Nagoya Day 15 Preview

We come to it at last, the final day of Nagoya, a basho that has been marred by injury, but filled with heroic efforts at all levels of the banzuke. Hundreds of stories of struggle played out on the dohyo. Many lost but some won, and as is always the case in sumo, almost everyone will train, recover and test their sumo again in 2 months.

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Because it is more or less a hobby, it can become tough to find time to contribute. Long-time readers will note that my inter-basho posting fell off a cliff shortly after the birth of my first child 2 years ago. I personally would love to put more up during the gap between tournaments, but Tachiai has to take a back seat to my job and my family. Others have noted that recent posts are not necessarily always full coverage of a day’s matches. When my professional life makes demands that shove my normal sumo-writing time out of the way, or compress the 2 hours or so I would rather spend writing up the day’s results, the blog does suffer.

But I think I speak for the entire team in saying we remain committed to our cause, and while we can’t always spend as much time on sumo as we would like, we will spend all that we can with you, dear readers.

With day 15 racing towards us now, there are some great matches on tap. In fact, the torikumi was late to be published Saturday, and it was not available until I woke Saturday AM in Texas. I chuckled to myself, noting that even with a heavily depleted roster, they managed to keep our interest to the very end. But the one match that will top all others is the final bout of the day: Both Yokozuna will face each other for the Emperor’s cup. The advantage here goes to Kakuryu, as he needs just 1 win to take home the yusho, whereas the injured Hakuho must win twice. Put an extra bottle of sake on ice—it could be a big day.

ReminderNHK World Japan will be streaming the last 90 minutes live overnight US time. Everything kicks off at 3:30 AM Eastern / 12:30 AM Pacific.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Chiyomaru vs Nishikigi – Both men come into this match with a horrible 5-9 record, with the loser walking away with 10 losses. Nishikigi tends to be able to trap Chiyomaru in his preferred arm-lock, and take away any mobility that Chiyomaru might use. 8-2 career record favors Nishikigi. Chiyomaru faces possible demotion to Juryo with a loss. -lksumo

Enho vs Daishoho – Enho has been injured this entire basho, and would have a daily allotment of tape across his upper body. But he managed to endure and get 8 wins, and will get at least some measure of safety higher up the banzuke for September. His opponent, the 6-8 Daishoho, is much higher ranked, already make-koshi, and at no risk of being sent to Juryo. So this match is just for a final score.

Shohozan vs Tochiozan – Unlike the match above, Tochiozan may be at risk of demotion back to Juryo, which he has not seen since 2007. Tochiozan has not had more than 6 wins in a basho this entire year, and it may soon be time for him to hang up the mawashi. Would a win here save him? I will leave that to lksumo’s skilled forecasting.

Kagayaki vs Okinoumi – Darwin match! Only one of them can take home a kachi-koshi from this one, the other gets a losing record. Kagayaki, specifically, has struggled this basho. His sumo has been rougher and less focused than at any time that I can remember in recent tournaments. As a master of razor-sharp execution of sumo fundamentals, I have to assume he is nursing some injury.

Terutsuyoshi vs Tomokaze – What an awesome match. Should Hakuho lose the final regulation bout, the winner will share the Jun-Yusho, and I expect both of these fresh faces to the top division to unleash hell. The big risk will be the slippery Nagoya clay, and the danger of losing traction. Though Tomokaze has a 2-1 career score against Terutsuyoshi, both rikishi are operating well outside their normal sumo envelope this tournament.

Myogiryu vs Kotoyuki – It’s remarkable to me that I will write this: I expect Kotoyuki to win this one. He has a 9-3 career record over Myogiryu, and for some reason the stars have aligned on Kotoyuki’s sumo this July, and I think he’s likely to “win out”.

Chiyotairyu vs Toyonoshima – Second Darwin match of the day, and this one tugs at my emotions. I love Chiyotairyu’s sumo when it clicks, but you have to sit in respect and awe of what Toyonoshima has accomplished. From his injury, to his recovery, to fighting his way back through the mosh-pit of Makushita, and finally back to the top division. Just to have a completely cold start and rally to be 7-7 on senshuraku. I want Toyonoshima to win, but even if Chiyotairyu bests him today, he has my respect.

Yago vs Takarafuji – Yago is damaged and not doing real Yago sumo. I suppose he can sort himself out in Juryo, and I hope that he does.

Kotoeko vs Ichinojo – First time match up, and I am sure Kotoeko will need to think through how he counters that much mass. Ichinojo already has his 8th win, so this is to determine rank for September. There is a traffic jam trying to push into the Komusubi slot(s), so Ichinojo will in all likelihood not be in San’yaku for Aki.

Shodai vs Takagenji – I am a bit down that Takagenji has had such a rough ride on his first trip to the top division, but I hope he can sharpen his sumo through these bouts. Day 15 he gets Shodai, who will spring unpredictable sumo on any opponent he gets into a real fight against. Takagenji won their only prior match.

Aoiyama vs Daieisho – I am calling it for Aoiyama unless something odd happens (slippiotoshi?), Why? Aoiyama is 7-7 and Daieisho has his 8. I am not saying Daieisho would throw the match, but it would be wise to not risk injury for the sake of making it 9. I expect Daieisho will put up a good fight, but the Man Mountain will prevail.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – I would guess this match may be to see who gets Ryuden’s Komusubi slot, and it’s a brilliant pairing. Endo is going to bring masterful planning and execution to this match. Hokutofuji will bring speed and power. I think this one may come down to balance, stance and defensive footwork on the slick Nagoya dohyo.

Asanoyama vs Sadanoumi – I am not sure I understand this pairing, other than that this is the leftovers from the Darwin and ranking matches. 6-8 Asanoyama holds a minor 5-3 career advantage over 9-5 Sadanoumi.

Meisei vs Ryuden – Perhaps we should call this the “Kassen no shitsubou” or battle of disappointments. Both are bringing in double digit losses, and both are eager to move on and try again in September.

Onosho vs Tamawashi – The Nagoya Precision Slip And Fall Squad takes to the dohyo to see who can be more off-balance, and get more clay on their face one more time, in this classic head-to-head showdown of feet moving one way, body moving another. Regroup guys, your fans love you and look forward to your rebound in September.

Abi vs Kotoshogiku – The final Darwin match of the day. If Abi can prevail, he can keep his Komusubi slot. He has to take out Kotoshogiku, fresh from a gold star win over Hakuho on day 14. If Abi can get his thrusting train running, it will be tough for Kotoshogiku to generate much offense.

Mitakeumi vs Shimanoumi – No restart of an Ozeki run for Mitakeumi, but then his sumo has not really been Ozeki class this basho. Both rikishi come in 8-6 to this first ever match-up. I would give an advantage to Mitakeumi to be certain.

Kakuryu vs Hakuho – The Boss has to be respected to come into the basho with two bad arms and tough it out for the whole 15 days. The man is a sumo machine. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk for Kakuryu, as “The Boss” holds a 41-7 career advantage over “Big K”. But Hakuho is hurt, and Kakuryu’s sumo has been excellent this July. If Kakuryu loses the first, they fight again for the yusho. Guys, blow us away with your sumo, but for the sake of everyone – DON’T GET HURT!

Nagoya Day 14 Highlights

Once again, purple rain fell in Nagoya. In the final match of the day, Kotoshogiku managed, against all expectations, to overpower Yokozuna Hakuho. I had to watch it a few times to absorb what happened, but it was in fact glorious. As a result, the yusho race has Yokozuna Kakuryu in front by 1 win, with Hakuho needing to beat him twice on senshuraku to take the cup.

I have been an admirer of the “Kyushu Bulldozer” for a good long time, and it’s true he is fading out due to accumulated injuries, and can no longer fight like he once could. He came into the match with a 6-56 career defect against The Boss, but in true sumo hero fashion, he did not let that worry him much if at all. The crowd lost their mind, and the zabuton took to the skies in celebration.

Body Headline

Toyonoshima defeats Nishikigi – Toyonoshima started the tournament 5-1, then recovered to 6-2, winning the last 3 in a row. Toyonoshima refuses to give up. What else could you expect for a man who go hurt, fell to mid-Makushita, and has battled his way back against all odds to return to the top division. A win on the final day seal his return with a kachi-koshi.

Kagayaki defeats Onosho – (Thanks to Herouth) Wakanohana: “Onosho aims to go forward, but his feet don’t go with him”. I could not have described it any better. Kagayaki still has a chance for his 8th win, while Onosho is make-koshi and need of work.

Enho defeats Myogiryu – After two matta, Enho gets the tachiai right, and immediately tries for a left hand mae-mitzu grip, which he can’t maintain. Now Myogiryu has him in a headlock and is pressing him toward the clay. Taking the bait, Enho now has Myogiryu right where he wants him. With Myogiryu clinging tenaciously to his head, Enho has clean access to Myogiryu’s mawashi. A quick hip pump and Myogiryu is high, with his feet poorly positioned to resist the charge. The crowd loses it, I lose it, it looks like sumo twitter goes bonkers and the guy everyone wanted to get his 8th affirms his position in the top division. I love sumo some days.

Tomokaze defeats Kotoeko – I can hear the grumpy sumo fans calling from September or November, when Tomokaze has a bad tournament and is looking poorly, “See, he’s just a flash in the pan”. Well, future sumo-grumps and negative types, the promising young ones gain consistency. I expect that this is going to be local high performance mark for Tomokaze, but over the next few years, he has the potential to be a big deal.

Kotoyuki defeats Meisei – What the hell happened to the real Kotoyuki? The bumbling fellow who was never too good, who liked to land in the crowd and roll around? That guy is not on the dohyo today, or really any day this basho. Instead we get some kind of hard, focused sumo machine. Nice work Kotoyuki.

Shimanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama tried too many pulling moves this bout, and gave up position too many times. Shimanoumi has his kachi-koshi, and continues to move up the banzuke.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Am I allowed to regain a touch of optimism about Endo? It’s been a fools game thus far, so perhaps not. With two brilliant sumo technicians on the dohyo, you knew it was going to be like a bad episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! with all kinds of of things happening that only the hard core fans would catch. I lost count of how many times the switched up grips, but Endo advances to 9 wins.

Asanoyama defeats Shodai – More sumo grumps were busting on Asanoyama for going make-koshi this tournament after taking the yusho last time. Folks got spoiled with Hakuho and Asashōryū dominating the daylights out of sumo for a long time. Consistency on these young guys is a work in progress, of course. The Asanoyama we enjoy today is a larval form of the Asanoyama we will see next year. He just needs to stay healthy. Oh and he handed Shodai his make-koshi. If you wanted an example of Shodai’s chaos sumo, this was a great match to review.

Abi defeats Ichinojo – Abi keeps his kachi-koshi hopes alive by getting Ichinojo into his “give up” mode quickly and not letting the boulder do much except react. That brace on his right arm (his main weapon) is a bit of a worry.

Daieisho defeats Ryuden – Shin-Ikioi (Ryuden) has had a tough tournament. But Daieisho seems to not only made some solid improvements to his sumo, but his stamina is noteworthy. We are 2 weeks into a sumo tournament, and if anything the energy he is bringing to his matches has gone up. In defeating Ryuden, Daieisho is now kachi-koshi.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – If you can watch this frame by frame, you can see that Kakuryu is literally a half step faster at the tachiai. Mitakeumi goes for center mass to begin thrusting, Kakuryu keeps his hands low and works for a grip, while rotating his right shoulder to deflect Mitakeumi’s force away. Kakuryu’s gambit pays off, and after a single thrusting attack from Mitakeumi, he has a deep right hand grip, and control of the tadpole. Down go the Yokozuna’s hips, and forward for the win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hakuho – At the tachiai, Kotoshogiku bunches his shoulders, and gets his arms inside as Hakuho attacks at the arm-pits. The both land grips as Kotoshogiku turns the Yokozuna to Kotoshogiku’s right. This puts Hakuho slightly off balance, but Kotoshogiku’s hips are square, his feet are bracketing Hakuho’s, and the Kyushu Bulldozer is in business. Kotoshogiku engages the gaburi-yori and wins. Damn that was beautiful.

Nagoya Day 13 Preview

Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji has my attention as the likely match of the day. Can Hokutofuji move the boulder?

The basho is running screaming into the final weekend, and it looks like it will probably come down to Hakuho vs Kakuryu for the hardware in the final match of the final day. This is a fairly decent way to end a basho, and I think most fans would be satisfied, in spite of the fact that we had the entirety of the Ozeki corps kyujo, and one Yokozuna banged up.

On the way to day 15, there are some rikishi who were doing well in the first few days that seem to have stalled out, and I am sure their fans are worried. This would include Hokutofuji, Abi, and Enho. This underscores my belief that we are going to have an exceptionally brutal final two days.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Tomokaze drops out, and it’s almost down exclusively to the two Yokozuna. If Terutsuyoshi wins day 13, I would guess they will put him against someone in San’yaku to make sure that the chances of a Maegashira 16w taking the yusho go closer to zero.

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Hakuho
Hunt Group: Terutsuyoshi

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Tochiozan vs Nishikigi – Both are make-koshi, and will avoid the Darwin death match syndrome that seems to be in the wings for so many of our upper division rikishi. This is to figure out who is going to get dropped how far down the banzuke. If the bulk of the top division finish 7-8 or 8-7, it’s going to make for a very interesting banzuke.

Sadanoumi vs Takagenji – Because I think that a bloody final weekend is what is in store, I am going to guess that Takagenji, how having secured his 8th loss, is going to rally and hand Sadanoumi a black star for day 13, bringing him close to the perilous 7-7 final day score.

Kotoeko vs Enho – Enho looks like he may have injured himself on day 12. He’s dropped the last 2 in a row, and I know he wants to hit 8 today and avoid the Darwin matches on day 15. Kotoeko has his 8, but he may want to run up the score.

Yago vs Daishoho – Yago has likely been condemned to ride the slow, smelly barge back to Juryo with our dear Yoshikaze and beloved Kaisei. But he can still help give Daishoho his 8th loss.

Shohozan vs Toyonoshima – Two tired, hurt veterans with 5-7 records going head to head. One of them will get a make-koshi today. The match of eternal sadness.

Kotoyuki vs Okinoumi – It could be expected that Kotoyuki will jump around like a mad penguin on a hot plate; I imagine Okinoumi will once again try to grapple with Mr 5×5 and slow the tempo of the match down. If he can put the match into that mode, he will probably pick up a much needed 7th win.

Onosho vs Terutsuyoshi – Somehow Onosho has pulled to 6-6, but he has his first ever match against compact sumo atomic reactor Terutsuyoshi, who is not the kind of fellow who would think 10 wins are enough.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Both are coming in with 6-6 records. They have split the 6 prior matches. They are quite evenly matched, and who can tell right now which one has an advantage here. We will get to see if Chiyotairyu hurt anything other than his pride in the fall to end his match on day 12.

Meisei vs Chiyomaru – Can Meisei rally to extend his 2-0 career record over Chiyomaru today? Meisei really looks like he has nothing left, and each match is increasingly difficult for him. If he can win today, Chiyomaru will be make-koshi.

Shimanoumi vs Endo – Both are 7-5, so someone exits this match with a kachi-koshi. Endo won their only other meeting.

Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji – Oh dear, Hokutofuji has been fighting so well, but here he has to clear a boulder from his patch to kachi-koshi. Or will the boulder clear him?

Asanoyama vs Aoiyama – Asanoyama needs to “win out” to get his kachi-koshi, which would be another notable achievement for a young rikishi who has greatly improved his sumo. As we saw on day 12, if you let Aoiyama set up his oshi attack, there is not a whole lot that will stop him.

Shodai vs Ryuden – Shodai holds a 3-0 career advantage over Ryuden, who is already make-koshi. Shodai’s sumo was surprisingly good on day 12; can he make it two in a row?

Abi vs Daieisho – I would imagine that Abi was quite embarrassed to lose on day 12 due to falling down. Given his lanky frame, it’s an occupational hazard! Daieisho is fighting quite well, and has a 4-3 career advantage over Abi, so it should be a fight worth watching.

Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi is suffering this basho, and Takarafuji has the patience to hold on and win if he can stalemate Tamawashi, which is a big if. A loss today would put Takarafuji at 8, for a make-koshi.

Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi holds a 10-4 advantage over the Kyushu bulldozer, and he needs one more win for his 8th. I would expect that Kotoshogiku is going to once again struggle for traction, and it will come down to Mitakeumi not giving Kotoshogiku any opening.

Myogiryu vs Hakuho – Given Hakuho’s degraded state, this match is far from a sure thing. Myogiryu has been especially energetic this basho, and Hakuho’s day 12 caution indicates he is saving what he can for day 15 against Kakuryu. The goal here – don’t get any more hurt than you already are, Boss!

Kakuryu vs Tomokaze – Well, Tomokaze, you should take this as recognition of how far you have come. You get to fight a Yokozuna, and if you manage to put dirt on him, you are going to make the final 2 days even more exciting and unpredictable than they already are. But be aware that Kakuryu is showing some of his best sumo in years.

Nagoya Day 12 Preview

We are in the thick of Act 3 mechanics, and the schedule shows rikishi paired together to ensure that the ones on the cusp of make-koshi have a chance to be pushed over the brink, and the ones near 50% win/loss are paired up so that only the strong survive. This will culminate with “Darwin matches” on the final day, where two 7-7 rikishi face off, with one getting a make and the other a kachi-koshi.

The big question now is if Hakuho can maintain any form of sumo as he gets progressively more sore from those arm injuries. His ego is driving him on, but one has to wonder if his body is going to cooperate. His fusensho on day 11 may have given him a welcome chance to get his body back together and ready to fight. For him to have a chance, someone has to put dirt on Kakuryu, and he will be the last man given that chance in the final match of day 15.

Nagoya Leaderboard

The leader board has narrowed with Takayasu’s kyujo, and Myogiryu loss on day 11. We are entering a period of time when it will become mathematically impossible for anyone other than Hakuho to catch Kakuryu, unless someone can put dirt on him prior to the day 15 finale between The Boss and Big K.

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Hakuho
Hunt Group: Tomokaze, Terutsuyoshi

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Kotoyuki vs Kagayaki – Kotoyuki holds a 5-1 career advantage over Kagayaki, and if he wins again today, he will achieve his kachi-koshi. In fact, Kotoyuki has not had a top division kachi-koshi since November of 2017.

Yago vs Nishikigi – Yago is already make-koshi, as is Nishikigi. So this is a match of the 8 loss club, and one of them will exit with 9. Both of them will be ok with Nishikigi initiating a mawashi battle, and that may in fact help Yago, who has seemed to have movement problems this July.

Kotoeko vs Sadanoumi – One of these rikishi exits this match with kachi-koshi, and it’s kind of an even toss up who will be the one to claim win #8. They have split their 4 previous matches, and are both fighting quite well this tournament.

Shohozan vs Enho – Everyone wants Enho to get win #8, including Shohozan. He just does not want it to be scored against him on day 12, which would give him his 8th loss. Shohozan needs to resist the temptation to grab a hold of that little sumo machine, but instead to use his preferred hit and move cadence. This is a rematch of what many consider the highlight bout of the Natsu basho. -lksumo

Onosho vs Toyonoshima – This match leads me to think the scheduling committee has a sense of humor. Both of these men are plagued by forward balance / momentum problems this tournament, and putting them head to head is kind of like testing which one is worse. Ideally they would both fall over helplessly moments after the tachiai, landing in unison and causing the longest and most puzzling monoii in the history of sumo.

Chiyomaru vs Okinoumi – Chiyomaru’s “cab forward design” gives him an edge in this match, where I am sure that Okinoumi will try to grab a hold of that Loch Ness Green mawashi and steer his roundness to a fall.

Myogiryu vs Terutsuyoshi – First time match, both of these rikishi are kachi-koshi, and both have had a great tournament. So this is to see who gets to run up the score.

Takagenji vs Shimanoumi – Takagenji went from a strong open to now teetering on the edge of make-koshi in his first top division tournament. Some of this seems to have come from easy to spot rookie mistakes against some seasoned veterans, and some of it may be a bit of a fade that started day 6, the last day he won a match.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – Two long-serving veterans going head to head, with 38 matches in their careers. I am sure both of them have an array of moves, counter moves and feigns they can and will deploy. I expect that it will come down to Kotoshogiku’s bad knees and Tochiozan’s bad back. Which one blows up first?

Daishoho vs Takarafuji – Another great first time match, Takarafuji is at the cusp of yet another make-koshi, where Daishoho still has a decent shot at his 8. But Daishoho is a excellent opponent for Takarafuji, whose skill will allow him to stay in the match until Daishoho presents an opening.

Tomokaze vs Ichinojo – What a great match! This is (to my mind) to see who is going to go where on the September banzuke. Ichinojo needs 1 more for his kachi-koshi, and he might get it today. Tomokaze has had a solid tournament, but there are some situations where size can win the day.

Asanoyama vs Daieisho – Asanoyama has only taken 1 of his 6 career matches against Daieisho, and he needs to get 3 more wins over the next 4 days. It’s a tall order, but possible. Step one – beat Daieisho.

Shodai vs Hokutofuji – Career record is 3-0 in favor of Shodai, and it seems he has a good recipe for shutting down Hokutofuji’s sumo. I expect Hokutofuji to get his 8th some time this week, and we will see him in a higher slot in the banzuke, which may be true for Shodai if he gets a bit of luck.

Abi vs Endo – Clash of styles, Abi will want to keep Endo dancing around avoiding his long-arm thrusts, but Endo will want to get inside and grab Abi’s belt. I expect Endo will succeed and we may see Abi-zumo 2.0 used again.

Aoiyama vs Ryuden – I am giving Aoiyama an edge in this one, as Ryuden is already make-koshi, and has struggled to overcome the beating he took from the rest of the San’yaku.

Meisei vs Tamawashi – A battle of the rikishi who can’t seem to win, I am going to give the edge to Meisei because to my eye he does not look as hopeless right now as Tamawashi does. I am not sure what is injured, sore or broken for him, but the effect is quite profound.

Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – In their 11 prior matches, Chiyotairyu has never once beaten Kakuryu. Given how well the Yokozuna is fighting this basho, I really don’t expect that to change on day 12. But should he surprise us, we would see the intensity of the remaining 3 days go through the roof.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – In general, Mitakeumi seldom gives Hakuho much trouble. But this Hakuho is not healthy at all, and has mechanical problems in both arms. Mitakeumi has a real opportunity to shape the yusho race and get his kachi-koshi at the same time. I am ready for whatever happens here, it will be good!