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SUMO: 2018 Hatsu Basho (Day 12)

Well, well, well . . . Day 12 of the Hatsu Basho brings us a whole new situation in the race for the yusho [tournament championship]. Yokozuna Kakuryu notched his first loss yesterday (to sekiwake Tamawashi, who is turning out to be something of a nemsis for the yokozuna, having now beaten him three times in a row). Meanwhile, M2 Tochinoshin won his match over M6 Takarafuji, so now he and Kakuryu are tied atop the leaderboard with matching 10–1 records. Not only that, but M13 Daieisho, the sole rikishi one behind Tochinoshin, lost yesterday, so there is a buffer between the leaders and their closest competitors—Daieisho and ozeki Takayasu at 8–3.

Takayasu seems to have bounced back from his mid-basho slump. Yesterday he looked as strong and determined as he did at the start of the tournament, and it’s quite possible he’ll end up with double-digit wins—which is what every ozeki should be aiming for. Our other ozeki, Goeido, currently at 6–5 following another loss yesterday, after starting the tournament looking like a yusho contender, has now lost five out of his last seven matches and may have trouble reaching kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. It’s unclear what happened. Goeido doesn’t seem to be injured in any way. He simply appears to be mentally absent on the dohyo.

On top of everything else, we have another rikishi withdrawing from action. As of Day 11, M8 Tochiozan is kyujo [absent due to injury]. He has been nursing sore knees for the past few days, but I think that is was the embarrassment of not even being able to put up a struggle against Makuuchi rookie Abi yesterday that convinced Tochiozan that it was time to sit down and take a rest.

M16 Ryuden (7–4) vs. M11 Daishomaru (6–5)—Makuuchi Division rookie Ryuden has been putting on a strong performance. Strong enough that he is on the verge of kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. If he can get nine or more wins in the basho, I predict that he’ll get a special prize. (2:15)

M14 Abi (7–4) vs. M9 Chiyomaru (7–4)—Another Makuuchi Division rookie, Abi, is in the same position as Ryuden, and I think the same things hold true. If he can get nine or more wins, I think he’ll get a special prize. However, his opponent today is also on the verge of kachi-koshi, and also would like a prize. (4:35)

M2 Yoshikaze (4–7) vs. M1 Ichinojo (7–4)—What the heck is up with Ichinojo the past few days? He’s actually looked like someone who has practiced sumo, using different styles and varying his attacks to suit his opponents . . . and WINNING. He’s on the verge of kachi-koshi while ranked at M1, which means he could well be back in the sanyaku ranks if he can bring home another couple of wins. His opponent today, though, is giant-killer Yoshikaze. Does the big man have something up his sleeve that can handle the giant killer? (8:30)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7–4) vs. M5 Okinoumi (3–8)—Mitakeumi started this tournament with seven straight wins, but something happened after his Day 8 loss to Ichinojo, and he hasn’t been the same since. Some are speculating a lower back strain, but Mitakeumi doesn’t seem to be restricted in his movement at all, he just seems beaten before he starts. Maybe he can turn that around today against M5 Okinoumi, who has already secured a make-koshi [majority of losses]. For his part, Mitakeumi only needs one more win to reach kach-koshi. (10:10)
M3 Tochinoshi (10–1) vs. sekiwake Tamawashi (4–7)—Tochinoshin’s drive and determination have been rewarded—he’s a co-leader of the yusho hunt here on Day 12 and he’s faced the toughest of the opponents he’s got on his schedule. But he’s still got plenty tough opponents to come, starting with today’s match against the sekiwake who yesterday handed Kakuryu his first defeat. (11:00)
Ozeki Goeido (6–5) vs. ozeki Takayasu (8–3)—Our two ozeki go head-to-head, which makes sense because they seem to be going in opposite directions. After both having a scare of three losses during the middle weekend, Takayasu has managed to get himself back on track and now has won his last three in a row. Goeido, on the other hand has three losses in a row and is seeming completely lost on the dohyo (and he still needs two more wins to get his kachi-koshi). (11:55)
Yokozuna Kakuryu (10–1) vs. M5 Endo (6–5)—Kakuryu showed his feet of clay yesterday. He went back to his old tactic of charging in at the tachi-ai [initial charge] and then backing up and trying to slap down his opponent. It’s a trick that used to work for him, but for most of the last two years hasn’t. During Week 1, Kakuryu was always moving forward and forcing his opponents to respond to him. If he can get that mojo back, he should to fine. (12:30)

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