Hon-basho Daily Comments

Post Basho Comments (George Guida reporting)
The media coverage in Japan post-basho has been stunning. If one didn't know better, you could forgive them for thinking that Kotooshu won the yusho on the Monday after the basho. I work in the Media section of my company in Tokyo, and there's a rack of six TVs almost in front of my desk broadcasting every major network. On Monday morning after the basho two networks had near simultaneous news segments, not on the historical mark and newsworthy come-from-behind victory of Yokozuna Asashoryu but, yes, Kotooshu. Calling him the "Beckham of the sumo world" the coverage came very close to ignoring the remarkable feat that Asashoryu accomplished this basho. Late in week two of the basho when Kotooshu was very much in control, the media infuriated me as they were holding premature "coronations" of Kotooshu as the yusho winner. Various variety programs and "wide shows" were all poised to have interviews with the Bulgarian sensation as soon as he clinched the yusho.

As I had hoped for and to some extent predicted, Kotooshu may be just what sumo needed. His good looks and ability are getting noticed in Japan, and this could be the catalyst needed to bring back popularity to the sport. I predicted that he could become a huge asset in drawing young women to the tournaments, if for no other reason than to cheer him because he's "kakko ii". Give me an arena full of screaming, excited young women any day rather than empty seats. Giving Kotooshu the "Beckham" tag is a good way to stir up interest. The media wasn't going to be denied their "Kotooshu moment", despite the fact that he not only lost the yusho but choked pretty badly to Kisenosato and twice to Asashoryu, with Koto being totally noncompetitive in the yusho-kettei-sen. They wanted Kotooshu to win. He didn't. They ignored this inconvenient fact and have proceeded with "total Kotooshu" interest stories, reality be damned.

As I write this, yet another special news segment is covering Kotooshu. Amazingly, they're talking about the record he set for a Shin-sekiwake as if Asashoryu's sixth consecutive yusho didn't even happen. Hey, I'm neither denying his performance this basho nor his potential but the media are in complete revisionist history mode right now. It's unreal. The caption to this segment reads, "November comes another chance to win the fastest yusho in history." What? Did I miss something yesterday? It's almost as if the media has eradicated yesterday from the history books. Sumo needs a new star badly and I'm all for it being Kotooshu, but this Asashoryu "blackout" is disrespectful. 

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hi everybody. It is so nice to take a break from my 9 to 5 job of writing for the eggheaded, super-serious website www.inconcistenciesinTheSimpsonsuniverse.com and get down and dirty with some good ol' O-zumo. The Autumn basho turned out to be as exciting a basho as we have seen this year, what with all the attacks, the counters, the sidesteps, the cuts, the bleeding and the bashing. But enough about SumoTalk!

As for the wrestling, well, it was a mixed lot, wunnit? The leader through 12 days got there by using a mixed bag of tricks, mostly evasive (but that WAS a lovely dance away from Kyokutenho), and many other rikishi, too numerous to count, used girlyman tactics. They may have had their reasons, but it is what it is. Call the governor of California! Boring, gutless, Gingerbread Man sumo.

One man who did NOT exhibit this kind of sumo this basho, and never does as far as I can recall, is M16 Kisenosato. He came out hard against M15 Wakatoba, right hand outside, left hand in, and marched him back and leaned on him as if to say, "Nothing will come between me and a playoff with the Yokozuna." Wakatoba stood there for a moment, uttered a small, urp, and politely fell backward out of the ring. Kise made his way to the locker room to try and stay sharp for 90 minutes, just in case. . .

M16 Kasugao was back up in Makuuchi looking for a winning record against M12 Ishide, who already had his losing record. Evidently he does not respect Kasugao, because he never gave him a chance to wrestle, instead jumping away and letting the Korean fall down, probably all the way down to Juryo. The English announcer called Ishide Might Mite, but I'd say more like Mighty Might, as in Might be there at the tachi-ai, Might not. Give me a Kakizoe for a true small man with no fear. I withdraw my earlier comments about starting to like Ishide.

There are many who defend the henka, or "tachi-fly", using words like "part of the game" and "keeps people honest". Reminds me of the empty, soulless, but immensely popular phrases "Shit happens" and "C'est la vie". A big league pitcher can throw at someone's head, but he's an asshole if he does. A doubles tennis player can intentionally smash the ball right into the face of his opponent, but he's an asshole if he does. When I mention to a buddy I would love to bang my kid's teacher, he has every right to go and tell my wife what I said, but he's an asshole if he does. There is a thing called the spirit of the game, and henka is a direct violation of that spirit. Stand and MEET.

(A slight digression. Simon and I were discussing this very topic recently when we met up for a little "sake soak" at one of Tokyo's finer sento. Some of you may already know this, but since SumoTalk Simon was a semi-notorious porn star (straight porn) in Manchester back in the late 80fs before coming over to Nippon and throwing himself full tilt into the noble profession of arse scratching, I was admittedly curious to see what all the hullabaloo was about with a man who was once asked by The Stone Roses to dance on stage in a g-string while they banged out their hit song Love Spreads. Now I'm not trying to get all the cute little fanmentators over at SumoForum wound up so they start racing through their files to find neat yellow face orbs to describe the fantastic bubbly feelings they are experiencing in their collective chests right now as they read this, and I'm not saying Simon is the owner of enormous pudenda, but I wouldn't be surprised if he has to feed that thing a live rat every two weeks or so. I'm just sayin' is all.)

Back to the wrestling. For the second day in a row, Toyozakura showed some gritty hard piping sumo, taking it to Shimotori for a fun to watch slap out win. He may have gotten only 5 wins, but he showed some fighting spirit the last two days. Shimo finished at 8-7.

The only other upper division combatant from the Yokozuna's stable, Asasekiryu (Morning's Red Dragon, as opposed to Asashoryu's Blue) came back from 7 days of injury (and thus 7 losses) and showed some huge heart in reaching 6 wins, the last today against Jumonji (his real name, btw). Red used a nice arm lock to throw the big man to his 9th loss. I would love to see Asasekiryu rise up to and remain in or around sanyaku in order to run some interference for the Yokozuna.

In a battle of former sanyaku regulars, M8 Tosanoumi played wounded Spanish bull to Takanowaka, who used a slap down the way it should be used, AFTER a proper tachi-ai when your opponent is leaning too far forward. Taka 9-6, Tosa 7-8.

After two straight days of being henka'd, M7 Hokutoriki, the last man to meet the Yokozuna in a playoff back in May, 2004 (don't you just love my subtle foreshadowing abilities?), would have been blamed by no one if he pulled the same trick, especially against the younger brother in the First Family of Shameful Henka Against Old Guys with Bad Knees, Hakurozan (okay, Mike and I would have blamed him--two wrongs don't make a right--and I don't want to hear, No, but three LEFTS do! from some Star Trekky, Sim City geek). Instead, Hoku stood his ground, absorbed the Big Russian's surge, and then offered a sweet, twisting, "After you," as Hakurozan fell forward to the clay. Again, like Takanowaka above, proper use of an evasive technique.

A few years ago, Tochinonada, who is a far better rikishi than he has been able to show for a few basho, started a basho either 0-4 or 0-5, then reeled off 10 or 11 straight wins, at a high rank no, less. I remember him commenting at the time that it was the psychological hurdle that was toughest to overcome. Tokitenku showed some of the same determination this basho after going 0-6. Today he got a quick grip on Takekaze's belt, and forced him back and out for both men to finish at 7-8. A couple of his wins were iffy in the style department, but kudos nonetheless.

Kotoshogiku got his Willy Wonka'd as Ama bent him over a barrel and turned up the Frankie Goes To Hollywood on his I-Pod. Who was it who said Ama never henka's? Insult to injury, The Geeku was going for kachikoshi 8 wins, and Ama got his 8th yesterday. Was this some payback to the Sadogatake beya boys? After the bout, orange-faced Kotoshogiku went into a song and dance:

"Henka's a bitch but what can you do?
Your rival flies away like monkey shit at the zoo
But when your heya leaders do henka, too
You can't complain when it happens. . .to. . .you
Like Kotonowaka did!

My brand of sumo is what I do
I will rise to sanyaku, too
Watch the. . .Koto. . Koto. . .shogiku do!"

Yokozuna conqueror M5 Aminishiki missed out on a technique prize due to his losing record, but that skill was in plain sight as he underhand grabbed M10 Roho by the belt and gave him a tour of the ring ("This is the edge, okay now over here, this is the edge, too, okay now once more, on your right, the edge, and out you go"). Roho finishes 8-7, the dragon slayer finishes 7-8.

M5 Takamisakari shit before he could fart, getting blown back by The Dejyptian who was a force of nature this basho (well, on Day 15 anyway). It was nice to watch this bout, because say what you will about Circus, he does not henka, so Dejima could be assured of actually encountering someone instead of ending up belly on the dirt, like so many tragic young rikishi of our time. Dejima finished strong for a 7-8, while Takamisakari headed back to the showers at 5-10 looking like a bus hit his puppy.

M2 Kokkai, a huge disappointment this basho, came up against another rikishi who never henkas in 4 Iwakiyama. Thus was Kokkai able to hammer at the tachi-ai and get a nice push out win after escaping from what looked to be a sure Iwaki push out win. Best sumo of the tourney for Kokkai, but that's like saying Bush really moved quickly on Hurricane Rita.

Injured M4 Kyokushuzan took on Tasmanian Devil Kakizoe and lost flying out in full retreat from the get go. Could have been a mono-ii as Shu's feet seemed to stay on the bales as Kakizoe fell to the dirt, but the refs had other things on their minds, like leaving enough time for a playoff, perhaps? Hint, hint. Kakizoe is cold grape juice at 7-8, Shu is a glass of warm spit at 4-11.

M1 Miyabikenka met M1 Hakuhenka and neither lived up to their name. Hakuho used a sweet underarm belt throw to cast Miyabi down into the pit of 6-9, while he himself takes a leap up to Komusubi (surely not Sekiwake?) at 9-6.

M3 Kyokuhenkaho smeared feces on his 10-5 record by executing a perfect tachi-fly at the expense of poor Futenoh, who finished at an abysmal 5-10, his Day 1 defeat of the Yokozuna like an old man's recollection of his first kiss.

M8 Tamanoshima kicked Komusubi Kotomitsuki's keister with a huge tachi-ai that left Koto no options whatsoever. Kotomitsuki seems to me a rikishi on his way down, and fast. He just doesn't bring it any longer. I lost a lot of respect for him this basho. Tama on the other hand will be rising on his 11-4 quite nicely in November, perhaps all the way to M1, due to the good, honest sumo he did everyday.

Now, I have been following the Kotooshu debate all basho, and while I have no special connection to Mike (other than the fact that he holds the deed to my Pappy's ranch back in Utah and has threatened to have me run off if I ever disagree with him in public), I feel that I should state for the record (in case you can't tell where I stand) that the henka is like sleeping with your sister: It may get the job done, but it's just plain wrong! I read a debate about this topic over on SumoFan mag, a decent site actually, check it out, and they had some prat called Mochi or something defending the henka (and denying, to his well-spoken opponent Ian, he made claims during the debate that he in fact had just made--that guy could work in the Bush White House).

Now, Koto was not doing straight out henka, and he IS a long armed boy and he has the right to use all his DNA gifted weapons to win, like reaching around at the tachi-ai to grab the back of the belt, but my dogg Vanilla Mike's point that it was "punk-ass" is valid. Winning ugly, cheap, dirty or fearful is not noble, and sumo is about nobility.

Many of you will recall that as Asa rose up the ranks, he was a vicious chest, neck, and face slapper, but it all changed during a memorable bout with Tochiazuma in which Asa made that bad boy bleed so profusely that the ref stopped the match to call Tochi's mama, and when they restarted, Tochi won. From that bout onward, Asa stopped slapping, and has used the slap only on rare occasions, like when Kokkai gave him a huge elbow to the face during this basho. The point is that Asa realized he needed to change his sumo style if he was to reach Yokozuna and become a respected Yokozuna. I think he could have won his Day 11 bout this basho with Aminishiki if he had tried a slap down like any other wrestler in sumo would have, but he is a proud champion and doesn't pull that kind of crap and instead tried a huge throw but was tripped up. He'd rather lose strongly than win weakly.

Slapping and lifting up and evading at the edge will get a few wrestlers very far, like Chiyotaikai and Takanonami and Miyabiyama reaching Ozeki (but to be truthful, the latter two rikishi benefited from being members of strong Yokozuna heya at the time and therefore avoided several big bouts each basho) but it usually won't get one to Yokozuna, and I assume that is where Mr. Bulgaria would like to be, and should be. I love the guy, wholeheartedly, and want him to be a grand champion, but like Simon Sledge pointed out, sumo is Darwin, not Intelligent Design, and if Kotooshu keeps up the tra la la, he will be eaten alive. Sumo exposes.

And expose it did on Day 14. There is a thing called muscle memory, and the style of sumo you practice will be ingrained, and your body will often revert to that style of sumo in an emergency, as Kotooshu's did against Kisenosato. He panicked and did what he has been doing, backing up trying to evade and he paid the price. I think Mike could easily step in here and say, Told you so, to all those who jumped his shit for being disappointed about Kotooshu's first week sumo, but he isn't that kind of a guy, so I'll say it for him.

Anyway, Koto did perfect sumo today against Chiyo, absorbing the hard charge, and then pushing the Ozeki back and lifting him out. He obviously can do this brand of sumo ,and don't be surprised if he takes two months and comes back with the right sumo needed to ascend to Ozeki and beyond. At 13-2, he forced the Yokozuna to beat Tochiazuma to have a playoff for the yusho. I think Oswald was a patsy, and I think Chiyo finished a suspect 10-5, but he DID look strong the last five or six days, and I am glad that he will remain an Ozeki in November. But enough already with the serial kadoban, okay Wolf's Cub?

So it was up to Asashoryu to defeat Tochiazuma, the closest thing he has had to a rival since ascending to Yokozuna in 2003. The energy was, yes, palpable as they set for the tachi-ai, but it dissipated instantly as Asa's shoulder caught Tochi square in the mug and knocked him on his ass before he could properly rise from his crouch. Look up the word "anticlimactic" in the dictionary and you'll see a photo of this bout.

Thus it was on to the first playoff in eight basho, and the energy was, yes, palpable (the place was full of palpable people, what can I say). It went off a like a replay of their Day 13 bout, with both men shifting ever so slightly to their left, but this time the Yokozuna got a hold of the belt and caught Kotooshu off balance, turned him and pushed, and he meekly stepped out of the ring.

A very exciting basho, full of new things to mull over. I'll let Mike and Simon wrap it all up and put a pretty bow on it for you. Thanks for reading and I'll see you in November!

Day 14 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Even before the dust settles it is safe to say that the current basho is easily the most exciting of 2005.  I wish the same could be said of the day fourteen line-up, which was surely one of the lamest in modern history.  Inevitably, we had one Yokozuna-Ozeki match-up but beyond that we got an Ozeki taking on an M6, a Sekiwake taking on an M16 (sounds like an automatic weapon, but it isn't) and two Komusubi fighting two M5 rikishi.  Be still my pounding heart.  Fortunately, there was enough drama to keep things interesting until what promises to be a spell-binding senshuraku (final day).

Normal service was resumed as Yokozuna Asashoryu made short work of Ozeki Chiyotaikai.  The magnificent Yokozuna encountered no resistance (which is, after all, futile) in his quest to get morozashi and the inevitable yorikiri win that followed.  The Yokozuna went to 12-2 and kept the yusho alive for the final day.  Chiyotaikai (10-4) has been formidable this basho.  He really has been fighting in a manner appropriate to his exalted rank.  I take my hat off to him.  He simply met a far superior rikishi in his prime today, and we all know there is no shame in losing to Asashoryu.  Now, what about Kotooshuc?

cthe Sekiwake took on upstart M16 Kisenosato in today's other headline bout.  It was hard to imagine which of the two sekitori was the most nervous.  Kisenosato wiggled his arse at the tachiai as usual so it probably wasn't him.  The final answer came as soon as the bout began.  Yes, everyonecKotooshu choked.  He panicked.  After failing to get the mae-mawashi grip he was looking for, blocked by that lovely controlled tachiai of Kisenosato's, the Bulgarian appeared at a loss what to do next.  Sadly, he chose to grab the back of Kisenosato's neck and go for the pull-down.  Oops.  How many times have we seen Tochiazuma (and plenty of others) do this and lose?  On the edge as a last resort it is fine, but he had other options and went for the wrong one.  Kisenosato was solid enough to shrug off this weak tactic and went forward to get the oshi-dashi win.  Kotooshu has redeemed himself somewhat with some fine sumo in the second week and he obviously had good intentions to give the fans more of the same today, but it was simply a case of him losing his head.  I hope he can pull himself together for tomorrow because he deserves a decent shot at the yusho after giving fans worldwide viewing pleasure with his astonishing array of techniques.  I like him a lot and there is raw talent coming out of his ears.  The issues still in question are his mental strength and the sometimes negative nature of his sumo.  I have no doubt these will be ironed out as he garners experience and today's loss will add to that.  Kisenosato, who was outclassed yesterday in his bout with Kyokutenho, will be delighted with this scalp and is certain now to take a special prize, possibly even the prestigious ginosho.  I hope so.

Ozeki Tochiazuma never looked in danger in this meaningless (in yusho terms) bout against M6 Kotoshogiku.  Brushing off Kotoshogiku's thrusts as if they were grains of sand, the Ozeki waited for his chance to get inside the youngster's reach and get the easy oshidashi win.  Tochiazuma makes it his customary ten shiroboshi.  Kotoshogiku needs to go through Ama tomorrow to get his kachi-koshi.  The Ozeki must now be ruing that awful loss against Takamisakari.  That is typical of Tochiazuma of late; this habit of losing one or two bouts he has no business losing every basho, and it is usually enough to keep him out of the hunt.

Komusubi Futenoh desperately needed a win against M5 Takamisakari, not only to get some pride back, but also to avenge that bad judging call in Nagoya when a clear torinaoshi was called against him.  He did the business by getting morozashi without any real difficulty and avoiding any trickery from Takamisakari on the edge.  This was good sumo from Futenoh because Circus was able to do precisely bugger all to get out of his predicament.  Futenoh is Heidi at 5-9.  Takamisakari is an unhappy mountain goat with the same score.

Komusubi Kotomitsuki said yesterday that his condition this basho has been very poor so he will be very happy to have his kachi-koshi in the bag.  Yokozuna killer M5 Aminishiki went flying in hard at tachiai but Kotomitsuki neutralized the charge with both arms forward and took advantage of Aminishiki's momentary loss of balance by reaching over and slapping down his opponent with ease.  Kotomitsuki stands at a creditable 9-5.  Aminishiki's dreams of the shukunsho for defeating the Yokozuna ended as he fell to a make-koshi.

M1 Hakuho really pissed me off yesterday by going for the cheap win and then being forced into bothering to show his class.  Today against M4 Iwakiyama he got his reward after clashing at the tachiai and allowing Iwakiyama to get the immediate left hand grip.  Iwakiyama showed quickness of thought to go for the kill and get the uwatedashinage win.  Hakuho will probably not be all that bothered because he has his kachi-koshi in the bag and his priority now is to avoid aggravating his ankle injury further.  He falls to 8-6.  Iwakiyama will be going for a final day kachi-koshi at 7-7.

I will not bother to comment on M1 Miyabiyama's 'sumo' today.  Don't want to have too many rants on Sumotalk in one basho, do we?  Suffice it to say that he wasted everybody's time at M7 Hokutoriki's expense.

M3 Kyokutenho and M8 Tamanoshima have both had excellent basho.  Tamanoshima won this tactical contest by wisely not allowing Kyokutenho any chance to get on the belt, while employing an effective hidari shita-te grip of his own.  Kyokutenho had no say whatsoever in this bout.  Tamanoshima goes to 10-4 and could well be in the running for the kantosho, although he will probably need to beat Kotomitsuki tomorrow to secure it.  Kyokutenho goes for his tenth win tomorrow against Futenoh in what could prove an interesting match.

In a Mongolian love-fest, M6 Tokitenku met M11 Ama today.  Tokitenku deserves major props for coming back from a disastrous start where he lost his first six matches.  Ama managed to get morozashi straight from the tachiai but did not have the strength to push his bigger opponent out.  An inevitable stalemate followed and I just sat here waiting for some tricky maneuver from one of them.  Ama took a few gambles and tried uchigake (inside leg trip) a couple of times but Tokitenku is a wily trickster himself and he leveled things up with an uchigake attempt of his own but even after three minutes the bout looked like staying that way until the apocalypse descended upon us all.  Inevitably, after four minutes, the ringside judges signaled for a mizu-iri (water break).  The gyoji did a quick and efficient job of putting the lads back into their original positions.    More uchigake attempts followed and both men looked ready to drop from exhaustion.  Then, for variety, Tokitenku went for sotogake (outside leg trip) but it was yet again unsuccessful.  Both men appeared then to lose the plot and take gambles but neither man had the power left to finish the bout off.  It really could have gone either way at this point, but finally, after 6 minutes and 11 seconds, Ama showed the grit and determination to go for the final push.  Both men deserve credit for this epic battle and you have to feel for Tokitenku because it was a cruel way to get a make-koshi after his comeback over the second week.  Well done to both men anyway.  Ama gets his kachi-koshi at 8-6.  The gallant Tokitenku falls to 6-8.

With an identical record to his younger brother, M10 Roho went into today's bout with M13 Kotonowaka needing one win for kachi-koshi.  Roho went for the coward's option and jumped out of the way of a 37-year-old man with half a knee.  The look on Kotonowaka's face said it all, although Kotonowaka can hardly complain about henka as he does it often enough himself.  Still, in my opinion, two wrongs don't make a right.  Both rikishi deserve criticism for this kind of bull.  Thousands of people are sat in Kokugikan after paying a lot of money to watch top class sumo.  The last thing they want to see is a total wuss jumping to one side to avoid a fair fight with a man twelve years his senior.  The guest oyakata on NHK agreed with my take on this, so don't think I'm the only one who was disgusted.

M11 Toyozakura showed real heart beating M13 Tochisakae in a crowd-pleasing slap-a-thon.  He'll need more of the same to recover his pride in Kyushu after enduring a luckless basho.  Toyozakura 'improves' to 3-11.  Tochisakae will continue the damage control tomorrow at 5-9.

With M12 Hakurozan and M15 Takanowaka we had two rikishi going for a day 14 kachi-koshi.  Hakurozan has continued this basho in the same vein as the last one - erratic and occasionally nonchalant, although at times impressive.  Hakurozan got caught with sotogake today, the same technique with which Aminishiki felled the Yokozuna on day 11.  Although he began the bout well with strong tsuppari, Takanowaka stood his ground well at the edge and took advantage of a gap in the Russian's defenses to get morozashi.  A short deadlock ensued but once the bout was on the belt, Takanowaka was the clear favourite, and so it turned out.  Takanowaka makes it two kachi-koshi basho on the run and goes to 8-6.  Hakurozan stands at 7-7 and I can't help but remember what happened last basho when he was 7-7 on senshurakuca horrible henka against everyone's favourite grandpa, Kotonowaka.  Don't be surprised to see another one tomorrow.  I won't.

This is how it looks, then.  Kisenosato features in tomorrow's first Makuuchi bout against the genki Wakatoba, needing to win to keep his faint yusho hopes alive.  They really are faint, though, because the only way he can take the yusho is in a three-way play-off, which can only occur if both Asashoryu and Kotooshu lose.  A more likely scenario is a play-off between the two leaders, but it is equally likely that a clear winner will emerge if one loses.  At this point the Yokozuna is the clear favourite.  I will be there in person to see if that prediction plays out.

A great basho.  All we need now to cap it off is a great senshuraku.  Thank you all for suffering my comments this basho.  I will be back in a week or so with my post-basho report.  Mike will also be posting one as usual.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The atmosphere at the Kokugikan today was electric, and why not? The most anticipated bout of the year in my opinion occurred today with Yokozuna Asashoryu butting heads with Sekiwake Kotooshu. Before I get to the action, however, let me just comment briefly on the shellacking I've directed Kotooshu's way this basho. As you can imagine, I've received a lot of emails from Kotooshu fans and especially from Bulgarians themselves. The people of Bulgaria are fired up over their fellow countryman's accomplishments as well they should be. They have every right to hate me and be vicious towards me because of the way I've harshly criticized their man, but everyone of them who contacted me has been nothing but polite and respectful. Of course our opinions differ...this basho...but I can't say enough for the Bulgarian people and their class. Big props to them, and thanks! I've posted a few emails to our email bag page along with my responses. Read them at your leisure, but in the meantime, let's not detract from this basho any further because we are in for one helluva finish.

How can I not start at the top with Yokozuna Asashoryu finally getting a crack at the rikishi who led him by two losses coming into the day? With our only two-loss rikishi suffering his costly third loss earlier in the day, Kotooshu was primed to seal his first ever yusho with a win over Asashoryu. The NHK jinx elves were out in full force digging up all kinds of stats and graphics illustrating how historic this run will be if Kotooshu takes the yusho. Easy there, men in tights. Why don't we wait for Kotooshu to beat Asashoryu first and make it a done deal before we start slobbering all over ourselves? As for the bout itself, the two rikishi did not crash into each other head on at the tachi-ai. I would have liked to have seen the initial charge from the camera view directly behind one of the rikishi to see exactly what happened, but we never got the replay. What did happen is that Asashoryu secured the quick left armbar grip over the top of Kotooshu's right shoulder, which the Yokozuna used to unleash a massive kote-nage throw. The throw failed as Kotooshu brilliantly held on to the back of Asashoryu's belt resulting in the Yokozuna being completely turned around and Kotooshu standing behind Asashoryu holding the left uwate. One would think "game over" at this point, but Asashoryu wanted this one too badly. Before Kotooshu could react to his new-found position, Asashoryu forcefully jumped 180 degrees like an ice-skater performing a twirl; it was a move I have never before seen on the dohyo. The jump broke Kotooshu's grip on the belt and left the two facing each other ironically near the starting lines. Both rikishi immediately clashed again, but as Kotooshu charged, his head was lower than Asashoryu's neck resulting in a fierce head-lock by the Yokozuna. Asashoryu twisted Kotooshu down and managed to throw the Bulgarian awkwardly to the dirt as Kotooshu gave a last ditch effort pushing at the Yokozuna's legs. The Yokozuna came out on top and gave a little fist pump showing just how fired up he is.

First, this wasn't the prettiest of sumo you'll ever see. It looked more like something you'd see in the Makushita division, but it was the result of two rikishi throwing the basics out the door and taking a win-at-all costs attitude. I like it. Second, though the bout wasn't as sound as we may have expected, there were some brilliant moves by both rikishi that deserve mention. First, Asashoryu. His 180 jump to break off Kotooshu's belt grip was phenomenal. It's the lightening quick adjustments such as these that make him the greatest rikishi in the division. Second, Kotooshu. When Asashoryu went for that initial kote-nage throw, instead of trying to keep his balance on his own or just giving up as many rikishi do, he latched on to the back of Asa's belt. There's no better way to break your fall than by pulling at your opponent's belt. He survived and was awarded the uwate in the process. Next, when Asashoryu actually administered the final neck throw, Kotooshu went down grasping at Asashoryu's legs trying in vein to trip the Yokozuna over before he himself hit the dirt. It's called ring sense. Both of these rikishi have it, and that's why they're both in the positions they are now. Once again, this wasn't textbook sumo, but it was a great bout in my opinion. I applaud both rikishi and look forward to these types of matchups on the senshuraku to come.

In the Ozeki ranks, Tochiazuma played it perfectly from the tachi-ai handcuffing Aminishiki's arms and disallowing any sort of decent belt grip. With his head low, Tochi forced his opponent back to the tawara where he went for the final blow. Aminishiki had other thoughts, however, and braced both heels against the tawara and lifted up on Tochiazuma's belt as the Ozeki pushed. Tochiazuma succeeded in forcing Aminishiki down and over...or so we thought. As Aminishiki fell, he twisted his body and wrenched Tochiazuma over and down via the utchari throw causing both rikishi to hit the dohyo at the same time (Tochi actually flew off the dohyo). The bout was ruled in favor of Tochiazuma, but I don't know. It looked to me that at worst both rikishi hit at the same time, and Aminishiki deserved a rematch in my opinion. If not that, he at least deserved a mono-ii. That was fantastic counter sumo on Aminishiki's part. On one hand, I can't really fault the judges and referee today because Tochiazuma (9-4) dominated throughout and probably was the winner. On the other hand, if that had been Asashoryu attacking instead of Tochiazuma, would there have been a mono-ii? No doubt about it in my mind, but that's talk for another day when this controversy will surely rear it's ugly head again. At 6-7, Aminishiki must go 2-0 to grab that Shukunsho award. I hope he gets it.

Okay, time for me to eat a little crow in front of all you Chiyotaikai fans. I have been guilty more than anyone of making light of Chiyotaikai's sumo this basho. I hinted early on that he was buying some of his wins, but these last few days? No way. Ozeki Chiyotaikai has been outstanding. Today he made mince meat out of M6 Kotoshogiku (7-6) by using his trademark tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai, and driving with his lower body until his opponent was back and out. He even had that f-you look on his face like "I'm bad, and just you try and stop me." We haven't seen that yet this year from the Ozeki, but I've noticed it in his current 6 bout win streak. I'm impressed, and I hope that this is the Chiyotaikai we see for the next little while. I wanted Chiyotaikai to make-koshi this basho and just retire putting us out of our misery because his sumo this whole year has been garbage. That "run" in May was awful. There was no substance to his sumo, and I still think he was negotiating wins then. But now? It's the Chiyotaikai of old. If anyone is new to sumo the last year or so, the way Chiyotaikai has been fighting the last few days is the kind of sumo that propelled him to Ozeki status early on in his career and earned him three yusho. It's fantastic, and I hope he keeps it up the last two days. Who would have thought that Chiyotaikai (10-3) would play such a huge factor in the yusho this tournament? His last two bouts this basho against Asashoryu tomorrow and Kotooshu on senshuraku have enormous implications. Bring it Chiyo and make Asashoryu or Kotooshu earn their yusho. Or better yet, keep yourself alive in an improbable march to the emperor's cup, but more on that at the end of my report.

In a huge bout in the Maegashira ranks, M16 Kisenosato was paired up against Makuuchi veteran M3 Kyokutenho with yusho implications on the line for the 19 year old Kisenosato. Not only is Kyokutenho fighting well this basho, but he is a yotsu-zumo specialist that has had as many spectacular wins over Asashoryu as anyone. I thought coming in that this would spell huge trouble for Kisenosato (who also prefers the belt), and I was right. Kisenosato actually delivered a good tachi-ai managing to get his left arm deep on the inside of Tenho, but Kyokutenho absorbed the tachi-well, pivoted slightly to his right and threw Kisenosato down with a right armbar hold to emphatically hand Kisenosato a costly third loss. Kyokutenho improves to 9-4 and shows just how much of a difference the competition is high up the banzuke. Kisenosato suffers his third loss, but he's still not out of it thanks to Asashoryu's win today.

Jumping back up to the sanyaku ranks, Komusubi Kotomitsuki was pitted against M5 Takamisakari today. The Robocop grabbed a hold of Kotomitsuki's right arm at the tachi-ai and swung the Komusubi towards the tawara, but Takamisakari didn't have solid footing and was mostly pulling with his upper body. Kotomitsuki is strong enough to withstand that sort of attack, and he easily slapped Takamisakari down to the dirt for his kachi-koshi. Takamisakari suffers make-koshi in the process falling to 5-8 as the Kokugikan faithful go home disappointed.

Komusubi Futenoh has all but been forgotten this basho. Today against M4 Kyokushuzan, he was able to force the bout into a yotsu-zumo contest after Kyokushuzan shamelessly backed up at the tachi-ai executing a lame pull-down attempt in the process. Futenoh got his left arm deep on the inside and wrangled the squirrelly Shu back and out for a much needed win. Both rikishi are 4-9.

What in the hell is M1 Hakuho doing performing a tachi-ai henka? Against M7 Hokutoriki? Hakuho's retreat at the tachi-ai was half-assed and read perfectly by M7 Hokutoriki. Having failed on the attempt, Hakuho just stood there waiting to be finished off, but Hokutoriki didn't exactly apply a potent attack against his opponent trying to strike the Mongolian up high with both arms extended. Hakuho said thank you very much and grabbed an undeserved but easy moro-zashi grip, which he then used to force Hokutoriki across the entire length of the dohyo and out. There is nothing more cheap than securing your kachi-koshi via a tachi-ai henka as Hakuho did today. Shame on him. Hokutoriki falls to 7-6 and really blew the chance to pick up his eighth win today.

M2 Kokkai defeated M9 Tamaasuka today in a perfect example of what is wrong with the Georgian's sumo this basho. Kokkai delivered his usual tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai that drove Tamaasuka back to the edge. The problem was that Kokkai's feet couldn't quite keep up, and instead of just sending Tamaasuka into the third row, the M9 actually had time for a last-ditch pull down at Kokkai's arm. Kokkai easily survived the move while Tamaasuka thought it was all or nothing. He evaded to his left as he pulled down then just stood on the tawara waiting for Kokkai to fall. When Kokkai didn't fall, Tamaasuka made no attempt to re-attack. With Tamaasuka standing on the tawara, it took Kokkai a baby right step to align his feet, and then a push-off with both feet before he was able to deliver the knock out push. If Kokkai's feet moved in rhythm with his tsuppari, Tamaasuka would have been finished off much earlier. But hey, give credit where credit is due. Kokkai moves to 3-10 with the win. Tamaasuka (4-9) needs to learn that it isn't over until it's over. He stood on the tawara a full second just waiting to be pushed out. How many times do we see Kokkai lose because his opponents jump to the side at the last second causing the Georgian to nearly walk himself out?

M8 Tamanoshima (9-4) scored the acceptable pull-down win today as Iwakiyama simply charged with his head too low. Tamanoshima gave Iwaki his chance, but with Iwakiyama staring at the dirt from the tachi-ai, he was easily slapped down to fall to a dangerous 6-7. M10 Asasekiryu made his return to the tournament three days ago (after withdrawing earlier) and has managed to go 3-0 in those bouts if you need him. His opponent, M13 Tochisakae, delivered a sharp tachi-ai today, but the smaller Seki used his quickness to evade and pull Tochisakae down in the process. Both rikishi are 5-8.

I've received some emails the last few days asking why I think the tachi-ai henka is bad, after all it's part of sumo isn't it? Here's two straight examples of why I say no. First, M15 Wakatoba pulled the move against M10 Roho. As Roho applied the brakes after coming out of his crouch and lurching into thin air, it appeared that he threw out his back. Wakatoba scored the easy okuridashi win, and Roho was obviously in pain as he walked back down the hana-michi. It's an injury that should not have occurred, but it did thanks to the tachi-ai henka. A sumo bout starts with the two rikishi charging each other, and when one charges properly and the other pulls a shenanigan, it causes the charging rikishi to react in an unnatural way that he doesn't train for. Thanks for nothing Wakatoba. Both rikishi are 7-6. Previous to that bout, M15 Takanowaka pathetically jumped to his side and slapped M11 Ama to the dirt causing the Mongolian to sprawl to the edge of the dohyo. Ama wasn't injured, but he also wasn't given a chance to fight today. It's downright dirty sumo because Ama suffered a loss with no say in the matter. Both rikishi stand at 7-6, and you can see Wakatoba and Takanowaka jockeying for the desperate kachi-koshi. Those two deserve an extended George Carlin raspberry.

To wrap things up, this basho is still wide open with two days to go . Clancy, who reports on senshuraku, actually emailed me this scenario coming into the day 13 bouts, so instead of shamelessly stealing it from him, I'll give credit where credit is due. Suppose Kisenosato defeats Kotooshu tomorrow and wins on senshuraku. Suppose Chiyotaikai defeats Asashoryu tomorrow and Kotooshu on senshuraku. That would leave those 4 rikishi all at 12-3 as the dust settles assuming Asashoryu beats Tochiazuma. It probably won't play out like this, but the way Chiyotaikai is fighting, and the way Kotooshu reacted last basho on the final day when the tension was it's highest, it's not a ridiculous scenario either. In my opinion, this basho is still up for grabs, but Kotooshu is clearly in the driver's seat. While this would never be made public, I wouldn't' be surprised if Asashoryu offered a million yen to Chiyotaikai if he beats Kotooshu on senshuraku. Hell, Asa will make at least that much from the kensho if he beats Tochiazuma. He'd trade that in a second.

Day 12 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Now we're talking conspiracy theories? It's amazing what you guys read into. I guess that whole Sadogatake scenario Mike and Simon went into is within the realm of possibility, but to be honest I never considered such a thing. Mike's even coined a phrase "Kotooshu-henka" (dive to left, get belt instead of traditional slap down). I think Kotooshu has simply found a certain comfort level in sequencing his actions in this way, and has found one heck of a groove and a boat load of confidence along the way. As for Kotomitsuki, my take on him is to expect the unexpected. He'll come chest first with enough pop to blow a wall down when he wants, but don't put it past him to resort to the cheapest of tricks. A win is a win is a win, and he wanted one against Asashoryu. Mitsuki is just not as steadfast in his approach as say, an Ama. 

Anyway, there were really three bouts of interest today and then a lot of peripheral stuff so let's get to it. M16 Kisenosato "The Kid" continues to impress from the deep depths of Makuuchi. Today he exhibited a strong tachiai against Roho (7-4), absorbing the Russian's own good tachiai and solid tsuppari attack. The Kid honed in on the right outside grip, which spelled trouble for Roho. As Roho retreated there was one glimmer of hope during a desperation twist at the tawara when The Kid's grip came loose, but to no avail. Oshidashi was the result and Kisenosato goes to 10-2, keeps himself in the hunt and almost guarantees a big time date with you-know-who very soon. 

"You-know-who" Kotooshu is 11-0 and gets M7 Hokutoriki today on day 12? How fortunate is that? I guess this is what Mike was talking about when mentioning losing the likes of Kaio and Wakanosato near the top of the banzuke. I might as well have been going up against Kotooshu. It was belt grip left (good morning), belt grip right (good afternoon) and belt throw to win (good night). Hokutoriki falls to 7-5. Kotooshu climbs to 12-0. Next! (shhhh....it's Asashoryu). 

In another thrilling match-up (yawn), Asashoryu (9-2) got M6 Kotoshogiku (7-5) on day 12. No disrespect to the up-and-coming Fukuoka youngster, but come on. This deep into the basho and that's all we got? To tell you the truth, Giku, naturally geeked up, gave a good showing in losing. Or you could look at it as Sho not looking so hot these last few days. After a right harite to start off matters, Sho got the left inside grip but stalled and looked largely uninspired. After a few gusts of attempted offense from Giku, Sho did dump the youngster with a shitatenage but it wasn't the angry, firey Sho you'd expect. Bet that changes tomorrow against "The Henka Man" (like that, Mike?)

On the periphery we had the two 8-3 Ozeki clash today in Chiyotaikai and Tochiazuma. Guess who won? Yes, Chiyotaikai, and yes, that's egg in my face (times two). I said earlier that Chiyotaikai's escape from Kadoban "ain't gonna happen" but it sure did through pure will (although sumo quality is improving somewhat). I also said Tochiazuma would be Sho's biggest challenger this basho, and....oh well. See, that's what you get for listening to me. 

Let's see, what else. M3 Kyokutenho and M8 Tamanoshima picked up their 8th wins today.....M10 Asasekiryu has gone 2-0 since returning after a 7 day hiatus, dumping M6 Tokitenku (5-7) whose 5 bout win streak after starting 0-6 came to an end.....Ah, let's face it. We're all looking forward to Asashoryu-Kotooshu tomorrow. Nothing I say here now can distract from us planting our attention on that barnburner.

Day 11 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
As always on Sumotalk, we like to confront issues in the sport head on.  Mike let fly at Kotooshu and Kotomitsuki yesterday in his report and he was right to do so.  There are two issues here.  The first concerns the conspiracy, for want of a better term, against Asashoryu plotted by the Sadogatake boys.  It is nothing new for rikishi in the same heya to help their stablemates out in one way or another.  Because we NEVER (or at least very rarely) see henka against Asashoryu, and then we suddenly (mysteriously???) see one from Kotomitsuki in the same basho that he has a chance to screw Asashoryu up when his heya mate, Kotooshu, is on a zensho streak, because of that, it is almost certain that they planned it together.  I would not be surprised if Kotomitsuki had orders, if you know what I mean.  Nudge nudge!  Why else would he deliberately risk angering the Yokozuna into chasing him round next pre-basho to kick his fleshy butt every day in keiko?  On to the second issue: take this Chinese proverb which is based on Sun Tzu's Art of War: mȒm, SDS (no, I have no idea how to read it either), which can be condensed into this modern saying: 'One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful. Seizing the enemy without fighting is the most skillful.'  According to one of our readers (thanks, Kale!), the Japanese would recognise this proverb as: "Know yourself, know your enemy, 100 battles, 100 victories."  This could be seen as a tenet of aikido, but it should not be applied to sumo, at least not Ozeki or Yokozuna sumo, where it is important that the rikishi dominates the dohyo with his own brand of aggressive (not passive) sumo.  Just think of past Ozeki and Yokozuna: when they were in their prime, as Kotooshu will shortly be, they did it THEIR WAY, as Sinatra would say.  Kotooshu wants to be an Ozeki, and with the numbers he is putting up, it is almost inevitable that he will become one, but it is not enough (especially at that level of sumo) just to be clever and tricky with your opponents.  As a last resort on the edge, yes, that is fine, but not as a planned strategy coming into a bout.  This is why Kotooshu deserves some of the criticism he has been getting.  He has everything – strength, balance, great footwork, timing and consummate skill on the belt.  My only problem with him (and he is by no means the only one who does this) is the fact that he comes into bouts planning to use his opponents' attacks against them by means of deception or evasion.  That is not good sumo.  I am not being arrogant here by saying that my view of sumo is the only one; no, my perception of how sumo should be fought is partly based on years of listening to the guest oyakata on NHK reacting to various bouts (and most definitely not listening to the takes of the English broadcast).  When evasion tactics are used, the oyakata generally say that it is bad sumo.  When rikishi go forward and take the bout to their opponent, the oyakata say the opposite.  What are we to conclude?  You decide.  Finally, I would like to point out that I am certain Kotooshu could go forward and attack more and still be just as successful with his nage and other techniques.  I wish he would give it a try.  He went forward against Kyokushuzan and Iwakiyama and won.  It can be done.

On to the actioncalthough we haven't had all that much in the way of great sumo this basho there is a real sense of expectancy surrounding this basho.  Big questions will soon be answered: will Kotooshu keep his streak alive?  Will he beat any of the Ozeki?  Will he show good enough sumo in the last five days to convince the kyokai to promote him to Ozeki?  Will Asashoryu make mincemeat out of the upstart shin-Sekiwake (probably on Friday)?  Hmmm.

Sekiwake Kotooshu met his first big test in the shape of Ozeki Tochiazuma.  Actually, I read an article about Kotooshu today but it was crap – I will give you some examples of what the journalist wrote: 'For 1,500 years sumo has been dominated by fat, Asian men whom even fans will admit are far from handsome.'  Want more?  How about this: 'But in Tokyo yesterday, sumo fans reserved their biggest cheer for Koto-oshu. "I'm a huge fan," said one office worker who declined to give his name because he had cut work to see the star. Rightcso the quote wasn't just made up, then?  I don't know about you but I really believe someone actually said thatcNOT.  It's a shame that articles like this, obviously based on other sources, are still put out in the major newspapers because they just reinforce clichés like, for example, all rikishi (sorry, sumo wrestlers and grand champions) are fat.  Go and buy that inflatable sumo costume, boys (and girls – he he he)cit will be a big hit at the par-dee.  I will not link to it because Sumotalk knows most of its readers are discerning fans who would not waste their time reading bilge.  Hang on, what about this report, you say?  Granted.  However, if you really want to read it you can Google one of the above quotes to find the article.  Anyway, enough of thiscer, bilge, and on to matters at hand.

Amazingly, Kotooshu took my advice in the first paragraph of today's report and showed us all that he can in fact go forward and show positive sumo against good rikishi.  As Tochiazuma arsed around trying to get a grip on the front of the mawashi, Kotooshu took the opportunity to get morozashi and give the Ozeki no chance as he drove the Ozeki out straight from the tachiai.  All right, the win came partly because of miscalculation on the part of Tochiazuma, but at least Kotooshu was going forward for once.  This, of course, vindicates Mike's comments over the basho because Kotooshu proved here that he does not need to back-pedal, side-step and trick his opponents to win.  Many readers will recall when Kyokushuzan first came into Makunouchi and the media were going mad about all his little tricks that were confounding the regulars.  These tricks carried Kyokushuzan up to Komusubi, where he subsequently got his arse kicked.  Everyone worked him out, especially the top lads.  The dream was over.  Shenanigans works only for a short time in sumo and then everyone works out how to beat you.  Kotooshu will need to show far more substance and character to deserve and keep the rank of Ozeki or above.  He did so today, but it needs to be every day from now on.  Kotooshu continues his run and goes to 11-0.  Tochiazuma is out of the running at 8-3.

The stage was set, then, for the Yokozuna to pick up a simple win and keep one step behind the Bulgarian.  Oh my word!  Yokozuna Asashoryu looked positively weak in his bout today.  I would not be surprised if something is wrong with him after I watched his listless tachiai and half-hearted positioning.  Absent was the speed and viciousness which are so essential to his sumo.  The Yokozuna was unable to get any kind of grip and was forced into attempting a sukuinage (beltless arm throw) but M5 Aminishiki's quick thinking won the bout for him as he got in a lovely sotogake trip to take advantage of the Yokozuna's poor positioning as he attempted the throw.   Aminishiki will remember this one all his life as he picks up a deserved third kinboshi.  One interesting point is that his first kinboshi came against former Dai-Yokozuna Takanohana, the day before he retired.  His second kinboshi came against former Yokozuna Musashimaru in the 2003 Nagoya Basho, the one where Musashimaru gave away three kinboshi in the first five days (he retired in the Kyushu Basho of that year).  Therefore today's kinboshi is the first one Aminishiki has earned against a Yokozuna at the height of his powers.  Well done to him.  This, of course, blasts the basho strongly in Kotooshu's favour, and he is now surely favourite to win his first yusho, smashing Asashoryu's dreams of equaling Taiho's record.  Still, it is not over yet by any means.  We all know what Asashoryu is capable of, and we have also seen Kotooshu when the pressure is on – remember the senshuraku bout against Wakanosato last basho?  Whatever happens, Kotooshu must rise above his nerves.  I would not be at all surprised to see him lose a stupid bout over the next four days, perhaps tomorrow against Hokutoriki.  We shall see.  Bear in mind also that Asashoryu and Kotooshu must still meet so that two-win cushion is vital for the Bulgarian.  Exciting stuff.  Asashoryu falls to a worrying 9-2 and will face Kotoshogiku tomorrow.  Aminishiki will have a few sweet sherries this evening to celebrate the fact that he went to 6-5 courtesy of a win over Asashoryu.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai is a mystery man at the moment.  He does not look injured to me, the way he has been moving.  He said yesterday that he felt his pants were getting smaller, which is a magnificent comment if you ask me, and he deserves to avoid demotion simply on the basis of that.  Today he met M4 Kyokushuzan in what should have been a bread and butter win for the kadoban Ozeki.  Kyokushuzan tried some half-hearted moro-te but basically rolled over and asked Chiyotaikai to tickle him where he likes it.  Utter bullshit.  If I had been on the dohyo today, I would have beaten Kyokushuzan after a performance like that.  Do you know what I am getting at, dear readers?  Nudge nudge.  Chiyotaikai somehow overcomes his injuries (which seem to have disappeared), and escapes kadoban for a record-breaking eighth time.  Right.  Kyokushuzan falls to an expected 4-7.

Komusubi Kotomitsuki has lost three in the last five days and was desperate to kick-start his stuttering basho with a win over M1 Hakuho.  The bout was over in less time than it takes a startled ferret to evade a small meteor on collision course.  The two lads clashed at tachiai, with Hakuho trying a quick hari-te, but Kotomitsuki pulled back and thrust down, leaving empty air where Hakuho expected him to be.  Tsukiotoshi was the winning technique.  Both men stand at 7-4.

Komusubi Futenoh met his partner in perdition M2 Kokkai today in a battle of the underachievers.  I can understand why Kokkai is doing so badly.  That big one-dimensional thrusting style of his only works if he employs raw brute strength but this basho his opponents have just shrugged off his blows and used the long window of opportunity between thrusts to get inside the big man's reach.  Futenoh, however, has been pretty unlucky as well as lackluster.  I will go into that more in my post-basho report.  Surprisingly, Kokkai allowed Futenho to turn the bout into a yotsu-zumo battle straight from the tachiai.  Both men seemed locked in a contest to rip each other's mawashi off (saucy) as both men had powerful grips.  Kokkai (2-9) ran out of patience, however, and decided to swing Futenoh (3-8) round before going all out for the big push.  This led to him slipping.  They called it uwatehineri but I call it falling over.  Futenoh's blog will get plenty of hits tonight – certainly more than this report – because this is the young lad's first shiroboshi in eight days.

On M3 Dejima's current form this match-up did not bode well for him.  He has not fared well at all with belt specialists like M3 Kyokutenho.  It was a familiar story today as Kyokutenho blinded Dejima with a hari-te which enabled him to get a left hand belt grip.  Dejima did not even bother to put up a fight, knowing he was screwed.  Screwed indeed – he falls to a day eleven make-koshi, while Kyokutenho keeps his resurgence going at 7-4.  Dejima has really not been in most of his bouts this basho.  Maybe he needs a holiday in Tahiti or something.  He is a small Armenian traffic warden at 3-8.

M16 Kisenosato has looked very foxy indeed this basho, going forward in a far more controlled fashion than I have seen him do before.  He is also flying the flag for Naruto Beya in the unfortunate absence of the injured Wakanosato.  Put up the ranks a little today he met wily old (28!) M8 Tamanoshima, who hasn't had such a bad basho himself.  Kisenosato looked understandably nervous pre-bout but he went forward well.  However, Tamanoshima is no fool and he just hung in there waiting for the inevitable straining match (sounds revolting) at the edge.  He probably remembered Kisenosato's inability to finish people off at the edge, something we have not seen so far this bashocuntil today anyway.  Yes, Kisenosato had his opponent at his mercy but overstretched himself in his eagerness.  Tamanoshima was waiting for this and wriggled to the side.  Although Kisenosato will be gutted to fall to 9-2 after showing some tremendous sumo this basho, he will surely be aware that this is all part of the learning curve.  Tamanoshima improves to 7-4 and is odds on for a kachi-koshi after a decent basho.  The learning curve will continue for Kisenosato tomorrow as he will face Roho.

M10 Roho has been racking up the wins after losing twice in the first three days.  Still, one would expect this future sanyaku rikishi to already have his kachi-koshi at this low rank.  On paper, M15 Takanowaka is easy meat, and so it turned out as Roho moved slightly to the side at tachiai and reached over his opponent to get hidari-uwate, but the belt grip really only served to allow him to get to the side of and behind Takanowaka as he manhandled his opponent over the tawara with a powerful thrust.  It was a pretty standard win for the big Russian, who stands at a slightly disappointing 7-4 record.  Takanowaka knows he was out of his league at 6-5.

M11 Ama has been roundly massacred in the last two days, first by a feisty Hokutoriki, and then by an even feistier Kisenosato.  Would he get back on track against M16 Kasugao today?  The answer wasceventually.  In a long match where Ama got morozashi with migi mae-mawashi in the early stages but was forced into a long stalemate by Kasugao's stubborn resistance, he was forced to dig into his bag of tricks to break up the party as he executed a nice little trip to get Kasugao on the back foot.  The easy yorikiri win was then there for the taking.  Ama goes to 7-4.  Kasugao makes it three straight losses to fall to 6-5.

It is all shaping up now.  Kotooshu has to face Hokutoriki, Chiyotaikai, Asashoryu and one more non-sanyaku rikishi.  Asashoryu faces Kotoshogiku, Kotooshu, Tochiazuma and Chiyotaikai.  I think it is safe to say that Asashoryu will get thirteen wins so Kotooshu cannot afford to lose a bout.  Most likely things will come to a head on Friday when they are likely to meet face-to-face.  I am going to be in Kokugikan for that one.  Oh, and watch out for Kisenosato sneaking in the back door while nobody is watching.  Go on lad!

I will be back on Saturday for my final daily report of this basho.  Thanks, as always, for reading

10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Before I get to the action, I will focus the beginning of my day 10 comments on our basho leader, Sekiwake Kotooshu. It seems that my day 6 rant regarding the Bulgarian has ruffled a few feathers. I have been hyping this guy from the very beginning, as in his first bout in the Jonokuchi division that he won by shitate-hineri. I also stated on the eye-on-sumo page a few years ago that Kotooshu was the sport's next Yokozuna. I am furthermore in complete agreement with Kenji and George's description of Kotooshu's sumo as having knack, ability, agility, balance, athleticism, etc. What I don't need to see, however, is the Sekiwake using that balance, agility, and athleticism AFTER he has evaded his opponent's tachi-ai, especially when he does it the first seven days of the basho against mostly inferior opponents. Yesterday's sumo against Iwakiyama is the perfect example of where I WANT to see him exhibit those qualities. Iwakiyama secured the firm outer grip and had Kotooshu driven to the edge, but it was Kotooshu's athleticism and ability that allowed him to turn the tables and defeat his opponent. If Kotooshu's sumo the first seven days of the basho was agile, athletic, and even gallant, then where were the similar descriptions for Takanonami during that former Ozeki's career? Nobody liked Takanonami the last five years or so before he retired because his sumo sucked, and we were all tired of seeing someone with an incredible sumo body waste it by constantly retreating and refusing to take any offensive initiative. Kotooshu's act the first seven days of this tournament was inexcusable in my opinion, and he deserved any sort of criticism he received. I will concede to Kenji, however, that this basho is a helluva lot better with Kotooshu having started 7-0 instead of 4-3. It was the most intelligent statement made on Sumotalk this basho, and forgive me for using "intelligent" and "Sumotalk" in the same sentence. Would Kotooshu further incur my wrath today? We'd better get to the action.

I guess I will start with our leader on paper, which probably foreshadows already what I thought of Kotooshu's sumo today. His opponent was M8 Tamanoshima, a quality yotsu-zumo fighter in his own right. After stalling in the crouch for much longer than he needed to drawing a false start, Kotooshu jumped to his left at the tachi-ai securing the guaranteed left uwate, which he used to drag Tamanoshima to the edge of the ring before dumping him with a belt throw. Tamanoshima (6-4) actually put up some good resistance, but when you start the bout with a two meter guy at your side with the outer grip, you have no chance. Kotooshu's agility and skill showed as he executed a textbook belt throw complete with using his leg against his opponent's inner thigh to lift him up and over, but it was all set up by a cowardly tachi-ai henka. Now you may not think today's initial charge from the Bulgarian was a henka, but it was. Just because he grabbed the belt in favor of slapping his opponent down as most gimmick artists prefer to do, it doesn't mean he didn't jump to his left instead of charging straight forward. These are cheap tactics employed by a rikishi who can smell the yusho and an Ozeki promotion and who will stoop to any level to obtain it. Kotooshu can go to hell for all I care along with his stablemate.

Why bring his stablemate into this? Let me jump to the day's final bout between Asashoryu and Kotooshu's partner, Kotomitsuki. Let me preface this bout by saying that Asashoryu is in dire straights. He's already one loss behind Kotooshu, so if he suffers another loss while Kotooshu keeps "winning," then he cannot yusho unless Tochiazuma takes care of business against Girly-oshu tomorrow. With the withdrawal of Kaio and Wakanosato earlier on, it means that two quality rikishi will now be replaced by two mid-Maegashira rikish in an effort to hand the yusho contenders a costly loss in the waning days of the basho. That's highly unlikely as we saw today with Kotooshu: tachi-ai henka + M8 opponent = easy win. Simply put, Asashoryu cannot afford another loss. I know it, the Yokozuna knows it, and the Sadogatake-beya boys know it. When was the last time anyone tried a tachi-ai henka against the Yokozuna? I don't remember. The rikishi in the Makuuchi division know better not to do it because they're aware of the consequences. Well, Kotomitsuki went for it today jumping to his left at the tachi-ai in an effort to aid his partner by handing Asashoryu that second loss. The Yokozuna was ready, however, and turned to his own right before anyone knew what was going on. With Kotomitsuki now off balance and out of position, Asashoryu placed a few well-timed thrusts into Kotomitsuki's throat and mid-section easily driving the Komusubi back and out. Asashoryu stated after the bout, "He [Kotomitsuki] always charges hard, so today my reaction was gee willikers!" Okay, maybe "gee willikers" isn't the best translation for "oi-oi". Maybe more appropriate ones I read in the dictionary were "hey!", "c'mon!", and "what the f**k are you doing?" Nice try Sadogatake-beya losers. It is just pitiful to see what someone will do to steal the yusho. I also think that Kotomitsuki tried the Kotooshu-henka today (go for the belt instead of the slap-down) so they could analyze how the Yokozuna would react. Pretty damn good if you ask me. Back to the drawing board boys. Asashoryu moves to 9-1 keeping himself just one off the lead. Hopefully today's bout really gave the Yokozuna a case of the red-ass. I hate the background behind it...but there's no denying the drama that is building this basho.

Also keeping himself just one off the pace is teenager, M16 Kisenosato. Today the boy was nails against M11 Ama. Kisenosato hit hard at the tachi-ai and used a left ottsuke (push at opponent's side) to drive the Mongolian back and out with little trouble. We all know that Ama is no pushover, but Kisenosato made it look too easy today. The angle of his tachi-ai, the way he used his head driving it underneath Ama's jaw, and his de-ashi were flawless. What more can I say? Kisenosato's sumo was perfect. Maybe he isn't a fluke. At 9-1 he's likely earned himself a date with Kotooshu in a few days, an occurrence that would surely make Kotomitsuki jealous. Ama falls to a quiet 6-4.

Just two losses off the lead coming in was Ozeki Tochiazuma, who looked to receive a stiff test from the semi-resurgent M3 Kyokutenho. It was vintage Tochiazuma today has he handcuffed his opponent from the tachi-ai refusing the belt grip and charged with his head. Without the belt grip, Kyokutenho (6-4) looked lost, and as he floundered around the ring hoping for any sort of offensive position, Tochiazuma was in front of him all the way before pulling the Mongolian down to the dirt. Tochiazuma secures kachi-koshi at 8-2 and still controls his yusho destiny as he has yet to face Asashoryu (probably on senshuraku) and Kotooshu (tomorrow). Still, I think Tochiazuma and Kisenosato will have to settle for second fiddle. This basho is coming down to Asashoryu vs. Kotooshu.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai looked his old self today. By that I mean the Chiyotaikai who would blow his opponent away from the tachi-ai with his tsuppari attack and then suddenly go for the pull down at the tawara instead of that last thrust to drive his opponent out. Today's victim was M3 Dejima who just isn't genki enough anymore to have his way or make Chiyotaikai pay the price for the pull down move. I don't fault Chiyo at all for slapping Dejima (3-7) to the dirt instead of driving him back that final step as the Ozeki completely controlled the pace of the bout. Chiyotaikai moves to a miraculous 7-3 after that horrific 0-2 start. Was today's bout mysteriously too easy? There's been a lot of speculation going around that Chiyotaikai's bouts are rigged. I don't really want to dwell on that here as there are much more compelling issues regarding the basho at hand, but when you see a rikishi of Chiyotaikai's rank constantly follow the pattern of great basho, lousy basho, great basho, lousy basho then the answer is likely yes. We'll find out what Chiyotaikai is really made of when he faces the yusho contenders.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Futenoh incredibly managed to lose his eighth straight bout after a 2-0 start that included a win over Asashoryu on day 1. I think Futenoh has been the victim of some cheap tactics (by that I mean tachi-ai henka) from a handful of his opponents this basho, but today he straight up got his ass handed to him by M1 Hakuho. Hakuho hit hard at the tachi-ai setting up the quick outer grip on Futenoh's belt, but the Mongolian also used his other hand well to keep Futenoh from grabbing any sort of inner-grip. With nothing to hold on to for a counter move, Futenoh was a sitting duck as Hakuho easily dumped him to the clay with the uwate-nage throw. How about Hakuho making a bit of noise now? At 7-3, his only three losses came against the top three rikishi on our leaderboard. I'd love to see this M1 build up even more momentum heading into the Kyushu basho. He's already a lock for Futenoh's Komusubi slot, and he'll likely take over Wakanosato's Sekiwake rank in Kyushu.

In the Maegashira ranks, I must comment on M2 Kokkai who finally picked up his first legitimate win of the basho today (he won by default over Wakanosato earlier) against resident punching bag, M1 Miyabiyama. Kokkai struck with his usual double-tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai that drove Miyabiyama back a few steps. Miyabi evaded to his right near the tawara, but Kokkai was right on top of him delivering another good one-two round of tsuppari that easily drove Miyabiyama across the rope. So it was a great morale booster for Kokkai who inches up to 2-8. Miyabiyama showed no effort whatsoever falling to 3-7.

M4 Iwakiyama pulled even at 5-5 after pulling M2 Kakizoe down at the tawara before stepping out himself. The referee botched the call lamely pointing his gunbai towards Kakizoe's side before the judges correctly overruled the decision. This was actually a pretty good bout with Iwakiyama maintaining a stingy armbar hold on Kakizoe who flirted with the morozashi grip. Iwaki whiffed a few times on some kote-nage throws, but at Kakizoe drove the mountain back to the rope, Iwakiyama used his girth to force the feisty Zoe to the dirt while niftily tightroping the tawara.

Wasn't M5 Aminishiki 4-0 to start off this basho? He was just pulverized by M7 Hokutoriki's tsuppari attack today resulting in a now paltry 5-5 record. Hokutoriki moves to a quiet 6-4. I stated in an earlier report this basho that M6 Kotoshogiku fell into Kyokushuzan's morote-retreat trap. Today, the Geeku got a taste of another geek's trap when Takamisakari turned the tables on the charging Kotoshogiku at the tawara. Kotoshogiku secured a firm left uwate at the tachi-ai and immediately drove Takamisakari back, but as he does so well, the Robocop lifted up at Kotoshogiku's right armpit as he evaded at the last second causing Kotoshogiku to flop across the rope first and wonder what the hell just happened. Takamisakari moves to 4-6 with the sukuinage throw while Kotoshogiku falls to 6-4. The kid will learn in time.

And finally, M8 Tosanoumi, who brilliantly survived a tachi-ai henka from M12 Ishide (4-6) to score the easy oshi-taoshi win. Tosanoumi moves to 5-5 with the win, but what I really want to talk about is what happened yesterday. In his bout with Tokitenku, both rikishi approached the starting lines and each placed their lift fists to the ground. After a few seconds, Tokitenku felt the timing was right and slammed his right fist to the ground and charged. Tosanoumi's right hand was still a good 40 centimeters above the dohyo, and he didn't even flinch as far as making it look as if he was ready to go. An easy false start, right? Wrong. The referee--Kimura Koichi--started his "nokotta, nokotta" call to the surprise of everyone. Tokitenku, who already had the momentum from the false start and had pushed Tosanoumi back a few steps, heard that the bout was on and pushed a shocked Tosanoumi back and out with no resistance whatsoever. I mean, this was the worst call, and the worst judgment I have ever seen (and that's saying a lot). It's simply undebatable. The referee needs eyeglasses and the head judge needs to get off his lazy ass and override the referee indicating the false start. But I don't even want to focus on that part of yesterday's bout. What I do want to point out is the demeanor of Tosanoumi after the blown call. He calmly removed the sagari from his belt, stepped up onto the dohyo, bowed out of respect to his opponent, and exited the arena without incident. No dirty looks towards the judges, and no scowl on his face as he exited indicating that he has just been jobbed. There was nothing but pure and simple class. That is why Tosanoumi is the most likable rikishi in sumo, and why he is the classiest cat on the banzuke...another point that is undebatable. You 'da man Tosanoumi.

Day 9 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
On day two of this basho I made some predictions for day nine: Asashoryu would be on his way to a 14-1 yusho (correct); Kisenosato would be cruising to a zensho yusho (almost correctcand before you write in, yes, I was joking); Kyokutenho would be in the running (correct coming into today); as would Futenohcoops!  I apologize unreservedly to the shin-Komusubi for jinxing him.  Most readers will be aware that since day three Futenoh has not won a single bout.  However, I am most certainly not backing down on my predictions about Futenoh's future.  He is a class act and, if he is able to see any silver linings on clouds, he should draw some encouragement from Kotooshu's first basho in sanyaku, when the Bulgarian went 4-11, but then went on to come back in 'triumphant' fashion.  As I mentioned in my pre-basho report, Komusubi is a very tricky rank.  He will be back just like Bruce Willis was.  And the basho is not over yet.  He could still turn the tables and sneak a kachi-koshi.  Maybec

Yokozuna Asashoryu faced M4 Kyokushuzan today in what surely must be one of the easiest of bouts for the Yokozuna.  Many rikishi would be complacent in these circumstances but the Yokozuna treats everyone with respect.  The bout itself went as one would expect as Kyokushuzan did not even bother to defend himself as he allowed the Yokozuna to grab his mawashi as he jogged past him at the shikiri-sen, a direct result of the Yokozuna moving slightly to the side at the tachi-ai.  Asashoryu stays on Kotooshu's tail at 8-1 while Kyokushuzan falls to a limp 4-5.

Ozeki Tochiazuma came in off an embarrassing loss to Takamisakari yesterday, and his opponent, Komusubi Futenoh was desperate to start winning again.  Tochiazuma got a tenacious hidari shita-te grip and never let go despite Futenoh's game struggling.  The reality is that this bout was over as soon as Tochiazuma got the grip because Futenoh was way too high and could not get near the Ozeki's belt.  Tochiazuma is Godzilla in full flight at 7-2.  Futenoh is one of the Teletubbies (Tinky Winky) at 2-7.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai had an intriguing match-up with M5 Takamisakari today.  Obviously Chiyotaikai's injuries are not as serious as we have been led to believe.  Yesterday he looked like his old self against Kotomistsuki.  He looked fine today as well as he subjected Circus to his familiar barrage of thrusts to the face and neck.  Takamisakari mystified me slightly by moving his hand straight to the Ozeki's belt at tachiai but not making any effort to actually grab hold of it.  I am not sure what he was thinking of there.  Perhaps he could not accept the possibility of beating two Ozeki in two days.  Or perhaps the bout was fixed!  This would not be the first suspicious bout involving Chiyotaikai this basho.  My suspicions were first aroused when he somehow beat Futenoh with a throw on day three.  In fact, like one of our readers, I shouted 'Yaocho' (fixed bout) at the TV at the time!  No, if that bout wasn't fixed then I'm William Faulkner.  Whatever – the fixing of sumo bouts is a debate for another time.  Chiyotaikai (6-3) now looks likely to get a kachi-koshi, as one would expect for an Ozeki without the injuries he is supposed to have.  Takamisakari continues his trek to make-koshi at 3-6.

Sekiwake Kotooshu has taken a bit of a battering on Sumotalk this week and in many ways it is deserved.  He met raging bull M4 Iwakiyama today and I thought I knew what was going to happen – tachiai henka followed by uwate-nage or okuridashi..  However, Kotooshu showed good sumo and went forward against a hard-charging rikishi, eventually pulling off a lovely throw at the edge just as Iwakiyama looked to still have a chance of pushing him out.  One massive advantage for Kotooshu is his awesome ability to slip out of trouble, to turn defence into attack.  It will serve him well but I just wish he would go forward more because if he gets to Ozeki (inevitable) or Yokozuna (possible) and displays the kind of negative sumo he has been showing for most of this basho it will be a disaster.  Kotooshu does his bit to keep the basho alive as he extends his streak to an unprecedented 9-0 (for a shin-Sekiwake).  We can slag him off all day long but you cannot take that remarkable achievement away from him.  Iwakiyama is still in with a chance of kachi-koshi at 4-5.

Komusubi Kotomitsuki (6-3) made short work of M1 Miyabiyama (3-6), who was unable to replicate his success against Futenoh yesterday.  Kotomitsuki was in no mood to take thrusts to the face so he got in quickly to pull off the tsukiotoshi.  Game, set and match.

M1 Hakuho has been fighting well despite his obvious ankle injury.  Today's opponent M3 Dejima has been going forward well but more often than not has been thwarted by trickery at the edge by rikishi with superior technical skills.  Coming into the bout Dejima had lost four out of four against Hakuho and today it became five out of five as we saw the familiar sight of Dejima having no real defence against mawashi specialists when they get hold of him.  This is nothing new, although there have been signs in recent basho that Dejima has been learning how to fight a bit on the belt.  He didn't stand a chance today, however, and Hakuho climbs to an excellent 6-3 record.  Dejima falls to 3-6.  However, he has had tough opponents so far and may have a recovery of sorts up his sleeve in the second week.

M2 Kokkai has collapsed spectacularly this basho and it looks as if he has totally lost his self-belief.  Take the bout against Kyokutenho the other day when he dispensed with his usual smashing tachiai and went for the beltcagainst a belt specialist.  Yeah, good thinking.  The fact that he has only one win so far, and that by fusensho, must be playing on his mind all the time, eroding his confidence.  M2 Kakizoe reeled slightly from Kokkai's tachiai (doesn't everyone?) but he recovered well (hasn't everyone?) and weathered the storm of the big Georgian's thrusts and bided his time until he spotted his opportunity and got inside Kokkai's big reach to push him out.  Poor Kokkai falls to 1-8, while Kakizoe, like Dejima, goes to a creditable 3-6, not bad at all when you look at who he has had to fight in the first week.  Expect him to come back and get six wins at least.

M3 Kyokutenho looks a rejuvenated force this time.  He has looked as solid as my front door on most days.  He displayed a lack of patience today against M5 Aminishiki as the bout degenerated into a stalemate.  Kyokutenho (6-3) fatally tried to swing his opponent round from his low position but he did not have sufficient strength as Aminishiki (5-4) hung on for the yorikiri win.

Clancy was spot on about M10 Roho in his day five comments.  He really looks like he wants to be somewhere else when he struts around the dohyo pre-bout.  M6 Kotoshogiku had two mata today as he obviously wanted to get in early.  Then Roho obliged with a mata of his own.  When they finally got going, Roho began with an ineffective hari-te which really only succeeded in helping Kotoshogiku position himself to the side of the big Russian and allowing him to employ his oshi-zumo to good effect.  Kotoshogiku goes to an impressive 6-3 as Roho falls to 5-4.

M11 Ama was just brilliant against Takekaze yesterday.  However, he had no answer to M7 Hokutoriki's powerful oshi-zumo today as powerful thrusts to the arms and head broke up his attack and forced him down at the edge.  Hokutoriki (5-4) will be happy to have executed his own brand of sumo against such an accomplished and slippery technician.  Ama will not be complaining too much as he falls to 6-3.

M8 Tamanoshima has been fighting as he is wont to do at this rank – effectively.  Against surly Russian vixen M12 Hakurozan today he fell victim to the now familiar pulling tactics we are seeing every day and in so many bouts these days.   This has always been there in sumo.  Yes, it has – I know that - but it used to be the domain of novelty rikishi like Asanowaka.  Other rikishi in the past mostly used hiki-waza as a last resort.  Not always, of course – there were occasional exceptions – but mostly.  There is no way to prove this but my own memory backs me up.  Pulling tactics are part of many rikishi's normal tactics now.  In this bout Hakurozan (4-5) started with tsuppari and then executed a pull, then dodged out of the way when Tamanoshima (6-3) recovered and went for the kill.  This was not last resort stuff – it was intentional.  There are those who will say that it is 'clever' to employ such tactics.  Well, if you call jumping out of the way of an attack clever, then I agree with you.  I would probably jump out of the way if someone was attacking me as well.  But that is the point, isn't it?  THAT IS WHAT I WOULD DO.  In order to be different from ordinary people like you and me, rikishi need to display a little nobility and fighting spirit, and also demonstrate time and time again that they can withstand their opponent's charge or die trying.  Actually planning to jump out of the way defeats the entire philosophy of the sumo as I see it.  I appreciate there are those who will disagree with me and that is fine with me.  I am not saying I am right and they are wrong.  The perceptions we have of sumo, so often coloured by Western ideals regarding sport, are different for each individual fan.  For this fan, however, Hakurozan's sumo was horrible today.

M13 Kotonowaka said the other day that his knees are in far better condition now than in the Nagoya Basho, where he was having fluid (and lots of it) removed every day.  I am in agreement with second uber-Lieutenant Clancy on the issue of Kotonowaka's retirement if he can keep those knees fluid-free.  He has actually been looking almost like his old self this time around.  Almost!  M16 Kisenosato, who wasn't even born when Kotonowaka first stepped onto the dohyo as a pro, is on a mission, it seems, to live up to the billing of many (myself included) who believe he can be a force in the future.  Again the youngster showed that vastly improved tachiai and fine low stance (with legs bent and wide) to go forward irresistibly against 181kg of veteran meat.  This was textbook sumo and it was great to see.  Kisenosato casts shame on the naysayers with a ninth day kachi-koshi.  Kotonowaka will need to wait a little longer as he falls to 6-3.  Expect a henka or two from him if things get hairy later in the week.

M16 Kasugao has impressed this basho with some nice technique.  In the other corner, M17 Tochinonada has demonstrated that he has not recovered from last basho's injury.  There has been no power in his legs at all and it is testament to his technical prowess that he has managed to scrape three wins in this condition.  He has been looking like Kotonawaka did last basho – no defense whatsoever.  It is always sad to watch decent rikishi struggling through basho because they do not want to be demoted too far.  Kasugao did not make things any better for Tochinonada by launching an evasive tachiai, although the Korean did stun and confuse his opponent by clashing heads.  It was a kind of half-henka, which will not do much for the troubled veteran's morale.

All in all day nine was a standard day at the office.  Kotooshu continues his run and looks nigh on invincible.  I can only see Tochiazuma or Asashoryu stopping him.  Kisenosato has a tough test in Ama tomorrow.  Let's see how he copes with the in-form Mongolian.

I'll be back on Wednesday.  Thanks for reading.

Day 8 Comments (George Guida reporting)
At the halfway mark of the Aki Basho, leave it to sumo's No. 1 eccentric, Takamisakari, to throw a monkey wrench into the leaderboard. But first, let's start with today's musubi-ichiban as Yokozuna Asashoryu tried to keep the pressure on the brave and gallant (Sorry, Mike!) Kotooshu in the yusho race. Asashoryu (7-1) is focused and has Kotooshu and an historic 6th consecutive yusho in sight after pulling off a fast, fluid and ferocious kubi-nage on man-mountain M4 Iwakiyama (4-4). Despite being pushed back and losing his balance for a second, a look at the replay showed that Asa was clearly in control of this match from the get-go. It's truly a shame that ginosho aren't awarded to Yokozuna, because Asa would have a warehouse full of them by now. 

Asa's first day blemish is becoming all but a distant memory now as M5 Takamisakari gave Asa a huge present by setting back Asa nemesis, Tochiazuma, one more loss back on the leaderboard with an outstanding come-from-behind sukui-nage at the edge of the tawara. Few rikishi manage to pull something out of nothing as often as the Robocop does, especially on the verge of defeat. Ironically, Takami is at his best when his heels are dug into the tawara, nowhere to go and no margin of error remaining. On paper, Tochiazuma vs. Takamisakari is a mismatch, and it looked like a clear oshi-dashi victory for the Ozeki. His mistake was leaving too much space between his body and Takamisakari's as he tried to push him out and Takami capitalized on that mistake with a lovely sukui-nage to stun the Ozeki and drop him two back off the pace.

Speaking of distant memories and changes of fortune, just as Asashoryu continues to soar after his first day loss, it's been nothing but downhill for Futenoh since he scored the upset. The new Komusubi fell victim to TEXTBOOK lumbering tsuppari from M1 Miyabiyama (3-5). Miyabiyama has looked pathetic (although fellow SumoTalk columnist Simon had the best description earlier last week) this tournament, but today those fat arms of his were blazing like the Guns of Navarone. Futenoh (2-6) is on the verge of losing his san'yaku ranking and will need superb mental fortitude and top-notch sumo to avoid make-koshi.

Is it just me or does anyone think M6 Kotoshogiku(5-3) looks like an Oompa Loompa irradiated on gamma rays?

On to the rikishi Mike loves to hate- Kotooshu. I too would have liked to have seen more aggressive sumo from the Sekiwake the first half of this basho, but I agree with Kenji that it's Kotooshu's balance, athleticism, height advantage and that incredible wingspan of his that makes his brand of sumo inimitable. Today's opponent, M4 Kyokushuzan, used his classic mind games at the shirikisen to try and bluff Kotooshu into a bad tachiai. Kotooshu didn't take the bait and blew Kyokushuzan out with a very quick yori-kiri. This was Koto's first real forward-moving sumo this basho, but I don't think he's off the hook from Mike by a longshot.

Have to give accolades to M11 Ama today who showed fantastic tenacity in his win over M9 Takekaze. Clinging to Takekaze like some mutant ivy, Ama survived two uwate-nage, a push-out attempt and an uchi-gake all the while tenaciously holding on to a migi-uwate grip for an amazing yori-taoshi win. No doubt Ama is one of the top 3 or 4 most exciting rikishi to watch in all of the sport.

At the halfway mark, here's how things shape up:

Kotooshu remains undefeated at 8-0, securing both kachi-koshi and keeping his Sekiwake rank. The true test of mettle begins tomorrow. When everyone is gunning for him, can he handle the pressure?

Asashoryu and M16 Kisenosato are tied for second at 7-1. 

History has shown that Kisenosato has a tendency to start losing just when he's on the verge of kachi-koshi. I also think he needs a nickname. Today's announcers could think of nothing else to say about him other than he's "19 years old and two months" on at least 5 separate occasions. 

There's no reason to believe that it won't come down to an Asa-Kotooshu showdown. Two of Asa's more difficult opponents, Kaio and Wakanosato are out with injury. He's already defeated Hakuho. Tochiazuma awaits but now he's fallen one off pace.

And don't forget Baruto! The Estonian juggernaut is tearing it up in Juryo, leaving behind a heap of battered and bruised bodies in his wake. There was some controversy as to whether Baruto was promoted to Juryo too quickly, but if anything, it appears the only mistake was not promoting Baruto to Makunouchi directly! Rumor has it that Asashoryu and the Sumo Council have set up a secret "Baruto War Room" somewhere deep in the subterranean bowels of Ryogoku where video analysis is conducted of all of his matches to see if this mythic warrior truly has any weak points. Some say when used correctly his oshi-dashi technique is virtually unbeatable. Brace yourself everyone! Baruto is coming and nothing will ever be the same!

Day 7 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
I'm back from hiatus just in time to wrap up the first week of Aki basho. Just as I figured, Sho has turned meaner than a hornet since losing on day one and has reeled off 6 consecutive wins. I see that there is quite a bit of emotion stirring around the as of yet unblemished record of basho leader Kotooshu. Mike, do I sense some displeasure there? Wow. Rightfully so, I'd say for the most part. But it's not all negative in my view. Let's start at the top and I'll elaborate. 

Asashoryu (6-1) continued his dominance over countryman M3 Kyokutenho (5-2), who is having a solid basho himself. Sho hit low at the tachiai, then pulled his hips so far back even the long armed Tenho couldn't reach the left inside grip he wanted. After some more jockeying for grip position with Sho's right and Tenho's left, Sho took off like a rocket the instant he got morozashi. Once on the offensive, Tenho cut the right grip but it was too late. Sho's speed was overwhelming and Tenho got pushed out anyway, without Sho on his belt. 

Tochiazuma (6-1) looked awesome today in disposing of M4 Iwakiyama (4-3). He stubbornly kept his head down the whole time amid Iwaki's tsuppari, a technique reminiscent of the recently retired Wakanoyama (the hairy back guy). He stuck close to Iwaki like an irritating mosquito and eventually forced his bigger foe out because he didn't let those powerful thrusts materialize. It was excellent flow from the main challenger to Asashoryu in my eyes. Look for Azuma to dump Kotooshu and meet Sho with the marbles on the line next week. 

Chiyotaikai (4-3) locked into yotsu-zumo with M1 Hakuho (4-3), an almost automatic ticket to the loss column. That's exactly what happened, as Hakuho unleashed a left uwatenage that sent Taikai tumbling to his third defeat. Chiyo should be counting his lucky stars that he is 4-3 and not 1-6 based on what I've seen so far. It will take a minor miracle for him to muster 4 more wins and escape demotion, folks. It ain't gonna happen. 

For M2 Kokkai (1-6), it really doesn't matter that his first win this basho was via default over Sekiwake Wakanosato (4-3). It just matters that it's a win. He's been working hard for 6 days with nothing to show for it. Wakanosato, who goes down with an injured right thigh from doing the splits with Hakuho yesterday, goes in the tank for the rest of the basho despite a promising first week. It's unfortunate the judges made him fight twice yesterday; to this fan it clearly looked like Hakuho won the first bout. 

Okay, that brings us to Kotooshu (7-0), who defeated M3 Dejima (2-5) to stay unbeaten. At least he hit Dejima straight on today, but that was the extent of the forward sumo. He immediately swung to the left and landed that long left arm right onto Dejima's mawashi and went for the throw. Dejima offered some resistance at the rope which resulted in a watashi-komi win, which simply means Oshu scooped his opponent's leg with one hand while pushing him down. But these are the types of little things you normally don't see from a guy over two meters tall. Knack. Balance. Agility. Imagine Akebono dancing the tawara like Oshu did a couple days ago to steal a win at the edge of defeat. I agree that the quality of his wins have not been good, but I can appreciate the skills he displays that you wouldn't normally associate with the tallest rikishi ever to grace the dohyo. It's not necessarily pretty, but he gets the job done. How boring would this basho be if Oshu were 4-3 and not 7-0? 

I'll close with our final two sanyaku rikishi, Kotomitsuki (5-2) and his slumping counterpart Futenoh (2-5), who has now dropped five straight after starting 2-0. What is the deal with the delayed tachiai lately? After what seemed like an eternity before they finally clashed, these two locked horns for over one minute for perhaps the best match of the day. It was only the last few seconds, but it was back and forth and good entertainment. Both had the other guy turned around, but it was Mituski who prevailed with a dashi-nage and force out to the delight of the sold out Kokugikan. Mituski looks good this basho also; he should be 6-1 but got robbed in the Iwakiyama decision (he definitely wasn't tonderu as the judges determined, and I thought his toe was in). 

We're half way done and we're down to three 6-1 rikishi chasing the 7-0 Kotooshu: Asashoryu, Tochiazuma and Kisenosato.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The basho potentially suffered a huge blow today as one of the majors players was carted off with knee injury. Details have yet to surface as to the severity of the injury, but it would be a shame if this basho was a continuation of Nagoya where so many key rikishi withdrew. Moving to the action, I'll start at the top with Yokozuna Asashoryu who was pitted against M3 Dejima today. Dejima fans may have felt the swelling a bit early on as their man exhibited a smashmouth tachi-ai that drove Asashoryu back a bit and had the Yokozuna fumbling for any sort of position. For some reason, however, Dejima abandoned his bulldozer charge after two steps and put his hand at the back of Asashoryu's head. He quickly realized his error and pulled the arm back down, but it was too late. Asashoryu had secured a deep left shitate grip that he used to force Dejima to the side near the tawara. As Dejima put up that last bit of resistance at ring's edge, Asashoryu put his left leg behind Dejima's right thigh and tripped him to the dirt via kiri-kaeshi. Asashoryu's speed prevailed in this bout AFTER Dejima gave him the opportunity by thinking about the pull down. Asa moves to 5-1 and is tied for the lead with several other rikishi. Dejima falls to 2-4.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai was paired against Miyabiyama today, which meant that he finally got a break from either fighting a legitimate opponent or pretending he was toppling another opponent for the surprise win. I will give Chiyotaikai credit today as he did at least hit Miyabiyama straight up at the tachi-ai before evading to his left. Miyabiyama, who is so out of synch this basho it's enjoyable, floundered around at the tachi-ai failing to deliver any sort of blow to his opponent, so it was easy does it as Chiyotaikai side-stepped to his left, grabbed the back of Miyabi's belt, and just shoved the lumbering giant to the dirt. The best part of this bout was Miyabiyama's looking up and giving Chiyotaikai a dirty look as he lay there in his girth, but it's the M1's own fault. You have a lame opponent who you know is going to move to the side, and you don't take advantage of this with some effective thrusts from the tachi-ai? This was horrible sumo all around. Chiyotaikai moves to 4-2, but he needs to retire regardless of whether or not he can finagle eight wins this basho. He looks like a girl fighting on the dohyo minus the slapping and hair pulling...oh, and calling his opponent a "bitch." I'll give him the two wins over Kokkai and Miyabiyama (combined 1-11 this basho with that one win coming against Kaio), but there was something not right about his bout with Futenoh, and if you saw Iwakiyama today, he [Iwaki] was a completely different rikishi than he was yesterday. Some of the emails and comments we've received have shown that I'm not alone in my thinking.

Our legitimate Ozeki still in action, Tochiazuma, had easy pickings today against M2 Kakizoe. For some reason Kakizoe decided not to go for that pestering moro-zashi grip at the tachi-ai, but seemed content on a shoving match with Tochiazuma. It was a bad move as Tochiazuma shoved Kakizoe back and out with little effort. Kakizoe (1-5) did manage a nifty false start (what's new?), and I think that may have taken him out of his rhythm a bit. Tochiazuma keeps pace with Asashoryu at 5-1 although I can't say that a lot of his sumo this basho has been memorable. Other than Hakuho on day 1, Tochiazuma's other victories haven't exactly come against a who's who list of stellar rikishi.

Dropping down to the Sekiwake ranks, Wakanosato looked to keep his perfect string alive against M1 Hakuho. After a shaky tachi-ai from both rikishi, Wakanosato secured the morozashi grip, but it came from the side of his opponent instead of the usual chest-to-chest version. This allowed Hakuho to grab a firm armbar with his right hand threaten a koto-nage throw to counter a force-out attempt from Wakanosato. After Waka tried a few charges only to be halted by a kote-nage attempt, he went for a left inner belt throw. Hakuho countered with that pesky kote-nage throw again in what would turn out to be a very good nage-no-uchi-ai in the middle of the ring. Hakuho's right knee came dangerously close to hitting the dirt first, but he applied enough pressure to his opponent, that Wakanosato's legs begin slipping apart (stop blushing Clancy!) towards the dirt faster than his opponent. In an incredible move, Wakanosato--who was close to doing the splits--kicked at Hakuho's right ankle as his [Wakanosato's] left foot slipped outward. The move sent both rikishi down to the dirt with Hakuho's knee touching the dirt at about the same time as Wakanosato's butt landed safely. This was a very close bout, but I thought Hakuho was the winner. The referee agreed with me, and pointed his gunbai in Hakuho's favor, but a mono-ii was justly called. This was so close that you have to call the judges conference just to make sure. The judges, in all of their politically correct goodness, decided that both rikishi hit the dirt first and called for a rematch. After watching the replays, I still felt that Hakuho was the winner, but I was okay with the judges decision until I saw the result of the rematch.

In the rematch, both rikishi bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai, which left them standing separated in the ring. After some flinching and jockeying with arms extended, Hakuho pounced first in an attempt to pull Wakanosato down by the back of the head. Wakanosato just crumbled to the dirt, but it looked unnatural as Hakuho's swipe didn't appear to be that effective. It turns out that Wakanosato somehow wrenched his knee as he reacted to Hakuho's move causing him to fall to the clay. The Sekiwake was clearly in pain as he hobbled off the dohyo and was wheeled back to the dressing room. I watched the replays, but it just wasn't clear how Wakanosato suffered the injury. My guess is that his foot got jammed in the dirt causing his weight to unnaturally apply too much pressure to the knee joint. It was a freak accident and one that didn't have to happen if only the first bout had been more decisive. Hakuho improves to 3-3 with the win while Wakanosato falls to 4-2. It is a tragedy because Wakanosato was enjoying another solid basho and was very much in contention for an Ozeki run.

Unlike his counterpart Coward-oshu. Oh, I guess Kotooshu's name will be brought up in terms of an Ozeki run in Kyushu, but his quality of sumo is anything but Ozeki-like...unless we're talking about Chiyotaikai's current sumo. When I reported on day 3, I was like "things will turn around shortly." On day 4 when I subbed for Kenji, I was beginning to get annoyed, and now I'm just flat out pissed off at Coward's shenanigans. Six days and six retreats beautifully capped off today by a tachi-ai henka against Komusubi Futenoh. Kotooshu has not taken one step forward past his starting line this entire basho. He's a disgrace to the sport right now. There are a few rikishi who take a lot of crap (justifiably in my opinion) on this website. Chiyotaikai and Miyabiyama know who they are. But step back fellas, a new whipping boy is in town, and his name is Coward-oshu. I refuse to acknowledge Coward as the sole leader of this basho, and his 6-0 record smells as bad as the crotch section of a practice mawashi before it's been laid out in the sun to dry (I'm guessing here by the way...haven't actually sniffed one). Today against Futenoh, Coward jumped to his left at the tachi-ai, grabbed the back of his opponent's belt, and easily forced him down from there. This tells me a two things. First, Kotooshu is completely selling out this basho to garner wins. And second, Futenoh is the better rikishi. How else can you explain a 5-0 guy running from lesser-ranked rikishi who is 2-3 coming in?

And I'm not the only one crying foul at this. Yokozuna Asashoryu set things straight yesterday in the dressing room after his bout by saying, "He is winning, but it's a shame. If I was two meters tall, I would display awesome sumo. He reminds you of Takanonami doesn't he? He has got to move forward in his sumo." How often do you hear rikishi speak out about other rikishi's sumo? Never. But it's the Yokozuna's job to police the sport, and I commend him for speaking out. If you've got any kind of forum to do so, how can you not voice your displeasure at Kotooshu this basho? It's ridiculous. And oh yeah, Asashoryu, on a personal note can you give me credit for the Takanonami comparison next time? Thanks. Since only sound, professional journalism abounds at Sumotalk.com, we like to keep things impartial if at all possible, but I am openly rooting against Kotooshu the rest of this basho. I hope he gets his ass kicked the rest of the way, and you can print it complete with my middle finger raised.

Whew. Haven't ranted like that since only day 12 of the Nagoya basho. Moving right along...rounding out the sanyaku ranks, Komusubi Kotomitsuki was overpowered by M4 Iwakiyama today. Mount Iwaki charged hard at the tachi-ai with his shoulder and just drove Mitsuki back without any thrusts or a belt grip. I guess when you are as wide as Iwakiyama is it's possible. Kotomitsuki tried a last gasp evasion to his right at the tawara pulling down on his opponent as Iwakiyama pushed at Kotomitsuki's face to try and get him across the rope. It was one of those close bouts where the pushing rikishi steps out at about the same time as the retreating rikishi. The referee pointed in favor of Iwakiyama, but the judges correctly called a conference to review the decision. It looked as if Iwakiyama had clearly stepped out first, but replays showed that Kotomitsuki's big toe barely scraped the sand between the toku-dawara (the section of the ring that pokes out) and the tawara before Iwakiyama stepped out. The ruling in favor of Iwakiyama was correct, but that's not why the judges gave it to him. They explained that Kotomituski's body was tonde-iru, which it wasn't. So the judges screwed up the call, but the correct rikishi was still awarded the victory...if any of that makes sense. Suffice it to say that Iwakiyama needs to be back up in the sanyaku on a regular basis and his 4-2 record thus far is the way to do it. Kotomitsuki drops to the same mark.

In the Maegashira ranks, I'm starting to feel sorry for M2 Kokkai. I can just imagine his mental thought process spinning at light speed trying to make some adjustment to stop his 0-5 start. Well, the decision to immediately hook up at the belt today with yotsu-zumo specialist M3 Kyokutenho wasn't the correct decision. Both rikishi maintained right outer grips, and Kokkai did give a valiant effort, but Kyokutenho is too smart and too good at the belt to lose this one. Tenho scores the easy force out to move to 5-1. Kokkai still scratches his dome at 0-6. If it's any consolation, today's bout was the first against a fellow Maegashira for Kokkai, so the going should get easier here on out. Too bad he wasn't paired with Kaio early on.

Who would have thought coming in that the M4 Kyokushuzan vs. M7 Hokutoriki matchup would be more entertaining than the M6 Kotoshogiku - M5 Aminishiki matchup? The two gimmick artists actually settled for sound, yotsu-zumo today. Kyokushuzan is actually quite good at the belt, and it showed here as he scored the easy uwate-dashi-nage win. It makes me wonder why Shu (4-2) doesn't try and fight at the belt more often. Hokutoriki flounders to 3-3. Kotoshogiku and Aminishiki settled for the simultaneous bump and pull bout today with the Geeku executing the better pull. Not much sumo here as both rikishi stand at 4-2.

Can somebody please pair Kokkai and M6 Tokitenku up together so one of them is guaranteed a win? The latter was crushed today from the fifth tachi-ai (there were four false starts) by M5 Takamisakari who used his gangly arm to reach around Tokitenku grabbing the uwate and easily throwing him to the dirt in two seconds. Takamisakari slightly improves to 2-4 while Tokitenku takes the doughnut at 0-6.

M11 Ama fought a smart bout against M8 Tamanoshima. Tamanoshima seemed to dominate the initial contest, but Ama patiently staved off the attack and waited for the pull down to come. It came and Ama rewarded his opponent with some nice shoves for the easy oshi-dashi victory leaving both rikishi at 4-2. M9 Takekaze wilted against the M8 Tosanoumi tachi-ai and relentless pressure. Both rikishi are 3-3. M10 Roho improved to 4-2 today by really just standing his ground and waiting for M12 Ishide to tire out. This yotsu-zumo contest reminded me of those sumo exhibitions where little kids hop onto the dohyo with the big boys and try to budge them with no success of course. Roho spared us the gag of picking up Ishide by the back of the mawashi and dangling him in the air, but he did muscle him down with a nice belt throw. Ishide falls to 2-4, but I agree with Clancy in that Ishide is a rikishi who fights hard everyday.

And finally, M16 Kisenosato settles for M16 Kasugao's hiney as the youngster secured the lower position in this yotsu-zumo contest driving Kasugao back and out after a pretty good struggle. Kisenosato quietly moves to 5-1, but this kid has got to make the noise higher up on the banzuke. Kasugao falls to 4-2.

Day 5 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hello, sports fans, and welcome once again to SumoTalk. Day 5 of the Autumn basho brought some exciting fights, so let's go straight to the videotape. M16 Kisenosato moved to 4-1 with a by the numbers win over M14 Tokitsuumi. After a short spell of swapping arm locks, Senosa pushed Kitsuu out, yorikiri style, and looks to be rounding into the form he will need if he is to rise above Maegashira someday. But give him time, willya, he's only 19 and so green he's probably never even touched a woman's hiney.

Kotonowaka M13, the oldest and heaviest rikishi in the top tier, grabbed the back of little M15 Wakatoba's belt and kept lifting him until he was where Koto wanted him, outside the ring of dried grass. Looked like me trying to get my full bore three year-old son Kai into his bunk bed. While loathe to butt heads with Simon the Bold, I think my prediction that Koto will remain an active rikishi well into next year remains as solid as ever. He's 4-1 and looking every bit the man in form. Kachi-koshi this time out and that's five out of the last seven. Doesn't sound like a Silver Citizen to me.

M15 Takanowaka and M12 Ishide had a wild match with both men grabbing, pulling, feinting, adjusting, writhing, and breathing, until Kanowa drove Shid to the edge, where Shid pulled a Nureyev as Kanowa fell on his butt (heh heh heh, he said butt) at the same time as Shid's lead foot came down from his pirouette. The Men in Black called for a do-over, it was done over, and when it was done, it was over. Takanowaka won to go to 2-3 and Ishide fell to 2-3, but not until after this small fry lifted Taka in the air! Ishide is quickly becoming a fave of mine, especially after he kicked Hakurozan's ass earlier in the week.

The first Battle Royale came in the form of M11 Toyozakura slamming into the lightest man in sumo, M11 Ama and rhinocerosing (it's a word!) him back to the edge, where Ama suddenly recalled that Yozaku was not naked and grabbed his big fluffy belt and lifted him like laundry and carried him all way across the ring and out. Ama jumps to 3-2, Toyo the Zakura is a bloomin' 0-5.

Roho fought, and won, but I'm not going to talk about that. You know why? Because I hate this guy (as a sumo rikishi of course, I don't know him as a drinking buddy), and not because he is gruesome, but because of how he comports himself. He throws the salt like he's flicking a booger AFTER he has stepped into the ring, he stares at his own pecs IN THE CROUCH at the tachi-ai, he's a hair puller, he sneers, he struts around like some be-bopper listening to a Walkman, and in general behaves as if this is some silly little game he's playing, like he has something better he could be doing, like Russia should have won the Japanese-Russo war. With the exception of the humble Koto-oshu, all the Eur-APE-eans make me cringe with their lack of respect for the traditions of the sport, at least what we can see on the tv during the basho. Sure, they may make enough money in sumo for Kakurozukan to buy some Rogaine, Kokkai to buy a razor and Roho to pay for escorts, but they will never be true rikishi until they start observing the rules, written and unwritten, of this ancient form of peaceful battle.

Enough of yer belly aching, Kelly, just give us the f**king report. 

M8 Tamanoshima took on M5 Aminishiki. Nishi hammered away at Noshi again and again, but Noshi took no shit and after making his stand at the edge, came roaring back and caused the lighter Nishi to fall as he retreated. It seems to me that many rikishi are slipping and sliding on the dirt this basho. I am not trying to start a CONtroversy (or conTRAHversy, as Mike Fauntleroy pronounces it), but the question needs posing: Is The Dohyo Juiced? French tests run on the clay during Chiyonofuji's last basho prove conclusively that. . .that. . . the French are a bunch of damned crybabies. Aminishiki fell to 4-1; Tamanoshima climbed to the same mark.

M6 Tokitenku must have had an old family debt to repay, because he simply thrust his head toward compatriot Kyokushuzan and said, Here, take it, I beseech thee, and play with it like in that crazy Mongol game where we all ride horses and crash into each other trying to get a hold of a dead calf. Kyokushuzan goes to 2-3, Tokitenku is 0-5.

M3 Kyokutenho did pretty much the same thing as Kyokushuzan as he slapped down Kotoshogiku. Kuten goes to 4-1, The Geeku falling to 3-2.

If M1 Hakuho had lost to M5 Takamisakari, I was ready to switch to pro wrestling (I hear Akebono is fighting strong over there, pulling off some astounding and totally surprising moves on his bewildered opponents). However, all was right with the universe for one bout as P.T's boy was thoroughly dominated by the slightly injured future Yokozuna. Hakuho begins his climb up to his final record of 10-5 starting here at 2-3.

Komusubi Kotomitsuki had Georgia on his mind as he fought M2 Kokkai. There was an awesome shoulder smash for both at tachi-ai, but then Tomitsu grabbed Okka's belt with his right hand, spun him around like he was doing the Olympic hammer throw, and finally flung him down like a 5:00 am trash can, whereupon Okka tumbled out of the ring and into the lap of this odd spectator who kept trying to touch the big Georgian's groin. Probably the best Kokkai felt all day.

Shin-komusubi Futenoh went up against current Sekiwake and future Ozeki Wakanosato. Kanosa succeeded in pinning Uten's arms underneath his own and executed, all locked up and muscley, a sweet twisting throw. If I was gay, Waka would be my boy. Big sigh! Futenoh fell to 2-3, while Waka marched onward to his double-digits date with destiny in November. Bye bye, Chiyo, hello Wakanosato.

But then again, maybe not, for Chiyo and his boss look to be calling in markers, finding rikishi who will agree to avoid taking advantage of Chiyo's weaknesses for certain unnamed perquisites. How else to explain how the Ozeki wins against Iwakiyama, who looked not like a 3-1 M4 who is well in the hunt, but like a big, fat, dopey. . .well, like Miyabiyama. I can only assume that there is a good amount of behind the scenes maneuvering to make sure Chiyo can come out to play for a few more basho. But maybe I'm being paranoid, seeing things, and it's all on the up and up. Yeah, right, and maybe natto should be an ice cream flavor.

Speaking of M1 Miyabiyama, I was unable to believe mine eyes when he somehow, incredibly, crashed face first into the dirt as Koto-oshu stepped to the side. It was so unlike Yabiya. Amazing. Anyway, the new Sekiwake moved to 5-0, increasing the buzz in my brain (Mah brine urts!) for his tussle with Yokozuna Genghis Can in week 2, perhaps on the last day, senshuraku, coincidentally the other day I happen to be reporting this basho! Lucky me.

If wasted opportunities against highly ranked opponents were chocolate, M3 Dejima would have great big zits instead of great big tits. The former ozeki and yusho winner (won when he henka'd in a playoff with the sublime yokozuna Akebono, no relation to Akebono the Pro Wrestling Buffoon) went right at current Ozeki Tochiazuma and quickly had Chiaz backed up to the edge, but then for some reason decided to stop moving his legs forward and fall onto the Ozeki, evidently hoping this would carry the day. Chiaz turned to the side and Dejima turned up on the ground. It seemed like one more step was all it would take, but really, what the hell do I know, I've never gone up against a huge, sweaty manimal intent on driving my entire being into the hot, hard clay (but if I did, as I said before, Waka would be my fella). Maybe Tochiazuma was preventing his forward movement. Whatever, the ozeki goes to 4-1; the Dejyptian remains tightly wrapped at 2-3.

Finally, in the Moose, You Be No Itchy Bond! final bout of the day, the Yokozuna tamed the tiger M2 Kakizoe by manipulating his arms like he was some marionette, and shoving him out by the face in seconds. Sasho stands at 4-1, while the energetic Kakizoe is a misleading 1-4.

Well, that's all for today, please come back after the basho is over and validate me by reading my Day 15 comments. I'D validate YOU if the tables were turned.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Kenji was scheduled to report today, but circumstances at his work have prevented him from viewing the bouts, so while I'll make you read my (Mike W.) comments for the second day in a row, I'll at least spare you the pain of having to look at my picture in both frames of the front page. The big news today was that Ozeki Kaio officially withdrew from the tournament. It was the right thing to do. I admire any rikishi who tries to tough it out despite getting his ass kicked everyday, especially because a lot of rikishi go kyujo without really being severely injured. So where does Kaio go from here? He'll enter the Kyushu basho as a kadoban Ozeki (meaning he must win 8 or be demoted), but at least he holds onto his rank.

Switching gears to the day's action, the Yokozuna looked to receive a decent test today from the recently over-hyped M1 Hakuho. This was a smashmouth tachi-ai with Asashoryu gaining the upper hand by using his speed to get his left arm deep on the inside of his opponent. Asashoryu wasted no time in forcing Hakuho back, but the M1 stood firm and implemented a fine kote-nage counter move that nearly took the Yokozuna off of his feet at the ring's edge. Asashoryu survived and was able to easily force down the now off-balanced Hakuho. Hakuho did lose, but I thought today's performance against the Yokozuna was the best he's had against Asashoryu so far. Yes, Hakuho did beat Asashoryu last year in Kyushu, but his tactics then were swipe and evade...dart this way and that. It was more like sumo tag then actual sumo. In short, Asashoryu moves to 3-1 while Hakuho falls to 1-3. Hakuho's record may look bad, but he's fighting well considering his circumstances, and remember, the M1 has a tough first week schedule.

Ozeki Tochiazuma just waltzed past M1 Miyabiyama today using a few good tsuppari to chase Miyabiyama around the ring before shoving the M1 off the side of the dohyo. Miyabiyama's back hit the edge of the clay mound before he backwards somersaulted to the floor. He's putting on quite the clinic this basho on how not to fall down when you lose. The problem is when you put no effort into your sumo, you're going to get manhandled this high up the ranks. Miyabiyama falls to 0-4...oh wait...he did beat Kaio! At 1-3 Miyabiyama can't wait for week two when the competition will dumb down a bit for him. Tochiazuma (3-1) was solid again today I guess, but when you look at the three rikishi he's beaten, none of them have a win over anyone else this basho but Kaio. He doesn't look like his old self to me at this point.

Hey, hey, what's this? Ozeki Chiyotaikai picked up another win today against M2 Kokkai. Kokkai just blasted the Ozeki back from the tachi-ai and had him on the ropes several times, but as I mentioned yesterday, Kokkai's timing with his shoves and his feet is way off, and he allowed Chiyotaikai to run around the edge of the ring forcing Kokkai to chase him. Kokkai is not the nimblest of rikishi, so a well timed dodge from the Chiyotaikai sent Kokkai (0-2) lunging into nothing but the outside of the ring. What an ugly bout of sumo from these two. Chiyotaikai is now at 2-2, but he is still hanging on by a thread. He doesn't even want to think about week two when the sanyaku, Tochiazuma, and Asashoryu come calling.

Komusubi Kotomitsuki (3-1) picked up the default win today as he was to face Ozeki Kaio who withdrew earlier in the day.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Wakanosato had M3 Kyokutenho right where he wanted him for 90% of the bout. Waka exhibited a good tachi-ai where he seemed to briefly grab the morozashi grip, but Tenho evaded well slapping at the Sekiwake's shoulders this way and that. These moves never allowed Wakanosato to gain a firm belt grip, so while Wakanosato was charging throughout, his footing wasn't the most stable. A well-timed shoulder slap by Kyokutenho at the ring's edge knocked the Sekiwake to the dirt for his first loss. Both rikishi stand at 3-1 but look relatively good so far.

Sekiwake Kotooshu picked up another win today against M2 Kakizoe, but today's bout saw the lanky Kotooshu get pounded back from the tachi-ai again. Kakizoe managed to push Oshu back to the tawara, but Kotooshu successfully evaded again at the last moment for the pull-down win. He's surviving on counter moves as he retreats, but he can't last like this forever. Kotooshu's sumo this basho looks a lot like Takanonami's sumo minus the meat hook grip over the top the opponent on the back side of his belt. We all remember that Takanonami had a lazy tachi-ai and just seemed content to back up slowly and use his height advantage to jimmy his opponents out of the ring at the last moment. Kotooshu's tactics are the exact same this basho. He is 4-0, but I guarantee you that if he keeps this up and manages a 12-3 record, the Association will hesitate to consider Oshunonami's promotion to Ozeki because his sumo content this basho is so poor. Kakizoe falls to 1-3.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Futenoh was put in a tough tough position today from a tachi-ai henka by M3 Dejima. The Degyptian moved to his left at the tachi-ai and pulled at Futenoh's arm throwing the upstart Komusubi off balance and back towards the tawara. Futenoh dug in his heels, but asking him to recover from today's henka is the same as asking him to perform a cartwheel in the ring and immediately be ready to fight as he comes up out of the move. Dejima did use a nifty shove to Futenoh's face to help drive the Komusubi across the tawara, but it was punk-ass sumo from this former Ozeki. Both rikishi stand at 2-2.

In the Maegashira ranks, M5 Aminishiki fought a smart bout against M4 Kyokushuzan. Rather than go for the belt or shove at Shu's torso, Aminishiki focused on the Mongolians arms fending off any sort of grab at Aminishiki's head. With Kyokushuzan unable to gain a morote grip, he was useless as Aminishiki patiently timed some well shoves that easily sent Kyokushuzan (2-2)back and out. Aminishiki moves to 4-0 and is showing some great technique in the ring this basho.

M4 Iwakiyama just bear-hugged M5 Takamisakari from the tachi-ai, which was a smart move unto itself. Disallowing any sort of counter attack by Takamisakari is the best way to stamp out the circus. Iwakiyama moves to 3-1 and is off to a good start in terms of trying to regain a sanyaku berth. The Robocop limps down the hanamichi at 1-3.

M6 Tokitenku had M8 Tamanoshima pushed back to the tawara in mere seconds, but today's sumo was a perfect example of Tokitenku's lack of power. He was unable to muster the strength to polish off Tamanoshima (3-1) and was pulled down for his efforts. Tokitenku is still winless at 0-4. M6 Kotoshogiku (3-1) handled M9 Tamaasuka (1-3) like a veteran schooling the Makuuchi sophomore in a yotsu-zumo contest. Kotoshogiku's sumo seems quite mature despite the rikishi's youth. What was M7 Hokutoriki thinking by settling for a belt match with M10 Roho from the tachi-ai? Roho never had it so easy as he forced Hokutoriki back and out with little trouble. Both rikishi stand at 2-2.

Staying in the family, M12 Hakurozan displayed a harite from the tachi-ai against M15 Wakatoba. I actually liked the move, but what I didn't like was his follow up attempt at going for the morote grip (both hands at the opponent's neck). Hakurozan looked like Kyokushuzan out there. Shu does it because he's not as big as most of his opponents, but when you're a big strong lug like Hakurozan, abandon the gimmicks and go for some nice shoves at your opponent. Hakurozan (1-3) looked lost and was shoved back and out with relative ease. Wakatoba skips his way to 3-1. M16 Kisenosato's three bout win streak was stopped today by two enormous head butts from M13 Tochisakae (2-2). The kimarite was ruled hiki-otoshi, but it should have been something like cannonball to the jaw. And finally, give M16 Kasugao the love for improving to 3-1 with a fantastic uwate-nage throw of M14 Tokitsuumi (1-3). I prefer yotsu-zumo over oshi-zumo, so I always appreciate fine belt fighters like Kasugao at the top of their game.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Things have certainly quieted down after Futenoh's stunning upset of Asashoryu on day 1, but I'm satisfied overall with the quality of sumo we're seeing, especially that being exhibited by the lower Maegashira rikishi. The biggest question of the day coming in was the status of the two ailing Ozeki, Kaio and Chiyotaikai. Retirement is on the near horizon for both rikishi, and it's been painful to watch them the first two days although we would be pleasantly surprised by one of them today. Getting right to the action, Asashoryu was paired with Simon's favorite rikishi today in M1 Miyabiyama. I saw very little effort today from Miyabiyama starting at the tachi-ai, and the result was a quick left outer grip by the Yokozuna, a slight uwate-dashi-nage throw which knocked Miyabiyama off balance, and then a swift kick to the back of Miyabiyama's leg sending Miyabi the Hutt backwards to the clay like a...well...like a sack of dung. It was a nifty suso-harai technique for Asashoryu (2-1), but this was far too easy. How about some sort of resistance, Miyabiyama (1-2)? Up next for Asa is Hakuho, who unfortunately, does not appear to be fully recovered from his ankle injury suffered in July.

In the Ozeki ranks, Chiyotaikai rose from his deathbed to put up a surprising fight against Komusubi Futenoh. Chiyo moved a half step to his right from the tachi-ai--which is understandable at this point--and tried a quick shoulder pull down move that threw Futenoh off balance enough giving the Ozeki the quick right outer grip. Futenoh countered with the left inner, but was stood more upright than he wanted to be. With the two rikishi locked in the yotsu position, the advantage goes to Futenoh, right? Apparently not. Futenoh seemed content to stand in the middle of the ring, so Chiyotaikai pressed the action forcing Futenoh back to the rope and eventually down with the surprising uwate-nage win. What was most surprising to me today was that Futenoh didn't dig in his heels. Against Asashoryu on day 1, the Komusubi was in far more trouble, and we all saw what happened with his refuse to lose attitude. I didn't see that same determination from Futenoh today, and it cost him a loss. It's a mental mistake that he'll have to clear up if he wants to survive this high in the ranks. Usually, Futenoh is an utter bitch to defeat in a yotsu-zumo match, especially when his opponent sucks at fighting at the belt; but his nonchalance cost him a solid position at the top of the leaderboard and another "shukun" victory against an Ozeki. Chiyotaikai lives to fight another day at 1-2 while Futenoh drops to 2-1.

Ozeki Kaio is absolutely pitiful this basho. He reminds me of Musashimaru when the former Yokozuna was making those come-back attempts after that wrist surgery that kept him out of action for nearly a year just before his retirement. Kaio may as well tape his right lower leg up against his thigh and hop on his left foot. It wouldn't make much difference. He was easily pushed back and out today by M1 Hakuho (1-2) who showed the Ozeki respect by hanging on to his belt at the edge keeping Kaio from falling off the dohyo. Kaio is 0-3 and needs to withdraw now. I'll even fly to Japan on submit the papers to the Association if he wants me to. His effort was valiant on day 1, but all the Ozeki is doing now by hanging around is passing out free wins to his opponents. Stop diluting the win count of your opponents and withdraw. Kaio is not kadoban, which means he can give us one last gasp in Kyushu as an Ozeki and then retire in front of the hometown fans. And just a memo for all of you who like to play sumo online games where you have to pick winners of the daily bouts...picking Kaio's opponents this basho is equivalent to a tachi-henka. Show some stones and don't do it!

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Tochiazuma looked to receive a stiff test today against M2 Kokkai. From the tachi-ai, Kokkai actually belted the Ozeki with a sharp left forearm to his chin, but Tochiazuma takes a punch better than anyone and easily held his ground. From there, Kokkai continued a weak tsuppari attack where his feet were actually moving backwards at one point. With the M2 flailing haplessly away with his arms, Tochiazuma patiently waited for his spot and then pulled the Georgian down to the dirt for the easy win. Tochiazuma at 2-1 now simply took what was given to him. This was a good win for the Ozeki. Kokkai, on the other hand, has got to figure out that you need some de-ashi to go with his tsuppari. I kind of liken Kokkai's tsuupari attack today to an infant who can't figure out how to crawl. You put your left hand forward with your right knee and so on. With tsuppari, you drive from with the foot on the same side as the hand that your striking your opponent with. However, Kokkai is constantly out of synch here, and that's why he gets off one huge blast at the tachi-ai and then goes limp from there. At 0-3, Kokkai better figure out his footwork fast.

Though our Sekiwake were both 2-0 coming into the day, I've been very disappointed with their retreat tactics so far. Let's see some chest-to-chest power sumo and not the Kyokushuzan impersonations. Kotooshu failed yet again today to mount a forward attack and was quickly driven back to the tawara by M3 Kyokutenho from the tachi-ai. On his way back, Kotooshu managed to get his right arm on the inside of Kyokutenho's left armpit and raise Tenho's left arm straight up in the air. With his opponent's attack somewhat neutralized, Kotooshu evaded around the edge of the ring and managed to pull Tenho down by that left arm grip before he himself was forced out. When it came to pointing to a winner, the referee stood there like a drunken salary man trying to figure out which road to take home. He feebly pointed towards Kyokutenho, and it looked as if Tenho was indeed the winner, but replays showed that Kyokutenho's hand touched the dirt before Kotooshu stepped out. So chalk up another unimpressive win for Kotooshu. His 3-0 looks good on paper, but his sumo this basho has been down right ugly. Three bouts...three retreats...and three wins. Something is going to give soon. Kyokutenho falls to 2-1.

Sekiwake Wakanosato didn't disappoint today as he stood M2 Kakizoe straight up from the tachi-ai and grabbed the moro-zashi grip to boot. The smaller Kakizoe could do nothing and was forced back and out with ease. There's nothing else to say other than I love to see these forward moving wins, especially from our sanyaku rikishi. Wakanosato saunters to a cool 3-0 while Kakizoe falls to 1-2.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Kotomitsuki slapped a hapless M3 Dejima down today for an uncharacteristically easy win. As I watched this bout, I couldn't help but notice that it didn't look as if Dejima was even trying. After a false start where Kotomitsuki refused to put his second fist to the starting line even though Dejima had been waiting for nearly 5 seconds, the two finally hooked up on the second time around quickly assuming the yotsu position. Dejima just stood there with his head buried in Kotomitsuki's chest before the Komusubi just slapped him to the dirt. The bout looked fishy to me, so I went back and watched the bout between these two in Nagoya. Sure enough, Dejima scored the easy yorikiri victory in July in a match where it looked as if Kotomitsuki showed little effort. If you fellas want to trade wins, that's fine by me, but you may want to make it a little less obvious. As long as I'm on the subject, wasn't Kotomitsuki's fall on day 1 against Kyokutenho a little unnatural? It would have made Sonny Liston proud. No wonder Kotomitsuki rotates between great basho and awful basho. The Komusubi improves--I guess--to 2-1 while Dejima falls to 1-2.

In the Maegashira ranks, M4 Iwakiyama just smothered M6 Tokitenku with a yorikiri win that gave Tokitenku a hearty welcome to the upper Maegashira ranks. Iwakiyama improves to 2-1 while Tokitenku struggles at 0-3. Next, I just had to shake my head as I saw M6 Kotoshogiku fall into M4 Kyokushuzan's trap. If you are new to sumo viewing, and you can answer this little pop quiz, you no longer need to classify yourself as a beginner:

If Kyokushuzan grabs both of your cheeks in his hands from the tachi-ai, he is going to:
a) smooch you on the mouth
b) head butt you a la that actor..er..uh..professional wrestler Akebono
c) knee you in the package
d) immediately retreat and pull you down in the process

I swear I saw Kotoshogiku pucker up because he obviously didn't know the answer to this quiz. In all seriousness, I think this is the last time the geeku falls for this gimmick, and I see him gracing the sanyaku within a year's time. Both rikishi are 2-1.

M5 Aminishiki continued his charge by going toe to toe with M8 Tosanoumi at the tachi-ai. Aminishiki refused to be moved back by Tosanoumi's usual lethal charge and patiently stood his ground before executing a well-timed pull down of his opponent. Sure I like to see the rikishi win moving forward, but when a Tosanoumi or a Kokkai repeatedly charge with their heads too low, you've got to take what they give you. Aminishiki improves to 3-0 while Tosanoumi falls to 0-3.

Shame on M10 Roho for starting out 1-2 from this rank. Today against M8 Tamanoshima it took the Russian about three seconds to panic and go for the pull down. Tamanoshima is a solid yotsu-zumo guy, but you've got to be patient against him. After a stalemate tachi-ai where neither rikishi seemed to gain an advantage, Roho abandoned ship first, and when his retreat was read by his opponent, he was shoved back to the tawara. Roho braced both feet against the tawara, but with his legs now lined up, he was bantha fodder as Tamanoshima (2-1) easily slapped him down to the dirt.'

The best bout of the day featured M11 Ama vs. M9 Tamaasuka. Ama went for that side-step at the tachi-ai where he moves forward instead of retreating allowing him to grab the quick left uwate. The move worked to perfection against Roho on day 1, but today Tamaasuka dug in his heels and wouldn't go down without a fight. Ama slowly forced Asuka back to the rope, but with a firm inner grip, Tamaasuka braced himself against the tawara, and used his weight advantage to catapult Ama (2-1) across his body and out of the ring first for my favorite winning technique of utchari. Tamaasuka picks up his first win standing at 1-2.

In other bouts, M13 Kotonowaka (2-1) quickly forced his bout with M11 Toyozakura (0-3) to the belt, which spelled the easy win for the veteran. M12 Hakurozan (1-2) like his brother panicked mid-bout and went for the ill-advised pull down against whom I think is in inferior opponent in M12 Ishide (1-2). Hakurozan pays the price with the loss. M17 Tochinonada picks up his first win this tournament by giving the right uwate to his opponent, M15 Wakatoba (2-1), in exchange for his preferred left inner grip. It's good to see the gentle giant pick up his first win in two tournaments. And finally, M16 Kisenosato quietly improves to 3-0 by outlasting J2 Kasuganishiki in a solid yotsu-zumo contest.

Three days in, and I think we're in for another good basho. Look for the sanyaku rikishi--not the Ozeki--to provide the challenge to Asashoryu. Kenji's on deck for tomorrow with Clancy in the hole. See you again on day 6.

Day 2 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
I have never been one for superstition but it occurred to me after watching Asashoryu's defeat at the hands of shin-Komusubi Futenoh yesterday that it was a bad omen for the Yokozuna.  As Kenji mentioned in his day one comments, Asa fell just one win short of matching Taiho's record of twenty-one straight first day wins.  Is this a sign from the sumo gods that Asashoryu will fail to reach Taiho's various milestones?  Most of the Japanese public would certainly hope so, that's for certain.  Time will tell.  What a brilliant bout it was yesterday, though.  It felt like a senshuraku musubi-no-ichiban and the sumo was certainly of that standard.  If Futenoh has truly shrugged off all those back troubles then we are looking at possible Ozeki material here.  I base this judgement on the fact that Futenoh has improved so much in such a short time, much as Asashoryu did.  He is still young as well.  We just need to keep our fingers crossed because the Japanese fans would really embrace him because, as I have mentioned before, he is unusually eloquent, and has a blog.  These characteristic quirks make him visible and accessible to the public.  Now all he has to do is prove himself on the dohyo.

It was a revenge match for the Yokozuna today as he went up against M2 Kokkai, who was looking for his second kinboshi in two basho.  Kokkai's tachiai was effective again and the Yokozuna reeled backwards after attempting an ineffective hari-te.  It was almost a carbon copy of their bout in the Nagoya Basho so far.  For the second day on the run the Yokozuna found himself up a certain creek without a certain implement.  However, Asashoryu is made of sterner stuff and he came back into the bout with a series of devastating slaps until Kokkai finally crumpled to the dohyo after one wild swipe to his lower body.  Kokkai glared at his opponent for quite a while after the bout and at first did not seem to want to go back to his side to make the customary bow of respect.  I suspect the Georgian thought that the Yokozuna was using the base of his hand rather than the palm to hit him, but going from the replay I don't believe that to be true.  The slaps were so hard that they probably felt like that.  Some readers may remember that amazing bout between Tochiazuma and Asashoryu where the bout had to be halted briefly because Tochiazuma was bleeding profusely after Asashoryu had pummeled him in that way.  Tochiazuma went on to win that one but it was not to be for Kokkai today.  He might be 0-2 but I predict he will go on to get a kachi-koshi.  Asashoryu is back on track at 1-1.  Don't be surprised to see a 14-1 yusho come senshuraku.

Ozeki Tochiazuma is the only one of the Ozeki trio to look in fighting shape.  The question today was this: which version of Komusubi Kotomitsuki would turn up?  Unfortunately for Tochiazuma, it was the one with fighting spirit.  How the hell Kotomitsuki survived the early barrage of attacks by the Ozeki I will never know.  This bout has to go down as lost by Tochiazuma (1-1) as much as won by Kotomitsuki (1-1).  This was a very costly kuroboshi indeed for Tochiazuma because none of the Ozeki has been able to take advantage of Futenoh's gift yesterday and they now find themselves with one win out of a possible six between them.  Credit must go to Kotomitsuki for hanging in there and showing the desire to win against the odds.  Why can't he do this every day?  That is the question that sums up Kotomitsuki's career.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai had an 18-1 head-to-head record against M3 Kyokutenho coming into this bout (Kyokutenho's only win came in the 2000 Haru Basho) so I suppose it could be seen as a test of how far Chiyotaikai has fallen.  The answer is very far indeed.  Chiyotaikai is looking demotion right in the face.  To his credit, he tried his hardest to go forward and fight toe-to-toe with his opponent but that was a mistake in this particular case because in yotsu-zumo there could only be one winner between these two.  Once the Mongolian got a belt grip, he just took his time and walked the Ozeki out.  Chiyo is now 0-2.  Kyokutenho is doing well at 2-0.  After the bout, Chiyotaikai commented that the loss could not be helped.  The poor lad is obviously suffering a hell of a lot mentally as well as physically.  If I were him I would just cut my losses now and accept the fact that he is going to be Sekiwake next time.  If he pulls out now at least he will have a fighting chance of recovering from his injuries in time for Kyushu , instead of risking exacerbating them.

Ozeki Kaio's loss yesterday was horrible to watch and I was very surprised to see him turn up to face M3 Dejima today.  Dejima somehow survived Kaio's slight sidestep at the tachiai and recovered to wrap himself around the troubled Ozeki.  The extent of Kaio's injury ensured that Dejima won by yorikiri.  Kaio could do nothing at all.  Surely he must go kyujo tomorrow.

Sekiwake Wakanosato met Captain El Blubbo M1 Miyabiyama who is looking even fatter than usual.  It was a lackluster bout.  Wakanosato brushed aside Miyabiyama's stubborn hand at his throat and pushed forward, before deciding to reverse his momentum and pull his opponent down.  Miyabiyama was fighting too high to turn the tactic to his advantage (compare this with the Ama–Hakurozan fight later in this report), and went down like a sack of dung.  Wakanosato keeps his pecker up at 2-0.  Miyabiyama continues not to impress at 1-1.

In an odd bout between Sekiwake Kotooshu and M1 Hakuho, we all got to see what happens when two defensive, evasive rikishi go head-to-head.  An exotic technique was inevitable, of course – abisetaoshi, in the end.  Before that, for most of the bout, neither rikishi was in physical contact with the other.  They looked like two boxers who were looking for the best part of the body to strike.  Hakuho's ankle is obviously still causing him trouble and he was limping slightly down the hanamichi after the bout.  Are we looking at another imminent kyujo?  It doesn't look too serious yet but it only takes one more twist or knockc

Komusubi Futenoh showed decent control against M2 Kakizoe's dangerous thrusts and managed to effectively neutralize them before forcing his opponent past and to the side of him, from where he got the simple push-out win.  Futenoh shows us yesterday was no fluke and improves to 2-0.  Kakizoe stands at 1-1.

I refuse to comment on the ludicrous pre-bout antics of M5 Takamisakari and M4 Kyokushuzan.  Suffice it to say that Kyokushuzan schooled Circus good and proper with a well-controlled and executed kotenage.  Takamisakari is in early trouble at 0-2.  Kyokushuzan pockets twenty percent of this basho's wins to go 1-1.

M5 Aminishiki was one of the VERY FEW rikishi to come through yesterday's debacle with any credit.  He faced a sterner test against raging bull M4 Iwakiyama.  One thing that always amazes me about Iwakiyama is the profile of his face.  The tip of his nose is BEHIND his forehead!  Don't believe me?  Check out a photo on Google or wherever.  Astonishing!  Aminishiki was outmuscled and therefore forced to use a little trickery to defeat his much bigger opponent.  Iwakiyama just kept his head down and did his best to keep up with all the lateral movement until he got his funky opponent to the edge only to find empty air as Aminishiki twisted to the side.  Iwakiyama stands at 1-1.  Aminishiki keeps up the good work at 2-0.

M10 Roho nearly got screwed again by an opponent more interested in moving to the side than forwards, M11 Toyozakura.  The big Russian supermodel must have learned his lesson from yesterday as he showed more caution and better balance to keep on top of an untidy bout.  Roho goes to 1-1.  Toyozakura is winless.

I was just waiting for M12 Hakurozan (1-1) to 'avenge' his brother's cheap henka loss to today's opponent, M11 Ama (2-0).  In other words, I thought Hakurozan would give Ama a repeat of his 'performance' against Kotonowaka on senshuraku last basho.  But no.  Both men went in straight but Ama took advantage of Hakurozan's ill-advised pull-down attempt to push the hapless Russian into the arms of the proletariat.  When will he learn that pull-downs should be used as last resorts, not in the middle of the dohyo when he is high and his opponent is low?  It seems to be a case of good rikishi, bad rikishi with Hakurozan.  Yesterday he made it look easy, today he looked disinterested and lifeless.  I would say the oyakata needs to have a quiet word.  As for Ama, let's hope that yesterday's henka was an aberration.  I know I was not the only one who was shocked.

M16 Kisenosato stuck with the same good forward sumo that he showed yesterday to defeat M17 Shimotori.  I see improvement in Kisenosato's tachiai, not to mention his footwork and balance already so he could well be on the way to his first double-digit basho if he can keep up the good work.  Kisenosato is a well-watered hydrangea at 2-0.  Shimotori, to his dismay, is a wilting pansy at 1-1.

M17 Tochinonada's body clock must be all out of synch fighting this early in the afternoon.  Up against J1 Toyonoshima today he allowed his opponent to get morozashi straight from the tachiai but forced a stalemate by wrapping up Toyonoshima's arms.  This went on for ages while I scratched various parts of my anatomy and glanced at my wallpaper.  There was a brief flash of drama when the gyoji stopped the bout (probably out of sheer boredom) to adjust Tochinonada's mawashi, which was slipping (like my attention), but then it went back to the stalemate.  Finally, after three minutes, the inevitable yorikiri came to our rescue.  Tochinonada has looked highly average on the first two days and needs to sort it out pronto.  I wonder how much that injury from last basho is still affecting him.  He falls to 0-2.  Toyonoshima wants the Juryo tournament to end today at 2-0.

It looks like the Sekiwake and Komusubi are carrying this basho so far with seven wins out of a possible eight. Compare that with the Yokozuna and Ozeki, who have only two out of eight so far.  The sumo today was far better than yesterday (apart from that brilliant musubi-no-ichiban) but the Yokozuna looked grim and poised today and obviously means business.  I will be back on day nine.  Let's see how things stand by then.  I think Futenoh will still be in the running, and I have a sneaking feeling about Kyokutenho as wellcdon't ask me why.  And, of course, Kisenosato will be cruising to his inevitable zensho yusho.

Day 1 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
It was Sunday afternoon nap time in the Heilman household with 2-year old Lex in daddy's lap in the recliner. Day one of Aki basho 2005 proved just the pill dad needed to join Lex in sleepytown on this day. In fact, I had to play the tape twice to be able to write this report. I was comatose for the first playing. Talk about some uninspiring sumo on a day when everyone should be geeked up. Even the honest Ama took a sidestepping approach to pick up a cheap W.

The only consolation that made this day exciting was the final bout, which I'll start with here. This bout alone almost salvaged the day, as if to give the deprived Kokugikan crowd a well deserved, well contested match to chew on for their journeys back home. Yokozuna Asashoryu, trying to become the 2nd man along with Taiho to ever win 6 consecutive yusho, was also trying to join Taiho in another unbelievable feat: Winning on day 1 for 21 straight basho. Sho has not lost out of the gates since he was a Sekiwake. Unfortunately, or fortunately for most Japanese fans, this streak came to a screeching halt today at the hands of hot Shin-Komusubi sensation Futenoh. What made the upset more spectacular was the fact that Futenoh slipped at the tachiai, which immediately gave Sho the upper hand and a commanding right outside grip to boot. Somehow Futenoh weathered the ensuing storm of offense and stopped Sho's momentum at the rope, and that's when the tables turned. Next thing you know, Futenoh had the right outside grip (his preferred position) and Sho was gripless and on the defense. The bout moved to the other side of the dohyo and Sho tried vehemently to circle the ring and throw in any counterattack he could conjure. After a few seconds of desperate "goal line stand" defense by Sho at the rope, Futenoh fell atop the beaten Yokozuna to score the biggest opening day upset in recent memory. He earned every bit of it. Not a single cheap tactic here. I couldn't agree more with the comment by the former Mainoumi as the broadcast come to a close: "I think Asashoryu will tell you that was a straight up loss and he's okay with it". But look out next basho, Futenoh my friend. 

Those of you wishing to stay pumped about the Aki basho have the option to stop reading now. Save yourselves! 

Okay, you asked for it. Despite Sho's shocking defeat, the prospects look dim for any of the Ozeki to challenge the Yokozuna for the yusho. That's because all three Ozeki are the walking wounded right now. Kaio literally collapsed in the middle of the ring at the hands of Miyabiyama's lumbering tsuppari, and it wasn't the tsuki-oshi of the former Miyabiyama that caused it. His leg just buckled. It looked painful to watch on TV, and the grimace on Kaio's face brought further doubts as to whether this old warrior can even continue another day. The bad thing is, this newest injury to his right thigh is brand new and has nothing to do with the plethora of recurring ailments he continually deals with throughout his career. 

Chiyotaikai offers no more in the way of hope for the Ozeki rank. This dog was back to his old tricks, retreating in scary-cat fashion once Kakizoe's tachiai packed a more powerful punch than his did. The result of course was a pull down effort, which didn't work. Taikai's lack of reps in practice also showed as he couldn't keep his footing while trying to run away. Apparently the left knee and ankle is what ails this Ozeki, although you wouldn't know it by the sight of him since he sported no tape at all on either leg. Though now he is sporting an ugly 0-1 record in yet another kadoban campaign. Take your pick on who's basho looks bleaker, Taikai or Kaio. 

If there is a glimmer of hope for the Ozeki, it has to be Tochiazuma. Azuma is also nursing a bad ankle, but looked good in disposing of nemesis Hakuho (coming off a 6-3-6 campaign in July). Hakuho, trying to come back from a left ankle injury (what's the deal with all these bum ankles), had beaten Azuma in three out of four tries. But not this time. Azuma showed his solid oshi attack, then garnered the right outside grip on Hakuho to win by yori-taoshi. It was one of the few bouts today that was halfway decent. I guess what I'm trying to say is, it was a straight-up bout with no lateral skirting movements. 

Shin-Sekiwake Kotooshu and Kokkai, what a disappointment this bout was. Kokkai came out like a rocket as expected but he was so coiled up he couldn't contain himself when Oshu offered a very expected, well, lateral skirting of the Georgian's powerful thrusts. Slam on the brakes there, Kokkai. Oh, too late, you've already stepped out. Can we get some good sumo here, guys? 

Okay, I'll do one more since some of you may be interested in the resurging Wakanosato coming off a strong 11-4 effort in July. But are you surprised to find that Dejima blasted into Waka and pushed him to the brink, only to dumped to his stomach by a ho hum pull down by Wakanosato just shy of being pushed out? It's like watching a rerun of any tv program. It's the same old thing. 

Don't say I didn't warn you about reading past the Asashoryu bout. My only hope is that this basho ISN'T just the same old thing, and someone steps up to make it interesting. Because you know Sho will be in the mix 13 days from now. Who else will?