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 10 Preview

Yumitori-shiki

Day 9 stripped the leader group down to the lone Ozeki, Goeido. He claimed his kachi-koshi with his win over Aoiyama, and for the 6th time in his career, removed a kadoban mark next to his name. While he is the current leader, the Aki basho has been unpredictable, and I would caution any Goeido fans to prepare for a fight right up till the end.

For fans and readers worrying about Yoshikaze, and his daily blood facial, this is not uncommon for “The Berserker”. It’s sad, it’s ugly, it likely hurts and it’s probably further damaging that guy’s face, but in many past basho, Yoshikaze has gotten a cut on his face, and every subsequent day, his opponents make a point to re-open that wound.

Both Yoshikaze and Mitakeumi have a decent chance to hang onto their Sekiwake ranks for Kyushu, and if that is the case, they will be joined by Ozekiwake Terunofuji, provided he is healed enough to compete. This will create a 3 Sekiwake situation we last saw with Kotoshogiku. This is referred to as a “haridashi” or “overhang”. During the Kotoshogiku Ozekiwake era, the promotion lanes were full, and nobody had a chance to move into the San’yaku for several tournaments, with Takayasu and Tamawashi holding down the standard Sekiwake slots, and Kotoshogiku holding down the overhang.

Aki Leader board

Goeido is now in sole possession of the lead for the Aki yusho. But 4 rikishi are chasing him, the most interesting (to me) is Takanoiwa. A Takanoiwa / Goeido match is unlikely in the next few days, but would resolve many questions.

Leader – Goeido
Chasers – Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, Daishomaru
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Takarafuji, Arawashi, Daieisho, Asanoyama

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Endo vs. Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu is headed back to Juryo, short of some kind of miracle. Endo has a chance to deal him a make-koshi on day 10, and seal his doom. Of their 6 prior matches, Endo has won them all.

Nishikigi vs. Asanoyama – Mr Happy is looking to continue his 3 match wining streak, and Nishikigi is really feeling the heat to push for wins to stave off a return to Juryo. In their only prior match, Nishikigi prevailed.

Yutakayama vs. Arawashi – Arawashi is performing very well this basho, and his sumo seems to be dialed in. This should be a fairly easy match against a struggling Yutakayama.

Chiyoshoma vs. Daishomaru – Daishomaru needs to best Chiyoshoma to maintain his distance one behind Goeido, and hope for a chance to compete for the Emperor’s cup. But Chiyoshoma has a 3-2 lead in their career match-ups.

Ishiura vs. Takarafuji – Ishiura looks injured or demotivated, or both. He has not been fighting well, and the overwhelming sumo that he displayed when the blasted his way in the Makuuchi is nowhere to be found. This is sad because I really liked that guy. Takarafuji continues to methodically, quietly keep winning his matches.

Chiyonokuni vs. Daieisho – Chiyonokuni fights harder than any other losing rikishi I have seen in quite some time. His day 9 loss was another heartbreaker for him, and now he gets a turn with former co-leader Daieisho. Chiyonokuni holds a career lead of 3-1 over Daieisho. I am expecting another wild pushme-pullyou war that rages across the dohyo 3-4 times.

Ichinojo vs. Takanoiwa – This is going to seem odd, but I think Demon Hunter Takanoiwa represents an interesting threat to Goeido in the days to come, but we shall see if the schedulers give him a shot. Ichinojo is back to seeming vague and uncertain, which is not where he does his best sumo. Ichinojo leads the series 3-1.

Shohozan vs. Kagayaki – Kagayaki can’t buy a win. So he should just own that, go out and have some fun. Take a page from Asanoyama’s book. Treat this like the greatest day to do sumo in your whole life. Lift Shohozan by the mawashi butt-strap and give the knot a tug. Sure it will stop the match, but the fans will remember that moment forever, while 100,000 little old ladies in Tottori Prefecture alone will all be madly mashing the “pause” and “rewind” buttons on their DVR.

Tochinoshin vs. Chiyotairyu – Speaking of a rikishi who is unfortunately doomed, the bell tolls for thee, Tochinoshin. Now that you are maki-koshi, why not see if you can get Chiyotairyu to fall and put a dent in the dohyo? Hell, in Nagoya some bout resulted in a portion cracking and falling away. Though Tochinoshin leads the series 2-1, it’s clear Tochinoshin is pretty banged up, and needs to regenerate some knee tissue.

Onosho vs. Kotoshogiku – You know what Kotoshogiku has shown the last few days? Lateral movement! Go back and watch the matches. I have to think that either he has a better tap job on his knees, or he found some way to get the old patella stable. This is the first match between these two, and I am going to be very curious if Onosho can avoid the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Mitakeumi vs Aoiyama – I think today Aoiyama will decide to use the “stand and deliver” strategy that could have served him with Goiedo. They have split their prior 2 matches, but I would give an edge to Mitakeumi, as I think Aoiyama is still not at 100%

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze will bleed some more, Shodai will struggle a bit and go out for a nice yorikiri.

Tochiozan vs Goeido – Don’t dismiss this bout. Tochiozan is a volatile substance, and it’s tough to predict what he will do or how it will turn out. Clearly he is not at 100%, but a veteran like him with a 35 match history with Goeido has to know a lot about how the Ozeki will pursue this match. Goeido wants to preserve his lead, and he’s not going to let Tochiozan near his mawashi. Goeido leads their career totals 22-13.

Takakeisho vs Harumafuji – Harumafuji will probably give Takakeisho a lesson in maneuverability. I don’t see Takakeisho having a big opportunity against the Yokozuna here, but he has explosive strength, if he can line up his attack.

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 5 Preview

Good-Squishy

As Kintamayama has labeled it, “The Wacky Aki” continues to be outside the ordinary. Sumo has been a static or slowly evolving system for a good many years, and most fans have come to expect a specific and repeating dynamic to hold power during a basho. For at least this basho, those forces are gone, and we are seeing host of new rivalries and dynamics trying to form. As the Tachiai crew has maintained since Aki last year, the lack of a strong menacing Yokozuna corps is the biggest factor that is at play. With your typical Yokozuna taking in 10-13 victories per basho, that’s a whole lot of losses to the lower ranks to absorb. Sumo is, in fact, a zero sum game. For every win, there is a loss. For a rikishi that has 15 wins, there are 15 rikishi with 1 additional loss. Add to that an Ozeki corps that takes 8-11 wins per basho, and you define the strong headwinds any rikishi faces getting movement up the banzuke.

For the Wacky Aki, we have a Yokozuna who is now 2-2, and looking hurt (as was expected), 3 Yokozuna in dry-dock due to injuries, 1 Ozeki injured for at least a month, 1 Ozeki that is in no condition to fight, and 1 Ozeki who seems too worried about maintaining his rank to give battle to even the most middling opponent.

Can we turn our hope to the San’yaku battle fleet, who in the last few basho have stepped up where the Yokozuna and Ozeki crumbled? Between the Sekiwake and Komusubi, there are 3 wins, and 13 losses at the end of day 4. The west side has yet to win a single match, and if it were not for Tamawashi playing through the pain, east would not even have 3.

What is the result? The rank-and-file rikishi are calling the shots, taking the lime light (and rightfully so) and everyone is watching in eager anticipation of fierce competition. The result is a lot of oshi-zumo.

Which brings us to day 5 – This is the final day for what I call the “First Act” of Wacky Aki. After this, everyone needs to pay close attention to who can still scrape together a kachi-koshi, and who has an outright shot at the yusho. Much as it baffles me to say it, the chance of “Kotoshogiku Day” are brighter than I would like them. But starting Friday, all of the tadpoles are going to have to work out their emotions of possibly contending for the Emperor’s Cup. Frankly some of them won’t be able to keep their sumo under control, and may self destruct. Stay tuned, as the warm ups are about over. The middle weekend will, more than possibly any time in the last few years, really sort the wheat from the chaff.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Endo vs. Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki make a return from Juryo to face a resurgent Endo. Kotoyuki has been a long time Makuuchi guy, who simply could not continue to compete with the various injuries he was nursing, but is 3-1 in Juryo 3w, and may very well be able to win his place in the top division this basho. Endo is coming back from surgery, and has not practiced much, but is doing very well at the bottom of the Maegashira banzuke. This could be another solid match like the one Endo turned in day 4.

Daieisho vs. Chiyomaru – Daieisho is still in the unbeaten group that features several tadpoles. He holds a narrow 3-2 advantage over Chiyomaru in his career record, but Chiyomaru has been flagging the basho, and is not looking very energetic.

Takanoiwa vs. Arawashi – Both of these rikishi are fighting well, and have winning records coming to today’s bout. Takanoiwa enters unbeaten, and holds a 7-3 career advantage over Arawashi. But Arawashi’s day 4 win over Chiyoshoma looked particularly nice, and maybe we are going to see some additional outstanding sumo today.

Takarafuji vs. Kagayaki – Takarafuji has been quietly plugging away in the middle of the banzuke, doing very solid sumo (albeit, with no neck whatsoever). I expect him to completely roll Kagayaki, who has been pretty terrible at Aki expect for his drubbing of Takakeisho day 4. Kagayaki won their only prior match-up.

Ichinojo vs. Ikioi – A great and magical event happened on day 4. Chiyonokuni seems to have managed to toggle Ichinojo’s “mode switch” from bridge abutment back to sumo wrestler. With any luck it stayed in the sumo mode and we can see him try to fold Ikioi more than 7 times without using a hydraulic press.

Chiyonokuni vs. Takakeisho – Takakeisho seems to have reverted to some larval form day 4, with his charge-and-retreat sumo that got him taunted by Hakuho at Nagoya. Chiyonokuni will chase him down and give him an atomic wedgie if he tries that today, so I expect some very strong oshi-zumo from these two. Chiyonokuni leads career series 3-1.

Shodai vs. Kotoshogiku – It’s as if an earlier, more genki Kotoshogiku stepped out of a time portal from last year and is running crazy with no healthy Ozeki or Yokozuna to stop him. I anticipate that at the tachiai, Shodai will stand up woodenly and embrace Kotoshogiku, who will immediately apply the hug-n-chug. Thankfully NHK no longer shows us views of Kotoshogiku adjusting the butt-strap on his mawashi.

Tamawashi vs. Tochiozan – Tochiozan, if you were going to make a case for being San’yaku, this was the easy basho to do it. But instead this very capable rikishi is part of that ugly 0-4 crowd. Tamawashi is hurt, but I would give him the advantage in spite of Tochiozan leading the career series 10-2.

Hokutofuji vs. Yoshikaze – Also on the “wake me up before you go-go” list is my beloved Yoshikaze. I don’t know if he is hurt, distracted or just plain having a crummy basho. But I want him to get it going, please. Hokutofuji is fresh off of a rather spectacular victory over the lone surviving Yokozuna, and he is likely feeling very genki indeed. Hokutofuji has a 3-1 advantage over Yoshikaze, so I am not hopeful the Berserker will correct his side on day 5.

Mitakeumi vs. Tochinoshin – Contributor and commentator lksumo nailed it, this is the “battle of the disappointments”. Both of these rikishi came into Wacky Aki with the potential to really advance their careers. Instead both of them are struggling to find ways to stave off brutal levels of demotion. Prediction for the fight – both men skip the dohyo-iri, and get shit-faced starting at noon. They show up wasted and giddy around 3:00 PM, and only partially secure their mawashi. Bout ends with a rapid cut away on NHK as both men do their impressions of the final scene of “The Full Monty”.

Chiyotairyu vs. Goeido – Chiyotairyu! Expect the henka. Please give Goeido some dirt therapy for all of us fans, to encourage him to actual do some sumo. Goeido, boot up in 2.0 mode and show that bulked up Chiyotairyu that you’re his daddy. Make us think you have some sumo left, show us some fire sir, or it’s no Okonomiyaki for you!

Terunofuji vs. Shohozan – I am really concerned that Terunofuji does not have the strength to actually do Ozeki sumo. Furthermore, I fear that he is going to get hurt because he is competing without a whole lot of strength. Shohozan holds a slight 3-2 advantage over their career match ups.

Onosho vs. Harumafuji – This one fills me with excitement and trepidation at the same time. Onosho really showed a lot of level headed calculus in his pre-match confrontation with Terunofuji day 4, so we know he is not easily intimidated. Harumafuji is not at 100%, and I fear additional losses may put pressure on him to go kyujo, leaving us in the dreaded “No-kazuna” situation we hoped to avoid. With problems in both arms and both legs, Harumafuji is one bad fall away from intai.

Haru Day 10 Preview

Takayasu-10

Act Two Closing Day

Today we saw Ozeki Terunofuji dismiss his kadoban status in a thunderous fashion. He has been totally dominating his matches and has, beyond a shadow of a doubt, earned his way back to good standing. Sadly today also marks the day that Ozeki Goeido goes kadoban. Due to his withdrawal from the Haru Basho, today was marked as his 8th loss. With his make-koshi now secure, Goeido is facing a challenging time in the May tournament in Tokyo.

Day 10 could also be kinboshi day, as there are 2 Maegashira facing off against the Yokozuna corps today. Hopes are always high that Yoshikaze can blast his way though any opponent, and it would be magical to see him score yet another gold star win against Kakuryu a day after his birthday. Not to be discounted is Endo facing off against Harumafuji, who gives up kinboshi more than any other active Yokozuna today. They come to their day 10 bout with matching 6-3 records.

The Haru leader board is little changed, except that several rikishi feel out of the Chase group, and the pack of men who have the records to put them within Yusho connection has shrunk to 6. Both Takayasu and Kisenosato would need to lose at least once for Terunofuji or Tochiozan to have a shot.

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Tochiozan
Chasers – Kakuryu, Chiyoshoma

6 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Chiyoo vs Ura – Ura has been a lot of fun to watch, but make no mistake he is focused on one thing – getting to 8 wins. Going into day 10, he is at 4-5, and needs 4 more wins out of the next 6 days to guarante his remaining in Makuuchi. He has been Chiyoo in 2 of their prior 3 meetings, and Chiyoo is likewise struggling to clinch a winning record.

Takakeisho vs Ishiura – Takakeisho has been having a solid basho, and comes into day 10 with 6-3, more or less assured that he will find a way to pick up the last two wins. His opponent is the compact battle-mouse Ishiura, who can likely survive a losing record this one time. I expect there to be some furious action, as Ishiura never fights at half speed.

Daishomaru vs Tochiozan – With only one loss, Tochiozan already has his kachi-koshi, and he is set for May. But I suspect he is looking for a solid move up the banzuke. Daishomaru brings his 6-3 record into day 10, looking to give himself some buffer for the last 5 days. Daishomaru won their only prior meeting.

Tokushoryu vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma needs one more win for his kachi-koshi, and may get it on day 10. While Tokushoryu comes to the dohyo with a strong winning record, Chiyoshoma is ranked higher, and is much more capable this basho. He has also won all 4 of their prior matches.

Kotoshogiku vs Takekaze – 4 more wins in 6 days. It means 2 wins for every loss over the rest of the basho. Kotoshogiku can do this, but it’s going to be tough, even starting day 10 with a 6-3 record. Kashi-koshi is not good enough, it’s 10 wins or bust. Day 10 he faces off against the henka master, Takekaze. Their prior matches are split evenly 14-13

Takanoiwa vs Takayasu – Takanoiwa is having a tough basho at 2-7, but as always he is capable of surprising even the mightiest Yokozuna with his explosive, attack-oriented sumo. But he’s facing Takayasu, who is on a mission from the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan itself. A win today would put Takayasu in double digits, and would be a big boost for any special prizes and his ongoing Ozeki campaign. Their prior bouts split 3-2 with advantage to Takayasu.

Shodai vs Terunofuji – Shodai is plagued by being too high in his tachiai – it seems he has a driving need to protect his face. Terunofuji does not care about his face. I am not sure Terunofuji cares about Shodai except as a meat popsicle that he can defeat on the dohyo. Terunofuji is a man possessed, and I am curious to see how far he will go with his current streak of powerful, winning sumo.

Yoshikaze vs Kakuryu – If there is one rikishi that can upset anyone on any day, even on the street right after lunch it’s the amazing Yoshikaze. It’s safe to assume that the Berserker will retire some time in the next few years to become a coach or stable runner himself, but on the way towards that next career, a few more kinboshi mean more money for him and his family. Kakuryu is a slippery, reactive warrior of the first order, and he will not be easy to beat. But Yoshikaze has beat him 5 times during their 15 career matches.

Harumafuji vs Endo – I am predicting nodowa attack festival, mini-henka, death spin or a combination here. Endo can surprise Harumafuji, who seems to be a bit more hurt every day of this basho. But it should be noted that thus far Endo has never beat “The Horse”, so a victory day 10 is a tall order.

Handicapping The Haru Banzuke – Part 2

banzuke2a

The Meat Grinder & Cannon Fodder

In the first of our series speculating on the Haru banzuke, we took at look at the San’yaku ranks, which face fierce competition for the competitive ranks, and significant injury and problems in the “permanent” ranks.

Today we look at the rikishi who have hard work to earn their pay, the upper half of Maegashira ranks.  As with the first group, this is all purely speculative, and based on some formula concocted by myself in an attempt to guess where the Nippo Sumo Kyokai will rank the men for the March tournament in Osaka.

Plugging everyone’s win/loss record, the difficulty of their foes, a scoring factor for their rank (harder to move up the higher you were in the banzuke) and a few other magic elements, we get this prospective ranking:

East Rank West
Ikioi Maegashira 1 Takekaze
Takarafuji Maegashira 2 Sokokurai
Tochinoshin Maegashira 3 Shohozan
Arawashi Maegashira 4 Takanoiwa
Yoshikaze Maegashira 5 Endo
Ichinojo Maegashira 6 Chiyonokuni
Hokutofuji Maegashira 7 Aoiyama

Ikioi is an amazingly popular rikishi with the public, and his posting to Maegashira 1e for the Osaka basho will only ramp public interest higher, above and beyond the current Kisenosato mania sweeping Japan.  Ikioi’s sumo has been improving steadily, and the NSK probably assume it’s time to give him a test for a San’yaku slot in the near future. Interestingly enough, the sumotori with the highest “mathematical” rank is Sokokurai! Sokokurai had 11 wins, his “rank velocity” (win vs loss * rank factor * schedule difficulty) was an astounding 9.9, higher than anyone and well ahead of second highest Ichinojo. But I think the Maegashira 1 ranks are prized positions, and the Nippon Sumo Kyokai will likely put Ikioi’s impact on the popularity of sumo foremost. Takekaze moves up from Maegashira 5 to a Maegashira 1 spot at Haru, and we will see if the veteran can fend off the up-and-coming crowd.

Takarafuji benefits from the chaos and blood bath at the upper end of Makuuchi in January, landing solidly at Maegashira 2e, and a chance to rack up kinboshi against a wounded Yokozuna crew.  Joining him is Sokokurai at Maegashira 2w, the rikishi who computed out to the highest “rank velocity” of anyone coming out of Hatsu. If he continues his strong streak from Hatsu, he will present a really good opponent to many top rikishi.

Tochinoshin drops 3 slots from Komusubi to Maegashira 3, he had a terrible record before his injuries forced him to withdraw. To be honest, it will be interesting to see if he is even healed up enough to compete, but as always Tachiai wishes the big Georgain the best of fortune. Joining him at Maegashira 3w is Yokozuna Kisenosato‘s dew-sweeper, Shohozan.

Takanoiwa,  who has been really blowing the doors off of his competition, raises from Maegashira 10 to Maegashira 4. I put him on the west side, which draws a slightly easier schedule.  However, if there is a lack of fierce Ozeki class competition, we may once again see score inflation among the up-and-coming rikishi, and I would look for Takanoiwa to excel. Joining him is Arawashi falling from Maegashira 2 in January.

Yoshikaze (a favorite of mine) seems to have been ranked in a very comfortable spot, as the computation put him at the same rank, but moved him from West to East. Joining him at Maegashira 5 is fan favorite Endo, whose make-koshi in January pushed him down from M2.

Another of the levitating next-gen rikishi, Ichinojo, leaps to Maegashira 6 from his prior spot at Maegashira 13.  Frankly, I am not sure if he is ready for this intensity of competition, but we will see in March how he fares. His computed “rank velocity” was an impressive 7.7, which was more than Takanoiwa.  Joining him is Chiyonokuni, who turned in a solid performance in January at Maegashira 8.

Rounding out the upper portion of the Maegashira ranks, we the rather impressive Hokutofuji at Maegashira 7e, with man-mountain Aoiyama broadly occupying the Maegashira 7w position.  This is one of the cases where even though Aoiyama was able to turn in a winning record (8-7), there was a huge cohort with strong winning records, with victories over higher ranked rikishi, and they ended up passing him by.

Keep in mind – this exercise is for discussion purposes for the most part. So feel free to leave comments, and alternate opinions. I am hoping to tune my formulas over time, and this first attempt should not be taken too seriously.

Tune in Friday for part 3!

41st One Day Tournament Results

41st-one-day-tournament

Thanks to the kind folks at sumoforum.net, Tachiai has been able to create a graphical chart showing all of the competitors and rounds of this past weekend’s 41st single day sumo tournament.

Some interesting notes from the event, Harumafuji, Goeido and Tochinoshin were absent. As stated earlier, there is some worry that these three have sustained serious injuries. Of course, as we all know, Kisenosato won and looked fairly good doing it.  There was some great effort put fort by Gagamaru, Shohozan, Takanoiwa and Tochiozan.

This is a fun / for charity event that does not effect standings, and many of the rikishi are not putting in an overwhelming effort, in part because no one wants to get hurt during this tournament.

For a more detailed PDF, click on the image above or you can find it here.

Hatsu Day 14 Summary – The New Talent Continues to Excel

day14b

Sumo’s Bright Future On Display

The second to last day of the January tournament turned in several thrilling matches, as low ranked Maegashira paired off against senior Sekitori to test their potential at future higher ranks. In general the new talent gave a very good showing, and in some cases surprised their senior opponents.

First there were visitors from Juryo today in the upper division, starting with Ura. Clearly Ura liked his first taste of Kensho, and was looking for more. Sadanoumi had a straight ahead approach, but a match with Ura requires improvisation. Juryo Daieisho also showed a great deal of poise and balance in his win over Takakeisho, having him his make-koshi (ouch!). The battle looked all Takakeisho until Daieisho executed a stunning thrust / throw at the tawara.

Ishiura’s dirty henka over Osunaarashi was demeaning, and Osunaarashi’s icy glare post match told the whole story. It was not like Osunaarashi had the strength in his lower body to offer much of a challenge. This was purely an insult. Chiyoo looked very good handing Kotoyuki his make-koshi, and survived a lot of really well place thrusts from Kotoyuki. Chiyoo eventually got a belt hold and gave Kotoyuki a nice hug-n-chug to exit him from the ring.

Takekaze displayed yet another fantastic, crowd pleasing Judo style throw in his win over Chiyootori, who sadly is now make-koshi and may be headed back to Juryo. Kaisei seems to have finally remembered his sumo, and will possibly save himself from further demotion. It does beg the question of why it seems to take him so many bouts in a tournament to get warmed up. His limited box of moves is “I am enormous and weight more than a side of beef”, so it limits him.

Mitakeumi gets to double digit wins in his blistering match against Hokutofuji, who is certainly fighting strong this basho. Keep an eye on Hokutofuji, as he has yet to turn in a losing record in his sumo career. Much as I worried, Takayasu was surprised by Sokokurai, who executed a fantastic move at the tawara that seems to have embarrassed Takayasu. This should be a lesson to the joi – don’t underestimate Sokokurai.

I felt a bit sorry for Ichinojo taking on Kisenosato. Here is a Maegashira 13 facing the dai-Ozeki, and clearly he is as nervous as can be. After a false start, you can clearly see his composure crumple and drift away. On the second attempt, Kisenosato easily escorts him out. If Ichinojo can stay healthy, and stay at this weight or lower, he has potential. But I fear he may end up like Terunofuji, where his body fails him after a few years. Ikioi picked up his kachi-koshi against poor Kotoshogiku who now carries a double-digit loss, and has nothing left.

Lastly, once again, Takanoiwa defeated Yokozuna Hakuho convincingly. The Yokozuna was driven back, raised up and Takanoiwa applied a series of hip-pumps to push Hakuho out. It was a shocking upset, and re-awakens concerns over Hakuho’s post-surgery strength and endurance.

Kisenosato Yusho!

kise-ichinojo

Takanoiwa Defeats Hakuho, Wins Kinboshi

In day 14 action from Tokyo, Kisenosato prevailed over the giant Ichinojo, but Takanoiwa shocked Hakuho in the final match. Takanoiwa’s kinboshi, or gold star, win is also a huge mark, as it represents the first time in many years a rank and file Maegashira below 9 has defeated a Yokozuna.  It may also be the first time a kinboshi was scored on day 14 in the current (fairly new) Kokugkikan. Video below

This hands the tournament victory to Kisenosato, who in spite of being a strong and reliable Ozeki had yet to win a yusho.

Tachiai congratulates Kisenosato, and we look forward to his final bout against Yokozuna Hakuho tomorrow to finish the Hatsu tournament.

Hatsu Day 14 Preview

day-14

Final Weekend Begins

Hatsu has been an interesting tournament for fans, but it has been brutal for Sumo’s talent. In the top division alone there have been 4 rikishi that have withdrawn with injuries, and many more (such as Kotoshogiku and Osunaarashi) who continue on although they should probably be nursing their wounds.

It would be easy to think of day 14 is filler while we all wait for the final, all important battle between Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki Kisenosato, but in fact there are a number of sumotori who are still fighting to secure their winning record (kachi-koshi). This includes

Sadanoumi who will fight Ura in the first bout of Makuuchi, Aoiyama who fights Kagayaki in a battle of slaps, Chiyoshoma who fights Daishomaru , and Ikioi who faces hapless doomed Ozeki Kotoshogiku.

There also seems to be a number of “test matches” that feature men from much lower down the banzuke trying their sumo against upper ranked rikishi. These will likely give us some good idea of how they might perform after their expected promotions. This includes

Takayasu vs Sokokurai – Komusubi (working to start an Ozeki run) vs Maegashira 10, but they have even records, and Sokokurai is a real contender. I am certain that Takayasu will take this match seriously, and it could be a real brawl.

Kisenosato vs Ichinojo – The dai-Ozeki vs Maegashira 13, but Ichinojo will be no walk in the park. He has lost a lot of weight, and is in good fighitng form now. Its expected that Kisenosato will dispatch him, but Ichinojo’s size, weight and strength means it’s going to take some work.

Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji shows hints of being a very strong, dominant member for the new class of rikishi. He goes against Mitakeumi who has really impressed this tournament. On day 13, Mitakeumi looked a little bit spent, but we think he will gamberize for this match.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyotairyu – The mobile attack platform know as Yoshikaze will test Chiyotairyu, who is only Maegashira 14. The Berserker is a personal favorite, but he seems to be slowing down a bit these days. He still has skill and speed on his side.

Hakuho vs Takanoiwa – So the greatest Yokozuna of our age is going against a Maegashira 10. Takanoiwa comes in at 10-3, but it’s all against the bottom half of Makuuchi. I expect Hakuho to fold him like a paper airplane and send him up, up and away.

Day 10 Preview

ikioi-kakuryu-9

Where we hope it won’t get any weirder.

Bizzaro-world day 9 is in the history books, with a tremendous impact for the yusho race at Hatsu. With day 10, we close out the middle act of the basho, and prepare to launch headlong into the final 5 days, where dreams get crushed and champions are made.

Clearly Hakuho is off his game now. I don’t think it’s injury or physical, I think it started with Arawashi. Clearly whatever happened at the tachiai took a direction that the Yokozuna did not expect, and moved to counter. But before he could do anything, Arawashi had him out. As stated prior, Hakuho is about 80% offense 20% defense, and he almost always starts with a strong battle plan. That is why when Takayasu stood him up with a big tachiai on day 10, he was in trouble. Honestly I don’t recall seeing Takayasu move with that kind of speed ever before. Takayasu gave quick shoulder blast at the tachiai, and then he had a hand inside pushing against Hakuho’s chest. This time The Boss was quick to implement his defensive plan, but his much vaunted ring sense failed him as he stepped out. I would look for him to get back in his sumo today, as he has Ikioi.

On the subject of Kotoshogiku, if he wins over Goeido I am going to suspect some coordinated effort to rescue the injured Ozeki. Frankly one of the great appeals of sumo is the appearance of meritocracy. I am sure Kotoshogiku is a lovely human being, but the time has come for someone to show his kadoban ass the door. He is perpetually injured, which is a crying shame as he has had brought some great sumo to the sport.

One the subject of Ozeki who should be moving forward, Kisenosato has a lot to make up for after his disappointing loss to Kotoshogiku. Kise – you had one job to do, and you had most of this handed to you on a plate by Harumafuji and Hakuho. Some corners of the sumo world jokingly call him “Choke-o-zuna”, which I thought was cruel. But today I think it might be accurate. Day 10 he faces Terunofuji, who is also a great sumotori who has chronic injuries and has little left until he is healed.

Kakuryu is back to stinking after a really excellent Kyushu. As of today he is in serious risk of going make-koshi, which would rain down doom from the Japan Sumo Association on the most recent Yokozuna. On day 10 he faces Tamawashi, who is seriously looking like he might survive as Sekiwake.

Notable Matches

Sadanoumi vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo can go kachi-koshi with a win here. He is tied for second place! SECOND PLACE! Ichinojo leads the series 4-2.

Takanoiwa vs Chiyotairyu – Co-Leader Takanoiwa takes on a struggling Chiyotairyu. Maybe day 11 the can put him against Hakuho? Chiyotairyu leads the series 3-1, so maybe Takanoiwa will be knocked back from his co-leader status.

Osunaarashi vs Sokokurai – Also tied for second place, Sokokurai draws an easy match against the Egyptian, who is really too hurt to be on the dohyo. Osunaarashi has won all 4 of their prior bouts.

Takekaze vs Hokutofuji – Henka master Takekaze takes on Hokutofuji, who is also tied for second place. I love me some Hokutofuji, but this is crazy. This will be the first time these two have faced off

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – A magical battle of the up-and-coming. With Shodai largely 1 step behind Mitakeumi on the learning curve, we shall see if Shodai is firming up and getting over his san’yaku jitters. Shodai has won 4 of their prior 5 matches.

Hatsu Day 9 Preview

arawashi-kenso-heist

Arawashi’s Spoils of Battle

The second half of Hatsu opened with some great sumo, and some surprising outcomes. In the middle of all of this, I am keeping a watch on Kotoshogiku. Mathematically, I don’t see any way he cannot be demoted. The question comes: what does he do after that? Right now his legs are trashed, he has no pushing power. Kotoshogiku’s sumo is all about locking up a rikishi and applying those tree-trunk legs to move forward against any rikishi, no matter how big. With his knees out of operation, his sumo is no longer winning matches. Does Kotoshogiku remain in Makuuchi and try to make a come-back? It would require him to get very effective intervention on his knees. He would then have to fight his way back to Ozeki. More likely still, he might retire (intai) and transition to coaching or running the association or a heya.

There is also the question of Harumafuji. The reports from the press state that he is out for a month with a torn ligament in his right thigh. Prior to this, there were vocal threats to push him towards retirement coming form YDC head Moriya. Sumo fans can only wonder if privately, there is a renewed call for him to step down. Frankly, I think Harumafuji, at a workable physical condition, is necessary for the sport. Within 3 years there are likely to be viable Japanese Yokozuna hopefuls, and having the ever inventive Harumafuji to train and match against is crucial to producing the next generation of top quality Yokozuna.

Hatsu Leader Board

  • LeaderKisenosato
  • Hunt Group – Hakuho, Takanoiwa, Sokokurai
  • Chasers – Ikioi, Takekaze, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Sadanoumi

7 Matches Remain

Torikumi We Are Following

Ichinojo vs Sokokurai – As stated earlier, not sure who put the correct fuel into battle-bot Ichinojo, but he seems to be working again. The day 8 match with Chiyonokuni was an eye opener, as Chiyonokuni is no slouch, but to Ichinojo, it may as well have been an overly busy fly. I am beginning to worry that Inchinojo sneaks away to train with Shin-Godzilla (who is really robo-Hakuho in a suit, after all). Sokokurai is turning in a great performance, and is part of the hunt group. A win today would give Sokokurai his kachi-koshi, and a nice boost in rank for Osaka. Ichinojo has won both of their prior matches.

Takanoiwa vs Aoiyama – Another member of the hunt group faces Bulgarian Aoiyama, who seems to be more focused, more aggressive and more confident this basho than the prior several. He has massive size and unnatural strength. We just have to pray he does not follow Mitakeumi’s example and blend the pusher / thruster oshi-zumō approach with solid yotsu-zumō. A win here would give Takanoiwa his kachi-koshi. These two have split their prior two matches.

Hokutofuji vs Endo – Make no mistake, Endo is in this match today to test Hokutofuji. Endo has been struggling this basho, but he is still part of the “next generation” rikishi, and the NSK is grooming him carefully. At the same time, there seems to be a blossoming crop of youngsters this basho, all of whom need tested and measured against upper level Maegashira. This is the first time these rikishi have met.

Takarafuji vs Shodai – Competition for the lower 4 san’yaku spots in Osaka is fierce. This match will continue the training for Shodai, hopefully Takarafuji can tune him up a notch. They have had 4 prior matches, with an even 2-2 split.

Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – Battle of the 5-3’s, both men are doing well and delivering some great sumo. Mitakeumi has won all 4 of their prior matches, but Tamawashi is going to be ready to break that record.

Kisenosato vs Kotoshogiku – A heartbreak match if there ever was one. Last year’s Hatsu basho champion Kotoshogiku, who is more or less doomed, faces undefeated Kisenosato. Kisenosato wants a yusho, so he does not dare give Kotoshogiku a “gift” – Hakuho will not give Kisenosato any second chances. Kotoshogiku actually leads the series 32-30.

Takayasu vs Hakuho – Well Takayasu, if you want to be an Ozeki, you need to win against Hakuho about half the time. Good luck with that, even though I am rooting for you to make it happen. Takayasu has only one once against Hakuho, with a hatakikomi at Kyushu in 2014.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Crowd favorite Ikioi faces a struggling Yokozuna Kakuryu. If I think back to Nagoya’s Hakuho vs Ikioi bout (where Hakuho became injured), Ikioi was terrified of facing Hakuho. Now I am pretty sure he has more confidence in his sumo. The real check for me to watch how he reacts when Kakuryu moves to his defensive entrapment mode against Ikioi’s over eager pushing and slapping attacks. Kakuryu holds the 7-2 advantage in this series.

Note: Wakaichirio will fight again on day 9, as opposed to his “even only” days thus far. On day 9 he is facing Michinoku heya’s Ryuki, who is a former Sandanme rikishi who missed 3 tournaments and is back in Jonokuchi.