Haru Story 1 – The Threat of No-Kozuna

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For the past year, the sumo world has grappled with the specter of a tournament with no Yokozuna able to complete the entire 15 day competition. All three surviving grand-champions each suffer from chronic injuries that they nurse, bandage, brace or ignore to compete. But up until recently, at least one of them could muster enough healthy to oversee an entire 15 day basho. With the retirement of Harumafuji at the end of 2017, the roster of Yokozuna dropped to three, each of which come to Haru with medical issues. If no Yokozuna can compete for all 15 days, will this be the first tournament in years that features Ozeki as the highest rank competing on the final day?

In 2016, Hakuho underwent surgery to repair his big toe. It took months for him to recover enough to credibly compete once more. News during January’s Hatsu basho was that Hakuho had not only re-injured that toe, but the other one as well. He has been training as best as he can manage, but may be questionable for the entire tournament.

Japan’s great hope – Yokozuna Kisenosato, has not sought surgical treatment for his torn left pectoral muscle, and may have very few options to regain strength in his dominant left side. He has been admonished to stay out of competition until he is completely healed, and able to perform at Yokozuna levels again.

Rounding out the list is the eternally injured Kakuryu. He looked almost unbeatable during the first 10 days of Hatsu, until he injured his ankle and struggled to win. While he took surgery to repair damage to that ankle, but an awkard fall on the final day match against Goeido left his hand injured, and now he struggles to generate any grip strength.

While fans may worry about a tournament with no Yokozuna competing, this is in fact all part of the natural evolution of Sumo. We are in a transitional period where may well loved rikishi at all ranks reach the end of their careers, and retire. While we will miss all of the ones who say goodbye this year, it’s evident that at least two strong, eager classes of young men are ready to step up and take the ranks they vacate.

Hatsu Story 3 – Harumafuji’s Long Shadow

Harumafuji

With the new year’s basho about to begin, many sumo fans may feel the controversy around former Yokozuna Harumafuji is in the distant past. (In case there is one fan out there who does not know, Harumafuji was at the center of a controversy stemming from a night out with other rikishi in which he repeatedly struck Takanoiwa with his fists and a karaoke machine remote. The reaction to this regrettable incident included Harumafuji’s resignation from the sumo world.)

As the first five days of the basho unfold, we will see a new dynamic at play, as Harumafuji previously played a large role in shaping each tournament’s pace and outcome. True, he was usually good for a handful of kinboshi, but Harumafuji was a relentless competitor who delivered massive offense each time he mounted the dohyo. Without his participation in this tournament, we may see several differences even in the early days.

  • Increased Tadpole Dominance: So far, the league of up-and-coming rikishi has been storming the gates of the old guard. While four healthy Yokozuna would make life very hard for the younger Rikishi, many fans think that we may only get Hakuho for the full 15 days of Hatsu, and possibly not even that. This means that we may once again see the youngsters turn in solid, double-digit records from high Maegashira or San’yaku ranks. In the past, Harumafuji would tough it out and cull the next generation as much as he was able.
  • Increased Pressure on Hakuho: As noted in the earlier commentary, Kakuryu and Kisenosato are “on the bubble”. While both of them have put forth a mighty effort to be ready for Hatsu, there is a real threat that either or both of them are simply too hurt to continue. This could possibly leave Hakuho as the only Yokozuna for this tournament, or the only Yokozuna period. This would have the effect of motivating “The Boss” to continue to compete in spite of injuries that in the past would have put him to kyujo, knowing that Harumafuji would carry on. If that should happen, it might hasten the end of Hakuho.
  • The Battle For The Next Ozeki: The fight for the next Ozeki slot is already underway, with Tamawashi and Mitakeumi clear front-runners. But with the Yokozuna ranks thinned and possibly thinning more, Takakeisho and Onosho are primed to step up their sumo. Both Goeido and Takayasu have stabilized their performance somewhat, but neither of them are clear favorites to begin a campaign for the tsuna.

Harumafuji Retirement – Early English Media Coverage

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Following Bruce’s post earlier today, it has been confirmed that the 70th Yokozuna Harumafuji has submitted his resignation, which has been announced by Isegahama-oyakata and the Yokozuna himself, in a press conference at 2pm Japan time today. While undoubtedly more coverage and analysis will follow here at Tachiai, the news has already received worldwide coverage, and so here is a quick round up of English-language media announcing the end of the 9-time yusho winner’s storied career:

NHK World has been running a one minute segment every hour as part of their NHK World Newsline coverage. This segment was online but has since disappeared from their general online statement, which can be viewed here. NHK World also covered the Press Conference with live translation for 15 minutes of the 2pm hour of Newsline and we can expect that coverage to repeat in edited pieces throughout the coming hours (Edited to add – the 15 minute segment is now viewable by clicking here).

NHK World added a second press hit within the last hour linking the news to the past abdications of Asashoryu and Futahaguro. Additionally they have coverage of the timing of the retirement as well as a chronology of the incident.

The Japan Times have also updated their article announcing the retirement, within the last few hours, which is running on their front page.

The Guardian (UK) is running a piece, quoting from Isegahama-oyakata’s announcement that Harumafuji has “caused great trouble” to the NSK and the sport. Fox Sports, Reuters, Deutsche Welle and more are also running coverage, largely syndicated across Associated Press outlets.

Yokozuna Harumafuji To Announce Retirement

Harumafuji

It has been reported in the Japanese press that embattled Yokozuna Harumafuji will hold a press conference Wednesday, and it is assumed that he will be announcing his intention to retire from sumo. While his fans all hoped that he would find a way to weather the controversy around his drunken beating of Takanoiwa, it was clear following yesterdays meeting of the YDC that he was not going to be given any quarter.

Should he retire, as is now expected, it will resolve the Sumo Kyokai’s involvement in the matter. His intai represents a significant loss for the sumo world, as Yokozuna are rare, and Harumafuji has been willing to do whatever it takes to support sumo and uphold his rank on the dohyo.

Check back with Tachiai, as we will bring you further details as they develop.

Sumo’s Coming Changes

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What’s below is Bruce’s post-Kyushu commentary on the state of sumo. Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own views on how our beloved sport will overcome the challenges before it.

With Kyushu now behind us, sumo inches closer to a reckoning. The basho ended in a somewhat predictable style, with a few compelling story arcs that kept fans satisfied – for now. But in this blogger’s opinion, long overdue changes are continuing to unfold, and will possibly pick up speed into 2018.

The first signal of change will be the resolution (or not) of the Araujo incident.  As we suspected when news broke on day 4 of the basho, there was a complexity to the story that did not fit the template initially forwarded by the media. In fact, we suspect there is a multi-party agenda at work, and Harumafuji’s drunken actions at the bar in Tottori were simply the spark that may burn through the Sumo Association.

Let’s look at what kind of changes might be loaded and ready:

Takanohana – The oyakata of the eponymous heya seems to be using the Harumafuji incident as a vector to change or influence the Kyokai.  He has said in the past that it is his goal to reform sumo, and make it a 21st century sport. Of course, this was not a welcome opinion from the sumo traditionalists, and since then there has been a back-channel low grade struggle on whose vision of the future will eventually prevail. There have been reports that his position as head of the Jungyo PR tour will be forfeit because of his role in airing a normally private matter of rikishi discipline in public, but many think his position in the Kyokai is unassailable.

Jungyo – As discussed in the past on the pages of Tachiai, the Jungyo has grown to proportions where it is negatively impacting rikishi training, discipline and overall athlete longevity. This rests squarely on Takanohana’s shoulders, and John Gunning’s timely article for the Japan Times served to bring to light the toll it was taking on the rikishi. I continue to predict that Jungyo will undergo changes, probably slowly at first, to reduce schedule and intensity, and perhaps total rikishi roster. Rather than “Everyone all the time” there may be a rotating roster of who has “Jungyo Duty” for each period.

Kadoban Rikishi – The name brands of sumo are changing, but the ranks are yet to reflect that.  Since the start of 2017, with Kisenosato’s elevation to Yokozuna, the winds of change have been blowing in the face of the great and the famous. With each basho, the participation of sumo’s top men has been in decline. We have lost 2 Ozeki due to promotion, and as of today, the majority of the Yokozuna are absent in most tournaments. By the numbers:

  • Hatsu 2017 – Harumafuji & Kakuryu kyujo
  • Osaka 2017 – Hakuho kyujo
  • Natsu 2017 – Kisenosato & Kakuryu kyujo
  • Nagoya 2017 – Kisenosato & Kakuryu kyujo
  • Aki 2017 – Hakuho, Kisenosato & Kakuryu kyujo
  • Kyushu 2017 – Harumafuji, Kisenosato & Kakuryu kyujo

Much as everyone loves these guys, the Kyokai has a slate of grand champions that are perpetually too banged up to compete. Personally, I would love to see them all healthy and bashing the daylights out of the tadpoles, but that’s not going to happen, is it?

Kisenosato – Tore his pectoral muscle, and lord knows what else since. Had he gone for surgery right away, and stayed kyujo until now, we might be getting ready to see him back for Hatsu. Instead that damaged muscle is possibly little more than scar tissue now. Furthermore, by limping along he has de-conditioned the rest of his body to the extent that he struggles to win against mid-Maegashira opponents.

Kakuryu – Chronic back problems that cannot be corrected to the extent to ever make him competitive again.  When the guy can manage his pain and injuries, he’s a fantastic sumotori. As frequently stated on these pages, his approach to sumo is somewhat unique and can dismantle any rikishi, including Hakuho.

Harumafuji – We have frequently mused that they would have to drag him out of sumo, in a body bag.  But sadly, there is now a threat that he may not be able to overcome. I expect the Kyokai to move to resolve their involvement in the matter within a few weeks, as they want to put this in the past. Even if he can survive this incident, he is a walking bundle of pain and injury, and we believe he completed Aki by sheer force of will alone.

Hakuho – Sumo fans around the globe revel in “The Boss”, and the reality that he seems strong, fit and committed to a few more years of sumo.  But he is one big injury away from pain and suffering. Everyone hopes we never see the day when the greatest Yokozuna of our age is wheeled away from the dohyo in agony, but we worry that with inter-basho time almost completely consumed by Jungyo, it’s just a matter of time before de-conditioning sets in, and the risk is realized.

I am sure the Sumo Kyokai realize all of this to be true, and they also know that over the next several months they will need to clean up their roster. Sadly, this will likely include Yokozuna intai sooner rather than later. Sumo needs a quorum of the top men each tournament, and if those men can’t fulfill that schedule, we will likely see new top men.

Sumo fans stay sharp, changes are coming soon. While it may be sad to say goodbye to long serving favorites, we have seen first hand that the next generation is strong, ready and already taking their place in the top ranks.

Kyushu Midpoint – Comments And Thoughts

It Was The Dog

As frequent readers will have noticed, several of our newer contributors are continuing to post amazing content to the site, and I am enjoying it so much, I have stepped back a bit and let them run. Though the Harumafuji scandal personally makes me rather sad, it turned into absolute blockbuster readership for Tachiai, and I would like to extend my thanks and welcome to all new readers.

We are now at the half way point of Kyushu, and a handful of rikishi are worthy of discussion. Let’s start at the top.

Hakuho – Clearly he is primed for yusho #40, and it’s now his to lose. True, he has his toughest opponents ahead, but right now he is dominating each and every match with his typical polished ease.

Kisenosato – As we guessed, he is back at least one basho too early. He has not really had a lot of sparring practice, and he is seriously at risk of going make-koshi at this time. The NSK did admonish him to wait and return only when he was ready to deliver Yokozuna grade sumo. Right now he is closer to upper Maegashira. I would rate him at only 70% of pre-injury Kisenosato, but I think he can get closer to 90% by Hatsu. It all comes down to returning to a maniacal training regimen with Takayasu, who is also in need.

Harumafuji – The story is becoming more convoluted as time marches on. Our earlier predictions that it might in fact be less sinister than original reports now look like they could pan out, and there is going to be a large amount of splatter that hits many parties involved in this. While things are not active (aside from the investigation moving forward), be aware that unless it’s a dire emergency, the NSK will leave further action until after the Kyushu basho is complete.

Kakuryu – One has to wonder if his involvement in the Takanoiwa incident may have played a role in his decision to sit out Kyushu.

Goeido – He continues to struggle with his identity. When he attacks with vigor, he wins; when he lets the other rikishi set the tone and tempo of the bout, he most likely loses. This is the gap that Goeido must cross if he would ever wish to stake a claim to his own tsuna. Until then, his fans have to hope that he stays true to his 2.0 self and remembers to attack and drive forward.

Takayasu – He’s going to clear kadoban, it’s fairly certain, but he’s only about 85% of his pre-injury self. So my prescription for him is to get cozy with his water bag, battle Kisenosato daily post-basho, and to sleep against his favorite, most comfortable teppo pole until new-years. I am sure your deshi will bring you KFC at Christmas (If not, let me know and I will fly over and get it for you), so revert to your gym-rat ways and go crazy again.

Mitakeumi – That toe is clearly giving him fits, and he may go kyujo once he gets his 8. Not really too much awesome from him this time, we just need him to heal up and come back at Hatsu like the future Ozeki he is.

Yoshikaze – Hot or cold with the Berserker. Thus far more cold than hot, and we have to hope he can cobble together his 8 before next Sunday.

Kotoshogiku – Komusubi is a tough rank, you get to give a lot of wins to the upper San’yaku, and Kotoshogiku is living that now. He stays in good cheer, and gives it his all each day, but his all is now painful and stiff, and possibly covered with ben-gay.

Onosho – Hey, don’t sweat this basho, kid. Komusubi is ancient Yayoi for “punching bag with legs”, it’s part of the welcome to being a serious sumotori, so have some fun with it. Consider using the Ishiura defense as chicks dig the loose mawashi, and play up the fact you look like a hippy-hop ball, possibly by commissioning your own line of plush figures. Also, try to get your weight centered over your feet, everyone knows you lean in hard, and they are now dialed into the fact you are not a weeble (as in, you do fall down).

Tamawashi – he wants back in san’yaku in a big way. He’s going to take your chanko and make you watch him eat it. Only possible defense might be to chase him away with a beer bottle. (Too soon?) [Yes. –PinkMawashi]

Takakeisho – This tadpole is having a great basho, if he can stay healthy he is going to be part of what pressures some of the old guys to hit intai. He’s shown surprising strength and fighting form against rikishi that intimidate his peers. He seems to not pay much mind to any of it, and just focuses on winning.

Hokutofuji – After a weak showing at Aki (most likely due to injuries), Kaio’s doppleganger is hell on wheels so far in Kyushu. He is showing fantastic sumo, and a fearless will to always drive forward. Should he manage to become more consistent and more efficient in his sumo, he could become a San’yaku mainstay.

Ichinojo – He is large, and I always say that being enormous is not an actual sumo strategy.  But when you are his size, if you get genki and can bring some actual sumo chops to a match, there is little that can stop you. Too early to say that he’s turned a corner, but it’s great to not cringe when you see him mount the dohyo.

Arawashi – While it’s not widely discussed, Arawashi was secretly upgraded by Elon Musk, and is now completely Tesla powered. This makes him not only a foreign born rikishi, but the first cyborg rikishi as well. Please be aware the NSK wants only one controversy at a time, so for the duration no one is talking about it (except your plucky crew at Tachiai).

Okinoumi – This guy has a persistent abdominal injury that can’t be healed, it can only be surgically repaired. When they do, his sumo career is probably over. So he muddles on and does the best he can, usually in varying degrees of pain ranging from “dear god, why?” to “kill me now”. So when you see him 6-1 after the first week, you have to feel happy for the man.

Aminishiki – Why not close out the list with Uncle Sumo? What a triumphant return to Makuuchi for a man who does not give up until he wants to. This guy is showing us sumo that is borderline magical in its efficiency and simplicity. Thank you for holding on to your dream sir, we should all consider following your example.

Additional Kyushu Day 2 Highlights

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First off, check out Herouth’s fantastic write up here: Day 2 – Slip Slidin’ Away

Day 2 Thoughts

The Makuuchi corps put a very sloppy day one behind them, and delivered some excellent sumo action on day two. There were several fine battles of strength and will, and fans will marvels at Aminishiki’s skill and minimalistic approach to victory. Also of note, Endo fans are going to love today’s match – it seems like he may be past whatever trouble he had with his earlier injuries.

Two top men from Isegahama have us worried. Terunofuji clearly has no strength in his legs, and is more or less done for until his knees can heal up. As much as we all adore a giant McDonald’s-fries-eating kaiju in our sumo, it’s clear there is little chance he can defend his Ozeki bid. Just as troubling is the sumo of Yokozuna Harumafuji, who is clearly not up to speed yet. Our concern is that the Aki basho, which he slogged through in spite of whatever injury plagued him, was too much. Now we worry he is paying the price for his endurance.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Ishiura – It’s natural to ask, “What happened to Ishiura?” A year ago he burst onto the dohyo and took everyone by surprise. Today he lost to Nishikigi. Not to slam Nishikigi, but Ishiura is a shadow of himself a year ago. Nishikigi got him moving and chased him off the dohyo.

Myogiryu defeats Daiamami – These two went at it for a good while, locked on each other’s mawashi, with Myogiryu eventually getting Daiamami upright and pushing him out.

Aminishiki defeats Kagayaki – Uncle Sumo made quick work of Kagayaki, meeting him at the tachiai, then moving back and pulling him down. Aminishiki once again made it look smooth and easy. It’s really neat to watch this much experience on the dohyo, as Aminishiki has been doing this for so long, one marvels at just how efficient the guy is.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – I cheered this one, as Okinoumi has been struggling for a few tournaments. He actually had control of this match early, and danced Aoiyama around before pushing him backwards across the bales. It seems that Aoiyama injured his ankle in the match, sadly.

Ikioi defeats Asanoyama – The real Ikioi showed up today and decided to do some sumo, and it was great to watch. He took control from the start. He attempted a throw, but could not get it done. It didn’t matter, though, as he kept moving forward and Asanoyama could not mount a defense.

Endo defeats Kaisei – May have been the highlight match of the day, these two engaged in a vigorous mawashi battle that raged back and forth. Endo took the match with a shitatehineri, for those of you collecting kimarite. I really like the more genki version of Kaisei.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – Still high at the tachiai, but today Shodai looked strong, confident and swiftly drove Chiyoshoma back and out. Can this version of Shodai please stick around? He’s the one we all like.

Tochinoshin defeats Daishomaru – Relieved to see a solid, strong win from the big Georgian. He continues to struggle with his bad knee, but today he showed his remarkable strength. He wrapped up Daishomaru and marched him out quickly.

Ichinojo defeats Takarafuji – Another protracted mawashi battle, which Ichinojo was all too happy to take to closure. Ichinojo seems to have picked up where he left off at Aki, and is showing some pretty solid sumo. I am looking forward to some of his matches against the San’yaku.

Hokutofuji defeats Mitakeumi – Second day in a row Hokutofuji gets a half step ahead of his opponent and just drives him back and out. Whatever Mitakeumi did to his foot seems to really be bothering him, as he can’t seem to apply much power to his attacks.

Shohozan defeats Terunofuji – Its clear that Terunofuji has absolutely no traction now, his knee is not strong enough for him to really do much sumo, and this tournament is going to be a daily visit from Mr. Pain for him. Shohozan seems to have almost took pity on him. Unless something changes, I am worried he won’t be able to win any matches this basho.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze continues to be very streaky, and like Aki, he is starting off cold. Chiyotairyu took control of the match early and kept up the pressure. Yoshikaze more or less collapsed under his punishing attacks.

Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – Some readers were upset with the Tachiai team during Aki because early coverage of Goeido was negative. As we explained at the time, it’s because he is capable of what we have seen the past two days. Strong, fast, low, aggressive and basically unstoppable.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – My pre-basho worries about Takayasu have more or less been quieted now. He looked solid against Tochiozan, and seems to be healthy enough to secure his 8.

Takakeisho defeats Harumafuji – Dear Harumafuji does not look good right now. I know he had a cold start at Aki as well, but it’s a tough basho for him, losing to two tadpoles in the first two days. Takakeisho did seem to overpower the Yokozuna, putting Harumafuji on defense (and a shaky one at that) right away.

Kisenosato defeats Onosho – Kisenosato picks one up as Onosho loses traction at the tachiai and drops. I am sure the recovering Yokozuna will take the win.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Hakuho lands his left hand belt grip on Tamawashi that spins him around, and then pushes him out from behind. While I was hoping for some sort of “Flying Lesson”, this outcome is less hazardous for Tamawashi. The Boss is looking strong once more, and everyone else will need to get past him for the yusho.

Kyushu Day 2 Preview

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

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

What We Are Watching Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyushu Day 1 Highlights

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Matta, Matta, Matta

Day one got off to a rough start, as many of the matches had difficulties getting underway properly, or finishing cleanly. Many of the rikishi seem to be off the pace, and a bit nervous. A good percentage of the matches either started with a matta or finished with a monoii! Typically the first few days of any basho feature the men shaking off the training cobwebs and getting back into tournament form.

In the upper ranks we had two Yokozuna losses today, one of them resulting in a kinboshi. We all knew that things were going to be rough, at least at the start, so don’t get worried just yet. In Kisenosato’s loss, there were a series of false starts, which clearly threw everyone’s timing off. For Harumafuji, it’s clear that he got off balance and Onosho made him pay. Elsewhere in the top ranks, Goeido looked damn awesome in his first match, blasting Takakeisho off the dohyo in the “Goeido 2.0” style we love so much.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Daiamami – Daiamami’s first Makuuchi bout, and Nishikigi gave him a pretty good fight. This turned into a strength battle, which Nishikigi seems to handle well.

Aminishiki defeats Kotoyuki – Aminishiki looked quite awesome in his win, and the crowd was really behind “Uncle Sumo”. Of course we had some matta action to slow things down, but in the end, Aminishiki deftly threw Kotoyuki, to score the win.

Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – Asanoyama really nailed this tachiai, and dispatched Okinoumi with little fanfare. Its clear Okinoumi is bothered by his injury and could not muster much defensive force to stop Asanoyama’s advance.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – Kaisei continues to improve, I think it looks like he did indeed lose some weight even from Aki. While still somewhat lethargic, he was faster and more aggressive than he has been in tournaments earlier this year. Daieisho gave him a decent fight for a bit, but completely lost his balance and was forced out.

Ichinojo defeats Chiyonokuni – It looked to me like an early start by Chiyonokuni, but Ichinojo took over and dominated this match, handling Chiyonokuni easily and forcing him out. Is it time to hope that Ichinojo is back on his sumo?

Hokutofuji defeats Terunofuji – Another match that had a rough start, Terunofuji could only offer any defense for a few seconds before his knees started to give way, and Hokutofuji dispatched him over the bales. This is going to be daily agony for Terunofuji, its clear.

Shohozan defeats Yoshikaze – Great battle between these two, it was a slug fest from the start, but Shohozan caught Yoshikaze overcommitted and off balance, and took him down.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochiozan – Another monoii, this time Tochiozan stepped out as he was pulling Mitakeumi down. The gyoji’s decision was reversed and Mitakeumi was given the win.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – In the burliest match you will see on day 1, these two giants finished fast, as Takayasu caught his opponent too far forward and pulled him down.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Oh yea! We got some Goeido 2.0 today, and he was on strong. Launching with unstoppable force straight out of the tachiai, he caught Takakeisho low, a really tough thing to do. His charge was strong and he just kept pushing ahead. You can see the look of surprise on Takakeisho’s face, and it’s over in the blink of an eye. This is the kind of Goeido we love to see, complete commitment to his attack, no turning back, no second chances. In this mode he is like a gunslinger of old west lore, and when he’s in his grove he is unstoppable. More please!

Tamawashi defeats Kisenosato – This match was a mess, I lost count on how many false starts / mattas were involved. The match itself was a bit of a puzzle, Kisenosato started strong, but Tamawashi broke contact and moved off. Kisenosato followed, and Tamawashi re-engaged with a very strong oshi attack which took the Yokozuna out. Kinboshi for Tamawashi.

Hakuho defeats Kotoshogiku – Good effort from Kotoshogiku, but wow, Hakuho was ready and strong today. Really great to see this guy work when he is in good form and good health. Hakuho took the fight to Kotoshogiku, and really controlled him throughout, ending the match with masterfully executed uwatedashinage.

Onosho defeats Harumafuji – Very surprising that Harumafuji lost control of this match at the tachiai, letting Onosho get underneath and inside. Onosho shows that last time was not a fluke, and he used a quick push/pull combo to get the Yokozuna on the clay. Impressive 2-0 against Harumafuji for Onosho now.

Kyushu Day 1 Preview

Uncle-Sumo

It’s been a solid 2 months since we last had competition to discuss, and it seems that the schedulers set up some fantastic matches for the first day. There are so many unknowns for this tournament, and all sumo fans are eager to see 3 of the 4 active Yokozuna in action.

There are a number of rikishi with quite a bit on the line this tournament, including Takayasu who is kadoban for the first time, and our favorite kaiju, Terunofuji, who has been demoted to Ozekiwake and needs 10 wins to return to his rank. For Terunofuji especially, this is going to be a difficult tournament. There is strong evidence that he is still injured and in pain. For Takayasu, it’s unclear how far into recovery he is, but we are fairly certain he will find some way to pick up 8 wins.

What We Are Watching Day 1

Kotoyuki vs. Aminishiki – In a match that replays last tournament’s Juryo action, Uncle Sumo goes against Kotoyuki. I am guessing that for US fans, they will show this on the highlight reel. It will be quite welcome to watch him in action. One thing that was apparent while watching the May tournament in Tokyo, the crowd really loves Aminishiki. With any luck they will show some of that reaction, too. Kotoyuki looks to be over his injuries, and ready to resume fighting at top division levels.

Okinoumi vs. Asanoyama – I am going to be delighted to see how Asanoyama does in his second top division tournament. The guy has a perpetual positive attitude it seems, and one has to respect that. Okinoumi is always hit-or-miss on any day depending on how his chronic injuries are doing.

Aoiyama vs. Ikioi – At Aki, Aoiyama was ranked pretty high, and he suffered quite a bit as a result. He is much more effective at this layer of the banzuke, and should be quite competitive. I would love to see Ikioi have a good tournament, but he seems to be struggling this year.

Kaisei vs. Daieisho – Kaisei made it back to Makuuchi in September, and looked like he lost a bunch of mass. Furthermore, in the NHK segment on Tomozuna Oyakata, there were plenty of shots showing Kaisei training, and he seems to have lost still more weight. I think this indicates some good things for the man from Brazil, as he had gotten too heavy and it had begun to retard his sumo. Daieisho opened very strong at Aki, and I am eager to see if he can do it again. This will be a nice test, as Kaisei was defeated by Daieisho in both of their previous bouts.

Endo vs. Chiyomaru – Endo has quietly been getting his sumo stronger, match by match, since he had surgery over the summer. Hopefully this will inspire the badly damaged Ura that its possible to get fixed up, heal up, and return to the dohyo. Endo holds a 3-1 advantage over Chiyomaru.

Chiyonokuni vs. Ichinojo – Mighty Ichinojo seemed to actually wake up and focus on sumo during Aki, and it was great to see. I know the giant suffers from all manner of injuries due to his enormous size and weight. On the other hand, Chiyonokuni is a blistering firestorm of sumo offense, and I think Maegashira 4 is a very good rank for him. They are tied in career matches at 2-2.

Terunofuji vs. Hokutofuji – The labor of pain starts early for Terunofuji, he has never defeated Hokutofuji, who suffered a hand injury during Aki and was a shadow of his normal self. If he has returned ready and ganki, this could be tough for Terunofuji. Not only must he win, he needs to protect his injured knees in order to keep fighting in top form for the whole tournament. Thus far, Terunofuji has not found a way to defeat Hokutofuji in any of their prior matches.

Shohozan vs. Yoshikaze – Battle of the brawlers, “Big Guns” Shohozan is the underdog in this match. Yoshikaze kept his normal low profile during the jungyo, but I am quite sure he is primed for battle.

Mitakeumi vs. Tochiozan – Mitakeumi has quietly put together the second most wins this year, just behind Harumafuji. He looked vague and unfocused during Aki, and he faces a full spread of Yokozuna this time around. He warms up against Tochiozan over whom he has a 4-1 career edge.

Chiyotairyu vs. Takayasu – How healed up is Takayasu? Time to find out when he faces off against super-sized Chiyotairyu on day 1. During Aki, Chiyotairyu was showing some solid sumo and some overwhelming force, so this is not going to be easy for Takayasu in the slightest.

Goeido vs. Takakeisho – Goeido has some work to do to repair his reputation after Aki, and his day one bout against Takakeisho is a great place to start. Goeido has been looking especially sharp in both jungyo and practice, so I am expecting a lot of Goeido 2.0 this basho. Oddly enough, they are even at 1-1 for their career totals.

Kisenosato vs. Tamawashi – Is it finally time to welcome the return of Kisenosato? Almost every sumo fan in the world has their hopes pinned on his return to health and vigor. Although Tamawashi is no longer in the San’yaku slot he held for so long, he can be counted on for explosive sumo straight from the start. This will be an excellent test of just how healed up Kisenosato is.

Kotoshogiku vs. Hakuho – The boss gets to meet home-town boy Kotoshogiku on day one, and frankly I am thrilled. The Kyushu Bulldozer is easy to anticipate, but he finds ways to trap you into his sumo and make you pay. Hakuho is so fast, so clever and so skilled that it will likely be a contest between Hakuho’s trying to stay mobile, and Kotoshogiku trying to lock the Yokozuna up. Hakuho dominates their career matches 52-5.

Harumafuji vs. Onosho – Onosho is feeling fierce, and who better to temper him than the winner of the Aki yusho? Harumafuji has spent some of the intervening two months nursing himself back to health, but he spent the first week of Aki second-guessing his sumo, and dropping matches to underlings. Onosho won their only prior match, and I am sure that Harumafuji is going to make Onosho pay.

Kyushu Basho Genki Report

Kisenosato-Attacks

Are you ready? The last basho of the year is getting ready to start this weekend in the magical city of Fukuoka, and Tachiai will be bringing you all the best. As with many of the tournaments for the past few years, injuries at or near the top are stealing headlines early, but the aggressive young rikishi are ready to move ever higher as the injured bow out.

Without further delay.. the Genki report!

Rikishi: Harumafuji
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: He took the Aki yusho by sheer force of will alone. It was clear that every day was misery, but he mounted the dohyo and gave battle to everyone. He throttled back quite a bit during the fall jungyo, and he has been rather guarded about his condition.
Forecast: Nobody stops Harumfuji, they will need to carry him out on a stretcher first. He’s in until double digits, even if it kills him.

Rikishi: Hakuho
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: He sat out Aki, and has been hit or miss during jungyo and the run up to the Kyushu tournament. His surgery last year to repair his toe and his knee still bother him from time to time, but he seems together enough to at least start the basho.
Forecast: The boss wants 40 yusho, but he seems to have new found appreciation for his age and the wear that is showing on his body. His first week is against lower rankers, so I expect he will be cautious from the start.

Rikishi: Kisenosato
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: The Great Pumpkin has been in rough shape since he ruptured his pectoral muscle in Osaka. I can state with some certainty that he did not get the recommended surgical treatment, but instead tried to nurse things along until he was “better”. He has looked fairly convincing in practice for several weeks, and maybe he’s good enough?
Forecast: We should see within the first few days if he is really going to be able to compete. Millions of sumo fans want him to be healthy, and he seems ready to go.

Rikishi: Goeido
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: Goeido can be compared to a great opportunist. He heads into Kyushu without any kadoban risk, and with questionable condition among the Yokozuna and his fellow Ozeki, Takayasu. He has looked solid in practice, and some of his blistering tachiai launch sequences were on display this past week.
Forecast: If we start losing Yokozuna, he is a Yusho contender, I predict.

Rikishi: Takayasu
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: A healthy Takayasu is a force of nature. Strong, stable and with almost inhuman endurance. In a battle of strength there are none who can best him consistently. Sadly his thigh muscle injury seems to not be completely healed, and he is literally limping into Kyushu looking to clear his kadoban status.
Forecast: By hook or by crook, the newest Ozeki is going to pick up 8 wins if he can go the distance. If he’s as injured as I think he is, it’s going to be daily agony for him.

Rikishi: Mitakeumi
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: After some decent coverage prior to Aki, Mitakeumi really failed to deliver; even against a depleted Ozeki / Yokozuna roster. Sure, even the best sumotori have bad tournaments, but Mitakeumi has not really been displaying dominant sumo in the days leading up to Kyushu.
Forecast: Much as I like Mitakeumi, I think he may go make-koshi this tournament. The upper San’yaku all need a lot of wins, and that means Komusubi and Sekiwake are going to get pounded this time.

Rikishi: Yoshikaze
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: Yoshikaze is a stalwart. No matter what is happening, he puts it all on the line every day. But he’s also rather “Streaky”, meaning that he goes on both winning and losing runs for multiple days. He’s in his home ground now, and the people of Oita are likely to be in attendance to cheer on the Berserker.
Forecast: I also think he is a strong candidate for make-koshi, in part because of the pressure from above to pick up wins, and the fact that a 7-8 record could put him at Komusubi for January. Losing a few to the right people might go far.

Rikishi: Terunofuji
Genki: ✭
Notes: Entering Kyushu as an Ozekiwake, he needs 10 wins to return to Ozeki standing. A healthy Terunofuji could do this with a smile in between runs to McDonalds, but our dear Kaiju is in terrible physical condition.
Forecast: I just hope he is not more seriously hurt, the double digit wins seem almost impossible, but I know he is going to give it everything.

Rikishi: Kotoshogiku
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: Who thought that the Kyushu Bulldozer could battle back into San’yaku? Not me, that is certain. But as of late, Kotoshogiku has really been turning up and delivering burly, aggressive, dominant sumo. A Genki Kotoshogiku is pure magic, and I sincerely hope he’s in good form for Kyushu. As a hometown boy, I can assure you that his fans will be out in force. Look for a week 2 match against Terunofuji if the Kaiju looks to be getting close to his 10 wins.
Forecast: Probably a solid basho from Kotoshogiku, likely kachi-koshi and retaining San’yaku for the new year.

Rikishi: Onosho
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: Super-tadpole Onosho has been laying low, and avoiding high intensity training with the big guns. Prior to Aki, he worked sailing with some of the best, and took a pounding. This really helped him get ready to excel during September, but for Kyushu he has stayed mostly at home to train. We will see if it works.
Forecast: Make-koshi to be certain, but he is going to take a few scalps. He will be back.

Rikishi: Takakeisho
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: You can bet your finest Okonomiyaki that Takakeisho wants to put Onosho behind him on the January banzuke. He is tough, he is motivated, and reports are he is in great condition. I expect that like most of the joi, they are going to be bled hard this tournament.
Forecast: The re-match with Hakuho should be a highlight match in the first week.

Rikishi: Chiyotairyu
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: The supersized edition of Chiyotairyu was really producing during Aki and he’s looking to repeat in Kyushu. But if the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps are going to be competing all the way through Kyushu, he may have a tough road. Chiyotairyu does not seem to be worried, he trains like a mad man, and may be in his best condition ever.
Forecast: The rest of the joi are going to get wise to his thunderous tachiai, and that will leave him off tempo.

Harumafuji Wins Aki Basho

Harumafuji Yusho

In the final match of the final day, the championship of the Aki basho was decided in a pair of exciting contests between the lone surviving Yokozuna, Harumafuji and the lone surviving Ozeki, Goeido.

Harumafuji took the initiative early in the match and quickly drove Goeido from the ring, setting up a playoff to decide the champion. Both rikishi retired to the dressing rooms to prepare for the final, deciding match. In a strange outcome of the rules, Harumafuji (being higher ranked) would enter from the East and Goeido from the West. This was the opposite of their final match of regular play. So fans were treated to video of both Team Goeido and Team Harumafuji passing each other in the hall.

Before returning to the dohyo, Yokozuna Harumafuji was seen practicing a tachiai with Juryo rikishi Terutsuyoshi. This was critical as he was working out hand placement that moments later use against Goeido.

The final and deciding match was over at lighting speed, as Harumafuji blasted Goeido over the tawara, using the same body grip he practiced on Terutsuyoshi. Harumafuji picks up his 9th tournament win, and his yusho parade featured “Uncle Sumo” Aminishiki carrying the victory banner.

Tachiai congratulates both Harumafuji and Goeido for going the distance and competing with everything they could muster in this strange and chaotic basho. You guys stuck it out, and in the end made it worth watching.

Aki Day 15 Preview

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After many twists and turns, we have reached the final day of the 2017 Aki basho. I would like to thank our readers for joining us for the ride, and we are grateful for each of you taking the time to read our musings for the past 15 days. The fall out from Aki is likely to be quite dramatic. The old guard re-asserted their dominance in the second week, but the trend is clear that the younger rikishi are coming into their own. But first day 15 – it comes down to the rikishi still struggling for kachi-koshi, and the final act of the yusho race.

Going into day 15, there are 5 rikishi who will decide their kachi-koshi in their final match. Two of them are San’yaku! The list is: Mitakeumi, Tamawashi, Ichinojo, Chiyoshoma, Okinoumi. Mitakeumi in particular is a tight spot, as he faces Yoshikaze. But the 3 Maegashira who are on the bubble all have relatively easy draws for the final day.

The yusho race was narrowed to a simple contest between Yokozuna Harumafuji and Ozeki Goeido. The final match, of the final day. If Goeido wins, he is champion. If he loses, there is an immediate tie-breaker match between them again to determine the winner. For the scheduling team, this is a remarkable triumph in the face of absolutely miserable conditions. Ideally the yusho will come down to a high-stakes match on the final day. This draws viewers and fans, and creates overwhelming excitement. So my congratulations to that team for succeeding in spite of a difficult situation.

Please note, the Tachiai Yusho Drinking Game is still valid for day 15, if readers choose to participate.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Okinoumi vs. Sadanoumi – Okinoumi is battling for kachi-koshi but lksumo has him safe at the bottom of Makuuchi regardless. Sadanoumi seem to have found his sumo, and has won the two prior days. He is certainly returning to Juryo, but with any luck his injuries will be healed enough that he won’t be there long.

Kaisei vs. Arawashi – Kaisei test match, going up against the higher ranked Arawashi. Kaisei looks lighter, faster and generally in much better condition than any prior 2017 appearance, and I am delighted to see him back in form. With any luck he will continue his improvements and be fordable in Kyushu. Arawashi has been eating his Wheaties, and is generally doing awesomely this basho.

Chiyoshoma vs. Yutakayama – Scheduling throws Maegashira 8 Chiyoshoma a bone by making him face Maegashira 15 Yutakayama for his kachi-koshi on the final day.

Ichinojo vs. Daieisho – Another gift from scheduling, Maegashira 6 Ichinojo faces Maegashira 11 Daieisho for his kachi-koshi deciding match. A win will likely put Ichinojo in the joi-jin for Kyushu. We hope he can find some of his old energy and vigor.

Shodai vs. Endo – Another Endo test match, these are likely helping the banzuke team figure out just how healed up Endo is, and how high they can safely rank him for Kyushu. With Ura and possibly a few others out for a while, they need more kanban rikishi in the public eye to keep sumo compelling.

Asanoyama vs. Chiyotairyu – Likely a test match for Asanoyama, to help judge where to rank him for Kyushu. I am sure sumo-Elvis Chiyotairyu will dismantle him, but it’s important to see how Asanoyama holds up.

Tamawashi vs. Takakeisho – Komusubi Tamawashi needs a win to keep his San’yaku rank alive, and he’s going to have a tough time taking a win from Takakeisho. I have no doubt that Takakeisho is eager to rejoin the joi-jin and revisit his experience with Yokozuna Hakuho.

Mitakeumi vs. Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze has been very docile the past two days, and one has to wonder if he is injured or just throttled back for now. Mitakeumi needs to hope that he’s off his sumo on day 15, or the future Ozeki will lose his coveted Sekiwake rank. Yoshikaze holds a 3-1 advantage in their career statistics.

Goeido vs. Harumafuji – The ultimate match to end the basho, the yusho is on the line, and it’s Japan vs Mongolia. It’s the unreliable Ozeki against a battle scared war machine Yokozuna who never gives up. Harumafuji holds a 31-11 career advantage. If the same Goeido shows up that was on the dohyo day 14, this will be one for the highlight reels.

Aki Day 14 Preview

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Recommended Toolkit For Day 14

Everyone knew that the 2017 Aki basho was going to be a strange animal. With Yokozuna sitting out, Ozeki dropping like flies, and even Maegashira (Ura) getting in on the act. The ranks for Makuuchi were decimated in the style of the old Roman legions. This lack of top end talent has led to a large group of Rikishi with nearly the same score as of the end of day 13. We have seen this phenomenon in Juryo in many of the past several basho. Without the upper San’yaku around to thrash the rank and file, most rikishi are around .500.

Which brings us to the question of the yusho winner’s record. We don’t know who it will be yet, but we know for certain it will be no better than 12-3, and that only happens if Goeido’s is undefeated in his final two matches. It’s perhaps a bit more likely that the final score may be 11-4, or even a dreaded 10-5. Now to be sure, a 10-5 record is a good score in sumo, but keep in mind just how many rikishi who are active in this basho have turned in a 10-5 score. There are even disastrous possibilities that Goeido loses his last 2 matches, and Harumfuji loses one. Many of the 13 (yes, THIRTEEN!) rikishi currently at 8 wins will be at 10 wins by the final day. While the chances have faded for now, the specter of the barnyard brawl / Senshuraku Showdown is still there.

But first all competitors must negotiate a rather treacherous day 14. The scheduling gods have constructed a set of bouts to winnow that field of 13 to a hopefully more manageable number.

Aki Leader board

Goeido needs to win, and needs Harumafuji and Asanoyama to both lose, and he will win the Aki basho. Please note the numbers below are not a parody, but are the actual stats for the yusho race.

Leader – Goeido
Hunt Group – (2) Harumafuji, Asanoyama
Chasers – (13) Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takakeisho, Takarafuji, Takanoiwa, Arawashi, Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei, Endo

2 Matches Remain

URGENT NOTIFICATION TO TACHIAI READERS

Please note, due to the special circumstances surrounding this basho and the stakes of day 14, please feel welcome to observe the following Tachiai Yusho Drinking Game:

  1. Get a 330 ml or 750 ml of drinkable sake. I will be using a fine Hakkaisan, myself.
  2. Pour a standard sized cup, if you are in Japan, have someone pour it for you.
  3. These events require a sip from your sake cup:
    1. a matta
    2. a monii
    3. a match with more than 1 wave of banners
    4. Yoshikaze bleeds for any reason
    5. Someone secures their kachi-koshi
  4. These events require you to drain and refill your cup:
    1. a member of the hunt group or chasers loses a match
    2. Someone suffers a mawashi oriented wardrobe malfunction.
    3. A combatant collides with a gyoji, seated or standing
    4. A combatant lands on one of the shimpan
    5. A combatant deploys a henka
    6. A combatant lands on an elderly lady ringside, who seems far too pleased by the event.
  5. These events requires you to drain the sake bottle in one go:
    1. Tochiozan bursts into flames
    2. Someone gets carted off in the big wheelchair
    3. Hakuho suddenly re-enters the basho just to give Goeido a swirly
    4. Kisenosato’s uninjured right leg appears, grafted to Takayasu’s body and begins to do shiko in the hanamichi
    5. Goeido wins the yusho

What We Are Watching Day 14

Okinoumi vs. Takekaze – Loser of the match gets make-koshi. With Okinoumi at M14w, he could end up in Juryo for November.

Chiyonokuni vs. Kaisei – Our favorite badger, Chiyonokuni, goes against a surprisingly and delightfully resurgent Kaisei, who already has his kachi-koshi. Chiyonokuni picks up his kachi-koshi with a win.

Shohozan vs. Chiyomaru – “Big Guns” vs the ever bulbous Chiyomaru, with Shohozan looking to take a win from the lower ranked, higher mass Chiyomaru. A win for Shohozan is his kachi-koshi, but a win for Chiyomaru keeps him in the group 2 losses behind Goeido.

Onosho vs. Asanoyama – You know they are trying to break up Asanoyama’s bid to compete for a possibly yusho match when they match him (Maegashira 16) with Onosho (Maegashira 3). I do know that whatever the outcome, Asanoyama will think he is the luckiest man in the Kokugikan for just getting a chance to compete.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Maegashira 14 vs Maegashira 3… Well the M14 is Endo, but this shows just how far the schedulers are going to try and trim that block of 13 (15 total if you count Harumafuji and Asanoyama) down to something smaller. I sure they are worried about nightmare scenarios that would require an 16 rikishi mini-tournament.

Tochinoshin vs. Ishiura – File this one under “The Gurney Is The Reward”, both of these guys need medical attention, and are really in no condition to compete. They both have matching horrible 3-10 records.

Daieisho vs. Kotoshogiku – At this point I want to see Ojisan Kotoshogiku in the big basho barnyard brawl. If you are in the twilight of a pretty interesting career, what better way to spend one of your remaining basho? Another M1 to M11 giant gap “weeding” match. Bottom of the banzuke guys are taking it in the onions today.

Takakeisho vs. Tochiozan – After today’s match between Takakeisho and Goeido, I have no idea what is going to happen to Tochiozan, but I fear possible spontaneous human combustion. Checking sumodb, there are no matches I can find that have ended with that kimarite, but I am sure they would have just called it “hatakikomi” instead.

Arawashi vs. Yoshikaze – Another “weeding” match, this one featuring an 11 rank gap. I am sure both these guys will apply themselves, and this could actually be a really good match. But I am going to guess that Yoshikaze puts the doom on this guy, and keeps pushing for double digit wins.

Takanoiwa vs. Goeido – THE pivotal match. Demon Hunter Takanoiwa, secure in his kachi-koshi, has the yusho race run through his match today. Win, and Takanoiwa has a chance to participate in the big basho barnyard brawl. Lose and he sets up a possible Goeido finish should Harumafuji lose the match following. We have no idea what version of GoeidoOS will boot up on Saturday, but I am guessing his software crew is patching like mad given today’s software faults on the mobility platform.

Mitakeumi vs. Harumafuji – Mitakeumi is still struggling to find the wins to hang onto his Sekiwake position. He might be able to take one from Harumfuji, but it’s clear the Yokozuna has caught the scent of the sake dried to the inside of the Emperor’s cup, and today I saw a fire in his eyes that replaced the weary gloom from earlier this basho. Mitakeumi has it within him to win this one, but he has struggled to tap the fountain of strength and energy that has visited him so easily in past tournaments.

Additional Thoughts On Aki Day 13

asanoyama

Day 13 is in the record books, and once again this Wacky Aki rose to the challenge of giving us a defining WTF day of sumo. First and foremost, Goeido lost to Takakeisho. Not in some grand epic battle, he seems to have fallen down. Then there was the rather impressive cluster of rikishi 2 wins behind Goeido. 10 of them actually. All but 2 of them lost their day 13 matches. That’s 8 rikishi who had a chance to claim the yusho, done and out in one day.

But because Goeido lost and Harumafuji won, we move yet closer to the enticing Senshuraku Showdown, as Harumafuji will face Goeido on the final match of the final day. There are still plenty of strange things that can happen tomorrow, day 14, but for now it looks like the yusho may be decided by the outcome of that match.

Or will it? Who’s that over in the corner looking happy and doing shiko while humming a jaunty tune in his head? It’s none other than the happy rikishi, Asanoyama. You see, he also won his match today, and he is also one behind Goeido now. Should he win again on Saturday, he is a yusho contender for the final day should Harumafuji defeat Goeido. Quite unlikely I would say, but what kind of sumo magic would it be if this young rikishi at the very bottom of the banzuke (M16e) could take the Emperor’s Cup in his first Makuuchi basho? The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan would smile for sure.

Below is video via Twitter of Goeido suffering his catastrophic Slippiotoshi