November Basho Wrap-Up

Long-time readers of Tachiai will know that the yusho is relatively recent concept, and a secondary one to the real purpose of a honbasho—determining the rankings for the next tournament. So, what are the November results likely to mean for the Hatsu basho scheduled for January? The new banzuke will be drawn up on Wednesday, but it won’t be made public (with the exception of promotions to Juryo) until December 24 as an early Christmas present to sumo fans. In the meantime, we can speculate.

A big story of the final day was that every single endangered incumbent—in lower san’yaku, in lower Makuuchi, and in lower Juryo—won. This neatly resolved the division exchange picture, but created a logjam near the top of the banzuke.

The named ranks

Barring any retirements, the Yokozuna ranks won’t change. We should see a slight reshuffle of the Ozeki order, with Shodai (three wins) moving ahead of Asanoyama (one win). The two Sekiwake are also clear: Terunofuji and Takanosho, though the order is up for debate: does the kachi-koshi incumbent move over to the East side, or do Terunofuji’s 5 extra wins allow him to leapfrog Takanosho?

The real action is at Komusubi. Takayasu (8-7) successfully defended his rank. Mitakeumi‘s 7-8 at Sekiwake has been a guarantee of demotion to no lower than Komusubi for the past 27 years. Will this continue to hold in the face of two very strong contenders for promotion, M2w Daieisho (10-5) and M4e Hokutofuji (11-4)? If Mitakeumi were to get bumped, which would get the nod? Could we once again see the creation of one or even two extra Komusubi slots?

The new joi

In addition to the 11 men above, who else will be joining the melee in the top 16? M1w Wakatakakage and M2e Onosho, both 7-8, have done enough to stay in the “meat grinder.” Rising up to join them will be M6e Takarafuji (9-6), M5w Kotoshoho (8-7), and M7e Tochinoshin (9-6). Just outside the top 16, ready to step up in case of withdrawals and same-heya conflicts, will be M6w Tamawashi (8-7), M3w Okinoumi (6-9), and M7w Endo (8-7). His 3 losses in the final 3 days mean that the low maegashira yusho contender du jour Shimanoumi (11-4) will get a sensible promotion to something like M9, instead of being launched all the way up the banzuke.

Makuuchi-Juryo exchanges

Final-day victories by Yutakayama and Sadanoumi, coupled with losses by Ishiura and Chiyomaru, made this cut-and-dried—we will have only two exchanges for the first time in over 5 years. Going down are absent Kotoyuki and Enho. Taking their place are J2e Midorifuji (10-5), the Juryo yusho winner, who’ll make his long-awaited top-division debut, and veteran journeyman J1e Akiseyama (9-6). The line between M11e Sadanoumi (5-10) and J3e Ishiura (8-7) is very clear, though the latter may be able to console himself with being at the very top of Juryo next time, where another 8-7 record should guarantee promotion.

Juryo-Makushita exchanges

Once again, any uncertainties here were resolved by final-day victories by endangered Takagenji and Ikioi. We will see three demotions: absent Abi, Nishikifuji, and winless Fujiazuma (I can’t let Andy forget that he predicted Fujiazuma would go 12-3). We hadn’t seen an 0-15 record since 2005 until Oki “accomplished” this feat in September, and now we get two in consecutive tournaments—thanks, 2020.

The three slots vacated by demotions, plus a 4th opened up by Kotoshogiku’s intai will go to Ms1w Naya (6-1), Makushita yusho winner Ms15w Ryuko (7-0), Ms2e Yago (4-3) and Ms2w Shiraishi (4-3). Naya and Shiraishi are highly touted prospects who’ll be making their sekitori debuts. Missing out despite winning records in the Makushita top 5 promotion zone will be Ms3e Kitaharima (4-3), Ms4e Bushozan (4-3), and Ms5w Kotokuzan (4-3).

Bonus: Makushita joi

The January top 5 promotion zone will include the 3 kachi-koshi holdovers listed above, along with Daishoho, who just missed promotion by going 3-4 at Ms1e. Unusually, none of the three Juryo dropouts will be joining them, as their records are bad enough to drop them deeper into Makushita. Instead, my guess is that the other 6 spots will go to Ms6 Takakento (4-3), Ms8 Tochimaru (4-3), Ms8 Ichiyamamoto (5-2), Ms9 Nakazono (5-2), Ms12 Roga (6-1), and Ms15 Hokutenkai (5-2). The last two have been on our “ones to watch list” for a while, and they faced off head-to-head in their 7th bout, so it will be exciting to see them battle it out for a shot at sekitori promotion.

And here’s a wild-card: Hakuho’s recruit Hokuseiho, who is now 21-0 with three lower-division yusho at just 19, should be ranked in the top 15, with a chance of promotion if he can put up another 7-0, though his first basho at this level is more likely to be a learning experience.

And that’s a wrap. Let me know in the comments if you’re curious about the likely banzuke position of anyone I didn’t discuss, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Tokyo November Day 15 Highlights

When in the middle of week one, it was clear that we would have no Yokozuna, and 2 of the three Ozeki were out, I worried that this would be a complete dud of a basho. But the athletes and the crew at the Japan Sumo Association gamberized, and delivered a fun and satisfying tournament. My compliments to everyone, as I know this was a tough one to carry. We close this tournament with an almost perfect ending given the circumstances. The hope for a new Yokozuna in 2021, the return of a potent foe to the upper ranks of sumo, with a strong statement, 13-2!, that he will return to his former rank.

Congratulations to Takakeisho for your second yusho. You broke a long drought of Ozeki yusho (Kisenosato, January 2017), and maybe we might be able to have a new Yokozuna in 2021 to take some of the pressure off of the two guys who are at the end of their competitive careers.

Congratulations to Terunofuji. I expected 10 wins from you, but you really went above and beyond. Your skills are vastly improved, your sumo is frighteningly good, and I have great hope for your future. I just worry every day about those knees.

Highlight Matches

Ichinojo defeats Chiyoshoma – Try as he might, Chiyoshoma could not move the boulder today. There was a brief moment at the start of this lengthy chest to chest match where Ichinojo tried a pull, and Chiyoshoma changed momentum. But let’s face it, Ichinojo was motivated, and there is not a rikishi, pony ride, or ice cream parlor that can endure that. Both end the November basho with 8-7 records.

Sadanoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura, back for his second visit from Juryo, can’t find any way to shut down Sadanoumi’s forward motion, and is quickly run off the dohyo. Ishiura was already kachi-koshi, can he return to the top division for Hatsu? Sadanoumi improves to a painful 5-10.

Meisei defeats Shimanoumi – It almost seems as is Shimanoumi’s genki spell was broken in his loss to Terunofuji, as he drops his last 3 matches to finish at 11-4. Don’t get me wrong, thats a great score. I just wish he had been able to keep up the fight. Meisei finishes November 9-6.

Chiyonokuni defeats Kotoeko – Chiyonokuni with double digit wins (10-5) for his return to the top division. A hearty kotenage, and the kanto-sho fighting spirit prize. Quite the way to return from a long absence!

Akua defeats Tokushoryu – These two went into throw postition almost at once, and it was tough to tell if it was Tokushoryu’s throw or Akua’s counter move that took the match. The shimpan called for a monoii, and video showed Tokushoryu’s hand touch the clay a fraction of a second before Akua’s face made impact. 9-6 finish for Akua, a kachi-koshi for his first trip to the top division.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kaisei – Terutsuyoshi got to the side of Kaisei, and picks up win number 5. Rough tournament for both men, I am going to hope they can rest, recover and regroup.

Aoiyama defeats Chiyotairyu – We finally get to see the V-Twin fire up, but at a fraction of it’s normal power. It was enough to move Chiyotairyu out of his defensive stance, and thrust him out. A 6-9 finish for November for Aoiyama.

Endo defeats Hoshoryu – In spite of the high anticipation a few days ago, there was not a swarm of Darwin matches. Most of the candidates were able to avoid a 7-7 day 14 score, or had already matched against the other 7-7 rikishi. Hoshoryu’s post-tachiai press to move forward me with Endo’s pull, and out Hoshoryu could not keep his balance. Endo finishes with a kachi-koshi, Hoshoryu make-koshi.

Enho defeats Tobizaru – I think Enho rallied everything he had for this final match, and battle-swarmed Tobizaru with great effect. Tobizaru is a high energy, high rate of motion fighter, but when Enho is cranked up and attacking well, he was easily 2-1 move for move. 3-12 finish for Enho, will it save him from a big drop to Juryo?

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Wow, again today we see Hokutofuji engage at close range and dominate a match. That right hand ottsuke did its job and kept Ryuden contained. He finishes with 11-4. From Maegashira 4, that puts him in perfect position for Hatsu. Perfect as in his first week is going to be absolute hell, with 2 iffy Yokozuna, 2 iffy Ozeki, and one Grand Tadpole looking to throw him off the dohyo for much needed wins.

Yutakayama defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki really suffered this basho. The new black mawashi is completely haunted, as discussed in week 1, and no number of visits to shrines or temples will likely cure it. Go back to the gold and all may right itself. A 5-10 finish, losing after having clear advantage for almost the entire match is kind of a good summary for Kagayaki’s November.

Daieisho defeats Kotoshoho – Daieisho hits double digits (10-5) on the final day, but it took 2 matches to do it. First match, he completely dominating Kotoshoho from start to finish. When Daieisho can set up his attack and get his opponent to off balance, he is tough to stop. But the finish was deemed too close to call, and a rematch was declared. The second match was a quick dive for the edge of the ring, and another monoii. It was clear from the replay that Daieisho was airborne as Kotoshoho made contact with the dohyo, and he had his 10th win at last.

Onosho defeats Myogiryu – Nice to see Onosho finish with a win. Myogiryu is fighting at a fraction of his potential, he was completely disrupted by Onosho from the start. Onosho finishes November 7-8, Myogiryu 4-11.

Wakatakakage defeats Kotonowaka – These two changed battle plans at least twice per second, with hands and feet shifting to adjust. Kotonowaka eventually was able to wrap up Wakatakakagi with a bear hug to Wakatakakagi’s head. Wakatakakagi charged ahead, willing to sacrifice his own head, driving Kotonowaka from the ring. Both men finish November 7-8.

Okinoumi defeats Kiribayama – Kimarite really needs to regroup. But a make-koshi that big will take him safely away from the abattoir that will be the Hatsu joi-jin. Maybe that is some consolation.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Takayasu gave a great example of why I find the form of sumo he went to as an Ozeki so bothersome. Today he reverts to his Sekiwake style, and completely dominated Tamawashi. Compare today to day 14 for Takayasu. Today his movements were focused, efficient, and no power or energy was wasted flailing around. Much better, and a well deserved kachi-koshi.

Tochinoshin defeats Takanosho – I must remark that I am delighted to see Tochinoshin in somewhat better condition this basho than I had feared. He can still fight, and has found a way to overcome the problems with that right knee. His win today puts him at 9-6, and I guess may be in the joi-jin for Hatsu. Enjoy your Christmas, big stuff. Santa’s got a whole lot of sumo for you to enjoy in January.

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji did not quite get his defense in ordered before Mitakeumi took him apart and drove him to the clay. Whatever injuries Mitakeumi have, I hope he’s able to rest and repair starting tonight. A 7-8 finish for Takarafuji, and a strong 9-6 finish for Takarafuji.

Terunofuji defeats Takakeisho – What a finish to a fantastic basho. Both have 13-2 records, Terunofuji picked up 2 special prizes (well earned) and with 13 wins has a strong opening move to return to Ozeki. I marvel that Terunofuji kept his feet during during the two big combos that Takakeisho delivered. But the third was not enough to keep the kaiju back, and his big hands found Takakisho’s mawashi. A twist and press attack threw the Ozeki to the clay. We had a playoff for the cup!

The playoff, well Takakeisho went in calibrated that Terunofuji would be able to overcome his attack after the second wave. So 2 waves was all it took to clear the Terunofuji over the west side of the dohyo. For the world of sumo, this was the best possible ending. We have the story of Terunofuji dominant in the basho, and a strong step on the road to regaining his rank of Ozeki after falling all the way to Jonidan 48! With a Takakeisho win, we have the seeds of possibly the next Yokozuna, which will be put to the test in January, where we may lose one or both of the current Grand Champions.

With that, Tachiai concludes our daily highlghts for this November basho. Thank you, dear readers, for sharing our love of sumo, and spending your time on our site.

November Storylines, Day 14

The yusho race

We could see this coming from about Day 5—it’s the lone surviving current Ozeki against the former one for all the marbles. Takakeisho can take the title outright by defeating Terunofuji in regulation; otherwise we’ll have our first Makuuchi playoff since last September, when Mitakeumi prevailed over none other than Takakeisho. Should the Ozeki claim the yusho, this will mark the start of a Yokozuna run for him; I expect that even a playoff loss would count as a “yusho equivalent” given the current state of sumo’s highest rank.

Lower san’yaku

The Sekiwake rank is set: it’ll be Terunofuji moving up, most likely to the east, and Takanosho (8-6) successfully defending his rank in his san’yaku debut. Both Komusubi slots are on the line tomorrow—Mitakeumi (6-8) and Takayasu (7-7) will occupy them if they win, and will drop into the rank-and-file if they lose. There are two contenders for promotion: M2w Daieisho (9-5) and M4e Hokutofuji (10-4). If one of them gets a better result than the other tomorrow, he’ll jump to the head of the line; otherwise, it’s not clear who’d get the slot if only one is open. I’m guessing that neither will have done quite enough even with a win to force the creation of extra Komusubi slots.

Makuuchi demotion candidates

There are two certain demotions: absent Kotoyuki and Enho. Yutakayama‘s win over Sadanoumi left him in the better position of the two to stay in the top division. Each should be safe with a win, and Yutakayama can probably survive a loss, while a loss by Sadanoumi to promotion-seeking Ishiura would see the two switching divisions in January. Everyone else is safe.

Juryo promotion candidates

The two open slots are spoken for by J2e Midorifuji (10-4), the sole leader in the Juryo yusho race, and J1e Akiseyama (8-6). J3e Ishiura (8-6) must win to move up, while J4e Chiyomaru (8-6) will be on the bubble if he wins and Yutakayama loses. Everyone else is out of luck.

Juryo demotion candidates

Four second-division slots are guaranteed to open: three via demotions of Abi, Fujiazuma, and Nishikifuji, and one with Kotoshogiku’s intai. Takagenji and Ikioi need final-day victories to stay in the paid ranks. Everyone else is safe.

Makushita promotion candidates

The four definite promotions are now clear: Ms1w Naya (6-1), Makushita yusho winner Ms15w Ryuko (7-0), Ms2e Yago (4-3) and Ms2w Shiraishi (4-3). Ms3e Kitaharima (4-3) and Ms4e Bushozan (4-3) are 5th and 6th in line, respectively, and will be hoping for losses by Takagenji and Ikioi.

Tokyo November Day 14 Highlights

Fans have noticed it, the commentators on the video-casts have noted it, and it’s time to talk about it. The gyoji have picked up some kind of matta fetish this basho for the paid ranks, but most especially for Makuuchi. It’s ruined a few really solid matches, and frankly its gotten quite annoying. Are some rikishi not getting their hands completely down? I do think so. But like any point of human endevour, there is a factor of “close enough”. I say let these guys fight it out, thats what we are all tuned in to see. Not some strict adherence to a rule. Of course, because it’s Japan, there is a fascination with rules and absolute adherence from some folks.

It’s all going to come down to the final match of the final day, as we see Terunofuji face off against Takakeisho. A second Terunofuji yusho this year would be quite the event (he won the cup in July), and there would be quite a bit of talk about how high this rebuild kaiju could go. A Takakeisho yusho would be the start of a rope run for him, and would net him a 14-1 final score.

It’s going to come down to that first step off the shikiri-sen. Takakeisho must keep Terunofuji from getting his hands inside and especially from establishing any sort of grip. Should the kaiju get his fingers on Takakeisho’s belt, I anticipate him bowling at least one frame of shimpan, scoring no worse than a 3-7 split.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tired a diving attack after a stalemate at the tachiai, and missed Chiyoshoma’s legs. Nice idea, but not today, Ishiura. Chiyoshoma picks up win number 8, and will remain in the top division a while longer.

Yutakayama defeats Sadanoumi – I think all of the frustration of having a really sucky basho boiled over today for Yutakayama. He blasted Sadanoumi off the dohoyo, and there was an air of “Thats more like it”. But already make-koshi (5-9), he’s just working to cushion the fall now.

Chiyotairyu defeats Meisei – Cannonball tachiai followed by some righteous denshamichi, classic Chiyomaru, and it was nice to see. Having perfected a low-velocity tachiai this basho, his opponents no longer can count on him launching at the start of the match, and now his brutal blast off catches people full in the chest again. Chiyotairyu improves to 9-5.

Tokushoryu defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka struggles to shut down a Tokushoryu gaburi-yori, and gets belly bucked around while Tokushoryu gets his hands set up to force him out. Tokushoryu gets his kachi-koshi, and Kotonowaka ends at 7-7, nominating him for a Darwin match tomorrow.

Akua defeats Kotoeko – This probably was going to be a good “throw down” match, but the matta fetish blew both rikishi’s attack plans, and this is what resulted. Congrats to Akua for his 8th win, and condolences to Kotoeko for his 8th loss. I do with the gyoji would just let these guys fight.

Ichinojo defeats Aoiyama – A friend of mine, an Army vet and tank driver, once told me a story about how they would take their 60 ton Abrahams tanks, and put them over jumps at speed. Prior to this match, I could only imagine what that was like. But here we have Ichinojo with a henka against Aoiyama. The Boulder rolls to the side, pasty white Bulgarian breast-meat goes jostling about, and a man in a blue mawashi hits the clay. And the result? Ichinojo gets a day 15 match against Chiyoshoma to decide his make/kachi-koshi. You can see that henka coming from a day away. At least we know the schedulers have a sense of humor.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Enho – This battle of the sad, battered pixies ends with a seldom-seen sotokomata, when Terutsuyoshi picks up Enho’s leg and drops him like a sack of gravel. Both of these guys need to regroup. But at least they are out of the maelstrom that will be the Hatsu joi-jin.

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – I have to think that somehow Tochinoshin got some use of that right knee back, or he would never be able to put that much lift underneath Kaisei. The former Ozeki powered up and Kaisei could do little more than go for the ride. Tochinoshin picks up win 8, and kachi-koshi while Kaisei takes loss number 8 for his make-koshi.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – Again the matta storm robbed us of a match I had been looking forward to for 2 weeks. These two should have been beating each other to a pulp, but instead Tamawashi ran a discombobulated Chiyonokuni out of the ring for his 8th win. Better luck at Hatsu I suppose?

Myogiryu defeats Hoshoryu – Thank you guys for giving us several long painful seconds of pushing on each other’s faces. I am sure it was brutal. I can only guess that Myogiryu’s face gave up first, as he tried to pull, and Hoshoryu ran him down. Myogiryu is headed for a deep drop down the banzuke, and Hoshoryu is headed for a day 15 Darwin match.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Endo is easy to anticipate these days, shallow grip attempt at the tachiai. Every single time. Kagayaki did not have much response at first, but rallied at the edge to push ahead, and nearly take the match. But Endo broke contact, circled right and attacked. Endo gets a “stay alive” win to head do a day 15 Darwin match against Hoshoryu.

Hokutofuji defeats Onosho – I don’t know if it’s by plan or by necessity, but we have seen Hokutofuji go chest to chest quite a bit this basho, and his absolutely cleaning up. I would love to see this as the new Hokutofuji sumo style, as it’s powerful, dominant and effective. Hokutofuji improves to 10-4, while Onosho is make-koshi for November.

Daieisho defeats Ryuden – Ryuden’s shiri-zumo / but wiggle seems to have run out of power to mesmerize and distract his opponents. Daieisho runs him out of town like a cop chasing down a hobo. Both end the day at 9-5.

Tobizaru defeats Kiribayama – Tobizaru is make-koshi, which I am sure bruises his ego (you can’t get this far in sumo without really believing in yourself). But I do like how he has focused on agility and rapid combo attacks in week 2. Kiribayama is injured and fighting poorly this basho, and I hope he can heal up and bounce back. for January. Tobizaru improves to 6-8.

Wakatakakage defeats Okinoumi – A big story is just how badly Okinoumi hit some kind of wall on day 9, and has now lost 6 straight. Okinoumi has a chronic pelvic injury that requires surgery and about 6 months to repair. So when it’s calm, he can fight like a champion, and when he’s hurt, we get this. Like Tobizaru, Wakatakakagi seems to be working on consolidating his sumo style, and I think it’s going to help him a lot in 2021.

Terunofuji defeats Shimanoumi – I give a lot of credit to Shimanoumi in making this one competitive. He kept calm, kept his head in the match and worked hard. But I also have to remake just how different this reconstituted Terunofuji is from his original form. He was meticulous, and slowly wore Shimanoumi down until he could get his left hand placed. Now at 12 wins, he is Ozeki material if he can keep his knees together.

Kotoshoho defeats Takayasu – I can’t begin to describe my frustration with Takayasu (I am nominally a fan). Is sumo is inefficent and relies on wild shifts of force and balance. So much so, he can’t keep his feet most of the time. He lets a punter like Kotoshoho shut him down and throw him about. Dear Takayasu – some time around your Ozeki promotion, you went back to your old, bad ways of your pre-Sekiwake era. It’s not working. Kotoshoho gets his kachi-koshi, and Takayasu gets to face Tamawashi for a chance at kachi-koshi.

Takanosho defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji had a moment to set p a marginal defensive stance following the tachiai, but Takanosho’s hand, hips and foot placement was superb. He powered into Takarafuji, and then through his center of gravity. Unable to recover balance, Takarafuji went out fighting to the last. A well earned kachi-koshi for Takanosho. Chiganoura oyakata has to be loving this.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – There is no way that Mitakeumi is not injured. Normally these two are a raucous smashy-slappy fight of tadpole power. But Takakeisho got locked onto center-mass at the tachiai, and just drove Mitakeumi around like a loaded delivery van. Win 13 for the lone surviving Ozeki, and make-koshi for Mitakeumi.