their 8th win.

Highlight Matches

Ura defeats Kaisei – Ura follows the rules of get low and get inside very well. You can watch him not settle to grapple with Kaisei until he is good and ready, and when he settles in it would almost seem that Kaisei has him wrapped up and contained. But you can see that his right hand is fingers up around Kaisei’s shoulder. Kaisei did stop him from the first set up for the sukuinage, but Ura grabs for Kaisei’s leg, and Kaisei reacts. Ura immediately shifts his grip back to being palm up and pulls the sukuinage. Brilliant sumo from Ura today against a much larger opponent. The crowd loves it, and so did I. He improves to 7-1 and leads the Juryo yusho race.

Kotoeko defeats Daiamami – Beautiful counter-move at the tachiai by Kotoeko, deflecting Daiamami left hand grip attempt. By leading outside and left, Daiamami surrendered inside and right to Kotoeko, who attacked with gusto. Daiamami eventually got a right hand inside, just to be met by Kotoeko’s ottsuke, a heartbeat before Kotoeko lifted Daiamami across the bales. Its sumo like this that really impresses me with Kotoeko. That was such a solid match in so many ways. He improves to 5-3.

Okinoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru opens with a tradition attempt at his “brand of sumo” – standing Okinoumi up and trying to immediately pull him down. Okinoumi’s too dialed in for that to work today, so the two trade thrusts, but it’s clear that Chiyomaru’s getting nowhere. Okinoumi gets a right hand deep inside grip, and he’s in business. There’s a lot of Chiyomaru to lift, so he just settles for wearing the round one down. Chiyomaru bearing down on Okinoumi, using his enormous bulk to attack, actually changes Chiyomaru’s body position enough to give Okinoumi a chance to lift with his hips, bucking Chiyomaru out for a win. Okinoumi improves to 6-2.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Ishiura – Terutsuyoshi fans around the world cheer as he picks up win #2 of the tournament. If you ever wanted to see two guys start low and fight lower, this is your match. The glorious sukuinage to finish the match was marvelous to see. Sure, I am pulling for Ishiura to have a solid kachi-koshi, but how can you not love that throw? Terutsuyoshi improves to 2-6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Kagayaki – Did you see Chiyotairyu reach for the mawashi in the tachiai? I am having a bit more hope that Chiyotairyu has some kind of yotsu-zumo trying to break through. It did open the door for Kagayaka to take over the match, and blast a series of blows to Chiyotairyu’s face. It was looking bad for Chiyotairyu, but a twisting thrust down at the bales took Kagayaki apart, sending them both to the dohyo. Chiyotairyu improves to 6-2.

Kotonowaka defeats Tsurugisho – This seems to be a very sloppy match at first, but if you look closely, you can see Kotonowaka doing some rather impressive off-tempo moves that leave Tsurugisho off balance and out of step. This opens Tsurugisho up for the uwatedashinage, which Kotonowaka uses to send Tsurugisho tumbling to the clay. Kotonowaka improves to 4-4 and still has a decent shot at a kachi-koshi for May.

Chiyoshoma defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin really looks like he needs to regroup and find some way to bring that right knee at least partially back online. Once again we see the straight-ahead sumo version of Chiyoshoma, and for another day is solid fundamentals and good mechanics that hand him another white star. Chiyoshoma improves to 5-3, and I am enjoying his new format quite a bit.

Takarafuji defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi invested too heavily on that left hand near where Takarafuji’s neck once was, but Tamawashi right hand placement was really good. Twice Takarafuji was able to break contact, disrupting whatever match momentum Tamawashi thought he had already established. This was all about Tamawashi trying to block Takarafuji from setting up a working hand placement, but it fed Takarafuji’s natural inclination to prolong matches. As Tamawashi tired, he became susceptible to Takarafuji’s probing attacks, and once he had tired enough, a quick combo to Tamawashi’s chest sent him out. Takarafuji picks up a much needed win to improve to 3-5.

Endo defeats Hidenoumi – Hidenoumi came to this match looking to execute straight ahead fundamentals, but Endo had a plan. Three steps into the match, Endo had his right hand locked in, and loaded the throw. Hidenoumi went for a roll to the clay, and Endo improved to 6-2.

Ichinojo defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi deflected at the tachiai, and it was nearly enough to let Ichinojo’s own considerable momentum carry him out. But not quite enough. Ichinojo turns and puts his right hand inside, and just marches forward, driving Shimanoumi out. Ichinojo improves to 6-2.

Onosho defeats Meisei – Meisei came in strong at the tachiai, rocking Onosho back. Meisei took his second step to press forward, but Onosho was already off balance, and decided to just work with it, and stepped to the side. Meisei found himself lunging into open air, and landed for a loss. Onosho joins the 5-2 crowd that now seems to be a 6-2 crowd.

Hokutofuji defeats Tobizaru – I counted at least 5 pull down attempts between these two as the fight raged across every open inch of that dohyo. Seriously, I don’t recall seeing that much movement and frantic action since the last time that Yoshikaze and Harumafuji went after each other with gusto. Hokutofuji finishes this high-energy match with a mighty shove, and Tobizaru once again goes to greet the fans all the way up in the box seats. Needless to say, they were all thrilled to get some close up time with the Flying Monkey. Hokutofuji improves to 2-6, and is running the risk of putting his make-koshi at stake.

Takayasu defeats Kiribayama – Points to Kiribayama for really putting a lot of energy into his attempt to take down Takayasu. I think this indicates some good things in the future for Kiribayama, but his score this May is a pretty dismal 2-6 following today’s action. He made the mistake of locking up Takayasu, who in fact has super-human levels of stamina. It has been rumored that he will frequently spend afternoons pulling stumps out of newly cleared rice fields in his home town, putting several pieces of farming machinery out of work, and he will still be genki for evening matches against the former Kisenosato. The look on Takayasu’s face as this wears on clearly declares, “I have all day for this, kid. Please do continue”. Too late Kiribayama understands what is happening, and tries for something, anything to break the stalemate. Takayasu, only partially satisfied, tosses Kiribayama into an exhausted heap a the west end of the dohyo. That’s 6-2 for the human stump breaker.

Wakatakakage defeats Takanosho – A grand demonstration of why Team Tachiai things Wakatakakage has a fair amount of potential for higher rank. I love how he expertly stays just a hair width outside of Takanosho’s optimum attack range, using hit and shift sumo to keep the Sekiwake moving where he wants him to go, and finishing him with a big shove. Wakatakakage improves to 5-3, while Takanosho needs to win 5 of his last 7 to hit the safety of 8.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – Shodai is back to his crummy tachiai. Even Kakuryu, who was guest commentator on the NHK broadcast, pointed it out. Of course perennial spoiler Mitakeumi was happy to make him suffer for his sloppy sumo, wrapping him out and bundling him out of the ring before he could unleash any cartoon sumo from his bag of Acme kimarite. Mitakeumi joins the growing herd at 6-2.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – I love how efficient Takakeisho is in this match. If you look, he moves maybe a foot from where the tachiai takes place. Three hits and Myogiryu’s face down on the clay. That’s some Ozeki dominance! Takakeisho stays one win behind Terunofuji, improving to 7-1.

Hoshoryu defeats Asanoyama – Like Wakatakakage, we can see flashes of brilliance from Hoshoryu on the right day. Not with the same consistency, but its in there. I think he surprised Asanoyama with the force and aggression he went to the belt, and just drove the Ozeki down. A glorious uchigake, and a direct attack at that taped ankle for a win. Now Asanoyama needs to worry about what it will take to get to 8 wins over the last 7 days. I am guessing Asanoyamam’s ankle is becoming more of a problem as the honbasho days tick by. Hoshoryu improves to 3-5, and was giddy with joy at his win.

Terunofuji defeats Daieisho – Terunofuji missed his tachiai attempt at a mawashi grip, so he settled for just overpowering Daieisho, who ran out of space for his traditional thrusting attack before he could really start. Terunofuji is kachi-koshi for May, improving to 8-0, and is the sole leader for the cup 1 week from today.

Natsu Day 8 Preview

Welcome to the middle day of the basho, know as nakabi. This is the point where the tone of the tournament starts to shift, and it’s the point where rikishi begin to reach their 8th win, and the safety of kachi-koshi. There is a fair chance that tournament leader, Terunofuji, will hit his 8 today, and be the first man to secure his spot on the July banzuke.

He is followed by Takakeisho, one win behind. We are not yet to the stage where the Ozeki will focus on fighting each other, but that day is fast approaching. There are a few lower ranked rikishi who have to take their turns being ripped up by the Ozeki first, and we have a spread of those matches today. Thus far all of the Ozeki seem to be on course for a successful 8 with finish, with Asanoyama the closest to the make-koshi trend at 4-3, and looking somewhat iffy on some days. Maybe that heavily taped left ankle is in worse shape that we know.

What We Are Watching Day 8

Kaisei vs Ura – Welcome back to the top division, oh man in pink! We are hopeful that you can score 2 more wins and return to your home in Makuuchi. There are plenty of rikishi who have never had the pleasure of facing against your quantum sumo, and I hope that your reality bending moves are ready for a big opponent today. They fought once before, 4 years ago. Ura was the winner.

Akiseyama vs Akua – I expected this match was coming, and here it is…. Two of the worst performers of this touranment facing off to see who is more banged up and damaged. Their career record is tied up at 4-4, they are roughly the same weight and somewhat the same size. Best to get this out of the way now.

Kotoeko vs Daiamami – A pair of 4-3 rikishi working to see who will edge closer to their 8th win. I really like Daiamami’s chances today, he’s won 3 of his last 4, and seems to be getting into his sumo.

Chiyomaru vs Okinoumi – We see symmetry once more with both rikishi having 5-2 records, and both of them are likely headed for at least a kachi-koshi. I also think both of them are under-ranked if they are healthy. It will be a clash of sumo styles as Chiyomaru will work to keep it a thrusting babble, and Okinoumi will want to grab a handful of silk and muscle Chiyomaru around. Chiyomaru holds a narrow 5-3 career lead.

Ishiura vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi seems to be accumulating aches and pains at an alarming rate. As someone I hope to be a mainstay of the top division for a few years to come, I am looking for him to withdraw as soon as he has enough wins to ensure he can stay in the top division. He won’t likely find it today, as Ishiura has a well mapped history of putting him on the clay.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – the easy road would be for this to be a quick oshi-zumo battle. Some thrusting, some sloppy foot work, and someone tumbles off the dohyo. But we saw some solid mawashi sumo from Chiyomaru on day 7, and I am really hopeful that Chiyotairyu surprises us, and uses that approach once more.

Tsurugisho vs Kotonowaka – Back to the battle of the disappointments. I really want Kotonowaka to have a strong. basho, but it almost seems to not be in the cards this time. If it helps at all, Tsurugisho is doing even worse. I am looking to see if he has some enormous bandage on his head where he had a bleeding gash from his day 7 face plant courtesy of Tamawashi.

Tochinoshin vs Chiyoshoma – Tochinoshin, sadly, continues to fade. It’s not something he can control, in my opinion. He pushed what was left of his lower body past the limit to achieve the rank of Ozeki, and to hold it for a time. He’s going to need to work to get a left hand outside on Chiyoshoma, and remove his mobility advantage.

Tamawashi vs Takarafuji – 25 career matches between these two, and they are 12-13, essentially even. The big factor today is that for Natsu 2021, Tamawashi is fighting well, and Takarafuji is not dialed into “his brand of sumo”. As such, it’s going to be Tamawashi’s match to lose.

Hidenoumi vs Endo – I am looking for to bottle up Hidenoumi early, and to have him out of the ring in fewer than 6 steps. If Hidenoumi can find a way to extend the match, his chances of winning his first ever from Endo go up.

Shimanoumi vs Ichinojo – While Ichinojo is fighting well this May, to my eye Shimanoumi seems to have finally clicked into the honbasho groove. So if there is not a lot of kensho on this match, we may see Shimanoumi pick up his 5th win today.

Meisei vs Onosho – I continue to be amazed that so few rikishi are able to exploit Onosho’s biggest gap – his balance. He is getting better at keeping his feet, but he’s still wide open to a side step once Onosho starts hi mega-push. Meisei holds a 5-2 career record over Onosho, and I think he is one rikishi who knows exactly what to do.

Tobizaru vs Hokutofuji – As Hokutofuji continues his march toward “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”, he comes up against Tobizaru today. Tobizaru came into Natsu with a lot of hope, and a double-wide attitude of can-do. Now that he’s been bashed about and had his head shoved to the chikara-mizu bucket a few times, he probably knows he needs to tune up a bit more to survive at that rank. I have zero doubt he’s going to do just that. But not today.

Takayasu vs Kiribayama – Takayasu probably has a thick layer of frustration to peel back, after winless Hokutofuji scored his first win against the former Ozeki on day 7. With his 3-0 career record against Kiribayama, he’s likely to get some satisfaction from putting this fellow into the dirt.

Wakatakakage vs Takanosho – Takanosho holds a 5-1 career lead over Wakatakakage, but this may not be indicative of how things are going to go today. Wakatakakage is fighting surprisingly well for someone at Maegashira 1, and I expect he may actually hit 8 wins at this rank. So i look for a fast fight, with Wakatakakage trying to get inside Takanosho’s thrusting range and remove his primary weapon.

Shodai vs Mitakeumi – While we are not into the Ozeki vs Ozeki matches, this one comes close in terms of interest. They have 23 career matches, and they are 11-12. Mitakeumi has taken 5 of the last 7 so I am interested to see if he can get amped up enough to dispatch the human daikon on the clay today.

Myogiryu vs Takakeisho – Twelve times Myogiryu has tried to beat Takakeisho, and 12 time he has either left the dohyo at speed or hit the clay. I see no reason for any of that to change today.

Asanoyama vs Hoshoryu – First ever match between these two, and it would be a good result for Hoshoryu to take an Ozeki scalp. Hoshoryu has some skill on the mawashi, and if he can keep Asanoyama’s left hand busy or wide of his body, he’s got a real chance to upset the man I thought would be in the lead for the cup.

Daieisho vs Terunofuji – The career score says 3-2 in favor of Terunofuji. But right now Terunofuji is just looking unstoppable. I do think that Daieisho has about a 1 in 5 chance to pull out an upset, but only if he can keep his thrusting attack strong enough to prevent the Kaiju from getting a hold of any part of his body.

Natsu Week 1: Do Records Lie?

Last night, after watching the tightly edited recap video from a popular fermented soybean inspired YouTube pirate channel, I found myself looking at the makuuchi standings and trying to make sense of what I was seeing. There’s a saying in football (the foot kind) that at the end of the season “the league table doesn’t lie.” This is a terrible analogy because sumo’s equivalent is probably the constantly updated banzuke and in any event, we’re only at the midway point and the difficulty of many rikishi’s schedules will alter wildly in the second week.

Still, it’s fun to analyze who’s good value for their score and who isn’t. So rather than simply shouting at the television, let’s do a bit of that here.

1 win

Akua’s record feels about right, he’s been overmatched consistently and one gets the feeling that the feel good party is over for now. One can make the argument that Akiseyama has at least performed better, having at least been competitive in more of his matches, but it also seems clear top division opponents are no longer bewitched by his awkwardness as an opponent, and that if you get in his face and stay mobile he can be rattled.

Terutsuyoshi hasn’t been anywhere near his dynamic self and while his score doesn’t seem harsh, he equally looks like he could still turn it on to at least win half his remaining matches and grab a respectable score.

Tobizaru has had a tough time against difficult opponents but likewise one senses that when he reverts back to maegashira competition the wins will follow. Hokutofuji has been better than his record would indicate and has a strong record of second half performances so while a kachi-koshi would be extremely unlikely, the determination shown in his dogged win against Takayasu to climb off the foot of the win table showed that he certainly isn’t in as bad of form as his score suggests.

2 wins

Tsurugisho felt a bit sloppy to me in his opening to the tournament but he appears to be growing into the competition. Takarafuji, meanwhile, appears to be completely out of sorts and without any of the bomb-disposal tools that made him such an intriguing yusho candidate not so long ago. His sumo has been a mess by his standards, and I think if anything, the 2-5 record flatters him. I’m sorry if I jinxed him but let’s hope he can sort his mechanics in a hurry.

Tochinoshin has – a few glimpses of his vintage self aside – been largely quite poor and 2-5 feels like an accurate reflection of his performance. Hoshoryu hasn’t shown me anything to merit the hype. His results to this point don’t even really compare well with Enho at the same stage of progression into the top division a couple years back, and while he could go on to be great, I’m not seeing it right now and his record feels like an accurate reflection of what’s nominally his first trip to the joi. In fact, I’d say the only thing separating him from Kiribayama is that Hoshoryu probably has better coaching. There are at least some good signals from Kiribayama’s performances and his match against Asanoyama certainly signalled his ability to compete at this level. 

This group is rounded out with Myogiryu who has been pretty poor, apart from reading Shodai well and crossing him up.

3 wins

How Kotonowaka is sitting at 3-4 right now is kind of beyond me. His most recent performances in the top division sort of remind me of a puppy that grew too fast and is now trying to get used to his bigger form. I know that’s a weird and perhaps too “on the nose” metaphor for sumo but you’re going to have to deal with it. He has enormous potential but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him hanging around the lower part of makuuchi for a while, a bit like Tochinoshin did at the start of his top-flight career, before he puts it together more consistently.

Tactics man Kagayaki‘s 3-4 record feels about right, so we’ll move along. Meisei is someone I had tipped in our pre-basho podcast to challenge for the yusho, but while he started poorly against the ozeki, I’ve seen enough in his sumo that I still expect him to come good and kachi-koshi later in the basho, even if it means it’s an 8-7 or 9-6 and not the triumphant basho I had expected.

Daieisho‘s 3 wins include a fusen-sho, so things could well be worse. It is a little strange to see someone who ran roughshod over the san’yaku earlier this year not put up much of a challenge against them now, and I think he’s got a bit of a battle on his hands on current form to hold his rank. Takanosho has done really well to hold his own rank, and started well against the maegashira and he’s going to hope he can continue to beat up on the rank and filers this time, as it looks like the higher rankers may have figured him out. I think 3-4 is an accurate reflection of his performance, and I think it may get worse before it gets better for him.

4 wins

Ishiura has been marvellous and I’m only surprised his record isn’t better. Many folks have commented that he looks even stronger than he has in a while, so he must have had some good protein shakes. Smaller rikishi must use their mobility and Ishiura has realised that he doesn’t need to henka everyone to avoid going chest-to-chest. I think Kaisei‘s 4-3 has been a good reflection of his sumo – solid with the occasional awkward slip up – and would expect him to kachi-koshi at this stage.

Daiamami and Kotoeko have been much of a muchness and their records could be anything. Chiyoshoma seems to have turned it around and rediscovered the bag of tricks that make him competitive. Shimanoumi has been solid, and Hidenoumi started really really well at his highest ever rank, having just let himself down slightly the last couple of days. He is displaying kachi-koshi-worthy sumo, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him above his brother next basho, one way or another.

Wakatakakage has been really competitive at his advanced rank, going 2-2 against the Ozeki and displaying the kind of sumo that I think might make him a candidate for that rank someday. He has a real fight on his hands to get another impressive winning record, but I think his record perhaps does not quite reflect how good he has been this tournament. Conversely, I think Asanoyama has been quite poor for an Ozeki and for his own standards, and has even only eked out a couple of the wins he did get. He’s displaying worrying form, and it would be pretty shocking to see him kadoban in the next tournament ahead of Hakuho’s return.

5 wins

Chiyomaru has done well to perform in the first week with a minimum of fuss and almost the maximum of results. I expect his final record to perhaps be a little less emphatically positive, but that may depend how many Juryo opponents he ends up seeing. Chiyotairyu meanwhile has been really impressive for me, as he seems to have recovered some of the fighting spirit we haven’t seen from him in recent tournaments.

Bruce highlighted before the tournament that this banzuke’s lower rankings for Okinoumi and Tamawashi perhaps signalled good results forthcoming, so it hasn’t been much of a surprise to see them both handle their daily matchups fairly easily. At this point in their career, a huge kachi-koshi from a low rank and the resultant promotions can buy another 6-8 months in the division, so it’s significant that they are performing this well.

I’m a little surprised to see both Endo and Ichinojo at 5-2 and I suspect one of them may fall off in the second week. Both have been solid if unspectacular, although Ichinojo has brought a little more fire than we’re accustomed to seeing from him. Maegashira 5 just feels like a good rank for Onosho, and he’s responded well to being challenged if not maximally so.

Mitakeumi‘s 5 wins actually feel like a missed opportunity, as I thought he had the beating of Takayasu and I’ve been very impressed with his sumo in this tournament. It looks like it may be difficult for him to challenge for the yusho but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being a dark horse in the final days. Speaking of Takayasu, the sekiwake continues to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and this could end up being a tournament of consolidation rather than triumph.

Finally, Shodai seems to be determined to make short work of his kadoban situation, and while the difficulty of his matches will increase markedly in week 2 – and he did mix in a pretty sloppy loss earlier in the tournament, he does at least seem focused and physically fit enough to get to 8+ wins before the final weekend.

6 wins

Apart from the early loss to Mitakeumi, probably the best thing one can say about Takakeisho‘s performance is that he’s done it without much fuss. He’s been fairly dominant – although some matches have been more challenging than others – but he’s certainly meeting the expectation thus far of an Ozeki who expects to challenge for yusho and promotion.

7 wins

Terunofuji has of course been untouchable thus far. While a couple opponents have lured him out of his comfort zone, the really impressive thing is that he has on occasion found a Plan B or C. Of course, most of the time he’s been able to achieve the impressive combination of emphatically dispatching his challengers in the shortest possible amount of time. Each one of those quick and dominant wins helps to increase his longevity, while also enhancing his credentials to take the next step in his career.