Five Interesting Matches on Day 13

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With the Kyushu basho wrapping up, many of the matches on day 13 are in some ways more about the New Year tournament than the current one. Several rikishi, such as Okinoumi, Endo, and Kagayaki, will be facing opponents five or six ranks above them tomorrow, as the schedulers try to get an idea of what the Hatsu banzuke will look like. Here are just five interesting matches to keep an eye on for day 13.

Aoiyama vs. Daiamami

Although it wouldn’t do much to improve his current situation, I do think Aoiyama deserved a win on day 12. From the replays, it was pretty clear that Kotoyuki’s arm touched the clay a split second before the big Bulgarian’s heel stepped out, and I was very surprised there wasn’t at least a monoii. Aoiyama will have to leave the past behind and focus on tomorrow when he meets Daiamami, who despite losing the majority of his bouts has been giving it his all in the last half of this basho. Day 13 will be the first time these two rikishi meet.

Aminishiki vs. Ikioi

Everyone’s favorite uncle will once again try to secure his spot in the top division tomorrow. Aminishiki’s tournament started off strong, but he has faded a bit in the later half of this basho as his opponents began to figure out his tactics. Yet there is a man who may just fall for the wily veteran’s tricks, and his name is Ikioi. On any given day, Ikioi can show incredible skill and determination on the dohyo. But then there are days where he wrestles like a man with banana peels taped to his feet. It’s impossible to predict which Ikioi will show each day and if he decides to lace up the peels tomorrow, Aminishiki shouldn’t have much trouble making a fool of him.

Endo vs. Tamawashi

Apparently, Okinoumi isn’t the only one putting his health issues behind him, as crowd favorite Endo has been having another great tournament. Coming into day 13 with a 9-3 record, Endo is fighting much like he did when he first emerged on the Makuuchi scene and captured the hearts of sumo fans. His impressive showing has resulted in a massive jump up the torikumi, and he will face Maegashira 1 Tamawashi tomorrow. These two have had a very interesting series, with Endo dominating their first six bouts and Tamawashi taking the last five.

Onosho vs. Shohozan

It would be quite the comeback story if Onosho could somehow get his kachi koshi after an abysmal start to the tournament. Since donning the red mawashi once more, he has only lost once and will need to win his last three matches to get an 8-7 record. His first and perhaps greatest challenge comes in the form of Shohozan, who has also underperformed this basho. Onosho has faced off against the Fukuoka native three times before and has never beat him. Can Onosho keep his kachi koshi dream alive, or will Shohozan hand him his first Makuuchi losing record?

Ichinojo vs. Mitakeumi

Ichinojo has definitely been one of the MVPs of this basho. He dominated Kisenosato, gave Hakuho his first taste of real competition, and had a highlight bout with Goeido on day 12. While I don’t know if Ichinojo will have a good enough record by the end of the basho to contend for the opening(s) in the Komusubi rank, he does have a pretty good shot at Maegashira 1. Ichinojo may also be in the running for a sansho special prize if he can bring his record up to ten or eleven wins. His day 13 opponent is Sekiwake Mitakeumi, who will want to get back in the win column after a concise loss to Hakuho. Mitakiumi will be  looking for his eighth victory to secure his kachi koshi and keep his Sekiwake rank for January. He has met Ichinojo on the clay twice, and the two are tied at one win apiece.

Kyushu Day 9 Highlights

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Let’s start with this – what on earth is Kisenosato doing? I do love some “Great Pumpkin” sumo, especially this close to Halloween, but he is fighting at mid-Maegashira level now. He certainly should not be out there as a Yokozuna, and I am sure that the Sumo Kyokai and the YDC are in an uproar that he returned to the dohyo well ahead of his full recovery. Last night prior to my US bed time, I was scanning all of the “usual sources” looking for the expected announcement that Kisenosato had withdrawn from the Kyushu basho with <insert malady here>. None came. I would guess that he is being counseled otherwise tonight.

In the race to catch Hakuho, all of the rikishi going in today one loss behind each went down to defeat, leaving “The Boss” out in front of everyone, undefeated, and with a 2 win lead starting the second week.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi has been on a winning streak, and it was a bit of a surprise to see Kotoyuki take control of this match and lead Okinoumi to his demise. People with skill in predictions have already been forecasting Kotoyuki’s return to Juryo for Hatsu, but perhaps he can in fact rally and stay in the top division.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – The happy sumotori gave Nishikigi a solid fight right from the tachiai. Both men battled to the tawara where Nishikigi started the throw, but Asanoyama finished it. Asanoyama is not quite as genki as he was at Aki, but he still has some room to recover.

Takekaze defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama needs every win he can squeeze from the remainder of the Kyushu basho. Getting off balance around Takekaze is a recipe for a loss, as Takekaze is experienced enough to make you pay.

Myogiryu defeats Ikioi – Ikioi gives up the inside grip in spite of clearly being a step ahead at the tachiai. Myogiryu is looking quite genki this basho – maybe he is back to his old self? Flagging Ikioi needs to pull himself together. I am going to assign this as another casualty of the intense jungyo schedule.

Daieisho defeats Aminishiki – Now that the push-me-pull-you pattern has run its course, Aminishiki is struggling to dominate matches. We all love uncle sumo, but the reality is he has damaged legs and there are limits to what he can do in a power battle with a young rikishi.

Chiyomaru defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki clearly owns the start of this match, but Chiyomaru keeps giving ground, and Kagayaki is all too happy to chase him around the dohyo. This, of course, is a mistake as he gets his balance too far forward, and Chiyomaru pulls him down.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – Fairly good mawashi battle from these two, Shodai gave it everything he had and established moro-zashi almost right away. However, the massive Brazilian kept his defense solid. The match ended with a throw attempt at the tawara that Kaisei thought he lost, but Shodai touched down a split second earlier.

Endo defeats Tochinoshin – It was Endo from the start. I am going to guess that Tochinoshin’s knee is bothering him greatly, and he is unable to push against it with his massive strength.

Daishomaru defeats Ichinojo – The great boulder of Mongolia was not dialed in today, and Daishomaru got him high and out before he could gather his moss and recover. A bit surprising given how solid Ichinojo has been for the first 8 days. Hopefully, Minato Oyakata switches him back to Frosted Flakes, as the Count Chocula makes him seize up and idle rough.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyoshoma – There was some naughty business just after a matta, with Chiyoshoma putting an extra “post matta” thrust into Hokutofuji’s face. Matta, matta again. On attempt 4 they get a successful launch, and with Hokutofuji now completely pissed off he blasted Chiyoshoma straight back and out.

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Now that he has his make-koshi secure, Tochiozan decides to win one. It’s clear that Tochiozan’s left knee can barely support doing sumo. The first match ended with both men touching down / out together, so a torinaoshi was called.

Chiyotairyu defeats Shohozan – “Sumo Elvis” takes down local favorite Shohozan in this mawashi match. Both men prefer to win by bludgeoning their opponents to victory, but for some reason, they decided to go chest to chest. Solid match, and with any luck, we are seeing a shift in Chiyotairyu’s strategy.

Onosho defeats Takakeisho – Onosho’s magic red mawashi is doing its job and seems to have reversed his fortune. For today Takakeisho got gravely off balance, and Onosho swung to the side and put him on the clay. So help me, the kimarite looked like a dog groomer trimming a collie. But it’s a win, and Onosho needs them.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku launches out of the tachiai and applies maximum pressure, but Tamawashi was able to pull out a kotenage at the edge. From the crowd reaction, they thought that local favorite, Kotoshogiku, had prevailed.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – A messy, crazy match. They both opened with tsuppari, but Takayasu tried to go chest to chest. Mitakeumi wanted no part of that (Was it the Rolling Stones that sang “I’m Not Your Teppo Pole?”) and Mitakeumi danced away from Takayasu’s embrace. This unrequited invitation to support his burly bulk seemed to drive Takayasu into a rage and he chased down a now fleeing Mitakeumi and drove him to the clay.

Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze dominated this match, but kept overcommitting to each attack. Goeido worked to just stay on his feet and stay inside, waiting. His persistence was rewarded with Yoshikaze put himself off balanced and Goeido was able to flick him out with minimal effort. Very sloppy match that Yoshikaze should have won.

Hakuho defeats Chiyonokuni – I am not sure anyone can stop Hakuho if he remains uninjured, and it was certainly not going to be this form of Chiyonokuni. I am surprised to see Hakuho go for the mini-Henka two days in a row. Perhaps he is bored and wants to see how many times he can deploy it before his opponents get wise.

Takarafuji defeats Kisenosato – I am sure they gave Kisenosato a solid but middling Maegashira 5 in order to define just how poorly he is doing. The answer is – quite poorly. I love some Takarafuji in the mornings, yes I do. But Kisenosato should have been able to bag and tag this guy in the blink of an eye. Instead, the match raged on as a mighty yotsu battle that saw Kisenosato take Takarafuji to the edge and run out of gas. Go kyujo, Great Pumpkin. High marks for your enthusiasm to return to competition, but you are not quite ready yet. You and Takayasu need to spend a couple of months hulking out again.

Five Quick Thoughts on Day One

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Five Quick Thoughts

With Bruce knocking it out of the park with his daily highlights, I thought I would write up five quick thoughts on a few things I noticed while watching today’s action. I’ll try and make these posts every day that my work schedule allows me to.

1. Aminishiki Returns

Right from the start, it was obvious that Aminishiki’s popularity from Aki had carried over into November, and he had one of the biggest crowd reactions of the day. The old veteran also attracted the attention of sponsors and had a fairly large kensho parade before his match. While I was expecting wile Aminishiki to make Kotoyuki pay for his multiple mata with a quick sidestep, Uncle Sumo surprised me with a beautiful throw to win his first bout. It was clear in his post-match interview just how much being back in Makuuchi means to Aminishiki.

2. Injury Woes Continue for Tochinoshin

Despite being the bigger, stronger rikishi in his bout today, Tochinoshin continues to suffer from a nagging lower-body injury. He was unable to overpower Chiyoshoma, who deftly threw the Georgian strongman down to the clay. Things may go from bad to worse for Tochinoshin, as he seemed to be limping as he made his way back to the dressing room.

3. Less of a Kaiju, More of a Kitty cat.

Any hope of Terunofuji returning to the Ozeki rank may have died today, as Hokutofuji easily manhandled everyone’s favorite Kaiju, and sent him flying off the dohyo into the crowd. As Bruce pointed out, Terunofuji barely had any fight in him, and he’s lucky he didn’t injure himself further when he landed on the floor.

4. A Heroes Welcome

Hometown boy Shohozan got the largest reaction of the day from the Fukuoka crowd, which erupted in cheers when he ascended the dohyo for his bout. Taking on Yoshikaze in a blistering brawl, the Fukuoka native sidestepped the veteran Yoshikaze at the tawara’s edge to get his first win. Despite prevailing in front of his hometown, Shohozan didn’t seem too happy with the way he won his match; a rikishi’s harshest critic is usually himself.

5. East Vs. West

Taking a look at the scorecard today, we see that the East and West sides of the banzuke are tied, taking ten wins each. Now I’ll admit, this is pretty much a pointless statistic and does not affect the basho nowadays. In the past, however, East and West were treated like teams and competed for an award called the Tozai-sei, which went to the side with the best overall record. For a bit of fun, I’ll be keeping track of each sides records throughout the tournament, and I’ll announce the unofficial Tozai-sei winners when the Kyushu basho comes to an end.

Nagoya Day 5 Preview

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Act One Draws To A Close

At the end of day 5, the first third of the Nagoya basho will be complete, or as I like to call it the first act. Scheduling for the first third of the basho is pretty much by formula, and the goal of this period is to find out who is out of gas, who is getting by, and who is really genki.

For the closing scene of the first act, you don’t get more genki than the undefeated dia-Yokozuna Hakuho up against the undefeated berserker Yoshikaze. Hakuho is looking very good thus far, even better than he did during Natsu, if that is possible. When he is in this state, there are few rikishi who can defeat him. But then there is Yoshikaze, a man of such explosive sumo that he reasonably can beat anyone on the right day. It’s a great way to see if anyone is going to slow down Hakuho.

Speaking of “The Boss”, another zensho yusho remains possible, but not predictable at this time. There is an odd thought ratting in the back of my sleep-deprived mind. Hakuho wanted to to break the all time back to back win record held by Futabayama, but some pipsqueak named Kisenosato stopped him short. Now the Futabayama record is from an earlier time in sumo, long before the 6 x 15 day basho per year death march started. But Hakuho is a man driven, and you can be sure that should he be able to go 15-0 in Nagoya, he will steel himself for another run at the “unbreakable” record.

Going into day 5, we have still more of those fantastic first ever matches between the old guard and the young blood. Will it be as chaotic as day 4? Ask me in about 8 hours.

Matches We Like

Gagamaru vs Kaisei – Gagamaru has been doing poorly this basho, and really seems to be walking wounded. Due to Kakuryu’s kyujo, Kaisei visits from Juryo for a battle of the rotund. Kaisei was really out of gas during Natsu, so I am hoping he is now drinking the same juice that Nishikigi seems to have enjoyed last basho.

Arawashi vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi is still undefeated. so it’s time to give him over to Arawashi. Arawashi is capable, but very much hit-or-miss as of late. He has strength, speed and skill, but Nishikigi seems driven. They are perfectly tied 4-4 for career bouts.

Takekaze vs Shohozan – Takekaze has a solid start to Nagoya, and he faces “Big Guns” on day 5. This might be a very good time for Takekaze to employ his oft favored henka rather than face a battle of the belt with Shohozan.

Ishiura vs Onosho – This match has a lot of potential. Onosho has been fighting very well, and steps onto the dohyo ready to win, even if he has to eat someone to do it. In contrast, we only saw real fire from Ishiura on day 4, so maybe he can supply his offense oriented sumo again today. Onosho leads the series 9-5.

Tochinoshin vs Ura – This is either going to be a match of the day, or a complete blow out. Tochinoshin is straight ahead strong man sumo, which if he connects will make quick work of Ura. Ura is a mobile attack platform, he can make 2 moves for every 1 of Tochinoshin. So it will come down to who takes control. Might see Ura’s reverse tachiai today, which would make me very happy. Tochinoshin won their only prior meeting, so let’s see if PlasticMan has studied his loss.

Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi had a tough couple of days, and can recover some momentum against his fellow Sekiwake. Clearly Tamawashi is working to make the case for an Ozeki promotion run, and will need to box in Mitakeumi early. Interestingly enough, Mitakeumi has won all 7 of their prior matches.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – This will be a radically different match than the one Takakeisho faced on day 4. Fans expect Takayasu to blast this youngster hard from the start, and push with nearly impossible strength. Goal for Takakeisho should be to stretch out the match and wait for Takayasu to overcommit. Takakeisho took quite a bit of punishment from Hakuho on day 4, let’s see what he can do with the big Ozeki.

Shodai vs Goeido – This is only interesting in that I want to see if Goeido 2.0 shows up for this match as well. If he does, we could have some great Goeido matches coming in the next 10 days, which would make me very happy.

Kisenosato vs Ikioi – Ikioi is winless! He needs to pick up a white circle or two, but he may have a challenge from the injured Kisenosato. I am still predicted Kisenosato goes Kyujo within the next 5 days.

Hokutofuji vs Harumafuji – Another huge potential match of the day. Hokutofuji has really impressed fans so far, he is fighting at a much tougher level this basho, and he has risen to the challenge. It’s clear that Harumafuji is holding it together under sheer force of will and stubborn Yokozuna pride. So this could be a chance for another kinboshi, sadly.

Hakuho vs Yoshikaze – Hakuho felt at ease to toy with Takakeisho on day 4, but he has no such luxury on day 5. In addition to having a very strong start in Nagoya, Yoshikaze has changed up his sumo somewhat. Hakuho is great at being able to think and move in an instant, so could be a great match up, even if Yoshikaze has only beaten Hakuho once in their 15 prior matches.

Nagoya Day 4 Highlights

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Nagoya Crazy Train Still Rolling On.

Many sumo fans assumed that at some point this week, the Nagoya bahso would settle down to a standard sumo grind, but this basho is a run away beer truck rolling down hill. The only hope we have is to climb on board and drink the contents while the ride lasts.

With Yokozuna Kakuryu’s withdrawal from the basho, the noises of his retirement have returned at an elevated volume. I think it would be a great loss for sumo, given that his style is fairly unique. But it’s clear that his body is not up to the challenge of supporting the intense schedule of the modern sumo year.

There was a good amount of concern and confusion in today’s match between Ura and Onosho. To the fans in the Aichi Prefectural Gymnaisum, it must have looked that Onosho was a clear winner. In fact it seems that both rikishi were not quite certain who had won. As the gyoji handed the kensho to Ura, the shimpan rose, and Ura assumed that a monoii had been called. Looking confused, he tried to hand the kensho back to the gyoji. In fact it was simply the half way break, and the Shimpan were changing over.

Lastly, in a bout that I loved, but that many in Japan are criticizing, Hakuho completely and utterly deconstructed fast rising star Takakeisho in the final match of the day. It’s quite understandable that Takakeisho would be in awe of his first ever match against the dai-Yokozuna, and Hakuho played on that. After a series of tsuppari delivered to the young challenger, Takakeisho backed off and waited. This prompted Hakuho to encourage him to attack, and it devolved into butsugari geiko. This may not quite make sense, but in that 30 second bout, Hakuho reduced Takakeisho from challenger, to student. Personally I found it endearing, but it seems that a good amount of the sumo mainstays in the NSK found it quite insulting.

Selected Matches

Nishikigi defeats Sokokurai – Nishikigi continues to look renewed in his return to Makuuchi. He is now 4-0 and half way to his kachi-koshi. Sokokurai put up a good fight, but Nishikigi was not going to lose.

Tokushoryu defeats Chiyonokuni – Tokushoryu completely overpowered Chiyonokuni in this match, which resulted in a monii. I have to wonder if Chiyonokuni is nursing some injury from Natsu, as he continues to turn in dismal results.

Aoiyama defeats Shohozan – Aoiyama the man mountain continues to dominate, and remains unbeaten thus far. I am certain that Maegashira 8 is the perfect rank for Aoiyama, as he seems to be doing very well with this degree of difficulty.

Ishiura defeats Chiyotairyu – Ishiura showed up with some really solid sumo today, and the crowd loved it. I am not sure if he has physical or confidence problems, but everyone is hoping to see that same hard-charging sumo machine that first entered Makuuchi in January.

Ura defeats Onosho – In addition to the post-match confusion, this was some really solid sumo from both men. Onosho really pushed hard from the tachiai, but lost momentum moments from victory. His final pulling throw at the edge saw his foot out for just a moment as Ura took flight.

Tochiozan defeats Endo – Something happened at the tachiai, and Endo more or less stopped trying just after the initial charge. All of sumo hopes Endo is not harboring some performance limiting injury.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu’s initial shoulder blast seems to have disoriented Mitakeumi, who was never able to get stable and attack. Takayasu continued to press the attack and move forward, and prevailed. This is two days in a row where it seems Mitakeumi became disoriented after a really solid blow to the head on the tachiai.

Goeido defeats Ikioi – Example of Goeido 2.0 behavior. Explode into the tachiai, carry that momentum into your opponent’s chest and just run him off the dohyo. Sadly Ikioi is winless.

Hokutofuji defeats Terunofuji – Hokutofuji is holding up very well against sumo’s top ranks. If he can stay healthy, he will join them before long. It’s clear that Terunofuji is struggling daily to compete through the pain.

Kisenosato defeats Shodai – All of the sumo world breaths a sigh of relief. Not only did he win, but he was producing power through his left side. Maybe he can make a go of it after all. Shodai, of course, had a terrible tachiai.

Harumafuji defeats Tochinoshin – Excellent deploy of Harumafuji’s mini-henka, against an opponent who sort of expected it.

Hakuho defeats Takakeisho – In what I can only call “Mole Boss Sumo”, Hakuho is cat to Takakeisho’s mouse. When they made this Yokozuna, they broke the mould. Much respect to Takakeisho for continuing to try to attack in spite of Hakuho batting him around like a piece of twine.