Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball

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

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

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


Lower San’yaku

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

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

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

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

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

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

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

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

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

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

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

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

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

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

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

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

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

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

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

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

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

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

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

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

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

Nagoya Follow Up #4 – Mitakeumi’s Sekiwake Debut

Mitakeumi Kensho Stack

In early July, we anticipated that shin-Sekiwake Mitakeumi would make the most of finally breaking into the Sekiwake rank, after waiting for multiple basho for a slot to open up.

Nagoya marked a milestone achievement for Mitakeumi, after nearly a year bouncing between Maegashira 1 and Komusumi, he was finally able to land a position at Sekiwake. Mitakeumi has had a fascinating career since he joined professional sumo in 2015 (yes, just two years ago). He came from being a college Yokozuna at Toyo University, straight to a started rank of Makushita 10, where he proceeded to kick everyone’s butt in brilliant and overwhelming fashion, including taking the Yusho in his first basho in Juryo.

It was clear from the start that Mitakeumi was never going to slow down, and he has been continuing to be the leader of the class of the new generation of rikishi. He has been competing at Sekiwake for at least two basho prior to Nagoya, but the clog of Takayasu waiting to move up and Kotoshogiku waiting to move down prevented him from taking his slot to begin an Ozeki campaign.

That campaign likely did not start at Nagoya, as it seems young Mitakeumi still needs to tune up a bit before he can start pressing for double digit wins at Sekiwake, turning in a 9-6 result and a second Shukun-sho (outstanding performance) special prize. His Nagoya record includes a rather impressive defeat of dai-Yokozuna Hakuho, handing him his only loss, and braking any chance he could start another run at the Futabayama consecutive win record. He also defeated the damaged Yokozuna Kisenosato on the first day.

With his winning record and outstanding performance, he remains at Sekiwake, and will push for double digits in Tokyo this September. For Aki, we anticipate that he will be Sekiwake 1 East, and play foil to both kadoban Ozeki, each of which will need to score a win against him to help stave off demotion.

Nagoya Follow Up #2 – Hakuho’s Record Run

Hakuho-Meter

The team at Tachiai anticipated that Nagoya would be the basho where Hakuho finally broke the all time win record, surpassing first Chiyonofuji and then Kaio, to add yet another record to his name. On his way to racking up his 39th yusho, he was only defeated on day 11 when he was surprised by future Ozeki Mitakeumi.

His “go-ahead” victory came against Takayasu on day 13, and it was “The Boss” side-stepping the shin-Ozeki’s tachiai that put him in control. Some sumo fans were outraged that he would use essentially a henka to win his record setting match, but I think it is perfectly in keeping with Hakuho’s approach to sumo. He uses everything at his disposal to win every time he can. He does so with power, and uncanny speed.

For those that want to review the match, it’s at the end of Jason’s day 13 highlights on YouTube

Sadly, because of his loss, Hakuho cannot even begin to consider an assault on a record fans know he lusts for – the all time consecutive win streak owned (possibly forever) by the god of sumo, Futabayama.

Hakuho’s fans (and they are legion) are justifyibly jubilant, and many have proclaimed that he is once again unassailable. Sadly, Hakuho is all too human, and has put a very fine image forward that hides the fact that having been the top man in one of the world’s brutal combat sports, his body is one big injury away from retirement.

Tachiai notes with some worry that Hakuho withdrew from the summer jungyo to rest up a nagging knee injury he has been nursing since before Nagoya. We continue to hope that he will get his wish to be front and center at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremonies, performing a dohyo-iri on a grand scale in front of the whole world.

Heya Power Rankings: August 2017

Welcome to the third installment of the Heya Power Rankings. The purpose of this series is to gauge how the various stables are performing relative to each other, and track their progress over time. Now that we’ve been looking at this over the first four basho of 2017, we can start to identify some trends.

For a refresher on the methodology and calculations behind these rankings, visit the original post. Let’s jump in:

chart-7

And in “Billboard” style Top 20 chart form (ties broken by previous ranking with the most recently better heya ranked higher):

  1. (+1) Miyagino. 107 points (even)
  2. (-1) Isegahama. 95 points (-29)
  3. (+1) Kasugano. 78 points (+20)
  4. (-1) Tagonoura. 75 points (even)
  5. (+4) Oitekaze. 48 points (+14)
  6. (-1) Sakaigawa. 47 points (-3)
  7. (+-) Kokonoe. 43 points (+2)
  8. (+-) Izutsu. 40 points (even)
  9. (+3) Dewanoumi. 35 points (+5)
  10. (-4) Oguruma. 32 points (-10)
  11. (-1) Kise. 25 points (-8)
  12. (+1) Sadogatake. 22 points (-7)
  13. (-2) Isenoumi. 20 points (-13)
  14. (+-) Kataonami. 20 points (-5)
  15. (+-) Takanohana. 18 points (-6)
  16. (+-) Hakkaku. 18 points (-5)
  17. (+-) Tokitsukaze. 15 points (-5)
  18. (+1) Takadagawa. 15 points (-2)
  19. (-1) Onomatsu. 13 points (-7)
  20. (**) Nishonoseki. 13 points (+5)

Movers

Well, there aren’t really that many, which may come as a surprise, but less points were awarded on the whole due to there only having been 2 special prizes this time, and a clear jun-yusho (Aoiyama). We can probably isolate 5 clear “winners” this time out:

Miyagino takes the top spot on the same points total as last time, so this is more a product of Isegahama not getting the production despite having twice as many rikishi. The only change here is that Yamaguchi and Ishiura trade make- and kachi-koshi, as of course Hakuho wins another yusho.

Kasugano makes another big points gain off the back of Aoiyama’s pushy-thrusty jun-yusho, but this isn’t as spectacular a gain as it would have been for another stable as it replaces Tochinoshin’s jun-yusho last time out. That being said, all three rikishi here performed well and even if they lose points for not mounting a championship push next time out, we should see some promotions and hopefully their inevitable fall down the power rankings won’t be so tough.

Oitekaze makes a big move up the charts off the back of Daiamami’s Juryo yusho. The fun might stop there. The stable is otherwise looking at a series of demotions (including the worrying health of top man and “Mr. Popularity” Endo) in spite of this, and will lose Tobizaru to Makushita in September.

Dewanoumi has moved up to the limit of what they can achieve without special prizes, yusho challenges or Ozeki promotions from Mitakeumi. Worryingly for a stable of 16 rikishi, only 2 of the men behind Mitakeumi have put up back to back kachi-koshi (and one of them is 33 year old Kihonoumi), so it’s going to be up to him for the foreseeable future. Finally, Shohozan propels Nishonoseki onto the listing in the final position, off the back of a nice tournament.

Losers

Andy referenced that he wanted to see what would happen to Sadogatake on this chart and the results are surprising – they actually move up a spot, but again this is just due to less points having been awarded in total, as the stable has lost 8, 6 and 7 of our points in each of the past three tournaments. Mostly this is of course due to Kotoshogiku fighting at lower levels and not winning, but this slide is going to continue as we’ll see demotions for all 3 sekitori. Kotodaigo will fight at his highest level in Makushita at Aki, but unless he has a big tournament then we won’t see him at Juryo until the new year, at which point the situation could be considerably more dire and there aren’t many more reinforcements coming any time soon.

Isegahama‘s drop is largely down to Terunofuji’s downturn in performance and Harumafuji’s failure to challenge for the yusho, but a decent tournament from either (however unlikely) could see them regain the top spot next time out. Kise takes a bit of a hit owing to Ura’s injury-influenced make-koshi, but will have a decent spot at at least holding their position next time out due to a pair of Juryo promotees in Kizenryu and Daisedo. The rest is much of a muchness, but a word for Isenoumi who will be reliant on Ikioi regaining his form to move back up the listings.

Up Next

We noted last time that Kise had reinforcements on the way, and had a remarkable 11 rikishi fighting at Ms19 or higher in Nagoya. Two have been promoted, but 24 year old university man Kizaki may not be far behind. We highlighted his performance last time out, as he’s never suffered a make-koshi in his 8 competitive tournaments so far (including zensho-yusho at Jonidan and Sandanme). He’s taken a minute to acclimate to Makushita but might be on the cusp at Aki, after another solid 5 win performance in Nagoya at Ms7. Shimanoumi’s Juryo comeback bid was halted in Nagoya, but having put up 3 wins he should get another bite at it this time.

Arashio-beya has been feasting and more recently in famine depending on Sokokurai’s results, but Wakatakakage has been rocketing up the banzuke and could be around to provide backup soon. He’ll be due a big promotion to the top end of Makushita after a 6-1 tournament. Likewise, Takasago‘s Murata may be arriving soon to provide backup for Asanoyama having lost the Natsu yusho duel to Wakatakakage back in Sandanme, and having adapted almost as well to the next level of competition.

Yokozuna Kisenosato To Miss Summer Jungyo

Kisenosato-Dohyo-Iri

As reported today in Nikkan-Gendai Jiji News, Yokozuna Kisenosato will sit out the summer sumo tour of northern Japan. The Jungyo (literally, making the rounds) is a daily traveling sumo show that takes a set of some 50 rikishi to medium sized cities across Japan to bring sumo closer to the fans and the public, and is responsible for driving and maintaining sumo’s popularity.

His absence should be view as part of the larger program to heal up the very popular Yokozuna, and may be a sign that he will or currently is undergoing expanded medical treatment for what could be a career ending injury to his left pectoral muscle.

Corrected: Thanks to Herouth for catching the wrong link. I need to sleep instead of wading through Kisenosato news.  The other article is more focused on his injuries. You can find it here.

Meet Enho (炎鵬), Sumo Rising Star

As Josh pointed out before Nagoya, Miyagino heya has a few other interesting rikishi in addition to the mighty Hakuho. One person of great and growing fascination is Enho (炎鵬).

When you bag a yusho, they interview you on NHK! So above is Enho looking very happy and delighted to ace his second basho.

Enho has been in sumo for really 2 basho, plus one where he was doing the introductory Maezumo “lets make sure you know what sumo is” sessions. He has won the junior league yusho for each division he has faced. That translates into the Jonokuchi yusho in May, and the Jonidan yusho in Nagoya. Yes, thus far, Enho is undefeated.

Of course this won’t last, but it’s quite an amazing start to his life in grand sumo. Although he attended Kanazawa Gakuin University, he entered sumo at the bottom, rather than at a higher division as is common for some university rikishi.

For an example of his sumo, we have a video below from sumo media saint, One and Only, where Enho faces a much taller and heavier Masunoyama on the final day in Nagoya. It was not even close.

It’s likely that this guy will be in Sandanme as soon as Aki. We will continue to watch his progress and wish him good fortune and good health.

Nagoya Aftermath – How We See It

Goeido Down

Day 15 put an end to a Nagoya basho that marked a further evolution of a trend that started with Hakuho’s injury a year ago. At that time, it was clear that “The Boss” was damaged, and no one knew if he was going to be able to return. Hakuho has been such a dominant force in sumo for an extended period of time, and his internal presence at the top of the banzuke set the rules for every basho for years.

With his win at Nagoya, Hakuho has managed to achieve back to back yusho after surgery and an extended recovery period. How long will his new reign last? Hakuho hopes at least 3 years, as he has stated yet again that he wants to perform a dohyo-iri as part of the 2020 Olympic ceremonies immediately following the Nagoya basho. His achievement of coming back after most fans (and it turns out the YDC) thought he was done, drew comment from the committee in their post basho meeting at the Kokugikan. They have decided to give Yokozuna Hakuho a special award for breaking the all time wins record and being the Michael Jordan of sumo. I am going to assume he needs to buy a shed to keep all of this stuff in. Maybe he can have Ishiura build him one with parts from Tokyu Hands.

We are in a transitional period where the old guard is either fading or staging their last mad surge of glory. We now have the next generation (I call them Tadpoles, because they mostly share the same body shape), in Makuuchi, and they are getting comfortable at the higher levels of competition. We guess that would be one of the stories at Nagoya, and it turns out it was a big continuation of the evolution in sumo.

Winners

  • Aoiyama – Jun Yusho! Congrats, prepare for your brutal fisting at Aki.
  • Takayasu – You did not choke in your first Ozeki basho. Rest up that pulled groin and bask in the fact that your peers are both kadoban.
  • Tochiozan – Not sure where that came from, but please, can we have more of this version of Tochiozan? He’s great. Calm, calculating, patient. He dismantles his opponents methodically.
  • Onosho – Two basho in makuuchi, two 10 win results. That’s big stuff. Get in line behind Aoiyama at Aki, you get to play with the big guns.
  • Ura – Yeah, you ended up with a make-koshi, but you survived a trip through the upper ranks without doing too poorly, and you got your first kinboshi. Excellent work expanded your sumo repertoire! Go heal up that knee and come back healthy.
  • Tochinoshin – When your healthy, you can really unleash some great sumo. It was great to see you genki again. I just know you are one more tweak to that knee away from being a breath away from intai.
  • Nishikigi – Never give up, never surrender. Fighting spirit like yours makes the sumo world go ’round!

Losers

  • Goeido – Kadoban again? You won Aki 2016 in a clean sweep! You are a fantastic Ozeki when you are in your groove, but it’s getting harder for you to find that groove.
  • Kakuryu – The YDC is talking about Aki being your last chance. It had to happen some time, please get well soon.
  • Terunofuji – I hope you did not damage that freshly repaired knee. Sumo needs you big kaiju.
  • Kisenosato – No, you can’t “naturally” heal a torn pectoral. Get your giant self to a surgery and get rebuilt.
  • Okinoumi – I wish there were some way you could get that painful injury repaired without retiring from sumo.
  • Gagamaru – Again we ask, “what are you doing in Makuuchi?”
  • Ikioi – Everyone wants you strong and ready to fight. Do you have one last run in you?
  • Kotoyuki – Either you get healed up, or you fade away. The modern sumo schedule is brutal, and it’s tearing you apart.
  • Kotoshogiku – You continue to fade, your spirit is strong but your body is failing your sumo. You make me sad now to watch you fight.

Thanks to all the readers who gave us yet another record breaking month. We are eternally thankful for you spending part of your day with us, and we hope you tell your friends and family about the joy of sumo. Onward to Aki!

Sumo forum

A very short post while we are dealing with sumo withdrawal symptoms 🙂 I’m guessing many regular readers of Tachiai are aware of the sumo forum. For those who are not, I’d like to draw their attention to this masterful update on likely post-Nagoya promotions and demotions by our frequent commenter Asashosakari. This is the latest in a must-read series of posts during the latter stages of each basho.

 

Nagoya senshuraku update (spoilers)

Yesterday, I previewed the rikishi who had something to fight for on the last day. How did they do?

Hakuho: never a doubt! How did he ever lose to Mitakeumi?

Goeido, desperate for a win, was easily handled by “no gifts” Takayasu, who finally had his game face on again.

Tamawashi, desperate for a win, also seems to have lost his mojo, and will drop from his Sekiwake rank after 4 basho, and possibly (likely?) out of san’yaku altogether. He lost to Tochiozan, who should by all rights find himself in san’yaku, but as discussed in my previous post, there’s quite a logjam.

Mitakeumi beat Onosho in the battle for a special prize. Mitakeumi moves over to the East side, and Onosho joins the joi.

Aoiyama did what he needed to do, but so did Hakuho. If the schedulers have a sense of humor, these two will face each other on day 1 at Aki. Aoiyama joins the san’yaku hopefuls logjam. Yoshikaze is guaranteed a san’yaku slot, along with Mitakeumi, and most probably moves up to Sekiwake.

Tochinoshin’s loss may improbably keep him out of san’yaku despite an extremely impressive tournament at M2. Ichinojo reverted to poor form and missed a golden opportunity to move up from the mid-maegashira ranks. Ura broke his losing streak and should more or less keep his rank. M10e Chiyotairyu and M10w Shohozan both improved to 10-5 and will float way up the banzuke. Finally, Tokushoryu lost the “winner stays in Makuuchi” playoff to Nishikigi.

First peek at the likely Aki banzuke

This assumes no retirements.

Yokozuna ranks: no change. Hakuho 1e, Harumafuji 1w, Kisenosato 2e, Kakaryu 2w.

Ozeki ranks: “No gifts” Takayasu 1e, kadoban twin #1 Goeido 1w, kadoban twin #2 Terunofuji 2e.

Sekiwake: special prize winner Mitakeumi 1e, “extracurriculars” Yoshikaze 1w.

Komusubi: Tochiozan 1e/ “The Mountain” Aoiyama 1w.

I don’t think they’ll do it, but by the numbers alone, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Tochiozan to jump over Yoshikaze for the Sekiwake slot.

Conveniently, there are exactly 5 good candidates to round out the “joi for sure” ranks, M1e-M3e: Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, KotoshogikuHokutofuji, and Onosho. Yes, I do see Tamawashi falling all the way out of san’yaku alongside Kotoshogiku. Tochiozan and Aoiyama’s cases for promotion are just too strong to ignore. This is certainly controversial, as 7-8 Sekiwake have tended to only be demoted to Komusubi. So is jumping Tochiozan and Aoiyama ahead of Tochinoshin, who accumulated a less shiny record against a much tougher schedule. Will there be one open san’yaku slot or two, and who will fill them? This is much less straightforward for Aki than it usually is, and the banzuke may be less “by the numbers.”

From there, it’s slim pickings, with the next 3, quite likely to be pressed into at least some joi duty again given recent history, being Chiyotairyu and Shohozan, all the way up from M10, and everyone’s favorite new face, Ura, probably just moving over to the West side at M4w.

Down at the other end of the banzuke, Kaisei will be back in Makuuchi, and may jump as high as M12. He should be joined by Yutakayama, Asanoyama, and Myogiryu, with Aminishiki just missing out on promotion, who should be joined at the top of Juryo by the yusho winner Daiamami. I’m looking forward to Asanoyama’s Makuuchi debut. Dropping down to Juryo to make room should be Tokushoryu, Sokokurai, Kotoyuki, and  Gagamaru.

I’ll post full banzuke predictions for Makuuchi and Juryo as we get closer to Aki.

Nagoya Final Day Preview

Aoiyama2

It’s the last day of sumo until September, and frankly the Nagoya basho has been a lot of fun. As a fan, the unpredictable nature of this basho has kept me focused and looking for the next turn and twist on the road to the end. The road to the yusho has been rather straight the entire time. It’s been all Hakuho. I know that NHK and some in the press are attempting to fan the remote possibility that Aoiyama would challenge on the final day, it will come to naught. I am looking for Yokozuna Hakuho to once again lift the Emperor’s Cup just before I wake for my Sunday.

Even though the yusho is more or less settled, day 15 still has heaps of critical matches, as some rather important rikishi still battle to finish Nagoya with a winning record. This includes:

  • Goeido – I am sure he would rather not be kadoban again, so he must defeat Takayasu. Takayasu looks injured and distracted, so I am giving him better than even odds if he can boot up on 2.0 mode Sunday.
  • Tamawashi – His Sekiwake rank at stake, he needs to defeat a really strong Tochiozan. I am looking for Tochiozan to once again be calm, measured and methodical. This should be a really good match.
  • Daishomaru – They give him Maegashira 1 Takakeisho for the final day, so he really needs to work for this kachi-koshi.
  • Ichinojo (and Sadanoumi) – The schedulers seem to love doing this. Take two rikishi who are 7-7 the final day and make them fight for the winning record. Only one of these guys can get it.
  • Nishikigi – Readers will note I have been following Nishikigi closely the entire basho, as I think his struggle to re-affix himself to Makuuchi is a compelling story.
  • Arawashi – Also left begging on the final day. I do hope he can make it. His opponent is the already deeply maki-koshi Okinoumi

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Hakuho
Bulgarian In Waiting – Aoiyama

What We Are Watching Day 15

Tokushoryu vs Nishikigi – Last chance for Nishikigi to pull this one out and stay in Makuuchi for the September basho. Tokushoryu has had a lousy basho but is probably safe in Makuuchi even with a 11th loss.

Ichinojo vs Sadanoumi – A very Darwin battle – Loser gets demoted and the winner gets promoted. If Sadanoumi loses, he faces a real chance of being sent back to Juryo. Brutal.

Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – The schedulers finally give Aoiyama a tough match. Hopefully Yoshikaze will give him a vigorous battle. In the past, an effective combat (but disgusting) strategy has been to grab a handful of man-boob and start shoving.

Tamawashi vs Tochiozan – Will Tochiozan do Tamawashi any favors? Tamawashi really likes his san’yaku slot, but Tochiozan as never been afraid to run up the score. I am going to guess these two battle it out for real, and Tochiozan has a career 9-2 advantage over Tamawashi.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Goeido really needs this one, and he has the advantage of fighting an Ozeki that has seemed injured and a bit off his sumo. But historically Takayasu leads 15-8 over their career. An Aki kadoban Goeido would be a terrible thing, because Terunofuji is already kadoban.

Hakuho vs Harumafuji – The big battle to end the basho. On the chance that Harumafuji wins and Aoiyama, there would be an playoff bout between Hakuho and Aoiyama immediately following the bow twirling ceremony. Should this rediculous stunt take place, it may end painfully for Aoiyama.

Nagoya—what’s on the line on senshuraku

One day left!

Hakuho wins his 39th yusho with a win over Harumafuji, an Aoiyama loss, or a playoff win over Aoiyama.

Harumafuji is playing spoiler/fighting for Yokozuna pride.

Goeido is facing Takayasu with kadoban status on the line. Will Takayasu take it easy, or fight for Ozeki pride?

Tamawashi faces Tochiozan with his Sekiwake rank on the line. Tochiozan is first in line for the Komusubi slot vacated by Kotoshogiku but needs a win to lock it down, so there’s plenty of incentive on both sides.

Mitakeumi faces Onosho. Not too much on the line for either guy: Mitakeumi has defended his Sekiwake rank, isn’t starting an Ozeki run, and can at best move to the East side. Onosho probably can’t jump Tochiozan, Tochinoshin, and Aoiyama for a san’yaku slot, and may have already have locked down a special prize for the second basho in a row. Still, I expect a spirited battle between these two.

Aoiyama finally draws a real opponent in Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze has defended his Komusubi rank, and should move up to Sekiwake with a Tamawashi loss. Aoiyama will likely be at M1 in Aki win or lose, but obviously has lots of incentive to win.

If Tamawashi loses, he may drop all the way out of san’yaku, with Yoshikaze taking his place and opening up a second Komusubi slot. This slot would be Tochinoshin’s to lose, although Aoiyama is a contender win a win.

Kotoshogiku will complete his fall into the upper maegashira ranks, if he doesn’t retire. Of those not already mentioned, only Hokutofuji has earned a place in the joi. This still leaves some upper maegashira ranks to fill, and the best contenders are Ura (despite the losing streak), Ichinojo (who can still get his kachi koshi against Sadanoumi tomorrow), Chiyotairyu, and Shohozan.

Sokokurai looks Juryo-bound, with Asanoyama and Yutakayama currently on track to join Kaisei in promotion to Makuuchi. Tokushoryu and Nishikigi are on the bubble, and fight each other, with Myogiryu and Aminishiki vying to displace the loser in Makuuchi. How cool would it be to see Aminishiki back in the top division at age 38, after more than a year in Juryo?

Nagoya Day 14 Highlights

Takayasu-Harumafuji

It has been a rough morning in Castle Bermondsey, so I do beg forgiveness in being tardy with the update. Many of you will have seen the NHK highlight reel by now. For whatever reasons there seems to be a desire to keep Hakuho from claiming the yusho outright by now. I say this because Aoiyama has had a ridiculously easy schedule. Don’t get me wrong, he still won all of those matches fair and square. But compare this to some prior basho where anyone outside of san’yaku who was close to the leader group was given increasingly difficult matches until they fell away.

For example, you have a Maegashira 8 (Aoiyama) who is on a hot streak. So who does he get for day 14? A Komusubi? An Ozeki? Nah, lets pit him against a Maegashra 12. So there remains an outside tiny chance that Hakuho will lose to Harumafuji on day 15, and we will see The Boss square off against Aoiyama. Followed by several minutes of slow motion replay of Aoiyama’s pendulous man-mammaries swinging wildly as Hakuho batters his up and down the dohyo for sport.

In other news, Ura is now make-koshi, and it is for the best. He has many fans, and they seem to love their little wizard – he is lovable. But he was always going to go make-koshi the first time he faced the san’yaku battle fleet. In the grand scheme of things that would have been Aki, but due to injuries it was at Nagoya. He will come to rest down the banzuke, and with any luck be dominant down there and have a chance to not do further damage to that banged up knee. Trust me when I say, Ura will be back.

Selected Matches Day 14

Chiyonokuni defeats Sokokurai – Chiyonokuni’s rally is a great story coming out of Nagoya. After his turn in the meat grinder as Maegashira 1 during Natsu, he seemed to have started Nagoya down and unfocused. He was able to get his sumo together and return as strong as in the past, and lock down a winning record. Chiyonokuni is another rikishi we will likely see more good things from in the future.

Hokutofuji defeats Ishiura – Hokutofuji picks up kachi-koshi and will be a rank or two higher in Tokyo come September.

Onosho defeats Yoshikaze – Special prize for Onosho, I will predict. That would be two in a row for his first two Makuuchi basho. Yoshikaze looked like he was not quite fully spun up, and Onosho executed well.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – The big Georgain consigns Ojisan Kotoshogiku’s san’yaku rank to the past. Really nice execution by Tochinoshin in this match. His return to good form is a welcome development.

Tochiozan defeats Mitakeumi – No Ozeki run starting for Mitakeumi, there is always next time, but he will get to keep his Sekiwake rank. Tochiozan once again looked calm and worked his attack plan expertly.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Goeido must beat Takayasu on day 15 to avoid the probationary kadoban status.

Harumafuji defeats Takayasu – Harumafuji once again deploys a tottari. Takayasu ends up looking even more hurt. This basho has really knocked him around, and I hope he gets a chance to heal up.

Nagoya Day 14 Preview

dohyo-iri-nagoya13

Special Prize Contenders

Two more days of sumo until September, and the upcoming Aki banzuke promises to be a mad re-shuffle. But before everyone heads off to summer jungyo and awaits their next ranking, the final stanzas of Nagoya will play out. One thing yet to be revealed – the special prize winners. Below are some of my guesses on who could be eligible.

  • Tochiozan – He has been on a huge roll this basho, and will finish with at least 10 wins. He has looked calm, strong and confident in every match, especially his crumpling of Ozeki Takayasu.
  • Aoiyama – While he has yet to fight anyone in the higher ranks, his 11+ wins for the basho are likely to attract the special prize judges. Even thought I think any final day play off with Hakuho is unlikely and ill advised, he will likely end the basho with the jun-yusho, and for a rank and file Maegashira, that’s a praiseworthy accomplishment.
  • Yoshikaze – When Yoshikaze is having a good basho, he is almost always in consideration for another special prize. The guy probably as a whole wall of his apartment with them. He will end with a 9+ win kachi-koshi from the very difficult Komusubi rank.
  • Onosho – The kid has the juice, no doubt about that. He has been consistently excellent, and he is headed for the joi-jin in September. The day 14 Yoshikaze / Onosho match result may decide which of them gets a special prize.
  • Tochinoshin – From the Maegashira 2 rank, he has defeated a Yokozuna, both Sekiwake and an Ozeki, plus will finish with kachi-koshi. This guy has been competing in spite of some really painful injuries, and this kind of record is a testament to his dedication to recover, and his love of the sport.

Nagoya Leader board

This is Hakuho’s basho to lose. The biggest threat is on the finally day, when he will face Harumafuji in the final match of the basho’s final day.

Leader – Hakuho
Chaser – Aoiyama
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Tochiozan

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Yoshikaze vs Onosho – I do strongly suspect the winner of this match will get the special prize nod. Onosho is going to be in the top 3 Maegashira ranks September, and it’s time to give him a taste of some of the rikishi he will face. A genki Yoshikaze is a great place to start, as he will discombobulate his opponent and then defeat them. Onosho has been quite resilient thus far, so I am keen to see how this goes. This the their first match.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – The Kyushu Bulldozer needs to pick up both day 14 and day 15 matches. His record against Tochinoshin os 23-4, so he has history on his side. But Tochinoshin is looking very strong this basho, and it may be down to the big Georgian to end Kotoshogiku’s san’yaku standing.

Tamawashi vs Ura – I am looking for Ura to be in defensive mode, and for this to be a fairly easy win for Tamawashi. I agree and approve of this strategy, as Ura’s make-koshi is a function of his schedule now, and the most important thing to take away from Nagoya now (for Ura) is a body that can be healed enough to compete in the Aki basho in 7 weeks.

Tochiozan vs Mitakeumi – Tochiozan has never beaten Mitakeumi. I am sure Mitakeumi would like to pick up at least one more win in order to punctuate his remaining at the rank of Sekiwake. This match has interest because Mitakeumi’s style is somewhat frantic, while Tochiozan has been very controlled and methodical.

Hakuho vs Goeido – Interesting because Goeido tends to do whacky stuff when he is desperate. And he is quite desperate now. Doing wacky stuff in a match with Hakuho can have unexpected and sometimes amazing results.

Takayasu vs Harumafuji – I expect Harumafuji to handle this without much too much fuss. I would like to see Takayasu at full throttle for this bout (and his Goeido match tomorrow), but he seems injured, stiff and off his sumo.

Nagoya—who’s fighting for what with 2 days to go

Here’s where we are after day 13.

Hakuho still leads the yusho race with one loss. Aoiyama, despite stepping out first, got the decision today and is one loss back. Inexplicably, the schedulers have not brought him up to fight tougher opposition on day 14—he gets M12 Takekaze. Harumafuji and Tochiozan are still mathematically in it with 3 losses each.

Goeido still needs a win to avoid kadoban status, though with the way Takayasu is fighting, this now seems easier than it did a couple of days ago. Takayasu seems happy to rest on his kachi koshi.

Tamawashi is in real trouble, and needs to win out to stay at Sekiwake. Ura in his current state shouldn’t be too much of a challenge tomorrow, though he’s nothing if not unpredictable. The day 15 opponent (Tochiozan?) should provide a stiffer challenge.

Mitakeumi now needs to win out (again Tochiozan tomorrow and perhaps Onosho Sunday) to barely initiate an Ozeki run.

Yoshikaze needs to win out to control his destiny for a Sekiwake slot without having to depend on Tamawashi losing. He has Onosho and (likely) Ura.

Kotoshogiku needs to win out to stay in san’yaku; Tochinoshin should pose a stiff challenge tomorrow, as would Hokutofuji on Sunday.

If a san’yaku slot or two open up, Tochiozan is in the pole position, followed by Tochinoshin and Aoiyama, with Hokutofuhi and Onosho within striking distance. Other than these 5, it’s slim pickings for the upper maegashira ranks at Aki; amazingly, the M10 pair of Chiotairyu and Shohozan are the next-highest-ranked rikishi to make kachi koshi or even have a winning record, although Ura, Ichinojo, and Ishiura can still get there by winning out.

Kotoyuki and Gagamaru are headed down to Juryo, Kaisei is headed back up, and as of now Asanoyama would join him. Several others down in Juryo may end up promotion-worthy, but will slots be opened up for them through demotion? Sokokurai probably needs to win out to avoid demotion, and Tokushoryu, Okinoumi, and Nishikigi probably need a win; none have easy match-ups on day 14.