Nagoya Day 8 Highlights

You want me to grab his what now? – Image shamelessly stolen from Twitter

What the hell was that? Chief gyoji Shikimori Inosuke has long been on my list of people who are not quite up to the task. Today he made an outrageous choice to stop the match between Terunofuji and Wakamotoharu at a pivotal moment of action because he was concerned that Wakamotoharu’s mawashi was loose. Folks may say that Inosuke should retire, but that would move Kimura Tamajiro up, and he’s even more of a shambles in my book. On the match mechanics, I do think that Terunofuji was honestly enjoying that match with Wakamotoharu, and was giving him a good and balanced battle with the intent of throwing him down once he had finished showing him how it’s done. Herouth goes into more detail in the post below this one, and it’s worth the read.

There is still no leaderboard, as Ichinojo lost today. There are seven rikishi at 6-2, one win outside the top end of funnel, who may in fact compete for the cup in the upcoming week. I think that by the end of act 2 on Tuesday, it should be clear who is going to be in contention heading into the final five days.

On more troubling news, an additional stable is now COVID-kyujo, Naruto. This Omicron variant is quite virulent, and given that we now have 2 stables turning up cases mid-basho may indicate that everyone is going to need to test for the next few days.

Highlight Matches

Onosho defeats Daishoho – A bit of an early start by Onosho, but he gets a couple of big pushes against Daishoho’s chest and moves him directly out. He may have been waiting for a matta on that tachiai, or a monoii on stepping out, but it was official. Onosho improves to 5-3 by oshidashi.

Oho defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru’s over reliance on pulling his opponents costs him matches like these. He had multiple tries, none of them were well placed or timed. Each time he pulled again Oho, he gave up advantage, so he lost this a piece at a time. Oho eventually got workable hand placement with a double inside grip, and marched Chiyomaru out to improve to 5-3 by yorikiri.

Myogiryu defeats Daiamami – Daiamami opens strong into Myogiryu’s hit and shift to the left. For the first few moments, Daiamami is in charge working his way toward a win. But Myogiryu manages to get a right hand inside just before Daiamami can press for the finish, Myogiryu rallies and drives Daiamami out to advance to 5-3 by oshidashi.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Tsurugisho – Ichiyamamoto continues his absolute dominance over Tsurugisho, expanding his career record to 5-0. Tsurugisho had a strong open, but as soon as Ichiyamamoto started to really, Tsurugisho unwisely tried to pull, and Ichiyamamoto surged forward to attack. Ichiyamamoto now 6-2 by oshidashi.

Nishikifuji defeats Chiyoshoma – We have not seen a Chiyoshoma henka in a while, and today’s attempt probably did more harm to his cause than good. With is body not in any sort of sumo position, it was easy for Nishikifuji to get a firm mawashi hold and drive Chiyoshoma out by yorikiri to improve to 6-2.

Takarafuji defeats Yutakayama – Its nice to see Takarafuji fighting well, which he managed to do today. He was able to stop Yutakayama’s attack at the tachiai, then Takarafuji worked to get an armpit hold which he used to move Yutakayama back, and toss him across the bales to improve to 3-5 by oshidashi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Shimanoumi – Both of these guys started this match at 1-6, and both of them are likely to be make-koshi by the end of the second act in Tuesday. But today we got to see Terutsuyoshi fight in reverse for a block of time, until he could get his hands placed, his feet set and attack. Once Terutsuyoshi started moving forward, it was a quick run to the bales to send Shimanoumi out by yorikiri, improving to 2-6.

Tochinoshin defeats Midorifuji – Midorifuji came in strong, grabbing for Tochinoshin’s mawashi at the front. A strong right hand swat to move Midorifuji away sent him tumbling into the front row. That’s some strength! Tochinoshin now 5-3 by hatakikomi.

Nishikigi defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho has all of the offense in this match, save for the final moment. As Kotoshoho is driving forward to move Nishikigi out, Nishikigi manages to pivot and deliver a throw at the moment he falls off the dohyo into the front row. The shimpan want to review it, so a monoii is called. The replay only further refined Nishikigi’s outstanding move at the bales, he improves to 6-2 by kotenage.

Chiyotairyu defeats Okinoumi – Chiyotairyu managed to gather up enough power to show us one of his cannonball tachiai after a long absence. Nice to see him do it, and he stampedes Okinoumi out in 3 steps, advancing to 5-3.

Meisei defeats Hokutofuji – A fine example of why Hokutofuji has “the strongest make-koshi in all of sumo”. He opens strong, fights like a ranging madman and is relentless. But he gets off balance, he is too far forward, and Meisei drops him with a katasukashi to advance to 5-3.

Tobizaru defeats Kotoeko – A great start to this match, Tobizaru attacks with power from the tachiai, and Kotoeko looks to be ready to change his hand placement and counter attack. But it all comes to an end as Tobizaru a delivers a foot sweep, knocking Kotoeko to the clay by kekaeshi. Tobizaru now 6-2.

Ura defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama is so tentative at the tachiai, he’s wide open for Ura to just pick an impact spot and propel “Big Dan” straight out. Aoiyama lost this one before it even started, which is a shame. Both end the day 4-4.

Kotonowaka defeats Ichinojo – The concern following Ichinojo’s first loss on day 7 to Kotonowaka is that it would disrupt his mental state, it might rob him of the “I think I can” that is so important to winning in any human endeavor. Ichinojo, throughout his career, has been especially prone to this, and it seems it may have happened on day 7. Kotonowaka easily gets him standing up, then moves him around with comparative ease given his enormity. This is Ichinojo’s second loss, knocking him out of sole lead of the basho. They both end the day 6-2.

Hoshoryu defeats Kiribayama – I am really grateful for this match. So much of the torikumi is a roster of rikishi doing the best they can through a attenuating shroud of injury. It’s refreshing to see two young, healthy, strong, high-skill rikishi fight with everything they can muster. As is usually the case when these two fight, they end up being “kitchen sink” matches, where both are unleashing multiple attack forms moment by moment in an attempt to overwhelm the other’s defenses. Today it was Hoshoryu who came out on top with a yoritaoshi to hurl Kiribayama into the front row, improving Hoshoryu to 4-4.

Abi defeats Sadanoumi – Traditional Abi-zumo today. Sadanoumi tries to break up the double-arm thrusts, but can’t quite connect at the right tempo, and endures too many broad sides to maintain defensive foot placement. Abi drives him out on the 4th exchange by tsukidashi to end the day 5-3.

Wakatakakage defeats Daieisho – Daieisho opens strong, putting all of his attacks against Wakatakakage’s face. He’s making progress, but Wakatakakage finds an open route to Daieisho’s chest, and returns fire. With a right hand on Daieisho’s mawashi, Wakatakakage dials up the pressure and moves Daieisho first back, and then tumbling out. Wakatakakage takes the win to improve to 5-3 with a hearty oshitaoshi as Daieisho gets a face full of clay.

Takakeisho defeats Endo – Takakeisho played Endo’s desire for a mawashi hold very well. Time and again Endo lunged in to get a hand full of silk, and Takakeisho timed his thrusting to match. By the 4th exchange, Endo was off balance enough that the Ozeki could pull him forward and down. Takakeisho slaps victory number 5 out of Endo, advances to 5-3 by hatakikomi.

Shodai defeats Tamawashi – Great opening combo from Tamawashi. He had Shodai in deep trouble, and maybe that’s what it takes now to get some Shodai sumo. One step short of the tawara, Shodai breaks out the “Wall of Daikon”, and rushes forward to brute Tamawashi back. Where has this been? Stuck in the post from from the stable in Aichi? Did Yutakayama have it under his futon and forgot it was there? Glad to see it back, sir. Please use daily from here on out. Tamawashi gets yorikiri’d out, and Shodai is now 4-4.

Terunofuji defeats Wakamotoharu – Wakamotoharu loves to fight yotsu-zumo style. This is always a tough choice when facing Terunofuji, as he will happily join you in a battle hug, and wear you down. Wakamotoharu has some fine moves, but each time, Terunofuji slows him down, and marches him back to the center of the dohyo. They are fighting well, and I really was impressed by Wakamotoharu’s drive and stamina. After a long lock up, Wakamotoharu tries to drive forward… and WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? Tate gyoji Inosuke jumps in and tries to stop the match? Wakamotoharu kind of sort of won? They rewind the match? Try.. again? Well, on the re-do(?) Terunofuji uses his enormous strength to bodily throw Wakamotoharu down with a shitatenage, advancing to 6-2.

Day 8’s “Musubi no WTF”

Terunofuji turning appealing eyes to Inosuke (Photo from Nikkan Sports, by Ozawa Hitoshi)

Just when you think that this basho can’t get any crazier, Shikimori Inosuke tells us all to hold his beer.

I’m talking, of course, of what happened in the musubi-no-ichiban on day 8.

This starts out as an exciting match, with Wakamotoharu showing that his win over an Ozeki was not a fluke. The match gets complicated, and two minutes pass. Wakamotoharu gets the Yokozuna pretty close to the edge, shuffles for a position, while the Yokozuna also improves his own hold with a deep left hand grip.

Then Wakamotoharu goes on the attack and the Yokozuna is out! A zabuton flies in. The audience goes “oh!”. But… wait… the gyoji doesn’t point the gunbai. There’s a commotion. A monoii? What is going on?

Here is what is going on.

At exactly 2:54 in the video above, Wakamotoharu’s back knot gives in and gets untied. Shikimori Inosuke, who is standing far away on the other side of the dohyo, notices this, and runs in to call a mawashi matta. He shouts “matta, matta”, and attempts to tap both rikishi’s backs. Terunofuji complies and relaxes his hold, at which point Wakamotoharu, who was already starting an attack, completes it and the Yokozuna is out.

To understand what a mawashi-matta is, you can refer to my older article about gyoji calls (scroll down a bit). If the back knot is untied, the whole mawashi can get unraveled, at which point the front part may also loosen enough to show the rikishi’s family jewels – and that’s a “shameful disqualification”, and definitely not considered a good thing to watch on prime time TV.

So a gyoji has to stop the match, re-tie the knot, and start it from the position where it was stopped. It was unfortunate, though, that Wakamotoharu did not stop when the gyoji called it.

The shimpan discussion was not your usual monoii discussion, therefore, but a discussion about a rare if not unprecedented situation. A mawashi matta itself is not a problem, but continuing to move after that is, and there was also the issue of the Yokozuna going out.

The rules say that after the time limit (when the rikishi throw their last salt and enter the ring), exiting it is a loss. There was a famous case in a 1968 match between Katsuhikari and Asaarashi, in which Asaarashi picked a bit of trash that somehow got into the dohyo, and left the ring to throw it away. The shimpan stopped the match and a foul was called (loss by hansoku). So you are not supposed to leave the dohyo. But clearly the Yokozuna should not be punished for complying with the gyoji’s instruction, nor should Wakamotoharu be rewarded for not complying.

The shimpan had a consultation, and decided to proceed as if he never left the dohyo. That is, from the point of the mawashi-matta. The problem was getting the two rikishi back into their positions. So more than a mawashi-matta, this resembled a mizu-iri situation (see the same article!). But this turned out to be a bit difficult.

You see this sort of situation in Snooker sometimes. A foul and a miss is called, and the opponent requests a reset. The referee then consults with an overlay of the video and the table, and adjusts the balls until they are back to their original position.

But this is sumo, and what followed was a farcical adjustment of positions, arms and feet, with the spectators having a commotion in the background. You can see it in the video above from 4:24, when Shikimori Inosuke calls Sadogatake up to adjust the rikishi, as he is the only one with a video link. Only, of course, he can’t see the video, just hear instructions from the Fujishima oyakata, who was at the video room, and serve as a proxy.

I really hope the NSK will learn from this situation and equip the shimpan-cho with a tablet through which he’ll be able to see the overlay (or other video situations) with his own eyes rather than go through the “tell him to tell them that I was told that…” hoops.

Going back to the point of the call, though, there is argument that Inosuke’s call came at a bad timing. Sadogatake oyakata, in an interview, said the consultation was mainly to establish that it really was a mawashi-matta situation, but he wasn’t very clear about whether it was made at an appropriate time. Usually a mawashi-matta is only called when the rikishi are at an impasse. However, some shifting and shuffling do not prevent a mawashi-matta from being called. Inosuke clearly believed this was an impasse, as he stopped calling “nokotta” shortly before the incident.

His positioning can also be questioned, as if he stood closer to the pair, he’d probably have been able to react more quickly.

Another point for argument is whether it would have been better to call a yarinaoshi (redo, not a torinaoshi (rematch), which is the call made when two rikishi lose a match at the exact same time). Bear in mind there was also the question of time, because this was past 6 O’Clock Japan time and a yarinaoshi would have required the whole shikiri process again. It’s also debatable whether or not it would be fairer.

Kudos to Wakamotoharu for giving the yokozuna an excellent fight. Next time, though, make sure your mawashi is tied properly. Also, a nod to Shodai who fixed the knot for him though it’s clearly not his duty.

Aki 2019 Jungyo report – Day 4

We leave Toyama prefecture, and move Northeast to Niigata prefecture. So yesterday our man was Asanoyama. Today, it’s Yutakayama’s turn in the limelight.

Gagamaru continues off the torikumi, and this day he is also joined by Shimanoumi, who was supposed to be on, but is replaced by Meisei. Our list of sekitori in working order is shrinking fast. But on to happier stories.

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Jungyo Report – Sapporo

We still have more than a week before honbasho, so let’s take a look at the Jungyo events in Sapporo, which took place on August 17 and 18.

As it is hard to separate materials that were posted about the two days of this Sapporo event, I am going to plot them as one event. So while I’m fitting the post to the usual “Jungyo Day” format, bear in mind that the actual events described may not have been part of the same sequence.

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