Haru Day 7 Preview

First, the middle weekend is some of the best time to watch sumo. You still have most of the field in play, nobody is make-koshi yet, and people start tracking who will compete for the cup in week 2. The schedulers have served up a fine array of solid matches, with my attention drawn, as always, to a battle between tadpoles. Mitakeumi takes on Onosho late in the day, as the spheroid pusher-thruster class start their bi-monthly struggle to see who is kind of the illy pad. I would note that out of the 3 tadpoles, 2 of them are now Ozeki…

Fans will note that there is no Terunofuji fight today, and no dohyo-iri for him. Sadly he is gone from the Osaka tournament with damage to his undercarriage that will take several weeks to heal. As there have now been 2 kyujo, the banzuke is once again balanced and there will be no more Juryo visitors until someone else withdraws. Lets hope that does not happen, though I suspect we will see at least one more.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Akua vs Ichiyamamoto – This is a sorry way to start the middle weekend. A pair of 1-5 rikishi in the bottom rungs of the banzuke, both of who may end up with terrible scores and claiming early seats on the Juryo barge of the damned. They have only met once before, in July of 2018, and that went to Akua. No telling which one is going to be further off their sumo today.

Kotoshoho vs Kagayaki – Ok, this one is somewhat better match up. I like them both, but I would rather see Kotoshoho reach 8 first, so I am hoping that he prevails today. But to be fair, Kagayaki is fighting better with his fundamentals driven sumo, and I expect he will have the advantage today.

Chiyomaru vs Tochinoshin – I do expect Tochinoshin to return to the slap/bash/hit brand of sumo that is his new flavor for Osaka. He was able to tough out a win on day 6 using what’se left of the old lift and shift, but my guess is that his body is too damaged to try that for two days in a row, especially if the opponents are Chiyotairyu, then Chiyomaru.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – Speaking of Chiyotairyu, he’s got a chance to score win number 3 here today if he can best the on again off again sumo of Yutakayama. Both of them have lost the last 2 matches, and really need a win. A Yutakayama loss would in fact be 4 in a row for him. Ouch! They share a 6-6 career record.

Kotoeko vs Kotokuzan – First time meeting between these two, and even thought Kotokuzan has a 3-3 record so far this March, I have really not seen any sumo that was really top division class. Kotoeko, though, does tend to really put it all out every time he’s on the dohyo, and I would like to think that today he’s going to surprise the larger and lumbering Kotokuzan.

Chiyonokuni vs Terutsuyoshi – This match comes down to Terutsuyoshi being able to establish a hold early, before Chiyonokuni can get his thrusting attack to the point it blows Terutsuyoshi off his sumo. If he can get that hold, I think that Terutsuyoshi has a chance to overcome his 0-2 career deficit against the “Grumpy Badger”

Nishikigi vs Aoiyama – If Big Dan Aoiyama plays this right, Nishikigi will literally never see what hit him. But I give him fair chance to get chest to chest with Aoiyama, and when that happens it’s Nishikigi’s match.

Tobizaru vs Myogiryu – The schedulers having fun with numbers. Both rikishi are 3-3, and share a 3-3 career record. But they missed a tick by making this the 8th match of the day, rather than the 9th (3 x 3) so tough luck there. On the sumo front, I would give Myogiryu a slight edge today, he has lost 3 in a row and it’s time for him to bounce back.

Chiyoshoma vs Wakamotoharu – We know they both prefer to fight chest to chest, so that is a given. We have seen Wakamotoharu’s really classic style of yotsu this March, and it’s looking really good. Not that it would be right to call a 137kg rikishi “light”, but I have to wonder if in some of his matches, Chiyoshoma’s lower mass does play a role. He has a 2-0 career lead over Wakamotoharu.

Shimanoumi vs Okinoumi – It’s a battle of the sea creatures as we have an all -umi match today near the middle of the torikumi. Both have been fighting poorly this March, and I really don’t know if it would be fair to say that either of them might have what you could call “advantage” today.

Sadanoumi vs Kotonowaka – On the other hand, there is a clear advantage in this match. Kotonowaka is fighting well with a 5-1 record, and he has a 3-0 career lead over Sadanoumi. So this should be close to a spanking in Kotonowaka’s favor.

Hokutofuji vs Takayasu – Oh my… Ol’Stompy vs the undefeated front runner at the start of the middle weekend. Before we dismiss 3-3 Hokutofuji’s chances, he has a 7-9 record against Takayasu, and has sumo that can take down the former Ozeki. Given that this will decide the leaderboard on the first day we track it, this is a high stakes contest.

Takarafuji vs Endo – Sadly this one is an easy call, Takarafuji has yet to put of much of a fight in any match this month, so he may be injured. A Healthy Endo vs and injured anyone is more or less Endo wins.

Ichinojo vs Kiribayama – This is a better contest than it might look on paper. Both are 4-2, both are fighting a bit below their best, but both seem healthy and comfortable in “their brand of sumo”. So it will be the enormity of Ichinojo vs the agility Kiribayama. Sounds like a good time to be a sumo fan.

Takanosho vs Hoshoryu – Another rikishi who is struggling this March is dear onigiri-kun, aka Takanosho. While his numerous fans wanted to see him with 9 wins or more to make a bit to return to the named ranks, it looks like some force (injury?) has put his good sumo out of reach for now. So I expect Hoshoryu to take him to the cleaners today.

Ura vs Abi – You might thing, yeah, this is going to be a full power Abi blow out. It may very much happen that way, but Ura’s sumo gives him a small and quite interesting chance to shock anyone in the world of sumo if he can get a workable opportunity. Given that Abi’s always flailing his arms about, Ura’s grab and tug sumo has many applications in this kind of a match.

Wakatakakage vs Daieisho – The morsels keep getting juicier today, now we get lead Sekiwake Wakatakakage going up against the human wrecking machine, Daieisho. They have an even 3-3 match record today, but this March, Wakatakakage is fighting somewhat better. But he needs to watch out for Daieisho’s “mega thrust” combination nodowa / chin crusher. It was enough to best an Ozeki and a Yokozuna already this basho.

Onosho vs Mitakeumi – Ah, the tadpole fight. Mitakeumi has a 10-4 career lead, and is fighting some of the best week 1 sumo of his career. But Onosho has that quality of not being predictable enough that you can assume how this one is going to go. He has beaten Mitakeumi 4 times in their 14 match history, so he does a route to win. In fact, he was one of only two rikishi to beat Mitakeumi this January on Mitakeumi’s 13-2 yusho march (for which 10-5 Onosho did not get a special prize) for an Ozeki promotion.

Tamawashi vs Takakeisho – This should be advantage Takakeisho, and hopefully his 5th win. He needs 4 more to make his 8 and clear kadoban.

Shodai vs Meisei – You would think that with an 8-2 career advantage, Shodai would have a crushing advantage over 1-5 Meisei. But no, I am going to guess Meisei gets his second win today. Have a seat, Shodai. You are in no condition to fight.

Aki Day 1 Highlights

Welcome all to the start of the fall tournament. The first few days of any tournament will typically feature a few shaky starts by some rikishi, as they work to get into tournament form. Some sumo fans refer to this as “ring rust”, and it can take a few days before some rikishi can shake off its effects.

The Freshmen (Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Abi, Hokutofuji) really had an excellent day today, and I am happy with the future of sumo featuring them in years to come. Sadly the same cannot be said about the Tadpoles, who struggled quite a bit today. But one should never count out the tadpoles…

Day 1 featured some solid sumo action, and those of you who were watching NHK World in the middle of the (USA) night time were treated to some solid matches. Let’s get started.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Takagenji – Takagenji comes out of the tachiai strong, but I was surprised that Chiyomaru did a much better job than normal keeping his weight centered over the arches of his feet, and used that stability to overpower Takagenji’s vigorous attack. The result was a sort of half throw / half tsukiotoshi that was uncharacteristically agile for Chiyomaru.

Yutakayama defeats Tochiozan – Yutakayama continues to battle his way back from injury, and a trip to Juryo, with some solid sumo today. Yutakayama took an inside route at the tachiai, but nearly all of this match was the two of them fighting for grip, while pushing as hard to the front as they could manage. Tochiozan had better footwork, but Yutakayama had more strength. Welcome back Yutakayama, the future has been waiting.

Azumaryu defeats Ishiura – Azumaryu deftly deploys a uwatehineri while the two grappled for position at the center of the dohyo.

Tsurugisho defeats Toyonoshima – Tsurugisho’s early try for a pull down nearly cost him the match, but he was able to rally well as Toyonoshima tried the same thing and blew his early advantage.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Neither man gets a solid tachiai. But Kagayaki inexplicably focuses on some kind of face-hold, leaving Nishikigi a solid path to center-mass. Kagayaki realizes that he’s thrown away an opening, but he found Nishikigi effectively able to turn his hips and deflect Kagayaki’s forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Daishoho – Not the typical Shohozan mobility-based sumo, as Daishoho traps him in a double arm-bar. Shohozan gets stalemated for a while, but keeps raising Daishoho and backing him up until he can finish him with shitatenage (it was 2 for 1 shitatenage day).

Enho defeats Onosho – Big news for me, Onosho has the red mawashi back. Yes, he lost this one to Enho, who uncorked some really gob-smack amazing sumo today, but that red mawashi was (at least at one point) home to a potent kami that powered Onosho’s early rise. To my eye, Onosho had this one boxed up and ready to ship before Enho produced some hard to explain, Ura level space-time distortion and threw Onosho to the clay.

Meisei defeats Sadanoumi – With that injured right knee, Sadanoumi lacks a good amount of his expected maneuverability, and Meisei expertly stays in motion until he can get Sadanoumi off balance and rolls him to the clay with a katasukashi. Nice kimarite!

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has yet to take a single match from Terutsuyoshi, and we get a showcase of how that works today. Terutsuyoshi used some really fantastic ring sense to continue to give ground, forcing Kotoyuki to stay in motion and keep turning. When you are about as wide as you are tall (as Kotoyuki is), it’s a short amount of time before you find yourself off balance and in the wrong end of town. Terutsuyoshi chose his moment, and made it work. Great sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – As always, journeyman sumo from Takarafuji, who absorbs everything Kotoeko can dish out. Takarafuji as Maegashira 8? Middle of the pack? This is the right spot for Takarafuji, and I am hoping he has a good basho this September.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – The fun thing about Kotoshogiku these days is that he is frequently on fire the first week, before the strain on his injuries slows him down. Hugely energetic, high attack value sumo from him today, including an excellent throw at the end. Except that he stepped out quite some time before it got to that point, and the most exciting part of the match (Okinoumi was fighting well, too) was all for naught.

Myogiryu defeats Shimanoumi – When you watch this one, pay close attention to Myogiryu’s foot placement and stance. This is some class-A attention to detail in the middle of a match trying to constrain and contain a raging youngster who had the edge in speed and agility. Shimanoumi gets the advantage twice, but that fantastic defensive setup that Myogiryu had today carried the match.

Ryuden defeats Chiyotairyu – If Ryuden is genki, Maegashira 5 might be a bit low on the banzuke for him. He gets a left hand on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi, which puts him in the driver’s seat and takes away Chiyotairyu’s primary offensive technique. I was surprised that Chiyotairyu let him grab him and did not stay mobile.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – Shodai looked a mess today, but if you want to see why Shodai can actually keep close to a winning record most basho, look at his multiple well-executed escapes from Tamawashi’s blistering attacks. If we could get that man a tachiai graft from ex-Kisenosato…

Tomokaze defeats Abi – Abi launches his traditional Abi-zumo opening, and Tomokaze is having none of it. Attempting a hatakikomi against Abi is a dangerous move, but Tomokaze makes it work. This guy needs to stay un-injured and fighting strong.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – I am not quite sure how Takakeisho recovered from that near-face-plant, but he threw everything including the kitchen sink at Daieisho, who was likewise dialed up to 11. The wave-action system does not seem to be quite up to battle-spec just yet, and I am going to assume that our tadpole has a lot of ring rust to overcome. But he’s on his march to 10, and sumo fans around the world are going to be riveted to his journey this September.

Asanoyama defeats Mitakeumi – This whole match came down to Asanoyama getting a shallow left hand grip at the tachiai, and never letting go. Mitakeumi then chose to rotate left and attempt a hatakikomi, and in the move to pull down Asanoyama, he more or less conceded the match. Asanoyama was too latched on to Mitakeumi to go down.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – I had a tough time watching both the match and the replays. It’s 100% clear now, from direct observation, that it’s never a good idea to make your crippled strong-man fight a giant. Tochinoshin does not look well enough to compete, and that knee is more or less done for. Grim.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Whatever injuries Goeido is nursing right now, he has contained. His blistering tachiai and all out center-mass attack against Aoiyama left the man-mountain nowhere to go. I recall with hopeful anticipation that for some reason Aki is always the time when we see Goeido shine.

Hokutofuji defeats Hakuho – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, what have you done? This match had all of Hokutofuji’s best elements stitched together in a lightning fast, seat of the pants battle. Hakuho loves to deliver a face slap at the tachiai, and many times it effectively disrupts an opponents attack. Today if left him wide open for Hokutofuji’s brutal handshake tachiai. Oh, how long have I been waiting to see someone make Hakuho pay for that move. Today was payday on that desire. With the nodowa in place, it forced Hakuho to waste precious time clearing it out before he could start an attack, and just like that Hokutofuji is calling the terms of the match. Hokutofuji lands a mawashi grip, and I think the speed and strength of that move surprised the Yokozuna. Hakuho gives ground and attempts to load a throw, but with absolute perfect timing, Hokutofuji catches the Yokozuna shifting his weight and lunges ahead. That’s all that it took, and The Boss gives up a well earned kinboshi. I am going to be looping through this match all day. Just fantastic. Hokutofuji doesn’t need to win another match this basho to be proud of his efforts.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo is a master technician, and I am sure he had a solid, well constructed attack plan against the Nagoya yusho winner. None of that mattered as Kakuryu did not give him a chance to unpack any of it. A little dodgy winning with a hatakikomi, but he needed to shut Endo down quickly before the man in gold could get started.

Hatsu Day 6 Preview

On day 6 we start act 2. Act 2 is all about sorting the survivors from the damned, and starting the yusho race. It’s were we get an idea of who will have the stamina to contend in the final act for the hardware. As long as Hakuho is still competing, it’s his to lose.

A primary rival was Yokozuna Kakuryu, at least in theory, but as noted earlier on Tachiai, he withdrew from competition this morning Japan time. He has struggled quite a bit to keep his undercarriage in good repair, and this is simply another in a long string of mechanical problems he has to overcome. We wish him a quick and full recovery.

The next rikishi who is on the kyujo bubble would have to be Goeido. Mathematically, he is in tough shape right now. He needs to win 7 out of the next 10 to avoid a make-koshi. It’s clear he is hurt, and needs medical attention to repair his right arm. We can only hope he does not go “Kisenosato” with this one. There is also a question around Takayasu, who is 2-3 going into day 6, and has been suffering due to influenza. Perhaps he is on the mend now.

For each Ozeki and Yokozuna who drops out, the way opens up for the new generation rikishi. At this point, the Freshmen are in poor shape physically, but the Tadpoles are on the march. Their combined score at the end of act 1 is 14-1. The boss is still undefeated, but I am sure Takakeisho is eager to try his sumo upgrades against the sole remaining Yokozuna.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Ishiura vs Chiyoshoma – Ishiura visits Makuuchi with a solid 4-1 start in Juryo. He holds a 6-4 career advantage over Chiyoshoma, and some may wonder if this will be the battle of the flying Henkanoids. We shall see soon enough!

Yago vs Kotoeko – Its odd watching 4-1 Yago in some ways. He seems both unseasoned, yet skilled. I can’t quiet put my mind around it yet. But this might be a fairly good match, as Kotoeko knows how to beat him.

Ikioi vs Endo – Ikioi is a banged up walking casualty, and Endo seems to be just getting by for now. I give Endo a clear advantage, as he is not nursing a damaged ankle or a head wound like Ikioi is.

Kaisei vs Sadanoumi – At some point along the way, Kaisei’s sumo improved. Maybe he finally healed a long-suffering injury. As I like to say about him, “Being huge is not a valid sumo tactic”, as in you cant just be massive and immobile and expect to win (seek Kenho and others). But since Kyushu, Kaisei’s mobility is actually pretty good, and his sumo is stronger and shows some aggressive direction. Starting act 2 at 5-0, he’s a dark horse contender right now, and I expect him to make fast work of Sadanoumi.

Aoiyama vs Daieisho – Aoiyama’s record is 4-1, but his sumo is 5-0. Perhaps a distinction without a difference, but the Man-Mountain from Bulgeria is in top form unseen for some time. I am certain he will get tougher pairings in act 2, but I think today’s match won’t be too tough for him to win.

Ryuden vs Yoshikaze – I don’t want to discuss Ryuden or Yoshikaze.

Onosho vs Chiyotairyu – As discussed prior to the basho, I really like Onosho at this rank, and I think he has a good chance to end up with double digits for this basho. This would put him in the joi-jin for Osaka, and I think he would be healed up enough to compete at the top by then. This could mean that all of the tadpoles would be in the joi, and it would mark a significant stage in the changing of the guard.

Myogiryu vs Mitakeumi – Right now Mitakeumi seems to be on a mission. He shows up each day looking dialed up to 11 – intensely focused and superbly ready to win. I don’t think Myogiryu, in spite of his excellent skill, will overcome Mitakeumi’s fighting spirit today.

Takakeisho vs Tochiozan – If Tochiozan can keep Takakeisho close, and prevent the wave-action tsuppari attack, he has a chance. But after letting Mitakeumi beat him this way, I am going to guess Takakeisho won’t allow him a chance.

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Ichinojo is competing at an intensity not seen in many years, and we don’t want him to stop. Tamawashi will be no walk in the park. He is fast, mobile and at times brutal. This could be the highlight match of the day.

Shohozan vs Goeido – “Big Guns” Shohozan would normally have his hands full with Goeido, but Goeido is struggling with an arm injury, and is having a tough time generating offensive pressure. I expect loss #5, or a henka.

Takayasu vs Nishikigi – Each time Nishikigi steps on the dohyo, you have to wonder what is about to happen. Takayasu is definitely short of 100%, but Nishikigi’s sumo seems to be surprising everyone right now. I would rather not face Osaka with all 3 Ozeki kadoban, so I am hoping Takayasu can win any match that comes his way.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Hakuho continues to confound opponents with his “Escape” sumo, his opponents think they have him beat, but he uses his unparalleled skill to find a way to not lose. Against Shodai there is a new dimension. He has this odd, almost otherworldly ability, to cause things to go chaotic. I call it “Cartoon sumo”, and it happens too frequently to be an accident. I am eager to see if he can employ it against The Boss today.

Day 13 Commentary and Leaderboard

Takayasu

A short note on day 13 while we finish cooking our Thanksgiving dinner: First and foremost, I would like to state that I am thankful for the readers of Tachiai. Without you, the site would just be a handful of sumo fans writing content to entertain each other.  The site is all about helping spread the love of sumo to every part of the world that we can reach, and it’s because of readers like yourself that we can. If I could make a wish, it would be that each of you consider trying to spread your enjoyment of sumo to your friends, your family or people you meet at work. It is truly a fascinating and uniquely compelling sport.

With that secure, hell – it’s time to crank into the final weekend of this basho. The schedulers have deviated from the expected order, and seem to be holding Takayasu vs Takakeisho for later (as lksumo has covered in great detail). For myself, I am not quite sure who I am more in favor of taking home the cup. A Takayasu win would be his first yusho, and would possibly set the stage for a Yokozuna campaign. A Takakeisho win would be the second yusho this year for Team Tadpole, and could be cited as another milestone on the long predicted transition into a new era.  We live in great times for sumo fans, and no matter how this tournament ends up, it’s been an amazing ride.

One last note – If you are the kind that enjoys such things, NHK World will have their third and final “Grand Sumo Live” this Saturday night (US time) to cover the final day.

Kyushu Leaderboard

Leader: Takakeisho
Chaser: Takayasu
Hunt Group: Okinoumi, Onosho, Daieisho, Aoiyama

3 Matches Remain