Kyushu Day 15 Highlights

Congratulations to Yokozuna Terunofuji for taking his first perfect yusho, a 15-0 masterpiece that saw him overwhelm every other competitor from across the banzuke. It has been since the 1960s that a Yokozuna won both his debut tournament and the one that follows. A fine and rarefied roster that Terunofuji has now joined. What gives me a smile is that not even Hakuho, the greatest Yokozuna in sumo’s long history, was able to do that one.

Some solid questions coming out of Kyushu:

  • There is a massive log-jam of promotable rikishi at the top end of the banzuke. How they are going to sort this one out will be a puzzle for people like lksumo to consider.
  • Mitakeumi is back attempting an Ozeki campaign again. One of these times he is actually going to make it. I kind of feel bad for he guy, as every time he puts on one of these surges, he comes up just a hair short.
  • I am warming up to the idea of a “big churn” going into Hatsu, where the banzuke group just decide to send all the damaged rikishi with gimpy records down to Juryo, and bring up the maximum number of fresh athletes. This would somewhat defy convention, but would probably do wonders for sumo.

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tochinoshin – Terutsuyoshi went deep inside at the tachiai. Tochinoshin tried to wrap him up, but kept leaning over farther to keep him contained. Terutsuyoshi kept shifting in and a bit more to the side, and unleashed an under-arm shitatehineri that swung Tochinoshin to the clay. Terutsuyoshi finishes Kyushu with 7-8.

Kagayaki defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka chose defense by the 3rd step, as Kagayaki was connecting well against center-mass. Kotonowaka’s was able to hold Kagayaki in check until Kagayaki got a body hold, and was able to drive forward for a yorikiri. Kagayaki ends with a dismal 5-10 score, but may have passed the “most losses in 2021” title to Kotoeko.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu was strong out of the tachiai, connected well and started moving forward. Sadanoumi was ready for this, and as Chiyotairyu lunged forward to finish him, Sadanoumi stepped aside, grabbed an arm and boosted Chiyotairyu forward. Sadanoumi improves to a final 9-6 for November.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni took this one by never letting Hidenoumi set his feet. Without a moment to establish his balance, Hidenoumi never generated much offense, and was picked off a piece at a time by Chiyonokuni’s hit and move sumo. Chiyonokuni picks up a final win to end 9-6.

Akua defeats Aoiyama – Check out Akua’s thrusting variation. That was neat over / under pattern he set up against Aoiyama, and it really broke Aoiyama’s thrusting attack. Big Dan found himself unable to hold territory, and Akua sent him over the East side to finalize on a 9-6 score for Kyushu.

Yutakayama defeats Kotoeko – Even though Kotoeko finished the basho with a horrific 3-12 score, its not the worst record this November. But man, is it terrible. Yutakayama started strong, focused center mass, and gave Kotoeko no chance to try any sumo at all. Yutakayama finishes 7-8. I know there are some conditions in play that may limit demotions, but really we should see Kotoeko and Kagayaki in Juryo next time to give them a break and let the regroup.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Hokutofuji completely overpowered Chiyoshoma, and my hoped for yotsu mega-battle never had a chance to take place. Chiyoshoma looked like he thought something was not quite right with that match, but that’s how sumo goes, it seems. Hokutofuji ends with a powerful 11-4 score for Kyushu.

Chiyomaru defeats Ura – Chiyomaru enormous round defensive screen proved a significant geometry problem for Ura, who had to work around it to try and get inside and get his offense started. Chiyomaru knows this, and its why he built that protuberance, and as Ura dove in, he drove Ura down. Chiyomaru picks up his 8th win and is kachi-koshi for the day. Ura gets the well deserved technique prize and everyone wins something in this match.

Shohozan defeats Shimanoumi – In what might be Shohozan’s final match during honbasho, Shohozan breaks his nose and bleeds all over Shimanoumi in the process of taking him out with a yorikiri. Shohozan finishes Kyushu with 4-11, and will be ranked in Juryo on Christmas Eve unless he chooses to assume his kabu and retire.

Endo defeats Kaisei – The first of the true Darwin matches goes to Endo. Kaisei had a strong early advantage, but a throw attempt fell apart, leaving Endo behind him. A quick run out and a win by okuridashi, Endo finds his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi.

Hoshoryu defeats Takarafuji – Sort of a mini-henka from Hoshoryu at the start put him in control of the match. Surprisingly, Takarafuji seemed to be in a bit of a hurry today, and rather than grind Hoshoryu one second at a time, he went quickly to attack. This supplied the power needed for Hoshoryu win, as he opened up an uwatenage, that nearly fell apart. Hoshoryu improves to 7-8 for his final mark.

Okinoumi defeats Myogiryu – Dear readers, I present the worst record of Kyushu, Myogiryu with a 2-13. He was 11-4 and had the jun-yusho last month, and now this. He had almost nothing against Okinoumi today, who improved to 7-8 on the final day.

Takanosho defeats Abi – Takanosho managed to find a gap in Abi’s attack plane, and wastes no time getting him back on his heels, removing his thrusting power. A second volley gets him traveling out, and its a fast path to win number 11, and the fighting spirit prize. The banzuke team have quite a log jam at the top to untangle for January.

Takayasu defeats Onosho – As could be expected with these two fighting, it was a mess. Onosho had Takayasu moving out, but managed to crash down to the clay a moment before Takayasu’s foot landed. There was a mono-ii, and the gumbai went to Takayasu. Both of you two, go back to Tokyo and get your sumo together. Takayasu improves to 6-9.

Wakatakakage defeats Tobizaru – Second Darwin match, it was a fine and even fight that was evenly balanced until Tobizaru decided to try and pull against Wakatakakage, opening the door for the oshidashi that followed. We have not seen Tobizaru take a tour of the zabuton for fan service in a few days, so out he goes to say hello to the locals. No word on if he eventually said hello to sumo media great Jason Harris who was in the crowd today. Wakatakakage kachi-koshi at 8-7, Tobizaru make-koshi at 7-8.

Daieisho defeats Ishiura – The final Darwin match, and there was only one way this was going to end, with a Daieisho kachi-koshi. He made fast work of Ishiura, putting him face down on the clay by the third step, improving to 8-7, and sending Ishiura to a 7-8 make-koshi.

Kiribayama defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi put a bit too much stock in that pull down attempt on the third step, and gave Kiribayama a double inside grip. That was all he needed to overpower the veteran and earn his final win to complete Kyushu with a 6-9 make-koshi.

Meisei defeats Ichinojo – Lawd, what happened to Ichinojo? He finishes Kyushu with 5-10 after showing some strong sumo in week 1. Meisei struggled to find a way to move Ichinojo at first, and the Boulder’s pulling attempt more or less threw the match away. Meisei improves to 7-8.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – Mitakeumi gets to 11, and can make the case that he is yet again going to try to put together 33 wins to earn his way to Ozeki. Mitakeumi opened strong, and had Shodai moving, but Shodai went for a makke-kai without the territory needed to absorb the move. He was easy for Mitakeumi to finish at that point, giving him an 11-4 final score.

Terunofuji defeats Takakeisho – Well, Takakeisho proved he can move the Yokozuna if he connects, but he could not keep the wave train running, and the whole match devolved into some odd attack / pause thing that reminded me of the first time Takakeisho fought Hakuho. Terunofuji finishes him after a time to run his score up to a perfect 15-0, his first ever zensho.

With that, Tachiai concludes our daily coverage of Kyushu 2021. Thank you, dear readers, for joining us for what has been an immensely satisfying tournament. We have greatly enjoyed bringing you the stories, action and commentary of the final sumo tournament of the year. Join us on Christmas Eve for the Hatsu banzuke, and the start of a new sumo year.

Kyushu Special Prizes

Special prize deliberations and voting

Sanshō 三賞, literally “three prizes” are the three special prizes awarded to top (Makuuchi) division sumo wrestlers for exceptional performance during a sumo honbasho or tournament. The prizes were first awarded in November 1947. The three prizes are:
Shukun-shō (殊勲賞), Outstanding Performance prize
Kantō-shō (敢闘賞), Fighting Spirit prize
Ginō-shō (技能賞), Technique prize

Wikipedia

Who will get the trophies and the ¥2 million that comes with each one? The prizes are voted on before the final day’s bouts take place, but some are conditional on a rikishi winning his last bout or on more exotic outcomes, such as winning the yusho.

The November prizes have just been announced:

Kanto-sho (Fighting Spirit Prize)

West Maegashira #2 Takanosho  conditionally
(10-4)

Kanto-sho (Fighting Spirit Prize)

West Maegashira #15 Abi  
(12-2)

Gino-sho (Technique Prize)

East Maegashira #7 Ura  
(10-4)

Kyushu Promotion/Demotion Picture, Day 14

Congratulations to Yokozuna Terunofuji (14-0) on a well-deserved victory. With the yusho race decided, what else is on the line on Day 15? Two Komusubi slots, at least one Makuuchi-Juryo exchange, and two exchanges between Juryo and Makushita are at stake in senshuraku action.

Lower San’yaku

Mitakeumi (10-4) will remain East Sekiwake, and needs a final-day win against Shodai to mount a credible Ozeki bid in January. West Sekiwake Meisei (6-8) will surrender his rank, and needs to beat Ichinojo to limit his fall to Komusubi. Both current Komusubi, Ichinojo (5-9) and Kiribayama (5-9), are assured of a drop into the rank-and-file.

M2w Takanosho (10-4) has locked up a return to West Sekiwake after a 3-basho absence (fun fact: this will be his 5th appearance at that exact rank without ever being ranked Komusubi).

The pecking order for the two Komusubi slots is as follows: 1. Meisei with a win; 2. M1e Daieisho (7-7) with a win; 3. M1w Wakatakakage (7-7) with a win; 4. M7e Ura (10-4) with a win; 5. M6w Tamawashi with a win (9-5); 6. Ura with a loss; 7. M4w Endo (7-7) with a win; 8. Tamawashi with a loss. It’s possible that Endo with a win could jump over Ura with a loss, and also that M15w Abi (12-2) with a win could jump over Tamawashi with a loss. So that’s as many as seven men with san’yaku hopes on senshuraku!

Makuuchi/Juryo

There will be at least three open slots in the top division: one due to Hakuho’s retirement, one due to Asanoyama’s suspension, and one to be vacated by the lowest man on the banzuke, M17w Shohozan (3-11). Their spots will be taken by Juryo yusho frontrunner J4w Ichiyamamoto (12-2), Wakatakakage’s bro J1w Wakamotoharu (10-4), and J1e Tsurugisho (8-6).

Will we see any other exchanges? If M14e Kagayaki (4-10) loses, he’ll be demoted for certain. He really ought to be demoted even if he wins, but he could yet be bailed out by his uncanny banzuke luck. M17e Kaisei (7-7) is probably already safe, and can make certain of that by defeating Endo, a tough ask by the schedulers.

J7e Oho (10-4) broke his 4-bout losing streak just in time, and should have the 4th-best promotion case. He’ll replace Kagayaki with a win or a Kagayaki loss. The decision is less clear if the choice is between a 10-5 Oho and a 5-10 Kagayaki, and I would guess might favor the incumbent, especially since this is Kagayaki we’re talking about.

Finally, I don’t think they’ll drop Kaisei with a loss in favor of J3w Bushozan (7-7) with a win, and J6e Kotoshoho (8-6) is even less likely to get the nod if he wins and both Kaisei and Bushozan lose, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.

Juryo/Makushita

Three slots are definitely open in Juryo: one by Hakuho’s retirement, one by Hokuseiho’s withdrawal, and one by J9w Kyokutaisei (2-12). J14e Kyokushuho (6-8) and J10e Yago (4-10) will also finish with demotable records, but each could earn a reprieve with a win, while a loss would doom them to Makushita.

Ms1w Kotoyusho (4-2) should be making his Juryo debut win or lose. He is matched with Yago. Ms2w Shiba (5-2) will also finally become a sekitori after toiling in the unsalaried ranks since 2014. Ms4e Chiyoarashi (5-2) should also be in, as he is competing with Ms3e Kitanowaka (4-2), who is matched with Kyokushuho. A Kitanowaka victory would force down Kyokushuho, creating space for both himself and Chiyoarashi, while a Kitanowaka loss would place him behind Chiyoarashi. In that case, Kitanowaka may need to hope for a Yago loss. Finally, Ms4w Fukai (3-3) faces J8w Churanoumi (6-8). Should he pull off the upset, he would need both Yago and Kyokushuho to lose. If Fukai, Yago and Kyokushuho all lose, a spot would open up for someone outside the traditional Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone: either Ms6e Shimazuumi (4-3) or possibly Ms8e Tamashoho (5-2).

Kyushu Day 15 Preview

We come at last to the final day of this final tournament of 2021. What a year it has been, and what a satisfying end to this tournament. Terunofuji has 4 of the 6 yusho for this year, with Hakuho taking his final cup in July in the heat of Nagoya, and Daieisho winning in January. He has completely dominated sumo this year and looks to continue into 2022. The last question we have around the yusho is – can Terunofuji have his first perfect yusho? A win today against Takakeisho and he will reach that goal. He has already won his first two tournaments since promotion, a very rarefied roster.

We have three Darwin matches today, with a total of 7 rikishi finishing the first 14 days at 7-7. Chiyomaru escapes the Darwin fight and instead will face Ura to meet his doom. On the times I was fortunate enough to attend senshuraku in person in Tokyo, there is a very celebratory and relaxed feeling. The fans are generally upbeat, the rikishi are usually looking forward to the end of the tournament, and in the days before COVID, its on to the stable and fan group parties following the last match. Hopefully one day soon, that tradition will return. The rikishi and the stables really need the engagement and donations from the fans.

The last thing to be decided is who is falling out of the top division, and why from Juryo might take their places. lksumo has been doing a great job of looking into that murky future, and I am eager for the banzuke on Christmas eve.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Tochinoshin vs Terutsuyoshi – A pair of 6-8 rikishi face off, to see who can get that 7th win. I am surprised and delighted that Tochinoshin was able to have this good of a record going into the final day. There was a time a week ago when I was thinking he was going to be headed to Juryo, possibly never to be seen in the top division again. Instead, he should be around for a bit longer, and if he can get his body a bit more healthy, may even have a big score given he will be fighting at the bottom of the banzuke in January.

Kotonowaka vs Kagayaki – This match will likely gauge how far down the banzuke Kagayaki will drop, and to conclude the derby for the most losses in 2021 between Kotoeko and Kagayaki. Ugly stuff.

Chiyotairyu vs Sadanoumi – One of the many “Hey, why not” matches on day 15 where the rikishi need to fight someone, and the make/kachi koshi are already decided. I like Sadanoumi in this one, just because he has been fast and effective this November.

Chiyonokuni vs Hidenoumi – Matching 8-6 records, I think one may be to help gauge how far up the banzuke Chiyonokuni will rise. A 9th win will see him a bit above the midpoint, which I worry might be a tough rank for him.

Aoiyama vs Akua – Can Aoiyama find one more win before the curtain closes on Kyushu? He has really been struggling in spite of being able to use “his brand of sumo” frequently this tournament. Akua is already kachi-koshi, and has been fighting well, so I don’t expect Aoiyama to be successful today.

Kotoeko vs Yutakayama – Kotoeko is going to turn in at least 11 losses this basho, and I think he really needs to recover in Juryo. He’s Maegashira 8, so he’s not likely to drop all the way out of the top division, but he’s had two double digit make-koshi tournaments this year. Clearly he’s hurt.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyoshoma – I have a lot of interest in this match. Hokutofuji lost the last 2 out of 3, and he will face a much more genki Chiyoshoma that I can ever recall seeing. This guy always had a fair amount of potential, but has only recently decided to put it work. Hokutofuji is a tough competitor, and can attack using multiple forms. Both are kachi-koshi, so this is all about rank.

Ura vs Chiyomaru – Well, someone had to go up against Ura today. May as well be the 7-7 Chiyomaru, who is large and round, and rolls very well. I am hoping for another ashitori today to close out the cornucopia of kimarite from Ura this tournament.

Shimanoumi vs Shohozan – I would love to see Shohozan finish with a win, but given that Shimanoumi has a 5-1 career advantage, I just don’t see it happening. Its an open question on if he will go back to Juryo, or pull the lever on retirement and take up a position as an elder in the association.

Kaisei vs Endo – First Darwin match, and its likely to be “The Endo Show” today. Endo is fighting much better this November than Kaisei is, and I would expect him to land a grip early, and roll Kaisei out or down before the 4th step.

Takarafuji vs Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu has struggled this tournament. He came in with more mass, and as we have seen young rikishi bulk up, it usually takes them a tournament or two to get adjusted to their new size, so this is likely an evolutionary period for him, and we may see a much more effective Hoshoryu in January. Takarafuji seems to be lacking his ability to hold ground right now, and that’s likely due to some injury.

Okinoumi vs Myogiryu – Wow, Myogiryu at 2-12, that’s a brutal score that could be 2-13 by the end of today. He and Okinoumi have a 30 match career record, and under normal conditions it might be a big fight. But clearly Myogiryu is not up to par, and it’s likely going to be win #7 for Okinoumi.

Abi vs Takanosho – This one bay be about deciding ordering and position in the ranks for January. I will be surprised if they don’t give Abi a special prize, or even two, this basho. He really over-performed. Takanosho has likewise hit double digits. Takanosho has never taken a match from Abi, and I hope he has a plan to shut down Abi-zumo before he loses any offensive position he might claim.

Onosho vs Takayasu – Two rikishi I really like, both with miserable 5-9 scores. One of them is going to hit double digit losses, and I am worried it will be Takayasu. I am not sure what is damaged in that big hairy body, but I hope he can get it mended in time for January.

Tobizaru vs Wakatakakage – Second Darwin match, its a pair of high mobility fighters looking to rip kachi-koshi from the other man’s hide. They have an even 4-4 record, so I expect this one to be fast, fierce and brutal.

Daieisho vs Ishiura – This one is a bit of a puzzler, M1 Daieisho vs M12 Ishiura in the final Darwin match. I don’t give Ishiura much of a chance in this one, as Daieisho is out of his normal range of opponent. Winner kachi-koshi, loser make-koshi.

Tamawashi vs Kiribayama – It seems that Tamawashi has not been able to win against Kiribayama in any of his previous 3 tries. I like his chances today, as Kiribayama comes in with 5-9 score to mirror Tamawashi’s 9-5.

Ichinojo vs Meisei – Folks had a lot of hope for Ichinojo this basho, he was in the named ranks, he had some early matches that showed real fire, and everyone was looking for him to hold rank. But in reality he found himself on the losing end of a few too many matches, and is starting at the possibility of a double digit make-koshi if he loses his match with Meisei today.

Shodai vs Mitakeumi – These two wide-bodies have 25 previous matches, and they balance out 12-13. Thankfully Shodai is not in the Darwin group, but could reach double digits if he can best Mitakeumi today. Of course Mitakeumi is looking for an 11th win to give his Ozeki run a solid push.

Terunofuji vs Takakeisho – This will decide if Terunofuji can finish with a perfect 15-0 yusho for the first time in his career. He has an even record against Takakeisho, who can give the Yokozuna a good fight as long as he does not get too eager and try to pull Terunofuji down.