Hatsu Day 2 Preview

With day 1 providing a delightfully solid start to this odd Hatsu basho, sumo fans are eager to see what act 1 will be. At Tachiai, we divide the 15 days of the basho into 3 5 day acts, each of which seems to have its own goals and drivers. For act 1, its remove ring rust and see who is hot and who is not. With just one day in the record books, the only thing we can say is that the ring rust seems to be pretty minimal given the reduction of normal pre-basho join training.

The only non-kadoban Ozeki, Takakeisho, has a rare opportunity to bid for promotion to Yokozuna, should he manage to win this tournament in a commanding fashion. But sadly he let Mitakeumi dictate the terms of the match after he had a fairly strong opening. Several fans have noted that he does not look quite right, and I agree. His already massive body seems to have become even larger in the last 2 months, and I think he’s not really up to full power sumo at this size.

Meanwhile, the kadoban twins Asanoyama and Shodai had a mixed start. Asanoyama was unable to establish an offense or a defense, and got completely disrupted and defeated by Daieisho. Shodai on the other hand, as Tachai’s own Herouth put it, was “playing Sokoban“. For those of you who may not know, Sokoban is a kind of video game where you play a warehouse worker, doing much the same as Shodai did to Hokutofuji.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Shohozan vs Akiseyama – Welcome back Shohozan! “Big Guns” returns to visit the top division to help balance out the banzuke. This is a rematch of their November day 5 match, which went to Akiseyama. Truth be told, as Shohozan “ages out” of the competitive ranks, he is less able to overwhelm his opponents. But it’s great to see the old guard in action. Shohozan has a slim 3-2 career edge, going back to 2009!

Sadanoumi vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka came up 10% short on day 1, and he is going to be looking to bounce back against Sadanoumi today. Sadanoumi looked really sharp on the shonichi opening match, and he is due for a strong performance after falling to the final slot on the banzuke.

Yutakayama vs Midorifuji – First time match for these two, and it’s Shodai’s sparring partner (Yutakayama) vs yet another Isegahama pocket battleship. Both of them won their opening day matches, but I note that Midorifuji had the brass to try a flying henka in his first match ranked in Makuuchi. Had it not be called a matta, he might have made it pay off, too!

Ichinojo vs Hoshoryu – At least 80 kg different between these two, and if Ichinojo continues the form he showed day 1, it’s going to be ice cream time at Minato heya. While I love watching Hoshoryu fight, I think he has maxed out for what is current sumo can support. We are all hoping that he can evolve and reach higher levels of sumo intensity, but we know it’s going to be a challenge.

Akua vs Terutsuyoshi – The other Isegahama pocket monster has a track record of taking Akua’s booze money (6-1 favoring Terutsuyoshi). Both of them lost day 1, so maybe we can get some solid alternate-reality stuff like an Akua flying henka for a win here.

Shimanoumi vs Kotoeko – Shimanoumi went 11-4 in November, and on day one he looked like he had not slowed down at all. He will have to overcome a 9-1 career deficit to Kotoeko, who also took his day 1 match in decisive fashion.

Tokushoryu vs Aoiyama – Time to tell if Aoiyama simply got the timing of his tachiai completely wrong on day 1, or if he is hurt. I personally hope he is on the upper side of genki, as I would love to see him bludgeon his way though the middle of makkuchi this January. He holds a slight 6-5 career advantage over Tokushoryu.

Myogiryu vs Kiribayama – If Kiribayama actually did injure his knee in the pre-basho workup, this is going to be a rough 15 days for him. At Maegashira 8, he’s probably not going to risk demotion if he has a bad tournament. But for a bright young start, it’s terrible to see them take a set back that could require 2-3 tournaments to resolve. This is his first ever match with Myogiryu.

Ryuden vs Tobizaru – Both of these guys started a bit goofy, and lost day 1. I expect Tobizaru to focus in quickly and get a big push underway to return to joi-jin for March, where I think Ryuden is at a pretty comfortable rank right now. Tobizaru has a 2-1 career advantage, but that may not count for much on day 2.

Meisei vs Kagayaki – “I see a gumbai and I want it painted black…”

Tochinoshin vs Okinoumi – A healthy 16 career matches between these two, with Okinoumi taking 2 of the last 3. Both won their day 1 matches, and I am eager to see if Tochinoshin really has picked up enhanced skills in tsuki-oshi style sumo.

Endo vs Tamawashi – Another long running rivalry, with 23 career matches favoring Tamawashi 13-10, But Endo has taken 3 of the last 4 as Tamawashi ages out of high stakes sumo. I love watching him work, but he is slowly losing power and maneuverability as the injuries accumulate to his body.

Takarafuji vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is probably feeling very energized after the gyoji handed him a diorama of Mt. Fuji made with kensho envelopes at the end of that day 1 pasting of Yokozuna hopeful Takakeisho. He has a strong track record of overwhelming Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo by taking his tadpole power toe to toe against Isegahama’s neckless wonder. Could be a really tasty match in the second half.

Terunofuji vs Onosho – I love Onosho sumo, but your spheroid shape will only serve your undoing, dear tadpole. Did you know that Terunofuji, being a kaiju, bowls overhand? The legends say there is a secret special prize if he can get Onosho into the upper deck of the Kokugikan and take out at least 4 members of the sumo press.

Kotoshoho vs Takanosho – Now I fear Andy’s prediction, and I am very interested to see Kotoshoho put Takanosho in the clay. He won their only prior match, and that’s good enough for me.

(Chanting…)
Go! Go! Koto-sho-ho!
Do it fast, or do it slow!
Beat that rice ball
Taka-no-sho!

Takakeisho vs Daieisho – Dear Grand Tadpole. We know it’s really cool to think you might win PowerBall or a Yokozuna promotion. But put that stuff aside and start knocking some heads. Today if possible. Wave action at level 3, if you would please. I want to see Daieisho’s molars stay behind as he rockets into the stands.

Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji – Ol’Stompy might make Asanoyama question his own worthiness as a sumotori if he can get that handshake tachiai into the Ozeki’s throat. I really like Asanoyama, so he’s going to have to gamberize like mad and just overcome whatever brutal, high speed sumo Hokutofuji deploys today.

Takayasu vs Shodai – Shodai holds a 10-8 career advantage, and I am going to say that if Takayasu comes out with his big grunt and slam tachiai, he’s done for. The 2017 Takayasu is in there, still. The guy with nearly endless endurance who would grab an opponent and just slowly crush them into jelly. That, in my opinion, would be most effective against Shodai indeed.

Tokyo November Day 10 Highlights

Today could be “What the hell was that?” day. The odd happenings and strange sumo occurrences were on display. Zero velocity tachiai, matta-tachiai, thrusting battles that turned into endurance matches, this day was full of the unexpected.

The 2020 magic continues: at the end of day 10 you have both the first and last man on the banzuke tied for the yusho race at the end of act 2. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. If we see yet another yusho from the last slot on the banzuke, well I am going to suggest the Kokugikan be checked for mischievous gnomes or perhaps a toll living in the cavity under the dohyo. You want further evidience of some kind of yokai at work? How about the six way tie for the lead in Juryo.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Midorifuji – Chiyoshoma drives ahead at the tachiai, standing Midorifuji up. Chiyoshoma then pulls him down with great effect. At 6-4, I think Chiyoshoma has a pretty good chance of making his 8, and staying in the top division for January.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyonokuni – This match was a great idea on paper. With the chance being that Chiyonokuni might slow down the “last man” magic. Chiyonokuni had a strong open, but nothing is stopping Shimanoumi right now. He gets an armpit lift / hold on Chiyonokuni and drives him out of the ring. Shimanoumi 9-1.

Kotonowaka defeats Akua – Akua had a solid tachiai, but Kotonowaka was largely unmoved. He reached inside with both hands and took command of the match, marching Akua over the bales, improving to 6-4.

Hoshoryu defeats Sadanoumi – Excellent sumo mechanics today from Hoshoryu, and with Sadanoumi lack of usable knee joints, Hoshoryu made it a short match. That’s loss number 8 for Sadanoumi, and he is make-koshi for November. He’s not going to have much in terms of sumo without repair to those legs.

Enho defeats Chiyotairyu – We go from low velocity Chiyotairyu tachiai to ZERO velocity tachiai! Both men just stood up, expecting some kind of trickery at the start of the match. Even the gyoji was surprised. A couple of tentative probing attacks back and forth, and Enho grabs and pulls, swinging Chiyotairyu to the clay. Odd but wonderful too. Enho improves to 2-8.

Meisei defeats Tokushoryu – Meisei completely dominated this match. I am not sure if Meisei somehow tripped the “power off” button on Tokushoryu with that deep left hand, but Tokushoryu rapidly went from competitor to ballast in the space of about one step. Both end the day at 5-5.

Kaisei defeats Aoiyama – Around a quarter ton of sumo action today. A weird matta tachiai, and we once again wonder what the hell was that? Neither of them were really dialed into any kind of high energy attack plan, so they went through the motions and finished quickly. Kaisei improves to 5-5.

Yutakayama defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi gets a left frontal grip at the tachiai, but can’t do anything with it, and the two stalemate in the center of the dohyo, with Yutakayama leaning over Terutsuyoshi to get a hold of his mawashi knot. After a fair amount of leaning, Terutsuyoshi tries to rally, but finds himself overpowered by Yutakayama, and quickly on the clay. Terutsuyoshi gets his 8th loss and is make-koshi for November.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – Today the “good” Ichinojo showed up and won. He left Tochinoshin no route to use any kind of offensive sumo, and completely dominated this match. You have to wonder if this version of the Boulder only shows up when he’s about to get a make-koshi. He improves to 3-7.

Kotoeko defeats Endo – Endo had the better sumo mechanics, and should have won this match if it were just down to style. But Kotoeko did not fret too much when Endo got his preferred left hand grip at the tachiai. He worked that left arm into a arm-bar hold and used that to beat Endo. Solid sumo tactics from Kotoeko today, and he improves to 6-4.

Ryuden defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi falls to the power of Ryuden’s butt, which has added some kind of shimmy before he goes into the starting crouch. I would ridicule it more, but it seems to be working. Tamawashi opened strong, but the power of the shiri-zumo was strong again today, and it rallied to move Tamawashi back and out to deliver Ryuden’s 8th win, and a kachi-koshi for Butt-vember.

Hokutofuji defeats Takarafuji – A magical display of “defend and extend” sumo today from the master craftsman, Takarafuji. Hokutofuji was throwing in combos left and right against Takarafuji, and each of them landed. But only with partial effect. After expending his energy with his attacks, Hokutofuji is left a bit winded. At that moment Takarafuji attacks, with great effect. Hokutofuji can’t defend and moves back again and again. Spent, he goes to Takarafuji’s chest and leans in. Eventually Takarafuji has had enough, and works to end the match, but can’t quite manage to defeat Hokutofuji’s lower body. Takarafuji sets up a throw, but in spending his last watt of energy, Hokutofuji manages to resist just enough to land last. What a match! Monoii? Rematch? What the hell was that? Somehow these two found the stamina to do it all over again. The second match is a brilliant continuation of the first in style and execution. But Hokutofuji manages to overcome Takarafuji’s defensive sumo, and pushes Josh’s favored contestant over the tawara for the win. Hokutofuji improves to 6-4.

Daieisho defeats Okinoumi – Daieisho seems to be dialed into his sumo now, and today is a great example. He was strong and straight forward at the tachiai, with maxiumum force directly into Okinoumi’s chest. It was over in a moment, improving Daieisho’s score to 7-3.

Kagayaki defeats Kiribayama – Also finally showing good form is Kagayaki. He was low, strong and moving forward today, with a dash of gaburi-yori for garnish. Sadly it looks like Kiribayama may be headed for a double digit make-koshi. Kagayaki now 4-6.

Onosho defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage did not have much in this match, but he was able to force it into a yotsu battle when he connected to Onosho’s mawashi in the tachiai, and refused to give up his left hand grip. Onosho struggled some with the format, but no longer in danger of being off balance and on the move at the same time, he settled into just working to get Wakatakakage under control. Wakatakakage made his move about 30 seconds into the match, but could not finish the bulkier Onosho, who rallied and drove forward for the win. Onosho improves to 4-6 after a cold 0-4 start.

Terunofuji defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru could not quite make it 2 in a row. He went for a deep grip, and held on to Terunofuji’s mawashi with everything he could muster. The kaiju thanked him for his offer, lifted him high and took him to the curb like a basket of green glass on Tuesday morning in Sumida. Terunofuji kachi-koshi for November, and still very much in the yusho hunt. Could we have Terunofuji – Shimanoumi soon, please?

Kotoshoho defeats Mitakeumi – What the hell was that, Mitakeumi? Kotoshoho improves to 6-4.

Takanosho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu goes for “wild man strength” at the tachiai, and it completely fails. His body is too high, he is off balance and now he has Takanosho’s counter attack to absorb. Takanosho was low, compact and focused his energy center-mass. Takanosho’s efficiency was high today, few wasted movements, and all power devoted to moving forward and pushing Takayasu out of the way. A textbook example of why Takayasu’s current sumo style is prone to him losing matches that, on paper, he should dominate.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – There was a moment of hesitation from Myogiryu at the start of the match, and I am confident that is what cost him a competitive chance at a win today. His moment left Takakeisho in control, and with the forward momentum. The lone surviving Ozeki improves to 9-1.

Tokyo November Day 3 Highlights

The big news is that Asanoyama withdrew from the tournament on Tuesday morning in Tokyo. It seems he injured his shoulder on day 1, which was only compounded on day 2 when Terunofuji decided to see how far he could heave an Ozeki this November. Injury is listed as “deltoid muscle contusion requires treatment for about 4 weeks”. Wakatakakage picked up a default win to get his first white star of November.

His day 2 opponent, Terunofuji, appears to be more genki than I have seen him in at least 3 years. This means we are going to get a lot of kaiju sumo, and that will be interesting to watch him clash with the Ozeki. In kaiju form, he is a credible opponent for any of them.

Lastly, what kind of day must you be having if you get thrown by Takakeisho?

Highlight Matches

Akua defeats Midorifuji – Akua gets his shonichi (first win) against compact Juryo visitor Midorifuji. Midorifuji was a bit too low, and was easy to slap to the clay right at the tachiai.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma’s shows some excellent combo slaps to Shimanoumi’s face, but he’s unable to really put Shimanoumi down or out. After taking a fair amount of punishment, Shimanoumi get his hands to Chiyoshoma’s chest and pushes hard for the win. Shimanoumi remains lossless at 3-0.

Chiyonokuni defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka appears to favor some manner of tug-and-slap attack, which only slows Chiyonokuni down a bit. Chiyonokuni finds Kotonowaka’s chest and rapidly finishes the match to join the 3-0 club.

Chiyotairyu defeats Ichinojo – That’s the third day in a row where chiyotairyu did not launch into the tachiai with his normal break-neck speed. Change of tactics? Or maybe just working around an injury. Whatever it is, it finally worked for him today with his first win of November. Ichinojo seemed committed to getting a left hand frontal grip, and it left him too far forward, and easy to slap down.

Kaisei defeats Yutakayama – The match ended with both men leaving the ring together, and frankly I thought that Kaisei may have touched down with his elbow first. But it was a close call and the gumbai went to Kaisei. I did like the knee / leg pick at the end by Kaisei, gutsy move.

Hoshoryu defeats Enho – Enho continues to struggle, and Hoshoryu over torques a kotenage. The result is a hearty game of “Roll out the barrel” with Enho playing the part of the beer. Given his run of commercials on Abema, this is fitting. Hoshoryu picks up his 3rd win in 3 days.

Ryuden defeats Meisei – Ryuden had a generous butt wiggle going on pre-bout. Given his propensity to disrupt his opponents tachiai, I think it’s an interesting attempt. It worked well as it provoked a matta. The second time out, Meisei did get a launch, but it seems that Ryuden’s butt wiggle threw the timing off, and Ryuden had better body position almost at once. This came into play as the match evolved into an endurance leaning contest, with each rikishi bent nearly horizontal at the waist for a long time. Meisei, fighting with everything he could, ran out of endurance and succumbed to a throw. Ryuden needs to get his mawashi checked for one of Kisenosato’s much feared fire ants.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – A big, vigorous match today with the rikishi going chest to chest at the tachiai. Sadanoumi is fighting with power and speed, but still is coming up short as he drops to 0-3. It’s still early in the basho, but I hope that Kotoeko, now at 3-0, can muster a strong showing this November.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Aoiyama – My hoped for henka did not materialize today. Instead Terutsuyoshi achieved a left hand grip at the tachiai, and Aoiyama count not really counter the hold. Aoiyama still without his first win, as Terutsuyoshi advances to 1-2.

Endo defeats Tokushoryu – Endo showed outstanding sumo mechanics today. When he can get his left hand grip, he is tough to beat. Tokushoryu tried some of his usual moves, but Endo kept his hips square to his opponent, and marched Tokushoryu out for his 3rd consecutive win.

Tamawashi defeats Takarafuji – Tamawashi’s tachiai was as close to perfect as he might want. It resulted with him having a tight grip under Takarafuji’s armpits, and his opponent with no real way to counter. Both end the day 2-1.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshoho – I wondered in the preview if we might see Tochinoshin resort to some of his amazing strength this basho, and today was that day. It’s clear that knee cannot support the power needed for a full sky-crane lift, but he did give it a shot today. But that throw at the bales, with Tochinoshin pivoting on that damaged right leg made me cringe. He picks up his first win of the tournament.

Tobizaru defeats Myogiryu – Tobizaru tried an opening combo at the tachiai, and found that Myogiryu was well prepared to bash him around the face and shoulders. Tobizaru retreated, but kept working to create an opening. A well timed pivot against Myogiryu’s advance dropped Myogiryu to the clay, and Tobizaru has his first win of the tournament.

Hokutofuji defeats Daieisho – Daieisho got the better of the tachiai, and placed both hands behind Hokutofuji’s, apparently looking to pull him down with maximum force. Instead it launched Daieisho upward, and left him an easy mark for Hokutofuji to run out of the ring. Hokutofuji advances to 3-0.

Terunofuji defeats Onosho – Onosho’s open attack was almost enough to run Terunofuji out at the tachiai. Onosho had excellent and placement, and explosive forward power. But Terunofuji was able to set his feet, lock up both of Onosho’s arm and turn him into a struggling chunk of ballast. Unable to plant his feet for any meaningful defense, he was bodily carried to the bales and then tossed out for quick visit to a waiting Mitakeumi. Terunofuji maintains membership in the “perfect” 3-0 club.

Okinoumi defeats Takanosho – Takanosho had a late start at the tachiai, but set up a nodowa that took Okinoumi back 2 steps. With the space in the ring running out, Okinoumi counter attacked by pulling the same arm that had pinned his neck, and swinging Takanosho to the clay. Okinoumi advances to 3-0.

Mitakeumi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s opening gambit, a double armpit attack, falls apart shortly after the tachiai. It leaves Mitakeumi with both hands inside, and his hips lower than Kagayaki. Really no way to defend against that, especially with a compact tadpole like Mitakeumi. Kagayaki remains winless.

Takakeisho defeats Kiribayama – Kiribayama landed a mawashi grip at the tachiai, and typically that is a death knell for Takakeisho. Kiribayama backed the Ozeki up to the bales, and it looked like the win was all but secured. But Takakeisho loads.. a throw? And executes? Wow, unexpected! He improves to 3-0 while Kiribayama remains winless.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – Brilliant see-saw match, both of them were aggressive, throwing everything they could think of into this fight. They broke contact multiple times, and each time they re-engaged, the battle plan changed. With victory a heartbeat away, Takayasu saw Shodai reach into his bag of sumo, and once again pull out the pirouette we have seen him employ before. With nothing but air in front of him, Takayasu tumbled forward as Shodai watched him fall to the clay. Amazing bout. Shodai advances to 3-0.

Ura To Compete, Terunofuji Kyujo

Ura-Cartoon

Tachiai can now confirm the competition status of two fan favorites. First, Ura is definitely a go for competition. He is ranked Sandanme 91 West. After hideous damage to his right knee Last year at Aki, he went the route of undergoing surgery, and has been working to rebuild his body since. This will be his first time in competition in a year, and I am very curious to see how long it takes him to re-connect with his sumo. Should he step up primed and genki, there is a strong chance that lower Sandanme rikishi may find themselves quickly going down to defeat.

The matter of Terunofuji is also hopeful, but with a different course of action. The big Kaiju is sitting out Aki, having also chosen to undergo reconstructive surgery. Terunofuji has mountains of talent, and a strong work ethic. It seems that he has accepted that he is rebooting his sumo career, and at this point it won’t matter what rank he falls to, as long as he comes back strong and healthy. He is currently ranked Makushita 47, but we expect him to be out several basho.

Aki starts in about 36 hours, and frankly Team Tachiai can’t wait.

Hat tip to Herouth for digging this up via Sanspo.