Natsu Day 14 Highlights

The-Boulder

Great day of sumo… Our operatives inside the Kokugikan report that the Great Cat himself was well pleased with today’s activities, and blessed sumo fans with some fantastic matches. Find a way to watch all of day 14.

Nagoya has enormous potential, given today’s results. I will discuss more in the day 15 preview. The Natsu yusho is for Kakuryu to lose now, and his sumo was absolutely amazing today. Many sumo fans had dismissed Kakuryu in the prior year, perhaps thinking he was lazy, or would rather not compete. His style of sumo is rather unique, and it’s quite difficult to watch at times. Many fans want to see an all out, guns blazing battle. Where the best attack wins. Sometimes, the best attack is not to try and overpower your opponent, but rather to keep your opponent from winning. It’s somewhat alien in western sports, but it’s amazing to see Kakuryu use it with such great effect.

In Juryo, we are indeed going to have a final day barnyard brawl for the yusho. There are 3 Juryo rikishi with 11 wins at the end of day 14: Onosho, Kotoeko and Tsurugisho. I urge you to find and watch Kotoeko’s day 14 match – because he is bringing that kind of sumo to Makuuchi in Nagoya.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Kyokutaisei – Ishiura wins doing actual sumo. This is noteworthy.

Aoiyama defeats Daiamami – A large man oshi-matsuri, with Aoiyama once again focusing on his opponents head. This is not really working for him, and then he decides, “Yeah, let’s put some force center-mass!”, and shifts to Daiamami’s chest. Hey! Look, out goes Daiamami! Aoiyama gets his 8th win and his kachi-koshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tochiozan – Chiyonokuni takes it to 11, and hands Tochiozan his make-koshi. I would guess we may see Chiyonokuni pick up a special prize, and that would be his first! If he can stay this genki, he is going to be a lot of fun in Nagoya.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu having a great basho, but Takakeisho seems to have snapped back into his sumo finally, and he’s on a mission. I am so eager now for Nagoya, as Takakeisho will be in the top half of the banzuke, Onosho will be back, and it’s going to be tadpole time.

Yoshikaze defeats Nishikigi – First match resulted in a monoii, and a re-match. Second match was a clear Yoshikaze win. It’s still possible for him to pick up a kachi-koshi on the final day, when his opponent will be Abi. That, dear readers, could be a wild and chaotic match.

Kagayaki defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama failed to get his kachi-koshi today, and will have to hope for a win on the final day. Kagayaki continues to execute solid, basic sumo, and has been winning with it. Any hopes Kagayaki has for double digits are going to be tempered by his final day bout against Chiyonokuni. Yikes!

Aminishiki defeats Ryuden – Ryuden (now 2-12) in a world of hurt with the Nagoya banzuke now, as Uncle Sumo uncorks some kind of magic genki sauce and blasts him out of the ring after some preliminary struggle. As always, the crowd in the Kokugikan goes nuts whenever Aminishiki is on the dohyo, and goes double nuts when he wins.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Sadanoumi somehow survives a really powerful osha-battle with Chiyomaru to pick up his kachi-koshi. To me it looks like Chiyomaru had a tough time getting into basho mode, and is struggling with his sumo. Maybe a bit too much mass from the bulbous one? Sadanoumi lands his 8th win and can take comfort in his kachi-koshi.

Shohozan defeats Daieisho – This one was another in a series of Shohozan brawls disguised as sumo matches. Both men were going for some kind of painful death grip on the other, and the winning move was a nicely executed watashikomi thigh trip. Shohozan can still finish kachi-koshi if he wins day 15.

Tamawashi defeats Ikioi – Tamawashi switches to freight-train / densha michi mode and runs Ikioi down the tracks, improving to 7-7 going into the final day.

Kotoshogiku defeats Kaisei – Kotoshogiku kachi-koshi!!! The two go chest to chest straight away, and the enormous mass of Kaisei is clearly near the limit for the Kyushu Bulldozer. But he revs up, engages his tracks and lowers his blade.

Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – What the hell Shodai? Again, his mechanics are abysmal, but his instincts are dead on. Big outcome of this match may be the fact that Shodai seems to have crushed Mitakeumi’s right ankle when they both went to cuddle the kita-kata shimpan.

Kakuryu defeats Tochinoshin – Watch this match, maybe a few times. Tochinoshin really puts a lot into this match, and Kakuryu does some of his best “Big K Sumo” ever. Kakuryu is a reactive sumo expert. His plan is to stalemate Tochinoshin until he makes some kind of mistake, and then use that mistake to finish him. Tochinoshin immediately goes to land his left, and Kakuryu shuts that down, opting for a palm to the face. Tochinoshin tries to go left again, and gets a bit of a grip, but Kakuryu shifts his hips and denies him leverage. Tochinoshin now has a double outside grip on Kakuryu’s loose mawashi, and can’t find a way to keep the Yokozuna from shifting around, robbing Tochinoshin of his ability to lift and shift (his primary weapon). Kakuryu is deep double inside, and leaning in at 45 degrees, stalemate for the Georgian Ozeki hopeful. Tochinoshin tries to pull out a leg trip, but Kakuryu is too far back for the trip, shifting his hips again as Tochinoshin is now dangerously unbalanced. Kakuryu advances, and Tochinoshin tries to pivot for a throw, further impeding his defensive stance, Kakuryu has his opening now, raises his foot and pops a trip against Tochinoshin’s left knee (the good one), and collapses the Georgian at the tawara. Holy smokes! What a match!

Ichinojo defeats Hakuho – Sumo fans could have ended their day with the Kakuryu v Tochinoshin match with satisfaction, but the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan had one last treat in store for us. The Boulder squared off against the dai-Yokozuna, but this was not the passive version of Ichinojo today. Huge, powerful and motivated, Hakuho, who is clearly not quite at full power, had his hands full with 500 pounds of pony tossing, ice cream eating behemoth. Hakuho unleashed a pair of his usually disruptive moves at the outset, but Ichinojo must have gone into the match with the intent to endure the Yokozuna’s initial attacks however he could. It seems he wanted to play a longer game. With Hakuho’s initial gambits exhausted, they spent a moment leaning chest to chest in the center of the dohyo. As Ichinojo moved to advance, Hakuho timed a weight shift to load a throw against Ichinojo. Ichinojo sensed the Yokozuna shifting for leverage, and took advantage of it, pivoting into the uwatenage as the Yokozuna went to the clay. Kokugikan erupts, cushions fly and it’s ice cream and ponies for everyone.

Natsu Day 14 Preview

Natsu Day 14

The scheduling committee was able to achieve their goal, but by unexpected means. With Hakuho unable to stop Tochinoshin’s zero loss march to the yusho, it came about from an unexpected source – Shodai. Easily one of the easy to overlook under performers, Shodai is both a disappointment and a well of potential at the same time. He is tenacious, large and earnest in his sumo. His mechanics are frequently terrible, and he shows a loose grasp of the fundamentals. But his instincts are solid.

With the match between Tochinoshin and Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 14, we will know who will get to battle it out of the yusho, and the yusho probably won’t be decided until possibly the final match on the final day. There are several paths that end in a three way or even 4 way barnyard brawl on the final day, with the winner the resulting playoff walking out there there with the hardware. Fortunately for folks in the US and much of the EU, this is a 3 day weekend, and if we indulge with an orgy of overnight or early morning sumo goodness, we can recover by the start of the work week.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leaders – Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Chaser – Hakuho
HunterChiyonokuni

*Edit by lksumo: Since 12-1 Kakuryu and 12-1 Tochinoshin face off tomorrow, and they can’t both lose, 10-3 Chiyonokuni is mathematically out, unless we get the following scenario dreamed up by Andy: “Double kyujo as they both stub their toes walking to Kokugikan.”

2 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Daiamami vs Aoiyama – The man-mountain is once again trying for his kachi-koshi, against the smaller and more mobile Daiamami.

Tochiozan vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni wants to keep winning to stay on the pace with the group at the top of the torikumi slugging it out for the yusho. There are some fringe scenarios that would have him possibly in contention if specific sequence of people win and lose over day 14 and 15.

Myogiryu vs Takakeisho – Both are already kachi-koshi, so this is a safe match in terms of their slots on the Nagoya banzuke. But it pits two fairly mobile but shorter rikishi against each other, separated by many spaces in the banzuke. With Myogiryu fighting as well as he has been the last week, this could be a fun and interesting match.

Yoshikaze vs Nishikigi – First time meeting between these two, Yoshkikze needs to win out to get a kachi-koshi. But our Berserker is looking like he’s just not feeling it right now. Nishikigi is shopping for additional boost points for the banzuke.

Asanoyama vs Kagayaki – Asanoyama comes into this needing one more win for his kochi-kochi, and he’s going up against Mr. Fundamentals. That means that Asanoyama is going to need to be sharp and crisp in his attack and defense moves to get past Kagayaki, whom he has never beaten.

Sadanoumi vs Chiyomaru – Sadanoumi needs one more win for kachi-koshi, facing already make-koshi Chiyomaru. The career record favors Chiyomaru 6-1, so Sadanoumi has his work cut out for him against “The Anchor”.

Tamawashi vs Ikioi – Tamawashi needs to win out to stake any kind of claim to a return to San’yaku for Nagoya, and he has Mr. “Can’t Stop – Shan’t Stop” in Ikioi. Tamawashi’s pugilist style may be the ticket to overwhelm an already injured Ikioi, who will likely be firmly in the joi for Nagoya.

Kotoshogiku vs Kaisei – To me this is possibly the most important match of the day. If Kotoshogiku can roll the Kaisei, he’s kachi-koshi, and with luck we will see a healthy Kotoshogiku do battle in the heat of Nagoya against all the top men of sumo. Kaisei struggled at the top of Maegashira, and I think will be more comfortable around Maegashira 7-5 in July.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – “Shodai the Unexpected”, “Shodai the Surpriser”, “Shodai the Unlikely”. Any way I try to put it, I find it tough to reason back through the prior 13 days and future out how we get to a kachi-koshi Shodai. Today he faces Mitakeumi, who in some ways is almost the same rikishi at times. Will he get Mitakeumi to step on a rake, as he has convinced so many of his opponents to do this tournament? Could Shodai be up for a special prize? I think I need to put more sake in the fridge…

Kakuryu vs Tochinoshin – Another pivotal match in the yusho race. This one sets in motion the selection between the various combinations that Herouth (and hopefully lksumo) are thinking through. I am fairly confident that Tochinoshin has his Ozeki bid wrapped, but he is still (in my opinion) the man to beat for the cup right now. Kakuryu leads their career series 21-2, with Kakuryu handing Tochinoshin one of his few losses on the way to his Hatsu yusho, and Tochinoshin handing Kakuryu one his few losses on his way to the Osaka yusho. This one is wound tight, and ready to snap!

Ichinojo vs Hakuho – Ichinojo needs one more win to hold on to Sekiwake, but I am going to guess he won’t find it on day 14. Even though Hakuho seems to be will be focused on “improving” his Ichinojo with an overwhelming match.

Natsu Day 13 Highlights

Kakuryu Day 13

I note with great enthusiasm that the Juryo yusho is coming down to a final weekend barnyard brawl of epic proportions. Even though I am greatly enjoying my beautiful TV Japan feed now, it sadly does not include Juryo that I must find some other way to watch. Tied with 10 wins each at the end of day 13 are: J1w Onosho, J2e Kotoeko, J4e Meisei and all the way down at J14e Tsurugisho.

The big news from day 13 is that Tochinoshin lost today against Shodai of all people. I have to credit Shodai for stalemating Tochinoshin’s attack, and for reading the right time to drop the big Georgian to the clay. With this loss, Day 14’s match against Kakuryu is more or less going to decide the yusho. A Kakuryu win would open the amazing possibility we could end day 15 with a 3-way 13-2 playoff between both Yokozuna and the presumptive shin-Ozeki. If you think I am going to stay up all night to watch that, should it unfold, you are right.

Highlight Matches

Takekaze defeats Asanoyama – Strange little match that ended when Asanoyama staggered towards the tawara and fell down. Kimarite was listed as hatakikomi, but looked more like a slippiotoshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Sadanoumi – My earlier assumption about Chiyonokuni is clearly wrong, and he keeps up the pressure. His win today saw him defuse a decent throw attempt by Sadanoumi.

Nishikigi defeats Daiamami – The survivor giving himself some breathing room for the Nagoya banzuke. This was a great yotsu match, with both men really giving it a lot of effort. This style of sumo favors Nishikigi, as his eyesight is rather poor, and when he had his opponent in a chest to chest position, it negates the problems with his eyes.

Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama’s superior reach stymied after the hit and bounce back tachiai. Aoiyama continued to land meaty blows to Takakeisho’s face, but it seems Takakeisho decided to endure it, and kept thrusting center-mass, as is his preferred technique. Aoiyama may have been enjoying himself to the point he did not notice that Takakeisho had him moving in reverse. Takakeisho kachi-koshi. Nagoya may be the revenge of the tadpoles.

Aminishiki defeats Okinoumi – Uncle sumo wins another, and he looked fairly good with this one. Aminishiki was known to be in less that optimal condition before the start of the basho, and his record is quite miserable. But it was good to see him use a somewhat rickety but effective uwatenage for a win.

Kagayaki defeats Myogiryu – Kagayaki racks up his kachi-koshi in a really solid win. Again I will state that this guy focuses on sumo fundamentals, and you can see great sumo from him almost any day. A bit more mass, a lot more muscle and a bit more seasoning and this guy is going to be a handful.

Kyokutaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze really is a half step or full step slower than he was a year ago. Kyokutaisei continues to look strong in his debut tournament.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru surged out strongly at the tachiai, and almost had Tochiozan out, but Tochiozan rallied, and Chiyomaru found it tough to do anything other than continuously back away. Tochiozan wins the match and is kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru is now make-koshi.

Abi defeats Takarafuji – Abi uses his preferred opening gambit once again, and it is only partially effective on Takarafuji, who keeps working inside. But even Takarafuji’s solid sumo fundamentals are breaking down due to Abi’s near ridiculous proportions. With Takarafuji applying pressure at the extreme end of Abi’s reach, Abi releases the pressure and lets Takarafuji fall.

Shohozan defeats Endo – This match was a running brawl that underscores just how poor the decision was to have Endo return. Shohozan can win out and still get kachi-koshi, Endo is headed south on the banzuke for Nagoya.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – They went yotsu right away, with Mitakeumi getting a double inside grip, but this is not normally a problem for Kotoshogiku. Fantastic battle of strength that featured Kotoshogiku disrupting Mitakeumi’s repeated attempts to finish him. I am going to guess Kotoshogiku’s knees are in better working order these days, and that’s nothing but a recipe for fun. The yorikiri came with Mitakeumi unleashing a Kotoshogiku style hip pumping attack. Nice match

Shodai defeats Tochinoshin – Shodai has been stumbling through his matches this tournament, and somehow he took down the presumptive shin-Ozeki. The key was blowing Tochinoshin’s repeated attempt at a grip, until he lunges forward to land his left, and Shodai backpedals with vigor, leaving Tochinoshin falling flat to the clay. This came as a huge surprise to everyone, but in general the crowd seemed to thing it was a wonderful thing. This loss opens the yusho race again, and it just gets crazy this weekend. Who would have though Shodai could do what Hakuho could not? Shodai kachi-koshi.

Hakuho defeats Ikioi – I am going to say it, The Boss is only about 80% right now. Who cares why. He’s still the dai-Yokozuna, and he’s still going into the final weekend with 11 wins. Ikioi once again looked solid, persistent and aggressive. This was harder for Hakuho than his fans would expect.

Kakuryu defeats Ichinojo – Big K now tied for the yusho, and the possibility that he could earn his goal of back-to-back yusho is now within reach. This match was a mawashi battle, with Kakuryu taking the fight to The Boulder on his own terms. Even though Ichinojo used the tawara to help make himself immobile, Kakuryu affirmed that he is the Yokozuna, and overcame. He faces Tochinoshin to possibly decide the Emperor’s cup tomorrow.

Natsu Day 11 Preview

Tochinoshin Raids The Vending Machine

Ready or not, here comes act 3! This is where we sort the winners from losers, and hand some hard-working rikishi the Emperor’s cup. Right now the cup is Tochinoshin’s to lose, and the only way this is competitive is if someone gets dirt on the undefeated man on an Ozeki run. That Ozeki run is looking more likely from a numbers standpoint. The only question so far is the “quality” of the wins.

Some fans and readers have very passionate positions on this, so I will mention up front that I am an armchair sumo fan living in Texas. I am not a member of the YDC, I don’t look like Colonel Sanders, and I have never been a holder of elder stock in the NSK. So my opinions count for exactly ZERO in the sumo world.

As I mentioned in the podcast, there is a means by which Tochinoshin might reach double digits, but be declared “not quite there yet” in terms of Ozeki. It all comes down to who he beats. He has yet to face any Ozeki this tournament (sorry, fresh out) or any Yokozuna (they are on the plan). But a shiroboshi from either of them would likely remove that as a possible criticism. Of course a yusho win would assure promotion.

I would also point out that to this date, Tochinoshin has never beaten Yokozuna Hakuho. Were he to accomplish that (and Tochinoshin is looking mighty genki right now), it would mark a turning point in both men’s careers, in my humble opinion. Tochinoshin is also 2-21 vs Yokozuna Kakuryu. One of those wins came last tournament, and was Kakuryu’s only loss. Clearly Tochinoshin as a big wall to climb, but I think at this point, he is at peak performance and more than ready to challenge the top men in the sport.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho
HunterChiyonokuni

5 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 11

Gagamaru vs Kyokutaisei – Planet Gagamaru orbits into Makuuchi for a day. He is already make-koshi so this match may just be some kind of battle-reunion for Kyokutaisei, who needs one more win for a kachi-koshi. Kyokutaisei holds a 4-2 career lead.

Nishikigi vs Hokutofuji – Honestly, what the hell sumo world. Hokutofuji is hopefully going to get completely checked out by a neuro-medicine specialist and cleared for combat before he returns to the dohyo. If the sumo world thought there was trouble with a medical incident on the dohyo during jungyo, let there be some poor fellow have a stroke, a seizure, and aneurism or even convulse and die right there on the dohyo. No amount of salt will purify it again. I want to see Nishikigi go kachi-koshi by fusensho, thanks.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Both men still within reach of a winning record for Natsu, both of them fairly evenly matched. Sadanoumi looked very good in his day 10 match against Arawashi, and Kagayaki looks like he might be losing focus / running out of steam. They are 4-3 career, with a slight edge to Sadanoumi.

Yoshikaze vs Tochiozan – Both of these storied veterans have seen better days, both come in in some state of disrepair. Both of them 5-5, both of them wanting to secure a winning record. For some fans, it’s kind of a tough match to watch. We hate to see our heroes fade.

Takakeisho vs Takarafuji – Takakeisho is starting to look a bit better as the tournament goes forward, and it’s a great time to pair him up against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is very careful, forceful and under control. Takakeisho, when he is on his sumo, is a rippling vortex of conflicting force vectors, most of which he is going to transmit through your body. I am eager to see what he does with the very stable Takarafuji. Takakeisho won both their prior matches, but Takakeisho is not quite up to full power.

Daishomaru vs Ikioi – Winner gets kachi-koshi. Ikioi has had a bit of a rough ride with Mitakeumi on day 10, but I think he is a good match for Daishomaru right now. Ikioi still seems to be very stiff, in pain and moving with difficulty every match.

Shohozan vs Abi – Shohozan has a pair of massive arms. But note they are actually a bit short. Abi on the other hand has shown just how useful his near cartoon like reach can be. This is underscored that Shohozan has yet to win a match from Abi. It’s just possible that Abi might go kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2, which would mean a second basho in the job for Abi, and frankly would further elevate his profile to his growing base of fans around the world.

Tamawashi vs Endo – Loser of this one make-koshi. Tamawashi and Endo are very evenly matched across the board, and this has the potential of being an outstanding bit of sumo. Tamawashi will try to stay mobile, and I would look for Endo to go for a shallow grip straight off the tachiai. He will take a couple of fierce blows to get his grip, but if he can hold, he will control the match.

Chiyotairyu vs Ichinojo – Day 10 saw Ichinojo once again summon overwhelming strength against Shodai. So much so that he seems to simply push Shodai away like an empty udon bowl that could no longer hold his interest. Chiyotairyu likes to win at the tachiai with speed, force and power. Frankly Ichinojo might actually feel that, or he may be focus solely on checking the crowd for wolves. History for the two of them is an even split of 2-2.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – Former Ozeki Kotoshogiku, aka the Kyushu Bulldozer, has a lot of frustration to discharge. He faces off against the man who would be Ozeki, who is looking like the strongest, most energetic man in sumo today. Kotoshogiku holds a 24-7 advantage over Tochinoshin, but in the last few tournaments, it’s been Tochinoshin who prevails. Tochinoshin will try to go chest to chest early, and that is just fine with Kotoshogiku. Kotoshogiku is looking stronger and healthier this tournament than he has in a while, so the hug-n-chug might actually overpower Tochinoshin. We know that Tochinoshin is strong enough to lift Kotoshogiku over his head and twirl him like a button, but Kotoshogiku has a surprising portion of his body weight below his mawashi, making his center of mass difficult to manipulate. This will either be a roaring match of the day, or a complete snooze fest. Double points if Tochinoshin pulls a henka.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Shodai is having a good basho, but Hakuho is getting himself amped up to stop Tochinoshin, and claim his 41st yusho. So Shodai is a bit of a warm up. But just a bit. There is that nagging problem of the one time Shodai beat him, so Hakuho will be on his guard, and hopefully not do anything too exotic just for the fun of it.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – Not really sure what to say here. Kakuryu and his henka on day 10 was a ridiculous surprise, which he beclowned himself. I am sure he has and will catch a lot of grief over that. He is 3-3 against Mitakeumi, who copes well with Kakuryu’s reactive style.

Natsu Day 10 Highlights

Nishikigi

Act 2 is over, and the yusho race is set for the final 5 days of the Natsu basho. The one goal for act 2 that remains un-obtained is handing Ozeki hopeful, and Hatsu yusho winner Tochinoshin his first loss. At this point he needs one more win to stake his claim to sumo’s second highest rank, and his day 11 opponent, Kotoshogiku, is unlikely to be up to the task of defeating him.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Myogiryu – In his first ever Makuuchi bout, Kotoeko attempts a henka, fails and finds himself chest to chest with Myogiryu. As they struggle for dominance, Myogiryu is moving backwards. Kotoeko finishes him with a rousing yoritaoshi, gaining his kachi-koshi, his first Makuuchi win, and his first kensho all in one brief moment.

Aminishiki defeats Asanoyama – Uncle Sumo picks up his second win of the tournament. Asanoyama took hold and marched forward, carrying a rather powerless Aminishiki towards the edge. A last minute throw at the tawara did not appear to work, and the gyoji gave the match to Asanoyama, but the judges call ad monoii, and reversed the decision. Replay showed some amazing footwork from Aminishiki, and he picked up the win.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyonokuni – In a shocker, the lowest Maegashira on the banzuke surprised a rikishi with a bonafide position on the leaderboard. Chiyonokuni is always very energetic, and he overwhelmed Nishikigi, who at times was staggering and off balance, but always quickly reset. Although he was absorbing most of Chiyonokuni’s offense, Nishikigi kept moving forward. Though the gumbai went to Chiyonokuni, a monoii confirmed that Nishikigi did in fact prevail. As mentioned many times, Nishikigi really wants to stay in the top division. That was some top division fighting spirit on display! Well done.

Takakeisho defeats Tochiozan – It’s a hope of mine that Takakeisho gets back into proper fighting form by Nagoya, and today’s match looked less stiff, wooden and robotic. Takakeisho, in spite of his bulbous torso, has a very natural and fluid element to his sumo. When he is using that fluidity, we see him win, and he makes it look easy and natural. This is also true of Hakuho, and even more so Enho. As stated at the start of the basho, the tadpoles are down, nursing their wounds, but will be back with fierce determination this summer. If Nagoya finds Takakeisho mid-Maegashira and Onosho lower Maegashira, the lower end of the torikumi may once again be the place with the best action.

Aoiyama defeats Yoshikaze – Every opponent goes for Yoshikaze’s face, and it’s kind of redundant. Yoshikaze fought back with strength, but there is just too much Aoiyama to slap out of the ring. Yoshikaze is certainly a half step slower than a couple of years ago, and I won’t be surprised to see him take up his kabu later this year.

Ryuden defeats Hokutofuji – A trio of false starts, the second featured Hokutofuji falling backward and receiving a strong knock to the back of his skull, which seems to have stunned and disoriented him. After the pre-bout injury, it was not too tough to win. Post match, Hokutofuji has trouble walking the hanamichi and into the tunnel. Hopefully an actual medical doctor checked him out. Concussions are not something you try to “heal naturally”.

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – Quite a scrappy match that results in Daieisho picking up his 3rd win, avoiding make-koshi. Takarafuji seems to have the skill and technique, I wonder if a bit of mass and 10% more power would carry him to greater rank.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – Notable in that this is Yutakayama’s first win of the Natsu basho. Chiyoshoma picked up his 8th loss and is now make-koshi.

Abi defeats Tamawashi – Wow! Ok, I have seen Abi do this a couple of times. He lifts both arms during the tachiai, connecting to his opponents shoulder and stopping their forward motion. Due to his long reach, his opponent is far short of a workable combat range, and is somewhat interrupted from their plan. Today, Abi pivoted and grabbed Tamawashi’s belt and rolled him out in one fluid motion.

Mitakeumi defeats Ikioi – Both of them came off the line in full battle mode, and it was glorious to see them fight for position and grip. Mitakeumi held the advantage, but Ikioi was conceding nothing. When Ikioi was able to switch from defense to offense, Mitakeumi deftly used Ikioi’s forward motion to thrust him down. I want to see what Ikioi can do when he’s healthy!

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Tochinoshin picks up his 10th win, and looks unstoppable. Today he proved that even the super-sized Chiyotairyu is not too heavy for him to lift and carry to the curb for trash day in Sumida-ku.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – Slow motion, Maezumo style tachiai today, which left me choking on my tea. After that it was all Ichinojo herding Shodai to the edge and giving him a strong shove.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Sadly my gastric problems continued as Kakuryu sold the henka and Kotoshogiku bought it. Once again I found myself sputtering on my morning tea. While Yokozuna wins via henka are not really the way things are supposed to go, this one was kind of over the top and almost comical. Of course Kotoshogiku found it un-amusing in the extreme, and the crowd in the Kokugikan were likewise disappointed.

Hakuho defeats Endo – That disappointment was short lived, as Endo gave the dai-Yokozuna a solid match. The tempo was fast, and Hokuho was on pure offense. Endo’s strategy was to stalemate the Yokozuna and wait for an opportunity to exploit for an upset win. It did not take Hakuho long to figure this out, and he switched his sumo to a more disruptive, staccato tempo, which lured Endo in for the attack. That was all Hakuho needed to get him turned around and shoved out from behind. Excellent sumo, and great to see not only Endo come in with a solid strategy, but fantastic to see Hakuho shift gears like that.

Natsu Day 10 Preview

IMG_3099-e1526791006270.jpg

Hello friends! The Natsu Day 8 live blog was a whole lot of fun, and I hope we were able to bring some of the flavor of live sumo to the site. I’m happy to report I’ll be back in action from Kokugikan on Day 10, my final day of live sumo for this tournament. But while this brings “Act 2” to a close, there’s still a whole lot of sumo to come, and plenty of storylines yet to develop as we reach the business end of the second week.

So, let’s get into it.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
ChasersKakuryu, Hakuho, Chiyonokuni
Hunt Group – Ikioi, Myogiryu

6 Matches Remain.

Day 9’s action certainly thinned out the “hunt group,” which should bring some clarity and focus to the scheduling we’re likely to see over the coming days.

What We Are Watching Day 10

Myogiryu vs Kotoeko – With Goeido having swapped places on the sidelines with Endo, Kotoeko gets called up from Juryo to make up the numbers and test his promotion mettle – not unlike Kyokutaisei, who was called up several times in March for experience which has clearly stood him in good stead. Myogiryu has looked surprisingly strong this basho, leads their lifetime matchup 2-0, and I would expect him to win here and grab the kachi-koshi he needs to solidify his place in Makuuchi.

Arawashi vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi got absolutely dismantled by Yoshikaze on Day 9, and that’s notable because Yoshikaze has not been “Mr. Feisty” in several months. None of Arawashi’s three wins have come against especially strong opponents this basho, and with both men really needing a win, it may come down to who wants it more.

Aminishiki vs Asanoyama – I think this is a big moment in Asanoyama’s development. He’s an affable man in the ring, but his great manners should not extend to respecting his elders here if he wants to take the next step. Aminishiki has been utterly broken this tournament, and his sumo can maybe best be described as “If Kakuryu didn’t work.” He will backpedal and try to hit the slap down. Asanoyama will need to show a killer instinct, put him away and take a big step towards that kachi-koshi.

Nishikigi vs Chiyonokuni – Similarly, Chiyonokuni at 8-1 has a glorious opportunity here to continue his run and hang around the yusho race while the other competitors are doing their business much further up the banzuke. Nishikigi has made a great go of it at M17 – a rank that won’t likely exist next basho – where he has no margin for error, but Chiyonokuni, who has never won more than 9 matches in Makuuchi, needs to continue to take advantage of the gift of kind scheduling he has been given.

Okinoumi vs Kyokutaisei – 5-4 Okinoumi did well on Day 9 to deal with a Ryuden who fought hard and was desperate to avoid his make-koshi. Here, he gets the 6-3 newcomer from Hokkaido who had an outstanding first week but has come a bit unstuck the last few days. The two have never met.

Tochiozan vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho has turned things around the past couple of days, and here he gets a veteran who was said to look in great shape before the basho but whose results have indicated something rather different. Again this is a step in Takakeisho’s development: he is facing the lowest ranked opponent of this basho by far, an opponent he has beaten 4 times in 5 tries, and in order to move up he needs to find his best sumo and put him away.

Daishomaru vs Takekaze – Daishomaru gets a breather after being banged around the last couple days higher up the banzuke with a visit to M14 Takekaze. We haven’t seen a whole lot of good sumo from the 4-5 veteran this tournament, so it’s an opportunity for 6-3 Daishomaru to get back on form. Takekaze leads the career series 6-3.

Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – Takakeisho must have really slapped some life into Yoshikaze with all of those roundhouses on Day 8 because Yoshikaze meant business on Day 9 against Sadanoumi and still didn’t look remotely satisfied with his win afterwards. You got the impression he was ready to do it two or three more times, he looked that angry afterwards. Aoiyama, at 4-5, is in fairly poor form this tournament and Yoshikaze leads the career matchup 11-8, but more likely that not, we’re going to see some sumo that won’t be easy on the eye here.

Ishiura vs Kagayaki – I tend to agree with Bruce and think Kagayaki’s ceiling may be Ozeki Kisenosato. On the other hand, the reason Kisenosato was such a great Ozeki is because of his consistency, and Kagayaki has found consistency difficult to come by. Ishiura is a real wild card. He’s attempting less henkas, and I don’t think he’ll deploy one against Kagayaki whose new found composure means he’s not as likely to fall for that trick. Ishiura is, however, desperate for wins to avoid demotion to Juryo, and though he leads the career series 6-3, Kagayaki has won 3 of the last 4 and is odds-on to seal the smaller man’s make-koshi here.

Ryuden vs Hokutofuji – Back to the drawing board for the 1-8 sumotori bobblehead Ryuden, after he huffed and puffed and still couldn’t escape the throw on Day 9. Hokutofuji should see this as a good opportunity to overcome yesterday’s blip and get back on form. Ryuden won their only prior match.

Daiamami vs Chiyomaru – Neither of these guys have been showing their best sumo this tournament. The winner will plant the penultimate nail in the loser’s make-koshi coffin. Daiamami leads the all time record 2-1 here, but I have a good feeling about Chiyomaru for this one.

Daieisho vs Takarafuji – Daieisho’s been knocked around on both occasions he’s entered the joi, and while there’s not a whole lot that anyone could do right now if faced with his Day 9 opponent Tochinoshin, I think he’ll still find it difficult against an opponent as technically gifted as Takarafuji. He’s having a solid tournament and will likely replace Daieisho in the joi next tournament. If Daieisho wants a good omen as he looks to stave off his make-koshi, it’s that he leads their head to head rivalry 2-1.

Chiyoshoma vs Yutakayama – Chiyoshoma (2-7) is just having an awful tournament, but Yutakayama has fought rather better than the goose egg after his name would indicate. If he can keep his fighting spirit and energy going, and avoid a flying henka or any other tricks that Chiyoshoma might bring to the party, he’s got a golden chance to open his account here.

Tamawashi vs Abi – In a year, Abi has supplanted Ura as the star entertainer among the up and coming Makuuchi rikishi. On the NHK broadcast earlier in the week, it was pointed out that Shikoroyama-oyakata had set him a target of 4 wins for this basho – but the man himself was gunning for the yusho! With the first target achieved and the second out of reach, he takes on a man who has perhaps been the benchmark for how to establish yourself as a pusher-thruster and live in this part of the banzuke over the past couple years. Neither man seems to have especially good traction with his feet at the moment, so we could be in for more of an ice skating competition in which someone gets slapped into a triple axle off the side of the dohyo.

Shohozan vs Kaisei – It’s been a brutal re-introduction to the upper ranks for Kaisei (2-7) after his brilliant Haru basho. Here he meets an opponent with whom he is more evenly matched after a rough first week. Big Guns Shohozan (3-6) is no pushover either, but these men have met 18 times and have split the bills right down the middle.

Mitakeumi vs Ikioi – Ikioi has played a blinder in the first week in his typical style of high-octane, full-throttle, heavy-metal sumo. But, having not faced anyone above M4 until now, the challenge will get considerably harder as he’s pulled up to face a resurgent Mitakeumi who holds a pristine 100% record over his taller opponent. Mitakeumi has still yet to face Kakuryu or Ichinojo, so with that in mind he’ll be looking to bank this one and take a step closer to rubber-stamping his return to the Sekiwake rank in Nagoya.

Tochinoshin vs Chiyotairyu – If you look up “genki” in the dictionary, you won’t find it. That’s because Tochinoshin got a left-hand outside grip on the page, ripped it out and ate it (along with one of the five packets of natto he apparently consumes daily). While we all eagerly await Tochinoshin vs Hakuho and Tochinoshin vs Kakuryu, he still has to take care of business for the next few days to make those matches matter. Which technique Chiyotairyu tries to take to defend himself from this and halt his losing streak will be interesting, but it’s likely to center around a momentus tachiai and trying at all costs to keep Tochinoshin’s hands off his mawashi. Even that may be of little use: their last meeting ended in Tochinoshin spinning him out for an easy okuridashi/rear push out.

Shodai vs Ichinojo – This may be the longest tachiai in history. Shodai made a decent go of it on Day 9 against Kakuryu, while Ichinojo is well rested from his fusen-sho win over Goeido. Shodai will know he has a shot at making it back to san’yaku with a strong finish, but Ichinojo is going to want to secure his kachi-koshi as soon as possible and establish himself at his rank so he can push on for an ozeki run later in the year. We could see a long match here between two mawashi fighters with the edge going to whoever’s mentally strong enough to take it.

Kakuryu vs Kotoshogiku – I felt Kotoshogiku was desperately unlucky against Hakuho on Day 9 and he may want to prove a point here and try and grab a kinboshi. In Kakuryu, who continues to move backwards, he’s certainly got a willing opponent for him to deploy his trademark hug-n-chug. Kotoshogiku has got to get his feet set however, because this has been his downfall in recent months. The technique is there but if Kakuryu senses he can get his man off balance, Kotoshogiku will get slapped to the floor. This will be their 49th match and Kakuryu holds a narrow 26-22 edge.

Endo vs Hakuho – It’s worth remembering Hakuho’s antics on the side of the dohyo, making an appeal for a matta that wasn’t given last November, when considering his bizarre win against Kotoshogiku yesterday. He didn’t need the luck to win that tournament, but he might now, and he may be in the luck for a second day in a row as he faces an Endo who makes his comeback from kyujo status, and who we’d written off as thoroughly injured. Hakuho owns this matchup (as he does most) by a 6-1 scoreline, as the Uncle Scrooge of kinboshi has gifted just the one gold star to the man in the gold mawashi. There’s no kinboshi at stake here of course, and probably little danger of an upset.

Natsu Day 7 Preview

Natsu Day 7

Welcome to the middle weekend of the Natsu basho! NHK is going live early Sunday morning for the last 50 minutes of Makuuchi, and Tachiai will be live-blogging all of Makuuchi in sympathy. If you are up in the middle of the night for some reason (any reason) feel free to follow along with us as we enjoy expanded coverage from NHK World. Depending on how well our tech works, we may have people contributing from inside the Kokugikan.

Take a look at the leaderboard below, like a massive wedge of swirling chaos, with Tochinoshin at its apex. For the scheduling crew, the goal is to get dirt on that Ozeki hopeful soon, blowing the yusho race wide open once more. There has been plenty of coverage of Abi’s kinboshi on Japanese news programs in the past 12 hours, and it’s fun to see someone like Abi who is so obviously having a good time really getting a chance to enjoy himself.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho, Shodai, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni, Kyokutaisei
Hunt Group – Ichinojo, Mitakeumi, Chiyotairyu, Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Asanoyama, Sadanoumi, Myogiryu

9 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Somewhat abbreviated tonight due to constraints of baby wrangling…

Tochiozan vs Kyokutaisei – First time meeting between these two, Kyokutaisei is coming in with the better record, and he seems to be an unknown quantity for most of the long-term rikishi. Given Tochiozan’s experience, I am sure he is going to put up a decent fight.

Aoiyama vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni has been fighting well, but both of these men love to beat the daylights out of their opponents. So I am going to predict a couple of haymakers and a flurry of frantic footwork.

Daishomaru vs Takakeisho – It came to me today as I was re-watching coverage. Right now Takakeisho is fighting like someone who is imitating Takakeisho’s sumo. It’s like some cheap knock-off, that you know is not legit but looks good enough. This has let me to worry that Takakeisho has been replaced with some bad replicant or Man-droid of some sort. Then it came to me that they are using Takakeisho to debut Goeido. They load their bug fixes into this unit to see if they work at all. Sumo is doomed.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyomaru – Hokutofuji holds a 3-0 career advantage over the bulbous one, and he could really use the win.

Yoshikaze vs Ikioi – A pair of banged up veterans who are struggling daily to overcome the pain, you have to feel for these two. Their career record is 7-7, so that means someone has to lose a finger if they fall off the dohyo.

Kotoshogiku vs Ryuden – First time meeting. Ryuden is having a terrible basho, and Kotoshogiku a good one. I am betting on some hug-n-chug delivery around 5:00 PM, just after the news break.

Mitakeumi vs Kaisei – Mitakeumi has never beaten Kaisei! This giant bulky Brazilian has some kind of magic spell over the tadpoles, it seems.

Shohozan vs Ichinojo – What changed in Ichinojo since day 3? Nothing, except the brain-meat that is holding him back. Hopefully he had a nice bucket of ice cream, story time with his favorite tossing pony and a nice nap where no wolves would get him.

Tochinoshin vs Endo – Feeling genki Endo? You are going to need to find a way to keep his left hand from finding its mark. Endo studies films of his opponents on many days, and if someone can figure out a way to blunt Tochinoshin, it’s going to be Endo.

Abi vs Goeido – Goeido is a fun little sumo bot. He’s fast when he wants to be, powerful when he cares to be, but he’s not very long in the arms or legs. I am going to guess he rockets off the shikiri-sen and tries to cannonball Abi out in the blink of an eye. But I predict that if he fails at that, the length of his appendages is going to confound the GoeidOS software, possibly causing him to reboot.

Chiyotairyu vs Hakuho – The boss had an off day on day 6, I am going to guess he comes back dialed in and looking for a way to vent his frustration. The one wrinkle in this plans will be the kami that inhabits Chiyotairyu’s sideburns. I suggest incense and purification at a shrine before arriving at the Kokugikan.

Kakuryu vs Yutakayama – Leave your predictions on which side Kakuryu will drop him from, and who he will land upon.

Natsu Day 5 Highlights

Endo-Badge

With Act 1 in the books now, we can start to look forward to Act 2, where we sort the strong from the struggling, and a lot of hopes and dreams get crushed. While it may seem brutal to put it that way, each basho is a clean slate, and each rikishi has a chance to be completely different than the time before, if they have the means to do so. I would say the biggest surprise for me thus far is Shodai. How or why Shodai is 5-0 at the end of act 1 is a complete mystery to me, but I congratulate him on the effort and the achievement. I have always maintained the man has seeds of greatness within him, if he could just fix some of the mechanics of his sumo.

A close second place would be Ikioi. He was a force of nature in Osaka, in spite of what looked like the kind of injuries that might require hospitalization. Nope! He’s at it again. He has one loss but he is in “badass” mode every day. Today he dismantled Kotoshogiku in a wild “kitchen sink” match that delighted and entertained. I swear he has decided that playing it safe is no way to close out a sumo career, and he’s just going to throw caution to the winds and fight like a angry swan. For those of you who have never had a swan attack you, let me tell you, don’t try it.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Takekaze – Uncle sumo finally wins one. It has been awesome to see him battle his way back up to Makuuchi once again, but he’s a poor broken fellow with more courage than fortitude remaining.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – The giant Bulgarian wins by getting an armpit grip on Nishikigi and forcing him out. It’s painful watching Aoiyama fight, as it’s clear he is in a bunch of pain, but pushing to keep himself in the top division. Nishikigi’s position is even more precarious, so any loss must be a worry for him.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama, featuring a massive elbow bandage, had the initiative for the bulk of this match. Tochiozan, to his credit, waited for an opportunity. Asanoyama continued to thrust against Tochiozan’s chest but eventually went off balance, and Tochiozan converted that quickly into a win. Experience pays.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Wow, what a match! The start out with some oshi, punctuated with Daiamami taking a round house slap to the face. Having had enough of that he latches onto Chiyonokuni’s mawashi. Chiyonokuni struggles for a bit, but responds in kind. At one point Daiamami gets the deep double inside grip, but Chiyonokuni blazes ahead, forcing his opponent backward and out. Great match.

Takakeisho defeats Arawashi – This was won at the tachiai. Take a good look at how Takakeisho lands his first thrust against Arawashi’s shoulders before Arawashi can finish lunging forward. There was no recovering from that.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Kagayaki’s battle plan was simple, powerful and effective. He got under both arms of Okinoumi and marched forward. This guy keeps reminding me at times of a young Kisenosato, and I think if he can keep working upward and stay free of injury, he may follow a similar trajectory. Never glamorous, just solid sumo fundamentals.

Ryuden defeats Chiyomaru – Ryuden picks up his first win, much to his relief. Chiyomaru really made him work for it.

Yoshikaze defeats Takarafuji – I am starting to get hopeful. Yoshikaze looked stronger and faster today, and maybe a touch genki. The match was all about battling for grip, until Takarafuji lunged forward, and Yoshikaze instantly converted to exploiting his off-balance stance.

Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi comes in low and goes chest to chest with the Kyushu Bulldozer straight out of the tachiai. When Kotoshogiku flexes to lift him up, Ikioi declares he will have none of that, and moves forward strongly, causing them both to lose their grip. After a failed attempt to throw Kotoshogiku, the resulting mess was completely off balance, but under Ikioi’s control, which he kept in motion until Kotoshogiku found the edge of the ring. Great work by Ikioi today, but once again post match he can barely walk.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – Another mediocre to lame tachiai from Shodai, but then he takes over and just fork-lifts Chiyoshoma at the edge of the dohyo. Undefeated Shodai? I am going to make a bet that the scheduling team has some fun with him in act 2.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi took a head butt as the price to get inside, but he got his preferred offensive stance and went to work. Tamawashi immediately gave ground, but rallied. In his aggressive forward attack, he put his balance too far forward and Mitakeumi pulled him forward. His own momentum carried him out. Tamawashi is looking poorly right now, and I wonder if he is hurt. Mitakeumi ended the match dripping blood from his right eye, ouch!

Endo defeats Ichinojo – The big outcome of the day, and it was not an easy match for either man. Ichinojo gave Endo the inside grip immediately and went chest to chest, I am going to assume that his superior size and strength would carry the day. While Endo latched his right hand on Ichinojo’s mawashi, Ichinojo could not find a reciprocal grip. Finally getting deep with his right hand over Endo’s back, Ichinojo tried repeatedly to load an uwatenage, but Endo countered with some very impressive footwork. Stalemated, Ichonojo locks up Endo and works out a stage 2 plan, but Endo lands a left hand frontal grip for his third attack. Ichinojo realizes that his size is not going to stop this onslaught, and he is too high, with Endo buried in his chest, he has no room to lower his hips. Endo gives it all he has, and advances, winning a fantastic match. Complements to both rikishi on some outstanding sumo. The roar in the Kokugikan must have been deafening.

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – Kaisei was completely out-classed. No one can match the intensity of Tochinoshin right now, it’s a think of beauty.

Goeido defeats Yutakayama – Goeido almost attempted a pull against today. Someone fit that guy with a shock collar and give his oyakata the button to set it off.

Hakuho defeats Daieisho – I am going to assume that Hakuho is bored right now. No one has really given him even a decent warm up.

Kakuryu defeats Abi – Much as I assumed, Kakuryu found those long arms a bit of a problem, but they also are great leverage if you can grab one. Big K pulling again, but he got the win.

Natsu Day 5 Preview

Natsu Day 5

With day 5 we mark the end of the first act of the Natsu basho. The goal of the first act is to see who is hot, and who is not, and the schedulers have met that goal. Clearly at this point we are starting to get some good indications of who is going to at least start Natsu ahead of the pack. Let’s have a look.

  • Hakuho – Clearly whatever injuries other may have thought plagued “The Boss”, he is competing well enough to defeat all comers thus far. With any luck, he is getting warmed up and the week 2 matches will be (as Josh says) “Box Office”.
  • Tochinoshin – Well, Mr. Ozeki run is executing well. So far no one has given him a decent challenge, and the one hopeful for act 1, Mitakeumi, was no challenge at all.
  • Ichinojo – Not a surprise, but the Boulder is either hot or cold, and right now he remains hot. Where is all of this heading? I think if Ichinojo can keep motivated and fighting well, he is going to be a Sekiwake for a while.
  • Shodai – I am sure this is going to change, but Shodai? Ok, the guy has potential aplenty, but he gets the jitters and goes to pieces at times. But happy to see him get a solid start.
  • Kakuryu – In spite of one loss, I think he’s still in solid shape for this tournament, even if he may be really disappointed in himself now.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Sadanoumi vs Kyokutaisei – After a day 1 loss, new comer Kyokutaisei seems to be getting his confidence together, and focusing on his sumo. This will be a good test as these two have faced off 5 times in the past, and are just about evenly split. They also come into the bout with matching 3-1 records.

Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Tochiozan was reported to be in fine form in the practice sessions leading up to the basho, but sputtered at the start. Has he gotten his sumo together? I am curious to see if Asanoyama can deliver his 4th win today. Asanoyama won their only prior match.

Daiamami vs Chiyonokuni – Again a pair with 3-1 records are going to face off in a match that could get high-intensity. Chiyonokuni always gets crazy if you let him get going, but Daiamami is once again showing solid, steady sumo.

Daishomaru vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is still probably looking shaky, and Daishomaru has his sumo where he wants it. I would dearly love to see Hokutofuji get genki and go on a winning streak, but I am going to assume he is still hurt. Hokutofuji won all 3 of their prior engagements.

Yoshikaze vs Takarafuji – These two are fairly evenly matched, as their 7-6 career record would indicate. But Takarafuji has been looking sooth and confident, and I would give him an edge over the struggling Yoshikaze. But as a Yoshikaze fan, I am going to be hoping he can put on a solid showing for a second straight day.

Kotoshogiku vs Ikioi – Another great 3-1 match up. These two have had 13 prior matches, with Ikioi taking only 5. Kotoshogiku looks like he has strong command of his sumo right now, so this could be a great battle for day 5.

Chiyoshoma vs Shodai – Ok, I give up. Is Shodai going to stumble to a 5th straight win? Part of me wants to see him do that, just to get a broader understanding of how chaos works its magic. But to be honest, Chiyoshoma is not looking very good yet, and he has never beaten Shodai.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – Ok, get this. During all those tournaments when they were both Sekiwake, these two racked up a 12 bout record that favors Mitakeumi 10-2. This one has potential.

Endo vs Ichinojo – The other really interesting match today, but it may be a complete dud. I know Endo wants to use his technical sumo on Ichinojo, but I think Ichinojo may be far too massive for Endo to have much effect unless he can get the Boulder to chase him around. That may be his strategy, but pulling against 225 kg is just a bit suicidal.

Tochinoshin vs Kaisei – Just hoping Tochinoshin does not injure himself trying to lift and shift that much Kaisei.

Yutakayama vs Goeido – If Goeido does not win this one clean and easy, I am going to start calling for a re-flash to factory settings.

Daieisho vs Hakuho – Should be another easy win for Hakuho.

Kakuryu vs Abi – All it takes is one crazy bad bout for Kakuryu, and fans like myself start to wonder if he can hold it together. While he is “on” he is really excellent, but he has bad modes (not unlike Goeido). So today he at taking on Abi, who should be fairly easy for him, but with that crazy body structure of his, it could give him an excuse to default to his “bad mode” sumo.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Hakuho-Dohyo-Iri

With Andy’s apt description of the GoeiDOS 2.1 upgrade described below, what is there left to say?  Another day with few surprises in the top division, but some entirely watchable sumo with plenty of matches to enjoy. It’s clear that both Ichinojo and Tochinoshin are in good form, and Goeido has yet to revert to “bad” form yet. Let’s go straight to the highlights.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Nishikigi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu opened strong, but Nishikigi rallied with considerable strength and prevailed. I wonder if his precarious position on the banzuke motivates Nishikigi to higher levels of performance.

Kyokutaisei defeats Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo tries a henka, but Kyokutaisei reads it correctly and overpowers the aged rikishi, winning with a susoharai leg sweep. Hopefully Aminishiki did not pick up an additional injury.

Sadanoumi defeats Tochiozan – Word in the practice sessions leading up to the basho was that Tochiozan was in fantastic condition and performing very well. He seems to be genuinely struggling in the first two days.

Takekaze defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama opened strong and kept up the pressure, which was probably a mistake. Takekaze got Aoiyama moving forward, and then got out of his way.

Arawashi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a henka, and Arawashi is ready for him, grabbing him with his wide spread left arm and reeling him in for a quick push out. Ishiura needs some new tricks.

Okinoumi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho opened strong, and got some mighty shoves into Okinoumi, but Okinoumi returned the favor. As Takakeisho gave ground, he attempted a pull down, but Okinoumi was quite prepared for that, and thwarted his attack.

Daiamami defeats Hokutofuji – Wow, Daiamami made fast work of Hokutofuji who seems to be low-energy and somewhat uncertain of how to regain his former mojo. It’s sad to watch, and I am going to assume its due to some injury we fans don’t know about.

Daishomaru defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze did not look good today.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Ryuden took the fight to Chiyoshoma with vigor and strength, but it was all Chiyoshoma, who completely ran this match and finished it with a resounding shitatenage. Ryuden is good, but has more work to do.

Ikioi defeats Takarafuji – Ikioi once again throws caution to the wind, and gives Takarafuji a stiff battle, ending with Ikioi hurling the man with no neck to the clay like a boss. The crowd goes wild.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Kotoshogiku was large and in charge today. He paid no attention to Chiyotairyu’s massive bulk and cannon-ball tachiai. It’s good to see that the Kyushu Bulldozer can still be a force of sumo.

Shodai defeats Daieisho – Daieisho opened strong and kept up the pressure on Shodai, who was on the defensive and moving backwards, a lucky pull from Shodai put Daieisho off balance and he could not recover. An ugly win for Shodai, but a white-star none the less.

Endo defeats Yutakayama – Endo struggled more than he should have in this match. That is a sign that Endo is not quite all there yet, and that Yutakayama put his heart into this match. Endo’s win came via a pull down from the edge of the ring.

Tochinoshin defeats Abi – I did not expect Abi to win, but he impressed the hell out of me with the fight he brought to Tochinoshin. Abi’s superior reach was used with great effect out of the tachiai, and frankly caught Tochinoshin by surprise. With the Ozeki hopeful in a strong nodowa, Abi had early control of the match. But Tochinoshin was not to be denied, and remember to go for the belt. Well done to Abi, a glorious loss. Your intro to the joi will be painful, but it’s part of the sport.

Ichinojo defeats Kaisei – A battle of the super-heavies, and as anticipated, it was all about how could do more with their ponderous bulk. Kaisei found the mawashi early, but it seemed to have little effect on The Boulder. After a bit of leaning on each other, Ichinojo stood Kaisei up and marched him out.

Goeido defeats Shohozan – Andy may have been right, the maintenance release Goeido 2.1 may be stable, on line and doing well. He make quick work of Shohozan with many characteristics of the “good” Goeido. Moving forward strongly with lightning speed and no consideration to restraint for the sake of any defense. Please do keep it up Goeido!

Kakuryu defeats Tamawashi – Kakuryu’s reactive sumo takes the day again. It’s not too tough to get Tamawashi to shift his weight quite far forward, and he readily obliged the Yokozuna, who politely encouraged him to exit the ring.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – Hakuho struggled, no two ways about it. Mitakeumi is probably bringing everything he can to his sumo this outing, but I am starting to come around to Kintamayama’s point of view that “The Boss” is not quite healed up yet.

Natsu Day 1 Preview

Sumo-Evolution

Yes, dear readers, it is time! We have waited long enough. In the next few hours, set aside your worries about your favorites being hurt: It’s honbasho time! It’s a full day of raging action for day 1 at the Kokugikan, and frankly I can’t wait for all the amazing stories that are about to unfold. Many folks will be focused on the top of the banzuke as the drama there plays out, but I find myself increasingly draw to Josh’s “Ones to watch”. This series has proven remarkably insightful while educating and entertaining. Most folks in the US (and other parts of the world) don’t even get to see all of Makuuchi, let alone all of the great action in Juryo, Makushita, Sandanme and Jonidan.

Just as it was in Osaka, my favorite stories are likely to be at the lower end of the Makuuchi banzuke. Nishikigi continues to refuse to ever give up, and somehow holds onto the last Maegashira slot at the edge of the earth. Aminishiki may have nothing more than courage and gristle left in his knees, but he will mount the dohyo today and give challenge. Kyokutaisei somehow adapted to life in the sumo heya, and excelled. Now he’s in Makuuchi and Hokkaido can finally represent once more. Go Hams!

Fans, keep in mind it will take a few days for everyone to settle into the tournament, so you may see some favorites looking like they are not quite their normal genki selves, and some great surprises. So expect anything!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Hell, I am going to watch all of it. But I am sure you don’t have the time to read everything I might write up about the outstanding fight card we have to start the basho. I will do my best.

Nishikigi vs Aminishiki – Nishikigi will never make San’yaku. He’s kind of blind as a bat without his specs, but even blind he’s good enough to find a way to stay in Makuuchi. Now he’s up against Uncle Sumo on day 1. I am sad for folks who are going to view the highlights, as you are not going to believe the roar that will rip through he Kokugikan as the yobidashi sings out his name. People LOVE Aminishiki. To many folks who might struggle with some challenge in their life, he is a reminder that “Nana korobi ya oki” can always apply! (Fall down seven times, get up eight)

Myogiryu vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei’s first match in the top division is against Myogiryu, a solid veteran who has been drifting between the top of Juryo and the bottom of Makuuchi during the past year.  These two are no strangers to each others’ fighting style. I will be curious to see if Kyokutaisei has any top division jitters.

Tochiozan vs Takekaze – I am very glad to see Takekaze back in the top division after a brief tour of Juryo. For reasons that I can’t imagine, all of the Oguruma upper echelon has been on the skids as of late. I have to wonder if maybe they are having problems with their Chanko supply… Tochiozan, on the other hand, has been reported to be ripping through folks during joint training in the past week. We know Tochiozan is capable of some explosive and powerful sumo, it would be acres of fun to see him have a great basho this May.

Sadanoumi vs Aoiyama – The Bulgarian man-mountain is back for more, like a giant angry dollop of sour cream with the reach to slap you from across the dohyo. Sadanoumi is a seasoned veteran who is probably happy to be pulling down Makuuchi pay again. My bet is on Aoiyama, who always seems to start tournaments strong. With Sadanoumi preferring the belt, he will have to survive the withering rain of blows from Aoiyama to get there.

Ishiura vs Asanoyama – The happy rikishi goes up against Ishiura, whose sumo seems a bit lost these days. He opened big a bit over a year ago, but his limited arsenal of moves has left him in something of a corner. I think he has amazing potential if he can find his sumo again. We can count on Asanoyama being happy just to get to do sumo today, even though he really likes to win.

Arawashi vs Chiyonokuni – As discussed in the podcast, both of these rikishi are tremendous fighters. They bring huge energy and go flat out with nothing in reserve. Both of them deserve a good, turn-around basho this May, but first they need to beat the daylights out of each other.

Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – One of my highlight matches. Hopefully both men are healed up from the injuries that have left them underperforming. With significant changes at the top of the banzuke anticipated this year, now is the right time for both of them to press hard for the top ranks. We have not seen Takakeisho’s wave action tsuppari in several basho, and we need him to bring it back with gusto. Likewise I want to see Hokutofuji channel Kaiō again. There is a big role that may open up for a huge, powerful rikishi who moves low and balances offense and defense.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyomaru – Another match where the fans are going to erupt when the yobidashi call the rikishi. People adore Yoshikaze, in part because he never ever gives up, and is always bright, witty and a gentleman. And people love Chiyomaru because who the hell can hold a grudge against a guy like that? Word on the street is that with Yoshikaze getting free meals anywhere in Sumida, they are going out for supper afterwards. The same rumor cites Chiyomaru for a spate of early restaurant closures in the area (they run out of food), as well as a rash of missing house plants, vending machines and even a pair of manhole covers. Listen for him to clank suspiciously as he mounts the dohyo.

Ryuden vs Takarafuji – One of my freshmen takes on the highest ranking man remaining at the once-mighty Isegahama beya. Both men are going to go for a mawashi grip early, but I would give Takarafuji a slight edge.

Chiyoshoma vs Ikioi – Only question to ask here – is Ikioi healed up? It was painful to watch him walk the hanamichi in Osaka. We can only hope that he was able to heal fully. This is two seasoned vets going head to head, so I am sure it’s going to be a solid match.

Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – Well, Shodai is probably going to get owned. Mostly because he tends to let Kotoshogiku do whatever he wants, and he wants to give you a sweet, passionate battle hug.

Chiyotairyu vs Yutakayama – Another of my freshmen, Yutakayama, is going up against Chiyotairyu, who had BETTER HAVE HIS SIDEBURNS! Seriously, the kami that inhabits his sideburns is the source of his sumo power. Granted the kami is some kind of sprit of a smelly mountain aesthetic from the feudal period who never ever washed, and ate nothing but fermented sardines, but we take what we can get in life, right?

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – The King of the Tadpoles needs to make a comeback. The big jump ball at the top of the banzuke is coming, and if Mitakeumi wants a ticket to that dance, he needs to be producing double-digit wins every basho from here on out. He has the body, the skill, the heart to do it. But I suspect he doubts himself just a tiny bit. That’s all it takes at the top of this sport to keep yourself from greatness. Daieisho, however, is point man on team Oitekaze. I can’t wait to see if he starts Natsu as genki as he ended Haru.

Abi vs Ichinojo – Could be the match of the day. We get the lead Freshman against The Boulder. Large, tough as granite, and when roused, quite dangerous. He has added an astonishing 20 kg to his already ponderous bulk, and rumor has it, two new cuddle-ponies at Minato beya. Much to the chagrin of his tsukebito. Abi has to stay mobile, and use Ichinojo’s mass against him.

Tochinoshin vs Shohozan – If you wanted cake and ice cream for Mothers Day, here we go. Big guns goes up against unstoppable strength. Win or lose, nobody leaves a match with Shohozan without being sore. But Tochinoshin’s fantastic strength will likely carry the day, provided his upper body is healed.

Kaisei vs Goeido – I think this one is all Goeido. Goeido is lightning fast, and Kaisei seems to be huge, powerful and kind of slow. Andy thinks that he’s been upgraded to GoeiDOS 2.1, so we will see what shows up tomorrow.

Tamawashi vs Hakuho – It’s Hakuho time! It will be good to see The Boss back in action. But Tamawashi is a tough first customer. As long as Tamawashi is not psyched out by facing the dai-Yokozuna, I think he will give him a good, if brief, fight. Boss all the way on this one. [Past history is 10-0 in Hakuho’s favour. –PinkMawashi]

Kakuryu vs Endo – Woo! Saving the best for last, and what a match-up. Endo is a very technical rikishi, I have heard that he studies video of his opponent before each match. He looks for habits, things they like to do. He comes up with ways to counter strong moves and attack weak ones. He starts against Kakuryu who is the master of “reactive sumo”. He loves to stalemate an opponent and wait for them to make a mistake, which he turns against them in a blink of an eye.

Natsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

I started writing these prediction posts exactly a year ago, so this will be my seventh banzuke forecast for Tachiai. The accuracy has varied from basho to basho, though I think it’s fair to say that the forecasts give a very good idea of roughly where each rikishi will land—in most cases, within one rank or closer.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

No changes here from the Haru banzuke.

Lower San’yaku

S

Tochinoshin

Ichinojo

K

Endo

Mitakeumi

With his 7-8 record, Mitakeumi will lose his Sekiwake rank, but should only fall to Komusubi. Tochinoshin moves over to the East side, while Ichinojo moves up to Sekiwake. Endo finally gets his San’yaku promotion, and is a sufficiently strong candidate with his 9-6 record at M1e that I have him on the East side, although the banzuke committee could certainly switch him and Mitakeumi.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Kaisei

M2

Abi

Shohozan

M3

Daieisho

Yutakayama

M4

Chiyoshoma

Ikioi

M5

Shodai

Kotoshogiku

What’s certain is that there will be a lot of turnover in this area of the banzuke, as with the exception of Shohozan, everyone in the M2-M5 ranks checked in with a losing record, and only Shodai limited his losses to 8. Many in the ranks immediately below this group also did not distinguish themselves, meaning that we have to reach far down the banzuke for viable promotion candidates. Exactly how this will play out is much less certain, as there are many possible scenarios, and the considerations going into them are complex.

Let’s start with the easy part. Both Tamawashi and Kaisei did well enough to earn promotions to San’yaku, but since there are no open slots for them, they will have to be content with the top maegashira rank. Abi and Shohozan are the only plausible candidates for M2, although their ordering is uncertain. Abi will jump 5 ranks, and will join the joi in only his third top-division basho after earning 10-5 records in the first two. Similarly, Daieisho is the only plausible candidate for M3e. He will also jump 5 ranks, matching his highest career rank.

From here, things get complicated. The next best numerical score belongs to Shodai, but he can’t take the M3w slot due to his make-koshi record at M4w. The best he could do would be to remain at his current rank, though it’s more likely he gets a minimal demotion to M5e. Kotoshogiku could technically  be only demoted from M3e to M3w, but given his 6-9 record, this seems overly generous, and he should really be ranked below Shodai. The next best candidate for M3e is none other than Yutakayama, whose 10-5 record could vault him 8 ranks up the banzuke, all the way from M11.

If we put Shodai and M5e and Kotoshogiku right below him at M5w, who fills the M4 slots? The choice is between the next two strong kachi-koshi records, which belong to Chiyoshoma (9-6 at M10) and Ikioi (11-4 at M14), and the other two high-rankers due for big demotions, Komusubi Chiyotairyu (4-11) and M2 Takarafuji (5-10). My forecast favors the guys moving up the banzuke over those moving down. If the banzuke committee agrees, six out of the ten rikishi in this group would be moving up at least 5 ranks!

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Chiyomaru

Ryuden

M8

Yoshikaze

Hokutofuji

M9

Kagayaki

Daishomaru

M10

Okinoumi

Daiamami

M11

Chiyonokuni

Takakeisho

At Natsu, this area of the banzuke will serve primarily as the landing zone for higher-ranked rikishi who achieved make-koshi records ranging from just below .500 (Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni) to horrific (hello, Chiyotairyu and Takakeisho). The only bright spots are Ryuden, who moves up from M9 with a minimal kachi-koshi, and the Oitekaze stablemates Daishomaru and Daiamami, who vault up and out of the demotion danger zone with their 9-6 and 10-5 records.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Asanoyama

Arawashi

M13

Ishiura

Sadanoumi

M14

Takekaze

Tochiozan

M15

Aoiyama

Kyokutaisei

M16

Aminishiki

Kotoeko

M17

Gagamaru


The bottom of the banzuke is complicated by the fact that there are 6 Makuuchi rikishi who earned demotions by the usual criteria (in order from most to least deserving of demotion: Hedenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Onosho/Nishikigi, and Myogiryu), but only 3 Juryo rikishi who clearly earned promotion: Sadanoumi, Takekaze, and Kyokutaisei. Aminishiki is borderline, and the next two best candidates, Kotoeko (10-5 at J8) and Gagamaru (8-7 at J5), are ranked too low to be normally considered for promotion with those records. Obviously, the numbers moving up and down have to match. What to do?

My initial inclination was to demote Nishikigi in favor of Aminishiki, and save Onosho (who was kyujo) and Myogiryu. Over on the sumo forum, Asashosakari suggested that they could instead demote Onosho and save both Nishikigi and Myogiryu. The solution I’m currently favoring, given how poor their records were, is that both Nishikigi and Myogiryu will be demoted, as will Onosho. I’m guessing that the banzuke committee will be more likely to promote kachi-koshi Juryo rikishi with insufficiently strong records (after all, this has happened in the past) than to keep in the top division rikishi who failed to defend their places there. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this play out in any number of ways. We’ll find out on April 26th!

 

Haru Final Day Highlights

Kakuryu Yusho.Parade

You might not know it by watching the matches today, but it was the final day of the Haru basho. Across the torikumi, everyone was fighting with some of their best sumo of the tournament. It was one of those days where it will be a good idea to seek out Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama on YouTube to see all the bouts, and not just the highlights from NHK.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – It’s kind of magical to me that we may see Uncle Sumo back in the top division yet again for Natsu. This guy should be an inspiration to everyone to stick to their dreams and keep working. Good things happen for those who refuse to give up. The match starts with a henka-matta, so Uncle Sumo needs to re-set and goes for a simple hatakikomi.

Daiamami defeats Yutakayama – Daiamami gets to double digits, but Yutakayama really made him earn it. A close-quarters thrusting match in which both men stayed low and kept applying the pressure. Daiamami closed the deal when he finally got inside on Yutakayama and drove forward.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni reminds us that he is a real battle machine with his energetic win over Hidenoumi. He finishes make-koshi, and we have to wonder what it will take for him to get his sumo to the next level.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – Chiyoshoma’s leaping henka results in an airborne uwatenage. Go watch it! It’s amazingly acrobatic.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Ryuden secures kachi-koshi on the final day. Asanoyama took him to his chest out of the tachiai, and from there it was a struggle. Multiple times Asanoyama went to throw Ryuden, but Ryuden somehow found a way to block the uwatenage. Great, great sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – After a strong start to the basho, Aoiyama faded down the stretch. Part of this may have been from the fact that he started facing much higher ranked rikishi, and some of it may be some unreported injury or just plain exhaustion.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a straight ahead fight, and can’t find a way to blunt Kagayaki’s forward drive. Ishiura seems to have forgotten some of his sumo from a year or two ago, or maybe his opponents are just much bigger / tougher now.

Abi defeats Daishomaru – A leaping hatakikomi at the edge gives Abi the win after a monoii. Impressive ring sense there! For his second tournament in a row, Abi is able to rack up double digit wins.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Sadly Ikioi could not pick up the special prize, but he has nothing to apologize for this basho. Even with a bandaged head, he met Kaisei with vigor and strength. But there is a lot of Kaisei to move, and even for Ikioi, it was a tall order. Ikioi has been progressively more injured each day of the basho, so I hope he goes and heals up.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Even though he is make-koshi, Shodai seems to have found his sumo. Daieisho knew when to put him off balance and send him across the tawara. I do hope that Shodai can focus on returning in this form for the start of Natsu. He still has massive potential if he can get his sumo under control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are deeply make-koshi, but you would never know it from watching their bout. This was one of the better matches of an already awesome day. The two men were chest to chest for most of the match, but neither seemed to be able to employ their favorite sumo attacks for more than a moment. In the end, it was Kotoshogiku who set up his hip-pump attack and ended the match.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – Is anyone surprised? Kotoyuki ends the the basho with a single win.

Yoshikaze defeats Arawashi – Arawashi needs to go heal. Yoshikaze finishes 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Tamawashi is likely back in San’yaku for May, and will try again to muscle his way to his preferred Sekiwake position. Chiyomaru, meanwhile, is headed for the buffet table.

Shohozan defeats Endo – It takes a powerful tachiai from Shohozan and a couple of quick thrusts to put Endo the Golden back and out. Shohozan is kachi-koshi on the final day, after an alarming cold streak starting on day 6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This looked like a Tochiozan win, and the gyoji gave the gumbai to Tochiozan, but then the sideburns of Chiyotairyu called out to the spiritual world, and the shimpan rose to their feet in abeyance. The monoii did not so much give the match to Chiyotairyu, but more to his sideburns. What did we learn here? Chiyotairyu must never remove his sideburns again. Whispered legends say that the kami that inhabits them is the same that gave Takamiyama his might, and they will only live in the facial hair of one who is worthy. [What. –PinkMawashi]

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Two enormously powerful rikishi test each other’s strength. After Ichinojo decided to lift Tochinoshin, he decided he was done playing and dialed his muscles to “Hulk” mode, finishing the boulder. With his 10-5 record, Tochinoshin has started an Ozeki campaign. Protect that knee, sir!

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Mitakeumi seems to have given Goeido 1.5.1 a solid match, and dropped the Osaka favorite on his backside in the middle of the ring. His sumo against both Ozeki has been great to watch. Maybe he is on the cusp of elevating his technique after all?

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – The initial call by the gyoji went to Kakuryu, and it looked like Takayasu may have injured his right leg and maybe even re-damaged his right thigh. But just before they hand Kakuryu the kensho diorama of Osaka-jo, the shimpan decide it’s time to review it. The replays show Kakuryu’s heel touching out, so it’s torinaoshi time, with Takayasu limping. This time, Takayasu centers the Yokozuna and drives forward with his considerable strength. Kakuryu can’t plant his feet to defend, bringing the match and the basho to an exciting end as it’s Takayasu who hoists the kensho fort from the gyoji’s gumbai.

Haru Day 10 Preview

Goeido Kensho

We come to the end of act 2 with nearly complete success from the team that puts together the torikumi – the daily fight schedule. Their job in act 2, the middle five days of the tournament, was to narrow down the leaderboard, and to sort the rikishi into three groups: the contenders, the defeated and the survivors. Sumo fans can look across the standings at the end of today, and clearly see each of the three groups taking shape across the top division.

The ultimate score would be to get dirt on either or both of the leaders on the final day of Act 2. This would suddenly make the contender group far more viable, and launch us into act 3. In all basho, act 3 is focused on finding the yusho winner. In general, you want as many of your rikishi who made it into the “Contender” group to be fighting it out every day for their chance to take home the cup, while the rest of the crowd work to avoid being cast into the “defeated” group. We certainly have the crew on deck for this kind of act 3, but our leaders are 2 wins ahead of everyone else, and that makes it quite tough to open the yusho race to a fierce multi-way barnyard brawl. [Especially since one of them is Kakuryu. As the sole Yokozuna in the tournament, his schedule is largely fixed by tradition – he can be expected to fight almost all of the San’yaku in the final five days. The torikumi committee have little desire to change this. –PinkMawashi]

That leads us into day 10, which has some fantastic sumo action, and a number of bouts with “highlight reel” potential.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Chasers: None
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Daishomaru, Ikioi, Daiamami, Aoiyama

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Aoiyama vs Takekaze – Takakaze is up checking out his return to Makuuchi for Natsu, facing off against a seemingly unstoppable wrecking machine in the form of Aoiyama. I am sorry, but I must beat this drum again. Had it not been for the shoddy call on day 5, he would be the sole man at 8-1. A big advantage for Aoiyama in this match.

Tochiozan vs Daiamami – First-time match between an injured and failing Tochiozan, and a rather genki Daiamami. Daiamami is still hanging tough only 2 losses back from the leaders, and his sumo is looking very solid this basho.

Ikioi vs Yutakayama – Ikioi has really been putting on a show for his hometown fans, and they are legion. In spite of his injuries and daily discomfort, this man puts on some solid sumo. Granted he’s down at Maegashira 14 right now and has an easier than normal fight card. But fans new to sumo may be getting a taste of why Ikioi is a big draw for many sumo followers.

Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – Kagayaki is in real danger of being sorted into the “Defeated” group, and he’s up against another of the surging Oitekaze heya team. Historically, it’s 6-2 in Kagayaki’s favor, but Daishomaru is on a roll right now.

Hokutofuji vs Takakeisho – I am going to be watching closely, as I suspect Takakeisho has injured his right thigh or pulled his groin muscle. Either way, he is not moving well and seems to be working to endure his matches. Hokutofuji desperately needs to regroup, and I wonder if the upcoming jungyo tour might actually help him, as he would be sparring daily with a larger variety of rikishi.

Kotoshogiku vs Takarafuji – This has the potential to be a solid bit of sumo, even though Takarafuji, sadly, has just one win. Takarafuji has been putting out a great effort each and every day, just not enough to earn white stars. We saw some great classic Kotoshogiku form on day 9, and if he can muster that again, we could be in for a real battle.

Ichinojo vs Kaisei – Quite possibly the match of the day here, can Kaisei overpower the Boulder? I think it’s mechanically possible, but how it plays out is going to be awesome to watch. Ichinojo still doing quite well and is part of the group 2 behind the leaders.

Mitakeumi vs Shohozan – Both men suffered greatly during act 2, and now both of them are struggling to stay above a 50% win mark. With double digits wins almost mathematically impossible now for Mitakeumi, it will mark another basho where his fans wonder what it will take for him to rise to the next level.

Takayasu vs Shodai – Oh good lord. Unless Shodai “Goes Hulk”, which he does sometimes, this is going to be a question of how long Takayasu wants to play with him before winning.

Tochinoshin vs Goeido – Another option for the match of the day. Goeido lost day 9 due to a poorly timed move. It’s time to see if he puts that aside or if it worries him into another loss. Goeido has a habit of letting one mistake throw off his sumo, and fans are all hoping he can keep steady. Tochinoshin’s sumo just seems to be stronger with each passing match, so this one has much potential with the Hatsu Yusho winner facing down Osaka’s hometown champ.

Kakuryu vs Chiyomaru – The biggest risk here, in my opinion, is an injury to the Yokozuna. Chiyomaru tends to start with a giant blast but rapidly lose stamina. With Kakuryu’s reactive sumo, I am looking for him to blunt Chiyomaru’s opening salvo and work to get him off balance and once again rolling westward. Look out Hiroshima, he’s coming through!

Haru Day 8 Preview

monoii

Please note – all articles written by Bruce H, IE Bruce Henderson formerly of San Diego, are in fact his opinion alone, and represent only his twisted outlook on the world of sumo. The very young, the very old and the easily outraged may find challenges ahead. [Occasionally there are comments from the proofreader, too. Those are objective fact. –PinkMawashi]

Day 7 was brutal for the chase group, with four contenders picking up losses and being demoted to the hunt group. While at the moment it looks like the zero loss crew can run away with it, keep in mind that the scheduling team is just starting to work their voodoo on the torikumi. The front-runners still face many challenges, and we may yet see both Kaisei and Kakuryu taste clay before we hit day 10.

As mentioned in the day 7 highlights, I am looking for Oitekaze-beya to get a strong showing in the post-basho power rankings. All of the Dai* crew are fighting well, and looking like they are moving towards a lift in basic rank, based on the steady improvements of their sumo. It will be interesting to watch them compete against the likes of Takakeisho and Onosho for lead tadpole.

I will say it again, I am damn impressed with Ikioi this basho. The last few tournaments, he seemed to be really struggling physically, but he put in his days on the dohyo with focus and workmanlike determination. This time (possibly due to his lower rank), he is finding ways to win. I am glad he is not yet ready for the downdraft into Juryo, but at his age his injuries may be slowly overtaking him.

Then there is the depressing case of Yoshikaze. Injuries are not widely publicized in sumo, even less so for rank and file rikishi, but there is no way that a warrior like Yoshikaze goes passive like this. The good news is that he can retire at any time, he has a kabu, he has a huge following, he has a passion for youth sumo, and as long as he has his health, he is going to be a big deal in the sumo world.

It would be remiss of me to go without stating that Kaisei also remains unbeaten at the start of the second week. He has done remarkably well, and I salute his effort and his skill. He has been hit or miss in the past, but this is great to see.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Chasers: Daishomaru, Daiamami
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Shohozan, Chiyonokuni, Okinoumi, Ikioi, Aoiyama

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Ikioi vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei comes up from Juryo for the day and draws the injured but fierce Ikioi. I predict an Ikioi win, and then he’s 2 away from his kachi-koshi, and likely kyujo.

Daiamami vs Nishikigi – Team Oitekaze starts early on day 8, and the rikishi who never gives up is going to take on a member of the chase group. I predict a Daiamami win, with some good form. This is in spite of the fact that he has never taken a match from Nishikigi (0-3).

Daishomaru vs Aoiyama – Back to back bouts for team Oitekaze, this time the fierce Daishomaru goes up against the man-mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama has won both of their prior matches, and this may be a tall order for Daishomaru. But a win against the Bulgarian would likely result in a tough match further up the banzuke for Monday. [The Monday torikumi will be set before Aoiyama’s match, so if the torikumi committee decide to start giving him tougher opposition, they’ll have to wait until Tuesday. –PinkMawashi, with thanks to Sakura]

Sokokurai vs Asanoyama – The Freshmen are having a painful basho, and that’s part of them settling into Makuuchi. Asanoyama has a 4-3 winning record, and he has never lost a match to Sokokurai, so I am hoping his sunny outlook will carry the day on Sunday.

Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – An all Freshman battle, Yutakayama has won their only prior match, but I think there is a slight advantage to Kagayaki for today’s match. Kagayaki is slowly improving, and I think his sumo is stronger than Yutakayama’s right now.

Tochiozan vs Daieisho – The highest ranked rikishi for Team Oitekaze takes on veteran Tochiozan. Tochiozan has been a half-step slow this basho, but his form is still very good. I think this comes down to Daieisho being about 2x as genki as Tochiozan, so advantage to Daieisho.

Abi vs Chiyonokuni – Massive ultra-mega oshi-battle here, and folks take note! Both of these young men could work a speed bag like a hungry man taking down the buffet at the Tropicana so this will be one for the slow-motion cameras. Abi will get too far forward, and Chiyonokuni’s tendency to go for haymakers will be the perils. I give an advantage to Chiyonokuni in this first-time match up.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – I don’t even want to know. I am tempted to get on a plane and just hand Yoshikaze a bottle of scotch as some shallow form of comfort.

Kaisei vs Okinoumi – Their history shows this to be an even match up, but I am going to guess Kaisei has the advantage going into this. The thing about Okinoumi is that he has the experience and skill to dismantle Kaisei, but will the Brazilian give him an opening?

Ryuden vs Hokutofuji – Ryuden is getting his “welcome to mid-Maegashira” beating, while Hokutofuji is having a bad basho in a string of bad basho. The frustration for both men is palpable, and there may be some extreme effort as a result. This is their first meeting, but I am giving a slight edge to Hokutofuji because he looks a bit like Kaio.

Chiyomaru vs Takarafuji – The best 0-7 rikishi in the basho goes against the spherical man from Kokonoe. Given their upper bodies, there should be few if any neck attacks deployed today. Chiyomaru has yet to win one from Takarafuji, so maybe Takarafuji gets his first white star today. I promise to drink a generous shot of whisky if he does!

Shodai vs Tamawashi – I know Shodai is feeling genki now after his last two matches. But Tamawashi practices his sumo by driving nails into planks by hitting them with his thumb. The man has so much pectoral strength that he shoved Ichinojo around with ease. So I am guessing Shodai goes high at the tachiai, and Tamawashi helps to keep him moving up, up and away.

Ichinojo vs Arawashi – Arawashi can’t buy a win. Ichinojo needs to regroup. Someone get him some ice cream before its too late!

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis takes on the man in gold. Endo also needs to re-group, and this might be his time to get his sumo back together. One thing is clear now on day 8, Chiyotairyu’s might was all in his sideburns. He’s been soft and ineffective without them.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – Highlight bout #1. Anyone who tells you how this is going to end is guessing. I predict it’s going to be fast and brutal. Both are 5-2, and both want to stay in contention with the leaders. Loser goes to the back of the bus.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – I know Takayasu triumphed in a protracted battle with Shohozan on day 7, but let’s be clear here. Pooh-bear tried three times to set the tempo of the match, and each time he had to follow Shohozan’s lead. His sumo was chaotic but powerful. Now he faces the man who I am pretty sure beat Kakuryu on day 7. This could be a great battle, as Takayasu is going to try to overpower Takakeisho, and Takakeisho’s proportions make him sumo’s greatest weeble. Dear Takayasu, make sure you have a really good plan B and don’t get too far forward or you are going down.

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – Long and storied history between these two. They have turned in some great matches in the past. It’s not a given that the Ozeki is going to win this one, as Kotoshogiku may find a way to wrap up Goeido and drive him out. Slight advantage to Goeido, as he seems to be fighting well this tournament, and he wants to stay in contention for the cup.

Kakuryu vs Shohozan – Just to be clear, even though Shohozan wants to stay in the hunt group, this match is a challenge for Kakuryu. Shohozan is big, fast and incredibly aggressive. Kakuryu tends to face these matches with a defensive strategy, buying time until his opponent makes a mistake, and then he attacks. But Shohozan is so amped up this basho, Kakuryu may need to be brutal, fast and direct to prevent Shohozan from setting the pace and tone of the match like he did to Takayasu.