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SUMO: 2018 Kyushu Basho (Day 10)

It’s Day 10 of the Kyushu Basho, and komusubi Takakeisho remains alone atop the leaderboard with an 8–1 record. The number of rikishi one loss him has been reduced down to four—ozeki Takayasu, M9 Daieisho, M12 Aoiyama, and M13 Onosho.

Takakeisho pulled out all the stops yesterday in his match against ozeki Tochinoshin, who he blasted off the dohyo in just a couple of seconds. This certainly shows the komusubi’s focus and determination, but it also re-opens the question of what’s wrong with Tochinoshin. Something’s been off all tournament, which his 4–5 record certainly attests to, but no one’s quite sure what. My suspicion is that he’s having problems with his right knee (the one that’s always in a brace and covered by a half-leg bandage). Given how he’s moving, I don’t think it’s anything serious, more like a weakness or a strain—something that makes it difficult for him to do his usual aggressive, powerful sumo, and also introduces an exploitable hole in his defense. It’s clear that he’s not going in the competition for the yusho [tournament championship] this time around, but I hope that he’s able to secure a kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. After all the struggles he went through to get promoted to ozeki, I’d hate for him to be kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] again so soon into his run at sumo’s second highest rank. 

Ozeki Takayasu has bounced back nicely from his end of Week 1 slump, and looked strong and in control in his win over M4 Yoshikaze. Right now, the big match that everyone is looking forward to is when Takayasu goes head to head with Takakeisho, which should happen in the next couple of days. That will define the shape of the final sprint in the yusho race.

Since we’re talking about ozeki, let me take a moment to say how disappointed I was with Goeido for the way he performed in yesterday’s match against M5 Chiyotairyu. Both rikishi came into the bout with 5–3 records, and it promised to be an exciting contest. But rather than taking his opponent on directly, Goeido went for a soft tachi-ai [initial charge] followed by a quick hop to the side, avoiding the fight entirely and leaving Chiyotairyu unbalanced and unsupported. It wasn’t a henka, but only by the thinnest of margins. And there’s nothing at all illegal about the maneuver, but it’s garnering a win by trickery rather than by good sumo. And for an ozeki who has been struggling all tournament, it’s a sign of weakness, not to mention a lack of confidence in his own ability to win the match on his own strength and skill.

Meanwhile, Onosho and Aoiyama continue to look very strong in their matches against their opponents further down the banzuke [ranking sheet]. As I said the other day, these rikishi deserve to be ranked much higher than M13 and M12 respectively, and that will make it easier for them to stay in the hunt for the yusho. 

Finally, a quick note about forty-year-old rikishi Aminishiki, who is in the Juryo Division for this tournament, ranked at J2 and currently 4–5. He won his match on Monday by kubinage [neck throw], a kimarite [winning maneuver] he’d never used before in his long career. In fact that’s the second “new” kimarite Aminishiki used this week, having won by Amiuchi [fisherman’s throw] on Day 6. This is particularly notable because it means that over the course of his career, Aminishiki has now successfully used 45 different kimarite, which is one shy of the all-time record held by Kyokushuzan (a Mongolian former-komusubi who fought in the late ’90s and early 2000s). Can Aminishiki find two more “new” ways to win at his age? Certainly, it’s another good reason to keep an eye on this wily veteran.

Today’s top matches include:

M13 Onosho (7–2) vs. M14 Chiyoshoma (5–4)—Onosho going for his kachi-koshi against another opponent ranked near the bottom of the banzuke. Should be an easy win for him. (0:35)
M13 Takanosho (3–6) vs. M9 Daieisho (7–2)—Daieisho, another of our second-place rikishi, also faces a low ranked opponent today. (2:40)
M12 Aoiyama (7–2) vs. M8 Takarafuji (4–5)—Aoiyama has to fight up the banzuke today, but Takarafuji hasn’t been particularly sharp so far this basho. Also, Aoiyama leads their personal rivalry 16–3. (4:00)
M11 Chiyonokuni (2–7) vs. M7 Shohozan (6–3)—This turns out to be a real knock down, drag out, street sumo bout. One of the most exciting of the tournament so far. (5:10)
Komusubi Takakeisho (8–1) vs. M1 Hokutofuji (5–4)—Our leader, Takakeisho, facing the bullish and dangerous Hokutofuji. (9:50)
M5 Chiyotairyu (5–4) vs. ozeki Takayasu (7–2)—Takayasu better look sharp today. Chiyotairyu is coming off being embarrassed by Goeido yesterday, and will be looking to take some revenge on a different ozeki. (12:55)

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