Day 10 Highlights

Takayasu Salt
Image courtesy of the Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

Act two is in the record books, and the yusho race is down to three credible contenders. Entering into the final 3 days, the Ozeki and Yokozuna will face each other daily, and the level of competition will ratchet higher. It’s still possible that Aki will be won with an unbeaten 15-0 record, which would be a great mark to achieve during a year of tournaments plagued by injuries and absent rikishi.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Ryuden – With no room for another loss, and his position in the top division at stake, Ishiura finds his sumo. Today’s match was some of his best, and one has to wonder where this has been for the past year.

Yoshikaze defeats Nishikigi – I swear, you can see Nishikigi get nervous as Yoshikaze pulls him to his chest, and Nishikigi realizes he is in contact with the Yoshikaze mystery rash. You know, if its all over your torso anyhow, why not use it to help win? Dekimono-kiri anyone? In better news, it does look like the rash is clearing up.

Takanosho defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi starts strong, but Takanosho rallies after he lands a nodowa. With his neck pinned back and his body too high, Sadanoumi can offer little defense as Takanosho drives forward and wins.

Kotoyuki defeats Kyokutaisei – Much to my surprise, Kotoyuki looked strong and forceful today, and did not go sailing into the zabuton. Instead he won over Kyokutaisei, who may have compounded his right knee injury.

Takanoiwa defeats Tochiozan – Takanoiwa reaches kachi-koshi on day 10, cementing his return to the top division after almost a year recovering from injury and battling his way back up the banzuke. Kimarite is listed as sotogake, for that leg trip he applied to Tochiozan at the tawara.

Kagayaki defeats Aoiyama – Kagayaki’s first ever win over the Bulgarian meat mountain. Clearly Aoiyama desperately needs some recovery time, and is now make-koshi.

Onosho defeats Daishomaru – A quick but effective hatakikomi, notable in that it’s only Onosho’s 3rd win of the tournament.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Myogiryu’s speed and intensity prevents Kotoshogiku from setting up any offensive sumo.

Asanoyama defeats Hokutofuji – After a blazing 7-0 start, Hokutofuji seems to have hit a wall, and is now on a three-match losing streak. Hokutofuji invested too much time trying to get his nodowa to pay off, all the while Asanoyama was moving forward and maneuvering Hokutofuji’s body into an increasingly perilous position.

Chiyonokuni defeats Shohozan – It was a given that these two would show a lot of action, and it did not disappoint. Repeatedly charging each other, it was more a game of bumper cars at first. The match ended before there could be any bloodshed when Shohozan lost his footing and stepped outside the bales.

Takarafuji defeats Abi – Takarafuji shows us how its done. He patiently absorbs Abi’s double arm thrusts, carefully deflecting part of each thrust and circling a step to his left each time. Forced to constantly adjust his stance, Abi’s rhythm is disrupted. Takarafuji reads this with great skill, finds an opening, and drives Abi out. Great tactics from Takarafuji today.

Shodai defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu picks up his make-koshi. The NHK team did not necessarily concur with the gyoji’s indication that Shodai had won the match, but none of the judges asked to review the gunbai.

Tamawashi defeats Ikioi – Both rikishi fought with a lot of power, with Tamawashi finishing the match with a burst of strength that lifted and threw Ikioi from the dohyo. That was big!

Takakeisho defeats Yutakayama – Solid Takakeisho style oshi-zumo today, Yutakayama was powerless to mount any kind of useful defense. Why did he come back from kyujo again?

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin sores a much needed win against Kaisei, keeping the chances of him clearing kadoban plausible. The two were chest to chest from the start, and both men were trying to outmuscle the other. Both were able to lift each other, but struggled to do more than stand in the center of the dohyo, keeping their opponent at bay. Kaisei tired first, and Tochinoshin lifted him enough to carry him out. Tochinoshin’s magic number is now 2.

Takayasu defeats Goeido – The two Ozeki surprisingly decided to go chest to chest and fight it out yotsu-style. This seems to have been a smart move for Takayasu, as Goeido’s mobility did not factor into the match, and Takayasu was able to contain and control his fellow Ozeki. For fans of unusual winning moves, we got to see Takayasu apply a kainahineri, or a two handed twist down. This leaves Takayasu as the sole rikishi one loss behind the Yokozuna.

Kisenosato defeats Endo – As expected, Kisenosato picks up his kachi-koshi and completes his return to active sumo competition. A series of matta marred the match, and when they finally launched on the fourth attempt, Kisenosato charged forward ahead and took Endo out quickly. With win number 8, the pressure on Kisenosato subsides a bit. He can remain an active, competing Yokozuna, and work to improve his performance at Kyushu. The sumo world breathes a sigh of welcome relief.

Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – Glad to see Ichinojo actually put in an effort today. He had Hakuho working to keep the giant contained, and several times Ichinojo was able to generate good forward pressure. However, Hakuho remains undefeated and tied for the lead.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – Points to Mitakeumi for a strong tachiai and backing the Yokozuna to the tawara, but Kakuryu rallies and hands Mitakeumi his 4th defeat. This likely puts his Ozeki bid on hold until Kyushu unless he can find a way to overcome both Kisenosato and Takayasu. Frankly, Mitakeumi is not looking genki enough to pull that one off, as stamina is starting to play a role in everyone’s sumo.

Aki Day 9 Preview

Kisenosato day 8

The blinding hot forge that is the Aki basho is burning bright now. Three rikishi are cast into the fire, and it’s not certain that any of them will emerge with the outcome they seek. Many more are lined up to take their turn in the forge, and the basho is getting serious.

First and foremost, it’s gut check time for Yokozuna Kisenosato. With an Ozeki opponent, we think he is tired, and low on stamina. He faces a mandate to reach 8 wins before the end of the basho, and is entering the toughest part of his schedule. The past 3 days have been rough for Kisenosato, and there may be worse to come.

Tochinoshin needs to find 3 wins. Its clear he is quite a bit less than his normal amazing self, but he’s got to gamberize to his utmost. While we are sure that a fully healthy Tochinoshin could bust out 10 wins as an “Ozekiwake” in Kyushu, it would be a huge gamble that he could get his body ready.

Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid hangs by a thread. Dropping the match to Ikioi left him little room for what could be considered normal losses – to Hakuho and Kakuryu. But now he needs to reach deep and win no matter what. Perhaps this will motivate him as nothing else has. We suspect he is kind of a strange rikishi, as he does not train as hard as he competes.

In the midst of these story arcs unfolding, the scheduling team has begun to match opponents from further across the banzuke than the first week had seen. Today seems to be “first time” day, with many rikishi facing each other for their first match.

Aki Leaderboard

The leaderboard underwent a dramatic shift on day 8, with only the two Yokozuna remaining in the undefeated group. The road to the yusho will get steeper, and more difficult with each day.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Hakuho
Chasers: Goeido, Takayasu, Hokutofuji, Ryuden
Hunt Group: Kisenosato, Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Takanoiwa ,Yoshikaze

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Yoshikaze vs Okinoumi – Yoshikaze needs two more wins to lock in his kachi-koshi, but his day 9 opponent has a distinct advantage (11-8) over their career. Fans continue to wonder what that ugly looking rash covering his body could indicate, but none of the options are good. Okinoumi’s superior mass and reach will be his primary tools for shutting down Yoshikaze’s speed and maneuverability based attacks.

Takanoiwa vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei returns from kyujo, and shows up just in time for a first ever match with Takanoiwa. These returns mid-basho from kyujo seldom go well, and frequently compound an otherwise addressable injury. Kyokutaisei is probably not doing himself any favors.

Ishiura vs Daieisho – Watching Ishiura now is painful. We can almost know for certain he is returning to Juryo again, and it’s just a question of how bad his final score will be. Daieisho is not doing much better, but has a career 5-2 advantage over Ishiura.

Takanosho vs Daishomaru – A first time match, and it could be a good one. Daishomaru is in dire need of wins, and will take his oshi-sumo up the middle against Takanosho. Takanosho is keeping an even pace in his first ever top division tournament, and should be considered to have an edge in this match.

Shohozan vs Ryuden – Another first-ever match, it brings Maegashira 7 Shohozan against Maegashira 13 Ryuden. Let me guess, matta matta matta followed by somewhat questionable tachiai. Sorry, I think Ryuden has a lot of potential, but he needs to clean up his sumo. There is a good chance that Big Guns Shohozan just uses him as a speed bag for 20 seconds and then pitches him to the yobidashi.

Takarafuji vs Onosho – Normally I would say that Onosho would be the clear favorite, but not only is he missing his red mawashi, most of his sumo has gone walk-about as well. So lets see if Takarafuji can finally score his first win against Onosho.

Kagayaki vs Hokutofuji – I am sure Hokutofuji feels quite disappointed in his first loss, but his match today against Kagayaki could be a bit of a “gimme”, as he has a 5-0 advantage over him. I think getting his kachi-koshi might cheer him up quite a bit, yes! Kagayaki’s sumo, which is normally very organized, seems to be pieced together with all of the left over parts best recycled on clear glass day.

Kotoshogiku vs Asanoyama – A very interesting contest, with Asanoyama’s youthful vigor bringing a foil for Kotoshogiku’s guile and experience. Asanoyama is not afraid to go chest to chest, but we all know that Kotoshogiku will have the advantage in that case.

Tochiozan vs Abi – Abi’s sumo is, by its nature, an all or nothing affair most days. But during Aki it has been working for him thus far. Tochiozan will need to figure out how to get inside Abi’s long reach. Every rikishi that has done that so far in Aki has been able to beat him.

Shodai vs Myogiryu – Shodai’s win on day 8 over Takayasu was the kind of event that could turn his performance in this basho around. On day 9 he faces a very intense and focused Myogiryu, over whom he holds a 4-1 advantage. We are starting to see that Shodai’s improved tachiai is becoming a habit, and it’s a matter of time now before it pays off in higher performance.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – Yutakayama’s elbow is still damaged, so let’s bring him back, let the Yokozuna throw him around, then let an enormous fellow who uses his tachiai to help compact salarymen into morning commuter trains have a go. I just want Yutakayama’s left forearm to remain attached, please.

Tamawashi vs Kaisei – It’s the 8-8 record between these two that caught my attention. Kaisei is at his best when he can land a grip, and Tamawashi prefers to remain mobile, and keep his opponent trying to react to his sumo. Tamawashi has strength and speed, Kaisei has Newton, Einstein and Hawking. If Tamawashi disappears in a blue flash and suddenly Kaisei looks somewhat more compact, the singularity in the giant belly button is to blame.

Ikioi vs Ichinojo – I give up. Ikioi, what happened on day 8? Was it because you wanted to give Kisenosato a clay sandwich in the worst way? Summon that Ikioi today as well please. We know that Ichinojo will likely put forth some effort and then decide to let you win.

Chiyonokuni vs Takayasu – Takayasu looked quite disappointed after Shodai took him apart on day 8. I am sure it gave Chiyonokuni a lot of hope about his day 9 challenge to the Ozeki. Chiyonokuni only needs a small gap in Takayasu’s offense to launch a blistering attack that could find the Ozeki disappointed again.

Goeido vs Takakeisho – I want to see Goeido the Executioner again on day 9. That guy is both awe inspiriting and terrifying. But Takakeisho can give as good as he will receive from Goeido. If Takakeisho can survive two wave cycles, I am sure that Goeido will get frustrated and impatient and try to pull him down. That will be his ticket to handing the Ozeki his second loss.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – The bright fire of Hakuho’s sumo threatens to consume Mitakeumi’s bid to be Ozeki. He has beaten Hakuho twice in their 8 prior matches, and its unknown just how solid the dai-Yokozuna is right now. This will be his toughest challenger to date. The stakes are huge, the drama high, and there is just the thinnest change that Mitakeumi might pull it off.

Kakuryu vs Endo – Endo is just going through the motions right now, and it’s ugly to witness.

Kisenosato vs Tochinoshin – The Aki crucible reaches it’s day 9 hottest, as it blasts two men who both must win. Their 10-9 history is meaningless here. Both are less than 100%, with Tochinoshin likely in better condition. The one saving grace for Kisenosato is that you can count on Tochinoshin to prefer a mawashi battle, and thus it will allow Kisenosato his best chance at defense. The match of day 9, possibly THE match of act 2.

Aki Day 7 Highlights

Kakuryu Dohyo-iri

Its becoming clear that we may be seeing the limit of what Kisenosato can endure for now. After more than 18 months without a full tournament schedule, he may be finding himself running low on stamina. In his bout today, he was completely disrupted by Chiyonokuni, who dominated the match. In fact it was clear that both the Yokozuna and the crowd in the Kokugikan thought that Chiyonokuni had likely won the match. This marks the third time this basho that Chiyonokuni has blown a win by stepping out early, and it’s something he needs to correct.

Overnight Saturday US time, NHK World will once again be broadcasting live the final hour of Makuuchi. Team Tachiai is trying to decide if there will be a live blog or not. If we are going to live-blog the event, we will post a notice before evening.

Highlight Matches

Takanosho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze again gets too far forward, and is easily sent out. It was great to see Yoshikaze start 5-0, and it’s a good bet he will pick up the remaining 3 for a kachi-koshi. This win lifts Takanosho above .500, and he has to be pleased with his debut tournament thus far.

Takanoiwa defeats Ishiura – Takanoiwa anticipates Ishiura’s henka (everyone does it seems) and Ishiura has no way to escape the counter-attack. Its looking increasingly likely Ishiura will be back in Juryo.

Ryuden defeats Chiyoshoma – Two rikishi who have reputations for using matta and henka in their matches actually throw down and decide to battle. They both gave it a lot of effort, and it looked like real sumo.

Chiyomaru defeats Aoiyama – Once again, Aoiyama goes tumbling from the kind of shove that he normally laughs off. Clearly he is injured, and is struggling to stay on his feet and in balance. The win is good news for Chiyomaru, who needs to stay as close to the kachi-koshi line as he can.

Hokutofuji defeats Sadanoumi – The match moved from oshi to yotzu in a blink of an eye, and Hokutofuji was clearly dominating every key element. With a 7-0 start, he is looking increasingly likely to be a real contender for 2019. After recovering from his concussion, his hand injuries and god knows what else, his sumo is fast, tight and aggressive.

Kotoshogiku defeats Daieisho – Strong win by Kotoshogiku, he never did get chest to chest with Daiesho, but he was able to grab a firm hold of him and march forward with strength. It’s a shame this man’s body is fading, he can execute some solid sumo.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – Best element of the match – the crowd gasps at the loud “crack” at the tachiai. Tochiozan, as is his custom, takes his time and dismantles Asanoyama with efficiency and power. Like Kotoshogiku, the level of skill he possesses far outstrips his aging body’s ability to execute. But on days when he can line them up, he can win.

Shohozan defeats Myogiryu – Setting sumo aside, these two decided to recreate the battle of Tsushima, with Myogiryu relegated to the role of the Russian fleet. Both men were bashing each other to bits, but in such a match, the advantage is always to “Big Guns” Shohozan.

Abi defeats Onosho – Onosho brought strength, Abi brought agility, and agility carried the day. I am a Onosho supporter, but he’s still trying to piece together his post-injury sumo, its clear.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Ikioi’s strength was not enough to overcome Kaisei’s significant mass and determination to drive forward. Clearly Ikioi is going to have a big reset down the banzuke for Kyushu.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho spent the first part of the match using Mitakumi’s face as a punching bag, and the blows rang loudly through the Kokugikan, eliciting gasps from the crowd. Mitakeumi absorbed them all and remained focused. In spite of having his heels of the tawara, Mitakeumi expected Takakeisho to overcommit and lunge to finish him off. He was not wrong. With the timing that underscores Mitakeumi’s sumo skill and ring sense, he moved aside just enough to give Takakeisho an express trip to the clay. Two take-aways from this match: Mitakeumi has rather impressive focus, Takakeisho is maybe a year away from walking the same path Mitakeumi is on now.

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Sadly, Ichinojo once again gave up, in spite of having the upper hand at the start of the match. It was good news for Tochinoshin, as he is still working to clear kadoban.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – These two have a long rivalry, and it showed in today’s match. Many opponents are disrupted by Takayasu’s tachiai, Tamawashi seemed completely unmoved and immediately launched to attack. But in he overcommitted, and Takayasu slapped him forward and down. Tamawashi is also likely to see a big drop down the banzuke for Kyushu.

Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu could not repeat his magic for day 7, though he clearly got the best of the tachiai. But Goeido seems to be working on some kind of new GoeiDOS 2.2, and I have to say it seems to be a stable build.

Kisenosato defeats Chiyonokuni – Kisenosato won, but once again we have a marathon struggle against a Maegashira that might have gone either way. I would say that Kisenosato is suffering from not having to do 15 days of tournament sumo for the past 18 months, and his stamina may be spent at this point. If he can rack 2 more wins, he can at least claim his kachi-koshi. There is also the specter that he may have had an ankle injury when Chiyotairyu fell on him after Goeido ejected his opponent to win the match.

Hakuho defeats Endo – Endo is a mess right now, and the winning move is listed as koshikudake, meaning Endo fell down on his own. Hakuho was in full battle mode, and his momentum carried him into the first row of zabuton. Looking at the replays, it looks like Endo’s knee gave out. Hopefully it’s not another case for surgery.

Kakuryu defeats Shodai – Straightforward Kakuryu sumo, he continues to look strong and fight in forward gears. I suspect he will be the man to beat for the yusho.

Aki Day 7 Preview

Hakuho Salt

The Great Sumo cat of the Kokugikan started act 2 in terrific style on Friday. Act 2 is usually when chaos and discord are at their most potent in any basho. You think you know who has started well, and you can start to hope that your favorite among the leaders may find a way to win the Emperor’s cup. Dear readers, it’s not over for many days to come. Hopes will be smashed, dreams will be crushed, and only the truly durable will take home the yusho banner.

Heading into the middle weekend of Aki, there are interesting and exiting match ups spread across the sumo day. With a full slate of top rank rikishi still competing, we are in store for some fantastic sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Yoshikaze vs Takanosho – Now that Yoshikaze has his first loss, some of the pressure is off. At the very bottom of the banzuke, he does not need to do anything too extreme, a solid kachi-koshi will suffice. But he’s not the kind of person who will throttle back. Takanosho is keeping his head above water in his first ever Makuuchi tournament, and he has never faced Yoshikaze before. I think this one will be a good amount of fun.

Ishiura vs Takanoiwa – Ishiura is treading ever closer to the express route to Juryo. I feel for the guy; he’s got talent, strength and speed, but he’s small and he has yet to come up with a good sumo cookbook for himself. In a case like this, I have to wonder if being in the same stable as Hakuho may be holding him back. Takanoiwa, on the other hand, looks like he is doing well. I am going to guess he is on a kachi-koshi path.

Ryuden vs Chiyoshoma – Ryuden has yet to win one from Chiyoshoma, but this could be his day. Ryuden’s matches have been pretty bland so far, but he is winning. Chiyoshoma seems to be suffering from undercarriage problems again, and his sumo has been chaotic.

Okinoumi vs Kotoyuki – Okinoumi is quite the survivor. He enters his day 7 match with a 8-3 career advantage over Kotoyuki, who seems to have found his sumo again. But with 4 losses already, he has to cook up a solid winning streak to keep himself in the top division.

Aoiyama vs Chiyomaru – Aoiyama finally racked up his first win on Friday, and today he faces Chiyomaru, who has never beaten him. At 1-5, Aoiyama is in grave shape. But at 2-4, Chiyomaru is closer to danger. Only ranked Maegashira 14, a significant losing record could remove him from the top division.

Hokutofuji vs Sadanoumi – The only undefeated Maegashira gets what should be a fairly straightforward contest for day 7. Their only prior match went to Hokutofuji. Sadanoumi comes in 4-2, but Hokutofuji is currently out-performing his Maegashira 9 rank.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Both rikishi come in with 2-4 records, and both of them seem to be struggling. For Takarafuji there are injuries that have been reported in the press. Kagayaki seems to be just a bit lethargic, and his sumo is having problems producing the same level of power it has earlier in the year.

Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Tochiozan can be counted on for composed, efficient and calculated sumo each time on the dohyo. Asanoyama seems to be at the height of his form right now, and keeps finding ways to win, even when he’s taking a pounding. With a 2-1 career record, this is probably a fairly even match.

Onosho vs Abi – We saw on day 6 that Abi can improvise when the need strikes, but against Onosho it’s probably going to be a straight slug-fest. Advantage for Abi – his reach. Advantage for Onosho – low center of gravity and speed.

Ikioi vs Kaisei – Both rikishi must view day 7 with great relief. They have completed their tour of the upper ranks for now, and can transition to working on their 8 wins. Ikioi took an especially hard beating during Act 1, and will need to put together a solid winning streak to stay at rank. Today’s match should be a lot of fun, as we get Kaisei’s bulk up against Ikioi’s strength.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – The Ozeki hopeful absorbed his first loss on day 6, and on day 7 he gets to fight his fellow tadpole, Takakeisho. Takakeisho is no easy match, in spite of his 2-4 record heading into the middle weekend. Mitakeumi’s magic number is still probably 11, so he needs this match as a buffer against the Ozeki and Yokozuna on tap for week 2.

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – Even though Ichinojo is back to his bad habit of giving up, he still stands a chance against Tochinoshin on day 7. Tochinoshin is wisely not trying to use brute strength so much this tournament. A primary reason is likely his injured foot, but he also needs to diversify his sumo.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Tamawashi has a habit of beating Takayasu, so this is going to be a test match to see if the Ozeki can remain unbeaten. Tamawashi is in a deep hole at 0-6, so his motivation will be all the stronger.

Goeido vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu surprised everyone by disrupting and then defeating Kisenosato on day 6. But his day 7 match against Goeido is going to be a contest of rapid brutality writ large. There is a small chance that their tachiai collision might form new exotic particles of interest to science, and teams are standing by to clean up the debris if the worst should happen.

Kisenosato vs Chiyonokuni – Kisenosato gets a chance to recover against Chiyonokuni, who is struggling to keep his sumo on track. After the surprising loss to Chiyotairyu, fans will hopefully have a more realistic expectation of Kisenosato for the remainder of Aki. I seriously think that if he can get to 8 wins, everyone calls it success and nobody cares until November. He is 3 wins away from that goal, but is nearly to the part of the basho where he fights the upper ranks.

Endo vs Hakuho – Endo’s a shell of his normal self. Hakuho’s going to dismantle him and play with the pieces.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – I am keen to see what kind of cruel sumo feedback loop Kakuryu employs against Shodai. Not that he does not have it coming, just that sometimes it’s fun to try and guess.

Day 6 – Tanabata Wish Fulfilled

chiyotairyu-got-money
Remember Chiyotairyu’s “I need money” Tanabata wish?

Day 6 of the Aki basho, opening the second act, continued the excellent action we had in the first five days. We start the day with seven rikishi at 5-0. How many will finish it with 6-0?

Ishiura attempts to do straight sumo vs. Takanosho, the newcomer, but he can’t get inside for a grip on the front of his mawashi. He tries to pull back for a hatakikomi, but Takanosho is stable enough, and the pull puts Ishiura at a disadvantage, which Takanosho is quick to exploit. Yorikiri, and unless Ishiura seriously upgrades his sumo, Hakuho will need to look for a new dew-gatherer for Kyushu.

In the matta parade that this basho is turning out to be, Ryuden‘s premature slam into Yoshikaze must be one of the most eye-popping ones. Although Yoshikaze seems to maintain his cool, and starts a tsuppari attack after the real tachiai, he is quickly swept off with a hatakikomi. There goes the first perfect record. Yoshikaze 5-1 (and somewhat surprisingly, so is Ryuden).

Kotoyuki seemed to do much better in his pale cyan mawashi, but today he faced Takanoiwa, who seems to have gotten over his little lapse of sumo from days 3 and 4. Takanoiwa unfazed by the Kotoyuki’s thrusts, circles a bit and lets the man do his usual Neymar roll into the suna-kaburi (the rows of spectators right next to the dohyo).

Chiyoshoma tries a henka against Nishikigi. Against Nishikigi? You need a henka against Nishikigi, Mr. Wile. E. Throwing-Technician? Nishikigi doesn’t have patience for nonesense this basho. He sees through that henka even without his glasses, and chases Chiyoshoma out of the dohyo. Oshidashi.

Chiyomaru starts his bout with a morotezuki straight to Sadanoumi‘s throat. He follows that with a couple more thrusts, then stops and pulls, causing Sadanoumi to lose his balance. Tsukidashi, and Chiyomaru secures his second win this basho.

Okinoumi launches quickly into the tachiai vs. Daishomaru. He is all over the Oitekaze man and dispatches him within seconds.

The other Oitekaze man, Daieisho, faces Takarafuji. The latter tries again and again to land his favorite grip but his injured left elbow seems to be a serious hindrance. He circles around again and again as Daieisho leads him to the tawara, and eventually manages a kotenage and sends Daieisho out.

Aoiyama finally starts a match with his signature rain of fierce tsuppari. Kotoshogiku, who had a good first few days, is overwhelmed. He never gets even close to landing his own signature attack or even laying hands on Aoiyama. Tsukidashi and first win for the Bulgarian, and Kotoshogiku drops to 3-3.

Hokutofuji, when he waited for his bout in the shitaku-beya, heard of Yoshikaze’s first loss. Being the only other rank-and-filer with a perfect record, he said he ascended the dohyo today rather nervous. Yet another matta ensued. In the actual bout, he leads once again with his right hand, a couple of thrusts, and grabs Tochiozan‘s mawashi momentarily. Tochiozan shakes him off. Hokutofuji fends off Tochiozan’s own attempts to get at his mawashi, and as they go back and forth, Tochiozan loses his balance and Hokutofuji follows up. Hatakikomi, and Hokutofuji stays perfect.

As Shohozan and Asanoyama clash, it’s Shohozan who gets his right hand inside first. However, Asanoyama bars it on the left, applies an ottsuke on the right and promptly forces the muscular Nishonoseki man out with a kimedashi. This was a fine display of technique despite its short duration.

What is up with Onosho? His tachiai vs. Chiyonokuni seems to be rather weak, and the Kokonoe man blasts him out of the ring in no time. A very frustrated Onosho mounts the dohyo again to give his bow. Onosho merely 2-4 so far.

Abi faces a very tall rikishi today – Kagayaki. He knows that his reach is no greater than his opponent. So his game plan today is not his windmill tsuppari, but rather – after the obligatory morotezuki – he takes a step to the right, grabs Kagayaki’s belt and neck and throws him smartly outside. Abi may look like a gangly, happy-go-lucky boy who just happened to find himself in a silk mawashi by sheer accident, but those arms are really strong and the skill is there. All he needs is to balance his tsuki-oshi “one weird trick” (OK, two weird tricks, because that throw is also something he uses from time to time) with some belt work, and he will really be a pleasure to behold (though I’m sure the NSK officials will cringe when he finishes his Ozeki acceptance speech with a “wara!” [“LOL!”]).

Take Myogiryu, for example. He is famous enough for his tsuki-oshi sumo, that the illustration under the definition of “oshi-zumo” in my sumo dictionary is a drawing of Myogiryu. But today he launches himself at Endo, and goes chest to chest for a lightning fast yoritaoshi. Keep your skill set wide, and your rivals will never know what’s coming.

And today Ichinojo definitely woke up with his back acting up again. He simply let Takakeisho attack. Didn’t try anything, and as soon as he got to the bales, just went obediently outside. Lose that extra weight, sekiwake. It’s painful to watch you when you are like that.

Takayasu delivers his usual kachiage, but the hefty Kaisei is rather unimpressed by it. But the Ozeki adds a half-hearted harizashi – half-hearted in that the harite was very weak, and the grip itself is not very strong. He then proceeds to propel Kaisei towards the edge, and loses the grip. Kaisei tries a desperate kotenage. The Ozeki stays on his feet, and soon finishes the Brazilian off. Kaisei is only 2-4, but that’s still a good record for this basho’s Maegashira 1-3 wrestlers.

The next bout is the highlight of the day. The unbeaten Mitakeumi in his second Ozeki bout, this time against a healthy Goeido. Goeido starts with a harizashi. Although it’s not exactly a harizashi as his left hand did not go inside (“harizashi” is a combination of “harite” – a slap – and “sashi” – an insertion of the hand under the opponent’s arm) but rather outside. So I guess the expression “slap and grab” works better here. So Mitakeumi has his right hand inside, and strives to “sashi” the other one as well for a morozashi (that’s the same “sashi” – a double-sided insertion of hands). But Goeido is not easily pierced. He locks his right armpit and moves forward with that unstoppable force that we wish he would show more consistently. By the time Mitakeumi has both arms inside, it does him no good whatsoever – he is already stepping on straw. Yet another one of the perfect records broken, and the Sekiwake misses an opportunity for a “quality win” for his Ozeki run. The King of Practice beats the King of Why-Practice.

Ikioi goes through his pre-bout routine with precision. Actually, it’s not his. He mimics Hakuho’s pre-bout routine to the last detail. The crouch with hands open palms up on his knees, the trot towards the towel. Every single point. And this is why it seems comical to me to see Tochinoshin – whose eye looks like a train wreck – flatten Ikioi on his face within half a second – which is mostly the time it took for them to complete the tachiai, rather than the time it took him to perform the tsukiotoshi. You can copy Hakuho’s external mannerisms all the way to the supporter on his right elbow, but once it comes down to Sumo, Ikioi is Ikioi (or as Bruce coined him, Ikiyoyo, because once again he is going to drop in rank after a barren visit to the joi), and Hakuho is… Hakuho.

However, today Hakuho seemed to be a bit of Ikioi instead of Hakuho. Hakuho knows he should make use of his much superior tachiai when faced with Shodai, and he does slam very quickly into the rank-and-filer. He tries to get a grip on Shodai’s mawashi with his left, but instead, it’s Shodai who gets a firm hold on the Yokozuna’s mawashi. Furthermore, Shodai manages a quick makikae with his left arm and gets a morozashi on Hakuho. Of course, at this point he is at the edge of the dohyo, but he knows how to use a morozashi, and attempts a throw which sees the Yokozuna flying in the air. Not something he would expect from anybody who is still an active rikishi.

Both men fall out. The gyoji points towards Shodai. Hakuho looks shocked. But a monoii is called. There is a question about Shodai’s heel – did it touch outside? And if not, who is the winner and who is the loser? After the conference, the shimpan reverse the gyoji’s decision – it’s Hakuho’s win. “正代のかかとが先に出ており” – “Shodai’s heel went out first”.

If you watch the replay, take a look at how Hakuho strives to keep the tip of his toe touching inside the dohyo, like a snooker player. As long as that toe is inside, it’s his win. He knew the toe was lost at some point there, and if it wasn’t for Shodai’s heel, which went out while Hakuho’s toe was still in, it would have been the same situation as Chiyonokuni vs. Asanoyama the day before.

Hakuho picks the prize money, but looks far from happy. He is still 6-0, but… right?

Kakuryu clashes heads with Tamawashi (why are you wrecking that fine brain, Yokozuna?), then proceeds with a tsuki-oshi attack – Tamawashi’s own weapon. Kakuryu simply looks great this basho. His only slightly icky bout was that little pull – day 2, was it? – but since then he has been formidable. If he keeps that up, we are going to have an awesome senshuraku.

Chiyotairyu, who so far didn’t look too good against any of the upper ranks, and went into this bout 0-5, faced Kisenosato in the musubi-no-ichiban. Rows on rows of flags pass by. Tachiai. Great clash. I think again their heads met. Chiyotairyu lands a couple of tsuppari, then pulls and lets the Yokozuna’s mass do the rest. In all the bouts so far, Kisenosato had an opportunity to come up with plans B and C. But Chiyotairyu leaves him no time to do anything before he gives him that last little push over the edge. First gold star of the tournament, and the Kokonoe man, whose Tanabata wish was “I need money”, not only got a hefty stack of kensho envelopes, but a nice extra income every basho from now until he drops below Juryo or retires.

Leaders (6-0): Kakuryu, Hakuho, Takayasu, Hokutofuji. (5-1): Kisenosato, Goeido, Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Ryuden, Yoshikaze.

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