Tokyo July Basho Day 3 Preview

Your humble editor did in fact miss posting a day 2 preview. Some of you may say, “Bruce, what gives?”. Much as I love sumo, I admit that I have gotten myself tangled with a high priority software development project which, at least for the first half of the basho, is consuming most of my waking hours. It’s not my first startup. I love a good bootstrap effort, and this one may help a lot of people if we can get everything to work. If my writing seems like its coming from a point of bleary eyed exhaustion, give yourself +100 genki points. I do manage to sacrifice some sleep to watch the top division, and I give my undying thanks to Kintamayama and Natto Sumo for serving it up via YouTube for me to consume in bits when I can throughout the day.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Meisei vs Kotoyuki – Meisei returns from Juryo for the day to fill the torikumi gap left by Kakuryu’s absence. Kotoyuki is off to a slow start at 0-2, and seems to have put on a bit of weight during the quarantine period. There is some logic to top division rikishi striving to carry as much mass as their sumo can handle, I suspect that Kotoyuki may have over-shot by about 10kg.

Terunofuji vs Chiyomaru – I was fairly sure that Terunofuji’s day 2 match was headed for disaster. Kotoeko kept a high energy tug-and-shift routine going, trying to apply maximum torque to the relics of Terunofuji’s knees. We don’t get to know how much pain he is in following a match, and today he has to find a way to shift around the epic bulk of Chiyomaru. He has fought him 6 times before, taking 4. Terunofuji is certainly strong enough to muscle Chiyomaru around somewhat, but those knees…

Kotoshoho vs Nishikigi – After being a complete limp fish day 1, Nishikigi came back with some vigor on day 2. But it’s anyone’s guess which version shows up today against Kotoshoho. On the topic of Kotoshoho, he young rookie to the top division has opened strong with two straight wins, and may be in for a traditional first basho 10 win run.

Kotoeko vs Wakatakakage – Speaking of first basho streaks – Wakatakakage, why are you winless? Get it in gear sir! In their 3 prior matches, Kotoeko has not lost one, so there is a solid chance that the fellow that makes Raja Pradhan sound like a typewriter (Wakatakakage) may start July 0-3. Cue the worried sumo ladies in 3..2..1

Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh how I loved Takayasu’s day 2 match. A sight not seen in a few years. Shohozan was being his traditional self, and flagrantly attacking Takayasu’s injured left elbow. Takayasu eventually just grabbed Shohozan and held him still for a while. A long while. This was traditional Takayasu sumo, with enough stamina to keep 30 normal people turning cartwheels for an hour. I swear he took a nap in there too. No rush… You tired yet Shohozan? No? Zzzz. Zzzz ZZ. How about now? Going to be a different contest today as Kotoshogiku is going to get close fast and press ahead hard. They have 27(!) career matches, with a slight 15-12 Takayasu edge.

Kotonowaka vs Shohozan – I have my concerns that Kotonowaka will join the elite group that includes Aoiyama and Kagayaki. The guy has some solid sumo moves, and that should carry the day against a fading but surly Shohozan. As this is their first ever match, I am sure that “Big Guns” Shohozan is going to give him the full street brawl routine.

Shimanoumi vs Sadanoumi – Much like in the mock basho, these two seem to be stuck in an indeterminate sumo state, perhaps by observing them we can collapse their wave function into something genki? All I know is that the bulkier Shimanoumi seems to be susceptible to Sadanoumi’s lightning tachiai.

Tochinoshin vs Myogiryu – 25 career matches and the score is 12-13! I am delighted that Tochinoshin is appearing at least somewhat genki, and has none of the “roadkill” aura that he has carried the last two tournaments. I am not sure his knee is up for any sky-crane action, but fans can hope.

Tamawashi vs Kaisei – I really liked both of these veteran stalwart’s wins on day 2. Tamawashi gave Chiyotairyu a near tea-bagging, and Kaisei out-bruted Tochinoshin. Maybe Kaisei’s wedding recently has motivated him to higher levels of performance. Sumo fans, there is a whole lot of Kaisei, and if he gets motivated, they may need to have the dohyo repair crew on standby.

Ikioi vs Chiyotairyu – I think that both of them are a bit rusty at this stage, and are looking to keep fairly close to even by the end of the first act. Chiyotairyu has a slight 9-6 career lead, mostly due to his high energy cannonball tachiai, and his propensity to stand his opponent up and immediately knock them down at the start of the match. A gambit that works fairly well against the straight ahead Ikioi.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ishiura – Battle of the pixies, round 1. This time Terutsuyoshi is having a solid start, and Ishiura seems to be struggling. If you are asking yourself, “What happened to Ishiura?”, your judgement may be colored by the mock basho in May, where Ishiura was, at one point, the sole leader in the yusho race. I am sure real Ishiura would like to tap into fake Ishiura’s genki power right about now.

Tokushoryu vs Ryuden – Hatsu yusho winner and all around everyman Tokushoryu has started 0-2, possibly another victim of ring rust brought on by lack of joint training. Ryuden seems a bit under his normal performance level as well, but has managed to put his first white star on the board. I think that gives a slight edge to Ryuden today, but I am still looking for Tokushoryu to maintain a kachi-koshi pace.

Abi vs Enho – Straight up, Abi seems to also be a bit too massive for his sumo. Coupled with everyone getting a good hang of the ins and outs of “Abi-zumo”, his extra bulk have increased his ability to hold ground at the expense of attack speed. And frankly attack speed was the key to his sumo. The more he evolves closer to some kind of inflatable beach toy form, the easier it will be to overcome his offense. I give the nod to Enho if he can put down the beer for 10 minutes…

Hokutofuji vs Aoiyama – Hokutofuji also is looking quite rough. I know he is inherently streaky, and so once his sumo locks on, he should at least get to 7. But boy is it an uneven start for him. Big Dan has a matching 1-1 record, but looked more consistent in his first two matches. His day 2 match against Abi – brutal.

Kagayaki vs Kiribayama – For some reason, Kiribayama can’t yet get to a win. He’s up against Mr Fundamentals, who normally suffers a lot of ring rust. Not this July! He is focused and his sumo is sharp. While I would like to think that the young rising star, Kiribayama, can pull out a win here, I am going to favor Kagayaki keeping the streak alive.

Daieisho vs Takarafuji – So far we have yet to see Takarafuji deploy his defend and extend strategy. Everyone has just bundled him up and rushed him out with great effect. Daieisho is a good opponent to get back in stride, even though Takarafuji has a 4-6 career record against him. But Daieisho’s is prone to the stalemate tactics that Takarafuji prefers.

Onosho vs Mitakeumi – As an Onosho fan, his 0-2 start is disappointing, and it’s not going to get any better today when he steps off against an incredibly focused and genki Mitakeumi. During the mock basho, we had Mitakeumi likewise focused, strong and dominating nearly every match. I think it would be surprising and a bit spooky if he can replicate the Not-so-Basho result as well.

Shodai vs Takanosho – In the “What happened here” category – Shodai? He seems really hard, sharp and focused. Where his sumo and the past has been less than aggressive, so far this July he has come out strong and effective. I would guess Takanosho is smarting after two consecutive losses, and I would like to see him give Shodai a tough match.

Yutakayama vs Asanoyama – These two were once rivals when they first broke into the top division, and Yutakayama reached the top of the rank and file first, before injury forced him to regroup. Now its Asanoyama who is looking like a rock-solid Ozeki, and Yutakayama is struggling with an 0-2 start to July. They are tied 3-3 for their career, and both know how to disrupt and defeat the other. If Asanoyama can get his grip early, and shut down Yutakayama’s mobility, it’s going to be an 3-0 start for the shin-Ozeki.

Takakeisho vs Okinoumi – I think the 4 month stretch of relative isolation did Takakeisho quite a bit of good. He thus far seems to be strong, confident and back in control of his his body and his sumo. That day 1 shove against Yutakayama? BOOM! Okinoumi also seems to have benefited from the extended recovery period, and while he was no match for Hakuho, Kiribayama got a satisfying ejection from the ring. I favor Takakeisho in this one (6-2 career), especially because the Grand Tadpole seems to be back in the groove.

Hakuho vs Endo – A juicy, ripe morsel to finish the day. These two have had a bit of a blood feud going on for several tournaments, and both have shown a willingness to pound the other into a bloody mess. Hakuho looked rather tentative day 1, but gave Yutakayama a fast roll in the clay on day 2. We know the boss has been less than thrilled with the lack of test bouts leading up to the basho, and I suspect that the population of Oitekaze beya probably gave Endo somewhat better prep. Will there be blood?

Mock Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Our contestants shook off some of their ring rust, and brought a solid set of matches to day 2. Today featured a tadpole battle (Takakeisho vs Onosho) and a freshman battle (Yutakayama vs Asanoyama). Both of these rivalries are ones that I think are going to be driving factors for the next stage of sumo, and it was great to seem them on full display today. On to the matches!

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki (2-0) defeats Nishikigi (1-1) Oshitaoshi – Not sure what kind of chanko they are feeding Kotoyuki, but today was another great example of the “Genki” form of the Penguin. He blasted forward at the tachiai, using his taped hands to plant a painful looking nodowa on Nishikigi, who tried to counter and break Kotoyuki’s grip. While Nishikigi was distracted, Kotoyuki’s left hand found the back of Nishikigi’s mawashi, and a solid tug dropped Nishikigi to the clay. Wow.

Kotoeko (1-1) defeats Terunofuji (0-2) Hatakikomi – It’s disappointing to see Terunofuji struggle. Everyone wants him to do well, have a solid recovery and at least inhabit the lower reaches of the top division for a while. But today’s match was a great example of how his damaged knees have robbed him of some of the technique needed to be effective in Makuuchi. His weight was too far forward at the tachiai, and it was trivial for Kotoeko to just help him fall forward. The most painful thing? The look on Terunofuji’s face as the bowed at the end of the match. I think he’s worried too.

Kotoshogiku (2-0) defeats Chiyomaru (1-1) Yorikiri – Kotoshogiku steps onto the dohyo with so much tape each day – knees, shoulder, lower back, you have to wonder if that’s the only think holding him together. But for the second day in a row he showed he still has Ozeki skill. Chiyomaru opened strong, and got the inside position to begin his preferred thrusting attack. But Kotoshogiku kept up forward pressure and reduced the gap between them to limit how much Chiyomaru could push. Unable to reach around Chiyomaru’s enormous belly to land enough grip to use his gaburi-yori attack, Kotoshogiku focused on a hazu/armpit attack, and got Chiyomaru off balance. Chiyomaru took a small hop to try and re-center himself, and Kotoshogiku charged belly first and took him out.

Wakatakakage (1-1) defeats Kotoshoho (0-2) Oshidashi – Wakatakakage rallied to get his first win of the tournament. He came off the shikiri-sen like a wild man, throwing his body and hands into Kotoshoho’s chest and face, constantly pushing forward and up. Wakatakakage dropped his hips and charged forward while maintaining pressure, dumping Kotoshoho out of the ring in a heap. Solid, textbook sumo today from Wakatakakage.

Takayasu (2-0) defeats Sadanoumi (1-1) Oshidashi – Second time in 2 days we see Takayasu come out strong. I dare say that if he’s even somewhat healthy, this far down the banzuke, he is going to unleash complete hell. Again he led with a shoulder blast, today into Sadanoumi’s lightning tachiai. Sadanoumi tried to keep his elbow tight to his body, but the shoulder blast opened a route for Takayasu’s left hand to come inside and push, standing Sadanoumi up. Switched to defensive, Sadanoumi found it tough to counter volley after volley as the former Ozeki completely dominated this match.

Shohozan (1-1) defeats Kotonowaka (0-2) Yorikiri – Shohozan fans can rest easy, “Big Guns” is back. We saw a soft tachiai go directly into a face slap that rang out in the empty Kokugikan. This seemed to daze Kotonowaka, and once emboldened, Shohozan gave him two more. Rather than respond in kind, Kotonowaka dove for Shohozan’s mawashi, getting a right hand inside grip. But Shohozan was not unprepared, and lowered his hips, landed a grip and drove Kotonowaka out.

Shimanoumi (2-0) defeats Kaisei (1-1) Okuridashi – Kaisei came out strong at the tachiai, and met only token resistance from Shimanoumi who executed a very Hamumafuji style hit and shift mini-henka. With that much Kaisei in forward motion, it takes several city blocks for him to slow and stop, and it was trivial for Shimanoumi to circle behind and push the big man out to start the tournament 2-0.

Myogiryu (1-1) defeats Tochinoshin (0-2) Yorikiri – Nice shoulder blast from Tochinoshin at the tachiai shut down Myogiryu’s attempt at a left hand mawashi grip. Instead Tochinoshin’s left hand went deep and found Myogiryu’s blue silk. I was waiting for the sky-crane to kick in, but it seems Tochinoshin’s knees just could not get ready. After a moment’s pause where Myogiryu seemed to be waiting for the lift, Myogiryu unleashed a brilliant makikae, changing his grip and advancing. Tochinoshin could not return the forward pressure, and found himself forced out.

Ishiura (2-0) defeats Tamawashi (1-1) Sukuinage – In the “what’s in this guy’s chanko?” department comes that ass-kicking throw Ishiura produced today to send Tamawashi to the clay. The match shifted from run-and-gun to Ishiura having a grip, loading the throw and pivoting in a blink of an eye.

Chiyotairyu (1-1) defeats Ikioi (0-2) Hikiotoshi – Sumo’s thunder god found an opponent that would not side step him in Ikioi. But Ikioi had a bandage on that right elbow that Tamawashi’s kotenage took a piece of day 1. Ikioi drove that damaged right arm inside, and endured Chiyotairyu clamping his arm to his chest, squeezing that injured joint. Ikioi seemed oblivious to the pain, and drove forward, but too strongly as Chiyotairyu opened a gap, and using a hand behind Ikioi’s neck, pushed him to the clay.

Terutsuyoshi (1-1) defeats Enho (0-2) Yorikiri – In this all pixie battle, they had a bit of trouble getting started, with a stare down and reset before we saw Enho try to go underneath diminutive Terutsuyoshi. He did manage to get inside, but could not find a grip with his right hand as Terutsuyoshi’s ottsuke shut him down. Enho tried no less than three times to load a throw, but Terutsuyoshi kept his feet and stayed in the match. The final pivot from Enho left him off balance, and Terutsuyoshi squared his shoulders and advanced for a win. Nice sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Tokushoryu (2-0) defeats Ryuden (1-1) Yoritaoshi – Tokushoryu made ample use of that huge belly of his to keep Ryuden struggling for grip. Twice Tokushoryu moved to advance, and twice Ryuden was able to shut him down by lowering his hips and returning pressure. But the third time apply some Kotoshogiku hug-n-chug attack, but Ryuden’s heels locked in against the tawara and held firm. Reaching around his belly, Tokushoryu lifted Ryuden and fell on forward, crushing him against the bales. Nice 2-0 start for the Hatsu yusho winner.

Kagayaki (2-0) defeats Abi (1-1) Oshidashi – Abi-zumo started strong and help a punishing rain of thrusts going into Kagayaki, who seemed to absorb it all. Most importantly he maintained his balance and his footing. This guy keeps reminding me of Kisenosato, I swear. Abi seemed to get frustrated, and put a bit too much power into his right hand, which Kagayaki used to brush aside the double arm thrust and grab Abi by the chest and lift him. With most of his weight no longer on his feet, Abi offered little resistance to Kagayaki’s finishing move.

Hokutofuji (1-1) defeats Aoiyama (0-2) Tsukiotoshi – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai found its mark, but Aoiyama had the V-Twin throttled up from the start, and one meaty blow to the face sent Hokutofuji reeling back. Again we saw Hokutofuji’s upper body take punishment, but his lower body seems to have its own command and control system. Forward went the hips and up went the right hand, gripping Aoiyama. Another blow from Aoiyama’s left unbalanced Hokutofuji, but did not break his grip, and his lower body was on the march. A follow up left left Big Dan off balance, and Hokutofuji swung him to the clay. Aoiyama starts the tournament with a disappointing 0-2 record.

Kiribayama (1-1) defeats Okinoumi (0-2) Yorikiri – Kiribayama went chest to chest with veteran yotsu-zumo practitioner Okinoumi and came up with a white star. While some may say, well it was just Okinoumi – it’s an important milestone for the young up and coming Mongolian rikishi. He got his preferred right hand outside grip at the tachiai, and controlled the flow of the match from the start. Okinoumi did manage to pivot and load a throw, but Kiribayama rapidly shut it down and prevailed for his first win of the basho.

Takarafuji (1-1) defeats Shodai (1-1) Yorikiri – Textbook Takarafuji defend and extend sumo today against a rikishi who can pull together random movements to constitute surprising sumo, or what I call “Shodai’s Cartoon Sumo”. Shodai got left hand inside but Takarafuji kept Shodai’s right hand tied up. Shodai was so focused on freeing his right hand, he seemed to not notice that Takarafuji was slowly dancing him to the bales. Then it seems Shodai’s heel touched straw, and he realized what had happen. As Shodai shifted to focus on forward pressure, Takarafuji rallied and pushed him out. Lesson here Takarafuji will try to give you a puzzle to solve while he is robbing you of a win. Stay focused.

Takanosho (2-0) defeats Mitakeumi (1-1) Okuridashi – Takanosho takes another high profile match to start the basho 2-0. At the tachiai, Mitakeumi got superior position and what seemed to be a working grip, but Takanosho was able to shift / slide to his left, and Mitakeumi found himself misaligned with his opponent. Rather than moving forward, Mitakeumi put all of his force and focus on trying to square himself with Takanosho, who turned Mitakeumi and pushed him out with less dignity than a bouncer might apply to an irate, drunken salaryman.

Takakeisho (1-1) defeats Onosho (0-2) Tsukidashi – As much as I hate to see my two favorite tadpoles fight it out, this match is all about why I was hoping that Onosho could bounce back and become a mainstay of the joi-jin. Onosho got the inside position at the tachiai, but focused on Takakeisho’s face, which I think he long ago has written off. The answer? Yes, the long awaited return of the wave-action tsuppari attack. Much as I love the wave-action, I would rather it not be used on Onosho. But use it he did, and it was only 3 blasts before Onosho’s arms and legs were moving in different directions and he left the ring in a chaotic jumble.

Asanoyama (1-1) defeats Yutakayama (1-1) Yorikiri – Sure, next have my two favorite Freshmen fight. Asanoyama was taking no chances at starting the basho 2-0, and he evaded Yutakayama’s opening gambit and went straight for the belt. You know what I saw? Remarkable improvement on the part of Yutakayama on his belt sumo. He dug in and gave Asanoyama a real fight for about 30 seconds, before Asanoyama’s ozeki grade sumo kicked in and pushed Yutakayama over the bales. Glad Asanoyama got his first win, but I am absolutely giddy to see Yutakayama reach into the yotsu-zumo bag and pull out some candy.

Hakuho (2-0) defeats Endo (0-2) Uwatenage – Hopefully Endo has fond memories of that Hatsu 2020 win fixed firmly in his mind, because the boss is going to work hard to own him utterly every time they meet from here on out. Hakuho’s face slap hit home, but Endo got that shallow left hand grip he loves. Pivoting, Hakuho unleashed that right elbow to Endo’s face, breaking his grip. With Endo now fully exposed, in went Hakuho’s right hand, but only for an instant as he rolled his shoulders and put Endo in the air. Brutal and humiliating. I am curious to see what Endo does in their next match.

Kakuryu (2-0) defeats Daieisho (1-1) Yorikiri – Daieisho came out strong from the tachiai, and Kakuryu let him think he was doing well, draining his energy. But the master of reactive sumo gave him no opportunity to take control of the match. Daieisho would thrust and move ahead, Kakuryu would deflect and shift, waiting Daieisho out. The Yokozuna found the smallest loss of balance in his opponent, and drove in for the kill, with both men falling over the tawara locked together. The gyoji gave the match to Kakuryu, but the Shimpan wanted to review it, and confirmed the win.

Kyushu Day 14 Highlights

Some fantastic sumo today, especially the Terutsuyoshi vs Enho match, and the mad-cap chaos war between Tamawashi and Endo. But the headline is the much expected 43rd yusho for the winningest rikishi in recorded history, the dai-Yokozuna for the ages, Hakuho. I don’t think he’s even close to 100%, but even banged up with a gamey right arm, he’s quite capable of another yusho.

Much as expected, we have a host of rikishi headed for Darwin matches on day 15. This is where two 7-7 men face off, the winner gets the kachi-koshi. In fact we have 7 rikishi in that situation, which is much higher than I have seen in quite some time.

On to the matches!

Day 14 Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Daishoho – Chiyoshoma comes to visit the top division…. annd… HENKA! Anyone who was surprised by this should go re-watch a few dozen Chiyoshoma matches.

Takanosho defeats Shimanoumi – Poor tachiai timing, should have been a matta, perhaps. But hey, the gyoji called “hakkeyoi”, so they fight. Takanosho (who was early in the tachiai) claimed the inside lane and never gave up the advantage.

Daishomaru defeats Kotoshogiku – Poor tachiai timing, should have been a matta, perhaps. But hey, the gyoji called “hakkeyoi”, so they fight. Daishomaru was early in the tachiai and was able to get the inside grip with Kotoshogiku at his chest. With that sort of advantage, there is little Kotoshogiku could do. Perhaps Team Gyoji was out kind of late at the pub last night?

Kagayaki defeats Yutakayama – A clean tachiai, thankfully, and Yutakayama goes to work on Kagayaki’s face. But Mr. Fundamentals is intent on attacking Yutakayama center-mass. Yutakayama goes for a nodowa, Kagayaki stays center mass. Yutakayama finds he can’t maintain forward pressure, and Kagayaki shoves him out. Once again, solid sumo fundamentals carries the match for Kagayaki.

Ishiura defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi gets the better of the tachiai, grabbing Ishiura by the arm-pits and lifting. Ishiura gives ground and grapples with great effect, and now has at least partial control over Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi advances, but Ishiura masterfully re-directs his forward motion to the side, and swings him to the clay. Ishiura is kachi-koshi, and Sadanoumi heads to a Darwin match on day 15.

Nishikigi defeats Tsurugisho – I have to wonder what happened to Tsurugisho. This is his 6th consecutive loss, and to hapless Nishikigi no less! Tsurugisho’s balance seems to be shot, so I have to wonder if it’s some injury.

Chiyotairyu defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko gets the better of the tachiai, but he makes the mistake of giving Chiyotairyu strong pressure to push against. Chiyotairyu advances with gusto and throws in a few thrusts to break Kotoeko’s balance. That’s kachi-koshi for Chiyotairyu.

Enho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Enho picks up win number 7 to advance to the Darwin round after submarining the diminutive Terutsuyoshi. Getting a deep left and shallow right hand grip, Enho gives Terutsuyoshi a ride on the tilt-o-whirl, showing how effective he is, even nearly doubled over.

Chiyomaru defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji does his best to stalemate Chiyomaru, but there is just too much of Chiyomaru to really contain. When Takarafuji lunges to go chest to chest with Chiyomaru, Chiyomaru turns to the side and guides him to the clay for his 9th win. Nice return to the top division you have going there, Chiyomaru!

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – Shodai drops out of the group 2 behind Hakuho with the loss, but at least we can enjoy that Myogiryu gets sent to a Darwin match for day 15! Shodai was effective at keeping Myogiryu from setting up any kind of planned offense, but Myogiryu was happy to improvise for the win.

Meisei defeats Shohozan – Meisei bravely invites Shohozan to a slap fest, and gives as well as he receives. But he soon realizes that a right hand grip would be better, and tries to swing Shohozan into a throw, which he disrupts. At this point the match gets wild and disorganized, as both rikishi throw whatever they can into the mix. Meisei emerges victorious as Shohozan can’t maintain balance against Meisei’s pull. Meisei advances to a Darwin match on day 15.

Daieisho defeats Onosho – Even clash until Onosho decided to try to pull, and gave up forward pressure on Daieisho. Daieisho reaches his kachi-koshi, and Onosho heads for a day 15 Darwin match.

Kotoyuki defeats Okinoumi – Kotoyuki gets the better of the tachiai, he gets inside Okinoumi’s reach and goes to work with his “Flipper Attack”. Okinoumi has the strength to push back, and advances into Kotoyuki’s attack. The two exchange volleys until Kotoyuki closes in and delivers a might shove to Okinoumi’s neck. Okinoumi is make-koshi, and “The Penguin” heads for his Darwin match on day 15.

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama secures the jun-yusho, and is clearly working toward an Ozeki bid in January. Ryuden absorbed Asanoyama’s opening gambit, converting it into a solid attempt at a throw, but Asanoyama kept his footing in spite of his poor stance. Asanoyama rallied, and used Ryuden’s left hand grip to swing him around and out for win number 11. With 11 wins, he may force a Sekiwake slot to open for January, if necessary…

Hokutofuji defeats Aoiyama – Hokutofuji is less helter-skelter today, and focuses his energy on Aoiyama’s expansive whishbone region. Although he could not pick up kachi-koshi in his second trip to Komusubi, his sumo was greatly improved over his March visit to san’yaku.

Endo defeats Tamawashi – What a great match. These two threw it all at each other, and when that did not carry the day, they found new energy and kept going. I lost count how many times the match style changed: Yotsu, Throws, Oshi, and around again. At the end it looks like Tamawashi lost balance at a poor moment and Endo applied the yoritaoshi (one of my favorites) for the win. BOTH men advance to Darwin matches on day 15.

Abi defeats Takakeisho – Abi’s superior reach allowed him to land his hands first, and Takakeisho pushed forward to close the gap. Abi adroitly moved to the side and Takakeisho found nothing but clay to meet him. I would call this a damn clever delayed henka, and it worked brilliantly. Did you know this is Abi’s 3rd straight kachi-koshi as Komusubi 1 East?

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – And just like that, we have Hakuho yusho 43. Congrats to the boss. Mitakeumi looks completely disrupted at this point, and hits his 8th loss for a make-koshi. The question now is: will he vacate san’yaku entirely?

Kyushu Day 13 Preview

We are kicking off the final 3 days of the Kyushu basho. It looks almost certain that Hakuho will pick up the Emperor’s cup for the 43rd time, and he will need yet another warehouse in Chiba to store all of that beef he has coming his way. While we wait for “The Boss” to once again face limp condemnation from the YDC over even the slightest breech of protocol, the schedulers are showing us that with so many middling records, it’s Darwin matches for everyone. Coming out of today, we will have at least 3 new make-koshi rikishi, and possibly a few new cremates for the rikishi already aboard the slow, smelly barge back to Juryo.

On the subject of Hakuho, its true that I am a fan. But I have a secret hope, in that Hakuho lingers a while longer past his 2020 Olympics goal. Just long enough to have one of the new generation beat him straight up for a yusho. Bonus points if it’s Takakeisho or Asanoyama. Why? He’s the greatest rikishi of our time, and possibly any time. But some of his stuff just seems to beg for a “comeuppance”. The passing of the torch basho have been punctuations to end of dominant Yokozuna careers since I became a fan of sumo before Chiyonofuji faded from dominance. May “The Boss” face a fitting and noble close to his the career, going out guns blazing, but no longer able to dominate the new generation.

Kyushu Leaderboard

Shodai??? Shodai!!! Shodai…

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: None
Hunt Group: Asanoyama, Shodai

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Daishomaru vs Azumaryu – Azumaryu has a kachi-koshi at the top of Juryo, and a healthy number of Makuuchi rikishi eligible for demotion. I would guess “Mr A” is coming back for January. He faces the bosun of the Juryo barge, Daishomaru, who holds a 3-1 career advantage. May not help him today.

Shimanoumi vs Nishikigi – More of “Club Make-Koshi” fight it out in this first ever match between a flagging Nishikigi and a surprisingly low-scoring Shimanoumi. Shimanoumi has had a few very good fights in those 4 wins, but it seems he’s headed downward as well.

Daishoho vs Yutakayama – The captain of the Juryo barge meets a man on the hunt for his 8th win. Daishoho is 0-3 against Yutakayama, so I am going to guess this is a “gimme” match, it’s also a Maegashira 15 facing off against a Maegashira 9. Hoo boy. I am looking forward to lksumo’s assessment in a few weeks of where a few of these pivotal rikishi of the new era are going to rank for Hatsu.

Kotoshogiku vs Ishiura – Ishiura is operating at a new level of sumo, one not seen since his Makuuchi debut 3 years ago in Kyushu. The relic of Kotoshogiku will do his best to blunt Ishiura’s superior agility with strength, bulk and forward power. Let’s hope the Kyushu bulldozer has a few more big matches in him.

Kagayaki vs Sadanoumi – Is it just me, or do you hear Kagayaki grumbling all the way from Kyushu. He seemed genuinely cranky following his day 12 loss to Ishiura, and I expect that he has frustrations he needs to express. Via hitting Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi, for his part, still needs 2 wins, and seems very focused and orderly about the process. I think this comes down to who’s head is in the match.

Shohozan vs Chiyomaru – One more win needed by hometown brawler “Big Guns” Shohozan to pick up his kachi-koshi, and it may come today against Chiyomaru. Big Maru may have good cause to not push things too hard, he is already kachi-koshi, and needs to make sure he stays healthy for January.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoeko – Terutsuyoshi is also in the “needs one more win” club, and although he and Kotoeko are evenly matched on paper, Kotoeko is having a terrible tournament. If Terutsuyoshi fights like he has during week 2, this should be kachi-koshi interview for him.

Tsurugisho vs Chiyotairyu – A Tsurugisho loss here would sort him into the make-koshi bin, and he comes in with a 4 bout losing streak. Chiyotairyu, however, is my candidate for a day 15 Darwin match.

Shodai vs Enho – These two have never fought before, and I am eager to see how Enho’s busy “grab anything and tug” technique works against Shodai’s cartoon sumo. Shodai has the size, and some kind of other-worldly luck, but Enho has speed, agility and a solid belief that he can win against anyone. Guess if you practice against the dai-Yokozuna and beat him once in a while, everyone else seems like a bag of Showa-era rice.

Onosho vs Takanosho – Onosho gets my second nomination for day 7 Darwin match, and I think he’s got quite the hill to climb to get to 8 wins, but I think he can do it. Today’s fight against Takanosho is going to be tough for him, as Takanosho has much better footwork and balance. Onosho holds the power and speed advantage, and they are tied 1-1 from their 2 prior matches.

Aoiyama vs Ryuden – Hey, Big Dan, do us a favor and knock Ryuden around a bit before you give him a clay facial. I love Ryuden / Shin-Ikioi’s sumo, but yesterday’s henka feels like we need a penalty round for him. Please do oblige.

Meisei vs Okinoumi – Loser of this match is make-koshi, and Meisei is 0-3 against Okinoumi over his career. The winner of this bout is another good candidate for a Darwin match on day 15.

Daieisho vs Myogiryu – More Darwin appointees ahoy! I think that this one favors Daieisho due to his superior osha-attack form, so it will come down to if Daieisho can get the inside position at the tachiai, or if Myogiryu can disrupt him and get a mawashi hold.

Kotoyuki vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama has fallen out of the yusho hunt, but the possibility of him stamping his card for his first ever Ozeki bid is still very much in play. Informed prognosticators (like Tachiai’s very own lksumo) tend to think he needs to be at least 11-4 at Kyushu, so the man is on the hunt fo 2 more wins. Today he goes up against “The Penguin” Kotoyuki, who has upped the power of his flipper attacks. Regardless of the outcome, he is another strong candidate for a Darwin match on day 15.

Hokutofuji vs Tamawashi – The scheduler decide that one of these men is make-koshi today, call it a “Mini Darwin” if you would. Both of them are big, strong and pack a lot of power in their thrusts. I give stability advantage to Tamawashi, and speed advantage and “willing to try anything twice” advantage to Hokutofuji.

Takarafuji vs Endo – Our second “Mini Darwin” of the day, as the schedulers telegraph in big, ultra-blobby Kanji that day 15 is going to be survival of the fittest. Loser is make-koshi, and we get to see if that day 12 upper-cut left Endo dazed or stunned. If Takarafuji can shut down his opening gambit, it’s going to be a tough day for the Golden One.

Takakeisho vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi surprised me on day 12, and maybe he’s doing a bit better after that day 3 knock to the head. I am sure Takakeisho’s ego is smarting from that day 12 Ryuden henka, and I hope we see a big battle of frustration and angst played out between these two. Mitakeumi needs 2 more wins to hold Sekiwake, and I am sure that having his 3rd bid for Ozeki slip away from him is not bothering him at all…

Abi vs Hakuho – Abi has beaten Hakuho once in their 2 matches. Can he catch lightning in a bottle today? I would not count on it, as Hakuho knows how to win no matter what. I would suppose it comes down to the tachiai face slap coming from “The Boss”. If that fails to find its mark, it might be just the chance Abi needs to apply his sumo. Kintamayama has been including comments on Abi’s “one dimensional” style, and there are many who cite that as a limit to his sumo. But I recall that the same was true of Kotoshogiku. Regardless of todays outcome, Abi is part of the future of sumo, and Hakuho is increasingly part of sumo history.