Bruce’s Day 4 Roundup


Kise-Day4

While day 3 may have been a bit bland and pulpy, day 4 recovered with a zesty blob of wasabi served up fresh and feisty. Almost every match was a real battle, with both rikishi giving it their all with vigor and stamina. Great day to catch the full torikumi via Kintamayama’s YouTube channel!

It’s clear that a handful of rikishi will be in position to challenge for the cup, and it’s really an exciting and surprising mix.

Clearly the favorite today would be Hakhuho. The Boss looks to be in solid form, and he has thus far dismantled all challengers. With Harumafuji out of the basho, he only needs to worry about Goeido and Takayasu.

Oh? The Ozeki corps? They are in fact dominating as well. Both are undefeated, and both look to be able to stay that way for the next few days until they get into week 2. Goeido is in top form, in fact he is in similar spirit to his Aki 2016 performance. Strong, fast, unstoppable. Takayasu is more tenuous, he has come close to defeat a couple of times, but managed to pull it out.

Then, if you can believe it, Ichinojo! Yes it’s only week one, but its so wonderful to see Ichinojo back to a bit of his old self. For recent sumo fans, this guy used to be the next kaiju.

Rounding out the undefeated list, it’s none other than Uncle Sumo! How wonderful is that? Aminishiki, all the way down at Maegashira 13, is undefeated. Thus far he has not had to really work too hard, as everyone who has faced him has handed him a win. Of course this is because Aminishiki is very experienced, highly skilled, and like all great athletes, makes it look easy.

On the down side is Kisenosato. His failure to dispatch Takakeisho underscores the fact that he is only partially recovered. Note in his match today how he protects his left side. This is especially acute as Kisenosato is left hand / foot dominant.

Highlight Matches

Ryuden defeats Kotoyuki – Up from Juryo for the day, crowd favorite Ryuden shows us why the folks who get to watch Juryo matches love him. The match with Kotoyuki was fast paced, frantic and unpredictable. If NHK shows this match today, don’t miss it – he’s likely to be in Makuuchi soon.

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – Some false start nonsense before the tachiai, and frankly Aminishiki did not quite land his right hand, but once they launched, Uncle Sumo used the same push-then-pull tactic that has won the last three.

Kagayaki defeats Daiamami – Excellent effort from both men, Daiamami got turned around in the post-tachiai struggle for grip, and Kagayaki was quick to force him out. Kagayaki can really bring some excellent sumo when he is on his game.

Okinoumi defeats Kaisei – I am starting to hope that dear Okinoumi has found a way to manage his chronic injury. His sumo, while not Nagoya 2016 level, is looking better.

Ikioi defeats Endo – This was not a long or elegant match, but these two went at it with gusto. The ending was a bit more of a collapse than a throw, but excellent effort all around.

Daieisho defeats Asanoyama – Something must be in the chikara-mizu today, everyone was really putting in massive effort, these two included. Daieisho took control at the tachiai, applying a series of nodowa, and keeping Asanoyama high and off balance. Daieisho in the end overpowered Asanoyama at the tawara for the win.

Chiyomaru defeats Shodai – I get the feeling Shodai decided he was getting too soft, and decided it was time to do sumo again. Though he lost he really put his back into it today, giving Chiyomaru a heck of a fight, including a valiant and successful last stand at the tawara. But Chiyomaru had this one dialed in, and turned Shodai’s pressure at the edge into an opportunity to pull him down.

Tochinoshin defeats Takarafuji – Another excellent strength sumo match up, and Takarafuji should be commended for keeping it close. Its clear that Tochinoshin is trying to keep pressure off of his damaged right knee, so he needs to bank every win he can get. In this match he seems to be fighting nearly one-legged.

Ichinojo defeats Arawashi – Massive effort from Arawashi, who nearly had this section of the Eshima bridge out a couple of times. But each time, Ichinojo would rally and block his kimarite. As Arawashi was setting up his third attempt to end the match, he stepped out just as he was cocking a throw, giving the match to Ichinojo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Terunofuji – It’s just getting depressing to watch Terunofuji lose every day. He’s hurt, he can’t do sumo, and there is no way he is getting his Ozeki hanko back any time soon. We do get to see Kotoshogiku hug-n-chug for the first time this basho. The old bulldozer can still bring it down.

Yoshikaze defeats Onosho – As predicted, the Berserker had a lot of pent up frustrations that he brought to the match, and deposited on Onosho’s face. Both of them were batting each other like tabbies jacked up on weapons-grade catnip, but the tadpole was no match for the master.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyonokuni – Messy, messy match, from the matta at the front end to the rubbery collapse into a heap at the edge that concluded it. It’s clear that Mitakeumi is only about 80%, but that tadpole shape is a tough one for Chiyonokuni.

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – This habitual matta garbage from Tamawashi is probably going to receive some attention from the Kyokai, because it’s getting really old. Of course he is trying to throw Goeido off his tachiai timing, because we all know that Goeido is going to rip into you before you can even stand up. But the matta flurry did not have that effect, and Goeido won rather convincingly.

Takayasu defeats Shohozan – Shohozan decides to let Takayasu do what he does better than anyone: lock up an opponent and use his inhuman endurance to wear them down. I am sure that just after they went chest to chest, Shohozan was sorry he did it. The burly Ozeki can and probably does maintain that position against the teppo pole overnight, while sleeping. After Shohozan got tired of holding up 400 pounds of Ibaraki beef, it was easy enough to put him out of the ring.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – Back to worry over Kisenosato, he was favoring his left side, and Takakeisho took full advantage of it. If this is just “I have not done honbasho sumo for 6 months” he will snap in soon enough, but if he’s still injured, it’s time to go kyujo.

Hakuho defeats Chiyotairyu – That was two giant handfuls of struggling rikishi that Hakuho bested today. For a few seconds, Hakuho seemed to be struggling to decide how best to contain Chiyotairyu, but once he got inside of Chiyotairyu’s grip, it was time to put the rikishi out. Hakuho is looking unstoppable… again.

Kyushu Day 3 Preview


You Want To Do What?

The schedulers have given sumo fans many wonderful gifts for Tuesday, and we are eager to enjoy them. It seems that it was decided that day three would be twins day, and so most rikishi are facing their “twin”.  We have two giant men of girth, two youngsters who could push a Volkswagen up a hill without breaking a sweat, a pair of brawlers… Well, you get the idea!

The open questions we have going into day three include: 1. Is Harumafuji going to be able to gamberize and stick in the rotation? 2. How hurt is Aoiyama? 3. How hurt is the perpetually injured Kotoyuki? 4. What is it going to take to get Terunofuji to admit he’s injured and should not be playing kaiju today?

What We Are Watching Day Three

Kotoyuki vs. Myogiryu – Kotoyuki seemed to have injured his ankle on day two, but this guy is almost always hurt in some way. I hope that it was only light damage and he will be fit and ready for battle. He holds an 8-2 career lead over Myogiryu, but this will come down to injuries.

Nishikigi vs. Aminishiki – The only prior time these two faced off was in Juryo, and Nishikigi was the winner. For the first two days Aminishiki has looked very smooth and in control, and Nishikigi is not really showing us amazing sumo yet. So I would give a slight advantage to Uncle Sumo for this one.

Kagayaki vs. Asanoyama – These two are practically the same rikishi, that’s what makes this match so delightful! The primary difference is that Kagayaki gains weight in unfortunate locations, and Asanoyama is such a happy guy he may just laugh about it.

Kaisei vs. Aoiyama – Two rotund giants in a battle of the “Too Big To Flail”. Seriously though, probably a forfeit win for Kaisei as I hear Aoiyama really cranked up his ankle on day two.

Endo vs. Shodai – Ah Shodai, I am going to assume that Endo is going to make you pay for your high and slow tachiai. Endo seems to be bouncing back hard now, and if he can keep himself free of injuries, may be capable of rejoining the joi soon. For Endo fans that would be a welcome return. For Shodai, once he fixes his tachiai he’s going to make his next move higher.

Ichinojo vs. Hokutofuji – Both of these guys are showing some great sumo so far. I do love that they are going to put them head to head and see what happens. Hokutofuji has been quite fast and low so far, but against Ichinojo, it may not matter. Imagine being locked in hand to hand combat with a bridge abutment. Such a situation is going to require unusual tactics.

Shohozan vs. Chiyonokuni – Two sluggers going toe to toe. Chiyonokuni needs to start winning some, but home town boy Shohozan is starting off on a hot streak. My prediction for this fight is fast and painful, with more than one fierce blow to the face.

Mitakeumi vs. Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has had a crappy first set of matches, and he has eaten a good amount of clay in front of his home town fans. Now he faces an injured Mitakeumi, and I am guessing we are going to see some pelvic thrusts of extraordinary magnitude.

Terunofuji vs. Yoshikaze – Terunofuji has no knees left. I fear a replay of the Black Knight scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Much as we love both Terunofuji and Yoshikaze, this bout is going to be unpleasant to watch.

Onosho vs. Takayasu – Oh what wonders! A first time match between a powerful, brutal Ozeki and a potent up-start. I think the advantage here is Takayasu, but I am eager to see what tactics Onosho employs.

Goeido vs. Tochiozan – I am looking for more Geoido 2.0 here, and I would think that Tochiozan is at least considering a henka.

Takakeisho vs. Hakuho – A rematch we have all been waiting for. What kind of lessons will the Boss hand out to upstart Takakeisho today? Or can the angriest of tadpoles take back some dignity from the rikishi who schooled him in Nagoya?

Harumafuji vs. Tamawashi – A big test match for Harumafuji, if he loses again today it’s clear he is too banged up to compete. I know for a fact that Harumafuji would rather this not be the case, so we may finally see him unleash some of his more defensive tricks. But Tamawashi does indeed know how to win against Harumafuji, so both men will fight hard.

Kisenosato vs. Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is now super-sized for your entertainment, and he gets to test a still-questionable Kisenosato. Today should be the day we can tell if Kisenosato is going to be able to go the distance, or if he is still too hurt to practice Yokozuna level sumo.

Kyushu Day 2 Preview


Kisenosato-Dohyo-Iri-Kyushu-Day-1

Day 1 was a complete mess, more so than they usually are for a few reasons that come to mind. As has been cited and oft repeated, the tempo of the jungyo is really taking its toll. Rikishi lack the time to properly train, properly focus and properly prepare for a basho under the current schedule. This seems to increase the prevalence of injuries, and on day 1 we saw a lot of sloppy sumo in the upper division. Secondly, I think that you have people like Kisenosato, who have not really competed in sumo for many months, coming in rusty but giving it their all.

I would note how triumphant Aminishiki’s first day back in the top division was. Not only did he score a convincing win with an elegant and smooth uwatenage over Kotoyuki, for most fans in the west, this is the first time they have seen him interviewed. Aminishiki is so personable and sincere, it’s easy to imagine a future day where “Uncle Sumo” is masterfully handling press and PR for the Kyokai. For a man who has struggled and endured much, this must have been a sweet reward.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Nishikigi vs. Ishiura – Nishikigi refuses to give up, even when he’s not at his best. But one rikishi who seems to have his number is Ishiura. There have been reports that Ishiura injured his neck in training, and we will get to see how much he is impacted, if at all. Ishiura fans all hope that he’s only visiting Juryo, and will come roaring back to the top division soon.

Aminishiki vs. Kagayaki – Both men won their day 1 matches with power and poise, and now we get to see a hit-or-miss youngster face off against Uncle Sumo. This is actually the first time these two have ever met, but my early favorite is Aminishiki, due to my suspicion that Kagayaki will be a bit awestruck that he gets to fight Aminishiki.

Asanoyama vs. Ikioi – These two are practically the same guy, save that Ikioi is struggling to keep up now, and Asanoyama is ascendant. Day 1 Ikioi was sloppy and vague, and his fans are hoping that he can pull it together today. No matter how this bout goes, Asanoyama is going to look like he is having a great time.

Endo vs. Kaisei – I tend to liken Endo to a skilled hunter. He seems patient, and is always working to find a momentary weakness to facilities his strike. Kaisei is greatly improved, but is still lumbering around the dohyo a bit too much. Career totals give a slight edge to Endo, but I would love to see Kaisei pull this one out with some solid sumo.

Chiyoshoma vs. Shodai – Chiyoshoma displayed some excellent, well conceived offense day 1, while Shodai seems to be lost and directionless after some fantastic performance earlier in the year. Many of his fans were convinced he was on a trajectory similar to Mitakeumi, but then Shodai fell apart. He continues with his miserable tachiai, which I think is the root of his problem.

Daishomaru vs. Tochinoshin – Daishomaru has never won against Tochinoshin, but the big Georgain may be too banged up to present his normal wall of brute strength and limitless endurance to an opponent. We do hope that Tochinoshin can get in touch with his sumo, one could easily liken a genki Tochinoshin to fighting one of the stone monoliths on Easter Island.

Takarafuji vs. Ichinojo – This could be a solid match today, as Ichinojo seems to be in touch with his sumo. Takarafuji dropped his day one match, but if he comes up ready on day 2, his careful methodical sumo could give Ichinojo a real challenge. But let’s get serious – I have stated that being enormous is not a valid sumo strategy, but if your sumo is running hot, being enormous can make you unstoppable. Slight edge to Takarafuji, even though Ichinojo leads their career series 8-2, due to the fact that Takarafuji has no neck to grab.

Mitakeumi vs. Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is still destined for great things, even if he needs to consolidate his sumo a bit over the next few tournaments. Today’s match against Mitakeumi is likely a milestone on that road. Mitakeumi does not seem to be 100% at the moment, and loss to Hokutofuji would be a huge confidence booster coming on the back of Hokutofuji’s defeat of Terunofuji.

Terunofuji vs. Shohozan – This will be yet another painful to watch match. Terunofuji has no way to put power to ground, so his normal style to overpower his opponents is not going to happen. Shohozan’s highly mobile style is likely to cause a lot of trouble for Terunofuji, and I just hope he comes out of this without further injuring his bum knee. These two are tied 3-3 over their career.

Chiyotairyu vs. Yoshikaze – I am sure Yoshikaze is disappointed in his day 1 results. But as we all know, the Berserker tends to have cold tournament starts, catch fire and end by taking everyone’s lunch money. The super-sized Chiyotairyu is going to be a tough customer, but Yoshikaze will still try to see how high the burly man from Kokonoe will bounce.

Goeido vs. Kotoshogiku – Oh my, this will either be a dud or a barn burner. My advice to Kotoshogiku – henka hard, but sell it. Goeido is clearly working his 100% attack mode (which we love), so a henka would be a perfect opening gambit. Double bonus points to Goeido if he can get low on Kotoshogiku and run him off before the Bulldozer can even get started.

Tochiozan vs. Takayasu – Tochiozan has a habit of confounding and defeating Takayasu, he holds a career lead of 19-6 over the kadoban Ozeki. Takayasu can’t afford to drop any matches, so lets hope he can contain Tochiozan’s explosive offense.

Harumafuji vs. Takakeisho – Do you think Harumafuji is frustrated by his day 1 performance? Well, time to take it out on Onosho’s boon companion Takakeisho. The problem is Takakeisho won’t be intimidated, and can (and has) beaten Harumafuji in the past. Advice to the horse – bring out the nodowa and make him march around the dohyo a bit first, please.

Kisenosato vs. Onosho – Are you worried about Kisenosato? I know I am. Tamawashi really was in control of most of that day 1 match, and Kisenosato fans did not want to see that. The Yokozuna seems to have trouble transmitting his will through his feet and moving forward. Onosho, on the other hand, has no problems doing this, and may in fact pick up on Tamawashi’s attack by getting the less mobile Kisenosato to try and run him down. This is their first match.

Tamawashi vs. Hakuho – Tamawashi showed outstanding mobility and tactics in his day 1 match against Kisenosato, but today he draws “The Boss”. I will look for Hakuho to grab him early and possibly we will get to see Tamawashi get one of Hakuho’s “Flying Lessons” (where he gets his opponent off the dohyo and sideways headed for the clay).

Aki Day 12 Highlights


Goeido-Pissed

The Makuuchi yusho race changed subtly today, in that tournament leader Goeido lost his match to Shohozan, but the nearest competitor, Chiyotairyu, lost as well. But now there is an enormous group of rikishi at 8 wins that are two behind the leader. This has opened the tiniest of chances that something wild could happen in the final three days of this basho. The odds of that are still remote. There are 10 rikishi, including Yokozuna Harumafuji and Sekiwake Yoshikaze, who are 8-4 as of today. Goeido will face Harumafuji on the final day, and the outcome of that bout is not predictable.

Several rikishi secured their kachi-koshi today, including Endo, Arawashi, Daieisho, Onosho, Kotoshogiku and Yokozuna Harumafuji. Hokutofuji and Yutakayama both reached 8 losses, locking in a make-koshi and demotion of some sort for November’s Kyushu basho. In the case of Yutakayama, his second trip to Makuuchi did not pan out, and he will likely return to Juryo to try again.

In Juryo, there are 4 rikishi with 8 wins as of the end of day 12, and an additional 8 rikishi one win off the pace at 7. As has been the case in the past few tournaments, the Juryo squad seems to be very evenly balanced, and most of the scores cluster closely around the 7-8 / 8-7 median. Many fans are delighted that Aminishiki aka “Uncle Sumo”, is one of the co-leaders for the yusho. Ranked at Juryo 2, he has a very good shot of being on the promotion train for Makuuchi.

Highlight Matches

Endo defeats Sadanoumi – Watching this match, it’s clear that Endo is still a bit tender on the ankle that has been repaired. He picks up his kachi-koshi and has another couple of months to get more strength in that ankle. Sadanoumi really has not been able to generate much offense, and we can attribute that to the injury that had him kyujo for the first week.

Yutakayama defeated by Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru owned this match the entire way, and is fighting well for a mid-level Maegashira. Yutakayama is make-koshi and headed down to Juryo after his second attempt to land in Makuuchi seems to have failed.

Okinoumi defeats Takanoiwa – Out of the tachiai, Takanoiwa landed but could not hold a shallow left hand grip. Okinoumi, who seems to be feeling well enough to put some effort into his sumo, took control and delivered the win via tsukiotoshi.

Arawashi defeats Asanoyama – This was a great match, and both rikishi put a huge effort into their sumo today, and this battle raged on for a good amount of time. Probably one of the better matches today.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – A close ending to their first attempt resulted in a monoii, and a rematch. The rematch resulted in Nishikigi being stunned for a few seconds after a tsuppari knocked him to the clay. It makes me wonder if someone checks these guys afterwards to see if they have a concussion that needs to be addressed.

Kaisei defeats Takarafuji – I really must compliment Kaisei for a vast improvement to his sumo this year. I think the weight loss has helped him quite a bit, and he took care of Takarafuji today.

Onosho defeats Chiyonokuni – When Chiyonokuni is in good health, he really delivers some exciting sumo. The match was quick, but intense, with Onosho taking command straight at the tachiai and driving Chiyonokuni back. Onosho now kachi-koshi and will be back in the joi for November.

Aoiyama defeats Kagayaki – The man-mountain Aoiyama is getting into his groove finally, and really delivers a massive pounding to Kagayaki, who desperately needs to regroup.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Blink and you will miss it! Kotoshogiku deftly tossed Chiyotairyu like he was taking out the trash. Kotoshogiku kachi-koshi with this win, and it will be quite awesome to see if he can re-ascend to San’yaku for November.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – Mitakeumi has been dangerously close to a make-koshi trajectory, but today’s win over Shodai helps his cause quite a bit. If both Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze end up with winning records, we will see another banzuke with significant contention for the San’yaku slots.

Yoshikaze defeats Takakeisho – Great to see Yoshikaze overcome Takakeisho’s “Wave Action Tsuppari” attack. With Yoshikaze now safely in winning record territory, we know at least one Sekiwake will be staying put for Kyushu. Takakeisho needs to mix things up a bit, as his single dominant attack form will be decoded, and the countermeasure to it adopted by all.

Shohozan defeats Goeido – This would have been a massive shift in the yusho race if it had not been that every chaser lost as well. Goeido remains two ahead of everyone. They had a tough time getting started, with “Big Guns” Shohozan jumping the tachiai twice. The Ozeki’s two attempt at pulling Shohozan down left him off balance, and Shohozan exploited that mistake in a blink of an eye. Great effort by both today.

Harumafuji defeats Tamawashi – Straightforward bout, but it’s clear that Harumafuji is in pain with every step. With this win Harumafuji is kachi-koshi, and can make a strong case for keeping the scissors in the drawer.

Aki Day 12 Preview


Goeido-Entry

We are working our way towards the conclusion of this really crazy Aki basho, and it’s clear that another loss by Chiyotairyu, and Goeido will be able to claim the yusho. Short of injury, there is very little chance that Goeido can be derailed. Many sumo fans will grouse about his early match strategy of avoiding the fight, but a win is a win, and this yusho will be just as valid as all the others. In fact, having a well known rikishi able to step up and dominate the field of newcomers is probably quite important for fans and actually for the newcomers too. Too much fame too soon can be a poison to any athlete or performers career.

Goeido is now fighting daily like his old self from Aki 2016, and in this mode he is a worthy champion indeed. At one point a few days ago, a reader on Facebook accused Tachiai of “Goeido Bashing”. Some thoughts on that (Bruce’s opinion only here):

I have heard from some readers and fans that they are weary of Tachiai’s Goeido bashing. I welcome all comments and opinions here that come from our readers, as truly the site is nothing without you. So perhaps I can offer an explanation. Let’s start with a contrast.

Take a look at our coverage from Aki last year. We were unabashed raging Goeido enthusiasts, his sumo was amazing, and his accomplishment was literally record-setting. Some links for those who may not have been with us then

Goeido – Redemption
It’s Goeido!
Aki Day 13 Preview
Kisenosato Defeated – Day 11

The team at Tachiai more or less love everything about sumo, and we think that every rikishi has a part to play in this wonderful and amazing sport. We have expectations of the top men of sumo, and we don’t feel they are unfounded, and when there is someone who is amazing as Goeido who choses to win easy rather than win big, we call him on it.

You can bank on the fact that when he does use his amazing offensive techniques to win, we are cheering him on. Tachiai loves sumo. Good, action packed, burly, crazy sumo. We cheer those who deliver, and chide those who would rather not.

Aki Leader board

Short of injury, there is very little chance that Goeido can be derailed from claiming his second yusho. Many sumo fans will grouse about his early match strategy of avoiding the fight, but a win is a win, and this yusho will be just as valid as all the others.

Leader – Goeido
Chaser – Chiyotairyu

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Endo vs. Sadanoumi – Endo has kachi-koshi on the line today, while there are few reasons for Sadanoumi not to worry about a fast ramp down to Juryo for November. Their career record is 4-3 favoriting Endo, but in this tournament, Endo has been looking fairly strong.

Yutakayama vs. Chiyomaru – Yutakayama looking at maki-koshi and a return to Juryo as well should he lose today’s bout. Chiyomaru has faded in the second week, but should be able to give Yutakayama a good fight.

Ishiura vs. Daishomaru – Hapless Ishiura will likely be the prey for Daishomaru’s kachi-koshi bout. I am going to have to assume that at this point Ishiura is damaged in some why, and we just don’t know about it. He can’t seem to buy a win.

Asanoyama vs. Arawashi – Time to see if Mr Happy is going to be able to press for a sansho special prize. He will need to get two more wins before the end of the tournament for consideration, but day 12 against a resurgent Arawashi will be a stiff test. This is their first time meeting, but I would give the advantage to Arawashi.

Kaisei vs. Takarafuji – Takarafuji looks for his kachi-koshi win against a much improved Kaisei. Their career record is 11-9, with Kaisei in the lead, though Takarafuji holds the bulk of the more recent wins. I am expecting a somewhat methodical match between these two.

Onosho vs. Chiyonokuni – Onosho, like many of the tadpoles, faded in week 2. The brutal rotation of this bottom heavy basho has taken its toll on the newcomers, and Onosho is still looking to pick up his 8th win to secure his place for Kyushu. Chiyonokuni has been fighting well, but not winning as much as his frantic action on they dohyo might indicate. Chiyonokuni took their only prior match.

Tochinoshin vs. Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is facing his second career make-koshi today. But Tochinoshin is in “limp home” mode now to be certain. It’s still possible for Hokutofuji to turn things around and eek out a winning record, but he needs to win everything from here on out.

Chiyotairyu vs. Kotoshogiku – Interesting strategic play here. A Chiyotairyu loss would hand the yusho to Goiedo. If you are Kotoshogiku, do you throttle back? I am going to say “no”. A win here today and Kotoshogiku also secures his winning record, and begins to make the case for his return to San’yaku. The Kyushu Bulldozer leads their career totals 5-1, so if Chiyotairyu does not blast him at the tachiai, I look for the hug-and-chug express to be applied with gusto.

Mitakeumi vs. Shodai – Another match of the disappointments. Both are at 5-6, both are looking really stale and ineffective. Shodai holds a slights 5-4 advantage in their career stats, but that may not matter too much for day 12. For Mitakeumi fans, don’t fear for him. Even if he is maki-koshi this time, he will be back. He is an excellent sumotori, but setbacks are to be expected along his road.

Takakeisho vs. Yoshikaze – Now this one has a lot of potential. Both of them are high intensity mobile attack platforms. Takakeisho has shown a preference for yo-yo maneuvers on his opponents, a repeated pattern of strike and retreat. We know that Yoshikaze has a deep bag of kimarite that he does not always reach too deeply into, but I am hoping he can uncork some fun attack got quell Takakeisho. Yoshikazen won their only prior match.

Shohozan vs. Goeido – Big Guns Shohozan will be against Goeido 2.0 or maybe even 2.1 on day 12. I love me some Shohozan power sumo, but Goeido is allowing himself to really execute his attacks at full power now. Goeido holds a clear series advantage at 10-5 against Shohozan.

Tamawashi vs. Harumafuji – Tamawashi has been delivering some really burly sumo the past week, and we know that Harumafuji is soldering on in spite of the pain and the problems. I think all of Harumafuji’s fans just want him to win 3 more and be able to exit Aki with some Yokozuna dignity in place.

Aki Day 10 Highlights


Goeido-Salt

Goeido Pulling Away From Pursuit

Today closed out the second act of the Aki basho in a manner befitting this “Wacky Aki”. Yusho race leader Goeido won his match against Tochiozan to remain alone at the top of the pack, while all but one of his pursuers lost. This narrows the conditions that the yusho would come into contention again significantly, and it’s increasingly probable that Goeido will be this basho’s winner. Today he looked strong, confident went on offense immediately, and never looked back.

Harumafuji did not fare as well against Takakeisho, who successfully employed the attack and retreat strategy that got him mocked in Nagoya by Yokozuna Hakuho. This time he was able to keep Harumafuji reacting, and eventually off balance. I blame the Yokozuna for not just blasting him from the dohyo, which I am sure was his original plan. Congrats to Takakeisho for scoring yet another kinboshi.

With the end of the second act, we have a very clear picture of who is going to do well, and who is struggling to just survive. Sadly, Ishiura and Tokushoryu went into in the make-koshi bin today. Clearly Ishiura is a fraction of his Kyushu self, and I can only hope that someone can repair whatever has gone wrong and get him back to awesome.

Highlight Matches

Endo defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu now make-koshi, and Endo looked really solid putting him there. Granted he is fighting the lower end of Makuuchi, but it seems that Endo is probably on an upward path after his ankle surgery. Fans everywhere are rejoicing.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – Mr Sunshine gives it a text book run, and bests Nishikigi who is treading dangerously close to make-koshi himself. Asanoyama has really adapted well to the upper division, and hopefully can continue to excel.

Arawashi defeats Yutakayama – The match started with a matta, but Arawashi owned this from the tachiai. Yutakayama has been really hit-or-miss, but Arawashi is having a great run this Aki.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru falls to 2 off Goeido’s leaders pace with his loss to Chiyoshoma. Oddly, Daishomaru did not even really look like he was ready, and Chiyoshoma dispatched him easily.

Takarafuji defeats Ishiura – Wild and crazy match that Ishiura could have won at least twice. For a while, Ishiura was able to get behind Takarafuji, but could not finish him off. Takarafuji just seems very calm, methodical, and keeps working his plan. Great come back for the man with no neck.

Ikioi defeats Takekaze – It was clear that Ikioi was looking for the henka, but Takekaze was going to meet him head on. Ikioi got the best of a rather slow tachiai, and quickly got Takekaze off balance and rolling. Takekaze is now one loss from maki-kochi.

Ichinojo defeats Takanoiwa – Another of Goeido’s contenders hits the clay, as Ichinojo hands Takanoiwa his third loss. When Ichinojo can get you in a throwing grip, there is little that anyone can do. With his size and strength, you are going for a ride. We tease about Ichinojo quite a bit, and that is mostly because he is a shadow of his former self in many ways. I think the other rikishi sometimes assume that he’s not a serious contender now, and on many days he’s not. But today he made quick work of Takanoiwa.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Sadly this is not a wonderful victory of the struggling rikishi overcoming a strong and healthy veteran via an epic struggle. Instead Shohozan slipped on the clay and fell. Kintamayama calls these “Slippiotoshi” wins.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin really is in bad, banged up shape. He put up a valiant fight against Chiyotairyu, but Chiyotairyu seems to really be dialed in for now. He remains the only one in range to challenge Goeido.

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – The Kyushu Bulldozer dispatches Onosho, who many were counting on to challenge Goeido for the yusho. While still mathematically possible, it is increasingly unlikely. This is not uncommon with fast rising young rikishi, they hit a snag in the second week, and finish strong, but not strong enough to challenge. Onosho will be back, and better than ever. We are going to enjoy this guy and his crazy high amplitude sumo for years to come. Kotoshogiku has not looked this solid in a while.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji seemed to have a really bad case of the nerves, as he jumped early twice. Tamawashi quickly had him on defense and dominated the match. I expect that whatever strategy Hokutofuji may have had going in was so shattered by his two false starts that once the match got underway he was easy prey.

Aoiyama defeats Mitakeumi – The Man Mountain Aoiyama finally wins one after his return to the basho mid-way through. This time, Aoiyama did use the “Stand and Deliver” strategy, and Mitakeumi bought it. The future Ozeki needs to think through this one, as it’s not the first time someone has used it on him.

Yoshikaze defeats Shodai – Yoshikaze made really quick work of Shodai, he managed to keep his face from bleeding today! Shodai needs a new transmission and possibly a valve job, as he’s failing hard. From the look on his face, Shodai is getting very frustrated with his performance.

Goeido defeats Tochiozan – This is what we expect to see from Goeido. He took command from the tachiai and never let Tochiozan set up any kind of offense. Now that he has his kachi-koshi, I am hoping that we see this Goeido for the rest of the basho.

Takakeisho defeats Harumafuji – Harumafuji drops another kinboshi, and Takakeisho could not be happier. Takakeisho was able to keep Harumafuji from getting inside and taking control, so this loss is really on him. He let Takakeisho set the tempo and style of the match, and Harumafuji payed the price.

Aki Day 10 Preview


Yumitori-shiki

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

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

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

Aki Leader board

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

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

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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