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SUMO: 2018 Nagoya Basho (Day 13)

It’s Day 13 of the Nagoya Basho, and sekiwake Mitakeumi no longer has a perfect record! He lost to ozeki Takayasu (something I’ll have more to say about below), but at the same time, his two closest followers—M13 Asanoyama and M13 Tochiozan—ALSO lost. That means Mitakeumi maintains a two-win lead over the challengers . . . but it also doubles their number to the FOUR rikishi with 9–3 records by adding ozeki Goeido and M9 Yutakayama to the mix.

It’s hard to believe with the lackluster sumo that he put in during Week 1 that Goeido would still be in the yusho [tournament championship] race going into the final weekend, but here we are. After starting off 4–3, Goeido has won the last five matches in a row. And although he still hasn’t looked his best, he certainly no longer seems lost or unfocused, so he’s a very real factor in the competition—not least of all because he faces off against the leader, Mitakeumi, in the final match today!

Mitakeumi got a bit of a bad turn yesterday. He had a great match against Takayasu that ended with both rikishi going out of the ring at very nearly the same time. In point of fact, based on the video replay I don’t think there’s really any call that should be made other than that they went out simultaneously. But the shimpan [ring judges] saw it differently. In point of fact, I think that what they saw was that if they called for a replay, Mitakeumi would probably have beaten Takayasu, who I think was definitely favoring his injured left arm . . . and if they called the win for Mitakeumi then the basho would for all intents and purposes be over (he’d be 3 wins up on his closest competition, so the only way he wouldn’t win was if he lost ALL of his remaining matches AND either Asanoyama or Tochiozan won all of theirs). I think this call was made with the idea of keeping the yusho race exciting going into the final weekend.

I briefly, and half-jokingly, mentioned yaocho [match fixing] in my post yesterday. Although there is a centuries-long tradition of related groups of heya [sumo stables] having their rikishi take dives in order to support the immediate needs of a related “friendly” rikishi, after two match-fixing/gambling scandals in the past couple of decades, the Kyokai [Sumo Association] has done a remarkably good job of clamping down on that sort of thing. However, the Kyokai itself still does a lot of extracurricular meddling when given the chance. They arrange favorable schedules when a popular rikishi needs a boost. And although the shimpan only get involved in a few matches a tournament, I think that they quite often make decisions that favor the “good of the tournament” over the facts on the ground. 

Anyway, Mitakeumi is now 11–1 . . . and Takayasu has gotten his kachi-koshi [majority of wins] eighth win, thus erasing his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion], preserving his rank, and giving him time to fully heal his ailing arm. Surprisingly (to me) Takayasu has NOT reported kyujo [absent due to injury] now that he’s kachi-koshi, and will fight M6 Endo today.

That having been said, M2 Chiyonokuni HAS reported as kyujo after losing to komusubi Tamawashi yesterday. That makes Chiyonokuni the THIRD rikishi that Tamawashi has injured this basho (together with Takayasu and M1 Kotoshogiku), all with his use of the kotonage [arm bar] maneuver. I don’t know if it’s just bad luck, or if Tamawashi has developed a technique that is more dangerous than other arm bars, but if this goes on SOMETHING will have to be done about it. I mean, the Kyokai might want to get some fresh blood into the upper echelons of the sport, but they certainly DON’T want to do it by literally twisting arms. And if Tamawashi is going to keep injuring the popular rikishi at the top of the banzuke, that can only be bad for competition and public interest.

Today’s top matches include:

M13 Tochiozan (9–3) vs. M9 Yutakayama (9–3)—Two of the second-place rikishi going head-to-head. Only one of them will remain in second place, and the other won’t give up the spot easily. (2:45)
M9 Myogiryu (8–4) vs. M13 Asanoyama (9–3)—Another of our second-place rikishi going up against Myogiryu, who has spent pretty much the whole tournament one loss behind second place. He’s been scratching and clawing trying to get into the yusho race, but it seems to be his karma this basho to play the spoiler instead. Will he spoil things for Asanoyama, too? (4:00)
M6 Endo (8–4) vs. ozeki Takayasu (8–4)—The jury is still out on how much work Takayasu can do with his left arm. He kept it tucked reaching for an anchoring inside grip yesterday and never tried to use it to exert any pressure. Endo is a clever rikishi, so I expect he’ll try to force Takayasu into showing us what he’s got left in the tank. (11:45)
Ozeki Goeido (9–3) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (11–1)—This is the big match of the day. If Goeido wins, he and any other three-loss rikishi will be just one win behind the leader. If Mitakeumi wins, he’ll maintain his two-win lead, his magic number will be 1, and Goeido will be mathematically eliminated from the yusho race. (12:20)

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