Day 7 – Redemption Will Wait


goeido-2017-11-day-07

I want a shot at redemption
Don’t want to end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard

Paul Simon

The basho is turning wackier, with only Hakuho anchoring it at the moment.

Let’s start from the end this time. Hokutofuji grabs his third kinboshi, from the kinboshi dispenser that Kisenosato is proving to be. He takes a different tactic than Takakeisho and Shohozan, and combines nodowa with a right ottsuke which doesn’t allow the Yokozuna to get a left-hand grip.

I would expect the Yokozuna to just rely on his right hand, but he seems to be baffled and lost, and after a few dances around the dohyo Hokutofuji sends him out. Third loss for Kisenosato, and the sigh of relief from his fans yesterday seems to have been premature.

He is in an interesting position if he wants to go kyujo, though. You don’t just decide that you don’t want to participate. You have to hand in a medical certificate. And with the storm brewing around Takanoiwa’s medical certificate, the Kyokai is going to be checking that the certificates it gets are genuine. If he hands in a certificate regarding the state of his left arm and chest, he’ll probably have to abide by whatever the doctors recommend for it, and I doubt that it will just be “two weeks rest”.

In the penultimate match, we have our only reliable yokozuna keeping his finger in the dike. Onosho said after the two trained together, that “the training was a valuable lesson for him to win their real bout”. I think he meant it, because he actually prevented Hakuho from getting any sort of grip on either his mawashi or his body. So Hakuho switched to plan B, sidestepped and handed Onosho his second tsukiotoshi of the basho. So in fact Onosho’s only win so far is against “Guilty Feet Have Got No Rhythm” Harumafuji on day 1.

Goeido‘s match with Shohozan seems to have been a replay of yesterday’s match with Chiyotairyu. Shohozan takes the initiative, and Goeido just reacts and retreats, and can’t find a way to attack. This is his second loss, he drops out of the chaser list. Also, he wanted to redeem himself for the last basho, and that redemption will be really hard to achieve now, because he really needs to do superb sumo from now on to make himself look like an Ozeki again, much less a candidate for a rope-run.

Takayasu, on the other hand, having made no vows, maintains a cool head after his losses. He takes Chiyonokuni‘s belt right from the tachiai. Chiyonokuni manages to escape the grip and plans to launch one of his cat-bat flurries, but he is too close to the edge and Takayasu gets him out before he can do anything. Takayasu needs to scrape three more wins to clear his kadoban, and with only one Yokozuna and one Ozeki to face in the second week, has a very good chance of doing so.

The Kotoshogiku vs. Yoshikaze bout starts well for old Giku, although Yoshikaze denies him the hips. But it seems that Kotoshogiku doesn’t have enough stamina and simply loses power after holding Yoshikaze against the tawara for a few seconds. Yoshikaze takes advantage and runs Kotoshogiku to the other side of the ring.

Tamawashi runs all over Mitakeumi. It seems Mitakeumi doesn’t even know what hit him.

I didn’t like the Takakeisho we saw today. It was too much like his old self, which may mean he is developing a Goeido-like tendency for version-flipping. Chiyotairyu attacks and attacks, only to have Takakeisho sidestep and hand him the tsukiotoshi. Well, Takakeisho can always say that he didn’t do anything that Hakuho didn’t do.

Ichinojo seems to have decided to go as Aminishiki today. Only, being about two times as thick as Aminishiki, he can’t move sideways fast enough, and Tochiozan‘s grabbed head simply meets his torso. Oops. But this basho Ichinojo thinks fast on his feet, and he manages to recover and push his opponent. Yet another win for the boulder. Tomorrow he faces the ailing Yokozuna, which is going to be a challenge for him, as he is not the kind of oshi man that Hokutofuji or Takakeisho are. Anyway, go go bridge abutment!

I don’t know exactly how, but Takarafuji actually managed a worse tachiai than Shodai. It seems he can’t win on days Aminishiki wins. Problem is, of course, that Aminishiki wins a lot. Shodai pushes him all the way out, and today Isegahama has only Aminishiki and Terutsuyoshi to look to… wait a minute, you really have to see this:

Terutsuyoshi faces the hitherto undefeated Sokokurai. The bout ends pretty quickly, only… they touch the ground at the same time. Then there are two whole minutes of monoii. And a torinaoshi.

But it is well worth the wait, because what follows is really, really exciting sumo. Kudos to both Terutsuyoshi and Sokokurai, to whom I apologized for the jinx of mentioning yesterday that he was undefeated.

OK, so this was more than a minute. More like 8 minutes (unless you were smart and skipped the monoii). We now go back to our scheduled programming.

Arawashi doesn’t waste much time in his match with Daishomaru. Unlike yesterday’s annoying henka, he gets right into a belt grip and pushes Daishomaru all the way to the other side. Quick and clean, and he keeps himself in the chaser group.

Chiyoshoma is disappointed again today. He manages to get a good grip on Endo and tries a suso-harai. Failing that he loses that shallow grip and his balance with it.

Daieisho tries a tsuppari attack against Tochinoshin. But the Georgian pays no attention, and gets him where he wants him – in a strong mawashi grip. From then there’s only one way for Daieisho, and that’s out.

It’s the seventh day. Seven is an odd number, and on odd days, Chiyomaru loses. Like clockwork. What is that slow, weak tachiai supposed to mean? Kaisei takes the gift and says thank you very much.

Ikioi seemed to have the upper hand in his bout with Okinoumi. But eventually, both fell down, nearly the same time, the shimpan had to consult amongst themselves before awarding Okinoumi the white star.

What’s up with Asanoyama? Where is the strong sumo we saw yesterday? Or is he only capable of executing that against feeble old men? Myogiryu sails forward easily and picks his fourth win.

I’d like to say that Kagayaki wins when he doesn’t do his Kermit Flail. But, well, this was basically a fluke. He did almost get Nishikigi in a kotonage, but then Nishikigi grabbed a hold of his hand – maybe with a tottari in mind, and dragged him to the other side, but then both fell, and unfortunately for Nishikigi, he fell first.

We’re down to the geriatric battle of the day. I’ve been waiting for this bout since the results of Aki became known, but it was a little too short for pleasure. Takekaze is on his way to Juryo, or to intai, and if Aminishiki wasn’t older than he, I’d berate him for harassing the elderly. The tachiai commences with a coconut clash, which seems to bother Uncle not at all. And then he did his push-me-pull-you trick and rolled the Oguruma man like a die.

That’s it, other than Kotoyuki quickly giving Daiamami another black star, though both will probably see each other in Juryo in Hatsu.

Leaders

Our Supreme Leader, Father Of Phoenixes, Ruler of Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka, King Of Kings, Hakuho Sho.

Chasers

Hokutofuji (M3)
Ichinojo (M4)
Arawashi (M5)
Okinoumi (M12)
Aminishiki (M13)

Not a single member of the sanyaku in this list!


As you know, I follow Naruto beya. So here is Torakio trying to break a world record in matta. Be that as it may, the Bulgarian is kachi-koshi, 4-0, and who knows, may have his eyes on the jonidan yusho.

Day 6 – There Can Be Only One


hakuho-2017-11-day-06
Another day at the office

Day 6 leaves us with only one man having any mathematical possibility of a zensho-yusho. Of course, the basho is still in early days, and the king may lose his crown yet, but at the moment, Hakuho reigns supreme.

But he is not the only sekitori with a clean, white score sheet. Down in Juryo, there is another man who is 6-0. The name may sound familiar: he’s a former chicken farmer, the only Chinese national on the banzuke. I give you Sokokurai!

Today the Inner-Mongolian had a match with the other all-win Juryo man, young Abi. Abi was all over the veteran, with his signature quick moves, but Sokokurai secured first a left-hand belt grip, then a morozashi, and showed Abi the way out with an okuridashi.

While we are in Juryo, want to see a beautiful kakenage? Here is the bout between Yutakayama and Kyokutaisei:

And now, how about a wardrobe malfunction, featuring, unsurprisingly, Ishiura messing around with a mawashi knot?

The way it looks, one of the shimpan must have informed the gyoji that the knot was untied, as he wasn’t in an angle to see it. So Ryuden – whom I must have jinxed yesterday in my comments about his standing among obasan – was lucky to lose by shitatenage rather than by exposure of manhood.

BTW, is it only me, or did Ishiura take advantage of the situation to improve his hold on the knot?

My advice to sekitori who are assigned to Ishiura: get your tsukebito to sew your mawashi knot before the bout.

OK, moving on to the Makuuchi, what did we have today?

Nishikigi is showing surprising tenacity, and at this rate, will secure his stay in Makuuchi for yet another basho. His match with Myogiryu was a battle for grips, but as Myogiryu changed his grip that last time, Nishikigi drove him out of the ring. Those grip changes are always risky.

Kagayaki is back to his bad sumo, where he looks more like Kermit the Frog flailing wildly than like a sumo wrestler with effective tsuppari. Kotoyuki says thank you and goodbye.

Asanoyama decided he has to regain his sumo, which is a good thing, but the hapless rival is our favorite Aminishiki, who is now down with the rest of the chasers. I hope he hasn’t damaged good old Uncle Sumo. That throw was all like “You wanted to get back to Makuuchi? Well, let me remind you what Makuuchi is really like”. Very aggressive. But can’t blame him. Aminishiki knows he is playing with the big boys again. Anyway, Asanoyama was on the offensive from the start, and although Aminishiki was the first to securely grab some silk, Asanoyama grabbed some of his own on the same side and performed that decisive uwatenage. Let’s hope Aminishiki returns tomorrow with his sneaky sumo and funny interviews.

Okinoumi certainly looks genki, and Endo didn’t make his bout easy in any way, as he was on the offensive and secured a grip with his right hand. But it was Okinoumi who grabbed his arm for a kotenage at the end.

Day 6 is an even day! And on even days, Chiyomaru brings his sumo to the arena! His match with Ikioi starts with a tsuppari barrage, and then suddenly he goes for a hug. Of course, no way for him to get anywhere close to Ikioi’s mawashi, but he doesn’t need to. He simply pushes the man down for a tsukiotoshi.

Kaisei doesn’t give Daishomaru any room to do anything. This bout was over in a flash, with Kaisei driving the maru in a quick arch to the bales.

Shodai‘s bout with Daieisho is also a matter of seconds. Shodai was simply not there today.

Continuing with the flash bouts, Chiyoshoma and Arawashi was supposed to be a lovely bout, but here is one henka I could certainly do without. The Japanese announcer: “It was disappointing sumo today”.

Curiously, now that Aminishiki has lost, it seems like everybody else in Isegahama finally started to win. I checked, and Homarefuji and even poor Terutsuyoshi who was winless until today won. And they are joined by Takarafuji, who unbelievably wins a tsuppari battle with Chiyonokuni.

Ichinojo bounces back from yesterday’s loss. Well, not “bounces”. More like “rises ponderously”. It’s a battle between his weight and patience and Tochinoshin‘s strength. Tochinoshin is the first to secure two hands on Ichinojo’s mawashi, although one of them is at the front. Ichinojo manages to undo that grip, and eventually they settle into a standard migi-yotsu, and Tochinoshin tries to lift the boulder. Um, no. With all due respect, nobody can lift that thing. And after he wastes his energy on this attempt, Ichinojo starts pushing him all the way to a plain and simple yori-kiri. I’m glad Tochinoshin did not cause further harm to his knee in that attempt, but go, go Mongolian boulder!

Hokutofuji continues to impress. He keeps his pelvis miles from Kotoshogiku‘s, pushes forward, then retreats fast and pulls the Komusubi down. Kotoshogiku is going to drop back down to Maegashira at this rate.

Tamawashi goes on a slapping match with Yoshikaze. But the elderly sekiwake is not what he used to be. Tamawashi gets him overcommitted and pushes him down.

Even Mitakeumi got the memo: Onosho can be easily beaten if you get him to charge at you like a billy-goat. So they get forwards and backwards a few time, and then Mitakeumi make a fast retreat, and hands Onosho yet another hatakikomi. Sad. In the last basho Onosho said that he learned what his weak points were and he’ll work on them, but I guess he was thinking about different weak points. That man also seems to be heading back to maegashira, unless he learns the art of footwork fast. Mitakeumi, on the other hand, despite his injury, is sailing through quite nicely and is looking to maintain his sekiwake position easily.

Goeido booted up in the wrong mode today. He didn’t really engage Chiyotairyu. He was reactive. And eventually, he lost his balance. Chiyotairyu is probably surprised that he managed to scrape a white star off of the hitherto undefeated Ozeki, and without even breaking much sweat. The Ozeki also drops off the leader list, and joins the legion who will now have to wait for the Dai-Yokozuna to make a mistake.

Takayasu, however, drops even further, with his second loss of the bout. He was actually initiating a strong tsuppari, but he didn’t seem to realize that Takakeisho is a newer model from the same locomotive factory where he himself was manufactured. The Ozeki found himself further away from the center than he wanted, and got pushed out decisively.

And finally we get actual Yokozuna sumo from Kisenosato. This one was decisive and dominant, despite the fact that Tochiozan had him in a Morozashi for a couple of seconds. And did my eyes decieve me or did Kisenosato use his left side to twist Tochiozan back for the tsukiotoshi? More of this, please, Kisenosato. We are low on Yokozuna right now!

Finally, another wonderful textbook uwatenage from the Lord Of The Ring, Hakuho. Tachiai. Slap. Quick migi-yotsu. Drag to the tawara. Then perform the throw. And as both bodies were already on a trajectory, the Yokozuna deftly lifts his left leg and gives Shohozan a little more torque to ensure that he falls down first. Again, a work of art.

The leader list:

only one man. The almighty Hakuho.

The chaser list:

Goeido (O)
Mitakeumi (S)
Hokutofuji (M3)
Ichinojo (M4)
Arawashi (M5)
Okinoumi (M12)
Aminishiki (M13)


For your enjoyment, here are the Taka Twins – with a guest appearance by Enho!

Enho/Takayoshitoshi

Takagenji/Daiseido

Day 5 – Flash Flood


Today we saw two of the leader group being washed away.

ichinojo-takayasu-down
Ichinojo, Takayasu, bye!

And now the leader group consists of only three men. One of whom is – as it turns out – the same age as Onosho’s dad.

But let’s start at the beginning. We had a flood of flash bouts today. The first of them was Myogiryu taking on Juryo visitor Tokushoryu. Myogiryu gets both hands inside and quickly yori-kiris Tokushoryu.

Not much beauty in the Nishikigi vs. Kotoyuki bout. Kotoyuki retreats, retreats, until he runs out of dohyo. He seems on his way back to Juryo, possibly to be replaced by a very motivated Ryuden.

And then we move to the first serious challenge to Aminishiki‘s reign over the Maegashira ranks. Daiamami knows Aminishiki well, and knows where the Ancient Mariner’s weakness is. He pushes him against the tawara. But Aminishiki somehow manages to do his bale dance and get away, only to be caught again. The old wizard’s knees almost cave, when he gives a final dance to his right, and uses the grip he has on Daiamami’s left arm for a sukuinage. Uncle Sumo visibly pants as he picks his kensho-kin. But he is still in the yusho race!

Ikioi gives Takekaze another black star, as this elderly man fails to mimic the senior citizen from the previous bout. Ikioi gets him in a double-hand-inside, holds him high and leads him out.

Kagayaki once again goes into a belt battle with Kaisei. He nearly turns the Brazilian around, but Kaisei rallies and gets face to face again. Kaisei has the upper hand, at least as far as mass is concerned, and then dispatches the man in the mustard mawashi in short order.

Okinoumi continues in his good performance vs. Daieisho. It starts with an exchange of slaps, and Daieisho gets Okinoumi to the bales, but he take a risk, grabs Daieisho under his shoulders and presses down for a Katasukashi. By the way, did you know that “Katasukashi” also means “disappointment” or “letdown”? I’m sure that’s how Daieisho felt.

Asanoyama is probably not going to repeat his double-digits from Aki. In fact, the way it looks, he’ll be happy if he can get a kachi-koshi at all! All he does against Endo just doesn’t work. The strength is there, but he can’t put it together.

Chiyomaru continues in his on-off-on-off series. The NHK commentator explains that Chiyomaru has a problem with mawashi fighting because he can’t reach the opponent’s belt owing to his huge belly. Tochinoshin, on the other hand, doesn’t have much of a belly, has long arms, and he catches Chiyomaru in a belt grip right away and just leads him out without the Kokonoe meatball ever showing much defense.

Arawashi grabs Shodai‘s arm and tries to pull. Shodai resists. Arawashi tries again. Shodai gets out. Arawashi gets a belt grip, but Shodai is not letting him do much. So the Mongolian goes for the arm yet agai, and this time pulls the kotonage he was aiming for from the start. Very nice bout!

Takarafuji manages to scrape a second win today vs. Daishomaru. He keeps his opponent at an arm’s length, showing his usual patience, he evades an attack and keeps the distance between their bodies. He finally gets a yori-kiri without ever getting any sort of firm grip. I must say that it looks like the goings-on at Isegahama are taking their toll on all their sekitori. Though winning, Takarafuji looks tired and gloomy.

It’s a wonder how Chiyoshoma keeps winning against Ichinojo, who is about twice his weight. Today’s bout wasn’t even very long. As soon as he got a mawashi grip, he sent the boulder outside. Of course, if he had tried to do this with only the one hand on the mawashi, he would have to get a new elbow installed tomorrow. He helped the giant along by pushing him with his left hand. I hope Ichinojo rallies and continues his good form as the basho continues.

It’s rare to see Chiyonokuni in a mawashi match. And Hokutofuji is no yotsu expert, either. But still, this is where they found themselves, locked into each other’s mawashi. At some point, Hokutofuji tries to throw Chiyonokuni, but Chiyonokuni rallies. Then there’s an attempt at a kotonage, which eventually leaves Chiyonokuni open, and Hokutofuji pushes him out. Again, a great bout to watch.

And here we begin the flash flood. Kotoshogiku vs. Chiyotairyu. Going, going, gone! I wouldn’t have believed Kotoshogiku could win so fast these days. Especially against Chiyotairyu, which is usually not a pushover.

Then, Takakeisho pushes at Yoshikaze for just a second, side steps, Yoshikaze would have regained his footing – but Takakeisho is there to push him out. Wham, bam, gone in a flash!

This is followed by Takayasu, who is pushed by Tamawashi right out of the dohyo before he manages to get his breath back after the tachiai. You snooze, you lose. And our Kadoban Ozeki drops off the leaderboard.

But have no fear! Goeido is here. He must have been watching the videos from the previous Onosho matches. Usually, I’d complain about him doing his sumo backwards, but for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven, you know. And since Onosho proved that he overcommits and can’t stay on his feet, Goeido served him up with the exact kind of dish that he cooked for himself. So, Goeido still in the lossless group.

Now, what followed in the Hakuho vs. Tochiozan was a very strange thing. This was not your regular “matta”, where the two wrestlers don’t find the correct second to rise. This was actually before the Gyoji started the bout (the gyoji changes the position of his feet during the pre-bout, and this marks which of the shikiri rituals is the “real” one). Events outside the venue must have been weighing on Hakuho’s mind.

Although the bout itself ends pretty quickly and decisively in Hakuho’s favor, he once again pulls one of his “extracurriculars”, though at this point he really doesn’t need any hint of misconduct. That push was certainly a dame-oshi.

Now, the musubi-no-ichiban was worth the money. Shohozan must have watched Takakeisho’s bout with Kisenosato yesterday, as he went for basically the same thing: constant attacks on the Yokozuna’s left side, combined with nodowa, that left the Yokozuna defenseless. Then he tried to throw the Yokozuna, but Kisenosato is not an easy fellow to throw. But Shohozan continued with his pressure and pressed the Yokozuna against the tawara. Unfortunately for Shohozan, the Yokozuna’s right side is still functioning, and he managed a suicidal throw, that got the Yokozuna the come-from-behind win in this bout, which was completely dominated by the Maegashira. Oh wow.


So, what does the leader list look like now, a third of the way into the basho?

Yokozuna Hakhuo
Ozeki Goeido
Maegashira #13 Aminishiki

Say what?

By the way, there is another leader list to follow: those with the most wins for the year. As we started this basho, which is the last of the year, Harumafuji was leading with 47 wins. With Harumafuji no longer able to earn any stars this year (and probably ever), the list looks like this.

Mitakeumi 49
Takayasu 48
Harumafuji 47
Hakuho 47
Takakeisho 46
Hokutofuji 45
Tamawashi 44
Ichinojo 44
Yoshikaze 43
Goeido 41
Daishomaru 41

Whoever ends up as the yearly leader is going to have a negative record: the worst number of wins for the leader of the year, after Takanohana’s 60,  which he achieved years ago. With only 10 days to go, matching 60 is going to be impossible without a playoff.


Finally, here are a couple of Juryo matches for your pleasure:

Ishiura vs. Yutakayama:

Ryuden vs. Homarefuji

Again, nobody from Isegahama, with the exception of Aminishiki, seems to be doing any sumo. Ryuden, on the other hand, got his first kensho-kin yesterday and is very uppity.

 

Day 4 – Five Men In The Lead


aminishiki-the-magician
Hatakikomus Magnificus!

There are three men keeping this basho from becoming as wacky as the previous one: one Dai-Yokozuna and two Ozeki, who keep delivering the goods expected from Yokozuna and Ozeki, and neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will stop them from doing so.

All hail the king and the two princes, but don’t tell me you’re not cheering for the other two guys who are 4-0 at the moment. One is a big boulder from the steppes of Mongolia who suddenly decided to be a sumo wrestler. And the other is the “Magician From Tsugaru”, in the picture above.

First let’s start with Ryuden, who aspires to enter Makuuchi, vs. Kotoyuki, who aspires not to fall back to Juryo. As they dance, it seems for a moment that Kotoyuki has achieved a bear hug around Ryuden, but the Japanese announcer calls it right: “Ryuden is in”. Meaning Ryuden achieved a morozashi, and indeed, within two seconds Kotoyuki is out.

In the next bout, between Nishikigi and Takekaze, Takekaze also achieves a morozashi for a second. Nishikigi manages to escape one side, but Takekaze uses that hand to catch on to Nishikigi’s belt and throw him down. Both of them are now 2:2, and apparently Takekaze is not leaving us yet.

And now we get to the waza lesson of the day by Uncle Sumo. After a matta from a somewhat nervous Myogiryu, Aminishiki slips in a slap at the tachiai, pretends to be going for a grip, but within a split of a second has his hand on Myogiryu’s nape, and dances back. Years of experience tell Uncle exactly where he is on the dohyo, and Myogiryu meets clay before Aminishiki sets foot outside the tawara. Work of art.

Daiamami can’t get two wins in a row, as a very improved Kagayaki, who seems to be going more for grips than for slaps this basho, turns him around and introduces him to the audience.

Okinoumi tries to get a hidari-yotsu on Kaisei, but the Brazilian is just a bit too big for that. No matter, Okinoumi has a firm left hand on Kaisei’s mawashi, and succeeds in twisting him for a shitatenage.

Ikioi comes back after yesterday’s loss, and shows us he has some waza in him as well. It’s impressive that he can pull that kotonage with his bandaged elbow. Poor Endo will have to wait for his next W.

Asanoyama is somehow not showing the same brilliance he showed last basho. Perhaps the other Maegashira have come to know him. Perhaps he has too much self-confidence. Daieisho attacks him with oshi-zumo, and he doesn’t find a defense against it in time.

Chiyomaru continues in his day-on-day-off schedule. This time he got into a yotsu match with Shodai. This is dangerous, as Shodai is pretty strong once past the tachiai. Indeed, Shodai manages to get a morozashi, But Chiyomaru rallies beautifully by pulling on Shodai’s neck from both sides and sending him down to the clay.

Now, second waza lesson of the day, from our throws expert, Chiyoshoma. As soon as he catches Daishomaru‘s mawashi, he immediately makes the maru fly. An uwatenage for the books.

Takarafuji continues the Isegahama misery (after Homarefuji and Terutsuyoshi lost again in Juryo), when he meets Tochinoshin, who shows us some of his good sumo today.

Today, Ichinojo was given all sorts of trouble by Arawashi, who had him in a really firm morozashi (but couldn’t really push the boulder out). Arawashi then managed to throw him down. However, in doing so, he stepped out, and Ichinojo maintained his perfect record. The Japanese commentator noted that unlike previous basho, in which Ichinojo tended to give up easily, this time he stands his ground.

Hokutofuji continues in his good performance, impressive for a broken wrist. But what is wrong with Tochiozan? He seems to be strong, but just can’t get that first white star.

Allow me to skip the description of Kotoshogiku performing the easiest hip pumps in the world on the ghost of Terunofuji. I’m sure there wasn’t even a sense of revenge there. On the Isegahama page, Terunofuji comments. “No good. I have no idea what to do anymore.”, and Isegahama fans are urging him to go for a long kyujo and heal himself.

Onosho seems to fulfill Moti’s predictions for this basho. In a match with Yoshikaze, in which I would expect the ambitious tadpole to win decisively, he gets pulled to the ground by the elderly sekiwake. Once again he loses his balance, though it’s not a slippiotoshi this time – just bad footwork. I suggested to him from these pages in the past to go ask the Tagonoura brothers for a lesson in self-balance, because this was his weak point even in his shiny Aki basho. I doubt they will give him that lesson, though, as this will make him very very dangerous.

Mitakeumi shows that he can do well in a slapfest, even with the best of them, Chiyonokuni. But the Kokonoe man looks out of his league at this level.

Tamawashi tried the same sort of matta tricks against Goeido as he did in his bout with Kisenosato. Goeido was visibly annoyed the second time. But that annoyance didn’t cause him to lose his concentration or his clean record. In an untypical slap match, he manages to achieve his second katasukashi in a row and stay at the top.

Takayasu continues with his supercool sumo. He is so cool you could chill a beer bottle on his head (too soon? Anyway the beer man is not around). He takes Shohozan for a long, protracted hug (the match was a minute and seventeen seconds long), and then, all of a sudden, wakes up and pushes him decisively all the way out. The man is half-way out of his kadoban.

Takakeisho attacks Kisenosato‘s left side with heavy tsuppari, combined with the occasional nodowa to the Yokozuna’s right side, and completely shuts out the big K for his third kinboshi. Kisenosato is simply left powerless, and should be worried, very worried.

And then there’s a Dai-Yokozuna who fights like one. Hakuho gets a high morozashi on Chiyotairyu right from the tachiai, and the Kokonoe man flails and flails to no avail. From then on it’s just a matter of Hakuho’s leg muscles vs. Chiyotairyu’s dead weight, and Hakuho has leg muscles enough.

Flawless Leader group:

Yokozuna Hakuho
Ozeki Goeido
Ozeki Takayasu
Maegashira #4 Ichinojo
Maegashira #13 Aminishiki

What a basho!

And here’s Enho’s bout from today. Look at the tenacity of the boy wonder. Comments compare him to Ura. May his knees be strong and healthy.

 

Day 3 – Katasukashi Galore


Elephant Crosses Dohyo
What Yokozuna Incident?

So… let’s start with a couple of Juryo bouts. First, if there are any Ishiura fans out there, take a look:

Finally, Ishiura gets a win, against the hapless Homarefuji. He plants his head and keeps his feet in order, and manages to take the Isegahama man out. Of course, this black star is probably the last worry on Isegahama Oyakata’s mind this day. But they keep piling on.

Now take a look at Yutakayama vs. Tokushoryu:

A couple of days ago I said that there’s a level of difference between Yutakayama and Asanoyama. But as it turns out, the larger man is already in possession of three wins, while Asanoyama is not doing as well.

Up into Makuuchi we go, and Daiamami gets his first win today! Admittedly, Kyokushuho is just a Juryo rival, but any white star is a gold star at this point for the newcomer. It starts with a matta, but in the second round, Daiamami just cannons into Kyokushuho and gaburi’s him out. The fans enjoy his interview face:

Kotoyuki also grabbed his first win today, in a bit of a confused battle. Myogiryu throws Kotoyuki down, but falls a split second before the huge meatball. Air resistance?

Up we go to take a look at everybody’s favorite uncle. Whatever is happening around him in his heya, and the fact that he is going to do his dohyo-iri in his own kesho-mawashi from now on, do not seem to affect him. Nishikigi tried to do the smart thing – to press the kneeless man against the tawara. But Aminishiki just tiptoed aside like a ballerina, and handed Nishikigi the first Katasukashi of the day.

Aminishiki’s comment on the Isegahama website: “The heya has met with a serious situation, but the remaining rikishi must do their best. As the eldest I will strive to lead everybody forward”.

Takekaze seems to be headed to Juryo (if he doesn’t decide to retire). Okinoumi exchanges some thrusts with him until he gets a nice hold of his neck and ends it with a hatakikomi (if anybody can explain to me why this is not a tokkurinage… sigh).

The Asanoyama vs. Kagayaki bout was different than I expected. I’m used to seeing Kagayaki flailing wildly with his arms and his… additional appendages… This time he basically got his hands on Asanoyama’s body and managed to beat the Yotsu man at his own game.

Daiesho gets a first win today as well, when, after some attempts to slap and defend on Ikioi‘s side, he finally sidesteps and lets the big man hit the clay.

Endo decides to use thrusts vs. Shodai, and doesn’t make any use of his tachiai advantage. Shodai withstands the tsuppari attack, and manages to get a grip on Endo’s upper body. That’s the end for the recovering man in the golden mawashi, as Shodai has more than enough power to get him out even without a mawashi grip.

Not much can be said about the battle of the Marus. Again, Chiyomaru seems to have come to the dohyo without his usual genki. Daishomaru easily pushes him out.

Arawashi takes Tochinoshin to the bales and executes a beautiful sukui-nage. As Tochinoshin tries to resist the fall, Arawashi uses his right leg against Tochinoshin’s left and “helps” him complete the roll. Very nice!

Takarafuji earns his first win today vs. Chiyoshoma. It was Chiyoshoma’s initial initiative, but Takarafuji rallied, didn’t let Chiyoshoma get any grip on him for a throw (come on, Chiyoshoma, don’t try neck grips with Takarafuji, those are futile!) – and then throws the thrower in a nice uwatenage.

The second Katasukashi of the day came from Ichinojo. But this one was rather weird. Hokutofuji came at him low at the tachiai, and Ichinojo grabbed him under his arms, and then just let him drop. Not sure if slippiotoshi or sloppy tachiai on Hokutofuji’s part.

Chiyonokuni‘s match with Shohozan was less of a slapfest than I thought it would be, and ended pretty quickly with the Kokonoe man slapping his opponent down. All-important first win for Chiyonokuni.

Kotoshogiku nearly succeeds in his game plan today, and starts pumping his hips. However, Mitakeumi makes sure to be loose on one side, and concentrates his power on his grip on the pump-man’s arm for a well-executed sukuinage. Still bothered by his toe, but as long as he can execute throws like that, I’m sure the sekiwake is happy. Kotoshogiku is not getting the comeback he was hoping for, now 0-3.

Terunofuji‘s ghost continues to float over the dohyo without ever being able to latch its feet to it. Yet another loss for the former kaiju, this time against Yoshikaze who picks up his first win.

I wonder when Onosho is going to switch back to his fiery red mawashi. Rikishi are usually quick to blame their mawashi for their troubles, and the tadpole clearly suffers some bad lack, with his second slippiotoshi in a row against Takayasu. Unlike yesterday, when the Yokozuna really could take no credit for anything in the bout, Takayasu can be commended for managing to keep his footing first against a sidestep and then when pushed to the tawara. Excellent footwork from someone who tore a major leg muscle less than two months ago.

Goeido diversifies. In the two previous matches he hugged his opponent and swept him all the way to the other edge. Today he heard it was Katasukashi day, so he showed Tochiozan that he has waza as well as brute force.

If anybody hoped for another pedagogic bout between Hakuho and Takakeisho, this was not to be. Takakeisho exhibited welcome fearlessness in this bout, and even attempted to throw the dai-yokozuna. And if he had managed to do that I would really be worried that we’re seeing the decline of the One True King. But of course, Hakuho maintained his footing, got his other arm on Takakeisho and quickly swept him off the dohyo.

Finally, in the musubi of the day, Kisenosato manages to overwhelm Chiyotairyu in a way that he can feel happier about than yesterday’s silly bout vs. Onosho. He almost dances back to his position on the east to take his prize money.


Some more lower-ranks action:

Osunaarashi – Takagenji:

For followers of Shunba:

Win for Shunba of Isegahama Beya. #sumo #fukuoka #九州場所 #相撲 #kyushubasho #kyushu #福岡

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Kyushu Day 2 Preview


Kisenosato-Dohyo-Iri-Kyushu-Day-1

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).

Handicapping The Haru Banzuke – Part 2


banzuke2a

The Meat Grinder & Cannon Fodder

In the first of our series speculating on the Haru banzuke, we took at look at the San’yaku ranks, which face fierce competition for the competitive ranks, and significant injury and problems in the “permanent” ranks.

Today we look at the rikishi who have hard work to earn their pay, the upper half of Maegashira ranks.  As with the first group, this is all purely speculative, and based on some formula concocted by myself in an attempt to guess where the Nippo Sumo Kyokai will rank the men for the March tournament in Osaka.

Plugging everyone’s win/loss record, the difficulty of their foes, a scoring factor for their rank (harder to move up the higher you were in the banzuke) and a few other magic elements, we get this prospective ranking:

East Rank West
Ikioi Maegashira 1 Takekaze
Takarafuji Maegashira 2 Sokokurai
Tochinoshin Maegashira 3 Shohozan
Arawashi Maegashira 4 Takanoiwa
Yoshikaze Maegashira 5 Endo
Ichinojo Maegashira 6 Chiyonokuni
Hokutofuji Maegashira 7 Aoiyama

Ikioi is an amazingly popular rikishi with the public, and his posting to Maegashira 1e for the Osaka basho will only ramp public interest higher, above and beyond the current Kisenosato mania sweeping Japan.  Ikioi’s sumo has been improving steadily, and the NSK probably assume it’s time to give him a test for a San’yaku slot in the near future. Interestingly enough, the sumotori with the highest “mathematical” rank is Sokokurai! Sokokurai had 11 wins, his “rank velocity” (win vs loss * rank factor * schedule difficulty) was an astounding 9.9, higher than anyone and well ahead of second highest Ichinojo. But I think the Maegashira 1 ranks are prized positions, and the Nippon Sumo Kyokai will likely put Ikioi’s impact on the popularity of sumo foremost. Takekaze moves up from Maegashira 5 to a Maegashira 1 spot at Haru, and we will see if the veteran can fend off the up-and-coming crowd.

Takarafuji benefits from the chaos and blood bath at the upper end of Makuuchi in January, landing solidly at Maegashira 2e, and a chance to rack up kinboshi against a wounded Yokozuna crew.  Joining him is Sokokurai at Maegashira 2w, the rikishi who computed out to the highest “rank velocity” of anyone coming out of Hatsu. If he continues his strong streak from Hatsu, he will present a really good opponent to many top rikishi.

Tochinoshin drops 3 slots from Komusubi to Maegashira 3, he had a terrible record before his injuries forced him to withdraw. To be honest, it will be interesting to see if he is even healed up enough to compete, but as always Tachiai wishes the big Georgain the best of fortune. Joining him at Maegashira 3w is Yokozuna Kisenosato‘s dew-sweeper, Shohozan.

Takanoiwa,  who has been really blowing the doors off of his competition, raises from Maegashira 10 to Maegashira 4. I put him on the west side, which draws a slightly easier schedule.  However, if there is a lack of fierce Ozeki class competition, we may once again see score inflation among the up-and-coming rikishi, and I would look for Takanoiwa to excel. Joining him is Arawashi falling from Maegashira 2 in January.

Yoshikaze (a favorite of mine) seems to have been ranked in a very comfortable spot, as the computation put him at the same rank, but moved him from West to East. Joining him at Maegashira 5 is fan favorite Endo, whose make-koshi in January pushed him down from M2.

Another of the levitating next-gen rikishi, Ichinojo, leaps to Maegashira 6 from his prior spot at Maegashira 13.  Frankly, I am not sure if he is ready for this intensity of competition, but we will see in March how he fares. His computed “rank velocity” was an impressive 7.7, which was more than Takanoiwa.  Joining him is Chiyonokuni, who turned in a solid performance in January at Maegashira 8.

Rounding out the upper portion of the Maegashira ranks, we the rather impressive Hokutofuji at Maegashira 7e, with man-mountain Aoiyama broadly occupying the Maegashira 7w position.  This is one of the cases where even though Aoiyama was able to turn in a winning record (8-7), there was a huge cohort with strong winning records, with victories over higher ranked rikishi, and they ended up passing him by.

Keep in mind – this exercise is for discussion purposes for the most part. So feel free to leave comments, and alternate opinions. I am hoping to tune my formulas over time, and this first attempt should not be taken too seriously.

Tune in Friday for part 3!