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SUMO: 2018 Kyushu Basho (Day 14)

We’ve arrived at Day 14 of the Kyushu Basho, and the yusho [tournament championship] is still very much up in the air. Komusubi Takakeisho continues to have sole possession of the lead with a 13–1 record, but ozeki Takayasu is just one win behind him, and the two of them go head-to-head today!

Takakeisho won his match yesterday when M12 Aoiyama seemed to simply crumble in the middle of their bout. When interviewed afterward, Aoiyama said that his right toe got turned the wrong way and “went pop!” A scary moment, but with no lasting effects. It’s an even bigger shame because at that point the outcome of the contest was very much in question—many pundits saying that they thought Aoiyama even had the advantage. Despite this taking Aoiyama out of the yusho race, he says he’ll stay focused and try to create a strong feeling that he can carry forward into January’s Hatsu Basho.

For his part, Takayasu won his Saturday match against M9 Daieisho in strong fashion. To his credit, Daieisho refused to go down and made Takayasu put in a little extra effort, but the outcome was never really in doubt.

So the big match today will be the next-to-last one on the schedule where Takakeisho and Takayasu square off. If Takakeisho wins, he will secure his first ever yusho. If Takayasu wins, they’ll go into Sunday’s action with matching 12–2 records. Takayasu is scheduled to fight sekiwake Mitakeumi on senshuraku [the final day], whild Takakeisho will be paired against M3 Nishikigi. If only one wins, he will take the yusho. If both win, they will have a single playoff match to determine the winner. But if they both lose then they and anyone else who finished the basho with an 12–3 record will go into a multi-rikishi playoff. This last is the least likely prospect, but clearly the most exciting one.

Of course that all relies on the outcome of today’s bout. Such tension, I can barely stand it!

But before we get to that, I wanted to point out that ozeki Tochinoshin won his Day 13 match and now stands at 7–6. He needs only one more victory to get his kachi-koshi [majority of wins], and save himself from being kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] in January. Watching yesterday’s bout against M6 Takanoiwa, it became clear that Tochinoshin is having some kind of problem with his right knee. He can’t generate any power at all with it, and in the slow-motion replay it was painfully clear that his opponent was focusing his attack on the ozeki’s right side. I hope that Tochinoshin can get his eighth win today so that he can take the pressure off himself, or perhaps even report as kyujo [absent due to injury] on Sunday. He needs to rest that knee because I have great hopes for him in 2019.

Meanwhile, it is a complete mystery what has been wrong with sekiwake Mitakeumi this basho. At first it just seemed like his nerves were getting the better of him as he attempted for a second basho in a row to get 11 or more wins and secure a promotion to ozeki. It was clear by the middle weekend that he wasn’t going to achieve that goal, but his sumo seems to have fallen apart here in Week 2.

Mitakeumi enters Saturday with a 6–7 record, meaning that he must win BOTH of his remaining matches to get kachi-koshi. If he fails, not only won’t he get the hoped for promotion, he’ll actually be demoted out of sekiwake, a rank he’s managed to hold onto for seven of the last eight tournaments. Sumo’s third-highest rank is notoriously difficult to maintain as when one is there his schedule is pretty much identical to that faced by an ozeki or yokozuna, but unless he puts together extraordinary results for three tournaments in a row, he won’t be promoted—he’ll just win the right to come back and do it again in the next honbasho [grand tournament].

Coming into the Kyushu Basho, several pundits picked Mitakeumi to be the yusho winner and earn his promotion at the same time. I thought that was possible, though not likely. Now, I’m just rooting for him to finish strong. He’s been a great sekiwake, and I’d like to see him stay in that position and start putting together a drive to earn another shot at ozeki promotion next spring.

It doesn’t matter for the yusho race, but komusubi Kaisei has re-injured his leg and withdrawn from the tournament. He was kyujo for the first two days of the basho, and now he’ll be kyujo for the final two.

Here are a few of the most watchable matches from today:

M9 Kotoshogiku (8–5) vs. M11 Okinoumi (10–3)—Okinoumi still has a chance at getting into a yusho playoff if he can win both his remaining matches. (2:30)
Komusubi Takakeisho (12–1) vs. ozeki Takayasu (11–2)—This is it, the match of the day. If Takakeisho wins, he secures the yusho. If Takayasu wins, tomorrow becomes VERY interesting. (11:50)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (6–7) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (7–6)—A match between our two underperformers. Mitakeumi MUST win today and tomorrow to retain his rank. Tochinoshin needs one more win to keep from being kadoban in January. Desperation sumo! (13:20)

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