Natsu 2018 Jungyo Newsreel – Day 11

🌐 Location: Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo

takayasu
Welcome back, big bear

The Jungyo made its way back to Tokyo on day 11, and in the middle of a typhoon, took place at the Aoyama university campus in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Tokyo is a convenient places for rikishi to join or leave the Jungyo. Joining today was Ozeki Takayasu – just in time for the next event, which takes place in his home prefecture of Ibaraki.

But though it would have been understandable if he took it easy in Tokyo which served as a convenient convergence point, he decided all of a sudden to go up the dohyo and have san-ban with Asanoyama and Onosho. The results were less than spectacular – at least as far as the Ozeki was concerned:

The Ozeki’s shoulder is still not quite right?

Ah, finally, a win:

So, although he managed 4 wins and 1 loss to Asanoyama, he was completely smashed by Onosho, 3 wins and 12 losses.

In between, Nishikigi-mama and his assistant, Takanosho, wiped what little dirt Takayasu managed to put on Onosho.

Ryuden: “you missed a spot!” 🙂

So that was the man joining. But there were also men leaving. First, the whole Arashio gang which went to Suwa lake with Sokokurai disappeared. I thought they were joining to be there in time for Fukushima – especially the two elder Onamis – but no, they just made an appearance on that particular day. Special sponsor request, I guess. Perhaps specifically an Arashio beya sponsor.

But that’s a minor disappearance. The major one was, of course, Hakuho, who announce that he will go kyujo as of the next day. He did make an appearance as usual, and worked out lightly below the dohyo:

hakuho

But he informed the press that his knee was bothering him more than he let on at first. A few days ago he said that his knee was “feeling odd” but “there was no pain”, but today he qualified that to “I’m taking strong painkillers, so there is no pain”. Ouch.

He will be re-examined, and while he expressed his hope that he’ll be able to re-join the Jungyo at some point, he said there was a possibility he’ll need surgery or at least an arthroscopy. This may well mean he’ll be absent from Aki.

The Yokozuna is going to stay at Tokyo, but not with his full entourage. Kasugaryu will be needed to perform the yumi-tori, as there is no backup currently at the Jungyo (Satonofuji stayed home this time). And what will be the fate of our  daily Enho photos?

Hakuho is not the only worry – two notable participants were off the torikumi this day: Takekaze and Goeido. I believe they did participate in the keiko session, but can’t find evidence of any on-dohyo activity of these two.

But the show must go on! Yokozuna Kakuryu is still around, and probably slept at home, so he didn’t have time to get a decent shave in the morning:

unshaven-kakuryu

But later in the day he became pretty to celebrate his birthday – although that’s actually on the 10th. That’s probably because it’s easier to get those cakes in Tokyo:

kakuryu-early-birthday
Soccer cake to celebrate his unofficial soccer analyst position in the recent World Cup?

Aoiyama lent his chest to a lower ranked rikishi (I would guess his tsukebito). Interestingly, his usual bracing is not used for this exercise:

aoiyama-butsukari

Ryuden was using his tsukebito for weight training. Version one:

 

And version two:

The ever rounder Chiyomaru was doing some fansa right before his bout. His brother-come-tsukebito was fanning himself:

chiyomaru-chiyootori

Onosho continued to goof around just before the dohyo-iri, and got a bit of shoulder massage:

So here are some bouts for you:

Kagayaki vs. Ikioi:

Shodai not only serves as padding for the fall but also politely folds Ikioi’s sagari.

With Goeido off the bouts, Takayasu faced yusho winner Mitakeumi. The bout is part of the following news report:

Sigh. Mitakeumi should watch the Hakuho-Tochinoshin bout from Natsu to learn how to deal with tsuri-yori. That leg wriggling – not helpful!

The musubi:

And here is your Enho. I think this photo ranks pretty high on the heart throb Richter scale:

enho

So let’s hope he didn’t leave the Jungyo together with Hakuho…

PS: more synchronized workout by Enho and Tobizaru:

Hatsu Day 1 Highlights

battle formation

Top headline of the day: Kisenosato drops his match against Takakeisho. There are two things to learn from this: First and foremost, Takakeisho is gunning hard for Sekiwake and above. I slight him for his oshi-only approach, but he is making it work for him. He looked strong, fast and relentless today against the struggling Kisenosato.  The second thing of note is that Kisenosato looked much better than I had feared. He moved well, he attacked with strength, and kept moving forward. Fans who fear the Great Pumpkin being on the ropes should keep in mind he has not really had matches in a while, and will be rusty for a few days. If he walks out with 10 wins, he’s good.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – Decent throw that took some time to set up. Moving much better than he was in Kyushu. The happy rikishi has a long path ahead of him, and to reach his potential, he must stay healthy.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Ryuden looked strong in his first Makuuchi bout, easily dominating Nishikigi. Ryuden kept his eblows tight, and prevented Nishikigi from establishing a grip, while Ryuden set up for a well executed throw to end the match.

Ishiura defeats Yutakayama – A flurry of activity in which Ishiura was everywhere at once and overwhelmed Yutakayama. He was able to get his head against Yutakayama’s chest a couple of times, which helped him keep the larger rikishi’s center of gravity high.

Daieisho defeats Abi – Massive oshi fest as Abi took the initiative and was landing tsuppari with purpose. But he over committed, got too far forward and Daieisho brought him forward and down.

Kagayaki defeats Takekaze – Kagayaki was very high at the tachiai, but managed to get Takekaze off balance and moving backwards. His excellent sumo instincts took over and he kept moving strongly forward. Good, solid win.

Kotoyuki defeats Aminishiki – Not quite the battle I was looking for, it was over in a blink of an eye as Aminishiki slipped trying to find his footing. Kotoyuki recognized this quickly, and finished what gravity had started.

Chiyomaru defeats Terunofuji – In spite of Chiyomaru’s enormous belly, Terunofuji was able to land a mawashi grip. But without abilty to transmit power through his legs, he was unable to halt Chiyomaru’s counter attack.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Massive tachiai, with Ikioi taking the early initiative, but Chiyoshoma pulled out a win at the edge thanks to excellent ring sense and a great deal of balance.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Keep your eyes on Endo! He wants back in the upper ranks, and he seems to finally have his body in order. This fight saw both rikishi try to establish an offense only to be countered quite effectively, but Endo kept working forward. Fantastic effort from both.

Arawashi defeats Okinoumi – In spite of Okinoumi showing some solid sumo moves, he let Arawashi land a deep left hand grip right away, and from there Arawashi kept working Okinoumi towards being thrown. 800th bout for Arawashi.

Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Shodai, for once, had a solid tachiai, but he immediately went chest to chest with Tochinoshin, which had to delight the big Georgian. In spite of Shodai’s right hand mawashi grip, Tochinoshin out-matched him in strength and power.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi has a very sloppy start, he was high and immediately off balance. Kotoshogiku was able to set up a solid defense, and as Mitakeumi was struggling (more than he should) to finish him, Kotoshogiku apparently stepped out. The match was stopped by the shimpan.

Takayasu defeats Yoshikaze – Takayasu still working that forearm blast into the tachiai, but it seems to leave him high and forward. Yoshikaze could not exploit it, and was moving backwards in a hurry. Both men re-engaged, and kept the battle running, with Yoshikaze pushing to land a mawashi grip. Takayasu prevailed and Yoshikaze took a slow motion roll to the clay. Hopefully he was ok.

Goeido defeats Ichinojo – As predicted, Goeido came in fast and low, but Inchinojo’s mass and forward momentum was too much for Goeido to simply power out. Goeido 2.0 is all about keeping up the pressure, and he did eventually get Ichinojo to step out, but Goeido was on the verge of falling down as it happened.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – This was classic Kakuryu, letting his opponent open the offense, then making him pay. I am thankful that Kakuryu was able to open strong today.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – Wow, what a battle! Twice, Kisenosato let Takakeisho set up his “wave action tsuppari”, with devastating effect. But twice the Yokozuna was able to escape. The match ended when Takakeisho grabbed a hold of Kisenosato’s right arm and twisted, bringing the Yokozuna down. Kisenosato looks worried, but it may take a few bouts for him to hit his stride.

Hakuho defeats Onosho – The boss made short work of Onosho, who once again over-committed and was too far forward.

Five Interesting Matches on Day 7

 

Things are beginning to get more and more exciting as the midway point of the 2017 Kyushu basho draws closer. With another day of action ahead of us, here are five matches of interest for day 7.

Nishikiki vs. Kagayaki

Sitting right on the line between Makuuchi and Juryo, Maegashira 15 Nishikigi is desperately trying to prolong his time in the top division. He is set to face Kagayaki on day 7, who is also at risk of a return trip to Juryo should he not get his sumo in gear. While Nishikigi may be battling one opponent this Saturday, Kagayaki is facing two, as the young rikishi from Kanazawa is constantly fighting his own poor balance. Kagayaki leads their series 4 to 3.

Asanoyama vs. Myogiryu

The Asanoyama we all remembered from Aki finally showed up today and delivered a commanding performance against Aminishiki. While it was disappointing to watch everyone’s favorite uncle take his first loss, I’m sure many were relieved to see the promising young rikishi halt his four-day losing skid. Asanoyama’s day 7 opponent will be Myogiryu, who has also been struggling to collect wins in Fukuoka this basho.

Kaisei vs. Chiyomaru

Those of you averse to ample fields of sweaty back hair may want to give this match a pass. The only thing Chiyomaru has been consistent with this basho is his inconsistency. The rotund rikishi has flip-flopped between winning and losing every day and can expect his fourth loss tomorrow if he continues to follow this pattern. His rival for Saturday, Kaisei, is having a somewhat better basho and comes into day 7 with four wins.

Takarafuji vs. Shodai

Early in the basho, it was looking like we would finally see a bit of the Shodai who took the sumo world by storm in 2016. He’s since fallen back into his old habits and suffered a third consecutive loss yesterday in a one-sided bout against Daieisho. Tomorrow he meets Takarafuji, who managed to bring his win-loss ratio back to 50% with a day 6 victory over Chiyonokuni. Shodai needs to figure out his sumo, and soon, or he risks another make-koshi, while Takarafuji is probably just glad Ishiura is down in Juryo untying other mens’ mawashi.

Tamawashi vs. Mitakeumi

Tamawashi really wants back in the San’yaku, and I mean really! The former Sekiwake brought his A-game to his day 6 match with Yoshikaze and must have peeled a few layers of skin off the veteran brawler’s face with his blistering tsuppari attacks. Tamawashi takes on Mitakeumi tomorrow, who may be the worse for wear despite winning his bout with Onosho on Friday. Mitakeumi appears to have hurt his leg after landing on the stadium floor and was limping as he made his way back on to the dohyo. Tomorrow’s match will be a good indicator of just how serious this leg injury is. Mitakeumi leads their series 8-1.

Five Quick Thoughts on Day 3

Asanoyama

 

With day 3 done and dusted, and day 4 on the horizon, here are a few quick thoughts on some of the lower Makuuchi matches that I wanted to give a little extra time and attention to.

1. Mr. Happy and the Day 3 Blues

Let’s start with one of my favorite rikishi, Mr. Happy himself, Asanoyama. Today he went head to head with Kagayaki, who not only defeated Asanoyama but also beat his own archenemy, gravity. In September, Asanoyama remarked that he felt jinxed by the east entrance early on in the basho, as his first two losses came from that side of the dohyo. He doesn’t seem to be jinxed in Kyushu so far, as he has now lost on the east and the west side, marking the first time Asanoyama has had consecutive losses in the top division. This is not the start he or his fans had hoped for. It is still very early in the tournament though, and it will be interesting to see how Asanoyama handles this setback.

2. Shodai Comes Alive

Now where has this Shodai been!? After two lackluster basho, Shodai appears to have found a bit of the fighting spirit that had carried him to such great success in 2016. His match with Endo began with a shocking turn of events, as Shodai actually looked like he took a step forward at the tachiai! From there, the two young mawashi-grapplers fought with some uncharacteristic otsu-sumo thrusts. Despite Endo putting up most of the offense early in the bout, once he strayed into Shodai’s grip he was done for, and quickly found himself on the wrong side of the tawara. Shodai showed some much-needed passion today, and I hope this is the beginning of an upward trend for him.

3. What is Up With Chiyomaru?

On the opposite side of the passion spectrum, was Chiyomaru. The rotund rikishi looked deflated (not physically of course), and put up no resistance against Daishomaru. This has led me to speculate that he may be dealing with an as of yet undisclosed injury. Considering his physique, it would not be a surprise if he is dealing with back or knee issues. Chiyomaru could benefit from following Kaisei’s example and shedding a bit of mass to improve his health and sumo. I’d hate to see sumo lose its most kawaii rikishi because of injury.

4. The Great Wall of Ichinojo

There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes, and a genki Ichinojo is nearly impossible to push around. Today it was Hokutofuji’s turn to take on the immovable object, but he was not up to the task and immediately fell to the clay after making contact with Ichinojo’s mighty frame. The giant Mongolian is undefeated thus far and could be a major force in the yusho race. With Terunofuji a shell of his former self, Ichinojo could one day find himself taking on the mantle of sumo’s resident Kaiju.

5. A Look on the Bright Side

With the shadow of the Harumafuji scandal cast on this basho, it is important to recognize that there are still many positive stories coming out of Fukuoka. For starters, the young crop of rikishi continue to make their mark in the Makuuchi division and their matches remain competitive and enjoyable. Kisenosato and Takayasu seem up to the task of competing this basho, with the later of the two looking like an early contender for the yusho. Finally, Hakuho appears focused and determined to make more history this November, and become the first man to ever to win forty yusho. With so much to look forward to, let’s remember that there is still some great sumo to come.

 

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Who Is The Genkiest Of Them All?

I had a feeling of déjà vu as I watched the opening day today. It looked like the Nagoya basho all over again. Yokozuna falling left and right, Terunofuji looking like a ghost. And one Lord of the Ring.

hakuho-2017-11-day-01
The boss, under pressure

But do I detect a worried look on the face of the King of Kings?

Hakuho was very careful and kept his pelvis about a meter away from Kotoshogiku’s. The man in the blue mawashi did try one gaburi before he realized that he had nothing but Hakuho’s classical Mongolian wrestling grip – all upper body – and from there it was only a matter of hakuho getting his hands sorted for a throw.

What pain in his body has given him that worried look, we’ll never know.

Moving to the less pleasant yokozuna stories. It was every bit as painful to see Harumafuji as I thought it would be. His shikiri/salt throwing routine was slow, heavy and stiff. His tachiai was slow, heavy and stiff. If it was just his elbow that didn’t work, well, an injury is an injury. But my favorite Yokozuna’s whole body is screaming for retirement. Onosho, of course, is not taking any prisoners. The only positive thing that can be said about this bout from the Yokozuna’s perspective is that it was short.

Kisenosato’s bout, with all its mattas, was pretty strange. I would have thought that the big, experienced man would have at least the same composure as Takayasu has shown, but his nerves were all over the dohyo.

At some point in the bout Kisenosato pushed Tamawashi away, and then seemed to be surprised that Tamawashi came back as strong as he did. In fact, as soon as they re-engaged Kisenosato didn’t stand a chance. What the injured Yokozuna has going for him at the moment is a great angle on the Tachiai (which was somewhat neutralized by all the mattas and nerves), and excellent balance. But at the point they re-engaged, it was in a standing position with no angle of attack advantage, and Tamawashi wasn’t going for anything that would require unbalancing the Yokozuna. Just applying power where the Yokozuna couldn’t answer.

Bruce has already said all that there was to say about the Goeido bout. I still maintain that in their Aki bout, Goeido lost by slippiotoshi and bad state of mind. Takakeisho is not a quick thinker or a sly planner. Goeido simply used him as a slider today.

Takayasu is one guy who doesn’t just say that he’s cool. When he says it, he means it. He simply doesn’t stress too much about his kadoban. He opened with his signature shoulder blast, and once he got that out of the way he didn’t shy away from a sidestep and an easy win.

On to Terunofuji. Well no, on second thought, let’s pretend that Terunofuji is not in this basho. How did that man succeed in damaging his knees that thoroughly in less than a month? When he joined the jungyo he looked sharp and strong. That Utchari! And then he managed to overdo it so badly that he is hardly able to move, much less threaten his opponents.

It really was a bad day for Isegahama. With the exception of Uncle “Who Needs Ligaments Or Tendons” Aminishiki, not a single sekitori from that heya won. At least most of their lower-level rikishi won, including our favorite Shunba:

shunba
Obamaumi rising after Shunba’s Tsukiotoshi

The situation is very similar for Kokonoe. With the exception of Chiyoshoma’s excellent katasukashi, all their sekitori lost their bouts. It was Chiyoshoma’s 8th katasukashi, by the way. The thin thewy thug thrives on thrilling throws.

Poor Chiyonokuni was just unlucky to face Ichinojo on one of the rare occasions he comes out of hibernation. But what happened to Chiyomaru? The fire in his eyes seems to have gone out. Yes, it’s lovely that Endo is back, but at least give the man a fight!

Now, what about the Yokozuna’s favorite toy, Asanoyama? One thing that I noticed about his rather quick bout today was that he used hidari-yotsu. That’s not his favorite grip. But he did get to practice it a lot in his bouts with Kisenosato during the Jungyo. The fruits of Yokozuna love?

I liked Nishikigi’s bout with Daiamami. It’s not often that you get to see a good mawashi fight that low down the banzuke.

Here are a couple of Makuuchi dropouts. I mean, potential come-back men. Start with Ishiura. Um, forget about the comeback. But at least he didn’t try a henka.

And here’s Yutakayama. He is said to be Asanoyama’s rival, but despite the win, what a difference of level:

Now, who will get an oicho-mage first? Asanoyama or Yutakayama? That’s a point on which Yutakayama may actually stand a chance…


In news unrelated to the basho: Ura’s “people in charge” officially made it known that he’ll have his operation and rehabilitation.

Ura Gets The Chair
No more of this, please.

As it turned out, during the pre-basho practice, he tried to practice with a brace etc., and caused himself serious damage including an internal hemorrhage, and couldn’t even walk. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way, I guess. They are optimistic about his recovery chances after that operation. Go Ura! Listen to the doctors!

Who’s That Rikishi #4: Chiyomaru Kazuki

Chiyomaru

Age: 26
Birth Name: Kazuki Kinoshita
Home Town: Shibushi, Japan
Stable: Kokonoe
Highest Rank: Maegashira 11

With his rotund physique and jolly personality, one would be hard-pressed to miss Chiyomaru Kazuki. Born in Shibushi city in 1991, Chiyomaru practiced judo throughout much of his youth before entering Kokonoe beya after high school. His younger brother Chiyootori Yuki joined him a year later, and together the two trained under former Yokozuna Chiyonofuji. In 2007 Chiyomaru made his professional debut and made steady progress through sumo’s lower ranks over the next few years. Tragedy would strike his family in 2011 when a fire burned down his parents’ home. Chiyomaru and his brother, now an active rikishi as well, decided to turn their tragedy into motivation and vowed to become more successful to help their parents rebuild their home.

It appeared that Chiyomaru’s younger brother was more serious about their vow, and in 2012 Chiyootori overtook his elder sibling and reached the salaried rank of Juryo. In an attempt to motivate him to train harder, Chiyonofuji assigned Chiyomaru to be a tsukebito for his brother. This assignment had the desired effect on Chiyomaru, who felt shame in being his little brother’s personal attendant. From this point on he applied himself full-heartedly to his training and eventually joined Chiyootori in Juryo at the 2013 Aki basho. In January of the following year, Chiyomaru won his first division championship, taking the Juryo yusho with a 13-2 record. This victory ensured his promotion to the Makuuchi division for the following tournament, where Chiyomaru  joined Chiyotoori and marked the tenth time in history two brothers had competed in the top division simultaneously. Another strong performance saw him promoted to Maegashira 11 for the 2014 Natsu basho, his highest rank to date. Chiyomaru remained in the lower Makuuchi for the next year until a disastrous 3-12 record in May of 2015 saw him relegated back to Juryo. Unable to put together a streak of winning records good enough to warrant a return to the top division, he remained in Juryo for another two years. In July of 2017, Chiyomaru was able to re-establish himself as a top rank rikishi, and he has remained in Makuuchi ever since. Chiyomaru mainly uses oshi-zumo on the dohyo, winning nearly 60% of his matches with either an oshidashi pushout or a yorikiri forceout. Chiyomaru has developed a large following of female fans who find him incredibly kawaii, and who affectionately nicknamed him 22, referencing his body fat percentage.


Kaisei (left) vs. Chiyomaru (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=7240
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=3040
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiyomaru_Kazuki

Aki Day 14 Preview

sake
Recommended Toolkit For Day 14

Everyone knew that the 2017 Aki basho was going to be a strange animal. With Yokozuna sitting out, Ozeki dropping like flies, and even Maegashira (Ura) getting in on the act. The ranks for Makuuchi were decimated in the style of the old Roman legions. This lack of top end talent has led to a large group of Rikishi with nearly the same score as of the end of day 13. We have seen this phenomenon in Juryo in many of the past several basho. Without the upper San’yaku around to thrash the rank and file, most rikishi are around .500.

Which brings us to the question of the yusho winner’s record. We don’t know who it will be yet, but we know for certain it will be no better than 12-3, and that only happens if Goeido’s is undefeated in his final two matches. It’s perhaps a bit more likely that the final score may be 11-4, or even a dreaded 10-5. Now to be sure, a 10-5 record is a good score in sumo, but keep in mind just how many rikishi who are active in this basho have turned in a 10-5 score. There are even disastrous possibilities that Goeido loses his last 2 matches, and Harumfuji loses one. Many of the 13 (yes, THIRTEEN!) rikishi currently at 8 wins will be at 10 wins by the final day. While the chances have faded for now, the specter of the barnyard brawl / Senshuraku Showdown is still there.

But first all competitors must negotiate a rather treacherous day 14. The scheduling gods have constructed a set of bouts to winnow that field of 13 to a hopefully more manageable number.

Aki Leader board

Goeido needs to win, and needs Harumafuji and Asanoyama to both lose, and he will win the Aki basho. Please note the numbers below are not a parody, but are the actual stats for the yusho race.

Leader – Goeido
Hunt Group – (2) Harumafuji, Asanoyama
Chasers – (13) Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takakeisho, Takarafuji, Takanoiwa, Arawashi, Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei, Endo

2 Matches Remain

URGENT NOTIFICATION TO TACHIAI READERS

Please note, due to the special circumstances surrounding this basho and the stakes of day 14, please feel welcome to observe the following Tachiai Yusho Drinking Game:

  1. Get a 330 ml or 750 ml of drinkable sake. I will be using a fine Hakkaisan, myself.
  2. Pour a standard sized cup, if you are in Japan, have someone pour it for you.
  3. These events require a sip from your sake cup:
    1. a matta
    2. a monii
    3. a match with more than 1 wave of banners
    4. Yoshikaze bleeds for any reason
    5. Someone secures their kachi-koshi
  4. These events require you to drain and refill your cup:
    1. a member of the hunt group or chasers loses a match
    2. Someone suffers a mawashi oriented wardrobe malfunction.
    3. A combatant collides with a gyoji, seated or standing
    4. A combatant lands on one of the shimpan
    5. A combatant deploys a henka
    6. A combatant lands on an elderly lady ringside, who seems far too pleased by the event.
  5. These events requires you to drain the sake bottle in one go:
    1. Tochiozan bursts into flames
    2. Someone gets carted off in the big wheelchair
    3. Hakuho suddenly re-enters the basho just to give Goeido a swirly
    4. Kisenosato’s uninjured right leg appears, grafted to Takayasu’s body and begins to do shiko in the hanamichi
    5. Goeido wins the yusho

What We Are Watching Day 14

Okinoumi vs. Takekaze – Loser of the match gets make-koshi. With Okinoumi at M14w, he could end up in Juryo for November.

Chiyonokuni vs. Kaisei – Our favorite badger, Chiyonokuni, goes against a surprisingly and delightfully resurgent Kaisei, who already has his kachi-koshi. Chiyonokuni picks up his kachi-koshi with a win.

Shohozan vs. Chiyomaru – “Big Guns” vs the ever bulbous Chiyomaru, with Shohozan looking to take a win from the lower ranked, higher mass Chiyomaru. A win for Shohozan is his kachi-koshi, but a win for Chiyomaru keeps him in the group 2 losses behind Goeido.

Onosho vs. Asanoyama – You know they are trying to break up Asanoyama’s bid to compete for a possibly yusho match when they match him (Maegashira 16) with Onosho (Maegashira 3). I do know that whatever the outcome, Asanoyama will think he is the luckiest man in the Kokugikan for just getting a chance to compete.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Maegashira 14 vs Maegashira 3… Well the M14 is Endo, but this shows just how far the schedulers are going to try and trim that block of 13 (15 total if you count Harumafuji and Asanoyama) down to something smaller. I sure they are worried about nightmare scenarios that would require an 16 rikishi mini-tournament.

Tochinoshin vs. Ishiura – File this one under “The Gurney Is The Reward”, both of these guys need medical attention, and are really in no condition to compete. They both have matching horrible 3-10 records.

Daieisho vs. Kotoshogiku – At this point I want to see Ojisan Kotoshogiku in the big basho barnyard brawl. If you are in the twilight of a pretty interesting career, what better way to spend one of your remaining basho? Another M1 to M11 giant gap “weeding” match. Bottom of the banzuke guys are taking it in the onions today.

Takakeisho vs. Tochiozan – After today’s match between Takakeisho and Goeido, I have no idea what is going to happen to Tochiozan, but I fear possible spontaneous human combustion. Checking sumodb, there are no matches I can find that have ended with that kimarite, but I am sure they would have just called it “hatakikomi” instead.

Arawashi vs. Yoshikaze – Another “weeding” match, this one featuring an 11 rank gap. I am sure both these guys will apply themselves, and this could actually be a really good match. But I am going to guess that Yoshikaze puts the doom on this guy, and keeps pushing for double digit wins.

Takanoiwa vs. Goeido – THE pivotal match. Demon Hunter Takanoiwa, secure in his kachi-koshi, has the yusho race run through his match today. Win, and Takanoiwa has a chance to participate in the big basho barnyard brawl. Lose and he sets up a possible Goeido finish should Harumafuji lose the match following. We have no idea what version of GoeidoOS will boot up on Saturday, but I am guessing his software crew is patching like mad given today’s software faults on the mobility platform.

Mitakeumi vs. Harumafuji – Mitakeumi is still struggling to find the wins to hang onto his Sekiwake position. He might be able to take one from Harumfuji, but it’s clear the Yokozuna has caught the scent of the sake dried to the inside of the Emperor’s cup, and today I saw a fire in his eyes that replaced the weary gloom from earlier this basho. Mitakeumi has it within him to win this one, but he has struggled to tap the fountain of strength and energy that has visited him so easily in past tournaments.

Aki Day 13 Preview

Goeido-Mug

Time to crank up the final weekend for the Aki basho, and what a weekend it is likely to be. Yes, there are two paths (you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on) to the finish line. One is likely and it involves Goeido staying in charge and holding course until Day 15, when it won’t matter what happens when he faces Harumafuji. The other, more interesting and unlikely path involves some brave soul (Takakeisho?) finding a way to defeat the lone surviving Ozeki, and forcing the option of a Senshuraku Showdown. Then it all comes down to Harumafuji, and a win would force the barnyard brawl that we know would light the sumo world on fire. While the 10 rikishi who are 2 wins behind Goeido will likely thin quite a bit before Sunday, a multi-way battle for the cup would be a fitting end to Wacky Aki.

Aki Leader board

Goeido is 2 ahead of an army of 10 chasers, which is everyone who is kachi-koshi as of day 12. Amusingly enough, that means even Endo and Asanoyama!

Leader – Goeido
Chasers – Harumafuji, Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, Arawashi, Daieisho, Endo, Asanoyama

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Nishikigi vs. Sadanoumi – Nishikigi is one loss away from make-koshi, and he faces Sadanoumi who is headed southbound in a big way. Nishikigi has a series advantage for 7-4, but both rikishi are struggling this tournament.

Daishomaru vs. Arawashi – Daishomaru working to close out his winning record against a strong and fierce Arawashi. Arawashi has faded a bit in week 2, but not as severely as Daishomaru. The two have split the previous matches 4-3, favoring Daishomaru.

Takanoiwa vs. Chiyomaru – Former leader board occupant Chiyomaru is hosting to finish out his kachi-koshi today as well, but he has to overcome Takanoiwa to get there. I am going to assume this match will come down to a pulling / thrust down kimarite, as both of these men are hoping to avoid a protracted battle.

Endo vs. Takarafuji – Clearly at test match for Endo, with the question being “how well has he healed up?”. Takarafuji has been fighting well, and a win here will give him his kachi-koshi. Takarafuji also holds a series lead of 5-2 over Endo.

Chiyonokuni vs. Kotoshogiku – This match has real potential, as the grumpy badger Chiyonokuni tests his mettle against the Kyushu Bulldozer Kotoshogiku. Chiyonokuni needs 2 more wins to lock down a winning record, but I don’t think that Kotoshogiku is going to cut him any slack. The real question is if the match is going to be Kotoshogiku wrapping up Chiyonokuni from the tachiai, and applying the yori-gabori, or if Chiyonokuni is going to stay mobile (not Kotoshogiku’s strong suit in spite of recent improvements) and force it to be a battle of footwork and balance. I can’t wait to watch this one.

Tamawashi vs. Aoiyama – The man-mountain Aoiyama seems to have gotten in step with his sumo now, and he is using his enormous reach and huge strength to manhandle his opponents. Tamawashi is one loss away from make-koshi and a his first demotion out of San’yaku in about a year, so I expect him to fight like it’s his last stand. Also another match with huge potential, as it could come down to Tamawashi’s blistering speed vs Aoiyama’s enormous strength. Also of note, Tamawashi has a habit of false and shaky starts to his matches, and he could employ that to throw of Aoiyama’s timing.

Mitakeumi vs. Ichinojo – Both rikishi come into today’s match 6-6, and can only drop one more match to have a hope of a winning record at the end of the day Sunday. Big Ichinojo has been hit or miss this basho, but in the past week has been more hit than miss. Mitakeumi seems to be at about 80% of his typical power, so it’s tough to know how this match is going end. Ichinojo won their only prior meeting.

Takakeisho vs. Goeido – This is a pivotal match, and Goeido has a complex problem to solve. Takakeisho has an impressively low center or gravity, he holds a great deal of mass below his belly button. This makes him quite stable as long as he can keep his balance. This is one case where it may be critical that Goeido be able to employ a solid henka. Goeido really needs to sell it, and get the relatively inexperienced Takakeisho to push off the tachiai with full force. Even a hit and shift could work in this case. For Takakeisho, Goeido’s best attack is to likely try and do a torpedo tachiai and blast him from from the dohyo before Takakeisho can set up his “Wave Action Tsuppari”. So actually, Takakeisho either needs to just stand up at the tachiai, or henka himself. For Goeido, this is a “must win” match if he wants to put the cup out of reach of the chasers.

Yoshikaze vs. Harumafuji – There was a match between these two in Nagoya in 2016 that turned into a bloody street fight that sent Yoshikaze to the hospital to get his face rebuilt. Since then these two have been strictly business when it comes to their bouts. Yoshikaze is now safe in his Sekiwake slot, so the question comes down to how high does he want to try and run up the score? Harumafuji is kachi-koshi as well, but Yokozuna have a higher bar, and anything less than double digit wins may be seen as sub standard performance. These two are evenly matched 9-9 in their prior bouts.

Aki Day 12 Highlights

Goeido-Pissed

The Makuuchi yusho race changed subtly today, in that tournament leader Goeido lost his match to Shohozan, but the nearest competitor, Chiyotairyu, lost as well. But now there is an enormous group of rikishi at 8 wins that are two behind the leader. This has opened the tiniest of chances that something wild could happen in the final three days of this basho. The odds of that are still remote. There are 10 rikishi, including Yokozuna Harumafuji and Sekiwake Yoshikaze, who are 8-4 as of today. Goeido will face Harumafuji on the final day, and the outcome of that bout is not predictable.

Several rikishi secured their kachi-koshi today, including Endo, Arawashi, Daieisho, Onosho, Kotoshogiku and Yokozuna Harumafuji. Hokutofuji and Yutakayama both reached 8 losses, locking in a make-koshi and demotion of some sort for November’s Kyushu basho. In the case of Yutakayama, his second trip to Makuuchi did not pan out, and he will likely return to Juryo to try again.

In Juryo, there are 4 rikishi with 8 wins as of the end of day 12, and an additional 8 rikishi one win off the pace at 7. As has been the case in the past few tournaments, the Juryo squad seems to be very evenly balanced, and most of the scores cluster closely around the 7-8 / 8-7 median. Many fans are delighted that Aminishiki aka “Uncle Sumo”, is one of the co-leaders for the yusho. Ranked at Juryo 2, he has a very good shot of being on the promotion train for Makuuchi.

Highlight Matches

Endo defeats Sadanoumi – Watching this match, it’s clear that Endo is still a bit tender on the ankle that has been repaired. He picks up his kachi-koshi and has another couple of months to get more strength in that ankle. Sadanoumi really has not been able to generate much offense, and we can attribute that to the injury that had him kyujo for the first week.

Yutakayama defeated by Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru owned this match the entire way, and is fighting well for a mid-level Maegashira. Yutakayama is make-koshi and headed down to Juryo after his second attempt to land in Makuuchi seems to have failed.

Okinoumi defeats Takanoiwa – Out of the tachiai, Takanoiwa landed but could not hold a shallow left hand grip. Okinoumi, who seems to be feeling well enough to put some effort into his sumo, took control and delivered the win via tsukiotoshi.

Arawashi defeats Asanoyama – This was a great match, and both rikishi put a huge effort into their sumo today, and this battle raged on for a good amount of time. Probably one of the better matches today.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – A close ending to their first attempt resulted in a monoii, and a rematch. The rematch resulted in Nishikigi being stunned for a few seconds after a tsuppari knocked him to the clay. It makes me wonder if someone checks these guys afterwards to see if they have a concussion that needs to be addressed.

Kaisei defeats Takarafuji – I really must compliment Kaisei for a vast improvement to his sumo this year. I think the weight loss has helped him quite a bit, and he took care of Takarafuji today.

Onosho defeats Chiyonokuni – When Chiyonokuni is in good health, he really delivers some exciting sumo. The match was quick, but intense, with Onosho taking command straight at the tachiai and driving Chiyonokuni back. Onosho now kachi-koshi and will be back in the joi for November.

Aoiyama defeats Kagayaki – The man-mountain Aoiyama is getting into his groove finally, and really delivers a massive pounding to Kagayaki, who desperately needs to regroup.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Blink and you will miss it! Kotoshogiku deftly tossed Chiyotairyu like he was taking out the trash. Kotoshogiku kachi-koshi with this win, and it will be quite awesome to see if he can re-ascend to San’yaku for November.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – Mitakeumi has been dangerously close to a make-koshi trajectory, but today’s win over Shodai helps his cause quite a bit. If both Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze end up with winning records, we will see another banzuke with significant contention for the San’yaku slots.

Yoshikaze defeats Takakeisho – Great to see Yoshikaze overcome Takakeisho’s “Wave Action Tsuppari” attack. With Yoshikaze now safely in winning record territory, we know at least one Sekiwake will be staying put for Kyushu. Takakeisho needs to mix things up a bit, as his single dominant attack form will be decoded, and the countermeasure to it adopted by all.

Shohozan defeats Goeido – This would have been a massive shift in the yusho race if it had not been that every chaser lost as well. Goeido remains two ahead of everyone. They had a tough time getting started, with “Big Guns” Shohozan jumping the tachiai twice. The Ozeki’s two attempt at pulling Shohozan down left him off balance, and Shohozan exploited that mistake in a blink of an eye. Great effort by both today.

Harumafuji defeats Tamawashi – Straightforward bout, but it’s clear that Harumafuji is in pain with every step. With this win Harumafuji is kachi-koshi, and can make a strong case for keeping the scissors in the drawer.

Aki Day 12 Preview

Goeido-Entry

We are working our way towards the conclusion of this really crazy Aki basho, and it’s clear that another loss by Chiyotairyu, and Goeido will be able to claim the yusho. Short of injury, there is very little chance that Goeido can be derailed. Many sumo fans will grouse about his early match strategy of avoiding the fight, but a win is a win, and this yusho will be just as valid as all the others. In fact, having a well known rikishi able to step up and dominate the field of newcomers is probably quite important for fans and actually for the newcomers too. Too much fame too soon can be a poison to any athlete or performers career.

Goeido is now fighting daily like his old self from Aki 2016, and in this mode he is a worthy champion indeed. At one point a few days ago, a reader on Facebook accused Tachiai of “Goeido Bashing”. Some thoughts on that (Bruce’s opinion only here):

I have heard from some readers and fans that they are weary of Tachiai’s Goeido bashing. I welcome all comments and opinions here that come from our readers, as truly the site is nothing without you. So perhaps I can offer an explanation. Let’s start with a contrast.

Take a look at our coverage from Aki last year. We were unabashed raging Goeido enthusiasts, his sumo was amazing, and his accomplishment was literally record-setting. Some links for those who may not have been with us then

Goeido – Redemption
It’s Goeido!
Aki Day 13 Preview
Kisenosato Defeated – Day 11

The team at Tachiai more or less love everything about sumo, and we think that every rikishi has a part to play in this wonderful and amazing sport. We have expectations of the top men of sumo, and we don’t feel they are unfounded, and when there is someone who is amazing as Goeido who choses to win easy rather than win big, we call him on it.

You can bank on the fact that when he does use his amazing offensive techniques to win, we are cheering him on. Tachiai loves sumo. Good, action packed, burly, crazy sumo. We cheer those who deliver, and chide those who would rather not.

Aki Leader board

Short of injury, there is very little chance that Goeido can be derailed from claiming his second yusho. Many sumo fans will grouse about his early match strategy of avoiding the fight, but a win is a win, and this yusho will be just as valid as all the others.

Leader – Goeido
Chaser – Chiyotairyu

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Endo vs. Sadanoumi – Endo has kachi-koshi on the line today, while there are few reasons for Sadanoumi not to worry about a fast ramp down to Juryo for November. Their career record is 4-3 favoriting Endo, but in this tournament, Endo has been looking fairly strong.

Yutakayama vs. Chiyomaru – Yutakayama looking at maki-koshi and a return to Juryo as well should he lose today’s bout. Chiyomaru has faded in the second week, but should be able to give Yutakayama a good fight.

Ishiura vs. Daishomaru – Hapless Ishiura will likely be the prey for Daishomaru’s kachi-koshi bout. I am going to have to assume that at this point Ishiura is damaged in some why, and we just don’t know about it. He can’t seem to buy a win.

Asanoyama vs. Arawashi – Time to see if Mr Happy is going to be able to press for a sansho special prize. He will need to get two more wins before the end of the tournament for consideration, but day 12 against a resurgent Arawashi will be a stiff test. This is their first time meeting, but I would give the advantage to Arawashi.

Kaisei vs. Takarafuji – Takarafuji looks for his kachi-koshi win against a much improved Kaisei. Their career record is 11-9, with Kaisei in the lead, though Takarafuji holds the bulk of the more recent wins. I am expecting a somewhat methodical match between these two.

Onosho vs. Chiyonokuni – Onosho, like many of the tadpoles, faded in week 2. The brutal rotation of this bottom heavy basho has taken its toll on the newcomers, and Onosho is still looking to pick up his 8th win to secure his place for Kyushu. Chiyonokuni has been fighting well, but not winning as much as his frantic action on they dohyo might indicate. Chiyonokuni took their only prior match.

Tochinoshin vs. Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is facing his second career make-koshi today. But Tochinoshin is in “limp home” mode now to be certain. It’s still possible for Hokutofuji to turn things around and eek out a winning record, but he needs to win everything from here on out.

Chiyotairyu vs. Kotoshogiku – Interesting strategic play here. A Chiyotairyu loss would hand the yusho to Goiedo. If you are Kotoshogiku, do you throttle back? I am going to say “no”. A win here today and Kotoshogiku also secures his winning record, and begins to make the case for his return to San’yaku. The Kyushu Bulldozer leads their career totals 5-1, so if Chiyotairyu does not blast him at the tachiai, I look for the hug-and-chug express to be applied with gusto.

Mitakeumi vs. Shodai – Another match of the disappointments. Both are at 5-6, both are looking really stale and ineffective. Shodai holds a slights 5-4 advantage in their career stats, but that may not matter too much for day 12. For Mitakeumi fans, don’t fear for him. Even if he is maki-koshi this time, he will be back. He is an excellent sumotori, but setbacks are to be expected along his road.

Takakeisho vs. Yoshikaze – Now this one has a lot of potential. Both of them are high intensity mobile attack platforms. Takakeisho has shown a preference for yo-yo maneuvers on his opponents, a repeated pattern of strike and retreat. We know that Yoshikaze has a deep bag of kimarite that he does not always reach too deeply into, but I am hoping he can uncork some fun attack got quell Takakeisho. Yoshikazen won their only prior match.

Shohozan vs. Goeido – Big Guns Shohozan will be against Goeido 2.0 or maybe even 2.1 on day 12. I love me some Shohozan power sumo, but Goeido is allowing himself to really execute his attacks at full power now. Goeido holds a clear series advantage at 10-5 against Shohozan.

Tamawashi vs. Harumafuji – Tamawashi has been delivering some really burly sumo the past week, and we know that Harumafuji is soldering on in spite of the pain and the problems. I think all of Harumafuji’s fans just want him to win 3 more and be able to exit Aki with some Yokozuna dignity in place.

Aki Day 9 Highlights

Day-11-2

Ticketholders and fans for day 9 of the Aki basho got quite a show, as it was the best day of sumo in the fall tournament thus far. Starting with a massive change in the leader situation, that now has Goeido alone atop the leader board for Aki. Goeido detractors will wail and fret as he won day 9 by once again using less than Ozeki sumo, the great news is that once he suffers his next loss, the yusho race is wide and crazy once more, as there are 4 rikishi who are sitting at 2 losses, ready to battle for the yusho. With his win, Goeido has once again successfully cleared the kadoban flag, and that is a worthy accomplishment. We can only hope that as a result, he adopts a more aggressive sumo strategy for the remainder of the basho.

Hapless Tochinoshin has become the first Markuuchi rikishi to pick up his make-koshi for the tournament. He is clearly back to his hurt phase, and can’t really perform. He will face a stiff demotion, but he is safely in Makuuchi. The story is not the same for Tokushoryu, who is one loss away from a certifiable trip to Juryo.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru looked only about ¾ normal intensity, but Asanoyama persisted, kept contact, kept moving forward and prevailed. Asanoyama improves to 6-3, and seems to be within sight of his kachi-koshi.

Yutakayama defeats Daieisho – A raging oshi-zumō battle that wrenched back and forth. Daieisho, formerly a member of the leader group, falls to 6-3. Great effort by both rikishi in this match.

Takanoiwa defeats Endo – Quick but controversial, there should have been a monoii with this one, as it seems Takanoiwa may have had a heel out as he applied his final move to Endo. But it’s in the record books now. Takanoiwa remains one behind Goeido.

Takarafuji defeats Daishomaru – Takarafuji really impresses at times, he can be very patient and methodical. working to get the position he wants and then applying a finishing move. Daishomaru drops below the leader group with this loss.

Ikioi defeats Arawashi – Ikioi and Arawashi in a yotsu-zumō / mawashi battle? Yes please! Sadly it seems that Arawashi may have twisted an ankle in the process. We hope he will be ok and return tomorrow. Ikioi was also slow to get up, but it looked like maybe he had the wind knocked out of him as he fell from the dohyo.

Takekaze defeats Chiyonokuni – Takekaze, in addition to be the grand old man of Makuuchi, is an expert practitioner of Judo. Once in a while, he pulls out some Judo technique in the middle of a sumo bout, and all of the nerds (myself included) go crazy. What better day to do it than when you are facing the raging sumo-battle bot Chiyonokuni? Excellent effort from both men.

Chiyotairyu defeats Onosho – Onosho has had a phenomenal run so far, and his fans should not be concerned that he dropped his second match of the basho. Chiyotairyu owned this one from the tachiai, and had the mass and energy to keep Onosho from really getting any offense going. Onosho drops to 7-2.

Kotoshogiku defeats Tochinoshin – The Kyushu Bulldozer made quick work of Tochinoshin, who may need to rest up that chronically injured right knee of his once more. By contrast, Kotoshogiku seems to have his lower body injuries under control and is fighting fairly well this basho.

Tochiozan defeats Hokutofuji – Tochiozan had this one from the tachiai, and Hokutofuji was desperately trying to react fast enough to counter. I suspect that Tochiozan is getting his mojo back on the back half of this basho, and we will see him face yusho leader Goeido on day 10.

Yoshikaze defeats Tamawashi – Before you ask, yes of course Yoshikaze’s face bled in today’s bout. It will be that way for the rest of the tournament. As with day 8, the Berserker endured the tsuppari and sacrificed his face to get the inside grip and walk his opponent over the tamara.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – More of a yawner than it should have been, Takakeisho let himself get too far forward and Mitakeumi made him pay.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama made the mistake of leaning into Goeido, and of course Goeido side stepped and let the big man fall. As we discussed in the preview, the only workable strategy for Aoiyama was to hold his ground, and use his superior reach and strength to beat Goeido into submission. Goeido is now the sole leader of the Aki basho, at least until someone can put him to the clay. Maybe in some magic universe, Yokozuna Hakuho would come off of Kyujo just long enough to play with Goeido for a few minutes, to even things up.

Harumafuji defeats Shodai – Shodai, you poor fellow. Did you even know what to do here? You struggled for a few seconds but then Harumafuji realized you could not offer too much resistance and just gave you a shove to get you out of the ring. Can I take a guess that maybe Shodai is injured, and maybe that’s why he is fading? The guy can execute some great sumo, we just are not seeing it for some reason.

 

Aki Day 9 Preview

Goeido

With the activities on day 8, the yusho hunt has narrowed, due to several rikishi losing their matches. But exiting the middle weekend, we are still considering 7 sekitori in serious yusho contention. As mentioned in an earlier posting, this seems a bit more like some recent Juryo basho than how we typically see Makuuchi play out. If the lead and chase groups can keep mostly intact, the final weekend is going to be a wild, boiling ride to the end. Two of the leaders headed into day 9 have already faced each other (Onosho, Goeido) so there is no chance to schedule a single elimination bout to resolve their deadlock. We can expect to see some torikumi elevation starting soon to help some of three 2 loss and 1 loss rikishi test their mettle against higher ranked opponents.

I also think that Aki may have one more crazed / chaotic day before next Sunday. Keep in mind that the third act, which starts Wednesday, is all about finishing out the yusho race, and most scheduling is ad-hoc to help drive the final day. My compliments to Yokozuna Harumafuji, who is clearly in pain every day, but gets on the dohyo and delivers. My sincere hope is that he can keep winning, and possibly help pick off some of the yusho contenders this week.

Monday’s matches feature many pairings that are up to 5 ranks different across the banzuke. This may seem a bit lop-sided, but I am sure the schedulers are up against the wall now with the thin ranks, and the out-sized bulge of contenders from the lower end of the banzuke.

Aki Leader board

Leaders – Goeido, Onosho, Daishomaru
Chasers – Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, Arawashi, Daieisho
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Takakeisho, Ichinojo, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji, Endo, Asanoyama

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Nishikigi vs. Okinoumi – Okinoumi seemed to show a bit of sumo on day 8. He is pretty much day-by-day given his chronic injury. Nishikigi is pushing hard to keep in kachi-koshi territory, as he does not want a return ticket to Juryo. But Nishikigi has not really be lighting up the dohyo with his sumo, either.

Asanoyama vs. Chiyomaru – Mr Happy goes up Chiyomaru, and he will likely have his hands full. Chiyomaru is a very large, round fellow who operates via osha-sumo, so if Chiyomaru gets cranked up, it will be tough to over come his attack. This may be a great time to employ a henka.

Daieisho vs. Yutakayama – Though he is now 1 off the leader’s pace, Daieisho is still turning in a fantastic basho. His match against Yutakayama today will be their second meeting. Yutakayama won their first, but I get the impression that will be resolved at the end of Monday.

Takanoiwa vs. Endo – This has the potential to be a highlight match for day 9. Takanoiwa is back to operating in “Demon Hunter” mode, and he has been quite effective at Aki. Endo is actually improving his sumo with each day at the basho, though he is still not operating consistently at mid-Maegashira levels yet. Career totals favor Endo 4-3.

Daishomaru vs. Takarafuji – Daishomaru is part of the leader group, but now faces a solid rikishi 4 levels up the banzuke. Takarafuji lost day 8 against Ichinojo, but he has shown solid sumo, and has dismantled his opponents with patience and skill. If Daishomaru wants to maintain his bid on the lead, he will need to gamberize.

Arawashi vs. Ikioi – Arawashi has been delightful surprise this basho. He has had rather weak performances of late, and it’s fantastic to see him really succeed. Ikioi, however, is doing poorly, and is getting dangerously close to make-koshi territory. Give that both of them love the pushing game, there may be some brutal action.

Chiyonokuni vs. Takekaze – Also in the make-koshi warning lane is veteran Takekaze. Usually he is able to find ways to win, but this basho many of his great strategies are not paying off. Day 9 he is against a somewhat possessed Chiyonokuni who has been fighting well past the end of the match the last two days. Prior record is 3-2 favoring Takekaze.

Shohozan vs. Ichinojo – Coming off the street fight with Yoshikaze, Shohozan has a radically different foe day 9. He’s big, he’s deliberate and he’s not going to care if you hit him a few times. In fact, I would imagine one solid blow from Ichinojo might launch Shohozan a good distance. I will expect the very maneuverable and excessively strong Shohozan to stay mobile and keep Ichinojo reactive. Ichinojo leads their prior matches 3-2.

Onosho vs. Chiyotairyu – I may actually stay up tonight, just to watch this bout. I will rather be over in a moment via a slap down or henka, or it’s going to be a raging war between spheroids. Chiyotairyu has bulked up this basho, and he is using that extra mass to plow his way through everyone, including fans, shimpan, a gyoji and most of his opponents. Onosho on the other hand seems to be studying footage of the rikishi he is facing, and I am eager to see what his strategy will be. I expect Chiyotairyu to try to blast him straight from the tachiai. Their record is tied at 2-2.

Tamawashi vs. Yoshikaze – Long term fans of the berserker know he tends to get his face beat up in any given basho, and it seems that day 8 was his day to bleed. Now he is facing Tamawashi, who wants his sekiwake slot back. Tamawashi comes off the line hard and strong, and Yoshikaze tends to catch that with his head. So more blood on the dohyo I would guess. Yoshikaze is favored 10-8 in career totals.

Mitakeumi vs. Takakeisho – Mitakeumi, it’s time to consider if you are going to stay sekiwake. You want to evolve to Ozeki form? This is the time to gamberize. Takakeisho showed day 8 that he does not give up and fights through no matter what. It carried the day for him Sunday, can he overwhelm Lord Tadpole Mitakeumi? Takakeisho won their only prior match, which was this past Nagoya basho.

Aoiyama vs. Goeido – This unlikely match has Goeido written all over it. But perhaps the big Bulgarian may find a way to overcome Goeido. The Ozeki may revert back to his defensive “anything but attack” mode from last week, which would be a shame. I look for Aoiyama to try and plant his feet firmly and use his superior reach and massive strength to take control of the match. Goeido will likely try to blast him from dohyo at the tachiai. Advice to the man-mountain Aoiyama, just keep your feet solid, stand up and bring that massive right hand across Goeido’s face. Statistics favor Goeido 18-3, so if Aoiyama can produce anything against the lone surviving Ozeki, will be a significant accomplishment.

Shodai vs. Harumafuji – It’s like Godzilla vs Bambi. Somewhere inside Shodai there is a really great sumotori that peeks out once in a while. What does it take to trigger him? Is it like The Incredible Hulk? Does it take the right kind of Chanko? Unless “Beast Mode” Shodai makes an appearance, Harumafuji will move closer to his kachi-koshi.

Aki Day 8 Preview

shohozan-Harumafuji

Act two of the Aki basho has really stepped up the pace, with Saturday bringing us a flurry of really intense matches. While we wait for day 8’s action, recognize that we are half way through the Aki basho now, and the fiercest action may be ahead of us.

The old guard has made their stand, and now it is time for the next generation to answer in kind. With the exception of Ozeki Goeido, everyone in the leader group is part of the young, up and coming generation of sumotori. We have a long road to go to the final day, but it’s clear that the tadpole generation is on the cusp of challenging the status quo.

My greatest hopes for the second half

  • Goeido goes on offense – Goeido 2.0 is a mighty Ozeki, a machine of refined attack power, who leaves no room for his own defense. He is blazing fast and merciless. I would like very much to see him close out Aki in this manner.
  • Kotoshogiku rallies – He is likely out of the yusho race, but it would be oh so satisfying to see Ojisan Kotoshogiku rack up enough wins to return to San’yaku. If his knees hold out, it could be a real possibility.
  • Harumafuji holds the line – He can still make double-digit wins, and it would be great to see him recover to this level. He seems to have his sumo back under control, and I would think that he can beat any man left in this basho.
  • Hokutofuji catches fire – I am not sure if he is injured or what, but he has faded just about half a step since the start of the basho. This guy is a future mainstay, and I want to see him reach down to his soul and bounce back strong and motivated.
  • Asanoyama kachi-koshi – At Maegashira 16, he is first to fall off the bubble if he’s got a losing record, but I think that he is going to be a solid Maegashira in his day, and I would love to see him get more exposure to the upper division.

Aki Leader board

Leaders – Goeido, Onosho, Daieisho, Daishomaru
Chasers – Chiyotairyu, Takarafuji, Takanoiwa, Arawashi
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Mitakeumi, Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, Shodai, Takakeisho, Ichinojo, Chiyonokuni, Chiyomaru, Kaisei, Endo, Asanoyama

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Yutakayama vs. Kaisei – Kaisei seems to be getting himself together, and frankly it’s about time. He faces a fading Yutakayama on day 8, and we have to assume that unless he starts a resurgence, Yutakayama is going to bounce back to Juryo for a bit. Interestingly enough, Kaisei has not beaten Yutakayama in their prior 2 matches, so this may be a good test to see if Yutakayama will try to rally.

Asanoyama vs. Sadanoumi – Mr Happy takes on the Sadanoumi, who may be wishing he had stayed kyujo. They have only met once before, and Sadanoumi won. I would like to see Sadanoumi pick up a few wins, so here’s to hoping he is up to speed for Sunday.

Daieisho vs. Okinoumi – Co-leader Daieisho goes against hit-or-miss Okinoumi, and the two are tied 2-2 over their career. It will likely be Daieisho’s match to lose.

Endo vs. Chiyomaru – While both rikishi come into the match 4-3, Endo is looking quite a bit more tentative than Chiyomaru, who is on a 3 match winning streak. Keep in mind, for Endo the rest of this basho is about survival, and that means a kachi-koshi, even by the thinnest amount.

Daishomaru vs. Takekaze – Co-Leader Daishomaru steps up against Takekaze, who is in the process of turning around his win/loss record for Aki. Takekaze has a wide variety of tricks, and is known to deploy henkas with flair. Daishomaru must take caution. Takekaze leads the series 4-2.

Takanoiwa vs. Ikioi – Takanoiwa seems to be back into “Demon Hunter” mode, and I am expecting both of these oshi practitioners to bring forth a mighty battle of flailing limbs. This could be a real street fight! Ikioi leads the series 5-0! So Takanoiwa has a chance to snap the losing record.

Ichinojo vs. Takarafuji – Ichinojo is a tough one to predict. He can be big, slow and huge. In fact it’s one his most apparent assets. But the past few days he is worked to add offense into that mix. Takarafuji however has been doing what he seems to do best, quietly execute some really great technical sumo. As Takarafuji has delivered a good number of throws this past week, let’s see what he deploys against Ichinojo. Ichinojo leads the series 5-2.

Arawashi vs. Kagayaki – You say – “Kagayaki is 1-6, he sucks!”, but if you watch his matches, you will note this guy battles with all his heart. Arawashi just finished up the battle of the badgers on day 7, and I am going to say that we may see another raging street fight from these two. Kagayaki leads the series 4-2.

Shodai vs. Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has been charging forward like an angry bison this basho, and most of the time it works. Shodai has fallen into some rut of defensive sumo, so maybe this will work out for interesting sumo. Shodai won their only previous match.

Tochinoshin vs. Onosho – The big Georgian is clearly not at 100%, and he faces a very genki Onosho, who is looking to stay in the leader group. This is their first match up. If Tochinoshin can land a grip on Onosho, he can probably score his second win today.

Mitakeumi vs. Hokutofuji – Battle for the king of the tadpole crew. I wish they both could win. From the looks of things, Hokutofuji took some damage in the first week, and is struggling. Mitakeumi seems to have finally caught his stride, and is fighting well. Mitakeumi leads their career bouts 2-0.

Shohozan vs. Yoshikaze – This one has the potential to be absolutely nuts. Both of them are amped up and need the wins. Both of them are strong, fast and don’t back down when they take damage. So hopefully no one gets hurt this time. Yoshikaze leads the series 7-4.

Tamawashi vs. Goeido – I am going to wager that Tamawashi charges in hard and Goeido fights in reverse. I would much rather see him battle Tamawashi chest to chest, but what is the chance of that?

Aoiyama vs. Harumafuji – The giant Aoiyama was out with injuries sustained in training before the Aki basho, and now he joins for his first day on the dohyo. How do you welcome the jun-yusho winner from Nagoya? Why you give him Harumafuji to play with. Last time these two met, Harumafuji grabbed a double hand-full of breast meat and pushed Aoiyama backwards and out like it was urgent.

Further Comments On Aki Day 7

harumafuji-old

The old order is battling back, tamping down the rising wave of young rikishi and re-asserting it’s dominance. That dominance is thread-bare now, but it is backed by year after painful year on the dohyo. The veterans of Makuuchi are survivors, and they persist in the top division not because of favoritisms or some quota to meet. They persist because they are skilled combatants, and in some cases some of the best that there has ever been.

Day 7 continued the trend we saw on day 6, and it seems that perhaps the loose and clanky bits of this basho may have been shaken off, and we are down to solid sumo. If you did not read it overnight, Aoiyama is making his return on day 8. Lord only knows what is going through that man’s head, but I do hope he is healthy. Most rikishi take a couple of days to come up to competition level from the start of the basho, but Aoiyama is being thrown into the fire against Harumafuji straight away.

In astounding news, Goeido decided to do some Ozeki sumo today, and did it well. Thanks you big plate of Okonomiyaki, now keep that going. In less surprising but no less welcome news, Harumafuji did an outstanding Harumafuji imitation, and gave hope to his fans that he can still deliver the goods.

Match Comments

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – Marathon bout against visiting Juryo riskishi Daiamami, Asanoyama / Mr Happy has a reason to be happy today. After moving Daiamami to the tawara, Asanoyama executed a rather clean sukinage for the win.

Daishomaru defeats Tokushoryu – Today Tokushoryu really applied himself, but he is so very very front heavy that it’s not difficult to topple him once he gets forward momentum. Daishomaru still only has one loss!

Chiyomaru defeats Kaisei – Bloody outstanding battle today between these two. I am quite sure Kaisei decided he had become too massive and his mobility was suffering, he appears to be at least 6kg lighter, and his sumo is much better now. Chiyomaru really brought his sumo today, and these two put on quite a fight.

Daieisho defeats Sadanoumi – I have to wonder if Sadanoumi yet regrets his return. So far no wins, but perhaps that will improve. Daieisho shows once again the power of the tadpoles and why he is on the leaderboard. There is much rejoicing in Oitekaze beya these days.

Takekaze defeats Endo – Well past time for Takekaze to win one. Endo looked very vague, and it’s safe to wonder if Endo has the juice to compete higher up the banzuke with what is probably a tender ankle.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Some controversy on this one over who touched out first. The bout ended with a flying mess at the tawara, and gyoji Konosuke gave it to Ikioi. But replays show them touching down at almost the exact same time.

Arawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – These two were really going at it! The match reminded me of pre-war sumo footage, where the fighting style was very different, and featured a lot of leg trips and upper body throws. Both of these rikishi were out to win no matter what, and their even match up resulted in a fantastic bout. Double bonus points for the two way Shimpan lap-dance.

Takanoiwa defeats Kagayaki – Brutal street fight. I am sure some of those tsuppari were heard in Ibaraki. If you want to see two rikishi pound each other to exhaustion, this is your match.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takakeisho – Sumo-Elvis takes one from the bowling ball. Takakeisho has a lot of drive and a lot of talent, but it’s time for him to broaden his sumo if he wants to advance.

Onosho defeats Hokutofuji – Onosho overwhelmed Hokutofuji, who seems to be off his sumo the last couple of days. Onosho stays at one loss and tied for the lead.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Eternal blessings to Tamawashi for helping to put the ugly threat of “Kotoshogiku Day’ to rest at long last. Kotoshogiku made him work for it, but Tamawashi carried the day.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is always hit or miss. With his bad leg he can be amazing one day, and weak the next. Today he tried a henka on Yoshikaze, but the Berserker was having none of it. He pivoted and to Tochinoshin’s surprise, opened up a blistering thrusting attack. For whatever reason, Tochinoshin decided to reply in kind. That was, of course, a risky move, and Yoshikaze made him pay. Congratulations to Yoshikaze for his 1000th Makuuchi bout.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan is a shadow of his Nagoya self, and Mitakeumi dismantled him easily today. I am refreshed that Mitakeumi seems to have settled down and gotten his sumo back.

Goeido defeats Shodai – At long last, today Goeido was a worthy combatant. He took the fight to Shodai (as indeed he would need to) and administered a severe jostling to the boy in blue before vigorously thrusting him over the edge of the dohyo. Thank you Goeido, more like that, please.

Harumafuji defeats Shohozan – Shohozan jumped early, but Harumafuji was not going to wait around for the matta. Shohozan is a weight lifting fool, and is impressively strong. But Harumafuji stood up to the blows and began a series of right and tsuppari to Shohozan’s face. Again and again to slapped his face like Shohozan was some petulant child. This did seems to disrupt Shohozan, and Harumafuji latched a double inside grip on Shohozan’s mawashi. A brief atomic wedgie later, and it was Shohozan out and finished. The crowd loved it, and so did I.

Aki Day 7 Preview

Going-somewhere

The time has come for the pivotal middle weekend of this crazy basho. Now solidly in the second act of Aki, this middle weekend is when we will finally get a look at our yusho race. Here at Tachiai, it will be time for us to track them via our leaderboard. Hopefully, dear readers, none of you are going to assume too much until day 13, as this basho is still a crazy jumble of the old and new fighting for supremacy. Right now, none of the Tachiai crew would be too willing to guess which faction will prevail, but lksumo will likely spot it first.

The big change is no rikishi is undefeated now. And we should all be ready for this basho to finish much like some of the Juryo tournaments earlier this year, with our leaders holding 2-3 losses, or possibly even more. One things seems quite certain, the team making the Kyushu banzuke is going to have their hands full.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Asanoyama vs. Daiamami – Daiamami is up from Juryo to help balance the swiss-cheese Makuuchi torikumi. Because Asanoyama just recently left Juryo himself, they actually have a track record, 2-1 in Daiamami’s favor.

Daishomaru vs. Tokushoryu – Daishomaru continues to dominate the lower end of Makuuchi, and day 7 he goes up against the hapless Tokushoryu, who seems doomed to exit the top division by Kyushu. Daishomaru holds a 4-2 career advantage.

Kaisei vs Chiyomaru – Kaisei is looking much better than he has in about a year. I think he lost some weight during his Juryo demotion, and he is moving better. He is still ¾ lumbering blob, but his sumo is better now. Chiyomaru comes in at 3-3, with Kaisei wining their only prior match.

Daieisho vs. Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi comes back from going kyujo, and it seems he gets to be the hacky-sack for the genki crowd in lower Maegashira. Daieisho comes in 5-1, tied with Daishomaru, and holding a career 3-2 advantage against Sadanoumi.

Endo vs. Takekaze – Time for Endo to start facing rikishi further up the banzuke, and it starts with a hapless Takekaze, who is suffering with a 5-1 record right now. Takekaze needs to turn things around this weekend, or face a stiff demotion.

Chiyonokuni vs. Arawashi – with matching records going into day 6, and their career match records at 5-5, this is going to be a fairly even match up. We can hope that both of them will go at it like cranky badgers stuck in a culvert.

Takakeisho vs. Chiyotairyu – Another symmetric match up. Both rikishi 4-2, with a 2-2 career match record. Both rikishi have been using a very limited range of sumo strategies thus far, so here’s to hoping that one or both get creative on day 7.

Hokutofuji vs. Onosho – Onosho took his first loss on day 6, but he is still part of the leader group. Hokutofuji is at .500 going into the middle weekend, and needs to push to get wins and stay in the hunt. Onosho leads the series 3-1.

Tamawashi vs. Kotoshogiku – Thank goodness the threat of “Kotoshogiku Day” has faded somewhat. I assure you dear readers, that should it come to pass, I shall indeed (even if no one else does), make and star in that Kotoshogiku tribute video. But now comes a chance for Tamawashi to push that possibility further away. Kotoshogiku leads the series 5-7.

Tochinoshin vs. Yoshikaze – Both of these rikishi had a lot of hopes at the start of Aki, now both are struggling for enough wins to stave off make-koshi. Tochinoshin seems significantly diminshed from his performance in Nagoya, so Yoshikaze may take this one. But Tochinoshin leads their career match-ups 14-8.

Mitakeumi vs. Tochiozan – Mitakeumi needs to keep rolling, and he has a chance to do that against 1-5 Tochiozan. Tochiozan is also greatly diminished from his Nagoya performance, and we have to wonder about injuries.

Shodai vs. Goeido – Goeido has a puzzle for today. With Shodai’s weak tachiai, the sole remaining Ozeki can’t repeat his backwards sumo as well. I am going to expect Shodai to more or less stand up at the tachiai, and this will force Goeido to actually go on offense. Shodai has beaten Goeido twice, but Goeido leads their series 4-2.

Shohozan vs Harumafuji – We were delighted that Harumafuji won day 6, and stablized at .500. He faces Shohozan now, who has been really pouring on the offense. Harumafuji has him on speed, but it’s clear he is suffering.