Haru Day 3 Preview

In Front of His Home-Town Crowd, Ozeki Goeido May Be Tough to Beat…

We are still early in this basho, and there are a number of compelling story lines that we are following. Here are a few

  • Hakuho wanting to win back-to-back: He said he would love to win the last tournament of the current imperial era, and the first tournament of the next era (May). His health seems a bit shaky right now, but he’s started 2-0.
  • Will Takayasu someday take a yusho? He has picked up where Ozeki Kisenosato left off. Plenty of jun-yusho without every taking the cup.
  • What will it take for Takakeisho to get the Ozeki nod?: Sure, it’s not a straight 33 wins and you are in formula, but I do wonder now what they are going to put this guy through.
  • Can Tochinoshin get his 8?: It’s clear he is both hurt, and rusty right now. I think everyone is pulling for him to clear kadoban and hopefully heal up.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Chiyoshoma vs Kotoeko – I am expecting Kotoeko to be wise enough to expect a henka, fast enough to react to it, and strong enough to make Chiyoshoma pay if he tries it. The are evenly matched at 4-4 for their career record.

Ishiura vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama does tend to plow ahead in a reckless manner, and we are back on the subject of henka again with Ishiura’s day 2 flagrant whopper. Yutakayama really needs 8 wins this tournament to stave off a return to Juryo. If he is relegated back to the junior division, I fear he is there for a while.

Tomokaze vs Toyonoshima – Two big powerful guys on deck for this match, so it comes down to youth vs experience. Toyonoshima had a good start day 1, but looked off his sumo day 2. Fans love a grizzled old vet fighting his way back to the top, so everyone wants to see Toyonoshima do well.

Terutsuyoshi vs Yoshikaze – I worry the Yoshikaze slide will continue, as he seems to be unable to generate much in the way of forward pressure. But this will be the first time that Terutsuyoshi has faced him, and maybe there is something useful he can learn via this match.

Kagayaki vs Meisei – Kagayaki has had 4 straight make-koshi tournaments, and for fans of his its quiet frustrating to see him struggle to produce the same power, focus and forceful sumo that took him to the top division. I am predicting Meisei may have his number for day 3.

Shohozan vs Yago – Shohozan has yet to get his first white star of Haru, and I hope he stays mobile on day 3. Yago may have seen how poorly his opponent does chest-to-chest, and decide to take that road. “Big Guns” is at his best when its run-and-gun.

Ryuden vs Ikioi – These two have so many similarities, it can be uncanny at times. Ikioi is 4 years older, but in so many ways, they are the same guy. Except that Ikioi seems to have a string in injuries he can’t seem to put behind him, and every time he steps on the dohyo, his fans reach for the aspirin. Ryuden has yet to take a match from Ikioi, but today could be his day.

Asanoyama vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has looked very good so far, and I am expecting this to be an offense heavy match. Kotoshogiku will, of course, try to get chest to chest with Asanoyama, who I think will be focusing on a thrust-and-shift strategy, keeping the former Ozeki out of range.

Sadanoumi vs Takarafuji – No wins for either rikishi yet, and Takarafuji holds a 10-5 career advantage. Both have fought well enough thus far, but seem to be a half-step slower than their opponents.

Okinoumi vs Abi – Another winless duo, has Abi-zumo finally reached its end? I think that most rikishi have figured out how to disrupt his attack, and his double-arm thrust technique seems to be an all or nothing affair. Okinoumi can win with both yotzu and oshi combat techniques, so it will come down to shutting off Abi’s attack.

Aoiyama vs Onosho – Onosho has to focus on getting inside, and close to Aoiyama within the first few moments of the match. Once the man-mountain begins flailing those long, powerful arms, its usually all over. Onosho has beat him before (career record 3-2), but each time it was because he could move close early and thrust against Aoiyama’s considerable body.

Tochiozan vs Ichinojo – Though Tochiozan holds a 9-5 career advantage, Ichinojo may be in his “good” mode for now, and its quite tough for anyone to battle that much motivated rikishi. We have yet to see Ichinojo with his heels on the bales, which is where he tends to give up, so Tochiozan will need to drive hard out of the tachiai and back him up before Ichinojo can rally.

Chiyotairyu vs Shodai – I will be watching to see any signs of an improved Shodai tachiai in this match. Chiyotairyu puts all of his power up front, and if Shodai can remain in the match past the 6 second mark, Chiyotairyu quickly runs out of stamina.

Myogiryu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi got distracted day 2, and ended up with a loss. He stated prior to the basho that his training routine was off because of all the extra duties he had as the yusho winner. Day 3 he has a chance to bounce back against a rikishi he holds a 5-3 career advantage against. The last time Myogiryu beat him was about 3 years ago.

Takakeisho vs Mitakeumi – Tadpole fight! Mitakeumi has been a surprisingly strong competitor for this first two days, and we know he is fighting hurt. Takakeisho will need to power past the elder tadpole to keep himself in the hunt for another bid at Ozeki promotion. Mitakeumi holds a 6-3 career advantage. This is my match of the day.

Nishikigi vs Goeido – Goeido has never beaten Nishikigi. I had to think about that for a minute, but it’s true: 2-0. Goeido is looking genki this time, and Nishikigi seems to be struggling with his sumo. I am going to predict that the Ozeki starts to even out the balance on day 3, and Nishikigi’s magical tour through the joi-jin is hitting some turbulence.

Takayasu vs Daieisho – I think this match is an easy win for Takayasu, but I am looking at the Ozeki each day, hoping to see signs of improvement in his already considerably excellent sumo. Everyone wants to see the big hairy man claim a yusho, and we hope he can do it this year.

Tochinoshin vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is a shambles right now, and that’s great news for Tochinoshin, who needs to rack any win he can get in the first week before his matches get tougher. His magic number is 7 going into day three. These two have split their 4 career matches.

Endo vs Kakuryu – Likewise Endo is fairly shambolic right now, and Kakuryu seems to have shaken off whatever ring rust led to his day 1 loss against Mitakeumi. Kakuryu leads their career series 8-2. I am looking for a solid “reactive sumo” match from Kakuryu on day 3: Give Endo some room, let him make a mistake, then make him pay.

Hakuho vs Kaisei – Kaisei is 0-12 against Hakuho, which is more or less all you need to know here. I predict the big Brazilian will be on the clay, and Hakuho will remain unbeaten.

Hatsu Day 9 Highlights

The kadoban watch continues on day 9, where we find both Ozeki continuing to struggle with injuries, and finding the mathematics of the remaining 6 days crushing their hopes against reality. Meanwhile there are fewer routes where the undfeated Hakuho might drop enough matches (short of injury) to allow anyone to even challenge him for the yusho.

Many other rikishi who had surprised early in the basho have reverted to form, and in some cases it’s disappointing for fans. At the end of the day, for most rikishi, the goal is 8 wins and a kachi-koshi. Some have lost the blazing momentum of their act 1 starts (Aoiyama, Nishikigi, Hokutofuji) while others seem to have finally awoken their sumo (Asanoyama, Chiyotairyu) and somehow Ikioi keeps fighting in spite of all of the battle damage.

Highlight Matches

Takanosho defeats Daiamami – Takanosho visits from Juryo and delivers top-vision sumo against a flagging Daiamami. Daiamami is one loss away from make-koshi and a return to Juryo. Takanosho was kyujo for a couple of days, and is on the bubble himself.

Kotoeko defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama’s bulk and stability saw him dominating the opening moments of the match, Kotoeko’s superior agility and maneuverability let him set up a partial throw / tsukiotoshi that won the match. Yutakayama, once the start of the “Freshmen” bounced hard off of the joi-jin and has been struggling to recover ever since.

Chiyonokuni defeats Meisei – Significantly under-ranked, Chiyonokuni picks up another win, and is 1 behind Hakuho. Be aware, Chiyonokuni is no real threat to Hakuho at this time in terms of speed and power, and his position in 2nd place is a function of match and his position too low on the banzuke.

Kagayaki defeats Chiyoshoma – After spending most of the first half of the basho all over the map, administering head woulds to everyone, Kagayaki goes back to fundamentals and wins. But as Kagayaki has 7 losses already, a make-koshi is likely for him.

Ikioi defeats Yago – Ikioi continues to remind us of Monty Python’s Black Knight, who continues to fight no matter what injury he suffers. Yago showed excellent form, but Ikioi produced a surge of strength that overpowered Yago for the win.

Sadanoumi defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru continues winless after Sadanoumi’s superior experience and ring sense carries the day.

Abi defeats Kotoyuki – The shine is off of Abi-zumo, but it worked against Kotoyuki today. Can Abi end his string of make-koshi tournaments since last March? Kotoyuki attempted a slap-down that almost worked, but Kotoyuki ran out of ring before Abi landed face first on the clay.

Takarafuji defeats Daieisho – Takarafuji is the embodiment of “slow and steady wins the race”. Maegashira 10 is an easy rank for him, and he has little trouble with Daieisho, working him over a piece at a time until he pushes him out from the side / behind.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Some surprising sumo from Ryuden, he manages to block Kaisei from putting his right hand to work, and uses his body to keep Kaisei high. Without a solid grip, Kaisei was unable to generate much forward pressure, and Ryuden kept moving forward.

Endo defeats Onosho – Have no fear, Onosho fans. As much as you want to think that Onosho is fully genki and ready to battle the top men of sumo, he’s still recovering a bit from surgery. Going into Hatsu, we said that Maegashira 6 was a great rank for him, and would allow him to tune up a bit more before his predicted run at the San’yaku later this year. His goal is kachi-koshi plus an extra white star or two, and he seems to be on track for that. Meanwhile, Endo is clearly in his “good” phase, and is fighting well.

Chiyotairyu defeats Asanoyama – Chiyotairyu henkas a win, much to the dismay of many, but most specifically Asanoyama. All of the Freshmen have been struggling since Nagoya, when the heat seems to have baked the fighting spirit right out of them.

Yoshikaze defeats Shohozan – Yoshikaze found some energy somewhere in the back of a closet at home, and showed a brief flash of the drive and vigor that has made him a legend. Yoshikaze staves off a likely make-koshi for another day.

Shodai defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama’s loss to Chiyotairyu has put him on a losing streak, which now extends into a 3rd day. After a strong start, his sumo has lost its edge, and his mobility is down from the first week. Shodai exploits this well and pulls a win out of what should have been Aoiyama’s match after Shodai’s traditionally poor tachiai.

Tochiozan defeats Hokutofuji – A number of rikishi have figured out that Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai” leave him quite far forward, and that can be exploited to slap or thrust him down in the first moments of the bout. I think Hokutofuji’s opening gambit is useful, but needs some variations and refinement.

Myogiryu defeats Ichinojo – Gone is the fierce Ichinojo of the Act 1, and we have reverted to the hesitant, contemplative Ichinojo from Kyushu. To be fair, Myogiryu tends to be trouble for Ichinojo, but for fans of the big Mongolian, this kind of sumo from his is frustrating.

Takakeisho defeats Nishikigi – Takakeisho’s sights are fixed on double digits, and Nishikigi’s act 1 magic is nowhere to be found today. Solid “Wave Action” work from the Ozeki aspirant. Nishikigi still has a solid chance at kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2.

Tamawashi defeats Takayasu – Regardless of rank, these former Sekiwake rivals are an even match. Add to that Takayasu’s health questions, and it was advantage Tamawashi. Of concerns were signs of pain from the Ozeki following the match, when it seems his right knee may have been bothering him. Takayasu is dangerously close to make-koshi and joining the kadoban corps.

Okinoumi defeats Goeido – If you want an honest indication of how banged up Goeido is, watch Okinoumi man-handle him like a Sandanme debutant. I am predicting that Goeido will join Ozeki Tochinoshin in the kadoban corps in Osaka, where his home town fans will likely carry him to victory.

Hakuho defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku gave it his best shot, but there was no chance that the former Ozeki was going to best Hakuho today. In spite of his shaky start, Hakuho is on his sumo, and there are very few upper ranked rikishi (see the Ozeki corps) who are genki enough to give him much of a challenge. But everyone waits to for his much anticipated match with Takakeisho coming up in Act 3.

Kyushu Day 7 – Recap

1:59 bout vs. Takayasu, Ryuden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

6-1

  • K1E Takakeisho
  • M9W Daieisho
  • M13E Onosho

5-2

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

Hey, Abi, grab that Yusho! (わら)

Kyushu Day 3 – A Kise Crisis, A Tadpole Dance

How long is Kisenosato going to keep that hair?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ichinojo’s Singing Voice

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Kyushu Day 3 Preview

Kyushu Day 3 Banner

The top story in our minds is the evident weakness in Kisenosato. His day 1 loss was regrettable, but to some extent plausible as Takakeisho is a hard-charging young man who is primed for higher ranks. His day 2 loss and resulting kinboshi is rightfully cause for concerns among fans. Kisenosato has frequently suffered from performance problems in high stakes / high stress situations, and has jokingly been called a “Chokozuna” more than once. Given his age, his injury, and his record setting string if kyujo, the “Great Pumpkin” might be getting into a spot where he is left with few options save a trip to the barber.

Kaisei has returned from kyujo, and with all rikishi injuries, the reporting around what was wrong with him, and what state he is in, is awfully thin. We know the pressure is on for him to produce at least a few wins to help stave off a deep make-koshi and a heavy demotion. Balancing between injury recovery and rank is one of the brutal truths surrounding sumo: it is a zero-sum game where only the winners can retain rank.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Arawashi vs Chiyomaru – Both rikishi are eager for their first wins, and both are clearly struggling this basho. Both of them are staring at a return to Juryo approaching like a Shinkansen. For all of the glories of being a sumo fan, it’s always tough to see two capable rikishi get in this much trouble so early in a basho.

Onosho vs Takanosho – Onosho has opened Kyushu strong, and I do think that he may have put on some additional mass as well. A healthy and genki Onosho is under-ranked at Maegashira 13, and I think if he finishes week 1 in good shape he will be in the rotation to face off against higher ranks.

Aoiyama vs Endo – Everyone hopes that this basho, Endo will get his body, his sumo and his mind together. Endo is always hoped to be a great rikishi “real soon now”, but always comes up short for a parade of reasons. Aoiyama is winless thus far, and seems to be continuing the struggles he faced at Aki. Both are capable when they are on their sumo, which may not be day 3.

Chiyonokuni vs Okinoumi – An evenly balanced match between Chiyonokuni’s raw, frantic battle style and Okinoumi’s more measured and balanced approach. As fans of Chiyonokuni are aware, his frantic sumo tends to include a lot of mistakes and missteps, and any skilled opponent need only wait for him to execute something in a sloppy or careless manner to find their opening for a winning move.

Sadanoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama is suffering a cold start to Kyushu, which seems to be an extension of his struggles at Aki. It is not uncommon for a rikishi to suffer for several basho following a brutal ride through the top end of the Maegashira ranks, and this may be the case with Yutakayama. Sadanoumi, one the other hand, has started strong and seems to be on his sumo.

Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – Hometown boy Kotoshogiku really does much better at Kyushu. He seems to become energized by the atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the crowd. He has never lost to Daieisho, and I don’t expect he will start today.

Abi vs Shohozan – Oh fun – the street brawler “Big Guns” Shohozan will have to puzzle through Abi’s crazy long reach to remain unbeaten. Fans around the world are waiting for Abi to decide that the double arm shoulder thrusting approach needs a rest, and to try something more.

Takanoiwa vs Kagayaki – Takanoiwa is probably eager to pick up his first win, but fans should keep in mind he sat out jungyo with injuries, and is unlikely to be 100%. Add to that the stress of the Harmafuji lawsuit debacle, the retirement of his Oyakata, changing stables and all of the stress that came with that, and you have a recipe for a solid rikishi underperforming. He holds a 7-5 career advantage over Kagayaki, but Mr Fundamentals may hold the edge on day 3.

Chiyotairyu vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama took white stars from both Takanoiwa and Kagayaki, but now faces a bigger, rounder challenge. Chiyotairyu’s sumo is fairly one dimensional, and Asanoyama won their only prior match.

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze will work hard from the tachiai to keep Shodai reacting. If he gives the man in blue a chance to set up any offense, it could get tough for the Berserker in a hurry. So for Shodai, he needs to use his excellent balance and stability to endure Yoshikaze’s opening gambit, and rally to have a chance to win.

Takakeisho vs Ryuden – I am going to guess with a win over the Yokozuna and the top ranked Ozeki, the schedulers are going to save Takakeisho’s remaining Ozeki bouts for later in the basho. The young man could be on a hot streak, and he may be useful in creating drama for act 3 if he keeps winning. Today his opponent is Ryuden, who continues to be inconsistent, but could plausibly win against Takakeisho.

Tamawashi vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo, what is it going to take? So much potential, but something in your mind seems to impede your sumo. You have a lot of fans who are behind you, but worry when we see you struggle with the easy stuff. Today is a fairly even match against his countryman Tamawashi. Fast and brutal, Tamawashi may struggle with Ichinojo’s scale busting mass, but I anticipate that Tamawashi will attack with force, and likely prevail.

Mitakeumi vs Nishikigi – Ever have a business trip to some place you always wanted to see, like maybe Thailand. But the flight breaks down, your luggage gets lost and sold on the black market, and the food gives you horrific digestive problems. But you get to see amazing sights and meet truly wonderful and unique people in a whirlwind adventure you will never forget, and probably never attempt again. This is Nishikigi’s magical holiday in the joi-jin.

Kaisei vs Takayasu – Welcome back Kaisei! Leg still hurt? Good, we would like you to work out with Mr Takayasu-zeki today. Both of you are big, hairy beasts so we decided it would be good for you to share hobby time together.

Goeido vs Tochiozan – Now Tochiozan has taken both Sekiwake scalps, the schedulers try him against the top-ranked Ozeki. Goeido’s day 2 match saw him fall prey to the same offensive strategy that Takakeisho used against Kisenosato, so one has to wonder if Goeido has lost the plot.

Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – A surprisingly interesting and balanced match. Tochinoshin does not yet look to be on his sumo, and that day 1 loss seems to be occupying his mind. Myogiryu is coming off of a Kisenosato supplied kinboshi, and probably feels like he can overcome the “lift and shift” of Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin holds a 11-7 lead in a surprisingly even career record.

Kisenosato vs Hokutofuji – Kisenosato seems to be on a path to turn each of his matches into a high-drama nail biter. Day 3 is no better as he faces Hokutofuji, who has no wins (same as the Yokozuna), but has been fighting well. Does Kisenosato take one step closer to the barber in the final match of the day?