SUMO: 2019 Haru Basho—Day 11
It’s Day 11 of the Haru Basho. We’ve finished two-thirds of the tournament, and yokozuna Hakuho remains undefeated and alone atop the leaderboard. In fact, yesterday two of the second place rikishi lost, so now only M4 Ichinojo and M7 Aoiyama remain one win behind. The yusho race is heating up!
Hakuho dodged another bullet yesterday. For the third time this basho, he got himself into a nearly impossible situation and somehow managed to pull out a win. This time he let sekiwake Tamawashi get behind him, and Hakuho had to do a quick spin in the middle of the dohyo. But not only did he get himself turned around, he also took a step backward and Tamawashi just charged by, missing him entirely and letting Hakuho get directly behind him. It’s hard to have confidence that Hakuho is going to outright beat his upcoming opponents, but it’s beginning to seem inevitable that he’ll somehow find a way to outfox them.
Meanwhile, yokozuna Kakuryu notched his second loss of the tournament, this time against sekiwake Takakeisho, leaving them both with 8–2 records. Kakuryu has now fallen out of second place, but Takakeisho got one of the big wins he needs to improve his chances for promotion to ozeki.
In a head-to-head meeting of two second place rikishi, Ichinojo continued to surprise us all by staying focused and fighting like he was the one on an ozeki run. In fact, his victim was ozeki Takayasu, who seems like he’s going to have to wait at least another two months before he can get a good shot at his first ever top division yusho [tournament championship]. Where has this version of Ichinojo been for the past four years? What suddenly has lit a fire in his big belly that keeps him motivated and focused day after day? He could have been one of the best rikishi of the last few years, and if this is a real change that lasts not just for this basho but for future ones too, he might yet be a dominant star of the next couple of years. Of course, in my gut I don’t believe he can do it. I’ve just seen him mentally collapse too many times in the past. But so far he’s proving me wrong.
Ozeki Goeido also is putting in a much better performance than I ever expect from him. After suffering a second loss on Monday, I really expected him to go into one of his usual 2–4 day slumps, but he came out fighting on Tuesday. He stood up to fellow-ozeki Tochinoshin, and then rolled the big Georgian out of the ring. This kept Goeido got him his kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and kept him tied for third place with an 8–2 record. Meanwhile, Tochinoshin dropped to 6–4 and continues to need two more wins to save his ozeki rank.
And all the way down the banzuke [ranking sheet], Aoiyama continues to dominate the lower-ranking opponents he’s scheduled against. Yesterday’s victim was M10 Shohozan, who came out swinging, but eventually got launched off the dohyo and into the crowd.
More big name match-ups today, including Hakuho vs. Takakeisho and Aoiyama vs. Ichinojo! Here are some of the most interesting ones to watch.
M16 Yutakayama (3–7) vs. M10 Yago (3–7)—It’s desperation sumo—whichever rikishi loses will be make-koshi [majority of losses] with four matches still remaining. (2:20)
M8 Asanoyama (7–3) vs. M11 Ryuden (7–3)—The opposite kind of desperation sumo—whichever rikishi wins will be kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and still have a decent chance to get double-digit victories, and maybe a special prize. (4:45)
M7 Aoiyama (9–1) vs. M4 Ichinojo (9–1)—The two second-place rikishi go head-to-head. Both of them big, powerful rikishi who have been doing smart, patient sumo all tournament. (7:50)
M1 Endo (3–7) vs. komusubi Hokutofuji (3–7)—Another desperation match with make-koshi for the loser, but this time it’s near the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet]. (10:25)
Ozeki Takayasu (8–2) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (6–4)—An ozeki showdown. Takayasu must win if he wants to have any chance to remain relevant to the yusho race. Tochinoshin still needs two more wins to save his rank (11:40)
Yokozuna Hakuho (10–0) vs. sekiwake Takakeisho (8–2)—Despite all those other big matches earlier, this is the one everyone has been waiting for. (15:30)