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.

November Storylines, Day 13

The yusho race

And then there were 3. Ozeki Takakeisho is the sole leader at 12-1. One win back are the man he defeated today, M17 Shimanoumi, and the man we thought would be his main challenger, Komusubi Terunofuji. The chasers are matched up tomorrow, while the leader will face ailing Sekiwake Mitakeumi (6-7), who’ll be trying to play spoiler while avoiding make-koshi. A win by the Ozeki will ensure at least a playoff spot for him and eliminate the loser of the Terunofuji-Shimanoumi bout. Should Takakeisho lose and Terunofuji win, the final bout of the tournament between the two will be for all the marbles. If we get two upsets tomorrow, all three men will stay in contention going into Day 15, with a 3-way playoff in the cards, and Shimanoumi’s uncertain senshuraku opponent (one of the Sekiwake? Takayasu? Daiesho? Hokutofuji?) would have a lot to say about the final outcome.

Lower san’yaku

With 11 wins, Terunofuji has not only clinched a san’yaku slot for January, but done enough to move up to Sekiwake, whether or not a slot is open. Mitakeumi is the most endangered incumbent, with one more loss dropping him to Komusubi while two would see him in the rank-and-file next basho. Takayasu and Takanosho are one win away from defending their ranks, and Takanosho will at least stay in san’yaku. So we could still see as many as two open slots, and as few as zero. M2w Daieisho (8-5) and M4e Hokutofuji (9-4) are now in a virtual tie for the lead in the promotion derby.

Makuuchi demotion candidates

Absent Kotoyuki will be dropping deep into Juryo. Enho will in all likelihood be joining him, as even two wins will leave him with a demotable record. Yutakayama and Sadanoumi still need a win apiece; one of them is guaranteed to get it when they face off tomorrow. Everyone else has probably done enough already, although Akua, Terutsuyoshi, and possibly Chiyoshoma could use an insurance victory.

Juryo promotion candidates

Two slots are now open in the top division, and it looks like the final number will be two or three. One is now spoken for by J2e Midorifuji (9-4). J1e Akiseyama (7-6) would claim another with a win. Should he lose twice, or should a third slot open, the two contenders are J3e Ishiura (8-5) and J4e Chiyomaru (8-5), who are at least kachi-koshi and thus eligible for promotion. Everyone else is probably out of luck, although very slim hopes remain for the J5 duo of Daiamami and Hidenoumi, both 7-6.

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 stand one win away from safety. Everyone else will stay in the paid ranks.

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) needs to hope for a 5th slot, while the 3-3 trio of Bushozan, Terasawa, Kotokuzan (in order of rank) would need a win and a 6th open slot.

Tokyo November Day 13 Highlights

Some genuinely sloppy sumo today, but once again Hokutofuji stood out as showing better sumo than what I have seen from him in a while. Before he took a fairly brutal concussion in 2018, he was quite the rising star. That includes and 11-4 jun-yusho 3 years ago in Kyushu. But this November, his sumo, his stamina and his fighting spirit are all working together. He has at least 9 wins at Maegashira 4, and him finishing at least 10-5 is not out of the question. Given what I expect for Hatsu, he could be in for quite a ride near the top of the rank and file. I did, in fact, pick him to once again show off “the most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo” this month, but he has shown my prediction to be way off. Thanks for the surprisingly good sumo, sir!

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Akua – The bulbous Chiyomaru visits from from Juryo, and finds his 8th win against Akua. It was an even fight up until the point that Akua decided to try to pull Chiyomaru down. In doing so he gave up any defensive pressure, and found himself pushed out.

Chiyonokuni defeats Yutakayama – The oshi battle between these two was so intense, Chiyonokuni started shedding tape from his bandaged shoulder. He improves to 9-4 while a dejected Yutakayama takes a stroll to burn off momentum.

Chiyoshoma defeats Enho – Where has the fire pixie gone? Well, it’s down to an injury, sadly. I think that Enho’s poor performance and demotion to Juryo for Hatsu may be indications that he should just address his problems now. Chiyoshoma improves to 7-6.

Sadanoumi defeats Kaisei – In spite of one matta, the second try could not get the tachiai quiet right, but the gyoji let them continue. Sadanoumi did not waste energy building up a bit hit against Kaisei, rather focused on getting his arms around Kaisei’s chest and driving forward. Kaisei was unprepared, and quickly left the ring.

Meisei defeats Kotonowaka – Good, solid thrusting combo from Meisei to score his 8th win. He moved forward with power, and apart from one attempt to pull, Kotonowaka had nothing today. Meisei get his 8th win and is kachi-koshi for November.

Ichinojo defeats Kotoeko – Again today we get the powerful, fighting version of Ichinojo. I would hate to think he only showed up with there was a make-koshi imminent. That’s three losses in a row for Kotoeko, who had a fantastic start to this basho, but is now in genuine risk of a make-koshi. Both end the day 6-7.

Aoiyama defeats Hoshoryu – No V-Twin today from Aoiyama today, but he managed to stay mobile, and kept Hoshoryu moving around until he could time the slap down. Aoiyama improves to 5-8.

Chiyotairyu defeats Endo – Endo sniffed that something was not right, and when the tachiai finally came it was a Chiyotairyu henka. I guess Chiyotairyu wanted to take no chances scoring his 8th win, and Endo bought it. Endo drops to 6-7.

Hokutofuji defeats Tokushoryu – Hokutofuji went chest to chest with Tokushoryu, who can be pretty tough to move. But once Hokutofuji got his feet in the match, he dominated. A rescue throw attempt at the tawara was for naught, and Tokushoryu stepped out. Hokutofuji improves to 9-4.

Tochinoshin defeats Okinoumi – That’s 5 straight losses for Okinoumi, who started very strong. Okinoumi moved Tochinoshin back at the tachiai, and you could really see Tochinoshin do everything he could to keep pressure away from that right knee. Amazing sumo adaptation on his part. Once Tochinoshin was able to consolidate his grip, he moved forward for the win. 7-6 for Tochinoshin, and Okinoumi’s 8th loss for make-koshi at 5-8.

Tamawashi defeats Kagayaki – Great tachiai defense from Kagayaki, but forward power from Tamawashi was so great, you could see both of Kagayaki’s feet leave the dohyo. With no connection to earth to arrest his slide back, Kagayaki found himself at the edge of the ring in the second moment of the match. He went for a thrust down against Tamawashi, but had already stepped out. 7-6 for Tamawashi, and Kagayaki 8th loss for make-koshi at 5-8.

Takarafuji defeats Daieisho – The missing element from Daieisho’s sumo today? Mobility. He was landing thrusts well, but was not moving. I chalk this up to Takarafuji’s superior defenses, and once Daieisho’s attacks began to wane, Takarafuji took him to his chest and took over the match. Takarafuji improves to 9-4.

Onosho defeats Kotoshoho – Onosho was too far forward today, and in response Kotoshoho tried to pull him down or forward, but that simply powered Onosho’s final attack. Onosho, after opening 2-6, has rallied and may actually pull off a kachi koshi.

Wakatakakage defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu’s opening gambit fell short of taking Wakatakakage out, and he managed to get chest to chest and stop Myogiryu’s advance. After a moment’s pause, Myogiryu rallied into Wakatakakage’s throw for a loss. Wakatakakage improves to 5-8.

Kiribayama defeats Terutsuyoshi – Kiribayama manage to shift his grip mid-match, and in doing so changed his fortunes, picking up only his 3rd win of the tournament. Both end the day with a dismal 3-10 record.

Tobizaru defeats Takayasu – As expected, it’s more Takayasu “wild man” sumo. Tobizaru deserves a lot of credit for repeatedly blasting through Takayasu’s defenses and focusing center-mass. The two broke contact and then locked up chest to chest, and stalemated. With Takayasu contained, Tobizaru worked to adjust Takayasu’s balance until he had him shoulders out past his toes, and delivered swift kick to Takayasu’s ankle, dropping him like big hair coconut. Nice combo, Tobizaru!

Terunofuji defeats Ryuden – Ryuden’s butt-sumo brought him no benefit today. But his loose mawashi really blunted Terunofuji’s attack. But the best he could manage was to slow down the inevitable. Terunofuji broke Ryuden’s grip and pushed him away, and over the bales. That’s 11-2 for Terunofuji. Nice start to an Ozeki campaign.

Takanosho defeats Mitakeumi – That’s 5 straight losses for Mitakeumi, and I am going to predict he’s got some kind of lower body mechanical problem. He’s not really able to counter anyone’s forward movement, and seems to be easy to move around the dohyo. Takanosho improves to 7-6.

Takakeisho defeats Shimanoumi – A good example of just how genki Shimanoumi is right now, he was able to absorb and survive Takakeisho’s initial combo, and even rallied to drive the Ozeki back. But it seems that was just “level 1” for Takakeisho, who dialed up the intensity and the speed. A quick step to the side while Shimanoumi was staggering forward ended the match with a win for the Ozeki, who is now the sole leader of the yusho race at 12-1.

Tokyo November Day 13 Preview

Given the limited number of kanban rikishi in this tournament, the scheduling team has really done a masterful job of creating something out of almost nothing. They were helped by Shimanoumi’s hot streak, and a resurgence from Terunofuji. We head into the final weekend with an interesting run to the finish, and quite a lot is at stake. For Shimanoumi, it would be the latest rikishi to challenge for the cup going into the final weekend from the bottom of the banzuke. In fact, each basho this year has had someone below M12 in serious contention going into day 13.

For Terunofuji, he has stated in all seriousness that he is aiming to return to Ozeki. He has already taken a first step by hitting 10 wins by day 12, and can only improve from here. A yusho would likely be in the 12-13 win range, and that is quite the start to an Ozeki run. If he can pull off a return to sumo’s second highest rank, it would be one of sumo’s great stories of this era.

Lastly, for Takakeisho, a yusho in November adds a thick layer of savory curry to what is already shaping up to be a brutal and intense Hatsu basho. An Ozeki yusho for him would put him on the launch pad to become the 73rd Yokozuna. I know the YDC seems eager to force the aging, Mongolian Yokozuna intai, but frankly the current Ozeki corps is in tatters, and it would be unwise to push Hakuho or Kakuryu towards the barber before the NSK can resume normal training operations.

November Leaderboard

Leaders – Takakeisho, Shimanoumi
Chaser – Terunofuji
HunterRyuden

3 Matches Remain

Selected Matches

Aoiyama vs Hoshoryu – A win today for Hoshoryu would seal his kachi-koshi. It’s his first match against Aoiyama, and that initial encounter has proven brutal for other rising stars. But Big Dan is not quite up to his normal levels of power and fight this November, so it’s anyone’s guess how this will go.

Takarafuji vs Daieisho – Both are kachi-koshi, so this one is all about rank. The career record is 6-6, and this is a big battle of styles. Daieisho is going to move and strike, and Takarafuji will defend and extend. I am looking for Takarafuji to tangle up one of Daieisho’s arms early.

Tobizaru vs Takayasu – I can see Tobizaru’s dissapointment daily as he mounts the dohyo. He had a lot of hopes for his first visit to a much depleted joi-jin during this basho, but most rikishi get torn up and thrown out sideways. So his experience is no surprise. I am expecting Takayasu to do more “wild man” sumo, and I would really like to see Tobizaru exploit some large movement of an arm or leg from Takayasu to drop him to the clay. More likely, Takayasu is going to knock him into next week. This is their first time meeting.

Terunofuji vs Ryuden – Oh yes indeed. It’s time to test kaiju powers vs whatever happened in Ryuden’s butt. My money is on the kaiju, but I do worry about Ryuden’s shiri-zumo, which as already claimed a number of scalps. A win by Terunofuji today would shunt him into the group that will battle it out for the cup this weekend. I can’t wait to see how that goes. This is, in fact, their first battle.

Mitakeumi vs Takanosho – Both Sekiwake at 6-6, kind of miserable given that there is just the one Ozeki to rough them up. But they are going to fight for win #7 today, and both need to win 2 out of the next 3 to survive at this rank. It’s almost assured that Terunofuji is going to take one of their slots, or force a 3rd come January.

Takakeisho vs Shimanoumi – The big match we are all eager to see. Its going to be the first step that decides this one in all likelihood. If we see Shimanoumi get that left hand close to Takakeisho’s belt, its going to be his match to control. But I am looking for Takakeisho to hit him with both arms at the tachiai, and possibly put him into a ballistic trajectory toward the Sumida river.