Natsu Day 15 Highlights

Enho Gives Everything In His Day 15 Match With Shohozan
Image courtesy of friend of Tachiai, NicolaAnn08 on Twitter

Described by one friend as “Anti-climatic”, day 15 in general was a study in how many rikishi were hurt and fighting poorly vs a small core who managed to stay healthy. The schedulers threw in a good number of “Darwin Matches” where both rikishi were 7-7, and one walked away with winning record, the other with a losing record and demotion. The atmosphere in the Kokugikan was off, as vending machines were taken off line, there were hour long lines to be screened to enter, and there were protective guards everywhere. But some solid sumo did take place, and the final day of the Natsu Basho went off without a hitch.

As expected, US President Trump did appear with Prime Minster Abe, and both handed trophies to Asanoyama who looked happy, overwhelmed and just a little bit uncertain. President Trump was courteous, and at times appeared very happy (handing over the Presidents Cup) and bored (during some of the matches). If the President or any of his staff find themselves taken with the notion of sumo, I strongly recommend reading Tachiai, watching Jason and Kintamayama, and listening to Grand Sumo Breakdown during the next 2 months to be primed for what should be an epic battle in Nagoya.

We are all eagerly awaiting lksumo’s crystal ball post due up later today, but I can say that this basho was a death march for far too many rikishi. A few big names were missing, and the ones who hung in there were fighting well below their normal capabilities. I think this basho greatly underscored just how tough it is to keep a group of 40 or so rikishi healthy, fighting and fit.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Chiyoshoma delivers a slap and a pull to drop Ikioi to 4-11. Is this the end of Ikioi as we know him? Clearly he is still too hurt to fight effectively. Its tough to see long time favorites go out banged up and down.

Shohozan defeats Enho – The first of the Darwin matches, Shohozan threw in all of his unsavory behavior including multiple matta (one with a full charge and slap) before the match could get underway for real. When the match did finally start, it was a wild brawl with Enho dodging and weaving at his best, but Shohozan was clearly in charge. The two went chest to chest, and Enho struggled to get leverage over the larger Shohozan, but “Big Guns” remained upright and stable, while Enho became increasingly tired. Eventually Enho’s attacks left him too low, and Shohozan helped him to take a face full of Natsu clay. Huge effort by Enho, and typical crummy attitude from Shohozan, but he did pick up his 8th win.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – Second Darwin match, Onosho’s propensity to put too much pressure in front of his ankles was no worry with Chiyomaru’s mass to push against, and Chiyomaru found himself without any room to work, or any chance to move to the side.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Both men end the basho 5-10, with Ishiura likely headed to Juryo. Ishiura lost the last 5 consecutive matches, and is in dire need to regroup. The entire Pixie contingent looks to have faded through week 2, as Enho also lost his last 6 consecutive matches, after a strong start.

Tomokaze defeats Sadanoumi – Another Darwin match, Tomokaze lets Sadanoumi come to him, then employs superior strength and stability to overpower, lift and eject Sadanoumi. Tomokaze has yet to endure his first make-koshi of his professional career.

Meisei defeats Daishoho – Meisei has over-performed this basho, finishing with a 10-5 record, and a solid win over Daishoho. Meisei took a mae-mitsu grip early, and never gave an inch.

Shodai defeats Kotoeko – Shodai finishes with double digit wins, after finishing Osaka with double digit losses. I think his sumo looked better, and his opponents were in worse condition this tournament. I insist if this guy could improve his tachiai, he would be a force of sumo.

Tokushoryu defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze puts forth an effort to win on the final day, but the amount of force he can put into any move seems to be just a fraction of his normal. This comes after double digit wins in Osaka. His performance is either on or off the past 18 months, and I have to wonder if he’s starting to eye that kabu now.

Shimanoumi defeats Takarafuji – Two time Juryo yusho winner Shimanoumi came roaring back from a middling start to win his last 6 in a row, and end with at 10-5 record. That was a lot of Makuuchi jitters and ring rust to scrape off, but once he settled in he produced some solid sumo. He may find himself in a tougher crowd in Nagoya.

Abi defeats Tamawashi – Two false starts by Abi left him a bit slow at the tachiai, but he still landed his double arm shoulder attack, and used Tamawashi’s lateral move to send him arcing into the clay. Both men end Natsu 10-5, and Abi receives the Kanto-sho.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This bout was a mess, it featured a solid forward start from Chiyotairyu, followed by a lateral collapse that saw the big Kokenoe man hit the clay, but win because Tochiozan had already stopped out.

Daieisho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Both rikishi end Natsu make-koshi, with Terutsuyoshi following a cold start to the basho with a week 2 fade. There are a good number of rikishi at the bottom of the banzuke with really terrible records, and it may be another log-jam in the demotion queue that sees some incredible banzuke luck bestowed on the least terrible of the lot. Will that include Terutsuyoshi?

Endo defeats Yago – Endo catches Yago’s tachiai, lets him begin to push and then drops him to the clay. Simple, easy, effective.

Kotoshogiku defeats Okinoumi – A fairly traditional Kotoshogiku hug-n-chug win, but his hip pumping was less focused than normal, and it took quite a bit of time and effort to finish Okinoumi. Both men end the basho with losing records.

Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji’s “Handshake Tachiai” pays off as Nishikigi puts all of his hopes into grabbing a piece of Hokutofuji’s mawashi, and comes up with air. Left without anything to hold on to, Nishikigi is quickly propelled out for an oshidashi loss.

Mitakeumi defeats Asanoyama – Many fans will declare this a bellwether match, as it shows that Asanoyama did not have the mettle to be the Natsu champion. They may have a point, but that’s not how honbasho works. Mitakeumi is able to enact his preferred sumo strategy, and try as he might, Asanoyama cannot get into the grip and foot placement we have seen him use to rack up 12 wins prior to today. Does this foreshadow Asanoyama’s upcoming opponents in Nagoya? Probably, yes.

Ryuden defeats Aoiyama – Ryuden finishes with double digits, and I have to say his sumo was dead on this tournament. Aoiyama was only a fraction of his normal strength by this stage of the tournament, and Ryuden masterfully absorbed everything Aoiyama delivered in terms of tsuppari.

Ichinojo defeats Myogiryu – When Ichinojo is “on” he turns his opponents into rag-dolls and tosses them around at his leisure. This happened today with Myogiryu, who looked like an play-thing in a giant’s toy box.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Both of these rikishi are fighting hurt, and are only at a fraction of their expected power and speed. Takayasu takes a big chance going chest to chest against Tochinoshin, but rather than set up the sky crane, Tochinoshin oddly decides to try and pull Takayasu, which was all the Ozeki needed to rush forward and take Tochinoshin to the clay. Yeah, Tochinoshin is clearly hurt, and that was crap sumo compared to his first week performance.

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – They made a good match of it, no shady moves, no cheap sumo here, the top two surviving rikishi finished the day with a solid yotsu match that saw the Yokozuna take his 11th win.

That’s it for our daily highlight coverage. Thank you, dear readers, for sharing the Natsu Basho with us!

Natsu Day 14 Highlights

Edo or Tokyo? – The Classic Stylings of Asanoyama

Day 14 showed us another look at the future of sumo. We have been getting these a few times a year since Hakuho has gone into an on again / off again mode, and can no longer be counted on to dominate a basho. With Harumafuji out of sumo all together, the mainstays that would keep the lower ranks beat down have been removed, and new champions are free to emerge. We have moved from the homogenized “Every yusho is Hakuho” world into an environment where a hard working, dedicated and skilled Maegashira 8 can take the yusho. Our hearty congratulations to Asanoyama.

We noticed Asanoyama some time ago, and he distinguished himself early with his solid sumo, and his fantastic attitude. Every day he mounted the dohyo, no matter what the score, he was just happy to be doing sumo that day. Since his top division debut, I made and used the somewhat humorous tag “Asanoyama ❤️ Sumo”, but it really shows. Some time in the past year, he has dialed in a classic style that looks straight out of a 19th century wood block print, and has used it this May with great effect.

Congratulations to Asanoyama, it could not have happened to a nicer guy.

Highlight Matches

Toyonoshima defeats Ishiura – Toyonoshima picks up his 8th win, and more or less ensures that Ishiura will be headed back to Juryo. Ishiura is still struggling to enact a working pixie sumo formula, and Juryo is a fine place to sort that out once again. But Hakuho’s dream of having a dohyo-iri with Enho and Ishiura is on hold for a while longer.

Shimanoumi defeats Enho – After a cold start, Shimanoumi comes roaring back to score at least 9 wins for Natsu, and putting Enho on the make/kachi-koshi line. Enho is clearly still suffering from whatever happened to his right thigh, and it may have gotten worse in his day 14 loss.

Shohozan defeats Terutsuyoshi – That’s 2 of the 3 pixies with make-koshi records for May. The entire cohort faded into week 2, but I hope nobody thinks this is a repudiation of the pixie sumo style. They will be back after some tune-ups. But this many losing records at the bottom of the banzuke raises the question of who is going back to Juryo.

Daishoho defeats Tochiozan – Daishoho once again executes well, picking up his 9th win while giving Tochiozan his make-koshi. The match was really all Daishoho, who took the inside road at the tachiai, and did as he pleased with Tochiozan.

Kagayaki defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi’s opening gambit fails, and he finds himself without workable defensive foot placement. Kagayaki plows ahead and bodily removes Sadanoumi from the dohyo for the win.

Yago defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s preferred arm-bar hold seems to have run out of gas at least for this basho. He manages to pin Yago’s left arm, but after consoldiatinlg his position, Yago uses a maemitsu grip to maneuver Nishikigi over and out for a loss.

Tomokaze defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma goes down to his 10th loss, and will be deep back in the Juryo pack for July. Tomokaze has one more day to secure his 12th consecutive kachi-koshi.

Abi defeats Meisei – I cringe now when I see a monoii in the top division. It’s like “What kind of nonsense is Onomatsu oyakata going to utter this time?”. They give the win to Abi, both men advance to a respectable 9-5.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tokushoryu – Out running Chiyoshoma in the race back to Juryo is Tokushoryu, who has looked absolutely terrible this basho. His sumo is so much better than this, and I just have to assume some new or old injury has limited him.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoeko – Tamawashi goes to double digits, and complicates the Nagoya San’yaku picture somewhat. His sumo is back to being strong, focused and able to overcome quite a bit. Will he he turn it up to 11?

Endo defeats Onosho – Did you see the point where Onosho is driving forward, and decides he wants to try to pull Endo down? Yes, that’s the moment where the match was lost. Endo is too sharp to throw that kind of opportunity away.

Daieisho defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru seemed to have zero power today, and Daieisho was fully charged. Solid center-mass thrusting attack from Daieisho for the win. Although he is make-koshi, his sumo is holding up well into the end of the second week.

Hokutofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze’s sumo is completely broken right now. His style is usually fast paced strike-and-move combos that leave his opponents reacting, usually at least a half step behind. Whatever is plaguing you, Yoshikaze, we hope you can heal.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku held the advantage in this match until he got a bit too eager to close the deal, giving Myogiryu a narrow window to rally and execute a throw. Great kubinage in a tight spot from Myogiryu.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama decides to pull, and gets it stuffed in his mawashi by Okinoumi. Cut it out guys!

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji – Mitakeumi picks up his 8th win and secures a return to at least Komusubi for July. This match was all Mitakeumi, with him gaining the inside grip at the tachiai, staying low and just driving ahead.

Ryuden defeats Ichinojo – Ryuden picks up win 9 in this well executed match against Ichinojo, who is fighting better than I expected given his injury. I think we are just starting to see what Ryuden is capable of.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – Takayasu is a complete wreck this basho. He seems to have neglected the superior lateral mobility that Shodai brings to nearly every match, and finds his forward pressure against Shodai’s chest instantly transformed into a tumbling move into thin air.

Asanoyama defeats Goeido – Good sumo today from Goeido, but Asanoyama was better. Congratulations to overcoming both an Ozeki and an Ozekiwake to take the cup! His only losses where to hard core oshi-power rikishi (Tamawashi and Onosho) who shut down Asanoyama’s yotsu attack. Goeido took him on chest-to-chest, but Asanoyama kept low and focused his power forward.

Tochinoshin defeats Kakuryu – Well, can’t put it off any more. That henka had really no place at this level of sumo. I get why he did it; he’s hurt, he needed one more win to get back to Ozeki, and he thinks he was robbed day 13. He needed one more white star by any means he could get one. Kakuryu should have known this and made him eat it, but Kakuryu is himself at only about 80% genki, and is probably expecting the left hand outside followed by the sky crane. Welcome back to Ozeki Tochinoshin. If you don’t get your body back in fighting shape, you are going to be right back here again by Kyushu.

Natsu Day 12 Highlights

No commentary this morning, straight to the matches!

Highlight Matches

Takagenji defeats Tokushoryu – Takagenji looked solid today in his 11th win of the tournament, using a combination of oshi and yotzu techniques to shut down Tokushoryu. Takagenji is running away with Juryo yusho, and will make his Makuuchi debut in July.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Yago – Yago was controlling this match until he tried to pull Terutsuyoshi down by the neck. Given the size difference and how the mechanics would work, a pull down against a much shorter opponent was foolish. Bad habits I suppose.

Sadanoumi defeats Shohozan – When Sadanoumi can get into his offense immediately at the tachiai, he tends to win. Shohozan knew he had trouble, and tried to pivot into a throw, but could not follow through.

Daishoho defeats Kagayaki – I am not sure what is plaguing Kagayaki, but he’s running the risk of resetting to Juryo. Daishoho had him beat in foot placement, body placement and grip. Daishoho is one win away from a kachi-koshi.

Onosho defeats Enho – Enho took Onosho on face to face, and found that while Onosho may over-commit, when you are in front of him, that can work to his advantage.

Chiyomaru defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze inching closer to his first make-koshi (it’s ok, everyone gets them in the top division). Chiyomaru keeps Tomozake in front of him, and keeps his thrusting attack running well.

Shodai defeats Tochiozan – Look at Shodai’s stance as Tochiozan is working on pulling him down, that is some solid sumo foot work. Tochiozan decided he was going to try to pull Shodai down twice, each time giving up about ⅓ of the dohyo, and he found himself at the bales, off balance and in trouble. Shodai had the sumo sense to give him enough of a shove to send him out. Shodai is now kachi-koshi.

Yoshikaze defeats Ishiura – I like Yoshikaze’s tachiai in this match, he stands up kind of slowly, keeping his eye on Ishiura the whole time. Ishiura seems to lose whatever battle plan he might have, and Yoshikaze slaps him around for his troubles.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi picks up make-koshi, after getting Myogiryu in the double arm lock that Nishikigi prefers. Twice Nishikigi tried to pivot into a throw, but Myogiryu was just too stable to get rolled.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoeko – I again call readers attention to Okinoumi’s foot work. Foot placement is the primary sumo defense mechanism, and Okinoumi’s foot movement is quiet, controlled and deliberate compared to Kotoeko jumping about.

Tamawashi defeats Asanoyama – We knew this was coming, Tamawashi drives inside and keeps thrusting against center-mass. Asanoyama’s got excellent defensive foot placement, but there is just too much power behind Tamawashi’s sumo, and Asanoyama goes back, back, and out. Tamawashi is kachi-koshi while Asanoyama gives up sole possession of yusho race leadership.

Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s attempt to pull early in the match opened the door and Endo walked right through, getting inside, then a left hand inside, then morozashi. Hokutofuji gave it his all, but Endo had is “good” sumo on today.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu’s canon-ball tachiai seemed to only have half power today, and Kotoshogiku took the hit and got his double inside grip. Advancing, he did not engage the hug-n-chug, but rather loaded a tsukiotoshi, and rolled Chiyotairyu to the clay. Kotoshogiku’s experience may carry him to 7 or 8 wins in the final days, when some others are running out of focus or stamina.

Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – Mitakeumi swithces back to the burgundy mawashi after a bad run in the burt orange one, and his sumo has returned to a better form, too. Now one win from kachi-koshi and a likely return to Sekiwake.

Ichinojo defeats Aoiyama – A strength battle with a combined 400 kg or so on the dohyo. For us Americans, thats 900 pounds of rikishi battling it out. This quickly turned into a mawashi battle, and I am pleased to say that Aoiyama recused himself well, but there was just too much Ichinojo to move, to toss or to pull down. Great match today from the Boulder.

Meisei defeats Tochinoshin – Many fans expected Tochinoshin to pick up #10 today, but Meisei got Tochinoshin’s balance shifted to his heels at the tachiai, and just kept driving forward. The last 2 days we have not seen Tochinoshin generate much in the way of forward pressure, has he re-injured that foot?

Abi defeats Takayasu – Exact same recipe used against Tochinoshin on day 11, Abi uses Takayasu’s shoulder blast as the energy source to raise him up and slap him down. The look on Abi’s face when presented with that pile of kensho is priceless.

Goeido defeats Takarafuji – As expected, Takarafuji gave a very technical, workman like match to Goeido, but Goeido did not lose his patience today, and masterfully controlled Takarafuji in nearly every facet of this match.

Kakuryu defeats Ryuden – After some crummy sumo day 11, we see some strong, powerful work from the Yokozuna today. That right hand grip is nearly perfect, and Kakuryu’s foot placement was exactly right. Not that Ryuden’s form was poor today, just that Kakuryu was excellent.

At the end of day 12, Kakuryu and Asanoyama share the lead in the yusho race with 10-2, with Tochinoshin one loss behind.

Natsu Day 11 Highlights

We all knew that with Hakuho out, it was going to get wild, and while there had been some fun days leading up to the start of act 3, the opening day of the final third of this basho decided to unleash the unexpected, and take this tournament into overdrive.

For starters, the Ozeki corps, including the Ozekiwake, ate clay today in matches that saw their opponents deliver better sumo than they could. Furthermore, Yokozuna Kakuryu paid the price for one of his “bad habits” by delivering a cherished kinboshi to Myogiryu, summoning the zabuton rain at the Kokugikan.

However, Asanoyama won, leaving the Maegashira 8 in sole possession of the lead at the end of day 11. I will state that this guy deserves at least a special prize. His sumo has been dead on since the start, and so far he is not showing any fade into week 2. Now the pressure of being the leader rather than the underdog may crack him as soon as tomorrow, but I think it’s an indication that Asanoyama is going to be one of the stars of sumo in the new era.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Kotoeko – Today Chiyomaru’s sumo was working, and he completely disrupted Kotoeko’s attempts to attack or evade.

Yago defeats Daishoho – A very evenly balanced shoving match that saw no clear advantage until Yago dropped his hips and put more travel in his oshi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tochiozan – Terutsuyoshi’s effective submarine-tachiai allows him to lift Tochiozan by the mawashi and charge forward for a much needed win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki looks completely lost in this match. His oshi attacks are focused high, when he runs out of ideas he takes Chiyoshoma to his chest, and that is where he really shut down. I am going to guess that Kagayaki ends up deeply make-koshi.

Tomokaze defeats Enho – Some nice gymnastics out of Enho today, especially recovering his footing and balance after Tomokaze nearly pushes him into a seated position. I still assume Enho will hit kachi-koshi before Sunday.

Nishikigi defeats Tokushoryu – Once again, Tokushoryu’s cab-foward design causes him to have huge trouble slowing his forward momentum. Nishikigi uses this today with great effect.

Asanoyama defeats Sadanoumi – In the first “What the hell was that” moments, the shimpan call a monoii, and then completely confuse everyone, including themselves with their resulting narrative. They eventually called the match for Asanoyama, after explaining how Sadanoumi was the winner. From the replay, it’s clear Asanoyama had won the match, and they knew it too, but could not communicate it.

Meisei defeats Ishiura – Meisei gets lower, stays lower and pushes harder to take the match. Ishiura still has some work to do.

Shodai defeats Shohozan – The whole time, Shodai is far too high, but his feet stay stuck to the clay, and he wears Shohozan down, and then finishes him off. Good job Shodai!

Shimanoumi defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze manages some offense today, but it’s only a fraction of what he is capable of, and Shimanoumi shoves him from the dohyo. Yoshikaze make-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Onosho – There probably should have been a monoii on this one, but after the Asanoyama debacle, I am guessing the shimpan did not want to further confuse matters with a rambling, babbling explanation that left everyone puzzled and anxious.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyotairyu – Solid Tamawashi sumo today that ends with a Chiyotairyu slippiotoshi. Tamawashi takes the initiative at the tachiai, and Chiyotairyu is left struggling to keep his balance.

Okinoumi defeats Daieisho – When you watch this one, pay attention to Okinoumi’s feet. I love how they barely leave the clay. That’s excellent defensive sumo skill on ample display.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – After a matta, Kotoshogiku sets up his favorite hold and applies the hug-n-chug with great effect. Hokutofuji seems likely to end up make-koshi, and he needs to refine his sumo to effectively operate at this rank. I have confidence he will get there.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Endo gets mae-mitsu early, and has firm control of the match, Mitakeumi backs away and attempt to load a throw, but the pivot fails and leaves Endo behind him in control.

Abi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s triumphant 10th win is delayed as Abi employs his best Abi-zumo with devastating effect. It seems Tochinoshin ramped up the forward pressure the counter Abi’s expected double arm thrusts, and Abi turned that forward lean into the seed of the winning hatakikomi.

Ryuden defeats Goeido – Goeido got into trouble when Ryuden landed his right hand grip and used it to keep Goeido leading forward to compensate. This was not Goeido doing crappy sumo, this was Ryuden really doing fantastic sumo.

Aoiyama defeats Takayasu – Frankly some of the best sumo I have seen from Aoiyama in a year or so. He was low, he was relentless and he never let Takayasu really enact any offense.

Myogiryu defeats Kakuryu – Kakuryu gets stalemated, loses patience, decides to pull, and Myogiryu is waiting for it. Excellent planning and execution by Myogiryu, and I am sure Kakuryu is chiding himself for falling into his bad sumo.

Natsu Day 10 Preview

Myogiryu: “Then Takayasu said, pull my finger..”
Goeido: “No matter what, don’t pull Takayasu’s finger!”

We come to the end of act 2 now, and we have sorted the rikishi nicely into piles: the ones we know are doing well, the ones we know are doing poorly, and the third group who are struggling to stay afloat. For myself, I find the zero-sum game that is sumo quite fascinating. Every win comes at the expense of some other rikishi’s loss. When you have basho like Osaka, the devastation can be remarkable.

Launching into act 3, we are going to sort everyone into make and kachi koshi, and crown a tournament champion. With a broad front of 3 rikishi with 1 loss with 2 more just behind, there is a lot of competition left to play out this May. Starting on day 10, we will see a larger span of ranks in some matches, as the schedulers work to find pairs that keep the competition interesting and fair. Our worries about the 2 surviving Ozeki and the lone surviving Yokozuna seem to have been laid to rest, and we are all enjoying a re-energized Tochinoshin. I think that Team Pixie has really made a huge impression this basho, and I have to say that Enho may not be their captain, but he is certainly their heart. We are also watching Asanoyama have a great tournament, and we hope he can sustain this level of performance for the rest of the year.

Who has caught your eye this basho? Let us know in the comment section.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin, Asanoyama
Chasers: Enho, Kotoeko
Hunt Group: Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Abi, Ryuden, Shodai, Shohozan, Daishoho

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Chiyomaru vs Daishoho – Chiyomaru: a man of substance who has been mugged by elves a couple of days in a row. His record is in tatters, and I am sure he wonders how he finishes out with 8 wins now. Going up against Daishoho is not going to help. Daishoho is near the bottom of the banzuke for Natsu, but he’s fighting well and dominating his matches. The NHK-G showed the comically large soaking tub in the rikishi’s changing room – I encourage one of Chiyomaru’s tsukibeto to have that thing loaded and steaming hot for day 10.

Ishiura vs Sadanoumi – Ishiura has been able to conduct some good “Enho inspired” sumo the past few days, but he has taken his time to develop his attack before being able to close the deal. The issue with Sadanoumi is that he is a “fast mover” – his plan is on the dohyo and executing at fast forward speed. If Sadanoumi can keep Ishiura in front of him, it’s win #6 for the Sakaigawa man.

Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Both of these rikishi are struggling to stay close to the line that takes them to a winning record, so the schedulers put them head to head. But Terutsuyoshi holds a 4-1 career advantage, and seems to be finally in touch with his sumo.

Chiyoshoma vs Yago – Chiyoshoma, clinging to the bottom left corner of the banzuke, desperately needs a win, but then again, so does Yago. Is it time for Chiyoshoma to bring out his henka paddle and start evading the tachiai?

Enho vs Tochiozan – Enho might get his 8th win today, but the challenge is that Tochiozan is not large enough that the submarine tachiai is going to phase him, not slow enough that the normal scampering pixie sumo is going to baffle him, nor inexperienced enough that he is going to worry if Enho puts his face into his navel. First time match between these two.

Kagayaki vs Tokushoryu – Loser of this match receives a brand new make-koshi, and a hearty invitation to regroup and come back in July with their normal top-division class sumo. Kagayaki has stayed true to his form, but has bungled nearly every match. Tokushoryu has forgotten his form, but done what he could with whatever sumo came to mind. Try again guys.

Kotoeko vs Onosho – Although Kotoeko is 5 ranks lower on the banzuke, I personally think he may take this one from Onosho this time. Kotoeko seems to have some of his best sumo going in some time, and Onosho is still struggling with what seems to be a persistent balance problem.

Shodai vs Asanoyama – Someone on the scheduling team is really pushing my buttons, as they pair Shodai with Asanoyama. I am looking for some solid cartoon sumo out of Shodai day 10, and depending on what Asanoyama was doing most Saturday mornings as a child, he may have no idea what happened to him. Shodai won their only prior match, after opening a box from Acme moments before walking down the hanamichi.

Shohozan vs Meisei – Meisei has this “Little Engine That Could” vibe going on right now, so I am sure he will do his utmost. Shohozan seems to have gotten his punk moves out of his system, and has settled own into some first rate sumo in the past few days. This might be a really exciting match.

Takarafuji vs Tomokaze – Tomokaze has a 3 match losing streak going, and all of the piano time he wants is not fixing his sumo. But Takarafuji won’t take any pity on the Oguruma man, as Takarafuji is going to always execute his plan, no matter who he’s facing.

Nishikigi vs Yoshikaze – I predict this will result in Yoshikaze getting his make-koshi. What has been plaguing him for the past several basho? He’s not telling. I just hope that he’s ok when this is all done.

Myogiryu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi has a real chance to be back in San’yaku, and maybe even back at Sekiwake. Myogiryu will have a very different opponent than his day 9 match with Takayasu – this one will be sharp, short and intense. There will be plenty of kinetic energy in play, Myogiryu will just need to make sure it’s working for him instead of Tamawashi.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu – Both come in with 3-6 records, and are looking at the make-koshi line racing toward them. Only one of them will exit with a much needed win. These schedulers are being complete bastards, aren’t they?

Daieisho vs Kotoshogiku – I know I commented on lksumo’s day 5 storyline post that I liked Kotoshogiku for a possible San’yaku slot. Of course that was the cue for the Kyushu-Bulldozer to suffer a performance-robbing breakdown. Since then Kotoshogiku has been unable to produce much in the way of offense, and looking poor. If it’s any help, he has a 4-1 career advantage over Daieisho.

Aoiyama vs Endo – Much like that Hokutofuji/Chiyotairyu match, team “3-6” throws two more onto the dohyo for a beating, this time the rubbery man-mountain Aoiyama and the perpetually “almost genki” Endo. Aoiyama holds a 7-3 career advantage, and may just smack Endo around for a while before sending him a loss closer to that make-koshi-bound angry bouillabaisse stewing in that soaking tub near the shitaku-beya.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin got a day away from competition with the Takakeisho re-kyujo, so he comes to this match rested and ready. Sure, he’s going to try to to land the left hand outside, and engage the sky crane. We just want to see what Mitakeumi is going to do about it. I am sure Mitakeumi is well aware of the 7-3 Tochinoshin career advantage, and has no desire to make it 8-3.

Ryuden vs Takayasu – Did you know Ryuden (aka Shin-Ikioi) holds a 2-0 career lead over Takayasu? Sure, one of them is from Makushita in 2009, but this certainly removes some air of invincibility around the Ozeki. Takayasu seems to be working well enough that he can figure out a win on whatever terms evolve during the course of a match, so I think Ryuden has his hands full.

Goeido vs Okinoumi – You know what would go really well in the make-koshi hot tub? Some fresh Shimane Taimeishi! I am sure Okinoumi will give him a solid, but ultimately losing, fight. (The two have a long 25-bout history, which the Ozeki leads 19-6, though Okinoumi pulled off the upset the last time they met, in January. -lksumo)

Abi vs Kakuryu – These two have split their 2 prior matches, and I think Abi is due a win or two this week. I can see someone getting dirt on the Yokozuna at least one more time, and it may as well be a nice kinboshi.

Natsu Day 9 Highlights

Go Ahead Myogiryu, Pull My Finger…

Shin-Ozeki Takakeisho did in fact decide to return to kyujo status on Monday morning, Tokyo time. He continues to struggle with his right knee. While the Tachiai circle of friends seem to agree it’s for the best, there are a few critics in the Japanese press. This little glimpse into that thanks to Herouth

Word is that Takakeisho (or at least Chiganoura oyakata) are taking this seriously, and Takakeisho went to the hospital Monday morning for further diagnostic work to pin down the nature and severity of the injury. Having once been young myself – and living in a cloistered all male combat oriented society (Marines), I can attest to the fact that moderate injuries are brushed aside as “nothing” by your brain. Even though you are more or less among friends, something deep in your primitive brain urges you to show no weakness.

But Takakeisho is a young, dynamic new Ozeki. He’s the kind of figure that will help continue the popularity of the sport for years to come. After the collapse of the Kisenosato franchise, it’s good to see that they are going to try to at least keep Takakeisho going strong.

Highlight Matches

Enho defeats Toyonoshima – Chances are good that Toyonoshima will be back in the top division for July, but he got shown the door today against power-pixie Enho. Toyonoshima had the initiative following a strong tachiai, but Enho used his lighter body and superior maneuverability to get out of Toyonoshima’s way as he was charging forward towards the tawara. Later big stuff, see you in Nagoya.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – It seems to me that about day 5, Sadanoumi decided he was exiting Natsu with a winning record, no matter what. Since then the intensity of his sumo is up nicely. He gave Chiyoshoma zero chance to do much more than hold on and enjoy the ride today.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyomaru – To his credit, Chiyomaru gets some of his thrusting attack in, but Terutsuyoshi resets his game and dives for the mawashi, finding his mark and relegating Chiyomaru to reacting. When your opponent can disappear from view, obscured by that big belly, it’s tough to counter the fact that this little guy is grabbing your crotch and hoisting you, literally, with your own petard.

Ishiura defeats Yago – Team Pixie is on fire right now, and everyone is loving it. Even Ishiura has decided it’s time to execute some aggressive, combat sumo. Yago gets the better of the tachiai, and Ishiura can’t get inside, and goes defensive. But rather than just giving up, he defects and circles multiple times. The 3rd time, Yago leaves his chest open, and in goes Ishiura. Yago tries to load a throw, but Ishiura owns the pivot point and gives Yago a face full of Tokyo clay.

Daishoho defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi owns the early part of this match, until Daishoho attempt a throw (which fails), but leaves Shimanoumi off balance and vulnerable. Daishoho attacks and takes the match. Good recovery by Daishoho.

Kotoeko defeats Tochiozan – As we had guessed, Kotoeko’s superior intensity carried the match over Tochiozan’s superior guile and cunning. Tochiozan twice went to start a pull / slap down, and each time he gave up ground to Kotoeko, who had superior foot placement, possibly in anticipation of Tochiozan’s desire to pull.

Shohozan defeats Tokushoryu – Kind of a simple match, Shohozan stands Tokushoryu at the tachiai, and plants his feet. In response, Tokushoryu dials up the forward pressure. Given Tokushoryu’s “cab-forward” design, it’s hard for him to slow down once he starts forward. Shohozan releases the breaks, and Tokushoryu does the rest.

Meisei defeats Tomokaze – Very balanced start to this match, but Tomokaze got off balance and Meisei exploded his opponent’s awkward body position for the win.

Shodai defeats Kagayaki – If readers why I sometimes call Shodai’s matches “cartoon sumo”, today is a great example. If anyone is going to benefit from their opponent losing traction, it’s probably going to be Shodai. It’s as if some off screen animator pauses things and draws an anvil teetering on the edge of the tsuriyane, that falls at just the right moment and takes out whomever Shodai is fighting. Today Kagayaki is still trying to work out what to do when the demon “slippiotoshi” grabs a hold of him and pulls him to the clay. Don’t get me wrong, Shodai does all the right things to make this kind of win possible, but its fun to see how many times his opponents just defeat themselves.

Onosho defeats Yoshikaze – After a couple of Onosho matta, Yoshikaze is getting a bit irate, and brings a fraction of his former fire into the match, but he slips more or less in the same spot that Kagayaki did, and ends up with a knee on the clay.

Takarafuji defeats Nishikigi – Takarafuji gets his right hand outside grip and Nishikigi can’t counter his opponents strength. We love Nishikigi, but he needs to regroup.

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama takes one from Ryuden for the first time in the last 6 attempt. Ryuden is actually fighting well this basho, and this may be a further indication that Asanoyama is working at a higher level of sumo now. We can hope, right? Asanoyama gets his kachi-koshi, and remains in the yusho leader group.

Tamawashi defeats Daieisho – Wham-bam! Back him up and send him home! Send a tsukibeto around later with some cookies to make sure he’s ok. This seems to be the tried and true Tamawashi formula, and I think we may see a Tamawashi and Mitakeumi Sekiwake posting for July. It will be like a comfortable old shirt that you are happy to see after losing some time around last year.

Chiyotairyu defeats Endo – No hope for Endo today as he eats the full power of the Chiyotairyu canon-ball tachiai.

Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s nodowa produces nothing, and he quickly tries to slap / pull Mitakeumi down. Of course everyone and their uncle expect this noise, and Mitakeumi reads the shift in Hokutofuji’s balance with expert timing and surges forward. Hokutofuji can’t recover the initiative and takes a trip to the east side zabuton.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoshogiku – I had been hoping to see a Kotoshogiku return to san’yaku, but the poor old guy seems to be fading into week 2. Ah well, I am admittedly sentimental. Aoiyama focused center-mass and just pushed with those giant beef towers he calls arms.

Goeido defeats Abi – I exploded in laughter at this match, and had to re-wind about 4 times to watch it over and over. As expected, we saw an Abi matta in an attempt to throw off Goeido’s timing. This is not a bad idea, but the Ozeki was looking for it, and it only seems to motivate him. Tachiai – stand Abi up, wait for forward pressure, and let him fall. Flawless counter-Abi strategy here.

Takayasu defeats Myogiryu – I though that everyone in sumo knew to never ever challenge Takayasu to an endurance battle. I swear the guy takes naps holding up 150 kg weights, and wakes up completely rested. So points to Myogiryu for putting the Ozeki in some odd postures and body contortions, but that was the extent of it. Myogiryu expertly kept Takayasu from getting his right hand into any kind of grip, but then Takayasu just waited him out. Myogiryu, of course, tires and Takayasu shows him the exit.

Kakuryu defeats Okinoumi – No reactive sumo today, it was a power tachiai from the Yokozuna, and no hope for the man from the island domain of Shimane-ken. Kakuryu remains with the yusho leaders.

Natsu Day 9 Preview

As lksumo has pointed out, the day 8 results have thrown what had been a fairly orderly basho into chaos. I love it. In addition to defeats of both yusho race leaders, we seem to have a possible re-kyujo of shin-ozeki Takakeisho. I can almost guarantee that the YDC is going to complain about it should he re-kyujo. To some extent, they have a point. Stay off the dohyo unless you are fit to compete. I give Takakeisho a lot of latitude myself, as he is young and has a foreshortened sense of the long road that could be / should be ahead of him. Should he decide he is out for good, Tochinoshin would get the fusen-sho white star, and his kachi-koshi by default win.

There are 3 leaders now in the Makuuchi yusho arasoi, each one of them is far from invincible, and everyone knows that. This makes the week 2 matches against the Ozeki and Yokozuna that much more meaningful, as any of them, or all of them, could be taken down again. For Goeido and Takayasu, they are still walking a narrow path to their 8, but each needs just 3 more wins to avoid kadoban. For Takayasu, I forsee trouble on day 9.

Natsu Leaderboard

Are you ready for this? Because this is how nuts it became.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin, Asanoyama
Chaser: Abi, Ryuden, Enho, Kotoeko
Hunt Group: Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Shodai, Shohozan, Tochiozan, Daishoho

7 Matches Remain

The first reader who dares to comment “Shodai Yusho!” Is going to be fined 1000 Genki points.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Toyonoshima vs Enho – Sumo fans can’t get enough Enho, myself included. Veteran Toyonoshima has yet to beat him, so we may see more pixie magic on Monday.

Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – Enho’s day 8 match makes a good template for a small guy to tie someone like Chiyomaru in knots, so let’s see if Terutsuyoshi can enact a similar battle plan. Just don’t slow down, don’t stand still and never be in any one spot for more than 1 second.

Ishiura vs Yago – Ishiura is trying to copy some of Enho’s fire, but he’s still a work in progress. Yago is a giant who packs a lot of power but is not capable of rapid lateral motion. He’s leagues better than Chiyomaru, but it should be possible to keep Yago from getting too stable on his feet, and use that to divert his own energy into Ishiura’s offensive moves.

Kotoeko vs Tochiozan – I am really looking forward to this match, as they are basically the same guy (much like Ikioi and Ryuden) about 5 years apart. That 5 year gap leaves Kotoeko employing a lot of frantic energy, and Tochiozan employing a lot of guile and cunning. Kotoeko won their only prior meeting.

Shodai vs Kagayaki – Whatever is plaguing Kagayaki is not easing up, and if Shodai can continue to put that much energy into his post-tachiai sumo, it’s going to be a fun match. I am sure Kagayaki will consult his mental catalog of great sumo, and then Shodai will unleash some sort of strong random stuff and leave Mr Fundamentals stumped. Shodai leads their career series 3-1.

Onosho vs Yoshikaze – I can only imagine that Onosho re-watched that match with Meisei in slow motion a few dozen times, each time wondering what he could have done differently to prevent that whole attack from blowing up in his face. Shake it off Jr Tadpole! You have to face a faltering Yoshikaze on day 9. This match makes me sad on many levels.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Let me guess, Nishikigi lets Takarafuji get morozashi, then pins his arms and uses that to push Takarafuji around like a hand truck.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – Yusho co-leader Asanoyama faces shin-Ikioi in the first match of the second half. Asanoyama has lost the last 5 consecutive matches to Ryuden. But I don’t think I have seen Asanoyama in better form, ever. These guys are going to be joi-jin mainstays next year, I would guess. So let’s hope this turns into a great sumo rivalry.

Tamawashi vs Daieisho – After putting dirt on the lone surviving Yokozuna, it’s time for Tamawashi to patrol the upper Maegashira ranks. He holds a 5-2 advantage over Daieisho, so I am starting to wonder if we might see Tamawashi kachi-koshi and possibly a candidate for san’yaku yet again.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is in a pretty deep hole, and I want him to rally starting day 9 and press hard. Endo can execute amazing technical sumo as we saw on day 8, but sometimes there is no remedy for 400 pounds of high-energy rikishi on a collision course.

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – In spite of what you may assume, they are fairly evenly matched with a 5-4 career advantage for Mitakeumi. Hokutofuji is still a bit hit-or-miss with his sumo, so I am going to assume that if the gyoji can keep out of the way, we will see Mitakeumi inch closer to his 8th.

Aoiyama vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these men are in a deep hole in terms of win/loss, but frankly I would rather see Kotoshogiku make it to kachi-koshi right now. Give the old guy one more run at the top as a way to say thank you for being one of the best in a generation.

Goeido vs Abi – I am going to state that this match is going to be over quickly. If Goeido can get a proper launch off, it’s going to be unlikely for Abi to stop his forward pressure. This is why I think we will see at least one matta, to help dither Goeido’s timing.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – I am going to assume this one won’t happen. The story is all over the Japanese press that Takakeisho will return to kyujo status, but no official word from the NHK as of right now. But if it does happen, I think we are going to see Tochinoshin struggle to land a grip, and Takakeisho possibly blow out his knee, joining Ura on the “could have been” list of sumo. Update: NHK has announced the withdrawal. -lksumo https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20190520/k10011922041000.html

Myogiryu vs Takayasu – You might think “Maegashira 5 vs Ozeki, this is a gimme”. Well, Takayasu has a 7-11 Myogiryu deficit. Granted, all of their recent meetings have been all Takayasu, but we know for certain that Myogiryu knows how to beat him. Takayasu needs 3 more to pick up his kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu’s day 8 loss has punctured the illusion of superior invincibility that tends to surround sumo’s Yokozuna. With that mental barrier broken (both in Kakuryu’s mind and the mind of the rest of his opponents), the chances of his tasting clay again have gone up. Okinoumi is only in fair condition this basho, so I am not looking for him to produce an upset on day 9.