Kyushu Day 12 Highlights

shohozan

Day 12 was a solid day of sumo, but it did bring a couple of questions to the front. The first for me is that with a number of lower ranked rikishi approaching double digits, and fighting very well this basho, will the NSK once again decide that “nobody deserved a special prize”? Many fans were shocked by that declaration at Aki, as several rikishi put together successful campaigns in the face of a resurgent Yokozuna and Ozeki corps.

The yusho race narrowed considerably, and that was clearly intended given the day 12 schedule. The matches involving the chasers were all solid sumo that saw each candidate produce a fierce effort.

For those readers who are keeping up with Juryo (and who wouldn’t with Herouth doing a masterful job covering it), Oguruma rising star and certified sumo battle-cruiser Yago secured his kachi-koshi at Juryo 1 East, meaning short of some kind of bizarre incident, we will see this sumo phenomenon in the top division in January. He has been in Juryo for the past 5 tournaments – 7 total over his short 10 basho career. His sumo looks strong, low and heavy.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – A notable match because Chiyonokuni goes for the mawashi and engages in a solid yotzu match against Daiamami. Is it just me, or is Daiamami looking surprised there? Even though he is make-koshi, it’s great to see Chiyonokuni rack up a much-needed win.

Okinoumi defeats Meisei – Okinoumi continues to rack up wins, and it’s wonderful. Meisei denied a kachi-koshi today, and he seems a bit frustrated. Okinoumi could hit double-digits this tournament, and might end up with a substantial re-ranking upward for January. While his fans might cheer this, Okinoumi suffers from a chronic medical condition that sometimes impacts his sumo, and I would hate to see it worsen.

Yutakayama defeats Endo – Yutakayama very effectively kept Endo from going for his mawashi, and instead set the tone and format for the match, which took the form of a windmill thrusting contest. Endo’s last minute attempt at a pull down failed, and Yutakayama got a much needed win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Aoiyama – As much as I admire and respect Kotoshogiku, I was really pulling for Aoiyama to prevail. Aoiyama opened strong, and began with his expected thrusting attack, but could not stop Kotoshogiku going chest to chest with him. At that point, I think Aoiyama began to worry, and that may have been the start of trouble. The Kyushu Bulldozer’s knees are not what they once were, but he contained and pushed with enough force to move Aoiyama out. With this loss, Aoiyama falls out of the group 1 loss behind Takakeisho.

Onosho defeats Daieisho – Yusho leader Takakeisho’s friend Onosho does him a solid favor and quenches the higher ranked Daieisho’s aspirations for a day 15 parade. From the match you can see just how much Daieisho was putting into this match, he met Onosho thrust for thrust, but left himself open for the hatakikomi at just the wrong moment.

Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – I bring this match up because it’s clear just how hurt Ikioi is, watching him gather his strength just to stand following his defeat. The man is a true competitor, and its amazing to see true determination and courage on display.

Takanoiwa defeats Chiyoshoma – Bit by bit we see Takanoiwa get his sumo back. I would assume by the middle of 2019 he is back to being a serious full time contender for the upper Maegashira / lower San’yaku. Chiyshoma is now one step closer to make-koshi, and he is perilously far down the banzuke for end November with a losing record.

Kagayaki defeats Takanosho – Both men are make-koshi, but this is a match to watch. Firstly, Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals carries the day. Second, is I have started to take note of Takanosho, this guy, much like Asanoyama, seems to have a very positive attitude about competition, even on days when he loses.

Shohozan defeats Chiyotairyu – If any wonder why I call Shohozan “Big Guns” or refer to him as a “Street Fighter”. Behold exhibit A. His match with Chiyotairyu featured a few loud and forceful blows the the face that probably left a mark, and certainly got the crowd’s attention.  Chiyotairyu goes chest to chest, removing the immediate threat for more blows to the face. Sadly for Chiyotairyu, he’s somewhat stuck at this point, as his yotzu card is not strong, and his stamina tends to be expended in the first few seconds. Shohozan correctly waits him out, injecting a few harassing moves moment to moment, and bides his time. Shohozan wins his kachi-koshi, and the home town fans are delighted.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – The happy rikishi staves off make-koshi for another day, but its sadly at the expense of long suffering Takarafuji.

Yoshikaze defeats Abi – As expected, Yoshikaze learned well from Ikioi, Endo and Okinoumi. You can see him apply upward pressure at Abi’s elbows, disrupting his preferred double arm thrust attack. Time and again Yoshikaze drives inside, just to be awarded a hand to the face. His persistence is rewarded by control of the inside, and he pushes Abi back, back and out. Although it’s at a bit slower speed and lower energy than a few years ago, Yoshikaze still has the goods when he can rouse his fighting spirit.

Tochiozan defeats Myogiryu – I have to wonder if Myogiryu has run low on stamina, his brilliant opening week seems to have turned into a bit of a rout. Tochiozan succeeds in getting him turned sideways, and off balance for the win.

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – Wow, Shodai was on his sumo today. Hokutofuji put a fair amount of genki into the tachiai, but Shodai absorbed it masterfully, and kept Hokutofuji from executing any successful offense. Shodai instead stalemated Hokutofuji, and waited for his opening, which he found and exploited with exquisite timing.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Takakeisho seems close to unstoppable at this point. Tamawashi always has strength and balance, but in reaction to the “Wave Action” attack, it seems that few can maintain their footing for long. After the second wave, Tamawashi is too far forward, working to bring maximum force to bear on Takakeisho, who senses the imbalance and deftly steps aside.

Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – As stated in the preview, Nishikigi surprises every couple of days, and today he was somehow able to use an off balance position to load up enough energy to push Kaisei out. Dare I say it? Nishikigi could still end this basho with a winning record at Maegashira 3. A new day in sumo indeed.

Ichinojo defeats Ryuden – In hitting his make-koshi, Ryuden gave Ichinojo a solid fight. But it seems the Mongolian giant is working through whatever pain or injuries are blunting his sumo. Twice Ryuden had Ichinojo’s heels on the tawara, twice he rallied. Ichinojo closes the match with a hearty lift and drop. Well fought both.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – I am worried about Tochinoshin, and I think Goeido’s kyujo may rescue him from a make-koshi and a kadoban status for New Years. Takayasu seems to be focused and driven to bring himself to his eventual showdown with Takakeisho as a fierce contender who is ready to claim the Emperor’s cup by eliminating the upstart contender.

Kyushu Day 6 Highlights

Kyushu Day 6

We kicked off Kyushu Act 2 in fine style, and with just the Ozeki holding down the big end of the torkiumi, it’s makes for a really quick final division. While whoever wins this basho will always have an asterisk next to it (due to Nokozuna), its still an official tournament, and everything that happens does indeed count.

Somewhere in the stands today, our own “man in exotic lands” Josh was enjoying the matches. If I could guess, we may see some of his thoughts on this blog before the end of the day.

In other news, an off-hand remark I made in the day 6 preview seems to have severely impacted my weekend chanko recipe. This shall be painful, smelly and foul tasting. But it must be done.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Daiamami – It’s one thing to have Uncle Sumo visit the top division for a day, and it’s another thing (a special, wonderful thing) to have him unleash sumo magic. I am certain Daiamami was looking for a henka, instead Aminishiki drove inside and set up a rare kimarite: Amiuchi (aka The Fisherman’s Throw).

Arawashi defeats Daishomaru – Notable because for the injured Arawashi, this is his first win of the basho. As you can see post-match, he can put very little pressure on that injured leg. Ranked at Maegashira 16, a make-koshi is a return trip to Juryo.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – There seems to be almost no hope for “Love Chunks” Chiyomaru, as Onosho puts him up for adoption with the nearest Oyakata.

Aoiyama defeats Takanosho – Aoiyama appears to have reconnected with his sumo, and improves to 4-2, meanwhile Takanosho looks to be in trouble.

Chiyonokuni defeats Endo – After Endo’s day 5 match, people began to think he had his body and his sumo re-connected. However, Endo ceded control of the match to Chiyonokuni at the tachiai, and Chiyonokuni never let him do anything more that try to react to his sumo.

Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – This is Ikioi’s first win over Yutakayama, and it underscores the impact of Yutakayama’s injuries. Ikioi made fast work of him, and we saw no defensive pressure from Yutakayama.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – THE match of the basho thus far! These two went at it with gusto, and neither one let an offensive move go unanswered. As the battle raged across the dohyo, the two swapped roles, techniques and advantages. In the end I think it was all down to Shohozan outlasting the former Ozeki. The crowd went wild for these two hometown favorites. I loved the bow that Kotoshogiku gave at the end of that match, pure respect for a worthy opponent, and a match that might be the highlight of his year.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takanoiwa – Takanoiwa did not survive Chiyotairyu’s cannon-ball tachiai with his balance intact, and the burly Kokenoe rikishi advanced and pushed the still-recovering Takanoiwa clear of the tawara.

Abi defeats Asanoyama – Two happy rikishi enter, one rikishi leaves happy. Again the double arm tsuppari of Abi-zumo left his opponent unable to do anything other than get pounded into defeat.

Yoshikaze defeats Kagayaki – As thought, the overwhelming intensity of Yoshikaze’s berserker attacks proved more than Kagayaki’s strong low stance and solid fundamentals could absorb. Kagayaki opened strong, but Yoshikaze rallied at the tawara. I will say that Kagayaki is getting better at enduring that style of attack, which is good news for his future sumo.

Nishikigi defeats Tochiozan – No really, undefeated Tochiozan went down to the tragically over-promoted Nishikigi for his second win in a row. I am not sure what they did to him, but Nishikigi has decided to win. Wow…

Takakeisho defeats Kaisei – Stand him up, slap him down. Takakeisho is now the only unbeaten Makuuchi rikishi at Kyushu. Without any Yokozuna or credible Ozeki to contain him, Takakeisho is really racking up the wins.

Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Mitakeumi decided to bring his sumo today, and while Hokutofuji started strong, it was clearly a grade below Mitakeumi’s “A Sumo”.

Myogiryu defeats Ichinojo – I am starting to feel quite sad for Ichinojo, as he continues to fade. Myogiryu, however, is bringing fire and energy to each match, something that is sorely missing in many other rikishi at the top end of the banzuke right now.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi allowed the match to go chest to chest at the tachiai, and gave up his primary advantage: mobility. At that point it was Takayasu’s fight, and it ended as could be expected with the big man applying a straightforward but powerful yorikiri.

Goeido defeats Ryuden – The Goeido techs were able to wipe the “Bouncy Castle” zero day exploit from his battle control systems, and the Goeido 2.1 stack functioned normally today.

Shodai defeats Tochinoshin – Once again Tochinoshin allows his opponent to dictate the terms of the match. Unable to land any sort of grip, Tochinoshin was helpless to stop Shodai’s cartoon physics from completely disrupting his sumo. He drops to 3-3.

Kyushu Day 3 Preview

Kyushu Day 3 Banner

The top story in our minds is the evident weakness in Kisenosato. His day 1 loss was regrettable, but to some extent plausible as Takakeisho is a hard-charging young man who is primed for higher ranks. His day 2 loss and resulting kinboshi is rightfully cause for concerns among fans. Kisenosato has frequently suffered from performance problems in high stakes / high stress situations, and has jokingly been called a “Chokozuna” more than once. Given his age, his injury, and his record setting string if kyujo, the “Great Pumpkin” might be getting into a spot where he is left with few options save a trip to the barber.

Kaisei has returned from kyujo, and with all rikishi injuries, the reporting around what was wrong with him, and what state he is in, is awfully thin. We know the pressure is on for him to produce at least a few wins to help stave off a deep make-koshi and a heavy demotion. Balancing between injury recovery and rank is one of the brutal truths surrounding sumo: it is a zero-sum game where only the winners can retain rank.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Arawashi vs Chiyomaru – Both rikishi are eager for their first wins, and both are clearly struggling this basho. Both of them are staring at a return to Juryo approaching like a Shinkansen. For all of the glories of being a sumo fan, it’s always tough to see two capable rikishi get in this much trouble so early in a basho.

Onosho vs Takanosho – Onosho has opened Kyushu strong, and I do think that he may have put on some additional mass as well. A healthy and genki Onosho is under-ranked at Maegashira 13, and I think if he finishes week 1 in good shape he will be in the rotation to face off against higher ranks.

Aoiyama vs Endo – Everyone hopes that this basho, Endo will get his body, his sumo and his mind together. Endo is always hoped to be a great rikishi “real soon now”, but always comes up short for a parade of reasons. Aoiyama is winless thus far, and seems to be continuing the struggles he faced at Aki. Both are capable when they are on their sumo, which may not be day 3.

Chiyonokuni vs Okinoumi – An evenly balanced match between Chiyonokuni’s raw, frantic battle style and Okinoumi’s more measured and balanced approach. As fans of Chiyonokuni are aware, his frantic sumo tends to include a lot of mistakes and missteps, and any skilled opponent need only wait for him to execute something in a sloppy or careless manner to find their opening for a winning move.

Sadanoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama is suffering a cold start to Kyushu, which seems to be an extension of his struggles at Aki. It is not uncommon for a rikishi to suffer for several basho following a brutal ride through the top end of the Maegashira ranks, and this may be the case with Yutakayama. Sadanoumi, one the other hand, has started strong and seems to be on his sumo.

Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – Hometown boy Kotoshogiku really does much better at Kyushu. He seems to become energized by the atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the crowd. He has never lost to Daieisho, and I don’t expect he will start today.

Abi vs Shohozan – Oh fun – the street brawler “Big Guns” Shohozan will have to puzzle through Abi’s crazy long reach to remain unbeaten. Fans around the world are waiting for Abi to decide that the double arm shoulder thrusting approach needs a rest, and to try something more.

Takanoiwa vs Kagayaki – Takanoiwa is probably eager to pick up his first win, but fans should keep in mind he sat out jungyo with injuries, and is unlikely to be 100%. Add to that the stress of the Harmafuji lawsuit debacle, the retirement of his Oyakata, changing stables and all of the stress that came with that, and you have a recipe for a solid rikishi underperforming. He holds a 7-5 career advantage over Kagayaki, but Mr Fundamentals may hold the edge on day 3.

Chiyotairyu vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama took white stars from both Takanoiwa and Kagayaki, but now faces a bigger, rounder challenge. Chiyotairyu’s sumo is fairly one dimensional, and Asanoyama won their only prior match.

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze will work hard from the tachiai to keep Shodai reacting. If he gives the man in blue a chance to set up any offense, it could get tough for the Berserker in a hurry. So for Shodai, he needs to use his excellent balance and stability to endure Yoshikaze’s opening gambit, and rally to have a chance to win.

Takakeisho vs Ryuden – I am going to guess with a win over the Yokozuna and the top ranked Ozeki, the schedulers are going to save Takakeisho’s remaining Ozeki bouts for later in the basho. The young man could be on a hot streak, and he may be useful in creating drama for act 3 if he keeps winning. Today his opponent is Ryuden, who continues to be inconsistent, but could plausibly win against Takakeisho.

Tamawashi vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo, what is it going to take? So much potential, but something in your mind seems to impede your sumo. You have a lot of fans who are behind you, but worry when we see you struggle with the easy stuff. Today is a fairly even match against his countryman Tamawashi. Fast and brutal, Tamawashi may struggle with Ichinojo’s scale busting mass, but I anticipate that Tamawashi will attack with force, and likely prevail.

Mitakeumi vs Nishikigi – Ever have a business trip to some place you always wanted to see, like maybe Thailand. But the flight breaks down, your luggage gets lost and sold on the black market, and the food gives you horrific digestive problems. But you get to see amazing sights and meet truly wonderful and unique people in a whirlwind adventure you will never forget, and probably never attempt again. This is Nishikigi’s magical holiday in the joi-jin.

Kaisei vs Takayasu – Welcome back Kaisei! Leg still hurt? Good, we would like you to work out with Mr Takayasu-zeki today. Both of you are big, hairy beasts so we decided it would be good for you to share hobby time together.

Goeido vs Tochiozan – Now Tochiozan has taken both Sekiwake scalps, the schedulers try him against the top-ranked Ozeki. Goeido’s day 2 match saw him fall prey to the same offensive strategy that Takakeisho used against Kisenosato, so one has to wonder if Goeido has lost the plot.

Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – A surprisingly interesting and balanced match. Tochinoshin does not yet look to be on his sumo, and that day 1 loss seems to be occupying his mind. Myogiryu is coming off of a Kisenosato supplied kinboshi, and probably feels like he can overcome the “lift and shift” of Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin holds a 11-7 lead in a surprisingly even career record.

Kisenosato vs Hokutofuji – Kisenosato seems to be on a path to turn each of his matches into a high-drama nail biter. Day 3 is no better as he faces Hokutofuji, who has no wins (same as the Yokozuna), but has been fighting well. Does Kisenosato take one step closer to the barber in the final match of the day?

Kyushu Day 1 Highlights

Kyushu Day 1
Let’s Get Started! – Photo From The Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

Welcome to our Kyushu highlights, dear readers! Team Tachiai look at any basho as a series of three acts, each with its own character and goals. Act 1 – get started, remove the ring rust and see who is hot and who is not. Act 2 – Narrow the field and find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and start sorting the survivors from the damned. Act 3 – Hopes get smashed, dreams get crushed and we hand someone the Emperor’s Cup.

Day 1 featured heaps of ring-rust, and it seems a lot of rikishi arrived at Kyushu in somewhat worn condition after the fall jungyo tour. In addition, many are still nursing injuries large and small from the fight-club that was Aki 2018. While day 1 is frequently rusty and a bit off the typical basho pace, there was some excellent sumo on display in the small and rather loud Kyushu arena.

Highlight Matches

Yago defeats Chiyomaru – As predicted, a lot of huffing and puffing, and it was clear that Chiyomaru lost stamina early. Getting that much mass in motion takes an enormous amount of energy, and it was clearly draining him. But a lot of credit goes to Yago who stood up to that much oshi and carried the match. Solid technique from an up and coming young man we are likely to see more of in 2019.

Onosho defeats Endo – They made a good fight out of it, and Endo put a lot of pressure into his attacks, but Onosho’s low center of gravity and impressive balance were the deciding factors. I would guess that at least for now, Onosho’s knees are good enough for some first class sumo. I will be interested to see how long into the basho his health carries him.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – When the match evolved into a mawashi fight, it was clear that Aoiyama was in trouble. Okinoumi took charge and waltzed him over the tawara without too much drama. Aoiyama is still working to recover from injuries earlier in the year, and did not look ready to win.

Chiyonokuni defeats Yutakayama – A brutal tachiai that stood both men up, and Yutakayama quickly moved to get an inside position. Chiyonokuni’s lighting reflexes saved the match for him, as he took advantage of Yutakayama’s hold of his right arm and used Yutakayama’s grip to move him back. Yutakayama’s giant head was too tempting a target, and Chiyonokuni grabbed hold, hooked his right hand into his opponents mawashi, turning and pushing Yutakayama out. Excellent work from Chiyonokuni.

Sadanoumi defeats Daieisho – Notable in that the kimarite listed is the seldom seen okurihikiotoshi, but to my eyes it was more of a slippiotoshi.

Shohozan defeats Ikioi – After a Shohozan matta, the real fight was over in a moment, as Ikioi has his balance too far forward and Shohozan lets Ikioi’s inertia finish the job.

Kagayaki defeats Abi – The double-arm thrust at the tachiai was defeated through the master of low drama fundamentals. Kagayaki focuses on getting his hands on Abi’s elbows, and breaks the thrusting attack. Of course when this happens, Abi is quite far forward and not too difficult to route towards the nearest shimpan.

Asanoyama defeats Takanoiwa – A fine yotzu / mawashi battle from these two, and Asanoyama seems to be in the drivers seat. Asanoyama’s performance in this match is an example of why I think he has the potential for higher rank. He’s fast, decisive and controls the much more experienced Takanoiwa.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – Yoshikaze absorbed the cannon-ball tachiai and got inside of Chiyotairyu, who soon found himself on the receiving end of Yoshikaze’s blistering attacks. Chiyotairyu spent the rest of the match trying to get on an offensive footing, but always a half step behind local man Yoshikaze. A solid win against a heavier and more powerful opponent.

Shodai defeats Ryuden – Ryuden succeeds in exploiting Shodai’s weak tachiai, but gives up the morozashi (double inside grip) in the process. Shodai then calls the tune and forces Ryuden to dance. Shodai keeps his hips low, and his shoulders below Ryuden’s – really showing excellent form. Ryuden managed to rally, but it only served to put him off balance and set up Shodai’s win. Points to Ryuden for his tenacious grip on Shodai’s belt as he was receiving the shitatenage. Another local favorite racks up a win.

Ichinojo defeats Nishikigi – You have to admire Nishikigi, promoted higher and faster than he should be, he brings as much sumo power as he can muster against one of the largest men in sumo. Ichinojo lets Nishikigi push him around until his heels touch the bales, and rather than give up and go limp, Ichinojo defies his normal style and rallies. Impressively Nishikigi is able to halt Ichinojo’s advance for a time, but Ichinojo takes his time and overpowers his opponent for the win.

Tochiozan defeats Mitakeumi – The man who hopes to be Ozeki had his sumo thoroughly dismantled by the 31 year old veteran Tochiozan. Followers of Tochiozan have seen him absorb a nodowa neck attack well before, and he simply shrugs off Mitakeumi’s attempt to raise him up. Mitakeumi’s fans had hoped he would have re-grouped following Aki, but today’s match did not give them hope.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin knew he had made a mistake in the first second, as Tamawashi’s speed was too much for the Ozeki to overcome. Always looking to land his left hand on the mawashi, Tochinoshin’s plan was an invitation for Tamawashi to launch hard inside and apply his considerable pushing force center-mass against the Ozeki. The look of frustration on Tochinoshin’s face told the story as he absorbs a day 1 loss. Note to rikishi who want to follow the oshi-style: this match in slow motion is a fabulous example of the rewards of driving inside at all costs, and focusing on center-mass (rather than head or neck). There was no way to stop Tamawashi.

Takayasu defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu had no means to stop Takayasu’s powerful, straight ahead sumo today. Myogiryu did manage to get inside at the tachiai, but by then they were chest to chest, and Takayasu’s considerable mass was pressing forward without resistance.

Goeido defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji clearly knew that Goeido was going to be fast, too fast off the line, and his tightly wound anticipation made him jump early for a matta, and likely blew his mental prep for this match. Credit to Hokutofuji, he gave the Ozeki a solid fight. If I had to guess, Goeido was not quite sure what to do with the guy after the matta, and he may have suspected that Hokutofuji was likely to try a henka. The oshi match was always going to favor Goeido, but Hokutofuji showed some solid technique, and won approval from the fans for his fighting spirit. This is an opponent Hokutofuji must learn to overcome if he aims for higher ranks.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – One thing I love about Takakeisho, he is not intimidated by any opponent. He exudes an almost Hakuho level of confidence, and seems ready to take the fight to everyone. Kisenosato’s big mistake in this match was letting Takakeisho dictate the style of the match, and letting him set up the “Wave Action” attack. At that point, the Yokozuna was in trouble and he knew it. Stumped for what to do, Kisenosato tried to overcome Takakeisho’s attack on Takakeisho’s terms. A few waves later, the Yokozuna is too far forward and is slapped to the clay. Not a good match for Kisenosato, but textbook Takakeisho sumo.

Kyushu Day 1 Preview

Kisenosato - Takakeisho

Hello dear readers, and welcome to the final basho of 2018 (also the final Kyushu basho of the Heisei era)! Where the Aki basho was a brutal pounding applied by the Yokozuna and Ozeki, this basho features two Yokozuna sidelined prior to day 1. Where the upper Maegashira bore the brunt of that pounding during Aki, Kyushu may be a bit more survivable for rikishi who have been ranked in the upper slots.

I must also apologize for the absence of news and commentary in the run up to the opening day. My personal and professional life kept me from writing, and as a result there were many interesting topics left undiscussed. With luck they will get raised on their own during the basho, and will make fine fodder for our excellent readership.

At the head of that list is the re-assignment of several top division rikishi from the now closed Takonohana-beya to Chiganoura. The chaos and distraction of this move may impact Takakeisho, Takanoiwa and other former Takanohana rikishi down the banzuke. Takakeisho turned in a solid 9-6 performance at Aki, and is back at his highest ever Komusubi 1e rank. Takanoiwa was kyujo for the fall jungyo tour, and may be in difficult shape.

What We Are Watching Day 1

Yago vs Chiyomaru – Due to Kaisei’s kyujo, the banzuke is unbalanced from day 1. As a result, Yago gets his chance to visit Makuuchi. With any luck NHK will show this match, as Yago is an impressive young man with a likely debut in Makuuchi in 2019. Chiyomaru managed to stay in Makuuchi through some excellent banzuke luck and ranking chaos as a result of the bloodbath that was Aki. This is only Yago’s tenth basho, seven of which he has been ranked in Juryo. He’s no small fellow, but with the enormous Chiyomaru, I am looking for a great deal of huffing and puffing before it’s all done.

Meisei vs Daishomaru – The first ever match between these two. With Meisei freshly back from his one basho return to Juryo, he’s probably the favourite, as he was looking quite genki during Aki while Daishomaru is looking to recover from an ugly 5-10 Aki basho record.

Chiyoshoma vs Takanosho – Both rikishi came away from Aki with 8-7 kachi-koshi, but it was clear that Chiyoshoma was still nursing injuries on the final day. He has beaten Takanosho twice in their three-match history, but I would give Takanosho the edge on day 1.

Onosho vs Endo – What are these two doing down here? Never mind, both are solid rikishi who have had problems this year. Onosho with a knee injury followed by surgery, and Endo undergoing more extensive repair on his undercarriage. Onosho has yet to beat Endo, and I would guess most of that is mental. Both are looking to bounce back from make-koshi in September.

Chiyonokuni vs Yutakayama – In today’s demolition derby, two powerful rikishi who could not buy a win at Aki. Yutakayama was kyujo for a few days, and Chiyonokuni seemed unable to finish most of his opponents. They are more or less equal (1-2) in their career matches, but I would give the edge to Yutakayama. I am assuming he has healed up, and needs to get back on his sumo. For Chiyonokuni, the inability to finish his opponents is all about how is mind is working.

Kotoshogiku vs Takarafuji – Veteran battle ahoy! As part of the Aki Takarafuji cheer squad over on the West side, I say the guy needs to turn his sumo around. Ex-Ozeki Kotoshogiku continues his slow fade into the sunset, but it’s still nice to see him come out on the dohyo and play bulldozer for a few seconds of high-intensity hug-n-chug. Kotoshogiku leads the career series 13-8.

Ikioi vs Shohozan – Another pair of fierce competitors who took a beating in September. Ikioi rocketed up the banzuke for Aki based on a well-executed over-performance in Nagoya, and is returning to the middle reaches with equal velocity. Shohozan found his street-brawler technique underperforming against the San’yaku, and is back to battling with the rest of the scrappers. Both men are fast, strong and at times brutal. This is likely a match that will feature some fierce pushing and slapping.

Abi vs Kagayaki – Probably the highlight match of the first half, sadly it will likely happen before the NHK live stream picks up. Rumor has it that Abi-zumo has picked up a few new moves, and we are eager to see them on display. Kagayaki never fights with flair, but rather uses fundamentals to win in fairly unsurprising matches. Can you say stylistic clash?

Takanoiwa vs Asanoyama – Time to see if Takanoiwa actually is hurt, as he faces off against perpetual optimist and steadily improving Maegashira Asanoyama. A healthy Takanoiwa should prevail, but there is that injury question again. This is their first ever match.

Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Chiyotairyu’s cannon-ball tachiai against Yoshikaze’s face and subsequent frantic sumo attacks. Chiyotairyu has about two seconds to get Yoshikaze contained or off balance before The Berserker unleashes doom.

Shodai vs Ryuden – I want to see Shodai employ that improved tachiai he showed us a couple of times in September. Ryuden has continued to improve, but many fans will be looking for some manner of “ugly matta” from this guy who seems prone to them. Shodai has an uncanny knack to survive these kinds of matches, at times looking out of control but always losing last.

Nishikigi vs Ichinojo – Welcome to the joi-jin, Nishikigi! Here, we have a nice boulder for you to play with. For Nishikigi’s sake, I hope Ichinojo is in some kind of Mongolian hibernation mode. [Seems likely. –PinkMawashi]

Mitakeumi vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan has gotten some hype this year that the 31 year old veteran might make one last push for higher rank. He clearly has solid technique, but has a difficult time consistantly putting together a string of winning tournaments. Mitakeumi needs to rebuild his Ozeki bid, and will be looking to expand his 6-1 career lead over Tochiozan day 1.

Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – I am hoping Tochinoshin is healthy and ready to go. If he is back on top of his sumo, we should see him make short work of Tamawashi. Tamawashi, meanwhile, will try to stay mobile and keep the Ozeki away from a mawashi grip.

Myogiryu vs Takayasu – Some fans are in favor of a Takayasu yusho bid for Kyushu. He starts against veteran Myogiryu, who has an 11-4 career advantage over the Ozeki. It’s been some time since the two have squared off, and it’s going to be interesting to see if Myogiryu can pick up an early win against the Ozeki. They last fought in September of 2016 when Takayasu was Sekiwake 1e.

Goeido vs Hokutofuji – With two of the Yokozuna in dry-dock, Goeido has an excellent shot at his second yusho. Upstart Hokutofuji seems to have gotten his body healed, his sumo together and is pushing for higher rank. Hokutofuji is quite a bit slower than Goeido, who tends to have you defeated before you even know the match has started. This will likely be a good test for Hokutofuji, but I predict Goeido will expand his 3-1 career lead.

Kisenosato vs Takakeisho – The final match of the day is a replay of Aki day 2, when Takakeisho threw the kitchen sink at Kisenosato, and kept the Yokozuna quite busy. In the end Kisenosato was able to restrain, contain and eliminate the bowling ball with legs, after Takakeisho make the mistake of focusing his attacks primarily against Kisenosato’s injured left chest. Hopefully today he will focus his powerful thrusts center-mass, and unleash his “wave action tsuppari” with maximum effect.