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.

Natsu Day 8 Highlights

Endo – The Golden

What better time to really shake up the basho than the middle day? The first week was nothing but warm up, a prelude if you will to the real contest that starts now. And change was afoot in the Kokugikan, with losses dealt to fan-favorites up and down the banzuke. Some of that will be covered in today’s “Ones to Watch” post, some of it… Now.

Day 8 Highlights

Daishoho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi tries to be as low as possible, and leaves himself wide open for Daishoho to apply lateral and downward force. The result is a nicely executed katasukashi, with Daishoho rendering a look of both satisfaction and amusement that Terutsuyoshi thought that what he was doing was going to work.

Kotoeko vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu suffers again from his “cab forward design”, as Kotoeko expertly uses Tokushoryu’s propensity to fall forward to great effect.

Enho defeats Chiyomaru – Everyone was hyped for this match, and it did not disappoint. Enho does a masterful job of not staying still long enough for Chiyomaru to do anything rather than get frustrated. Enho grabs a leg and helps Chiyomaru out. As I love to say, being enormous is not necessarily a sumo tactic. Especially if you fight Enho.

Shimanoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a hit-grab-shift, but Shimanoumi stays focused on Ishiura’s center-mass and rolls with him, never allowing Ishiura to generate any real offense.

Shohozan defeats Yago – In the battle of the giant heads, it’s great to note that you have Yago expending a lot of energy flailing away, and you have Shohozan who stays compact and low. He keeps Yago in front of him, and is very efficient with his sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Tochiozan – Sadanoumi gets the job done by repeatedly overwhelming all attempts by Tochiozan to change the pace and form of the match to his terms. Sadanoumi works quickly, and keeps changing the attack profile, and always moving forward.

Shodai defeats Tomokaze – There are days when (as readers note) I think Shodai is a complete chump who stumbled into the top division, but he’s so nice and so polite no one wants to ask him to leave. Then there are days when this form of Shodai shows up and you go “daayyymm”. True to form, Shodai’s tachiai is terrible, but after that it’s ka-boom!

Meisei defeats Onosho – Watch this match in slow-motion. Now watch it again. It’s over in a blink of an eye, but you can see Meisei instinctively react and execute with perfection after Onosho lands a forceful tachiai, and looks ready to bowl Meisei over.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – It was not flashy, it was not amazing, but Asanoyama got the job done. He is looking really sharp this basho, and his fans hope that he’s made a step change to his sumo.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – again we don’t see much offense from Yoshikaze, but sadly we did not see much offense from Kagayaki either. This was a kind of pointless match where they both could have taken a kuroboshi and gone to the pub instead.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi still showing up, but whatever kami had a hold of him earlier this year is back in whatever massive tree it normally inhabits. Ryuden keeps plugging away, and we will see him near the top of the rank and file in July, I would guess.

Daieisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has nothing to bring to this match, no canon-ball tachiai, no blistering tsuppari, he’s just not brining his best sumo. Daieisho does his part by driving hard and focusing on Chiyotairyu’s expansive upper body.

Abi defeats Hokutofuji – Matta, Matta, ker-blam! Hokutofuji shuts down Abi-zumo for a moment, but then Hokutofuji decides to try a pull / slap down, and reaches high. This opens up his chest and here comes the double arm shove from Abi. Hokutofuji needs a formula to win against this guy.

Endo defeats Tochinoshin – Fans know Endo is a master technician who many times can’t quite execute his brilliant sumo plans. But then you have today where he sacrifices a chance at Tochinoshin landing his lethal left in order to latch a mae-mitsu with the right hand. He mixes that with a pivot and a bit of luck (Tochinoshin loses traction) and its uwatedashinage magic at the shikiri-sen. Tochinoshin picks up his first loss.

Aoiyama defeats Takakeisho – On one hand, I could complain that Man-mountain Aoiyama executed a henka like a chump. Or I could look at this as the easiest way to defeat Takakeisho without taking much of a chance at further injuring him. One thing is clear, the path to kachi-koshi just got a lot more risky for Takakeisho.

Takayasu defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi made this harder than it should have been, but I liked it because it was an excellent showcase for Takayasu’s really outstanding yotsu abilities. I am sticking with the theory that Takayasu is low-function now due to injury.

Goeido defeats Mitakeumi – Goeido gets a lucky break when the tata-gyoji scampers to a bad position on the dohyo and arrests Mitakeumi’s forward pressure, allowing Goeido to rally and carry the match. Truth be told, Goeido looked sharp this match, putting in doubt my theory that his ankle is back in poor shape.

Tamawashi defeats Kakuryu – Tamawashi focuses, pushes and drives. He is rewarded with his 3rd kinboshi and a storm of zabuton flying at the dohyo. Kakuryu takes his first trip to the clay, and suddenly the chase for the Emperor’s Cup is blown wide open.

With no rikishi now undefeated, the stage is set for a brutal brawl to the finish, it’s anyone’s guess who will take the yusho.

Natsu Day 8 Preview

Welcome to Nakabi, the middle day of the basho. A reminder to fans around the world: NHK World Japan will be carrying the last 50 minutes of Makuuchi live on their global streaming service. With Abema now a fading memory for many sumo fans, this is your ticket to live sumo action. So stay up, stay engaged and watch sumo!

The big news is that Ozeki Takakeisho is going to attempt to return to competition today. He went kyujo earlier in the tournament after day 4, when he strained his knee in a surprising yotsu match against Mitakeumi. Also on the hurt list is Kaisei, who seems to have suffered at least minor damage to his right arm in his loss to Ryuden. Word is he may go has gone kyujo from day 8 to give his arm a chance to recover.

Natsu Leaderboard

Time to dig into the yusho race for the Natsu basho. With only two undefeated rikishi on day 8, it may seem quite clear. But I am going to guess that someone gets dirt on both Kakuryu and Tochinoshin before Wednesday, and this one may come down to a closer race than it looks today.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Chaser: Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Abi, Ryuden, Tochiozan, Enho, Kotoeko

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Chiyoshoma vs Daiamami – With Takakeisho returning, the imbalance in the torikumi returns, and we are once against having a daily Juryo visitor to the top division. Today it’s former Maku-man Daiamami, who does not seem to be on track to win back his top division slot this tournament. Chiyoshoma has never lost to him, either.

Terutsuyoshi vs Daishoho – Terutsuyoshi seemed to wake up in his day 7 match against Enho, and we do hope he can stay awake and fighting well. The two are fairly evenly matched, and I would expect that we may see Terutsuyoshi attempt more “stunt sumo” like that leg sweep he used day 7 that delighted everyone.

Tokushoryu vs Kotoeko – The NHK announcers keep pointing out how Kotoeko has not had a kachi-koshi in the top division yet, which was interesting but is now a bit stale. He is moving well, fighting well now, and dominating many of his matches. With 5 wins, we are likely to see him break that run of make-koshi, and find his place in the top division. Tokushoryu on the other hand seems to not really have a handle on his sumo right now, which is a shame.

Chiyomaru vs Enho – The ultimate big vs small battle—Chiyomaru is 2x Enho’s mass. Think about that – it would take 2 Enho units to make 1 Chiyomaru unit. But that being said, we are all really interested to see what kind of pixie magic Enho unleashes to send Chiyomaru tumbling.

Shimanoumi vs Ishiura – There are plenty of comments that Ishura’s sumo has morphed closer to Enho’s – to which I say “Good!”. The fact that Ishiura has returned to actual aggressive sumo is nothing but a plus all around, and I hope it’s here to stay. Shimanoumi fans are starting to hope that he’s got his sumo back in shape, and can at least make a fair try at a winning record.

Shohozan vs Yago – Both of these men have oversized heads. It’s as simple as that. I think Yago’s head is larger, and it’s certainly more conical than most. Shohozan’s is large and blocky, and seems to be permanently configured to scowl. Maybe we should call it “Resting Shohozan Face”. I think Yago wants revenge for that Osaka Oshidashi, so he will need to be more mobile than he typically is, as Shohozan refuses to stand still most days.

Sadanoumi vs Tochiozan – If Sadanoumi can get control in the first 5 seconds, he can limit Tochiozan’s sumo, which he must do in order to win. Tochiozan will, as always, play to stalemate and wait for an advantage to appear. The longer the match lasts, the better for Tochiozan.

Shodai vs Tomokaze – First time match between these two, and it’s got a lot of interest. The aspect is that both of them are very mobile, and tend to have good lateral motion. Tomokaze tends to employ it at the center of the dohyo, Shodai at the tawara.

Onosho vs Meisei – Onosho has yet to defeat Meisei in their 3 prior matches. The good news is that Meisei tends to win by grabbing Onosho and pushing him around for a loss, rather than by taking advantage of Onosho’s natural forward 10% list. Perhaps he should consult a naval architect after the basho and see if they can adjust his ballast tanks.

Takarafuji vs Asanoyama – Fans worried that Asanoyama’s day 6 loss would put him off his focus can rest easy—he returned to excellent form, and that brings us to a great pairing against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is also in the habit of exercising excellent form, coupled with excellent combination moves. I predict they go chest to chest early, and it’s a medley of move and counter move until Asanoyama wins.

Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – The battle of the broken toys. We see Mr. Fundamentals struggling with just one win, and Yoshikaze looking like his better days are past. Sadly, I think there is a good chance that Kagayaki will take his second win today.

Myogiryu vs Kaisei – Kaisei is kyujo to heal up his right arm, Myogiryu gets the fusen win.

Nishikigi vs Ryuden – Nishikigi has been breaking out that armlock and double armlock a lot this basho, and I can’t wait to see what happens to Ryuden when he has to break free. Ryuden is on pace to bid for a nice banzuke slot for Nagoya.

Chiyotairyu vs Daieisho – Time for Chiyotairyu to rehabilitate his record, and where better to start than with Daieisho, against whom he holds a 9-1 career advantage.

Hokutofuji vs Abi – The brotherhood of the flailing arms is in attendance; let the ceremony begin! The only prior match it was all Abi, but I think we may see more from Hokutofuji this time.

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – The enigma that is Ichinojo continues to befuddle. He’s hot, he’s cold, he fights, he loses. His fans want him to get it together, but something prevents it.

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Cue sky crane in 3… 2… 1…

Takakeisho vs Aoiyama – Why you crazy Ozeki? I get it, hold up the tradition of Ozeki, the whole gaman thing, but Japan needs you to not wreck your body just yet. Okay, well, Aoiyama only looks to be operating on one reactor right now. You might be okay. Just no more yotsu until you are healed up.

Okinoumi vs Takayasu – Takayasu needs to rack a few more wins before the “tough” part of his schedule, and we hope his 12-3 career edge over Okinoumi counts as an advantage in this match.

Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Probably the big match of the second half, although the returning Takakeisho will get the hype. These two are actually fairly evenly matched, and I am less sure today that Goeido is fighting hurt. I know Mitakeumi can smell a return to Sekiwake, and it would be great for him to go into his Nagoya with double-digit wins at Natsu.

Tamawashi vs Kakuryu – Tamawashi’s run-and-gun sumo is not overly effective against Kakuryu’s reactive style. I think this one goes to Big-K and he stays unbeaten.

Natsu Day 7 Highlights

Sold Out/Sellout Banners at Kokugikan - Natsu 2019
The Natsu basho is sold out, and many of Tachiai’s friends make up the audience

As Bruce related, we’re happy that many Tachiai readers and friends of the site have descended on Ryogoku, especially this weekend, to join together and watch sumo. On a personal note, it has been great to see old friends and meet new friends, and I will be again in attendance Day 9. If you’re attending the basho as well, let us know!

Let’s get into the day’s action:

Quick Juryo Week 1 Update

It’s looking increasingly likely that we will have yet another top division debutant when the Nagoya basho rolls around. Takagenji quickly dismantled the promising Wakatakakage with a furious nodowa and tsuppari attack to move to 7-0 and retain sole lead of the yusho race, and close in on the last couple of wins to all but guarantee his promotion from Juryo 2. His brother Takanofuji also won down in Makushita to grab kachi-koshi and perhaps seal a quick return to Juryo, with the brothers a combined 11-0. Toyonoshima, now 6-1 following his straightforward win over Takanosho, also looks likely to make an instant return to makuuchi.

All but guaranteed not to make an instant return to the top division he occupied for so long is sumo mummy Ikioi, who scored a painful first victory which saw him collapsing in a heap off the side of the dohyo having narrowly pushed out Azumaryu. The gyoji’s call survived a monoii, which is probably more than could have been said about Isenoumi’s long time sekitori were a torinaoshi to have been called. The good news for Ikioi is that his sole victory almost certainly spares him the indignity of a (possible, small sample size caveats apply) demotion straight through the trap door to Makushita had he continued to draw a blank.

And now, for the top division, on a day that saw the legendary Kitanofuji again join the NHK commentary team…

Day 7 Matches

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – It’s a double henka! Just kidding. It’s just Ishiura that henkas, which he attempts to turn into an arm-bar throw that doesn’t quite come off. The match then develops into some submarine sumo with both men quite low on one side of the dohyo, with Ishiura landing the better left hand grip on Chiyoshoma’s somewhat loose mawashi. Eventually Chiyoshoma changes stance which prompts Ishiura to pull the winning shitatehineri. We’ve seen Ishiura do that a few times in the past and it’s one of his better winning moves.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Enho – Here are two men who can’t even make one Ichinojo between them. Terutsuyoshi lands a strong right hand grip early on in this one, which Enho spends a second trying to work out how to break. Terutsuyoshi takes him on a mini Harumafuji style death spin before sweeping the Hakuho recruit straight down on his back, and it’s ruled a rare susoharai. Enho walks off the dohyo looking like he’s been buried in the beach, he’s 5-2 and Terutsuyoshi gets a much needed 3rd win.

Daishoho defeats Tokushoryu – With Nishikigi fighting Shodai, Daishoho got called up to the Kakuryu dohyo-iri so he must have been all kinds of excited to show off his brand of sumo today. It’s tough to say he needed to do it, as Tokushoryu moved him straight back from the tachiai, at which point he stepped to the side, gave a tug on the big Kise man’s shoulder and let gravity do the rest – hatakikomi. Daishoho takes the battle of the 2-3 men to move back to .500 on the basho.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Kotoeko might be looking soon at his first top division kachi-koshi as he grabs a 5th win in a fairly unremarkable match. Sadanoumi starts by moving forward, but just can’t get a grip here. Kotoeko’s able to use a blend of mawashi work and finally, thrusting to win by oshi-dashi and deposit Sadanoumi in the lap of the shimpan.

Shohozan defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru’s 90s Geocities website background green mawashi inspires perhaps a little trepidation. Shohozan pulls after a cagey tachiai before the two lock up in the centre of the dohyo, and yet again in this basho, Chiyomaru finds himself in a grappling match. Shohozan is a slapper but better in this position, and manages to get both hands all the way around the big man on the belt. That’s fairly incredible. The bigger issue is actually moving him, which Shohozan tries a couple times with no luck. Chiyomaru tries to shake off Shohozan, but can’t manage a throw, and Shohozan simply runs the roly poly Kokonoe rikishi out of real estate and corrals him across the dohyo to take the win. Weird sumo.

Onosho defeats Yago – After a matta, the two bounce off each other and exchange pulling attempts. Unfortunately for Yago, Onosho actually lands his and picks up a fairly quick win. He’s 4-3, and Yago is now 3-4.

Shimanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Shimanoumi moves forward well from the tachiai, survives a couple very weak throw attempts and and an even poorer pull attempt from Kagayaki, and wins easily by a light oshidashi. It’s a 3rd win for the new makuuchi man which helps get his kachi-koshi mission back on track, and for “Tactics” Kagayaki it’s a disastrous 6th loss in 7. Fans of obscure stats will find it curious that we could soon see an absence of single kanji shikona rikishi in the top division for the first time in many years, if he doesn’t turn his act around.

Tochiozan defeats Tomokaze – Even tachiai, but it’s another lesson in top division sumo for the promising Tomokaze as Tochiozan sees him leaning forward and puts a firm hand on the back of the Oguruma man’s head and hits the firm hatakikomi. Both men are still “in the black,” but it’s Tochiozan that grabs his 5th win today.

Nishikigi defeats Shodai – It’s a slow motion tachiai as Shodai predictably stands up and it feels like Nishikigi is running for ages – even if it’s only 2 steps – until he makes contact with the Tokitsukaze man. Shodai implausibly moves forward well from this position, but does not land a belt grip and this is his key mistake, choosing instead to get in under the arms of Nishikigi. Moving backwards, Nishikigi pulls what is ruled a kotenage arm-lock throw that at first glance didn’t look massively different than a sukuinage.

Asanoyama defeats Yoshikaze – The violet shimekomi derby ends with a win for the man from Takasago-beya. Asanoyama rebounds from a loss and continues his strong tournament by taking control of the match after a fairly even tachiai. He attempts a grip on the back of Yoshikaze’s belt but only succeeds in untying it, but spares the fans an X-rated view by dispatching the Oguruma veteran with an oshidashi before the censors have to get involved. Asanoyama is up to 6-1 and very much still on the fringe of the yusho race for now.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Habitual line-stepper Ryuden seems a little off rhythm as it takes Kaisei ages to complete his pre-basho routine, so it’s no surprise when the matta addict commits another neutral zone infraction. He deploys an odd strategy here and allows Kaisei to take full control of proceedings, and his strategy is clearly to use the large Brazilian’s mass-inertia combination against him. At the very edge of the edge, Ryuden goes for the pull and very, very narrowly wins by hatakikomi as the two men crash into the crowd. Kaisei seems to have suffered a right arm injury as a result by Ryuden’s pull down, which was executed primarily with a pull of said arm after an initial tug on Kaisei’s head. Ryuden is 5-2 with Kaisei now 3-4, and it will be interesting to see what effect the injury may have on his attempts to get kachi-koshi from here.

Meisei defeats Myogiryu – Meisei in some ways looks like a young Myogiryu. There’s an almighty blast at the tachiai in this battle of 2-4 rikishi, but it’s Meisei that keeps moving forward. Despite a last ditch pull attempt from Myogiryu, it’s a quick and straightforward oshidashi for Meisei as he grabs his 3rd win.

Okinoumi defeats Takarafuji – Most of this match is much of a muchness, with the largely defensive Takarafuji trying in vain to find the impetus against a stubborn Okinoumi. Neither man can really get a decent grip, but eventually the man from Shimane-ken manages to get the Aomori native Takarafuji high, and with Takarafuji’s center of gravity raised, Okinoumi simply pushes – almost tipping – him over for a much needed 2nd win.

Abi defeats Endo – This pretty-boy battle has a properly zen Kotoshogiku looking like he’s ready to fall asleep on the side of the dohyo before the match. Hopefully he opened his eyes because this was over in a flash. After a matta (courtesy of Abi), the yobidashi gets forced into quick action on the run with the chikara-mizu barrel as a listless Endo gets thrusted out at the back corner by a trademark Abi attack. 5 wins for Abi, 5 losses for Endo.

Mitakeumi defeats Aoiyama – This is all oshi all the way. My computer tried to autocorrect that to Oshiogawa. The funny thing is that maybe not unlike the former Takekaze, Aoiyama entered this match looking for a quick pull-down. However, he was unable to execute and subsequently a little late to the party when it came to finding the type of brutal tsuppari for which he is better known and which did for Tamawashi earlier in the basho. His mistake here was probably not sticking with his more established brand of sumo from the start. Mitakeumi took a couple hits but simply weathered the storm, kept his balance and positioning and footwork on point and shoved the bigger man out. Very composed stuff again from Mitakeumi, who moves to 5-2.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku enters this match with a 24-9 lifetime edge over his fellow former ozeki but very much the severe underdog. But that’s sumo. Tochinoshin’s right knee appears to have even more intense bandaging on it than usual. In a world starting to become dominated by pusher-thrusters, it’s refreshing to get two classic old fashioned belt guys to go at it, and they take it in turns.

Both land their favoured grips immediately – and Kotoshogiku loses his almost as quickly. Kotoshogiku gets a good run at the Georgian as he tries to get both arms inside, but just doesn’t have enough power in his gaburi-yori to finish the job. Kotoshogiku’s relative lightness on his feet is always his undoing, and that’s a perfect match for the power of Tochinoshin who as we know, loves to lift his opponents. As Kotoshogiku vaults up into the air, Tochinoshin pulls back on the throttle and launches his way across the dohyo. It’s 7-0 for the yusho challenger, who needs 3 from 8 to retake his rank and restore the Ozeki count to four for the first time since Kotoshogiku’s demotion.

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – One way traffic, and it’s all the impressive Hokutofuji. The Hakkaku man has performed better than his record would indicate owing to a typically brutal week 1 schedule, but he easily gets the better of the enormous Mongolian Ichinojo at the tachiai. He lands his hands under Ichinojo’s armpits in an attempt to drive him back and keep him high, and apart from one desperation shove to the head by Ichinojo, two more shoves are all that’s in this match as Hokotofuji finishes the job quick smart. He’s up to 3 wins now and in with a shout of moving back up to san’yaku if he can finish the turnaround, while Ichinojo has 5 losses with a tough second week still to come and his rank very much at risk.

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – Both of these guys need a win, with Goeido needing it a little bit more after a rough couple of days and wanting to stay out of kadoban trouble following a good run over the last year. This isn’t particularly good sumo from Goeido, who tries in vain to get a grip, while Tamawashi tries to get Goeido to play into his style of thrusting sumo. Goeido seems to win this by as much sheer willpower as he has lost matches by earlier in the week – he fends off a couple brutal thrusts to the head and just manages to keep his offensive mindset and tendency active and engaged. He’s better on the front foot, and after an ugly series of thrusts, manages to get the oshidashi to move up to 4-3, with Tamawashi holding a mirror record.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – If there’s a better oicho-mage than Takayasu’s then I’ll drink a bottle of binzuke. Takayasu once again gets the worst of the tachiai. His tachiai is confused, disjointed and just plain weird, as he seems to be totally missing a plan of attack. I don’t know what he and Araiso have been plotting for the last month at keiko, but surely this couldn’t have been the battle plan. In today’s case, he can’t even deploy his shoulder blast before Daieisho has his hands all over the Ozeki. Both men trade nodowa attempts, but Takayasu’s experience tells as he simply side steps a thrust to find Daieisho off balance, and just needs a simple push to get the oshi-dashi win. With respect to Daieisho, against a stronger opponent with more experience of san’yaku opponents, Takayasu would have been in real trouble today.

Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – I kind of love Chiyotairyu’s salt toss, as if he’s just absolutely disgusted with the pile of salt. We get a matta here, followed by an incredibly straightforward win for the Yokozuna, moving forward en route to a perfect 7-0 record. Chiyotairyu started a ways back from the shiriki-sen, as if to get a run up to launch his famous cannonball tachiai. But, it would be foolish to expect the Yokozuna wasn’t prepared for the Kokonoe man’s one trick, and landed a quick right hand outside grip on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi before he could even get into the match. With his left hand pushing on Chiyotairyu’s chest, he simply escorted the junior rikishi out in a motion akin to a lazy butsukari session. Easy.

Natsu Day 7 Preview

Are You Ready?

Fans around the world are ready to tuck in to a nearly endless buffet of sumo for the weekend, and readers of Tachiai are ready for more! I would like to give a shout out to some readers and friends of Tachiai who will be in the Kokugikan this very weekend, taking in live sumo in the flesh. No VPNs being blocked, no news highlight shows to step on the action – nothing but 10 or so glorious hours of sumo. So folks who are scanning the crowd during your favorite sumo show, look for friendly folks from around the world, wearing Tachiai T-Shirts, or maybe the long rumored bootleg “Wakaichiro Forever” shirts that seem to be in circulation.

Rumor has it we will see Takakeisho return on the middle Sunday of the tournament, just in time for the NHK World Japan’s live stream of the final 50 minutes of Makuuchi for the worldwide fans.

The big story is, of course, the yusho race. The view going into the middle weekend is that it will be between Tochinoshin and Yokozuna Kakuryu. Tochinoshin is pushing hard for 10 wins to take back his Ozeki rank, and right now he seems to be on track to hit that mark, needing only to win 4 of the remaining 9 matches. But it’s right to wonder if that enormous bear of a rikishi would ease up on the genki once he reaches his 10th, or is he going to take the fight all the way to the cup? From what we have seen thus far of Tochinoshin, he just may push it all the way to day 15. Kakuryu is another story. We expect to see defensive sumo from him for the duration of the basho. Tachiai assumes there is an undisclosed injury in effect in the Yokozuna’s body – his ankle or maybe his back – that has him limiting the amount of forward pressure he can generate. Contrast his day 6 match with that blast-off attack we saw day 1, and you can see what we are noticing. That being said, Kakuryu is a master of defensive / evasive sumo, and he just might be able to make it work for all 9 remaining matches. We wish him luck.

Who is waiting in the wings? Believe it or not, there are only 2 rikishi who have a single loss: Asanoyama and Enho! I would not give either a chance against a genki Tochinoshin or even an injured Kakuryu. But 9 days is a long time in sumo, and we will enjoy watching this one unfold.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Chiyoshoma vs Ishiura – Both of these henka connoisseurs have been fighting straight-forward sumo so far, and I love it. Ishiura’s day 6 match featured a chest to chest battle with plenty of misdirection and risky diversions, but it carried the day. Might really be some solid, action driven sumo to start the Makuuchi day.

Terutsuyoshi vs Enho – Pixie Battle Royale! There’s magic in the air, and I think we might just see Tinkerbell show up to help referee this match, if we just believe! No, I won’t encourage people to clap, as that got Hakuho in hot water, but… for Tinkerbell? Seriously, Enho’s going to eat him alive. [Terutsuyoshi holds a 2-1 career edge. -lksumo]

Tokushoryu vs Daishoho – Tokushoryu has not looked certain about his attack plan as of late, and he’s going to get rolled by Daishoho if he can’t produce some offense early. Daishoho has been coming off the line very well, and as a bonus holds a 4-1 career advantage over the low-slung Tokushoryu.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – When Sadanoumi wins, he tends to do it by seizing the initiative early in the match, whereas Kotoeko has strength and mobility to wait for an opening and rally to great effect. Sadanoumi seemed to get back in his “fast to win” grove on day 6, and if we see it day 7, it may spell a welcome turnaround for his fortunes.

Shohozan vs Chiyomaru – “Big Guns” Shohozan pulled one of his signature punk moves on day 6 against Nishikigi, so I hope he got that out of his system, because if you get Chiyomaru fired up, he may just fall on you. While everyone might laugh about that, consider the physics involved.

Yago vs Onosho – Yago has been focusing on hitakikomi for most of this basho, and he’s got a fine opportunity to continue that streak with Onosho as an opponent. Onosho has chronically been too far forward in his stance, and practically begs his opponents to swat him to the clay. Don’ get me wrong, I am an Onosho fan. But I suspect his surgery last year has made it tough for him to center his weight properly, and his sumo is suffering.

Kagayaki vs Shimanoumi – Mr Fundamentals needs something to prompt him to turn this basho around. With only one win, he is in a 3-way tie to the first make-koshi of Natsu. Not a fine distinction for a talented rikishi who has a lot of great, basic sumo to bring to the dohyo. If it’s any consolation, Shimanoumi has looked quite lost thus far, and while he may clean up in Juryo, he’s pants in Makuuchi. This is their first-ever match.

Tochiozan vs Tomokaze – Both rikishi have a 4-2 record, and are thus far beating the average. With any luck this will be a solid “learning match” for the youngster Tomokaze, as Tochiozan has a lot he could teach. This is another first time match.

Shodai vs Nishikigi – Sad news Nishikigi, Shodai is your day 7 opponent. This is sad news because Shodai holds a 4-1 career advantage over Nishikigi, who has had a hard time putting his sumo in gear. The biggest problem for Nishikigi is Shodai’s mobility, which prevents Nishikigi from clamping him down and pushing him out.

Asanoyama vs Yoshikaze – We are working on the assumption that Yoshikaze is nursing some kind of injury that has left him unable to move with his normal blinding speed, and unable to produce forward pressure that is the foundation of his long successful sumo career. What he is left with is a mismatched collection of gambits that have thus far only squeezed out 2 wins. Asanoyama had an unbeaten record until day 6 when Onosho took him apart at the tachiai, and we hope this is not the start of any kind of losing streak.

Kaisei vs Ryuden – Kaisei is generally not prone to much in the way of lateral movement. With his current condition limiting that further, he should be a fairly workable target for Ryuden, who specializes in applying lateral force to his opponents. Ryuden also holds a 4-1 career advantage over Kaisei.

Myogiryu vs Meisei – Both rikishi at 2-4, both rikishi struggling this basho to find their groove, and stuck too many times responding to their opponents’ sumo.

Okinoumi vs Takarafuji – Two more solid technicians face off, and I am going to predict they keep the battle going for a while. Takarafuji especially likes to wait for an opening and then attack.

Endo vs Abi – Hopefully Endo was watching Takarafuji dismantle Abi on day 6, because it worked brilliantly. If so, we will get to see Endo shut down the obligatory Abi-zumo attack, and Endo’s obasan army across Japan will swoon.

Aoiyama vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has been looking very sharp off the shikiri-sen so far, and Aoiyama has looked, for lack of a better term, like he is suffering. Hay-fever? A cold? Not sure, but he’s down at least 2 notches in intensity. Mitakeumi seems to be working carefully to line up for Tochinoshin’s soon-to-be-vacated Sekiwake spot.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – If anyone can put a hole in Tochinoshin’s recovery run, its going to be Kotoshogiku. Tochinoshin will man-hug any rikishi, and Kotoshogiku has a special battle-cuddle ready to go. In fact, in the 33 prior matches between these two, its 24-9 in favor of the Kyushu Bulldozer. But I will footnote that by saying that Tochinoshin has won the last 4 meetings.

Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has a lot of work to do to nominate himself for a return to San’yaku, which for him would be a simple majority of wins. The career record with Ichinojo shows them evenly matched, so this will come down to Ichinojo getting the high-intensity attack ready for the opening seconds of the match, and not letting Hokutofuji land his nodowa.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – While Tamawashi won’t be pushing for the cup this time, he seems to be in better form than he has been for a while, and we think Goeido’s ankle is back to being in poor shape. As a result, you can expect to see Goeido focusing less on a strong attack at the tachiai, and more on evading and waiting for a chance to slap or pull down his opponent.

Daieisho vs Takayasu – This should be an easy walk over win for Takayasu, but with the Ozeki’s sumo in the first week being as ragged has it has been, you have to consider Daieisho a legitimate threat. I am guessing Takayasu will attempt to take Daieisho off of his attack with an all-or-nothing shoulder blast at the tachiai. [Daieisho pulled off the upset when the two last met on day 3 in March. -lksumo]

Chiyotairyu vs Kakuryu – In 10 matches, Chiyotairyu has been unable to beat Kakuryu. As a master of evasive and reactive sumo, it’s tough to get him to stay put long enough to be on the receiving end of one of your buffalo stampede charges. So I think we won’t see dirt on the lone surviving Yokozuna today.