Hatsu Day 6 Highlights

Act Two opens in dramatic fashion. There are great bouts today but tears will be shed and hopes dashed before the day is out. Let’s just get started.

Yutakayama and Daishomaru get the makuuchi bouts rolling for us. Two oshi wrestlers start things off…by quickly getting a grip? It looked like Yutakayama wanted to grapple since Daishomaru is much worse on the belt, losing almost 4x more often to yorikiri than he wins while Yutakayama is about 50-50 in those belt battles. Daishomaru was having none of it, batted Yutakayama’s arms away and circled in full retreat. This gave Yutakayama a chance for a hatakikomi pull down attempt but Daishomaru plowed through. Yutakayama decided enough is enough, held his ground, and pushed forward, forcing Daishomaru out. Wouldn’t you guess it? Oshidashi. Yutakayama improves to 4-2, Daishomaru still winless.

Ishiura channels Enho for his bout against Chiyoshoma. Ishiura has been regrouping nicely in Juryo, sitting on a 4-1 record to start the day. Rather than having a double henka, both wrestlers get straight to business with Ishiura going low. Chiyoshoma first establishes a two-handed belt grip but then uses his left to grab under Ishiura’s arm, initiating a throw attempt. Ishiura counters by driving into Chiyoshoma as they spin around. It looked for a second like Ishiura reached out to grab his opponent’s left knee which causes Chiyoshoma to stumble. Thus off balance, Ishiura continues to circle into Chiyoshoma whose feet no longer have traction in the clay, falling to shitatehineri. Ishiura improves to 5-1 and takes home some spending money while Chiyoshoma is 3-3.

Yago was just too big for Kotoeko, who’s still trying to find his way in the top division. Nominally, both men are relatively balanced with the belt or in pusher/thruster mode but Yago established a strong belt grip early and forced the much smaller man out. Yago remains in the hunt group at 5-1, looking for a prize and even further advancement, while Kotoeko is even at 3-3.

Chiyonokuni had a plan for Kotoyuki. 1) Stand your ground at the tachiai, 2) Unleash tsuppari to counter The Penguin, 3) Side-step. The critical piece is when to deploy the side step, which he did perfectly as the over-committed Kotoyuki flew off the dohyo and landed in amongst the crowd. Kotoyuki’s lost to hatakikomi nearly 60 times now, so you’d think he’d try to work out a solution. Chiyonokuni’s in the hunt at 5-1, while Kotoyuki’s 3-3.

Daiamami came in to this bout with Meisei wanting to grapple. Meisei was having none of it, however, and fought to keep Daiamami’s mitts off his belt while trying to establish his own belt grip. The fatal mistake for Daiamami appears to be when he gave up the belt and tried to go for a hatakikomi attempt. Meisei used the momentum shift to blast Daiamami into the crowd. Meisei’s 4-2 and may be hitting his stride and establishing himself as a makuuchi regular, while Daiamami’s 2-4 with a precarious hold on his position.

Kagayaki started out with his usual head-down pushing attack but Takarafuji got an early left-handed grip of his gold mawashi. A belt battle seems to favor the trapezius muscles of Takarafuji, who circled and executed an over-arm throw before both men tumbled out in a heap. Uwatenage. Takarafuji is 3-3 while Kagayaki’s 1-5.

Ikioi showed Kagayaki how to make the Pamplona bull thing work. Use it against a belt guy and drive with the shoulder. Ikioi is a balanced wrestler while Endo is much more comfortable with a grapple than slap fest. Today, Ikioi followed Kagayaki’s lead – stitches be damned – and led with the ole noggin…though that shoulder was there not just for backup but as the real driving force. Endo had no time to regroup as he found himself on his butt, at the base of the dohyo. Both are 3-3.

Sadanoumi got the jump on Kaisei. The much quicker tachiai helped establish a firm, two-handed belt grip put Kaisei on the retreat. However, he appeared to be hopping, favoring that left leg as if he couldn’t really put much weight on the right. Sadanoumi let him pogo himself out. Kaisei falls off the lead and into the hunt group at 5-1. Sadanoumi is 3-3. Kaisei appeared to walk back as if he was unhindered so hopefully the pogo-ing was more of a balance thing than a “my knee hurts” thing.

The next bout gave us a real clash of styles as a solid belt man Asanoyama takes on the long arms of Abi. Abi seemed to be the driving force here, keeping Asanoyama off his belt from the tachiai. He went into full retreat looking for a hatakikomi slapdown win but Asanoyama kept his balance while moving forward. Oshidashi win goes to Asanoyama who picks up his first of the tournament while Abi falls to 3-3.

If Abi wants to be a hatakikomi master, he needs to watch Aoiyama. The Bulgarian took on solid oshi battler, Daieisho. That nodowa on the tachiai nearly snapped Daieisho in two but Daieisho weathered the storm and evaded to the left. The damage was done, though, as Aoiyama had the clear initiative. Effective tsuppari let him try one hatakikomi pull which failed but he cycled around with more slaps to Daieisho’s face. This time, as Daieisho’s resistance brought his momentum forward, Aoiyama pulled and Daieisho went down. Hatakikomi. Personally, I think the difference is Aoiyama’s tsuppari works his opponent back to the opposite edge, giving him adequate space for the pull. Abi, on the other hand, seems to fly off the dohyo a lot. Aoiyama stays in the hunt at 5-1 while Daieisho falls to 2-4

Yoshikaze picked up his first win today against Ryuden. Ryuden had tried to get a good early tachiai but was thrown off by the gyoji who called him for two false starts. Yoshikaze followed through on the third tachiai putting his head right into Ryuden’s chin, driving him back and out. This means Daishomaru is left as the last makuuchi wrestler still in the tournament with 0 wins. Ryuden is 2-4.

Kotoshogiku drove Chiyotairyu straight back like a blocking sled and used that hip action to push Elvis out. Kotoshogiku is 4-2 while Chiyotairyu is 2-4. Onosho made quick work of Okinoumi, who prefers a belt battle, by staying low and fighting this bout his way, as a pushing-thrusting match. Onosho stays in the lead, 6-0, while Okinoumi falls to 3-3.

Now, for the bad news. Mitakeumi injured his left knee or ankle against Myogiryu. He could not make it back up to the dohyo and was carted out and taken to the hospital. It’s an innocuous injury. I thought it may have come when he tried to brace his weight against the tawara but now I think he rolled his ankle when he stepped off the dohyo. Both men prefer an oshi bout, so they came out guns blazing. Mitakeumi pulled but ran out of real estate and Myogiryu kept his balance, forcing Mitakeumi out. If it’s a sprain, we may see Mitakeumi again before the end of the tournament. Mitakeumi falls to 5-1 and Myogiryu climbs to 2-4. A bitter, disappointing day for Mitakeumi fans.

Tochiozan neutralized the Takakeisho thrusting from the word, “Go,” quickly establishing a grip of Takakeisho’s grey mawashi. Takakeisho’s fingers struggled to find purchase on Tochiozan’s belt so he had to satisfy himself with a hold of the Kochi native’s arm. It would have been a rather spectacular ipponzeoi but Takakeisho lacked the strength and leverage to pull Tochiozan over his back. The position gave Tochiozan a decisive advantage with Takakeisho’s back to him, so he pushed through, driving Takakeisho forward over the edge. Takakeisho falls out of the hunt group to 4-2 while Tochiozan improves to 2-4.

Tamawashi’s not pulling in enough kensho for Ichinojo bother with beast mode, instead reverting to boulder mode on the tachiai. Tamawashi blasts the boulder off with a few strong shoulder thrusts. Both men are 4-2.

Goeido pissed of Shohozan with his slow-roll tachiai. Shohozan wasn’t having any of it, so he blasted off in his face like, “Let’s go already!” Goeido commits a bit quicker this time and bulls forward like a battleship under full steam. Shohozan slips to the side a beat early as Goeido had room to plot a course correction. Goeido adjusts, homes in on Shohozan, and picks up the yorikiri win. Both are 2-4.

With Kakuryu kyujo, and now Mitakeumi likely following him to the couch, Hokutofuji may now pick up a couple of fusen wins, today’s moves him to 4-2. Nishikigi hoped to regroup after yesterday’s dramatic but disappointing loss to The Boss. Takayasu’s a tough one to regroup against, though. And today, Takayasu did not want Nishikigi anywhere near his belt. With Nishikigi’s right arm containing the Ozeki’s left, Nishikigi’s fingers sought out a left-hand grip of the mawashi but Takayasu wasn’t having any of it. With Takayasu’s attention diverted, Nishikigi thought it would be a good time to try a pull but Takayasu read it and drove through the maegashira, ushering him out for the yorikiri win. Takayasu improves to 3-3 while Nishikigi slips out of the hunt to 4-2.

Hakuho closed things out today with Shodai at the musubi-no-ichiban. At the tachiai, both men seek out and quickly get one-handed belt grips. When things settle in the middle of the ring, Shodai tries to adjust his grip but Hakuho uses that time to strike, grabs the other side of Shodai’s mawashi and walks him back and out. Yorikiri. Hakuho remains tied for the lead with Onosho while Shodai slips to 2-4.

Hatsu Day 1 Highlights

Kisenosato Hatsu 2019
Photo from the Japan Sumo Association’s twitter feed

What a way to start a basho! Day 1 action was fierce and at times surprising. As a reminder to our readers, I tend to see a basho as a set of 3 acts, each 5 days long. Each act has its own feel and its own goals. Act 1 is all about knocking the ring rust off of the competitors, and finding out who is hot and who is not. It’s also usually the period where we will see if any Yokozuna are going to take an “out” by going kyujo.

The big news coming out of day 1 has to be that all 3 Ozeki went down to defeat. For Takayasu, it’s not a huge surprise, as he came into Hatsu with a case of the flu and a substantial fever that he should probably keep to himself. For Tochinoshin, it was clear he had hurt a thigh muscle, but was going to gamberize. Goeido, however, simply got beaten. By Nishikigi. Let that sink in. The guy who was doing everything he could last year to cling to the bottom edge of the Makuuchi banzuke took an Ozeki scalp in what looked to be a fair and straight-up fight. I have been pulling for the guy for a while now, but it’s amazing to see how far his sumo has come.

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Daishomaru – Welcome to the top division! Terutsuyoshi is only visiting, but it was his first win in the big leagues, and it came with a few envelopes of kensho as well. We will be seeing quite a bit more of Terutsuyoshi soon, I would think.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Tsuki? Oshi? Yotsu? Hitaki? These two threw everything including the kitchen sink into this match. It was rough, it was chaotic, but Chiyonokuni prevailed. He needs to get a kachi-koshi secured and escape the banzuke danger zone he finds himself in for Hatsu.

Yutakayama defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki starts strong, but in his normal pattern, as soon as Yutakayama mounts his response, Kotoyuki starts moving backward in a fairly reckless fashion. Not amazing sumo, but Yutakayama held on through Kotoyuki’s opening gambit and took the match.

Yago defeats Meisei – In Yago’s first top division ranked bout, he shows us why he’s going to be a mainstay of the future. Unlike most of the newer rikishi, he grabs Meisei’s mawashi and proceeds to go chest to chest. Meisei looks ready for the fight, and starts with a stronger, inside position. But give Yago that right hand outside and he gets to work. With his greater mass and exceptionally stable stance, Yago overpowers Meisei for a straightforward yoritaoshi.

Ikioi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki leaves Ikioi bloody in this loss, with the die-hard warrior bleeding from his nose and face following the match. Ikioi looks to have gotten the jump on Kagayaki at the tachiai, and wasted no time in raising up Kagayaki. Both of these rikishi are better than their lower Maegashira rank, so I see this tournament as a “recovery” period for them.

Sadanoumi defeats Abi – It would seem that Sadanoumi has Abi-zumo cracked, and Abi could not produce much in the way of offensive pressure against Sadanoumi, who propelled Abi around the dohyo like a squeaky shopping cart headed back to the store. Come on Abi, unleash some new sumo. We know you can win!

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Firstly, congratulations to Takarafuji, who welcomed a new baby to his family in the past few weeks. Takarafuji gave Endo a good fight (and the crowd was happy), but Endo had superior position rom the start, and never let Takarafuji do much more than react to his sumo.

Kaisei defeats Asanoyama – Kaisei came to the dohyo in a mood to be strong and heavy today. When he uses his heavy sumo, there are few men in the world who can move him. A quick battle-hug to Asanoyama, and a drive forward for a win. The tachiai had a nice satisfying “whack!” to it as well.

Onosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Even Chiyotairyu’s somewhat legendary cannonball tachiai did not seem to impact Onosho much. Onosho stayed focused, and drove forward. With his opening blast expended against a prepared opponent, Chiyotairyu seemed to have little resistance to offer.

Aoiyama defeats Yoshikaze – Aoiyama looked on form today, and was able to focus his amazing strength against a fading Yoshikaze. Much as I love the old berserker, he is fading each passing tournament. Aoiyama kept the pressure coming, landing alternating thrusts against Yoshikaze’s upper body, keeping him high and off balance.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – We anticipated that this would be a brawl, and it began to look like a running battle until Shohozan lost his balance and went skidding to the clay. Good action from two rikishi who love to duke it out.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo today. Takakeisho in what I think is a new steel-gray mawashi gets the inside advantage at the tachiai, and Shodai never recovers. Shodai is high from the start, and Takakeisho sets up the wave-action attack with great effect. Shodai attempted to return in kind, but his footing was poor and it threw him off balance. Takakeisho advances, and wins.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochinoshin – Handshake tachiai? – Check! Nodowa to keep Tochinoshin from starting any moves against the mawashi? – Check! Tochinoshin was packed, boxed and shipped in a manner of seconds. The Ozeki could not switch to offense at any point and was left trying to react to Hokutofuji’s sumo.

Nishikigi defeats Goeido – I have watched this maybe a dozen times, and it simply does not get old. I have no idea where this version of Nishikigi came from, but this sumo is unquestionably simple, sound and potent. This is not Goeido making some kind of mistake while trying to be slippery, he delivers his expected “speed” tachiai, but Nishikigi absorbs it, and breaks the Ozkei’s grip. Goeido continues to have superior body position as they go chest to chest, but Nishikigi seems to be intent on stalemating Goeido, which he somehow manages to do. Locked up in the center of the dohyo, Nishikigi has a deep right hand grip, but is a bit too high. The match ends as Nishikigi overpowers, then throws, Goeido! What a match!

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – Two items of note – Takayasu is clearly ill, and Ichinojo’s sumo machine was switched to “attack” mode today, and it’s great to see him fight with vigor. Takayasu managed to back Ichinojo to the bales, but then the counterattack started, and there was no stopping that. Ichinojo was in great form, and I hope we can see more of that. [Ichinojo turned the tide with surprisingly nimble later movement. -lksumo]

Kakuryu defeats Tochiozan – When Big K is on his sumo, it’s amazing to watch. I tend to call his style “reactive”, and today is a perfect example. Tochiozan tries a hit-and-shift at the tachiai, but Kakuryu maintains contact with his right hand, and lets that right hand guide him to a now high and unweighted Tochiozan. The trap sprung, the Yokozuna powers into his response and drives Tochiozan back and out.

Hakuho defeats Myogiryu – Hakuho wanted to beat him twice, as Myogiryu hit the clay and bounced up, with Hakuho looking to continue the match. The boss seems to be hungry for sumo action after 4 months in dry-dock. Watch out.

Mitakeumi defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato was high, his sumo was sloppy, and he really could do very little against Mitakeumi who seemed poised and in control the entire match. Might be time to sharpen the scissors. Josh, my toilet paper stash is ready.

Bruce’s Banzuke Commentary

Bruce-Kokugikan

Hello Tachiai readers, and I hope all of you are enjoying the festive holiday season. The Japan Sumo Association delivered the Hatsu banzuke for Christmas, and it was full of potential for a fantastic tournament in just over 2 weeks. While most of the world takes a year-ending breather, what could be a tumultuous January tournament lurks just around the corner.

Yokozuna Kisenosato’s posting to the 1 East slot is the first surprise. While he entered the Kyushu basho in November, he failed to win a single bout before he pulled out of the tournament citing an injury. We have written extensively about the tragedy that is Kisenosato’s tenure as Yokozuna, and in the past we have forecasted that it would become increasingly farcical if he chose to try and gamberize his way through things. But a “zero win” promotion has to be one of the more farcical things I have seen in sumo for a while.

None of the three current Yokozuna are presenting as blazing examples of genki power at the moment. Each sat out part or all of Kyuhshu, each have some lingering injury that is hampering their performance. None of them participated much in the Fuyu jungyo, either because of their injuries, or wisely conserving whatever health they had mustered for the January tournament. Could we end up with a second straight “nokazuna” tournament?

The Ozeki ranks also have their worries, with Goeido being the most banged up of the bunch. Only Takayasu seems to be in fighting form as we close out 2018, with Tochinoshin a potent but fragile rival.

But just past the Ozeki ranks, we find the upstart challenger. After blasting his way through Kyushu and scoring his first yusho, it’s Takakeisho who is at the Sekiwake 1 East slot. It’s tough to tell how much impact the promotional appearances and awards ceremonies will have on his sumo, but I expect him to show up strong and dominant from the start. His youthful vigor and stamina may give him an edge over the experience and boundless skill of some of his higher-ranked opponents for January. He comes into Hatsu with a string of kachi-koshi tournaments: 13-2, 9-6, 10-5, 10-5. For those keeping count, with 11 wins at Hatsu, he could be considered for promotion to Ozeki.

Mitakeumi finds himself still in the San’yaku, but in dire need to regroup, reorganize and reconnect with his sumo. He has been a “Future Ozeki” for a while, and should Takakeisho bypass him and reach sumo’s second highest rank, it would either be a source of frustration, or a stiff motivation to elevate his sumo to the next level. That’s an evolution his fans (myself included) have been looking forward to for a couple of years.

Further down the banzuke, it’s kind of interesting to see how many long-serving veterans are in the joi-jin for this tournament. The problem with that is that many of these rikishi are towards the end of their careers, and the cumulative injuries and problems mean that they struggle to perform consistently. I would include in this group: Tochiozan, Shohozan, Kotoshogiku, Okinoumi and Yoshikaze. This would mean that it is possible that the joi may give up a lot of white stars to the named ranks, giving someone an easy path.

Then there are a handful of rikishi that I think are worth some excitement. This would include Nishikigi, who against all expectations was able to earn his kachi-koshi at Maegashira 3, and finds himself at Maegashira 2. This guy really is a bit of a Cinderella story, and every time he wins, I cheer. Hokutofuji has struggled with injuries and stamina issues during tournaments, but he has sound fundamentals in his sumo, and few specializations that give him an exciting fighting edge in any match. Aoiyama has all of the pieces needed to be an upper ranked rikishi, but between injuries and what I can only guess might be “jitters” in some matches, he falls a bit short. He’s making another run towards the top now, and we wish him a solid tournament. Then there is Onosho, who seemed in November to still be recovering from his summer injury and reconstructive surgery. While his friend Takakeisho has become a driving force in sumo, I personally think Onosho is the stronger rikishi, and has greater upside potential. I am looking to see him continue to improve over November, and I think Maegashira 6 is a great rank for him this time. He is outside of the joi, and he will fight a lot of hit-or-miss vets who may struggle with his speed and energy.

With the table set, fans around the world are counting down the days to the start of Haru. The rikishi will begin to train in earnest starting in the next few days, and we will be following the workup to Sunday January 13th with eager anticipation!

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)