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SUMO: 2018 Kyushu Basho (Day 13)

We’ve reached Friday the thirteenth day of the tournament (it just so happens that Day 13 of every basho lands on a Friday). Komusubi Takakeisho still has only one loss and is atop the leaderboard, but two of the rikishi trailing him—M9 Daieisho and M12 Aoiyama—lost on Thursday, leaving only ozeki Takayasu in second place. Suddenly, the hunt for the yusho [tournament championship] is much tighter. In fact, only three rikishi remain tied for third place—Daieisho, Aoiyama, and M13 Onosho (who only suffered his third loss on Day 11).

Takakeisho continues to look almost supernaturally calm, particularly for such a young rikishi who is in such a high-pressure situation for the first time in his career. Yesterday he beat M2 Tamawashi with another of the big roundhouse left arm swings that he used successfully in the early part of Week 1. In this case, though, Tamawashi didn’t go face down on the dohyo, but he was quickly and convincingly knocked out of the ring and off the dohyo. 

Takayasu bounced back from his near loss to sekiwake Ichinojo on Day 11, and completely dominated fellow-ozeki Tochinoshin. Something is definitely wrong with Tochinoshin, but he’s still a big, strong, dangerous opponent, and Takayasu handled him impressively. 

The biggest impact of the Takayasu/Tochinoshin pairing is that, with ozeki Goeido having gone kyujo [absent due to injury] there are no more ozeki/ozeki matches left to put on the schedule. That leaves one to wonder how the Kyokai [Sumo Association] is going to handle scheduling the end-of-day matches for the upcoming final weekend. Usually, each day culminates with a yokozuna/yokozuna match, but all of them are kyujo, too. They probably don’t want to wait until the final day to pair up the first and second place rikishi (because depending on the outcome, it might mean that the two have to face each other immediately again in a yusho tie-breaker). But outside of that match-up, I don’t know what big marquee matches remain for this basho. 

We have an addition kyujo, but not one that impacts the yusho race. M16 Arawashi, who has been going through the whole tournament with a clearly injured knee, has finally decided that he’s only doing himself more harm by continuing to fight. With a record of 1–11, he will now sit out the remainder of the basho.

Here are some of the biggest bouts from today’s action:

Komusubi Takakeisho (11–1) vs. M12 Aoiyama (9–3)—Leader Takakeisho takes on Aoiyama who until yesterday was tied for second place. And, if Aoiyama can win, he’ll be back in second place again. (9:30)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (6–6) vs. M5 Chiyotairyu (5–7)—Mitakeumi started this basho with hopes of earning a promotion to ozeki, but here entering the final weekend he’s in danger of not even getting kachi-koshi! He needs two more wins to hold on to his rank. (12:00)
M6 Takanoiwa (6–6) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (6–6)—Coming into this tournament, Tochinoshin was my pick to win the yusho, but he still needs two more wins to secure his kachi-koshi. What a strange basho it has been! (12:45)
M9 Daieisho (9–3) vs. ozeki Takayasu (10–2)—Until yesterday, Daieisho was tied for second place. Today he faces the only second place rikishi left. Takayasu wants to win today because he faces leader Takakeisho tomorrow. This is where the yusho race really heats up! (14:30)

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