Kyushu Day 13 Highlights

Takakiesho

We had a solid day of sumo for Friday, a good number of ‘koshis were decided (make- and kachi-), and everyone works their sumo while fans wait for what Team Tachiai stalwart PinkMawashi calls the “Taka Bowl”. With the basho in a No-kozuna status since Act 1, the completion has been impressively equal. With no grand champions harvesting white stars from the upper Maegashira (like we saw at Aki), and the Ozeki corps only ⅔ genki, the field has been wide open. The result is not quite the sumo that some fans are used to, with a handful of ur-rikishi winning everything every day with overwhelming sumo.

The Juryo ranks finds Mr 5×5 – Kotoyuki, with double digits wins. At Juryo 3, we will likely seem him return to the top division yet again, where he always seems to struggle, and frequently crowd-surf. The other story is the strength of Yago and Kotokaze, two rikishi from Oguruma who are young, strong and on the ascent. With Yago on the ferry to Makuuchi for January, and Kotokaze on the path for later in 2019, we could see a lot of new power from the stable that gave us long-serving veterans Yoshikaze and Takekaze.

Highlight Matches

Daishomaru defeats Yutakayama – Don’t blink. Solid tachiai, then Daishomaru outright decks Yutakayama, sending him sprawling to the clay. Boom! Yutakayama gets a headache, and his make-koshi.

Chiyoshoma defeats Sadanoumi – Chiyoshoma hands Sadanoumi a make-koshi while avoiding one himself. Impressive lift and twist at the tawara! There was a brief mono-ii as the shimpan wanted to make sure Chiyoshoma’s toe did not touch out during the lift. Sadanoumi went from a solid opening week to a string of losses. Injury? Stamina?

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – Onosho succumbs to the Kyushu Bulldozer’s preferred attack, and rides the hug-n-chug express all the way to kuroboshi (black star) land. Kotoshogiku secures kachi-koshi in front of his adoring home town crowd, and everyone can celebrate that.

Takanosho defeats Ikioi – Takanosho maintains his enthusiasm and finds a way to stalemate Ikioi’s repeated attempts to throw him. To be fair, Ikioi is a big, sore mess right now. Takanosho uses Ikioi’s perpendicular throwing stance to advance and motor him out. Both are now 4-9.

Okinoumi defeats Shohozan – Okinoumi goes to double digits with a big win over Shohozan. It’s impressive that Okinoumi managed to get Shohozan contained, and then packaged for shipment for a clay facial. When Okinoumi is in good health and his body cooperates, he is a solid sumotori for mid-rank Maegashira. May his fine health continue.

Meisei defeats Abi – Abi-zumo seems to be past its sell-by date for now, as fellow shiko-peacock Meisei shrugs off the double-arm attack in the opening seconds. A quick left hand to the armpit and a strong lateral shove and down goes Abi.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s normally un-glamorous sumo seems to have taken on a lethargic sludge in week 2, and Endo finds his 8th win against the increasingly make-koshi Kagayaki. We know Kagayaki is strong, and is becoming quite the master of sumo mechanics, so we have to wonder if he’s nursing an undisclosed injury.

Nishikigi defeats Daiamami – Maegashira 3 vs Maegashira 15, you have to wonder what this match was for except to transfer a white star to Nishikigi. Granted, I am really impressed by what Nishikigi has been able to do in Kyushu, and he made fairly easy work of Daiamami, who ends the match with a make-koshi.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – The experience and efficiency of Tochiozan’s sumo was on display in this match. Asanoyama put a lot of vigor and energy into his sumo, but it’s striking to see how minimal Tochiozan’s body movements are. The bout ends with Tochiozan hurling Asanoyama from the dohyo in dramatic fashion. Tochiozan kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2, interesting times indeed.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi expertly executes a mini-henka (a completely different animal from the henka), and Hokutofuji buys it. I still see a great potential for Hokutofuji, but in this basho he has gotten himself too far forward more than a few times. Part of it is that handshake tachiai, which – when it works – gives him a half-step advantage in the match. But it also broadcasts he’s coming forward with authority. If you can watch the match in slow-motion replay, note that Hokutofuji lowers his head and takes his eyes off of Tamawashi’s center mass. Tamawashi times his move to the left perfectly to coincide with this breaking of focus, and by the time Hokutofuji senses the opening gambit, he is unrecoverable. Tamawashi is also kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2. There’s going to be a scramble for the higher slots, I think.

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – Shodai has found an interesting solution to his tachiai mechanics. He has become increasily skillful at absorbing the initial charge and rapidly gaining control of the initial merge. Myogiryu was fast enough and strong enough to maintain the inside position, and kept Shodai reacting.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Notable in that it looks like Kaisei appears to have tweaked his left leg as he resisted Ryuden’s effort for a throw. Kaisei went down in an awkward way, and was visibly hurt following the match.

Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – Takakeisho remains in the lead, but Aoiyama made him work for it. Aoiyama can deliver a IJN Yamato class pounding when he can get set up, and certainly brought the big armament out today. But what really caught my eye was that Takakeisho was not quite able to set up his wave action attack. Aoiyama’s solid offense and long reach (compared to Takakeisho’s much shorter reach) seems to have kept the yusho race leader constrained. But impressively, Takakeisho adjusted and tossed the man-mountain to the clay anyhow.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – Excellent example of just how powerful Ichinojo is. Yoshikaze was tossed around like a pony, and had almost nothing to say about it.

Chiyotairyu defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi inches closer to the make-koshi line against some off-balance but effective sumo from Chiyotairyu. I don’t think Chiyotairyu had a firm stance for any moment of this bout, but he managed to maintain control of Mitakeumi and win. For Mitakeumi fans (which includes me), many Ozeki applicants fail their first attempt, and are forced to swallow demotion, re-group and re-ascend in stronger form. I look forward to the next evolutionary stage of Mitakeumi!

Tochinoshin defeats Takanoiwa – A much needed win for the Ozeki, who struggled a bit even though he was able to land a left hand grip on Takanoiwa. Takanoiwa’s athleticism and keen balance were on display today, as he managed to thwart Tochinoshin’s offense against several solid, strong moves to win. The match ended with Takanoiwa losing grip on the dohyo, and falling backward, with the kimarite listed as koshikudake (inadvertent collapse), and is considered a non-winning move.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – Though the outcome was fairly certain, Daieisho put up a good fight, and the Ozeki put up an odd offense. Multiple attempts to pull Daieisho down left Takayasu off balance, but Daieisho was too reactive to capitalize on these moments. Will Takayasu uses this strategy in the Taka Bowl on day 14? I think that Takakeisho won’t pass up these openings. Bring on the doom-match of day 14!

Kyushu Day 12 Highlights

shohozan

Day 12 was a solid day of sumo, but it did bring a couple of questions to the front. The first for me is that with a number of lower ranked rikishi approaching double digits, and fighting very well this basho, will the NSK once again decide that “nobody deserved a special prize”? Many fans were shocked by that declaration at Aki, as several rikishi put together successful campaigns in the face of a resurgent Yokozuna and Ozeki corps.

The yusho race narrowed considerably, and that was clearly intended given the day 12 schedule. The matches involving the chasers were all solid sumo that saw each candidate produce a fierce effort.

For those readers who are keeping up with Juryo (and who wouldn’t with Herouth doing a masterful job covering it), Oguruma rising star and certified sumo battle-cruiser Yago secured his kachi-koshi at Juryo 1 East, meaning short of some kind of bizarre incident, we will see this sumo phenomenon in the top division in January. He has been in Juryo for the past 5 tournaments – 7 total over his short 10 basho career. His sumo looks strong, low and heavy.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – A notable match because Chiyonokuni goes for the mawashi and engages in a solid yotzu match against Daiamami. Is it just me, or is Daiamami looking surprised there? Even though he is make-koshi, it’s great to see Chiyonokuni rack up a much-needed win.

Okinoumi defeats Meisei – Okinoumi continues to rack up wins, and it’s wonderful. Meisei denied a kachi-koshi today, and he seems a bit frustrated. Okinoumi could hit double-digits this tournament, and might end up with a substantial re-ranking upward for January. While his fans might cheer this, Okinoumi suffers from a chronic medical condition that sometimes impacts his sumo, and I would hate to see it worsen.

Yutakayama defeats Endo – Yutakayama very effectively kept Endo from going for his mawashi, and instead set the tone and format for the match, which took the form of a windmill thrusting contest. Endo’s last minute attempt at a pull down failed, and Yutakayama got a much needed win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Aoiyama – As much as I admire and respect Kotoshogiku, I was really pulling for Aoiyama to prevail. Aoiyama opened strong, and began with his expected thrusting attack, but could not stop Kotoshogiku going chest to chest with him. At that point, I think Aoiyama began to worry, and that may have been the start of trouble. The Kyushu Bulldozer’s knees are not what they once were, but he contained and pushed with enough force to move Aoiyama out. With this loss, Aoiyama falls out of the group 1 loss behind Takakeisho.

Onosho defeats Daieisho – Yusho leader Takakeisho’s friend Onosho does him a solid favor and quenches the higher ranked Daieisho’s aspirations for a day 15 parade. From the match you can see just how much Daieisho was putting into this match, he met Onosho thrust for thrust, but left himself open for the hatakikomi at just the wrong moment.

Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – I bring this match up because it’s clear just how hurt Ikioi is, watching him gather his strength just to stand following his defeat. The man is a true competitor, and its amazing to see true determination and courage on display.

Takanoiwa defeats Chiyoshoma – Bit by bit we see Takanoiwa get his sumo back. I would assume by the middle of 2019 he is back to being a serious full time contender for the upper Maegashira / lower San’yaku. Chiyshoma is now one step closer to make-koshi, and he is perilously far down the banzuke for end November with a losing record.

Kagayaki defeats Takanosho – Both men are make-koshi, but this is a match to watch. Firstly, Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals carries the day. Second, is I have started to take note of Takanosho, this guy, much like Asanoyama, seems to have a very positive attitude about competition, even on days when he loses.

Shohozan defeats Chiyotairyu – If any wonder why I call Shohozan “Big Guns” or refer to him as a “Street Fighter”. Behold exhibit A. His match with Chiyotairyu featured a few loud and forceful blows the the face that probably left a mark, and certainly got the crowd’s attention.  Chiyotairyu goes chest to chest, removing the immediate threat for more blows to the face. Sadly for Chiyotairyu, he’s somewhat stuck at this point, as his yotzu card is not strong, and his stamina tends to be expended in the first few seconds. Shohozan correctly waits him out, injecting a few harassing moves moment to moment, and bides his time. Shohozan wins his kachi-koshi, and the home town fans are delighted.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – The happy rikishi staves off make-koshi for another day, but its sadly at the expense of long suffering Takarafuji.

Yoshikaze defeats Abi – As expected, Yoshikaze learned well from Ikioi, Endo and Okinoumi. You can see him apply upward pressure at Abi’s elbows, disrupting his preferred double arm thrust attack. Time and again Yoshikaze drives inside, just to be awarded a hand to the face. His persistence is rewarded by control of the inside, and he pushes Abi back, back and out. Although it’s at a bit slower speed and lower energy than a few years ago, Yoshikaze still has the goods when he can rouse his fighting spirit.

Tochiozan defeats Myogiryu – I have to wonder if Myogiryu has run low on stamina, his brilliant opening week seems to have turned into a bit of a rout. Tochiozan succeeds in getting him turned sideways, and off balance for the win.

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – Wow, Shodai was on his sumo today. Hokutofuji put a fair amount of genki into the tachiai, but Shodai absorbed it masterfully, and kept Hokutofuji from executing any successful offense. Shodai instead stalemated Hokutofuji, and waited for his opening, which he found and exploited with exquisite timing.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Takakeisho seems close to unstoppable at this point. Tamawashi always has strength and balance, but in reaction to the “Wave Action” attack, it seems that few can maintain their footing for long. After the second wave, Tamawashi is too far forward, working to bring maximum force to bear on Takakeisho, who senses the imbalance and deftly steps aside.

Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – As stated in the preview, Nishikigi surprises every couple of days, and today he was somehow able to use an off balance position to load up enough energy to push Kaisei out. Dare I say it? Nishikigi could still end this basho with a winning record at Maegashira 3. A new day in sumo indeed.

Ichinojo defeats Ryuden – In hitting his make-koshi, Ryuden gave Ichinojo a solid fight. But it seems the Mongolian giant is working through whatever pain or injuries are blunting his sumo. Twice Ryuden had Ichinojo’s heels on the tawara, twice he rallied. Ichinojo closes the match with a hearty lift and drop. Well fought both.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – I am worried about Tochinoshin, and I think Goeido’s kyujo may rescue him from a make-koshi and a kadoban status for New Years. Takayasu seems to be focused and driven to bring himself to his eventual showdown with Takakeisho as a fierce contender who is ready to claim the Emperor’s cup by eliminating the upstart contender.

Kyushu Day 7 – Recap

1:59 bout vs. Takayasu, Ryuden

The first week of this tipsy basho is coming to a close, and the basho signals to us that it still has enough bottles of saké to develop a good delirium tremens, and that any advance bets and dares are at our own risk (how was your rump steak, Bruce?)

Daishoho does today’s duty as the Juryo fill-in, facing Meisei. He envelopes Meisei right off the Tachiai, and none of Meisei’s wriggles are to any avail. Yorikiri, and Daishoho picks a nice envelope in his first Makuuchi bout.

Chiyomaru and Takanosho are both 1-5 coming into this match. Takanosho is aggressive and pushes Chiyomaru to the edge. Chiyomaru tries to sidestep, but Takanosho maintains his balance and keeps up the pressure, leading him to the other edge. So Chiyomaru tries it again. This time it works. Hatakikomi, Chiyomaru grabs his second win. I believe both of them are heading down to Juryo by the end of this basho, but I’m not staking any body-part steaks on that.

Arawashi‘s bout with Onosho might as well has been a fusen. Onosho rises, and pushes unresisting Arawashi straight off. Watching Arawashi this basho is really painful.

Endo attempts a harizashi (slap-and-slip) on Chiyoshoma, but never gets to the sashi (slipping his hand inside) part. Chiyoshoma advances, retreats, advances again and seems in control, but Endo pulls and wins this one by hatakikomi.

Okinoumi and Daiamami are “kenka-yotsu” – meaning one of them prefers migi-yotsu (right hand inside), and the other hidari-yotsu (left hand inside). And indeed most of this bout is spent attempting to get their favorite grip and denying the other his. Daiamami maintains a strong grip on Okinoumi’s belt, but it’s just an “ichimai” – hold on one layer – and it’s Okinoumi who manages to wrap Daiamami up and yori-kiri him.

Chiyonokuni‘s match with Daishomaru starts with a strong kachiage – but it’s actually a matta. On top of that, that kachiage causes Daishomaru’s nose to bleed. He needs to take a break and returns to the dohyo with a wad of tissue up his nostril – not exactly a beautiful sight. The match restarts. This time Chiyonokuni is a bit more hesitant in his tachiai, and Daishomaru exploits that and yori-kiris the Kokonoe man.

Both Aoiyama and Sadanoumi look better than one would expect this basho, and start this match 4-2. Sadanoumi takes the initiative and has his right hand inside, but Aoiyama locks it, prevents him from achieving a proper yotsu position, and adds a bubious nodowa (you’re not supposed to do that with your fingers folded, though one can’t call that an actual punch), sending Sadanoumi for a dive. Oshitaoshi.

Yutakayama does not look very good this basho. However, he starts this match with a kachiage to Kotoshogiku‘s throat. Follows that with two powerful nodowa, and when Kotoshogiku applies all his strength to the ground to withstand those, steps aside and lets the former Ozeki’s strong legs to all the work. Yutakayama gets his second win by tsukiotoshi.

Daieisho, who somehow found himself in the chaser group without us even noticing him, is not impressed with Abi‘s well-known opener. He withstands a couple of shoves, goes under them and does some shoving of his own. Daieisho is now 6-1.

In the battle of the single-kanji wrestlers, Ikioi lands a shallow grip, but Kagayaki frees himself and starts a pushing attack that puts Ikioi in reverse gear and out of the ring. This is Kagayaki’s first win against Ikioi.

Something really is up with Takanoiwa this basho. It’s as if he is afraid of contact. Takarafuji manages to land a brief hold on him. Takanoiwa retreats, frees himself from that grab, but instead of making any attack of his own, keeps retreating and Takarafuji really doesn’t need to do much to win. Both end this match 2-5, and I’m sure Takarafuji was scratching his head asking himself how exactly he won that, as he was going back to Isagahama beya’s lodgings.

Shohozan starts his bout with Asanoyama with a mighty morotezuki… only he does it without having actually touched his hands to the ground – and soon-to-be-promoted Konosuke will have none of that. In the second tachiai, he touches very slightly, and repeats the morotezuki, following it by a brief morozashi. Asanoyama is very active, releasing himself from that grip first on one side and then the other, and then getting his own hold. From then on it’s Asanoyama all the (short) way.

Tamawashi starts his typical oshi bout with Nishikigi, but Nishikigi defends well, and starts his own attack. He really should have attempted to lock a hold on Tamawashi, though, because Tamawashi has years of experience and as he nears the edge quickly reverses the fortunes. It wasn’t far from another Nishikigi upset, though.

Hokutofuji is not letting Tochiozan‘s 5-1 record distract him. A shove. A nodowa. Another aggressive shove. Tochiozan ends up losing for the second day in a row, his magic gone.

This bout is exactly the reason why Kaisei decided to enter the basho while still injured. Despite Myogiryu‘s tenacity, the huge Brazilian envelopes him and doesn’t really leave him much room for maneuver. Kaisei wins, and if he picks enough such wins, the next banzuke may see him drop to a position that’s easier to defend on the one hand, and safe from demotion on the other.

Tachiai. Chiyotairyu slams into Ichinojo. Goes for the throat. But that only manages to wake Ferdinand up, and you can see Ichinojo getting warmer and his thrusts getting fiercer. Chiyotairyu’s own thrusts seem to leave no impression – other than the loud “Slam!” sounds reverberating through the Fukuoka International Sports Center. The last slam sees Chiyotairyu at the corner beyond the bales, and I can only hope that this has woken up Ichinojo enough to show us some of his better sumo in the next few days.

Mitakeumi starts a powerful shoving match with lossless Takakeisho right out of the tachiai, and it’s boom-forward-boom-forward. Takakeisho deftly sidesteps at the edge, but Mitakeumi was not born yesterday. He turns around with an “Oh yeah?” expression on his face. Takakeisho probably regrets having stepped so far away at this point, because if he was closer he could have pushed Mitakeumi from behind. Instead, the Sekiwake lunges at him, and an exchange of thrusts begins, at the end of which Mitakeumi grabs Takakeisho’s neck and pulls him down.

Takakeisho slowly rises, while fiddling with his chon-mage, hinting at the shimpan that his hair was pulled. I am not sure they noticed that, because only after the rikishi make their bows does the head shimpan, Onomatsu, signal a monoii. Perhaps he got a call from the video room. The shimpan confer, and Onomatsu oyakata goes back to his seat and gives a confused summary. “The hand, the mawashi, the hand, the whachamacallit, the hand didn’t grab the mawashi, the gyoji’s decision stayed”. I wonder how much the shimpan drink before starting their day below the dohyo.

So Takakeisho is no longer lossless, and the way is open for the single-loss Takayasu to claim the yusho – assuming you don’t think that Daieisho is a legitimate candidate. But the day is not over yet.

Next we move to our first Ozeki match. Tochinoshin faces Yoshikaze. Now, Yoshikaze’s tactic today somewhat reminded me of Enho’s opening gambit. Of course Yoshikaze is not Enho’s size, but relative to Tochinoshin, it’s not that far off, and the agility is certainly there. He scrambles for a maemitsu grip, while denying the Ozeki access to his own mawashi. Eventually, though, he gives up that tactic, and slides up that left arm, which was seeking the maemitsu grip, under the ozeki’s arm. A beautiful sukuinage ensues. Nice touch there, forcing Tochinoshin’s head further down making him lose his footing. Tochinoshin, a pretty solid yusho candidate before the basho, finds himself needing to get enough wins to avoid kadoban instead.

OK, so now that Takayasu knows Takakeisho lost, he knows he is in the spearhead of the yusho race. All he needs to do is beat 1-5 Ryuden. But Ryuden is not impressed by the Ozeki’s kachiage, and manages – momentarily, to get his favorite morozashi. Takayasu quickly releases himself on one side, and Ryuden is left with a hand inside with no grip on the left, and an outside grip on the right. Ryuden tries again and again to achieve the grip with his left, but the Ozeki denies him with a right ottsuke. Ryuden tries an attack. But he simply doesn’t have the muscle power against the Ozeki’s 180kg. The stalemate continues.

Then Takayasu frees himself on his right side and uses the left inside grip he has on Ryuden to try and turn the Maegashira away and out. Ryuden is not easily thrown off, though. He manages to get a maemitsu grip. But his combined grip is problematic – you want to get at least one hand on the back side of the mawashi. With both hands in front he can’t create leverage, though he tries again and again.

But as the stalemate continues, Takayasu’s lower back problems are starting to assert themselves. Yet another attempt by Ryuden, and the Ozeki finds himself out of ring – and out of the leader group, again. Ryuden, barely able to breath, gets a hefty batch of envelopes, and his first win against an Ozeki! What a match!

The musubi-no-ichiban is anticlimactic by comparison. Shodai manages to briefly get a good hold on Goeido, and his previous success makes him impatient. He tries to drag Goeido to the edge. Goeido is not obliging. Shodai soon finds himself in the typical Goeido embrace, and down below the dohyo.


What a day this has been. Here is the leaderboard after Cray 7. That is, Day 7:

6-1

  • K1E Takakeisho
  • M9W Daieisho
  • M13E Onosho

5-2

  • O1W Takayasu
  • M2E Tochiozan
  • M5E Chiyotairyu
  • M7E Abi
  • M12E Aoiyama

Hey, Abi, grab that Yusho! (わら)

Kyushu Day 3 – A Kise Crisis, A Tadpole Dance

How long is Kisenosato going to keep that hair?

It’s day three, and it’s clear that this basho is taking a completely different direction than the previous one. The Yusho question should, perhaps, be kept for a later part of the basho, as anybody with 0-3 at the moment can still theoretically win 12 and take the cup. But it’s already clear that the dominance of the upper echelon, which caused the entire banzuke to flip over last time around, has evaporated, and we have early signs of a free-for-all.

But we start at the bottom. The first bout of the day was between two hapless and winless rikishi. One of them had to take a white star from this bout, and Chiyomaru, starting with a morotezuki (double handed push) followed by a quick hatakikomi was the lucky man. Arawashi‘s legs simply can’t move forward. He couldn’t cope with the quick change in the position of his center of gravity, and dropped like a stone.

Daiamami and Meisei, the next pair, both hail from the Amami Oshima island in Kagoshima prefecture. That island is actually closer to Okinawa than to mainland Kagoshima. And yes, Daiamami is named after it. Meisei is fighting fiercely this basho, but although he had his right hand inside first Daiamami managed to insert his as well, lifted Meisei’s left arm high and neutralized him, then pushed him out. Meisei looked rather frustrated at the end of the bout. Yoritaoshi.

The bout between Daishomaru and Chiyoshoma was a bit odd. Daishomaru gets Chiyoshoma’s back and pushes him down pretty quickly, but although Chiyoshoma touches the ground quite clearly, the bout continues and Daishomaru chases him outside the ring, confusing the Japanese announcer – and myself. It was a tsukiotoshi – that hand touch is what counted, not the following exit. I guess Chiyoshoma’s copy of “1001 Sneaky, Dirty, Devious Sumo Moves Which Are Not Actually Cheating” (thank you for that, Tigerboy) also has an appendix about “Moves Which Are Cheating But Worth Trying Anyway”.

Onosho clashes into Takanosho, then quickly pulls and tries to pull Takanosho down. The Chiganoura man is stable on his feet. Onosho tries again. Fails. At this point Takanosho has got a better positioning and starts to attack and lift Onosho, including a nodowa which was more of a face-hugger. Takanosho gets his first win by yoritaoshi.

Aoiyama tries the same tactic Onosho has – starts with some tsuki-oshi, then attempts to pull Endo down. But he doesn’t make the mistake of trying it again. Instead he goes forward and paws Endo until it looks like he volunteers to step over the bales rather than have his pretty face redesigned. Tsukidashi.

Okinoumi is the faster off the Tachiai, enveloping Chiyonokuni almost immediately. Chiyonokuni would have preferred a tsuki-oshi bout but he does have yotsu abilities and even attempts a gaburi-yori, kotoshogiku-style. At this point Okinoumi lifts him by the belt and neatly performs a shitatenage.

Sadanoumi tries to get a migi-yotsu on Yutakayama, but Yutakayama manages to slip out of his “sashi” (arm insertion) and the two go into serious windmill action. Sadanoumi nearly loses balance and compensate by lifting a leg – it almost looks like an attempt at a forbidden high kick, but it isn’t aimed at Yutakayama. Yutakayama tries to use that loss of balance and gets Sadanoumi to the bales, but Sadanoumi recovers, and somehow manages to turn the tables, push Yutakayama to the same exact bale, and yori-kiri him without a belt hold.

Kotoshogiku gets Daieisho into his favorite hold and is ready to start the pump action. Daieisho, however, lifts the former Ozeki. Not the kind of construction crane lift Tochinoshin lives by, but enough to prevent Kotoshogiku from having any traction with his feet. Kotoshogiku’s gaburi may seem to be powered by his pelvis, but it is in fact his legs that transfer all the power, and with his feet barely touching the ground, Daieisho is the one who ends with the yori-kiri.

In yet another meeting between winless rikishi, Ikioi smartly crashes into Takarafuji. However, despite Ikioi’s attempt to lock his armpit, takarafuji manages to slip in his left hand and find his mawashi. At this point it’s just a question of how much power Takarafuji has. The legs – not so much. So he gives up the attempt at a force-out and instead goes for a shitatenage and his first win.

Abi, alas, is not showing us any of those mawashi skills he supposedly tried to develop during the Jungyo. He goes for his usual morotezuki. Shohozan also starts with a tsuppari attack, but Abi’s reach is greater, and so he has the upper hand – literally, as this ends with him pulling and slamming Shohozan with an uwatenage.

There is not much to say about the TakanoiwaKagayaki bout. Takanoiwa throws himself into Kagayaki and successfully defends against Kagayaki’s left – but then Kagayaki, who is a little too forward, simply slips. Slippiotoshi, officially tsukiotoshi. And yet another Chiganoura sekitori wins the day – first win for Takanoiwa.

Chiyotairyu, starts his bout with Asanoyama with his usual booming clash. Asanoyama is a yotsu man and tries to get inside on the big Kokonoe man, but Chiyotairyu’s tsuki attack blocks him again and again – until he finds himself out. Oshidashi.

Yoshikaze hits Shodai low and seems to have the better Tachiai – which is not surprising with Shodai – but as he tries to get inside Shodai again and again gets his arm away and secure his own hold, but then realizes that he has moved far enough forward that he can simply shove Yoshikaze powerfully, and that would be enough to get him out. Yet another oshidashi.

The smallest of the tadpoles, Takakeisho, faces no challenge in Ryuden, after downing a Yokozuna and an Ozeki. Ryuden is quickly dispatched by the angry bowling ball. Another Chiganoura win – by tsukidashi this time.

A little trivia item about Takakeisho: When he received his first kensho, he was asked by the press what he intends to do with it. He said “I’ll give it to my tsukebito, who has been supporting me all this time – though I have to give some to my oyakata”. His dissimilarity with Takayoshitoshi is not only in their outward appearance.

Tamawashi lands a nodowashi on Ichinojo right out of the tachiai, and doesn’t his hand off the Sekiwake’s throat until Ichinojo – who isn’t giving up easily this time – simply can’t go anywhere but across the tawara. I’m sure Ichinojo will not be able to sing for at least a week – which may not be a bad thing:

Ichinojo’s Singing Voice

Most of the next bout is actually Mitakeumi sliding his arms under Nishikigi‘s valiantly locked armpits. This takes a few seconds, and then with the morozashi thus achieved he quickly dispatches of the Isenoumi man. A reminder to you: Nishikigi said in his pre-basho interview that he is aiming to be a Yokozuna. Having challenging goals is important.

Welcome back, Kaisei. You have three seconds to spend on the dohyo, because it’s getting late and all. Clash. Push. A half-hearted pat on the back, and Kaisei finds himself eating dirt. Hatakikomi. I don’t think Takayasu broke even one bead of sweat. Takayasu now the only one in the top two ranks with a 3-0 record.

By rights, Tochiozan should not have been much of a challenge for Goeido. But as Goeido charges into and sweeps him to the tawara as Goeido does, Tochiozan sidesteps, lifts a leg ballerina-style, then just hangs there on tip-toe, while Goeido tries to rebalance and fails. I’m not good at kimarite, so I have no idea why this was called a sukuinage. I guess there is just no official kimarite for winning by sidestep.

Myogiryu proves himself a dangerous opponent this basho – considering how long ago it was that he was in the joi. His tactic is, quite sensibly, to keep Tochinoshin away from his mawashi. He keeps the Ozeki high by leaning against him diagonally, and having his arms right under Tochinoshin’s armpit, shortening their reach. With his left he is having a fumbling battle which he rather wins. However, the downside of this tactic is that, as I said, he is leaning on Tochinoshin. Eventually the Georgian takes a few steps backwards, Myogiryu has his legs trailing behind him, and Tochinoshin survives by letting him drop down.

What’s next? The musubi-no-ichiban, Kisenosato vs. Hokutofuji. We had most of the tadpole corps win by now (with the exception of Onosho). Can Hokutofuji join the rest? He is facing a Yokozuna with two losses already and dignity on the line.

Well, it seems that the Yokozuna is trying to attack with the left side that he no longer has. It may be the pressure causing him to revert to what’s familiar to his body. I don’t know. But a weak ottsuke against Hokutofuji’s strong right – it’s not working. The Yokozuna is too high. Hokutofuji keeps low and keeps pushing at Kise’s left chest with his strong right, making sure he stays high. He even attempts a tottari for a fraction of a second there. By the time the Yokozuna starts attacking with his right, it’s too little and too late. Hokutofuji plants his head in his chest. Adding a nodowa with his left hand. He manages to get the Yokozuna’s right side away from him again, and has his right under the Yokozuna’s left arm, and then – well, to me it looked like a kotenage, but the shimpan call it a tsukiotoshi, so what do I know. All I know is that the Yokozuna is rolling on the dohyo, with his third consecutive loss. He is only the seventh Yokozuna to start a basho with three straight losses. And the last one who did so was Asahifuji (the current Isegahama oyakata) in 1992, and he retired the next day.


There is a lot of speculation going on as to what Kisenosato is going to do now. Clearly, in the past this would be a reason for immediate retirement – that’s what Chiyonofuji did (with only two losses) and that’s what Asahifuji did.

But in recent times it has become a matter of norm that Yokozuna find a hitherto-unknown injury (it’s not as if they don’t have enough real ones for the doctor to be honest – they just usually keep them from public knowledge), and go kyujo.

Only, earlier this year the YDC warned Kisenosato against exactly this sort of thing. “If you are not absolutely 100%, don’t start the basho. We do not want to see you go kyujo in mid-basho again”.

I believe this warning to Kisenosato is also the reason why Kakuryu opted not to start the basho at all, rather than try anyway. It seems the rules have slightly changed. So what are the options?

  • He can still try the old trick of going kyujo and hope that the YDC will be forgiving, as they don’t have a spare Japanese Yokozuna. This seems to me to be beneath his dignity, but I don’t know how much pressure he will be under.
  • He can injure himself purposefully. Nobody is going to say he can’t leave in the middle if he actually breaks a bone. This is, of course, very risky.
  • He may choose the old-fashioned mid-basho retirement.
  • He may choose to stay the entire basho – there are still enough days for him to get a kachi-koshi, and even if he doesn’t, it may not be the end. Wakanohana Masaru, Takanohana’s brother, once stayed through a basho despite injury and had a make-koshi. He handed his resignation after the basho, but the NSK decided not to accept it, and he lingered as Yokozuna – but not for long. So Kisenosato may do the same, especially given that he is sole Yokozuna and it will be considered a show of responsibility.

I personally think the last option is the most sensible. He may yet win 8 bouts. That’s not a Yokozuna kachi-koshi, but it will be tolerated if it is done in the name of responsibility to the spectators. And if he has a make-koshi – he’ll have to hand in his resignation. And then it’s not up to him – the pressure will be on the shoulders of the NSK.


Note: I do not have the time for two posts today, so I will have to forego the lower division report. I leave you the Juryo digest, though. If you haven’t seen Enho’s bout on Kintamayama’s reel, don’t miss it! Also Gokushindo’s first win, Toyonoshima, Tobizaru… Juryo is great!

Aki Day 3 Preview

Kisenosato - Takakiesho Aki 2018

For anyone who has been a sumo fan for the last couple of years, Aki 2018 is a welcome departure from the normal. It has been along time since this many of sumo’s top competitors were all present at the start of a tournament. Given that some of them are in less than perfect health, we may not see them at the end of act 3, but this is a great and exciting way to start a basho. The Yokozuna and Ozeki corps have not only shown up, they are competing with vigor, energy and skill. Sadly for the Komusubi and Sekiwake (as well as Maegashira 1-3), this means that they take the full brunt of being warm up cannon fodder for the Yokozuna and Ozeki. Excellent rikishi like Takakeisho and Tamawashi will find it hard to reach kachi-koshi, let alone some of the 10 win figures seen earlier this year. That spells trouble for Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid, as we will likely see him face all 6 of the Yokozuna and Ozeki starting soon.

The other thing that has caught my eye is just how well the “Freshmen” are fighting this tournament. This is the cohort that includes Yutakayama, Asanoyama, Kagayaki and Abi. Sure, Yutakayama is winless so far because he is a Yokozuna chew-toy. But he is moving well, putting together excellent matches and generally showing some solid sumo. It’s going to be a while before we see these rikishi make their way to being headliners, but it’s great to see them showing a lot of promise early on.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Kotoyuki vs Yoshikaze – Kotoyuki has looked a half step behind both days, and we can’t help but wonder if he is going to snap out of it and present a credible challenge in any of his matches. Yoshikaze, however, seems to have recovered a great deal of his genki, and has been back to his old power levels thus far. Kotoyuki holds a 6-3 career advantage over Yoshikaze, so maybe today is the day “Mr 5×5” recovers.

Takanoiwa vs Nishikigi – If you did not see Nishikigi’s day 2 match, go watch it now. Nishikigi is the poster boy of calm and polite. But on day 2 he was positively aggressive – kind of a shock, but a welcome one. But speaking of aggressive, lets see what he does with Takanoiwa! Both men come into the match with 2-0, and tied career wise at 2-2.

Kyokutaisei vs Daieisho – Kyokutaisei seems to be stuck right now, and he has nothing but kuroboshi to show right now. Fans will recall he started Nagoya the same way, taking it to 5 straight losses. He holds a career 4-2 lead over Daieisho, so maybe today is the day he gets into the win column. It could also be the case that he has family in Hokkaido, and the disaster there may be occupying his thoughts.

Aoiyama vs Sadanoumi – Man-Mountain Aoiyama is also in the winless column, and I think he may be feeling the pain of injuries. We have yet to see him unleash his overwhelming upper body strength, and he has been even slower than normal moving around the dohyo. Sadanoumi comes in straight from giving Okinoumi a good fight.

Daishomaru vs Kotoshogiku – One of the strange results of Kotoshogiku being this far down the banzuke is that he is fighting some familiar rikishi for the first time. Today it’s Daishomaru. Thus far Kotoshogiku has been moving well, and seems to not be in pain. His motions are smooth and efficient, and he would seem to be locked in to his sumo.

Takarafuji vs Hokutofuji – Today’s fight of the fujis, what I am going to look for is Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai”, and Takarafuji to take it chest to chest. Takarafuji is a great technical wrestler, and seems to always have a careful plan of how to win. Hokutofuji seems to be more of a “hold my beer” kind of rikishi, who decides he is going to try something fast and violet and work with whatever emerges.

Tochiozan vs Onosho – Both of these guys are zero wins? Strangely enough, yes. Onosho especially has looked to be only about 80% thus far. I am going to assume that at some point his sumo will click and he will pick up a good number of wins, enough to remain in the top division anyhow. Tochiozan’s matches have boiled down to a few choices that did not break his way, so I am expecting him to leverage his 3-1 career advantage and possibly rack his first win.

Kagayaki vs Shohozan – Big Guns will take his daily brawl to Kagayaki’s school of sumo. Both of them come in 1-1, but out of their 8 prior matches, Kagayaki has won 6 of them. I am going to be watching to see if Kagayaki can set up his preferred thrusting position center mass, inside of Shohozan’s wood-chipper style tsuppari.

Asanoyama vs Abi – Both men with 2 wins, career series tied at 1-1. What’s going to be the edge here? Lord knows. First off Abi is tough to handicap. As Herouth pointed out, everyone knows about his “One Weird Trick”, but he is still getting away with it. Asanoyama has brought a lot more speed to his sumo this year, but it’s nothing compared to Abi’s stick-insect inspired sumo.

Chiyonokuni vs Myogiryu – Another fun match for day 3, two very high intensity rikishi are going to try to move up from their 1-1 records. I am going to look for Chiyonokuni to surge early, and try to close the match before Myogiryu can set up his offense. Chiyonokuni will want to stay mobile and use his superior reach. Should be a slap fest worthy of an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Shodai vs Endo – Another great enigma, at least we know that one of these two deserving rikishi will exit the match with a win. Both of them are fighting well, but have lost their first two. Shodai may have been robbed on day 2 when the fact that his tachiai has improved resulted in a matta. I want to see Shodai do it again, be fast and low. Don’t worry about your score today, get the mechanics right.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – 4 out of 5 dentists agree that Tamawashi will try a kotenage. The big question being, will Mitakeumi fall for it? Career advantage is 12-2 in Mitakeumi’s favor, but to me his sumo has looked a bit tentative thus far. We are still in act 1, so there is plenty of time for him to dial it up.

Chiyotairyu vs Takayasu – This will likely be a very sloppy battle of the bellies, starting with an earth-shattering tachiai. In spite of the pain and injuries, Takayasu is managing to rack the shiroboshi so far. His sumo is still wild and chaotic, which is just begging for another mechanical injury. Chiyotairyu struggles this high up in the banzuke, where it’s tougher to win matches just by being enormous and smashing into people at the tachiai. Takayasu leads their career series 8-3.

Goeido vs Ichinojo – Well, Ichinojo tried the “Bad Pony” technique again on day 2, but it fell flat. Goeido managed to win one, but he still looked a half step behind. It will be easy to get the jump on Ichinojo, but I like how he is not giving up at the tawara right now. They are more or less tied over their career.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – Takakeisho was fired up day 2, and nearly overwhelmed Kisenosato. He is a terrifying ball of energy in a compact spherical package, which may be trouble for Tochinoshin. Thus far the injured kadoban Ozeki has been fighting well, and has been very careful with his overwhelming strength; enough to win, but just enough. Interestingly enough, Takakeisho leads their career matches 3-1.

Kaisei vs Hakuho – Day 2 Kaisei took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, and Kakuryu showed him how well tended the east side hanamichi is. He has never defeated Hakuho, who is hiding whatever pain and stiffness he might have well. I am predicting a return voyage to the lap of someone in the front row.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi is strong, and seems to be willing to sacrifice his body to do what it takes to win. But Yokozuna Kakuryu is the master of reactive sumo, so he will play with Ikioi, stalemating him until he makes a mistake. Kakuryu may be the one to beat this tournament.

Kisenosato vs Yutakayama – Last match of the day features Kisenosato taking on the head of the Freshman class. Each basho Yutakayama shows up bigger, stronger, and with improvements in his sumo. He is winless right now, but I view him as a formidable opponent. This is their first match, and I am (as always) just hoping no one gets hurt.