Kyushu Day 6 Highlights

My thanks to the rest of Team Tachiai for covering the dailies for me while I was traveling the US drumming up business for my day job. I really enjoyed reading the rest of the teams views on the matches, and your comments.

On this tournament (which I hope to write more on this theme later today), I can only say “what the hell?” The top division for the Kyushu Basho has many aspects of what we have gotten used to seeing in Juryo, where everyone has middling records, and on any given day your favorite is just as likely to disappoint you as to carry the day. Even most of the wins are not necessarily what I would call “Good Sumo”. I assume that everyone is putting in what they have, but damn this is some weak honbasho. That being said, it’s the best damn sumo tournament I am going to watch this November, so I am in for the long haul.

My bright spot is that in Juryo, Ikioi is still undefeated, and may in fact be rolling his way back to the top division for New Years.

Highlight Matches

Kagayaki defeats Daishoho – At least it was easy to tell you were in bizzaro world for day 6. We had Kagayaki change up to yotsu-zumo when he grabbed Daishoho’s mawashi and won. It was like going to a fancy Christmas dinner and finding the desert was clam and gouda ice cream.

Takanosho defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi went for his expected battle-hug, but generated less than expected forward pressure, and really only put up a token fight against Takanosho.

Daishomaru defeats Chiyotairyu – A failure to launch properly resulted in the head shimpan directing a “do-over”, where Daishomaru met Chiyotairyu’s tachiai and shifted. Chiyotairyu was never quite on balance again, and got too far forward. Easy thrust down for Daishomaru.

Shimanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – This match was little more than Shimanoumi chasing Terutsuyoshi around the dohyo while Terutsuyoshi tried to figure out what to do to reverse his fortune. That did not happen, Shimanoumi caught him and swung him to the clay.

Chiyomaru defeats Shodai – Uncharacteristic fire from Chiyomaru the past couple of days, he gave Shodai’s neck a proper flexing, which kept Shodai quite high. A flurry of tsuppari to Shodai’s shoulders, followed by a dive for Shodai’s exposed chest ended the match.

Ishiura defeats Yutakayama – Ishiura changes his mawashi color to a nice army green, and honestly it did seem to change his attitude. A bit of a Hakuho style face slap at the tachiai? It seems to get Yutakayama fired up, but the match ends with a monoii, and a rematch. Ok, who did not see a henka coming from a mile away for the rematch? Yutakayama, that’s who. It was not a complete henka, but a hit and shift, and it was brilliantly done.

Kotoshogiku defeats Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho attempts to shift to his left at the tachiai, but Kotoshogiku read this perfectly and follows. Now Kotoshogiku has solid foot placement, and Tsurugisho is still trying to move. The Kyushu Bulldozer catches him across the chest and drives forward for the win. Experience carried the day for Kotoshogiku.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – Onosho drove hard at the tachiai into Sadanoumi’s chest, an unusual move for the man in red. Sadanoumi obliges by latching a commanding mawashi grip and setting up a throw which falls apart when Onosho, through some miracle, has his weight centered over the arches of his feet and is in proper defensive position. Sadanoumi re-establishes his grip, but… so does Onosho? Onosho’s overwhelming strength kicks in, and even Sadanoumi’s superior grip can’t save him as Onosho pushes ahead and wins. Hey, Onosho – brilliantly done. Expand on that one, I think it will take you far.

Shohozan defeats Enho – Another chapter in the WTF annals of Kyushu 2019. Enho goes for the henka, but Shohozan recovers his balance masterfully. They battle for a moment before Shohozan reaches over Enho’s shoulders to grab his mawashi, and forces Enho to the clay. Well – Enho does the splits and loses when his… well.. groin touches down. I am sure at this moment the sumo world is struggling for a kimarite, allow me to suggestion chinponage? If you see Enho’s face just after he’s down, there is a look of surprised amusement, I concur.

Ryuden defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko tried to pull straight out of the tachiai, and had no forward pressure against Ryuden’s advance. Not sure what happened to Kotoeko, but that was terrible.

Aoiyama defeats Okinoumi – Big Dan fires up the V-Twin for just a moment and that’s all it took to send Okinoumi out.

Abi defeats Daieisho – I am going to start hoping that Abi has put the distraction of the social media ban behind him and is back to Abi-zumo form. He certainly looked frantic, intense and unstoppable. Daieisho had all the composure and offense-oriented sumo of a man caught in an industrial dough kneading machine, as Abi’s long arms repeatedly slammed into his neck.

Hokutofuji defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki held the advantage at the start of this match, and masterfully blunted and deflected everything Hokutofuji tried. But Hokutofuji did manage to land a hand on Kotoyuki’s right arm and pull him forward, rolling him to the clay and giving him a long overdue visit to the zabuton section.

Endo defeats Asanoyama – Endo once again shows why he referred to as a master technician. While Asanoyama brought brawn and energy into the match, Endo had a plan. As Asanoyama was pushing forward following the tachiai, Endo traded dohyo space for a grip change, and that was all it took to set his favored throw. Asanoyama realized a fraction of a second too late that he had been out-maneuvered, and down he went. There are days when Endo is wonderful to watch, and I hope Asanoyama gains experience from this loss, as Endo has much to teach.

Takarafuji defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is way off form. It’s still the first week, and normally he is still full of energy and fight. But that bang he took to the head earlier seems to have have robbed him of enough of his sumo that he’s kind of an easy mark right now. With the absolute chaos in the Ozeki ranks right now, this would be his best shot probably ever to run up the score. But Mitakeumi is just not healthy right now.

Tamawashi defeats Takakeisho – Speaking of not healthy, Ozeki Takakeisho just is not even close to his normal level of genki. It’s great to see the master disruptor, Tamawashi, completely hash the tadpole, but I have to hope that Takakeisho is not compounding that chest muscle tear at this point. Takakeisho’s balance is off, his power is way down, and we have yet to see him really execute a coordinated attack.

Myogiryu defeats Takayasu – Myogiryu has a track record of beating Takayasu that goes back years, but today’s drubbing was especially uncomfortable to watch. We know that Takayasu’s left arm is useless right now, but today’s match saw Takayasu having almost zero offensive pressure, and absolutely terrible body position.

Hakuho defeats Meisie – We nearly get a second chinponage today as Meisie looses traction and finds himself doing the splits. Odd and awkward match to end a somewhat puzzling day of sumo. Unless Hakuho hurts himself, there is no way anyone’s sumo this November is going to even pose a real challenge for him.

Kyushu Day 5 Highlights

Daishomaru defeated Terutsuyoshi. This was a quick one. After a decent tachiai, Terutsuyoshi circled the larger Daishomaru and seemed to lose his ring presence as his left foot landed on the tawara. From there a modest shove from Daishomaru was all that was needed for the win. Oshidashi.

Kagayaki fusen win over Wakatakakage.

Takanosho defeated Daishoho. After the tachiai, Takanosho got in low under Daishoho’s attack, brushed his arm away while securing a morozashi, and drove forward…almost through the gyoji. Yorikiri.

Chiyotairyu defeated Nishikigi. This bout was all Chiyotairyu tsuppari. Nishikigi tried an early shoulder blast to no effect. Chiyotairyu responded with some wave action tsuppari and thrust Nishikigi off the dohyo. Tsukidashi.

Chiyomaru defeated Ishiura. Ishiura’s hit and shift on the tachiai was well snuffed out by the Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru did not over-commit to moving forward so when Ishiura moved to Chiyomaru’s right, Maru drove the Miyagino beya man over the bales, giving no room for Ishiura to get a belt grip or mount an offense. Oshidashi.

Kotoshogiku defeated Shodai. Shodai allowed Kotoshogiku to play his game from the outset. Giku was able to get inside and wrap up the tournament leader and drive forward through Shodai. Yorikiri. Giku didn’t even launch much of his jack-rabbit gabburi attack. With the loss utter capitulation, Shodai ended West’s streak of victories and fell off the top of the leaderboard and into the mix at 4-1 while Kotoshogiku picked up his first win.

Sadanoumi defeated Shimanoumi. Shimanoumi had a stronger tachiai, driving Sadanoumi back. However, Sadanoumi secures a solid left hand belt grip. While Shimanoumi launched his attack, Sadanoumi powered through with that belt grip and picked up his third win. Yorikiri.

Yutakayama defeated Shohozan. Shohozan tried to move around Yutakayama to get a right-hand grip of green mawashi. The mountain successfully defended, however, and firmly locked onto Shohozan’s right arm, spun him around and then thrust him out of the ring. Tsukidashi. Yutakayama joined Shodai with a share of the lead at 4-1.

Kotoeko defeated Tsurugisho. Kotoeko rose up straight to greet Tsurugisho’s tachiai, and received a hail of tsuppari as punishment for such a weak start. Kotoeko circled under the barrage and Tsurugisho surprisingly couldn’t keep up. He took a knee in the middle of the dohyo under what I thought was a rather light, instinctive deflection from the lavender mawashi. Hatakikomi.

Enho defeated Aoiyama. Enho shifted to his right at the tachiai, hiding on the dark side of Aoiyama. All I could see for a while was a load of Aoiyama haymakers raining down on something on the other side. Thankfully, Enho rotated slightly in time to see that one of Aoiyama’s thrusts nearly shoved Enho down but he recovered and with a subtle shift and pull of his own was able to pull Aoiyama off balance and onto all fours. Hikiotoshi. Enho now holds a share of the lead at 4-1 while Aoiyama picked up his second loss.

Onosho defeated Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki unleashed a torrent of blows to Onosho’s face, forcing his head up and back. He then pulled for a hatakikomi attempt but Onosho was all over it. He knew what was coming, locked on target with a tractor beam and helped Kotoyuki’s own momentum carry him off the playing surface. Oshidashi.

Tamawashi defeated Ryuden. I want to know what aroma therapy Ryuden has in that bright red towel. Hopefully he can change it to something more effective against oshi-zumo, though. Ryuden tried, rather meekly, to get a left-hand grip but Tamawashi’s battering kept him away. Ryuden attempted to launch his own oshi-attack but Tamawashi piled on the pressure, and shoved Ryuden over the bales and into the crowd. Overwhelmed. Oshidashi.

Asanoyama defeated Hokutofuji. Asanoyama quickly wrapped up Hokutofuji at the tachiai. Hokutofuji seemed to want to have a leaning contest but his positioning after the tachiai was nowhere near the middle of the ring. His right foot was nearly on the tawara. If he wanted to have some long, drawn out belt battle, he’d need to work himself back to the center of the ring. From this position, however, Asanoyama was not going to ease off his attack. So while Hokutofuji leaned, Asanoyama applied more pressure, and forced him out. Yorikiri.

Abi defeated Endo. This was Abi’s match from the outset but his over exuberance nearly cost him. He wasn’t down for any of Endo’s head games and stare down, forcing the pair to reset. At the tachiai, he started battering Endo, whose half-hearted attempt to grab the mawashi was met with a hail of slaps. As Endo backed out, Abi stepped forward and nearly over the bales himself.

Daieisho fusen win over Tochinoshin. With Tochinoshin’s ozeki rank lost, there’s already talk of retirement but that’s premature. If he can take this break to recover, there’s no reason for retirement. Yes, he’s lost his ozeki rank but he likely has quite a while he could be effective as sekitori.

Okinoumi defeated Mitakeumi. Okinoumi pressured Mitakeumi after the tachiai with a vicious thrust to the face. Mitakeumi was forced back but worked his right arm around Okinoumi’s neck and into a headlock. He used the headlock to twist and try to throw Okinoumi but Okinoumi’s balance was superior. With the headlock attack, this kept Mitakeumi’s body positioned high. From Okinoumi’s lower center of gravity he was able to then effectively carry Mitakeumi across the ring and out, over the threshold. Yorikiri. Both men are 2-3.

Meisei defeated Takayasu. Meisei weathered everything Takayasu threw at him. Time and time again, Takayasu’s tsuppari would force Meisei to the edge but the Ozeki could never finish him off. Meisei would slip inside and back to the center of the ring, forcing the Ozeki to launch a new attack. Takayasu even tried a shoulder blast but that ended awkwardly with Takayasu’s back to Meisei. Takayasu then started a new attack and this time Meisei grabbed his left arm, putting his shoulder into a weird position and changing his direction, suddenly. This forced Takayasu to lose his balance, landing in a heap on the tawara. Kainahineri. Meisei joins the leadership pack at 4-1 while Takayasu falls to a disappointing 2-3.

Takarafuji defeated Takakeisho. Takakeisho was about to start some wave action but Slippin’ Jimmy slipped to the side and the T-Rex toppled over. Tsukiotoshi.

Hakuho defeated Myogiryu. Hakuho greeted Myogiryu with a quick shoulder blast and as he tried to tuck his left hand under for a belt grip, Myogiryu slapped his hand and backed away, retreating to the bales. As Hakuho pursued, Myogiryu lost his balance. Tsukiotoshi. Hakuho is back where he belongs, atop the group of leaders at 4-1.

Our thoughts go out to all those in Hong Kong and Chile. Stay safe.

Tochinoshin Withdraws From Kyushu Basho

As reported by Herouth on Twitter a short time ago

Former Ozeki Tochinoshin has withdrawn from the Kyushu Basho due to an injury to an abdominal muscle. This effectively ends his campaign to return to the rank of Ozeki, and his heartbreaking news for his fans world wide.

We wish him a successful recovery and a quick return to action.

Kyushu Day 5 Preview

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Incredibly, the Kyushu injury curse continues! Wakatakakage will be kyujo from Day 5, which means that we’ve lost one sekitori per day in addition to Ichinojo, who started the tournament on the sidelines. He has not been officially added to the NSK’s list at the time of writing, but if reports are true, injury has taken one of the co-leaders off the board (and handed a useful win to Kagayaki). It’s a good job these tournaments are only 15 days…

[Edited to add: Tochinoshin has now been pronounced kyujo as well with an abdominal injury. Apart from the extremely unlikely scenario in which he miraculously returns from Day 8 and wins out, this will end his attempt to reclaim his Ozeki status.]

What We’re Watching on Day 5

Terutsuyoshi vs Daishomaru – Daishomaru came with a game plan on Day 4 and he’ll need to show more of the same energy in his pushing attack against an undersized opponent in Terutsuyoshi. Both men are struggling a bit to find their best sumo, and the head to head is split one apiece.

Daishoho vs Takanosho – Woof.

Nishikigi vs Chiyotairyu – For me, Chiyotairyu was at his absolute best on Day 4. It was an unrelenting forward moving machine. He needs to avoid getting his arms locked up by Nishikigi in this match, which feels all about direction. If Chiyotairyu can go forward in a straight line from the tachiai, he’s got a great chance, but if Nishikigi can redirect him into lateral movement, the match will favour the Isenoumi man.

Ishiura vs Chiyomaru – Ishiura proved that it’s more about the size of the fight in the dog on Day 4. Interestingly he seems to do better against smaller opponents while miniature stablemate Enho claims to do better against the larger opponents. Ishiura is definitely not getting his arms around Chiyomaru’s belly so again it’s going to have to be mobility that gets used as a primary weapon here. And it seems to work: Ishiura has taken 8 of 12 from the Kokonoe man.

Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – It’s another Kyushu derby, as Fukuoka’s Kotoshogiku gets Kumamoto’s Shodai. There are contrasting fortunes here as the former Ozeki is winless, while a win for unbeaten Shodai would move him into sole possession of the lead. Shodai took more initiative than we’ve seen at the tachiai in the previous day’s fixture and it worked out well for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he reverts to type in this match as it will allow him a better grip on Kotoshogiku’s mawashi. The Sadogatake man hasn’t drawn a lot of luck in the fixture list so far, and I don’t think that will change here.

Sadanoumi vs Shimanoumi – Sadanoumi has won both the past matchups and appears to be yet again quietly putting together a nice tournament. Shimanoumi might be a tough character to move but after his impressive performance against Yutakayama, Sadanoumi will be coming into this match full of confidence. He’s won both prior matches against Shimanoumi.

Shohozan vs Yutakayama – Local fan favourite Shohozan has been at the peak of his powers in this tournament, running roughshod over the middle of the rank and file. I predict a riot in this encounter: after the frantic grapple and throw action on Day 4, I think he has recharged his harite and tsuppari machine. Yutakayama was really motoring along but the manner of his defeat on Day 4 means he will be open for examination here: was it just a blip or is he still coming to grips with routine opposition?

Tsurugisho vs Kotoeko – Tsurugisho seems to be adjusting well to top division life. Kotoeko seems a little bereft of confidence at the moment. This will be the 11th bout between the two, who have registered five shiroboshi apiece in their previous encounters. The form guide would indicate Tsurugisho to hold the best chance.

Aoiyama vs Enho – It’s a first time meeting of two rikishi with vastly different styles, builds and fanbases. I tend to be in the camp that thinks actually, Enho’s on a great career trajectory. That he hasn’t hit a huge 12 or 13 win tournament yet means that he’s slowly adapted to the higher quality of opponent, and he’s been tested gradually rather than getting thrown in at the top end and getting his confidence wrecked. He will still take his lumps from time to time, and there are few better to dole those out than Big Dan. I have a hard time thinking that Aoiyama is going to be able to keep up with Enho’s mobility and simply blast him out of the dohyo, so I think he reverts to the form that has served him well recently and tries a slap or pull down. Spare a thought for Enho, who is likely to try and bury his head in Aoiyama’s… well, let’s not mention it.

Onosho vs Kotoyuki – Here’s a matchup of two pusher-thrusters in rather different form. Kotoyuki has continued his impressive, forward moving, sumo. While there’s not much difference in their records this early on, it’s the manner of Onosho’s defeats that I would consider to be concerning. These guys have split their past matches one apiece, but Onosho’s win came in 2017 and both these guys are different animals now in terms of their genki level. This should be a very quick match, and one that presents Kotoyuki with a great chance to keep up his momentum.

Tamawashi vs Ryuden – I think Tamawashi has the beating of Ryuden in this match, as Ryuden has become a bit of a Tochinoshin-lite for me. While he has great heart, he doesn’t possess the dominating mawashi ability of the Georgian former-ish Ozeki, and he’s also susceptible to pusher-thrusters.

Hokutofuji vs Asanoyama – This has to be the highlight bout of the second half of activity. Both of these 3-1 men have a real legitimate shout at yusho contention and/or further san’yaku promotion in their current form. I loved that Asanoyama just shrugged off his bodyslam by Hakuho to come back and reel off another victory. Hokutofuji has been absolutely fearless, and similarly overcame an early defeat to the GOAT to put massive dents in Ozeki promotion and retention challenges from Mitakeumi and Takayasu. Surprisingly it’s only the 5th meeting (past matches have been split two apiece) of these two rikishi, and it could be a rivalry that takes centre stage over the coming years. Hokutofuji must keep up his speed off the tachiai: if he can establish his pushing attack early he has a real chance. But if Asanoyama is allowed any opportunity to pull him off balance with a slap or a mawashi grip, then the former yusho-winner will have a great shot himself.

Abi vs Endo – Both of these guys enter the match in disappointing form. Abi has been far short of his usual energetic self, and has displayed sloppy footwork over his opening matches. That would appear to hand the opportunity to Endo, an inconsistent technician with extremely sound ring sense. But Abi still has it in his locker to blow Endo away, which is going to rely on a storm of tsuppari straight from the tachiai. The longer this match goes the more likely the momentum shifts to Endo. Abi has a 5-2 edge in the rivalry.

Daieisho vs TochinoshinTochinoshin has done well to bounce back from an 0-2 start, and may feel he’s finding enough form to make his 10 win challenge to regain Ozeki status a reality. Daieisho is probably the worst opponent to run into at that moment, as the smaller pusher-thruster has won the past two from the Georgian (who leads 6-3 overall), has a style of sumo Tochinoshin typically finds it difficult to cope with these days, and is also fighting at the peak of his game to date. Even if he is the presumptive favourite on paper, a win here for Tochinoshin would go a long way to restoring the confidence that he can win at the top level. [Edited to add: there are unconfirmed reports at this stage that Tochinoshin may also be going kyujo, which would be incredibly significant as it would end his efforts to automatically regain Ozeki status. More to follow.][Edited again to add: Tochinoshin is now confirmed kyujo and will be set for significant demotion if as expected he does not return. Daieisho will get the fusen-sho victory and improve to 3-2.]

Mitakeumi vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi has had a really horrible fixture list so far, picking up only a fusen-sho in four days of action. But he can take a lot of heart from pushing Hakuho all the way in his previous match, and should be a tough customer for Mitakeumi. The Sekiwake has very little margin for error going forward in his Ozeki promotion push, having dropped another match he would have been expected to win to Daieisho. Okinoumi has won 2 from 3 against Mitakeumi, whose challenge here is to establish a strong pushing-thrusting attack from the off. While Mitakeumi’s all around game has improved immensely, he is not a match for the veteran on the mawashi and needs to tailor his attack appropriately here.

Meisei vs Takayasu – While the form guide would suggest we should be fearful for the Ozeki here, I think Takayasu has a good chance to win this. Meisei has really turned his game up several levels since the start of the Aki basho, but if you look at where Takayasu has been blown away in Fukuoka, they have been in matches against extreme pusher-thrusters: which Meisei is not. Meisei is a tenacious young rikishi who may be a san’yaku fixture for years to come… but I think unless he has lost all confidence, a one-armed Takayasu desperate for wins should be able to get the job done here.

Takakeisho vs Takarafuji – By this point, against a depleted field, Takakeisho probably expects to be in a yusho race no matter what. But the immediate aim is a healthy 8+ wins to retain his Ozeki status for the first time without falling back into kadoban. Takarafuji is probably a good opponent for him, as the defensive specialist needs to be able to actually get a hold of his opponent to stalemate them, and this is not an opportunity that Takekeisho typically affords to his opposition. I’ll tip another win for the Ozeki in this match, with the 3-1 Takakeisho leading their head-to-head rivalry 3-1.

Myogiryu vs Hakuho – Hakuho’s won 19 of 20 from Myogiryu, and the last 8 have all come via different kimarite. The Hakuho of old would be searching to try and win with another different move just to keep himself interested, but at this point in his career, any win that keeps him in the yusho race and on the dohyo will do. Hakuho was given a real mawashi battle by Okinoumi in the previous match, and he’d do well to start to stay away from his opponents’ strengths from now on. Myogiryu is a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none type, but his calling card is often – like his stablemate Goeido – his speedy attack from the tachiai. Don’t be surprised to see Hakuho deploy another harite off the mark here to blunt and divert that attack.