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SUMO: 2019 Hatsu Basho—Day 13

Holy cats, what a difference a day makes! It’s Day 13 of the Hatsu Basho and we have a tie atop the leaderboard and a dog fight going into the final weekend. Yokozuna Hakuho and sekiwake Tamawashi are both 10–2, with three rikishi nipping at their heels with 9–3 records—sekiwake Takakeisho, M8 Kaisei, and M9 Endo.

Hakuho has now lost two days in a row. The fear when that happens is that there is something physically wrong with him, but that didn’t seem to be the case yesterday (at least not to me). Hakuho more or less had control of his bout against Tamawashi when the yokozuna did something even rarer than losing twice in a row—he let his concentration slip. On what should have been a finishing maneuver, Hakuho put his head down and rushed forward, pretty well assured of victory. But with his head down, he couldn’t see that his opponent made a little half step to the right, and Hakuho was no longer lined up to deliver a finishing blow, just an ordinary thrust. And worse, it left Hakuho in a very awkward position—one that Tamawashi quickly and wisely took advantage of to grab an upset victory and a share of the lead in the yusho race.

I expect that Hakuho will come back super focused and strong as a bull today. Then again, he’ll have to because his opponent is the other sekiwake Takakeisho, who is tied for second place currently and fighting with a very good rhythm. This will be the final match of the day today, and should be well worth waiting for.

Yesterday, Takakeisho beat former ozeki M4 Kotoshogiku. It was an interesting match because Kotoshogiku is a rikishi that the young sekiwake could use as a template to make the next big improvements in his sumo. They are both relatively short, bulky rikishi, and Kotoshogiku held the rank of ozeki for about five years. He did this with a combination of oshi [thrusting style] sumo, which Takakeisho already does quite well, and a set of belt-based techniques that took advantage of his size and mass. Basically, he’d get inside his opponent’s defenses then use a “bouncing belly” maneuver to make them stand too tall and throw them off balance. If Takakeisho could add something like that to his repertoire, he could very well get promoted to ozeki and do more with it than Kotoshogiku generally did.

The current ozeki continue to do better in their recent matches. Takayasu beat M5 Aoiyama in a brutal slap-fest, giving the big Bulgarian an extra shove when the match was done. (Be careful, Takayasu—you aren’t doing so well that you can afford to get the shimpan [ringside judges] mad at you for unsportsmanlike dame-oshi [extra shoves].) This takes Takayasu to 7–5, meaning he needs just one more win to get his kachi-koshi [majority of wins].

Meanwhile, ozeki Goeido won his match against M5 Yoshikaze. In some tournaments that would have been a marquee match, but Yoshikaze is having an even worse basho than Goeido, and came into the bout already make-koshi [majority of losses] with a 2–9 record. Goeido won the match, but he didn’t look particularly strong doing so. And with his record now standing at 6–6, he still needs to win two of his remaining three bouts—meaning he must beat either Takayasu or Hakuho—if he wants to get his kachi-koshi.

Our other two second-place rikishi should begin to get pushed up for matches against tougher opponents over the final few days of the tournament. Such is the “reward” for doing well at a mid- or lower-level ranking.

Today’s most interesting matches include:

M8 Kaisei (9–3) vs. M11 Ikioi (7–5)—Kaisei is tied for second place and still facing a lower ranked rikishi (though Ikioi is generally better than his current rank, but so is Kaisei, so it evens out). Kaisei is fighting to stay in the yusho race, Ikioi still needs one more win for his kachi-koshi. (1:55)
M13 Yago (7–5) vs. M6 Onosho (7–5)—Two rikishi, each needing one more win for kachi-koshi, both having some mechanical difficulties with their sumo here in Week 2. (3:20)
M12 Kagayaki (4–8) vs. M5 Yoshikaze (2–10)—Both of these rikishi are performing terribly this basho, but their match today has something I’ve never seen before in any sumo bout. (4:20)
M5 Aoiyama (6–6) vs. M9 Endo (9–3)—Aoiyama started the basho great guns, but Endo is the one who is currently tied for second place. (5:45)
M1 Ichinojo (6–6) vs. komusubi Mitakeumi (7–2–3)—Mitakeumi still needs one more win to get his kachi-koshi. Can he stand up to massive Ichinojo given his obviously still injured leg? (8:20)
M2 Hokutofuji (7–5) vs. sekiwake Tamawashi (10–2)—Hokutofuji wants his kachi-koshi. Tamawashi wants to maintain his share of the yusho lead. Only one of them will get what he wants. (11:00)
Sekiwake Takakeisho (9–3) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (10–2)—The big match of the day. Will Hakuho lose three matches in a row? Can Takakeisho hold on spot in the yusho race? (12:50)

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