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Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Thirteen long days, nearly a fortnight, between Clancy Kelly reports. Frankly, I dont know how you people can stand it. 

The worse thing for me is having to sit there, day in and out, reading the other fellas. You know, Mike with his samurai blade analysis, Martin with his brutal irony, Mario with his fancy pants supercolliding metaphors, Andreas with his gags you need a PhD to get, Kenji separating the cream from the chaff, and Arbo, oh yes, lets not forget Arbo, how in the name of all things cerulean can we forget Mark and his lovely pics of Maria Ozawa. (I should note for the uninitiated that the pics he chose may give the false impression that Maria is simply a pinup model, when in actuality she is more of a pindown model, usually by three men and a goat, all in full color video. Guess thats what can happen when youre dad is Canadian. Oh snap! Check out the section entitled Personal Life. I cant for the life of me understand why her family refused to watch the videos of her work she brought home to show.)

Got a call from my dear old Aunty (her Christian name is Climactic). Told me she was looking forward to that "muy picante" Kaio/Kakizoe bout on Day 15. Me, too, I assured her, then covered the mouthpiece and regurgitated my morning meal.

So, with the yusho decided by Martin on Day 14, what do we have to chew on? Hmm, three whole men going for their 8th win, aka kachi-koshi or KK; Goeido and Shneaky pitted against each other in a Deathcage match for some record book notoriety and a little caish; and Hakuho in search of cold comfort in the form of an ass whoop on Asashoryu.

What this means is that Im going to keep this report, like Martin keeps his sexual encounters, short and sweet.

The powers on high make a big deal out of the final three matches on the final day of the tourney, aka senshuraku, so who am I to thumb my nose at them? The first of these bouts gave us the aforementioned Ozeki Kaio the Great, all-time leader in bouts won in the top division, aka Makuuchi. His foe was my one of my faves, a sweet little piece of work name a Kakizoe. The size differential between the two grapplers is listed on a database somewhere, probably would take me (or better, you) ten seconds to find the info, but lets just say Kaio is an eight story high plant eater and Kakizoes line will one day give rise to birds. 

None of that mattered to Sweet Zoe Jane, tho, as he brought everything he had against Armbar Charlie. Like Puss in Shrek 2, he was all over the Ozeki, dodging and darting, shoving and slapping at the great mounds of delicious flesh that rolled forward, presenting themselves like so much strudel for the taking. But no matter how hard he pushed, he just couldnt make anything meaningful happen (sorry, bringing up Martins sex life again). Kaio kept hammering down on Kakizoes head and shoulders, trying to brush him off like dandruff, then finally decided to do what he does best, namely lock down on a single arm and force the mofo to submit. The 6-8 E4 slipped out of it once or twice, but couldnt run forever and finally turned and fled while in its meaty grasp. Kaio wins 9, including wins over Howdo, Goeido, Kid, and a certain Yokozuna from a certain country with a certain building style called "yurt". Folks, it doesnt get much more unfathomable than that.

Next up were the remaining two Ozeki, Harumafuji and Kotooshu. Those of us wishing for a bout for the ages got instead a bout for the aged. Howdo got off to a nice throat thrusting charge, had the Bulgarian going back, but Kotooshu turned the tables and began pushing the Mongolian across the ring, where sadly he slipped and went down. Was grabbing at his leg afterward. My Aunty called again at that moment to remind me to take my salt peter.

I think Asashoryu and Hakuho should have surgery that joins them into one UberYokozuna named Asashakuho, who can go on to win every yusho until Maria Ozawa is appointed to the college of cardinals. Both men seemed to slide a tad to their left at tachi-ai, but Hakuho brought the more ferocious hit and came out of the collision with the outside left belt grip. Asashoryu had the inside right belt, but was quickly backed to the edge, where the two men fished at each others legs as Kublai tried to shove his uncle Genghis out. Asa had no option than to try a leg hooking desperation throw, but Hakuho had his right leg planted widely and firmly, negating that outcome. Finally Asa tired of resisting and Hak was able to push him back and out onto his ass before heading into the crowd himself. 

Im not one to go on and on and on and on and on and on about achievements and things of that sort, but as dominating as Hakuho has become, Asashoryu has won three of the last seven basho. I will reiterate a point Mike has made before, that Asa seems to have recovered from the witch hunt of 2007, when sumo got a new Yokozuna (Hakuho) right at the time they were covering up the murder of a recruit at the Tokitsukaze-beya by shifting the focus on to Asashoryu allegedly bad behavior and suspending him for the final two basho that year, essentially gifting them to Hakuho. He has tinkered somewhat with his style, not rushing things as he did in his overpowering heyday, doing a bit more of the sidestepping at tachi-ai to grab belts and combat the huge youngsters like Baruto and Kotooshu. While I would not like to see his sumo devolve to the trickster level, a la Kyokushuzan, I think it is a right he has earned, to use whatever means he has at his disposal to win as many yusho as he can in the years left to him. So as they say in Oz, "Good on ya, mate." (Now well get some outraged Australian writing in to tell me that they, in fact, do NOT say anything of the sort, and Ill tell him to go play with his map of Tazzie.)

So lets look at some choice bouts, bon bons in the Day 15 box. Speaking of Tokitsukaze beya, Kitataiki had Shimotori by the long and straights (theyre neither short nor curly on Asian guys) against the ropes, but the Kitanoumi-beya man somehow fumbled the ball at the one-yard line and let the bout come back to center (perhaps by standing upright and not pushing forward?), where Birdman threw him down by the belt for his KK. Tamanoshima, too, was looking for KK, and he seemed from the start to be destined for it, but Hakuba pulled out of an armlock Peter had on him and quicker than shit yanked him down by the noggin. Almost a topknot infraction.

Koryu got a deep moro-zashi on Aran and there was no hope, it was hopeless, because Aran clamped down on them arms like he was about to build a wooden cabinet and forced him out. Aran is Livestrong at 10-5 while E16 Koryu is getting his Makuuchi plug pulled at 3-12. Tosayutaka finished with an incredible ten wins by eking out a contested match vs. Tochiohzan. How did he manage to upend Toyohibiki, Takamisakari, Tamawashi, Tamanoshima, Tochinonada, and Tochiozan? With T-nacity! 

Juryo 1 Sagatsukasa destroyed Shotenro (of course, who didnt this time out?) and will be moving up to Makuuchi in March, where he will no doubt use some of that heftier paycheck to join the Hair Club for Men. Bean limited the damage to 7-8 by quickly slapping down Asas Secretary. Id like to get all googly about Toyohibikis 12-3, but he didn’t exactly face a Murderers Row. More like a Line of Pickpockets. And dude sucks at interviews.

His Lord on High and Imperial Wonder Hokutoriki won by tricking Tochinonada into a false start, and then jumping the gun on the restart, driving him back and out by the throat. Just makes me laugh out loud seeing his demeanor even when hes only winning his 3rd out of 15. He stared at GG, who was in the crowd, as if to say, Yo, take that, bitch! Joker should have been an NFL wide receiver. 

The last 7-7 guy was Goeido, and as I stated above, Aminishiki had some golden nuggets dangling in front of him, so he was in no mood to be generous. Goeido got the right inside belt at tachi-ai, but Shneaky pulled a switcheroo, aka maki-kae, and from that point the Father seemed unsure about what to do with his arm. Shneaky was not, however, and with his right belt grip and wide lateral stance, simply leaned in on the Yokozuna slayer and pushed him back and down. 

Toyonoshima was taken back to the edge by Kisenosato and incredibly managed to escape. In the center they went forehead to forehead for a second, and then separated, and then The Kid started pushing and slapping the Tugboat back, where the E1 finally relented and went out. Dominating win for Kisenosato, who with a 9-6 and a win over 8-7 Toyonoshima, will leapfrog him into the West Sekiwake spot while Tug ends up at East Komusubi across from Aminishiki. 

Takekaze bested some heavy hitters this time out, today dismantling Geeku, but two early losses, getting bufud by Bushu and mashed by the Mawashi, proved to be the difference between a 8-7 and an 6-9, which is what he got.

Finally, the man whose visage graces the bedroom walls of Estonian particle physicists everywhere, Baruto the Biomass, was able to weather the inevitable defensive storm of Kyokutenho and in the end throw him down nice and Asashoryu-like via uwate-dashi-nage. I do have to say here that Mark was right on Day 12, our beloved Captain Kadastik dropped the ball in not aptly describing just how EPIC that Day 11 win over Baruto was for The Khan. At any rate, with a 12-3 last Sept, and a 12-3, this time out, youd think he would be trying on his Ozeki underpants in Osaka, but that 9-6 in Kyushu came back to bite him. Its like Mike is always saying, to become one of the greats, it is imperative that you remain sharp for fifteen days straight. Go back to Nov. and see that he lost to three guys to whom he should not: Kaio, Geeku, and Takekaze. Win two of those and hed be an Ozeki as I type. Focus, baby.

Allrighty, that ought to do it for this time out. Cheers to my fellow writers, who did an outstanding job, and thanks to you for tuning in and reading and please do come again starting March 14 in Osaka. Sayounara!

Day 14 (Martin Matra reporting)
Hi again. Did you miss me? No? Well, to be honest, I missed you. But I solemnly promise you I'll aim more carefully next time. Let's get down to business then.

M16 Koryu seems resigned to his fate, as his sumo today was a mere act of presence. Against the same Kotokasuga you read about in my day 7, the worst Mongol in Makuuchi (and, as of next basho, possibly in Juryo too) charged and leaned forward too much, probably hoping to scare Kasuga out of the dohyo, but the Sadogatake man just got out of the way and let the Little Dragon Impersonator fall to his face and to an unflattering 3-11 record. If anyone cares, Kotokasuga is 5-9 at J2, which is saying quite a lot.

M13 Tamanoshima's envelope apparently wasn't thick enough to please Nada, because the M15 greased Peter a bit by charging a fraction of a second earlier and hitting him good, then flirting with the double inside for a few moments. With no momentum of his own, Tamanoshima had a red target painted on his chest, so the other veteran grabbed his left arm and yanked backwards and down to the dohyo, reminiscent of Asashoryu's own kaina-hineri yesterday, but with nowhere near the same class. At 5-9, Nada only gets some pride out of it, while Peter (7-7) will have to "take care" of Henkuba tomorrow if he wants to advance.

Speaking of the devil, Murray Johnson was talking about a mental letdown of sorts when referring to Hakuba's recent losing streak after winning 8, but remember what I was saying on day 7? They're on to him now, and I think his renpai (currently at only 4 after today's loss) will go on well into the next basho, especially after he gets bumped up a few ranks. It just doesn't work with the henka anymore, and Homasho exposed him as well today. Hakuba unsurprisingly stepped to his left at the tachi-ai, looking for the cheap pull, but Homie made the proper corrections and kept his wily foe in front of him all the time. Compromised by his failed move, the Mongol was on the retreat the whole time, but Homasho was on him like ugly on Uchidate and he pushed him out after circling the dohyo once. Homer gets his long awaited 8th win, while Hakuba is probably already making plans on how to spend the cash coming to him on senshuraku (not that I think Tamanoshima couldn't beat him straight up).

Probably the most surprising result in the whole division for me is M15 Kitataiki's kachi-koshi, which he got despite re-injuring his leg. Today he was extra motivated, as his opponent was kensho goldmine Takamisakari. Kitataiki attacked low and immediately worked his way into the hidari yotsu grip he favors, not allowing The Cop the uwate and driving him back. The veteran had other plans, however, and he used his own inside grip to swing Kitataiki off course and break his shitate. It looked like Kitataiki was in trouble after that, as Takamisakari seemed like he snuck his way into moro-zashi, but Kitataiki showed one of those flashes of brilliance that had Mike so stoked on him a coupla years ago by not panicking, grabbing the uwate on the left, shifting to the same direction and dragging the puzzled Clown out by uwate-dashi-nage after orbiting almost 270 degrees around him. 9-5 for Kitanoumi's protégé, while Takamisakari (6-8) will be depriving Mike of a kachi-koshi interview.

Right now I'm feeling a bit sorry for any fans M10 Tochiohzan might have, because this kid is on par with Kotooshu when it comes to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, especially against opponents he has no business losing to. Case in point, Mongol Mokonami. Oh-Snap used his superior size and weight to hit hard and muscle his way into moro-zashi, then pressed the action and moved in for the kill. Mokonami did the very last thing one can do in such a disadvantageous position, i.e. wrapped one of his arms around Tochiohzan, twisted him around and said a quick prayer (or the Mongol equivalent of such). Normally, the reason kubi-nage is far, FAR less frequent than regular throws is that the move has a very low chance of success. But this one worked, and Tochiohzan has nobody else to blame but himself for it, as he put his hand down like a coward way before he had to. In fact, he did it so soon that even the gyoji saw it and awarded it to Moe on the spot. There was a mono-ii, of course, as Oh's shisho was present for shinpan duty, but it wasn't even close. If I were Kasugano-oyakata I'd reduce Oh's privileges to Makushita level for the unflattering loss, because all he had to do was keep his arm in the air a little while longer - to think guys like Toyonoshima or Asashoryu will prefer to fall nose first to the clay if there's even the slightest chance to touch second. Mokonami is 6-8, if anyone cares, while Tochiohzan is a rather mediocre 8-6.

As expected (go back to my day 7 again), M14 Iwakiyama cleaned up after his dubious 1-4 start, reeling in 8 consecutive victories to come in 9-4 into today's meeting with obviously under-ranked M10 Aran. I really don't know what went wrong in that one, because despite a spirited charge from way behind the shikiri-sen, the Hutt was stopped in his tracks by a stonewall-solid Ossetian. Moon-man then sort of panicked and tried to pull Aran down, but the Thug (9-5 now) was one step ahead of him and ejected him from the ring like he was a chubby kid from jonokuchi.

Georgian Kokkai kept his head low after the tachi-ai, trying to deny M13 Shimotori the left uwate by planting his right deep inside. Whitey was too passive, though, so Shimotori was able to push him upwards a bit and grab a solid double migi-yotsu grip. It was only a matter of time after that, since Moo is a much more skilled mawashi fighter. Yori-kiri and another chance at kachi-koshi for Shimotori (which I have a sneaky suspicion he'll get at the expense of Kitataiki, who's got his yesterday), while the White Knight will have to regroup in the dregs next basho with his 9th loss. And facing the Fatman tomorrow ain't no day at the beach.

Tochi-Oh-Snap should take notes on the next bout, as Tosayutaka speculated Shotenro's reckless tachi-ai and gained moro-zashi right after stopping the charge, but instead of pushing upwards at the pits like Oh does, he bode his time, dug deep and grabbed himself a solid double helping of Big-Shot's back of the mawashi. Of course, there was no other way than back, and Shotenro knew it, so he used his superior reach to get a left uwate and with the right hand he deployed the desperation kubi-hineri (backward head twist), but the Gorilla's grip was to much for him to handle, so the two crashed out of the dohyo with Yutaka (9-5) on top.

At 3-11, I don't think Shotenro cares about any of it anymore, but a 3-12 from M9 is damn likely to get him a holiday ticket to Juryo - and the NSK confirmed that when they gave him J1W Sagatsukasa for his senshuraku bout. However, since Sagatsukasa is already at 8-6 and has a guaranteed spot in the big league, with Taikai's long overdue intai and Koryu and Nada taking the elevator down, and only Tokusegawa (8-6) from J1E and J2E Okinoumi (now 9-5) certain and no others with a realistic hope of getting ahead of him, I think Shotenro won't find it too difficult to stay at 11 losses. However, Big Shot better make damn sure and win it, 'cause otherwise we might have Kasugao or, even worse, Kimurayama, back up in Makuuchi should they win their respective bouts.

The best Hutt of the basho, M16W Toyohibiki, delivered a monstrous thundering tachi-ai, standing M7 Tamawashi up and proceeding to push him out, but the Mongolian is big and strong enough, so he was able to absorb it and turn the tables on Hibiki with a few well placed thrusts in key places (one to the throat and the other one under his left pit), getting him to the edge as fast as you can say oshidashi. Don't say it yet, though, because the Hutt has been something completely different this basho (his 10-3 coming in ain't no fluke, mind you). Unbelievably, Hibiki resisted Mawashi's strong thrusts with nothing else but his neck until he was able to shoot back, and when he could, Mawashi was out in mere moments. With the win, Hibiki becomes the favorite for the Fighting Spirit Prize, and a win against Wakanosato tomorrow (not easy, but definitely doable) would make it official. I wouldn't be surprised if they gave it to him even with a loss. Mawashi (8-6) was nails this basho, especially considering he was at his highest rank yet. On day 15 he gets a date with a particularly slippery fish-lipped fellow countryman of his, and I definitely think he can kick his sorry arse (in fact, I can't think of many things that would make me happier).

A sort of a low came with the Bushuyama-Hokutoriki match, as the two had an underwhelming 3-23 combined record coming into today. The best man won in the end, after Bushuyama had little trouble withstanding Hokutoriki's weak tsuppari, he backpedaled a bit and yanked the Pretender down by the extended arm. Hokutoriki (boasting a nice, round and shiny dozen losses) is probably delighted at the thought of getting another chance at a sansho in the Makuuchi basement, while Bush (2-12) will have a lot of trouble sleeping tonight, since he's meeting Tochinoshin on senshuraku (0-3 against him) and a 2-13 at M6E means he could fall to Juryo - and there's no need to remind you that I'll take him any day over the likes of Kimurayama and Kasugao. Pad that envelope well, my man, for the greater good of Ozumo if nothing else.

M2 Goeido received a freebie today (his envelope was probably a LOT more substantial than the one Nada got), when M7 Wakanosato sleepwalked at the tachi-ai, charging way too upright and giving away moro-zashi in a New York second (if you want to know how long that is, ask Clancy - but I'll bet you a rusty red cent he'll say it's 1/60 of a New York minute). Goeido walked him out for another chance at his kachi-koshi tomorrow against Aminishiki -  and that one ain't gonna be a walk in the park, since Sneaky is gunning for a prize (the Gino-Sho most likely) and a comfy Sekiwake spot, where he can get a better vantage point near the Sadogatake camp he usually pillages every other basho. Wakanosato is a quiet 9-5 if'n you need him.

I have no idea who Dave Shapiro was trying to impress expressing his "surprise" at Miyabiyama's 3-10 record coming into today's bout with Asasuckiryu when comparing it with his awesome 12-3 last basho. Come on, man, you can do better than that. The opponents the Sheriff corralled in Kyushu are nowhere near the skill level of the sanyaku sharks. In fact, I even think the Fatman overachieved a bit by taking down the two older Ozeki, who should, on a regular day at the office, beat him like a red-headed stepchild, even at this advance stage of degradation in their careers. However, Asa's secretary hasn't been near the jo'i for a while now, and the task of getting a grip on the front of Miyabiyama's mawashi proved to be Sisyphean in the end, as the Fatman showed unusual stamina and eventually grabbed the arm of his by then tired opponent to push him out unceremoniously. The M8 is served his make-koshi, while Miyabiyama improves to an honorable 4 wins (he should make it 5 against the ailing Kokkai on senshuraku).

It's good to see Toyonoshima finally recover from that elbow injury he got some year or so ago (thank you very much, Kaio) and get his kachi-koshi in the jo'i to finally return to sanyaku. Today he put M5 Yoshikaze in his place by beating him at his own game, pushing him back with well-placed thrusts fueled by solid de-ashi, then countering his resistance at the edge with a perfectly timed hataki-komi reminiscent of the late Chiyotaikai in his better days. The little Kaze falls to 5-9.

Just as Dave was saying M1 Tochinoshin's bandaged right arm might give him trouble, the Private took a page out of his superior's book (Corporal Kokkai for those of you who just got out of boot camp) and attacked Takekaze with wild, flailing tsuppari, bludgeoning away at the Cannonball's face and neck ( that border between the head and the torso where average people usually have a neck), never relenting and finishing him off in mere seconds. This is the best Shin's looked all basho, and a 5-10 after the likely (hmm...) victory against Bush tomorrow is quite honorable if we believe the extent of his injury. Takekaze falls to 5-9, but the less said about him, the better.

K1E Kotoshogiku's bout was over the second the larger and longer Tenho denied him the double inside at the tachi-ai. Armed only with a right shitate, Geeku was unable to hold the bigger Mongol back, who used his long reach to get the solid left uwate and eventually muscle the now ex-Komusubi over the tawara. Kyokutenho gets his kachi-koshi.

Considering M6 Aminishiki's situation - 9-4, in the hunt for a prize and a sanyaku spot, and, to top it off, a bum right knee - and Kakuryu's situation - 6-7 at K1W - my forecast for their bout was at best cloudy with a chance of henka. But they kept it nice and honest, with Not-so-sneaky blasting the Kak away from the tachi-ai, brushing off his meek attempts at any sort of mawashi grip and pushing him all the way to the tawara. Fishy dug in hard, but lowered his stance too much in the process, allowing his veteran opponent to slap him down for the easy win. The Kak is his usual flaccid self of late with only 6 wins, while Aminishiki, as mentioned above, will be facing Goeido tomorrow with much at stake for both. And since Groundhog Day is approaching fast, my forecast for that bout will stay the same as today.

The next bout most likely gave our good Doctor Kadastik a stiffie, with S1E Baruto prevailing for the umpteenth time in a display of brute strength after being out-sumo'ed by the heavily undersized M4 Kakizoe. Zoe was honest at the tachi-ai, but he was never going to have any suicidal tendencies like going chest to chest with the huge Finno-Ogre, so he quickly moved to the side after hitting. Baruto was on to him and followed closely, but Kakizoe's speed was too much for Bart, who found himself facing the tawara with Zoe nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately for Kakizoe, though, at the exact moment Baruto was vulnerable, the little guy lost his balance on the straw and had to waste a precious second to get it back instead of pushing his compromised foe out for the embarrassing okuri-dashi win. Bart returned with a vengeance and, despite giving up moro-zashi right away, he grabbed a deadly right over-the-shoulder uwate on the back of Zoe's mawashi. Kakizoe knew his goose was already in the oven, so he desperately pressed forward, but Baruto twisted him down like one of those kids dressed in white mawashi at jungyos. The kimari-te was ultimately judged to be osakate, and I think that's what it was most similar to ultimately, but it was more a case of an uwatehineri gone horribly wrong for Kakizoe. To be completely honest, I think they should name this one Barutohinerioverkill in his honor, because I'm having a hard time imagining anyone else being able to pull it off with the amplitude he showed today. Poor Kakizoe (6-8 now, adding insult to injury) had a hard time picking himself up from the edge of the dohyo where he'd landed, visibly gutted by the loss. I feel for ya, guy, but at least he didn't land on you. Dr. Mario had a hard time of his own, but for different reasons (see the beginning of the paragraph). Bart improves to 11-3 with the strange win, but I doubt he'll be in the talk for promotion even with a 12th. But it'd be a damn good start for another run.

After such a display of awesome power, Kaio's own uwate-nage seemed run-of-the-mill, despite the top-notch setup and execution. Again, I have to disagree with Mr. Shapiro, this time on whether or not Kisenosato should or should not take on Kaio chest to chest. To put it short, Kisenosato is a damn beast who can actually take on anyone not named Hakuho at the mawashi. Hell, he cleaned Bart's clock chest to chest on day 2, and his main winning kimari-te against Kaio is yori-kiri. Anyway, back to the actual bout, Kisenosato was a bit careless at the tachi-ai (I'm not going to go down the yaocho avenue this time, despite the obvious possibility), allowing the old man to get a deep left inside grip on his mawashi. After a tentative tactical battle, both rikishi settled into the hidari-gappuri-yotsu position (both had double left-inside-right-outside mawashi grips – this is for first time readers), which would normally favor Kaio, but recently has been favoring Kisenosato. Immediately after getting the double grip, Kisenosato tried to force Kaio back, but the Ozeki spun away from danger, planted his left leg and deployed the big throw, heaving the 170+ kg Kisenosato clean over his hip and onto his back, just like in the old days. With the win, Kaio gets his 8th, while Kisenosato stays at the same mark. Today's win makes tomorrow's match against Kakizoe kind of pointless, but a 9-6 would be a nice change for Kaio after a year's worth of 8-7's. Kisenosato will be taking on Toyonoshima in an attempt to boost his chances for sanyaku promotion - with an 8-7 and Goeido winning his bout tomorrow, Kisenosato will miss out, as Aminishiki is already at 10 wins. And, given the above mentioned banzuke situation, it's kind of puzzling that Kisenosato isn't facing Goeido on senshuraku. I guess the NSK is giving both of Japan's hopes a chance to stay near the top, eh?

The Hakuho-Kotooshu match-up is becoming more and more predictable as time goes by. Both hit hard, both get the right inside, both deny each other the left uwate, Hakuho forces the issue, Kotooshu gets on the defensive, Hakuho insists, tries it once, tries it twice, pulls the throw. You can go back to most of the bouts between these two that ended with uwate-nage, watch them and probably know how this one went too. Don't get me wrong, I'm not taking anything from either of the guys, I'm actually happy Kotooshu put up the fight he did - the bout lasted more than 30 seconds, and any guy not getting beaten by Hak under that mark is pretty good - but the scenario was nothing you hadn't seen (or I hadn't commented on) before. Kotooshu falls to a barely on par 8-6, while Hakuho improves to a similarly disappointing 11-3. Kaio had better make it worth his while.

Finally, Yokozuna Asashoryu took care of business against Ozeki Harumafuji to grab his 25th Emperor's Cup and move past Kitanoumi into 3rd place, with only legends Taiho and Chiyonofuji above him. The bout was won right at the tachi-ai by the Yokozuna, who kind of stepped to the left, deflected Ama's charge and grabbed a solid uwate, while Ama had to do with only the inside right, but enjoyed the lower stance. A long stalemate followed, but it was ended by the Yokozuna, who pulled his victim in and grabbed himself a solid grip on the right side, also allowing Ama to get his uwate. The Ozeki quickly tried a surprise force-out, but Asashoryu resisted easily and forced the action back to the center of the dohyo. Another surge by Harumafuji met the same resistance, but a third surge was met by Asashoryu with a quick pull on the shitate side and a maki-kae on the other side, to which Ama responded quickly with one of his own, but he lost his shitate in the process. That was all the Yokozuna needed, as he unleashed a powerful shitatenage to clinch his Yusho in style. The Ozeki falls to only his 4th loss and will be taking over the O1E spot from the underachieving Kotooshu in Haru.

Despite showing more consistency over the course of the basho, Asashoryu still isn't the favorite against Hakuho tomorrow in my book. The younger Yokozuna should want to improve his score to the 12-3 that is par for the Yokozuna rank, but I dare say this is the best chance Asashoryu's had in the past 7 tournaments to win against Hakuho in regulation bouts. And that's saying a lot.

As for the special prizes, things are a little more clear-cut than usual, with Baruto the lone candidate for the Shukun-Sho, with his victory over Hak and the clean sweep against the Sanyaku. Goeido DID win against Asashoryu, but his overall showing was pretty shoddy, so I don't think he'll even be considered it. The Fighting Spirit Prize should be a lock for Toyohibiki, while Aminishiki should win his 5th Gino-Sho for the great showing in mid-high Maegashira. Of course, they always have their own obscure criteria for awarding these things, so don't be totally surprised if I don't get any of these predictions right.

Clancy wraps it all up tomorrow with his (usually un)usual panache, and I hope we'll meet again next basho in a slightly different format. But possibly more on that when the time comes. Adios.

Day 13 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Day 13 is usually what I call moving day, which means the contenders are separated from the pretenders setting up showdowns the final two days to determine the yusho. What should never happen on day 13 is the yusho being decided, and while mathematically this race is still open, it's closed tighter than a pawn shop after hours in a seedy neighborhood. Course, now that I think about it, is there such thing as a pawn shop that isn't in a crappy neighborhood? I'm already getting off on a tangent, which tells you there wasn't much substance to the day's bouts. We did see another fabulous kimari-te from one of the Khan, so we may as well get to the action starting atop the leaderboard and working our way down.

In the day's penultimate bout, Yokozuna Asashoryu was pitted against his second toughest foe on the banzuke in Ozeki Kotooshu, and the Yokozuna needed the win to keep himself one ahead of rival Hakuho. The Yokozuna took the same exact approach as he did against Baruto earlier in the basho because he knows it's suicide to get into the gappuri yotsu contest with these giants. Asashoryu charged low from the tachi-ai keeping his arse way back away from the Bulgarian's grip while getting his left arm on the inside for starters. On the other side, Asashoryu held onto Kotooshu's right arm by the wrist ensuring that the Ozeki couldn't reach over for the belt grip over the top or counter with an inside position of his own. With Kotooshu not exactly taking charge of things this basho, the two rikishi stood in this position for about eight seconds before Asashoryu pulled of an extraordinary kaina-hineri move yanking Kotooshu forward by the left wrist as he twisted upwards into Kotooshu's armpit on the other side. The result was an Ozeki who just spiraled to the dirt landing on his back chalking up another epic win for Asashoryu. At 12-1, he is in complete control of this basho although I can think of at least one more roadblock coming up. Kotooshu falls to 8-5.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho looked to keep control of his own destiny by keeping himself one off the pace against the watered-down Ozeki Kaio. Kaio had other things on his mind, however, like picking up his eight wins at any cost, so the Ozeki moved to his right at the tachi-ai, grabbed Hakuho's left arm firmly from the outside, and then just yanked the Yokozuna to the straw and across for the signature Kaio-nage win. I'm not sure how Hakuho didn't know this was coming; everyone else suspected it, but it was another example of Hakuho falling asleep at the wheel, and it's cost him his three losses this basho. Perhaps the Yokozuna did know this would be coming, but regardless, the result is an Asashoryu who is two wins ahead of Hakuho heading into the final two days, which means the cup belongs to Genghis who will surpass Kitanoumi for sole possession of third place on the all-time yusho list at 25. Could happen as early has tomorrow if Asa can topple Harumafuji. The only way that Asashoryu doesn't take the yusho is if he loses three more 14 and day 15 and then the playoff. But that's something that just ain't gonna happen. Congrats my man on third place all time.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Harumafuji made sure he kept M4 Kakizoe squarely in front of him as he simply threw a few tsuppari into Zoe's face and had him pushed back and out in a flash. Harumafuji picks up a quiet tenth win while Kakizoe falls to 6-7. It's important for hAruMAfuji to put together string of double-digit wins. He rose to the rank when Asashoryu was out of the sport (as many Ozeki and Yokozuna do), so now that Asa's back, it's nearly impossible for Harumafuji to repeat his past performances.

Moving to the sanyaku, Sekiwake Baruto kept his arms in tight at the tachi-ai as he should, but for all of his shenanigans, M6 Aminishiki is a fearless dude, especially against these mammoth rikishi, so before Baruto could even get set, Aminishiki hunkered down low and lifted the Estonian clear off his feet with the right shoulder as he drove him back to the straw guided by the left inside. Baruto reached around for a desperation left outer at the back of Shneaky's belt and managed to tug Aminishiki down just as Baruto was sailing out of the ring. The gunbai went to Baruto, but this was so close that a mono-ii was called. The ruling had both rikishi's hands touching down at the same time, which I thought was a good call. Live, I thought Baruto touched down first, but this one was so close that it warranted a re-match.

In the rematch, Aminishiki just didn't have any gas in the tank, so Baruto just crushed him back for the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am force-out win. Great stuff all around from both parties as Baruto moves to 10-3 setting up his real Ozeki run for Osaka. Aminishiki falls to 9-4.

M2 Miyabiyama tried to keep Komusubi Kotoshogiku away with some tsuppari at the tachi-ai, but they weren't the lumbering tsuppari where Miyabiyama's legs are behind the attack. As a result, the Komusubi was able to easily time a pulldown of Miyabi the Hutt sending him to the dirt in all his splendor. Good stuff from the Geeku whose still alive at 6-7. Miyabiyama is 3-10.

M3 Kisenosato used a shweet hari-zashi tachi-ai against Komusubi Kakuryu hitting the Kak with the right hand as he secured his left arm on the inside. He was able to quickly reel the Komusubi in with a right outer grip, but it was only on one fold of the belt, so as the Kid pushed the Kak back to the edge, he wasn't able to get him across that final step. Kakuryu grabbed a right grip of his own as Kisenosato reloaded, but Kisenosato is just too strong and didn't fail on his second force-out attempt clinching kachi-koshi in the process. Before anyone jumps on Kisenosato too quickly, you need to understand he's only had one bad loss the entire Kakizoe. Kakuryu falls to 6-7, but we've seen him weasel his way into kachi-koshi from these straights. Can't wait for tomorrow, Kak.

M2 Goeido used a crushing tachi-ai with the left shoulder to demand the right inside position and left outer grip, but he hurried his force-out charge allowing Toyonoshima to counter beautifully at the edge by planting his stump and using Goeido's momentum against him by pulling him over with his own left outside grip and dumping him at the edge with a belt throw. Toyonoshima's experience won out here against the hasty Goeido (6-7). Toyonoshima moves to 7-6 and looks ready to fill a Komusubi vacancy.

Moving along to the worst of the rest--in other words the Maegashira ranks--M1 Tochinoshin briefly grabbed the front of M3 Hokutoriki's mawashi with the left hand before being rebuffed creating separation between the two. The combatants ended up in the sixth grade slow dance position before Shin was able to force the bout to yotsu-zumo with a left inside and right outside grip. From there it was academic as Tochinoshin easily swung Hokutoriki over to the side and out. This was ruled yori-kiri, but it was close to tsuri-dashi. Tochinoshin improves to just 3-10 with the win while Hokutoriki is 2-11. Ugh!

M4 Takekaze waited for M8 Asasekiryu to get close knowing he would come in low before going for a pull down that nearly worked, but Sexy kept his balance and returned the favor as he evaded to the side. This pull attempt worked and sent Takekaze down to the dirt in a heap not to mention a 5-8 record. The Secretary is still alive at 6-7.

M5 Yoshikaze and M9 Kokkai just bounced off of each other from the tachi-ai that saw Yoshikaze desperately try and get to the inside while Kokkai rebuffed him with those seldom-seen wingspan tsuppari. Kokkai's longer arms proved the difference as he was able to catch Cafe in the noggin and push him all the way out of the ring in one fell swoop. Both rikishi are 5-8.

M13 Shimotori and M5 Kyokutenho hooked up into the gappuri migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, a stance that favors the slightly larger and far more experienced Kyokutenho. So it was no surprise to see the Chauffeur wrangle Shimotori over to the edge and across for the methodical yori-kiri win. Kyokutenho picks up kachi-koshi with the win while Shimotori falls to a decent 7-6.

M6 Bushuyama and M12 Homasho treated us to an ugly affair that saw the two fight from the hidari-yotsu position the first half where neither rikishi wanted to pull the other in. Perhaps there was some barrier hanging from Dolly's chest preventing it? Anyway, the second half of the bout saw the two separated and engaged in a lightweight tsuppari affair where Homasho waited for Bushuyama to just lose his balance so he could push him down to a lowly 1-12 record. Homasho improves to 7-6. The difference for Bushuyama this basho is he has zero de-ashi.

M10 Aran used a quick hari-te with the left at the tachi-ai against M7 Tamawashi before getting his left arm on the inside, but Tamawashi is just too long and strong and was able to counter nicely with the left inside position of his own. Without the advantage, Aran just settled in waiting for the hard-to-get Tamawashi to make up his mind, and the Mongolian did just that yanking the Russian hard over to the edge and across with a kote-nage throw using the right hand. Tamawashi clinches kachi-koshi at 8-5 with the beautiful display while Aran falls to the same mark.

M14 Hakuba used what else but a henka at the tachi-ai against M7 Wakanosato. But the move was too lite...just like his sumo...and Wakanosato read it like girly magazine getting his left arm on the inside and reeling Hakuba in close enough to where he also grabbed the right outer grip. Wakanosato tried to dispose of Hakuba quickly at the edge with a right outer belt throw, but the feisty Mongolian countered with a left scoop throw attempt that nearly worked due to Hakuba's longer arms and legs. But Wakanosato held his ground and didn't fail on the second attempt, this time pulling down at the back of Hakuba's head with the left hand and keeping a bit of separation at the edge disabling a Hakuba (8-5) counter move. Wakanosato improves to 9-4.

M13 Tamanoshima and M9 Shotenro settled into the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai meaning both had inside lefts. Shotenro just doesn't have the strength in his lower body this basho to move a bigger opponent around, so Tamanoshima calmly pinched inwards on Shotenro's left inside position rendering Shotenro the perfect force-out fodder from there. Great stuff from Tamanoshima who moves to 7-6 while Shotenro has definitely fallen and can't get up at 3-10.

M16 Koryu gave an honest effort against M10 Tochiohzan, but he could never dictate the pace of the bout as Tochiohzan just waited for an opening as he fought the pesky Koryu off with the occasional tsuppari to the neck. Said opening came about three seconds in when Tochiohzan secured moro-zashi and quickly disposed of his student who could do nothing but take notes on the way out. Oh secures kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Koryu is just 3-10.

While M11 Takamisakari was fooling around for a solid inside position, M14 Iwakiyama just turned up the engines on his de-ashi using a beefy right arm on the inside to keep the Robocop in front of him as he pushed Forrest back and out faster than it took to read this. Great stuff from Iwakiyama who really turned things around improving to 9-4. Takamisakari is 6-7 and closer than ever to denying us of his kachi-koshi interview. Course, if I was having dinner with a gall sporting double-G's later in the evening, winning a sumo bout would be the last thing on my mind.

M16 Toyohibiki picked up his tenth win today against M11 Mokonami focusing his tachi-ai squarely at Mokonami's chest with his wicked tsuppari attack. It helped that Mokonami complied with a worthless tachi-ai putting a hand high to to the Hutt's head without even trying to pull. The damage was done in about two seconds as Mokonami suffers make-koshi at 5-8.

You gotta feel for M15 Kitataiki who looked great reeling off seven quick wins against two losses only to injure his knee in a fluke bout with henka-phile Hakuba. Kitataiki just didn't have the strength to finish off his opponents, and he was resorting to henka sumo to desperately try and pick up that eighth, but today against M12 Tosayutaka, Kitataiki settled down charging straight forward ending up in the migi-yotsu position against his smaller opponent. Tosayutaka looked to apply the pressure, but his arms just weren't long enough to grab that left outer grip and gain the advantage, so with Kitataiki digging in admirably, Tosayu-Croca went for a maki-kae, but Kitataiki was on the move and ushered Tosayutaka out faster than Eric Blair trying to gain entrance to the Sumotalk basho after party. Both rikishi end the day at 8-5, and yes, this is Kitataiki's first ever kachi-koshi in the division.

And finally, M15 Tochinonada looked to polish off Juryo Okinoumi getting his preferred left inside position, but it was the younger Okinoumi who finished off the veteran at the ring's edge with a right outer belt throw in a classic nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge. At J2 looks like we'll see Okinoumi in Makuuchi this spring. As for Tochinonada (4-9), he'll look to polish off his peers and not visitors in the Juryo ranks next basho.

That's pretty much a wrap on the basho. Good luck to my two comrades mopping up the final two days on finding something to talk about. Martin gives 'er a go tomorrow. He's also reporting.

Day 12 (Mark Arbo reporting)
Greetings participants and spectators alike, how hang you?

It's 4:15 and I have just poured myself on the couch in front of my TV, like the thick and creamy cocktail I just poUred over crackling ice. 

With MacBook (Mac pays me handsomely too throw that in ... I'm also wearing a Billabong cap and a Tollyboy Chastity Belt ) in front of me I am excited to describe every nuance of the skeptical I am about to behold to you, the lowly but lovely SumoTalk reader.

And here is what I'm seeing-

Fuelled by DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa's (Not to be confused with Maria Ozawa!) mismanagement of political donations the new Diet session continues to be firry. The LDP party who were recently ousted for being grossly corrupt are attacking Japans newly elected officials for being grossly corrupt. LDP guys are getting up and saying "You guys are grossly corrupt" and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama (sounds like a girls name to me) stands up and says "We are not grossly corrupt".

"DAMN IT!! This isn't sumo!"

I begin scouring the net for a place that is streaming the action. The first few places don't work and the Nihon Sumo Kyokai's stream is still comedically small (seriously, if you have never seen this have a look HERE).  It is a few bouts in but I finally have a good working feed.

For some reason, to me, Tosayutaka looks more like an actor hired to play the part of a sumo wrestler than an actual rikishi ... Might that even be a wig he is wearing?? While he has racked up a bunch of early wins this time around, it may as well have been a Hollywood extra (Say Clint Howard) in there with Wakanosato to day. The former Sekiwake got inside, backed Clint up and then dumped him with a Sukuinage at the bails. Either way, both these guys will rest soundly tonight hugging their big loveable 8n'4s.

Mr. Bush has looked as daft as the presidents who bore his name. Today he started by not even trying to grab belt and then, seeing his opportunity, he opened up his arms and let Tochiohzan into moro-zashi. With this 7th win Ozan's KK is assured. The less said about Dolly the better.

Kitataiki and Aminishiki were just squaring up do battle when BAMM!! Back to Japanese parliamentary debate! Turns out the LDP guys are still saying "You guys are grossly corrupt" and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama still says "We are not grossly corrupt" And Maria Ozawa still looks like this- She's 88(E)-58-86(cm) 35-23-34(in) and half Canadian don't you know?

Luckily, no one wanted to work even a minute late, and at exactly 5:00 everyone stood up like the little Pavlovian robots in suits that the are, bowed and called it a day. And NHK put their "regular scheduled programming" back on. Apparently Aminishiki had won the bout.

Hokutoriki vs. Kakizoe is pretty much a battle of all that is bad about sumo vs. all that is good. Unfortunately, the bastard henka'd and pushed his suppressed opponent out for the cheap win. The problem is that the vile hop came not from Hokutoriki (a guy who has shown his total lack of class over and over again) but from the proud little bulldog Kakizoe. No one (especially Hokutoriki and myself) saw that coming and in no way did it give me that "Haha, what goes around comes around ... now you know how it feels", feeling. It just kind of sucked.

Kisenosato basho has kind of careened off course. I bet Mike feels pretty dirty for all the times he pleasured himself watching Kissy's "brilliance" in week one. Today he almost gave up another one, letting Tamawashi push him straight back but, perhaps hearing Mikes ... "cheers" all the way from the U.S. of A, he woke up from his slumber just in time to force the action back to the centre of the ring. From there a tsuppari battle ensued which Kisenosato easily won. Tamawashi has 7 and will be happy pick up his KK. Kissy also will have to settle for a "futsu" KK this basho and everyone talking about how great he is going to be when he gets all his ducks in a row . . . just like they were saying 4 years ago. But hey, a KK at this rank is a thing to be proud of and if he runs the table from here on out (I bet you he won't) he can still get 10 wins.

In terms of (mis)treatment of Easter Europeans, Toyonoshima may well be second only to Genghis Khan. Today he got inside on another tall white dude, took moro-zashi and showed him the door. At 6-6 Tugboat could go either way. Tochinoshin, on the other hand, has already picked up 10 losses with a few days left to go. Glad I didn't pick him in Fantasy Sum... Damn it! I did! Oh well, despite forgetting to put my picks in for one basho, I can always brag that I was WORLD CHAMPION last year.

The Geeku got a rare hump-less win when he executed a retreating Kote-nage against Yoshikaze. Both these guys go back to the the locker room 5-7 praying for a win tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that ...

"It shows how bad Miyabiyama's gotten when he's forced back and out with a pushing attack from" Kakuryu. Lil' Kak, came into today 5-6 but having seen the worst of his opponents, I'll bet you a fish-faced Mongolian that he cruses to a KK. (NOTE: I am not saying that Mongolians are fish faced! I have hit on some absolutely striking Mongolians. It's just like if I say "He was an ugly retard". I'm not saying all retards are ugly. It's just that this one happened to be. The only thing all retards are, is retarded.) 

Baruto kept the slimmmmmest of Oz hopes alive with an underwelming performance today when he allowed Goeido inside to two decent belt grips but then use brute Bart strength to swing his superiorly positioned adversary around and over the straw 2007 Bart style. Bart usually looks as happy as a fat kid chasing the ice-cream truck when he skips down the flower-road after a win. But today his countenance had the gloom of a guy who knew he needed to do better.

Did you see Kill Bill? Did you like it? I sure did. Remember how "The Bride" was unconscious in the hospital and "Buck", the evil white-trash male nurse was letting ass holes in to do horrible things to her for $75. Well Takekaze is like The Bride and the assholes are the Jo'i. Not that they are ass holes, they are just doing what they should be doing; and that is totally manhandling the little guy with every manner of technique and kimari-te.

Now remember when The Bride wakes up bites the guys tongue off and then steals Buck's Pussy Wagon?? Well that's what Takekaze did to Kotooshu.

Takekaze waited at the line with both fists on the ground Kakizoe style. He came in low (how could he not) and after the initial contact brushed the leaning Ozeki to the side which sent him stumbling off balance. Without giving Shoe time to even square up Kaze switched to tsuppari sending the Ozeki side-stepping to the edge of the ring. With a left under Koto's armpit Kaze almost sent him out but Shoe walked the rope and finally squared up, just in time for Kaze to put both palms on his 1965 James Bond hairy chest and push him out. Walking back to the changing room Koto looked like a confused man-child who didn't quite "get" the role he is playing.

Being as longwinded as he is, I'm surprised that Dr. Mario forgot to mention that both Yokozuna were SUPER CRAZY AWESOME yesterday. Both those fights will be on their career highlight reels when it's all said and done. And to have those two fights on the same day was really something special.

Hak was impressive enough but look at THIS again. What Mr. Shoryu did there was truly EPIC!

The good Dr. also quipped, "This is the first time I see someone KO-d at the tachi-ai to be honest". There were a few that jumped right to mind. THIS ONE is amazing.  There is a similar one where my main-man Wakakirin "smokes" Yamamotoyama but my research team couldn't find me the clip.


After a long stare down, as the fans chanted "Harumafuji", Yokozuna Hakuho was greeted by an old school Ama popping tachi-ai. Before Hak could even raise his hands up the Ozeki had already landed a few stiff shots to Hak's throat. Then he landed a couple more. The combatants briefly separated. From this point things happened so very fast. The order of events was difficult to discern so for the first time in some time I had to do a sumo-geek frame by frame session. All for you.

After the brief separation Ama threw a left that may have been a legitimate attempt at a slap or may have just been a feint. Whatever it was it worked perfectly. With all the emotion of a man who had absorbed several unreciprocated slaps to the face, Hak took the bait and charged in with a hay-maker right of his own; looking to continue a tsuppari contest. Problem was, Ama wasn't there. From his probable bluff, Haru had continuing to move left. If Hak had swung left or Ama had slid right things wouldn't have been so bad ... but this was the perfect storm for the Yokozuna. The unmet power or Hak's swing sent him forward and to his left at the same instant that the Oz was sliding to his right. Before Hacks slap attempt was even finished Ama had already grabbed the vertical "ass-floss" part of the mawashi and the Yokozuna was (for the first time in my memory) ushered out in this most undignified procession. And that was loss number 2 for Hakuho.

Now believing that their cheers had the power to change the fates, the fans chanted "Ka-i-oh-Ka-i-oh", and someone whispered to me that they thought Asa was going to blow it. But Asa took it all in stride as he has so many times before. Pause any fight the instant after Asa beats his opponent and look at the "Ahhhh that's too bad" look on the faces of 80% of the fans.  Another 15% look indifferent. He must feel like his is going one-on-one against the world out there. But once again Asa robotically went through his beautiful, intense and intimidating pre-fight rituals and crouched down to meet the Ozeki.

Skipping the slap off the tachi-ai Asa crashed into Kaio and quickly grabbed an inside right while hoisting Kaio's right up high denying him any right hand grip. From there Asa stood the Oz up and patently began working Kaio back eventually picking him right up off the dohyo and placing him outside. 

So with 3 days left Asashoryu is your sole leader.

Now that his partner in crime Chiyotaikai has hung up his mawashi, you got to think that the all important 8th win is going to be harder and harder to come by for the Old Grey Mare. No mater what, after a career like his it's all gravy now anyway.

If you don't complete your homework I'm going to fly to each of your homes and personally break your television set and kiss your sister.

-Cook a little more. I know your busy but look up some interesting recipes on the net, invite some friends over have some fun.
-Don't miss Tochinoshin/Hokutoriki getting into a toilet bow filled with jello and having it out for meager win number 3
-Bart/Aminishiki and Asa/Kotooshu.
-Especially for you married guys or the ones who are just "Living in Sin": Find/Make/Steal some "Guy Time". Perhaps your lady friend is perfectly happy being with you 24/7, but it's stealing your vigour and it's taking your balls with it.
-Stand up, take off your pants and read Mike's day 13 report as low as you can in your work place.

Day 11 (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
So welcome back my faithful readers. First off I'd like to apologize, for it seems none of you made it all the way to the end of my previous report as I have not received a single e-mail as instructed at the bottom. I can't promise that I'll keep my mouth shut more now, so the experiment as such is moot anyway. Well all-in-all the basho seemed like it'll turn out quite an exciting basho with Baruto realistically still at the top of the leaderboard etc until yesterday a number of blokes upset a number of other blokes (Kisenosato, Kotooshu, Baruto for example come to mind). After that screwup the suspense kind of left and today's pairing of Asa vs. Bart doesn't look that mind blowing anymore. Anyway, enough of that jabbering, let's get to the bouts:

The day kicks off with an ailing oldster Tochinonada taking on a visitor from Juryo Tokusegawa. And considering that the visitor is on the verge of getting his eight and promotion to Makuuchi I already feel sorry for Nada. But it seems Tokusegawa was too excited about the prospects for he didn't quite know what to do when Nada neutralized his attempt for a belt at the tachi-ai so it was easy meat for Nada to send the youngster picking himself up from clay.  I doubt Nada will remain in Makuuchi even when he wins all the rest, but who knows. I think if he loses one more he may go intai to keep himself from fighting in the lower divisions. Tokusegawa can attempt KK tomorrow in his home division. 

The unexpected KK owner Hakuba was fed today to Shimotori and to be honest I had already days ago stopped betting against Hakuba, he's got some new might in him so better let this one unfold as it goes. As they charged Hakuba pulled his usual strategy of henka'ing to his left, but Shimotori wasn't fooled for he grabbed a nice left uwate that he used to send the upstart to the clay with a nice uwatenage throw. Ah, good to see Hakuba lose after a henka. 

Remember I mentioned in my previous report that Toyohibiki has under performed previously this low and that it looked like finally a breakout basho. Well he looked good in the first part of week one, but in the few past days he's sucked and looks to be settling in nicely in the lower ranks. Homasho on the other hand is even-steven coming in and has been mostly in the shadows this basho not showing anything worth commenting on. The bout went pretty much as one expected with Hibiki charging hard with tsuppari, but getting neutralized by Homasho. Hibiki then changed gears and tried to send Homey sideways with a slapdown when the latter charged back. From there on Homey tried also some pulling sumo, but Hibiki was on him and used his left arm to work Homey to the straw and out. KK for Hibiki, his first since May, but I won't break out the champagne before he ends up 11-4 or better. Homey keeps to the shadows as he's done the whole basho. I doubt he'll be a top ranker, more likely a mid-ranker lifer. 

Youth vs. clown power in the next one when Tosayutaka and Takamisakari are paired up. And youth it is as Yutaka works himself within seconds into moro-zashi from where it's only a formality in finishing off the clown. Another young winner and another kachi-koshi. And a well deserved one for Tosayutaka. We'll see if we'll get a Takami interview this basho, he's not that bad at 6-5. 

Well Oh Poo's been on and off this basho, but he is given Kitataiki who looked to have re-injured himself. Considering the injury it's no surprise to see Kitataiki fly to his left from the get-go so why should he have expected Oh Poo to be surprised either? Oh Poo nicely recovered with a left inside grip that he extended by a right inner grip when Kitataiki tried to force Tochiohzan back and out and let go of his own grip for the push. Once in moro-zashi it wasn't that hard to send the injured guy back and out. Oh Poo improves over the 0.5 line and Kitataiki just needs one accidental win for his KK. 

A limping monkey could have done about the same as Koryu's done this basho and it doesn't get easier for him today with Shotenro, even though the latter hasn't been at his full game. After four full mattas and some harsh words from the gyoji they finally locked up and it looked like Shotenro all the way with a strong hidari-yotsu grip, but Koryu managed a maki-kae giving him moro-zashi and just as Shotenro was trying to finish him off at the tawara for a yori-kiri win it was instead Koryu who dropped the under performing Mongolian with a belt less throw. Me, Ross and everyone else were surprised how Shotenro lost this one, but oh well, what do you do.

Iwakiyama had a terrible first five days, but has recovered very well with a nice winning streak. Kokkai however hasn't looked that good with a lot of evasive and pull sumo that has cost him. Well it seems one can start betting on Iwakiyama again for the two locked up from start and as soon as Iwaki got a nice left outside grip and made sure it was secure he just escorted Kokk back and out without any problems. In total a superb recovery from awful first five days for Iwakiyama.

Another oldie of Tamanoshima meeting Asasekiryu that should be easy enough to predict, but it seems Secretary lost his mojo some days ago so not that sure. Sexy got his favorite grip from the get go, but couldn't capitalize and even almost lost the bout early on when Tamanoshima tried to wrench him out using said favorite left grip. Sexy did manage to recover and go for the same grip again, but it was all Tamanoshima, who locked himself around that left inside grip and wrestled sexy back and down. Good and solid stuff form Tamanoshima and both guys end the day at 5-6. Secretary needs to recover for he's now been losing in consecutive days and isn't looking that good at all anymore. 

In the next bout whoever wins will get his KK so both Wakanosato and Aran giving their all on this one and it's been good to see both of them fight this basho for Aran has not used that much ugly sumo and Waka's been all nails too. Today it was smart sumo by Aran, who immediately locked his arms around the arms of Wakanosato who tried to go for two arm frontal grip. Now in awkward position Waka had no leverage against Aran and was as easy to escort out as a call girl after three long-islands. 

Bush has been his old self this basho with only an accidental win in his mawashi. Mokonami's been not his full self, but has been ok the last few days. As the two charged and locked up it was Mokonami who got a left inside grip while Bush featured no sniff of any belt. Bush did attempt to wrestle Mokonami back, but Mokonami with a belt grip survived the attempt easily and after some struggling in the middle of the dohyo decided to instead go for a throw that he pulled off nicely. Bush falls to double digit losses and things are as they should in this world.

So now that you've had your sandwiches crafted during the break between first and second half, let's continue with Espresso meeting the Mawashi. And as we know Tamawashi isn't really a Mawashi player so it's no surprise that he came out with some strong pushing attack. The surprise was that Yoshikaze was not able to fight back at all no matter that he dismantled Kotooshu just yesterday. 

Kakizoe got moro-zashi immediately from the charge, but Kyokutenho locked both of the small guy's arms and used them to throw sweet Zoe down. A quick and easy bout where Kaki couldn't really do that much. 

Aminishiki has looked good despite that bum leg. I've been expecting him to throw in the towel on multiple days now, but he still comes back and actually wins. However today it's tough considering that he's been handed Kisenosato, no matter that the latter has fallen on his nose on multiple days in row the past few days. The two charged with some heavy tsuppari with Aminishiki being the one to gain an opening and wiggling inside Kisenosato's reach. He didn't quite gain a belt grim from that, but he got close enough that when the two circled a bit it was Aminishiki who got a right inside grip. So Kisenosato had to think fast and while backpedaling and being slightly at an angle. He kept his wrist around Ami's left wrist effectively neutralizing both hands and while pivoting went for a throw with the left arm while Aminishiki was going for the throw himself. Both men flew and fell on the clay and rolled off the dohyo, but it was Kisenosato who had managed the better throw sending Aminishiki down to the clay a fraction of a second before he himself landed on top of Mr. Sneaky. Fishy sumo and a lot of reverse gear action, but at least a nice recovery with that armlock throw. It didn't hurt Aminishiki as much as it could have with his KK in the bag and Kisenosato definitely needed to get back to winning ways so all in all not a bad outcome. 

The giant killer Toyonoshima took on the Fatman sheriff and it shows how bad Miyabiyama's gotten when he's forced back and out with pushing attack from Toyonoshima. I mean Toyonoshima is a belt fighter and a thrower, but he didn't even try to go for a belt and still had Miya backpedalling. Toyonoshima improves to 5-6 and will probably KK while Fatman's make koshi is official now. 

Tochinoshin is playing an interesting game. I mean he is injured, he knows he's injured and he is losing. Yeah, he won against Kotomitsuki who went kyujo soon after, but he's been mostly losing and I don't see how that's that great for his shoulder. But who am I to tell him to go and rest it out? Well today he didn't get any easy meat either with Kakuryu who has been on and off. And that on-off pattern showed again today for he did get moro-zashi immediately, but it took him a full 30 seconds or so to finish off Shin. I mean you have double inside grip, your opponent is injured and you can't finish him off? Oh well, he did win in the end, but he's not as good as he was two basho ago.

Kotoshogiku's record sucks, but he did have the tough first week. Still it seems he is struggling also with foes he shouldn't be and the NSK didn't give him many favors till now with today's matchup with Goeido. The hope that Japan has in a next Ozeki or Yokozuna from the sunrise country lies mainly in the fella, and well that hope seems slim right about now. Goeido is one of the two guys who has gotten a Yokozuna scalp this basho, but it was more of an accident than strategy to be honest. Today the two bounced off of each other and started a small tsuppari game as neither had gained a grip and while they fished for one were thrown away by the other one. Goeido didn't play the game for long though and after 10s he just sidestepped and guided Giku with his left arm from himself and to the clay.  Nothing spectacular, but it's a win. Giku can't lose anymore if he wants a positive score while Goeido is at a safe-ish 6-5 needing only half of the remaining days. 

Jokester was fed to Harry for breakfast. And Harry had a nice breakfast at that. Do you really need to know more? Oh well, Harry charged hard, got moro-zashi and finished all over Hokutoriki who was behind the straw.

So will we have yaocho now? Kotooshu meeting Kaio always begs that question for one can never be sure what they have worked out in the background and now after multiple losses Kotooshu really doesn't have a real motive to win for he will have his eight anyway already. As they met both immediately went for the belts with hidari-yotsu. From there Kotooshu didn't waste a single microt and quickly had Kaio moving backwards and out on his ass. So it seems that the yaocho game's not quite on yet or Kotooshu seems to think that he has a shot for something still that he needs to prove. With the final four days this isn't looking that bright for Kaio as he's 6-5 and needs two more wins and he ain't getting them from the Y-s so he needs to win against both Maegashira who he gets. Very likely one of them is Kisenosato who as we all know from the Japanese press is someone who doesn't do yaocho. So, how will Kaio get his KK? Win legitimately (puhlease). 

So the featured bout of the day. We saw Baruto dismantle one Yokozuna, will I get a chance to report on another day that sees Baruto upset a Yokozuna?  I'm really envious about the fact that Martin got to report about the first upset, but oh well. In any case Asashoryu had probably heard some of the stuff that the hana-michi reporters had gotten from Baruto that Bart wants to charge with some tsuppari so he quickly got past the arms of Baruto and secured himself a nice left inside grip. However he knew that giving Baruto a sniff of the belt will be a mistake so he kept his ass as far away as humanly possible while maintaining at least a decorum of balance. With both arms locked close to the elbows Baruto didn't have a real plan B or C for that matter. So what does Asa do? He settles nicely in a defensive position/posture and let's Baruto think things are cooling down a little. However once things had cooled a little and Bart seemed to be in thoughts was the moment that Asa activated and tried to work himself into an actual grip. He did get the left inner, but he also managed to keep Baruto away from sniffing the belt for more than mere microts. Once they re-settled it was Baruto who had to lock his arms in hopes that he can control the Yokozuna (seems counter-intuitive to be honest). Once Asa felt that Baruto had settled himself there for a while he immediately dove deeper, grabbed a stronger mawashi grip and used that to hoist Baruto away form him throwing him to the clay like a sack of grain. And to add insult to injury the belt grip that he used for the throw was the part of mawashi that runs up Bart's crack. Yikes. Oh well Asa was just too good today and his defensive posture worked out flawlessly. This also means that it's almost impossible for Baruto now to get the Ozeki promotion so let's wait for Haru basho for that talk again. 

The next bout is quite an easy one to comment. Poor small Takekaze didn't have a chance against as powerful a rikishi as Hakuho, but I doubt anyone thought that he might actually be so overwhelmed by the meeting that he just faints. Well that's what it looked like until you saw the replay where it looks like the pure power of Hakuho's tachi-ai just physically knocked Takekaze out cold. This is the first time I see someone KO-d at the tachi-ai to be honest. I recommend getting the video from somewhere and watching it, it's not every day that you see a full KO from sumo feed. And it took Takekaze quite a while to get back up (like in boxing). 

Well that's it from me this basho. I hope you enjoyed the fun while it lasted and now it's just the homestretch for Hakuho. He does get his only real test tomorrow against Harry, but no real chance for Yusho for the weasel there so the outcome is pretty certain already now. So for tomorrow, Mark will serve the booze and invite the ladies to watch the fat men in diapers wrestle on top of a ring of clay that is wet after every bout and with thousands of people watching...

Day 10 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's been a roller coaster of a basho for sure with Asashoryu's early fluke loss putting Hakuho in the driver's seat after five days only to have Baruto finally rise up and topple Hakuho on day 7 leaving both Yokozuna, two Ozeki, and Baruto all tied at one loss heading into the second week giving sumo fans hope again. But after day 10, the basho has taken another downturn to the point where the only way it an be salvaged is to have both Yokozuna fight straight up on senshuraku. And speaking of day 10, it was a perfect microcosm of the sumo world at large in explaining why the Mongolians rule, and why the other furreners lag behind despite their obvious size advantages. But I'll touch on that more in the report, so let's get right to the action starting from the bottom up.

M14 Iwakiyama latched onto a firm right outer grip at the tachi-ai against M15 Tochinonada who of course complied with his preferred position, the left inside. So, the yotsu contest was on with each rikishi enjoying his favored grip, but there's a reason Iwakiyama was fighting among the jo'i last basho while Tochinonada was in Juryo, and it showed as Iwakiyama dictated the pace the entire bout as the two danced around the ring in the yotsu-zumo contest that saw Iwakiyama dump Nada to the dirt in the end with that right outer grip. Iwakiyama has rebounded well with five straight wins to now stand at 6-4 while Tochinonada has already suffered make-koshi at 2-8.

There are few rikishi that I just loathe, but M14 Hakuba is one of them. Dude doesn't have a single straight-forward win this basho that comes to mind, and he was 7-2 coming in. Today against M15 Kitataiki, Hakuba henka'd again holding up at the tachi-ai, moving to his right, and immediately latching onto a right outer grip to mask the henka. Hakuba's henka was slow, which made him vulnerable, but when a guy has won seven times with henka, damned if you're gonna charge straight into him with all you have. Kitataiki didn't and thus surrendered the outside position. Hakuba immediately went to work tripping from the outside of Kitataiki's left leg with his own right as he pulled the trigger on the outer belt throw. Kitataiki had nowhere to go but down, but in the process his left leg was tangled with Hakuba's right causing his knee to twist awkwardly as he hit the dohyo. Kitataiki was very slow in getting up and limped back to the dressing room. Tis the problem with knee injuries and a sport like sumo; they never fully heal. At 7-3 can he somehow muster that final win? I hope so. If he does go kyujo, he'd likely stay in the division at the bottom rung because I think the other oyakata are terrified of Kitanoumi, and will make sure they keep his boy there. As for Hakuba, he clinches kachi-koshi at 8-2, but I'm gonna continue to ride his ass well into next basho. The problem is he's found a formula where he can win, but said formula equals a tachi-ai henka every bout. To make matters worse, you look at his kimari-te on paper, and it looks pretty legit, but this is a wolf in sheep's clothing. I loathe the guy.

M16 Koryu used a straight arm with the left into M12 Homasho's neck at the tachi-ai in an attempt to keep him at bay, but his efforts were futile as Homie quickly latched onto a left outer grip. Homasho knew what to do from there, and although it took him longer than it shoulda, he forced Koryu over to the edge and out for the nice win. Homasho stands at 5-5 while Koryu drops to 1-9. Compare Koryu to Hakuba, and it's a perfect example of what the henka can do for one in sumo. These guys aren't that far apart in actual ability.

M10 Tochiohzan delivered a moro-te tachi-ai into M13 Tamanoshima's throat hoping to parlay that into the solid moro-zashi position, and while he did get both hands on the inside, Tamanoshima easily pinched inwards from the outside pulling Oh in close and bellying him back towards the straw. Tochiohzan just didn't have the muscle to counter allowing Tamanoshima to bring his left arm from the outside in sealing the force-out deal from there. It's as if Tochiohzan hasn't fully awaken from his nap this basho at 5-5 while Tamanoshima ekes his way to 4-6.

M9 Shotenro timed his tachi-ai perfectly against M11 Takamisakari today catching the Cop with a low head butt before driving him straight back to the straw in a flash, but Shotenro just can't catch a break this basho, and despite having Takamisakari by the short hairs, the Robocop took advantage of Shotenro's sloppy sumo by evading to his right at the edge in desperation as he pulled down at Shotenro's right shoulder with his left hand. Shotenro failed to adjust and stepped out of the ring before he officially had Takamisakari forced back and across. Watching it live, it looked like Shotenro just kicked Takamisakari's ass, and even Takamisakari gave that exaggerated "what, I won?" look to please the audience, but in the end, Shotenro stepped out before he was able to finish his opponent off. Takamisakari gets a gimme today to move to 6-4 while Shotenro has fallen and can't get up at 3-7 (good ole knee injury gets you every time).

M11 Mokonami went through M8 Tokitenku today as if Tenku didn't even show up. Great stuff from Okonomiyaki who improves to 4-6 while Tokitenku falls to 5-5. Mokonami has won three straight to restore hope of a comeback kachi-koshi while the Nostradamus in me says Tokitenku finishes this basho at 5-10.

M8 Asasekiryu wanted no part of M16 Toyohibiki's charge, so he gave us a not-so-sexy tachi-ai henka to his left, but Toyo the Hutt comes from a hive of villainy and scum and has seen trickery before, so he read the move perfectly and began bludgeoning his compromised opponent back and out with a powerful oshi-dashi attack. You gotta love it when a guy henka's and gets his ass kicked like Asasekiryu (5-5) today. Toyohibiki improves to 7-3 with the nifty display.

M7 Tamawashi used his length to pummel M12 Tosayutaka upright from the tachi-ai with a series of thrusts into Tosayutaka's neck, but coming from the Tokitsukaze-beya, Tosayutaka is used to bullying and stood his ground well desperately trying to get to the inside. Tamawashi completely controlled the bout with his tsuppari attack, but the threat of Tosayutaka getting to the inside kept him from committing fully and using his de-ashi to move his opponent back and out, and as Tamawashi began to tire, Tosayutaka was able to force the bout into a sixth grade slow dance where both rikishi held each other at bay with straight arms to the other's shoulder. Tosayutaka didn't wait long, however, quickly moving in tight, securing moro-zashi, and completely turning the tables on his gal for the improbable force-out win. Props to the little fella who improves to 7-3 while Tamawashi is cooling off at 6-4. Could Tamawashi be playing the role of the 50 year-old guy with stamina issues? We'll have to watch him the rest of the year, but prescribe him some of those blue diamonds in the meantime.

M9 Kokkai came with a wild hari-te with the right hand against M7 Wakanosato, but it was slow enough that Wakanosato was able to shake it off while securing the right inside position. Kokkai's initial face slap was so out of control that it actually threw him off balance a bit, so Wakanosato was able to grab the left outer grip as well and use it to yank Kokkai over to the edge before dumping him to the clay with a super throw. You rarely see an uwate-nage win from the Crocodile, but he'll take his 7-3 record to the bank. Kokkai falls to 4-6 with a sloppy effort.

M6 Bushuyama used an awkward push with both hands at M13 Shimotori's chest from the tachi-ai, but his elbows were extended outwardly decreasing the effect of his push, so with Bushuyama barreling forward unable to make Shimotori bear the brunt of his weight, Shimotori had the room to back up and just pull the hapless Bushuyama down to the dohyo by the back of the head not to mention a 1-9 record. The magic that Dolly enjoyed the last three basho or so has disappeared, but at least he had some nice cushioning to break his fall. Shimotori improves to 4-6.

Finding out yesterday that M10 Aran is actually a cancer survivor and that the disease caused him to drop a lot of weight, I'm willing to wipe the slate clean and write off his henka-filled sumo the last year if he continues to fight straight up as he has largely done this basho. Today against M6 Aminishiki, Aran gave an honest charge, but it was Shneaky who held up at the tachi-ai just a bit in an effort to throw his opponent a change-up and force the bout to an ugly pullfest. His wish came true as both rikishi danced around the ring trading pushes and pulls, but Aminishiki's length and experience won out here as Aran completely lost track of where he was in the dohyo and stepped out of the ring before Aminishiki could finish him off for good. Doesn't mean Aminishiki wasn't going to win this bout anyway...because he was...but Aran has got to understand where he stands at all times. He'll still take that 7-3 mark while Aminishiki improves to 8-2.

M3 Hokutoriki used his usual moro-te tachi-ai against M5 Kyokutenho, but his feet were slipping and sliding behind him rendering him unable to budge the Chauffeur. Kyokutenho just slipped into the migi-yotsu position from there and forced Jokutoriki (2-8) back and out in a flash. Tenho is underachieving at 4-6.

And speaking of underachieving, has M3 Kisenosato just given up on the basho? Today against M4 Kakizoe the Kid managed to get his left arm on the inside from the tachi-ai as he fished for the right outer grip, but his effort was so half-asssed that Kakizoe was able to slip to the side and actually secure moro-zashi. With Kakizoe moving laterally, he didn't have great momentum despite his dual inside position, and Kisenosato actually latched onto a right outer grip over the top, but I just didn't see any urgency from the Kid as Sweet Zoe Jane feistily worked him over to the edge and then forced him back and across for the improbable yori-kiri win. Wasn't Kisenosato 5-0 to start this thing off including a dominating win over Baruto? Granted, the Kid went 0-4 against the following rikishi: Kotooshu, Harumafuji, Hakuho, Asashoryu; but he can't just let down now, especially when the rest of his opponents will be cake. Devastating loss for Kisenosato who falls to 5-5. We'll find out more about his mental makeup the final five days. As for Kakizoe, he has done wonders to keep his record at 5-5 this deep into the basho.

When you have two guys coming in at 2-7, you're probably going to get un ugly affair as each will do anything out of desperation for a win. M1 Tochinoshin charged low into M2 Miyabiyama, but NoShine didn't have a plan, so Miyabiyama just yanked him forward while he retreated out of the way. Tochinoshin stumbled off balance, so Miyabiyama promptly went in for the pulldown kill. The Sheriff's first attempt drove Tochinoshin as close to the dohyo as you can come without touching, and while it was noble of Shin to survive that, the next pull maneuver was already on its way forcing Tochinoshin to put his hand to the dirt to break his fall. Ugly stuff all around has Miyabiyama barely survives at 3-7 while Tochinoshin's make-koshi is official at 2-8. I guess Tochinoshin has his shoulder taped up heavily, which indicates he could be suffering from an injury, but I've read it on his face early on that he wants no part of the jo'i...injury or not.

M2 Goeido's tachi-ai henka of Komusubi Kakuryu was as pre-meditated as they come, but I have to hand it to him, it was as well'an executed move as I've seen in a long time. The two rikishi barely butted heads at the tachi-ai, but Goeido was already moving left and raising both hands to the back of Kakuryu's head pulling the Kak down in less than a sticky second. Nothing more to see here as Goeido picks up the gimme at 5-5 while Kakuryu falls to 4-6. I normally hate to see the henka, but I think it's funny when it happens to a guy who deserves it. Still, Goeido's gotta man back up and show us some good sumo the rest of the way.

Baruto, Baruto, Baruto. While the Sekiwake has made huge strides outwardly in his sumo this basho, he showed a huge mental lapse today taking the smaller M1 Toyonoshima for granted in thinking he could just show up, grab the outer grip over the top, and win. Not so as Toyonoshima bullied his way into the moro-zashi position leaving Baruto so upright that Toyonoshima was able to lift him clear off his feet as he bellied him upwards forcing the Sekiwake all the way back to the straw. Baruto held on by a thread and tried in desperation to pull Toyonoshima to the side and out, but it was all with the arms and no body, so Toyonoshima was able to reload and push Baruto out of the ring for good and to a costly second loss. I stated earlier in the basho that the difference in Baruto's sumo in Hatsu was that he was forcing at least one arm to the inside of his opponent at the tachi-ai. That's what set up his win over Hakuho, and that's what has made guys start to fear him again. But he got lazy and made a half-assed effort to get his left arm on the inside today, and he paid the price dearly. Toyonoshima moves to 4-6 with the outstanding win, and while Baruto only falls to 8-2, this loss was devastating in terms of Ozeki promotion.

I know a lot of people were thinking that he could be promoted after this basho coming on the heels of his win over Hakuho and even NHK showed a graphic today totaling Baruto's wins over the last three basho, but the unwritten 33-wins over three basho rule is no longer applicable (for reasons Clancy has pointed out before). In recent years, guys like Miyabiyama and Kotomitsuki managed to win 34 bouts over three basho, yet they were denied promotion, so don't think for a minute that Baruto is a shoe-in even if he gets 34. The biggest problem facing the Estonian is that there was zero talk of Ozeki promotion prior to the basho. It just wasn't on the minds of the people who matter most (the oyakata), so to actually receive the promotion when the Association hasn't prepared themselves for the possibility beforehand is asking too much. If Baruto can beat Asashoryu tomorrow and run the table finishing 13-2 (an unlikely scenario), it would be hard for the Association to deny him since he'da beat both Yokozuna, but that would only total 34 wins over three basho, which is no longer a done deal. My personal opinion is that Baruto is close but not yet ready. I want to see two solid basho in a row; not solid basho every other tournament. Up your consistency another half-step, and the rank is yours.

With Baruto having suffered a severe mental lapse today, Ozeki Kotooshu musta thought it gave him license to suck as well because he did a great job at it. Against M5 Yoshikaze, the Ozeki showed no urgency whatsoever thinking he could just stand there upright and wait for his opponent to walk into an outer grip, but Yoshikaze had other thoughts firing a few tsuppari into the Bulgarian's chest before unleashing a right-handed hari-te that caused Kotooshu's knees to buckle nearly landing him on the dirt. Kotooshu did regain his balance, however, but it wasn't until this point that he realized his true predicament. But it was too late as Cafe was on him like flies to stink and oshi-dashi'ed his ass clear out of the ring for an unlikely win and 5-5 record. Kotooshu falls to 7-3, which officially knocks him outta the yusho race. At two losses with both Yokozuna coming up, the Ozeki wasn't gonna yusho anyway, but he had a chance to make things interesting. At least now he's been freed up to hand Kaio a much-needed win.

Let me just stop at this point and finish what I started in my intro. Physically, the Eastern European rikishi are superior to everyone else, but these two bouts are perfect examples of why they will never rise higher than the rank of Ozeki. You just can't afford to let up mentally over the 15 days...not even once, but these guys do it all the time, and that's why they're outfought by the Mongolians on a consistent basis. In Japanese, it's called konjou. The Mongols have it; the other don't. And that's what makes them so good.

Moving along, Ozeki Harumafuji showed little class today by using a tachi-ai henka against Ozeki Kaio moving to his right at the tachi-ai, grabbing the cheap outside grip, and then just twisting the veteran Ozeki over to the straw. But not quite out. As Kaio neared the straw, he did a 360 and actually managed to slip right out of Harumafuji's grip leaving the two now separated. Kaio's 360 move kept him moving along the perimeter of the dohyo allowing Harumafuji to reload and go for that final push-out kill, but Kaio had the presence of mind to dodge his fellow Ozeki at the last second and go for a desperation pulldown of his committed opponent at the edge. With Harumafuji falling towards the dirt, Kaio was able to somehow keep one foot on the tawara as he balanced himself just enough to where Harumafuji's forearm touched the dirt a split second before Kaio's foot touched anything.

Coupla points after this one. 1) Harumafuji fell prey to one of the oldest tricks in the book. In baseball when there's a runner on second base and the batter hits a fly ball deep into the outfield, if the outfielder knows the ball will hit the fence or if he knows he can't catch it, he will often pretend that he's preparing to catch it in hopes that the runner will think so too and prepare to tag up instead of taking the usual lead halfway between second and third base, which guarantees he'll score if the fielder doesn't make the catch. You see a guy get duped by this about once a month, and it's pretty funny. Well, Kaio being the old gray mare that he is will often slow up his step near the edge and just walk out at the end to save his body from further abuse when he knows he can't counter anyway. And he made that same motion today as well only to suddenly twist to the side and catch Harumafuji off guard. Harumafuji knew he had his opponent and let up...and cost him, but give props to the Ozeki for pulling move off.

2) The men in black absolutely had to call a mono-ii in this one, yet they didn't. Kaio's body was so far out of the ring that even if he technically hadn't stepped out yet, he was done. Furthermore, Harumafuji's body touching down and Kaio's foot stepping out occurred so close together that you at least have to call the mono-ii and go to the tape. We've seen countless bouts like this where a rematch was ordered or even where the rikishi in Harumafuji's position today was awarded the victory, but I'm pretty sure the judges were as pissed as I was that Harumafuji resorted to the tachi-ai henka, so they let the mono-ii slide and gave the win to Kaio. So one one hand, I didn't have a huge problem with the non-call; but on the other hand, had the been different, you would have seen a rematch ordered. Nevertheless, Harumafuji goes the way of Kotooshu falling to 7-3 while Kaio picks up a huge win at 6-4. You know he's gonna find a way to get those last two before basho's end. 

Having talked too much about sloppy sumo and terrible concentration, let's move to the Yokozuna rank and make things right. Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed Komusubi Kotoshogiku today fishing for left frontal grip at the tachi-ai while pushing the Geeku upright with a right hand to the throat. Hakuho never did get that left grip on the mawashi, but he showed good de-ashi to maintain the momentum while methodically forcing Kotoshogiku back close enough to the straw to where he took full advantage of that choke hold with the right hand using it to shove the Komusubi back and out by the neck. Ouch! Solid stuff from Hakuho who moves to 9-1 guaranteeing him at least a share of the lead while Kotoshogiku is a respectable 4-6.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Asashoryu employed his usual hari-zashi tachi-ai where he goes for a face-slap (hari) with one hand--the left today--and the inside position (sashi) with the opposite hand. Worked like a charm today thanks in large part to his opponent being M4 Takekaze, but still, after Baruto and Kotooshu's debacle today, you had to appreciate the Yokozuna taking care of business. Asashoryu parlayed his successful tachi-ai into a left outside grip, which once secured enabled the Yokozuna to wrap his opponent up neat as a bowtie and gently dump him to the dirt via yori-taoshi. With the win, Asashoryu improves to 9-1 and stands alongside Hakuho on the leaderboard while Takekaze is a very respectable 4-6.

In the history of Asashoryu and Hakuho's careers, they have never been caught from behind to surrender the yusho. And we're talking about 36 basho here. With one...the law of averages will catch up; but with two? It's coming down to either or. Still, guys like Baruto and Kotooshu have a chance to make a statement, so let's hope that the yusho hasn't been decided by the time I re-ascend the throne on Friday.

Let's also hope that Mario goes green tomorrow.

Day 9 (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Sure enough, as soon as the media started highlighting the consecutive win streak at first mention when talking about Hakuho, he loses. Still, being only the third sekitori to win 30 in a row twice (Futabayama, Taiho) is nothing to sneeze at. At any rate as we enter day 9, we have pretty much narrowed it down to the two Yokozuna and Sekiwake Baruto of the jolly interviews.

M15 Kitataiki, the only rank-and-filer hanging in there with one loss entering today's matches, lost in a gem with M12 Homasho (4-5). Taiki took the initiative in this back and forth bout forcing Homasho to the brink, but it was Homasho who showed the fortitude to grind it out and eventually come out on top with an Oshi-dashi win. Kitataiki drops to 7-2. 

Although Kaio is making every bout a nail biter these days, it was good to see him still able to overcome M3 Hokutoriki (2-7). Honestly it was a little sad to see him struggle with The Pretender, especially after locking him up, but at the same time who isn't happy to see the old vet with more wins now than losses (5-4)? To his credit Kaio never did get a grip on the belt, and worked patiently for the eventual Oshi-dashi. Three more wins, baby, three more wins.

M4 Takekaze gave it a go against Harumafuji, but it was the latter who outworked him for the win. Harumafuji (7-2) ended up getting the moro-zashi that Takekaze (4-5) was aiming for, resulting in an uneventful Yori-kiri decision. Chalk up another blue collar win for the Ozeki. 

In clearly the match of the day, Kotooshu and Baruto collided in a bout that made the dohyo look small. The key here was Baruto's ability to get the left uwate first and thus the upperhand (which Oshu stated as such when interviewed later). As it unfolded, Oshu found himself in moro-zashi but it was a bit squeezed and uncomfortable. To complicate matters, the Estonian behemoth lowed his head on him and forced the issue even more. All of this was too much for Oshu to overcome as Baruto (8-1) prevailed to keep his one-loss record intact. Kotooshu falls to 7-2 but is still in the hunt.

In probably the second most anticipated match-up today, Asashoryu met up with M3 Kisenosato. As predicted Sho opened with a hari-zashi, but this was a grand one as it knocked Kise clear the side allowing the Yokozuna to get deep on the left inside. Not sure if what came next was reaction or strategy, but immediately thereafter Sho went for a Kiri-kaeshi that toppled The Great Japanese Hope before anyone had a chance to catch a breath. Asashoryu is 8-1, Kisenosato 5-4. 

After two exciting bouts the closing match-up was a bit of a downer as Kakizoe could do nothing with Hakuho as you might predict. It looked like Zoe had a strategy to maneuver and play to his strength of his up-close and bottom-up oshi-zumo, but he was simply overmatched. Hakuho very calmly got inside and ushered the M4 out without breaking a sweat to go 8-1. Kakizoe drops to 4-5. 

Day 9 is in the books and we've got a three horse race between Hakuho, Asashoryu and Baruto at 8-1. Kotooshu still looms as an outside threat at 7-2, but it looks like it may be up to Baruto if someone is going to crash the Yokozuna party in this 2010 opener.

Mike's back tomorrow.

Day 8 (Andreas Kungl reporting)
A nakabi without Clancy is like a catastrophe flick without perfect makeup and blow-dried hair just after the wave/quake/fire dropped in for a visit. It's just too worldly, vulgar even, lacking in style, esprit, and most definitely devoid of an inherent promise for the general upturn of...uh...things...and stuff. On the other hand, a nakabi with Clancy is like a good song on your car radio, just after you got stuck in some New-Delhi-grade traffic jam on your way to the local police department, where you had wanted to say your "Hi" (on time!) -- a crucial condition for your probation. This song could be the Guns 'N Roses classic "You could be mine", for example. Not because I particularly like it. In fact I hate the pathetic f**kers. But that's not the point here. I suggested it because it makes an excellent hook for the next couple of paragraphs, which are basically concerned with what could be whose.

In this sense, the rarely awarded shukun-sho could be Baruto's. Correction: It should be Baruto's. His excellent achievement of obtaining a first Yokozuna scalp is just the icing on an already particularly fruity basho. The interesting question is, could promotion be Baruto's, too? Or even the yusho? Let's put it like this: After today's bout against Harumafuji -- read further down for details -- he will have to face Asashoryu, Kotooshu and five more Maegashira. If he doesn't totally collapse for some reason, we should be talking about the 12-13 wins region. With making it twelve, he'd formally conquer the 33 wins barrier that is considered minimal for Ozprom. Feathers in his cap are that everyone knows he should be an Ozeki, that he finally verified to be able to beat a Yokozuna, and that the content of his sumo has significantly improved over the last year. Black eyes are the win pattern over the last three basho (12-9-?), the fact that one of his wins was by default, and -- lastly -- that he is a foreign devil. Could he also take down Asashoryu, get at least the jun-yusho (preferably in a kettei-sen), or both, then his chances should increase noticeably.

Even though I am reluctant to prematurely award the yusho to Baruto, it could be his, but it is not likely. The fun of Hatsu 2010 comes from the fact that on entering Day 8 the yusho could be either Kotooshu's, Harumafuji's, Aminishiki's, Hakuba's, Kitataiki's, or Toyohibiki's, too. Of course the Maegashira have odds of 1/500 each. Nevertheless, the fact that not a single rikishi found himself flawless on entering Day 8 (for the first time since Aki 2008) psychologically infects us with the notion that something incredibly exiting may happen concerning the yusho race. As it is in such situations, our minds are playing tricks on us. Boring as it may seem, the most likely scenario is still Hakuho waltzing away with 14-1. Replace the name with Asashoryu's for the next likely option. These dudes amassed 36 championships for a reason. On the other hand, a multiple-rikishi playoff is not totally out of the question, yet. And that is a wonderful thing.

So "What could be whose?" has still another dimension. Ours could be an exciting year 2010, because of the changing of guard in the Ozeki ranks. Let's waste a thought on the situation as it was before the demise of Chiyotaikai: One of the greatest Yokozuna of all times was on a gradual retreat to make room for a peer who will have a career of at least matching superiority. Suchwise, the quality level at the very top basically constituted a division of its own. Consequently, there hasn't been a yusho winner from outside Yokozuna or Ozeki ranks for more than eight years, the longest period since the introduction of the six basho per year routine. Add to this that the Ozeki have been paralyzing themselves and each other for many years now -- either out of inability or for involvement in uninspired exchange of favours -- to get the most boring of results: In the last six years we saw a staggering four Ozeki championships achieved by someone not called Asashoryu or Hakuho. So while we had an almost unconquerable top duo and a huge mass of impotent rank-and-filers, the layer in between -- the Ozeki -- had all the quality of mere insulation, protecting the hapless satellites from the constant overcharge produced by Jupiter and Saturn. All this may change with the breaking of the status quo. With Chiyotaikai gone, the Ozeki Rank Conservation Machine starts to produce grinding noises. As of nakabi, Kotomitsuki predictably withdrew from the basho. Martin gave you the arithmetic for Kaio's kachi-koshi chances only yesterday. Don't expect either of the two to keep his rank until 2011. And don't look now, but all of a sudden the two legitimate Ozeki as well as the only legitimate Ozeki candidate all produce numbers that promise a little bit of yusho suspense. Maybe the realization dawned that a decrease in personal rank security may actually lead to an increase in competitiveness. Hope should be ours.

Are you like me, who cannot stop himself from continuing to read as soon as he stumbles across a spoiler alert? Here is an excerpt of what happened on the dohyo today:

Our adoptee NHK commentator Ross Mihara maybe involuntarily revealed the truth about Tochinonada's current state, when he called his win over Koryu "a surprise". In an unattractive bout full of impotent pushing action, Koryu significantly failed to transport his declining counterpart over the tawara. Gladly, the veteran reversed the process just before he could suffer from a stroke, heart-attack or likewise. Both men are due to another stint in Juryo, the former Sekiwake more likely on his way to retirement.

Iwakiyama welcomed another visitor from the second division. Okinoumi, formerly known as Fukuoka, formerly known as Okinoumi, formerly known as Fukuoka dropped in for a lesson. And so it came to be. Flatface employed a quick hand to his opponent's throat in order to get into a favorable position straight away. From here both men struggled in an unusual high stance, which was forced by the M14 to keep his aite from gaining any significant grip. Because of their considerable weight difference, Okinoumi could never ever capitalize on this and totally failed to put up any resistance when Iwakikong finally called it a bout and pushed the Juryo man back to where he belongs. Makuuchi honor retained.

Shimotori lost his bout against the Clown already at the tachi-ai, where he first tried to get through with an instant and overeager uwatenage mid-dohyo, only to reward the countering Takamisakari with double-inside grips. From here it was a day at the office for Goofy. I mean, it's Shimotori, but his sumo looked so ill-advised today that one might even consider a concerted loss.

Both Tamanoshima and Mokonami have seen better basho, but while the seven years younger BBQ can afford to take a break after quite some decent tournaments, his older opponent already hears the bells chime. Following up on a medium-heavy tachi-ai, Mokonami went for some semi-fast tsuppari that had only half-mild effects on his counterpart. A short while later, Tan Man remembered that he is a yotsu guy and consequently wrapped up with is opponent in hidari-yotsu stance. After a typical Mokonami stand-off, the M11 successfully performed a maki-kae bringing both his hands to the inside of Tamanoshima's belt. As a direct answer his arms got wrapped up in a kime while he was forcefully pushed back by his opponent. Only after surviving once, BBQ finally managed a more than urgent shitatedashinage just before Tamanoshima could finish him of. Both men will have a tough time in week two.

Even though his form seems to point north, Toyohibiki had to accept punishment from Tochiohzan today. The latter fearlessly (!) took the charge of the steamboat, which rewarded him with an immediate and terminal double-inside position. From here it took two seconds for the mentally wobbly one to finish off the physically wobbly one. Toyohibiki is out of the yusho race. Ahem.

Lightweight Hakuba knew better than trying to henka an Ossetian. Therefore, he chose the kind of tachi-ai that comes closest to his definition of straightforward, which is diagonal. With this he brought his right hand quickly inside, but I am left clueless about what he wanted to try from there. After laughing off some feeble shitatenage attempts, Aran remembered that he is the strong one of the two and gently escorted the ex-Mongolian to the door. Hakuba will hope to gain two more slick wins for a kachi-koshi, while Aran can already book the ticket for the higher Maegashira ranks.

We already fired some gun salute in honor of Kitataiki, both when he first entered Makuuchi and also now after his return. I don't know exactly what it is, but he has an air of genkiness that may help him to sanyaku ranks one day, if he can keep his injuries in check. Shotenro, on the other hand, must be writing poems about his knees in between basho, just to keep his sanity. And that's the story of their bout. Shotenro failed to get an advantage at the tachi-ai, failed with a quick pull attempt, and failed even more failure-like in trying to do anything against Kitataiki yorikiri-ing him thoroughly. At 7-1 Kitataiki is technically your surprise Maegashira for the yusho race. Ahem #2.

I don't really like Tokitenku or Homasho. Not as persons, but for what they stand for on the dohyo. Can Tokitenku pleasepleasepleaseprettypleasewithsugarontop do something about his timing problem?! He must be divorced already eight times if this extends into his private life. And Homasho? Pleasepleaseplease add another dimension to your point shaped style. I really can't do it. Tokitenku won the bout.

Haha. Got you again. I don't know what's happening, but I actually start to look forward to Asasekiryu bouts. I have a theory about his recent resurrection. Maybe Asashoryu took him to the side somewhere around New Year and said "Listen, bro! I talked to Hakuho and we decided that after my 25th I will call it a career. Then I will give the finger to Japan and you take over as head-honcho of the stable. What do you say? But first, do me a favor and get rid of this gay mawashi color, OK?" Employee motivation can be so easy. Against Tosayutaka, though, even refreshed vigor wouldn't help the Secretary, as the youngster not only managed to withstand an elongated struggle in mid-dohyo, countering several throw attempts by his opponent. Instead, Neckless finally conjured up a surprise pull down that resulted in a shitatenage against uwatenage double-throw situation. A mono-ii confirmed Tosayutaka's sixth win by inches. Both men look strong and should manage to get the magic eight with ease.

The bout between Bushuyama and Kokkai looked exactly like prejudiced people with no knowledge of the sport would imagine: Two very fat guys collided, then vainly tried to push each other out in some kind of alien tango, and finally fell off the dohyo maiming a few bystanders. Kokkai flew on top, so he snatched the win. Bushman should try to get one or two more, otherwise he is in danger of demotion even from M6.

A good year or two ago, I posted somewhere here on the forum my thoughts about Aminishiki. I claimed that he is on a downward spiral and I remember to have been stating my surprise at the notion that he should be able to stay in or head for sanyaku all of the time. Fact is, Shneaky spent most of his Makuuchi career as a humble Maegashira. His brief stints in sanyaku came late in his career and were probably partly due to some decent weight increase beforehand. Anyway, his knee injury is taking its toll, and even if his six wins so far may look good, I don't think that he can achieve KK from jo'i ranks anymore. As partly proven by Tamawashi today, who, despite his name, didn't want anything to do with his opponent's belt and instead, as he is wont to do, opted for the quick tsuppari-to-oshitaoshi win. Both men now have two losses each.

Sometimes I wish that Wakanosato would be some kind of homicidal psycho. Then I could nickname him Satanowaco. But he is not, so I won't. His opponent Kyokutenho doesn't have any further inherent nickname potential either, so let's have them wrestle. After a draw at tachi-ai, both men mirrored their stances with a right hand inside waving around with their free lefts. It looked a bit like a four legged albatross with two heads. The archetypical resolution of the bout turned out to be: A applies maki-kae, but B reacts quickly and pushes A out. Wakanosato (A) is fine at 5-3, while Kyokutenho (B) may have the brakes on at 3-5, what with the danger of actually reaching the meatgrinder ranks.

With the first opportunity, Takekaze employed a masterful arm pull on Miyabiyama who conveniently forgot that he has feet. Takekaze really wants to smell the sanyaku air once more, doesn't he? The Sheriff went to buy himself some nice new eyeshadow.

Tochinoshin must feel that he is at the end of his power, since he is battling both the big boys and a shoulder injury already for a week. At least that is my excuse for his horrible henka-slapdown-combination attempt against Goeido. It was one of them ugly affairs usually associated with the Whities in sumo. Good to see that it got immediately punished by a very perceptive Goeido, who held onto the disappearing Georgian's leg. This allowed him to stay on his feet and push the perpetrator out. Tochinoshin shouldn't get used to this crap. Instead, he must file today's defeat as "lesson learned".

Kotoshogiku produced one of his better tachi-ai against aite Toyonoshima. It was good enough to blow the M1 off the dohyo in two seconds. While both men don't look particularly fit, their scores of 3-5 are still OK, if you consider their banzuke position.

Yoshikaze managed not to go for the cheap shift to the right as he received the default win against the absent Kotomitsuki. He was slightly twitching, though.

#####SPOILER!!!#####IMPORTANT BOUT!#####
You are like me, aren't you? Anyway, Baruto met Harumafuji and I already made my points in the intro, so on to the bout. If Baruto has improved over the last year, he still needs to stabilize his tachi-ai. Harumafuji came in low and hard opening a microsecond long window of opportunity for an immediate pulldown. It didn't occur, so both men ended up with left hand inside grips. The Ozeki had to keep up a significant degree of extension in order to deny Baruto a potentially deadly second hand on his belt. When Harumafuji tested the waters by using his own grip, the big Estonian shifted enough to obtain this dangerous right hand uwate. The Sekiwake wouldn't fool around and immediately started the forceout attack, keeping his feet perfectly aligned to his opponent's, thus nullifying any potential counter maneuvers. Ozeki sumo by Baruto who was all big baby smiles on his way to the shower. Tomorrow's bout against Kotooshu may be decisive for his pending Ozeki promotion. Be it now or later, Baruto will grace sumo's second highest rank sometime this year.

Hokutoriki's nodowa attacks didn't make Kotooshu's head explode, so he was gently guided over the straw by the Ozeki. The Bulgarian may still have a say in the yusho decision at 7-1.

Two-faced Komusubi Kakuryu left the dodgy stuff at home against Über-Ozeki Kaio. For what it's worth, he didn't even want to win, as he greeted his opponent with open arms, allowing the veteran to get a comfortable inside grip straight away. Remember: This is not a favorable position for Kakuryu, quite the opposite. Anyway, they fooled around a bit and probably grunted audibly before the Ozeki disposed of his opponent via yori-kiri after a struggle that was nice to view. Kaio still tries to get through to his eight, but somewhere there's a pair of scissors with his name on.

Coming in from yesterday's defeat against Baruto, Yokozuna Hakuho may have had a thoughtful preparation for his bout against Kisenosato. The M3, on the other hand, might have been feeling a bit funky himself, what with being about to start one of his infamous losing streaks after a promising start into the basho. In any case, Kisenosato may not be a full Ozeki candidate, yet, but clearly has the potential to become one. With the current situation I would say that an Ozeki (candidate) needs to be able to win 2 of his 12 yearly Yokozuna bouts. Kisenosato stands at about 1.5 on this scale. Nevertheless, he brought some attitude, to which he is no stranger. Hakuho deflected the stares but you could see his slight discomfort. With the violent tachi-ai, one of the more exiting bouts of the basho unfolded. Hakuho had an initial advantage and quickly pushed his opponent to the edge, where the Maegashira leaned back in with proper alertness transforming the bout to a mid-dohyo yotsu affair. Here, Hakuho's position looked even more advantageous, as he could supplement his deep left hand shitate with a dangerous looking uwate, while Kisenosato's right hand remained gripless. Accordingly, the Yokozuna forced matters quickly but couldn't capitalize as the youngster showed the same resilience that helped him down Baruto on Day 2. Allowing himself to be lifted a bit, the Maegashira could finally place a second hand on his aite's belt, which was countered by a quick shitatenage attempt. As a result Kisenosato could gain the initiative for the first time in the bout, pushing the Yokozuna back to the straw butsukari-geiko style. The charge wasn't enough, so Hakuho managed to force the stalemate in hidari-yotsu stance. After Kisenosato rightfully decided to wait and see for a while, Hakuho tried to shift to power sumo by propping his opponent up for the force out. As Kisenosato withstood, the Yokozuna immediately exposed the shift of balance with one of his patented lightning throws out of the hip, this time successfully. An intense bout with a deserved win by Hakuho. If its actual name would matter whatsoever, the Fighting Spirit Prize would go to Kisenosato, whatever happens from now on. Since it is not so, the Japanese hope may still have to work for a reward.

In the final bout of the day, my dear Kakizoe faced my even dearer Asashoryu. Great work ethics as Kakizoe may have, he still knows how to entertain his betters, so he skipped the exaggerated staredowns (I think he even once bowed instead), and didn't try anything fancy with nervous false-starts. The Yokozuna said thank you by opening the bout with a bitch slap, half a step to the side and a vicious thrust attack after his victim had half recovered from being turned around. Kakizoe impacted in the aisle some four meters off the dohyo killing a yobidashi and a salt bucket in the process. As if he wanted to say "Oooops, I forgot to refrain myself" Asashoryu helped the crying Maegashira back onto the ring in a rare gesture of remorse. "No hard feelings, heh?" -- The yobidashi's funeral is scheduled on Friday.

I wish you all a suspenseful climax, both for the basho and privately. Tomorrow Kenji will teach you how to turn water and salt into saltwater.

Day 7 (Martin Matra reporting)
Every time I listen to Clyde Newton on the NHK broadcast, besides needing to stifle a couple of yawns I immediately think about the "color commentator" idiom. Technicolor that is

If you need an idea about how bad Tochinonada is these days, you need to look no further than today, when he got his clock cleaned by Kotokasuga (who?), 1-5 in Juryo coming in. It wasn't even close, the Sadogatake sekitori simply pushed Nada (1-6) straight back and chased him out when the veteran tried to evade at the edge. Maybe it's just an injury persisting for longer than usual, but I think we might see another intai soon.

One man you'd expect to clean out when he's on the very last rung of the Makuuchi banzuke has to be Toyohibiki, but he never seems quite able to do so. Until this basho, that is. The Hutt charged the usual 3 feet behind the starting line with the clear intention of taking Shimotori's head off (or at least that could be a reasonable conclusion after witnessing the vicious nodowa), but the veteran withstood the charge and managed to force the bout into yotsu, where he's supposed to be better. Hibiki didn't panic, though, and held his ground nicely, not allowing the force out. Eventually, Moo tried to throw the larger Hutt, but Toyohibiki used his larger size and deployed the counter-throw, coming out on top and improving to 6-1. Shimotori sinks to 3-4 after a 3-1 start.

Mongol Koryu looked like he could finally win again as he seemed to have Tosayutaka on the run with his characteristically frantic pushing attack, but he couldn't quite get anywhere with it. Soon enough, after a few pulling attempts, Koryu (1-6) found himself wrapped up, and with no yotsu skills on his side, he was yorikiri'ed in a few seconds. Tosayutaka is having a decent tournament with 5 wins already, despite his obvious physical limitations. Koryu can't return to Juryo soon enough.

Veteran Iwakiyama rebounded from his disappointing 1- 4 start with a couple of wins, the one today against mysterious Mokonami. The Hutt was looking for the cheap 'n' easy pulling win, coming in high at the tachi-ai, trying to get both hands around his tanned opponent's head. Moe's charge was good enough, though, so the Moon-in-the-Man had to settle for a left sashi (inside grip), while the Tan Man had a shita-te. Knowing it was only a matter of time before Mokonami would take advantage, Iwakiyama went for broke with a dedicated kote-nage, perfectly using his body to exert downward pressure on the Mongol's left shoulder. The move didn't quite finish him off, but it compromised him enough to make him easy yori-kiri meat. Iwakiyama is a lackluster 3-4 after today, but he should be able to right the ship with the remaining opposition. Mokonami (1-6), on the other hand, seems doomed to return to Juryo.

Do you guys remember Kitataiki? Yeah, it was that guy Mike was hyping a coupla years ago, but who never actually managed to get 8 wins in Makuuchi because of injury. Well, he seems to have gotten out of that funk, winning left and right with good sumo after taking the Juryo Yusho last basho. Today he was the heavy underdog against Aran, himself 5-1 coming in, but prevailed and exposed Aran's shabby technique in the process. The tachi-ai favored the thuggish Ossetian, who muscled his way into a solid left shita-te, while denying his foe any sort of mawashi grip of his own. However, Kitataiki shook his hips and broke the grip, so the two now locked for a few seconds on body grips only. Aran managed to sneak into moro-zashi with a quick maki-kae, but Kitataiki showed great presence by locking that intruding right arm immediately and not allowing Aran to either bend it or go deeper inside. Smelling blood, Kitanoumi's protégé surged forward, so Aran tried to dig in at the tawara, but, in typical European fashion, his foot completely missed and he stepped right out, despite having a decent chance at a desperation throw. Pick up any random rock on the ground and chances are it'll be more polished than Aran's sumo. Kitataiki is off to a great start with 6-1, while Aran (5-2) still has a lot to learn.

Sporting a 6-1 similar in appearance but not in content to Kitataiki's, Mongol Hakuba has got to be the heel of this tournament. With 5 henkas in 7 bouts, I can't wait to see this guy fed to the high rankers (if he somehow keeps getting away with it long enough to get there – remember the likes of Ryuo and Kimurayama? They were figured out and are now on vacation in Makushita and Juryo respectively). Today, the only difference was the victim's shikona. Hakuba was interviewed after the fact, and he shamelessly admitted he'd been planning it since he found out about meeting Shotenro (now at 3-4). I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd think I was watching WWF or something.

Kokkai the White Knight (do not confuse with Grand Dragon) took charge of his bout with Homasho right from the tachi-ai, but the Hawaiian soon turned the tables on him and started chasing him for the final push. The Georgian, however, took his time, waited patiently and right on the edge he grabbed Homer's head and pulled him down and out of the dohyo in spectacular fashion. The win gives the Knight (2-5) some breathing room, while Homie slips back under .5.

Tokitenku was late at the tachi-ai again, against Takamisakari of all people, and that allowed the short-sighted one to keep the Mongol's greedy paws off his mawashi and demand moro-zashi. With his foe wrapped around him, the leg wizard first tested the waters with a meek chongake attempt, then went into full desperation mode with a kawazu-gake attempt, but was ultimately escorted out of the dohyo for his cheekiness. Both men are at an uneventful 3-4.

Wakanosato got Tamanoshima good with a right hari-te, setting up a deep inside left grip. A relatively long tactical battle followed, with both men trying to get some sort of mawashi grip. Eventually both got inside mawashi grips, but it was Wakanosato who really took the initiative, executing a quick maki-kae and getting a deep moro-zashi. Yori-kiri was a mere formality afterwards. Tamanoshima is looking pretty lost with only 3 wins as low as M13, while Wakanosato is having a decent basho at 5-2.

One guy who's surprised everyone is Tamawashi, who's been attacking with extra vigor and taking the initiative in most of his bouts. The same happened today, against one of the basho's disappointments, M10 Tochiohzan, who should be cruising to the tune of 7-0 ranked this low, but for some reason keeps losing. Oh simply couldn't find any opening in the Mawashi's spirited attack, failing to get any sort of inside grip, overcommitting and getting slapped down to his 4th loss. Props to the Mongol for his great basho at his highest rank yet.

Asasekiryu was all business today, smashing into Bushuyama's hulking form and hunkering low, looking for a mawashi grip. He got a nice little left shita-te and managed to keep Dolly from getting anything on him, and this frustrated Bush into going for a maki-kae. That was just what the wily Mongol was waiting for, though, as he immediately surged forward and drove his much heavier foe over the tawara. Bushuyama (1-6) is getting ready to board that Juryo train (a 2-13 would do it, and he HAS done it before, coincidentally even at the same rank). But I think he can still hang around Makuuchi for a while. Sexy (5-2), on the other hand, is looking to get back to the jo'i after a vacation of more than a year.

There isn't much to say about the next one, except that Aminishiki is better than Miyabiyama in all aspects except weight. Sneaky was honest this time, charging hard and straight and having the Fatman on the run the whole time before finally getting a good grip on him and forcing him out. 6-1 and some Ozeki on the menu soon for Aminishiki, 2-5 and a vacation from the jo'i for the Sheriff.

Goeido should be kicking himself for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory (and while I'm at it, I should mention that I've started having some doubts about him ever making Yokozuna, but a serious injury will do that to you). After being taken back a small step by Yoshikaze's spirited charge, Goeido pulled him off balance to perfection, only to rush the final push and find himself on his ass. Way to go, my boy. Both guys are a paltry 2-5 and Goeido can probably kiss that Shukunsho goodbye, even if he somehow manages to win 8 (which I kind of doubt at this point, but there's still 53% of the basho left).

Next up, Toyonoshima showed great presence of mind in his tricky bout against nemesis Kyokutenho. Tenho duly gave up moro-zashi after the tachi-ai, but Toyonoshima's short arms didn't help him capitalize on it, so Tenho held on nicely until he managed to break his opponent's advantageous grip. Just when the force-out was brewing, Toyonoshima grabbed the ex-Mongol by the neck and threw him down backwards, landing an instant after Tenho put his elbow down. With the hardest hitters out of the way and a 3-4 record after week 1, Toyonoshima looks set for sanyaku repromotion. Tenho sucks at 2-5, but that's nothing new.

The Kak did his best Ama impression of late, hitting Kotoshogiku real hard (and with the same grunt even!), then shifting on a dime and sending the Geek stumbling towards the tawara and giving him the token push from behind. In a similar situation with Toyonoshima, Kakuryu (3-4) is a dark horse for the technique prize again. Kotoshogiku isn't alright and he has the 2-5 to prove it, but his opposition can't get any better than what he's faced so far, so don't write him off just yet.

A bit disappointing was the bout between Kisenosato and Ama, both coming in at 5-1. The Kid completely lost the tachi-ai, charging way too high (probably hoping to get lucky with a cheap pull) and allowing the Mongolian devil to hunker down and grab an insurmountable left shitate soon followed by a right uwate. Harumafuji didn't wait too long before launching his finishing charge, but Kisenosato heroically survived at the edge. However, the Ozeki was not to be denied, so he did a 180 and threw Kisenosato by uwate-nage, after helping him out a bit with his right leg. Right now, I can't find any flaws in Harumafuji's execution, so I think he's pretty damn likely to slay one or two Yokozuna (that means you, Asashoryu), but let's not get ahead of ourselves and talk about the Yusho yet, shall we? Kisenosato falls to 5-2 and losing to the two Ozeki he can't seem to be able to beat lately can't be good for his future match-ups with the Khans. Still, he should kill everyone else for a very respectable 11-12 wins and a fighting spirit prize.

Kotooshu is an OK rikishi. Not a spectacular Ozeki like Takanonami was in his prime (despite the physical similarity), but not a dud either, like, say, Miyabiyama and Dejima were. And lately he's shown a lot more consistency and a lot fewer losses to Maegashira rikishi (though that last point might have something to do with the Maegashira in question). Well, despite all those positives, he still has a lot of trouble with the little guys. And Kakizoe is the worst kind of little guy, too, quick, relentless and shifty. Zoe stayed low at the tachi-ai, hell-bent on denying any kind of belt grip for the huge Bulgarian. Just as Kotooshu was fishing for some outside grips. Kakizoe shifted to his left and took Kotooshu off balance and to the edge, but Kotooshu recovered in time to face Kakizoe's finishing shove and take him out easily after a final botched pull attempt. See, this right here is the difference between the Kotooshu of now and the one in 2006-2007. Of course, after watching the replays and correlating this bout with the one before it, Ama would have killed Kotooshu on the spot from such an advantageous situation, but we'll have to wait for that confirmation until day 15. In the meantime, Kotooshu quietly improves to 6-1 while Kakizoe, believe it or not, is still above .5 despite the loss.

Speaking of duds, have you noticed a pattern in Kaio's wins against the Europeans? Let me help you: hit/shift, grab arm, pull, Kotooshu/Baruto/Tochinoshin out or down. Today was no different, it was the Private's turn and the scenario was hit, grab arm, shift, drag Shin to the edge, push him out. What I've always wondered, though, is WHY this stuff only works with Jimmy Pop caliber white guys (Don't know what I'm talking about? Here's a hint.  Enough monkey business, though, let's analyze Kaio's situation a bit. He's 3-4 now and still has Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Asashoryu, Hakuho, Kotooshu and some 3 Maegashira (one of which will be Kisenosato for sure) left to fight. Can you see him winning 5 out of these? Frankly, I don't, tin-foil hat and all. Let's say, for the sake of the argument, he beats the two Maegashira not named Kisenosato by default (Hokutoriki and Kakizoe probably), that means he has to somehow muster 3 (THREE) wins from the two genki Ozeki, the two Yokozuna and Kakuryu and Kisenosato. I.e. not happening. But stranger things have happened in the past, so I won't be surprised to see Kakuryu mysteriously give up a right uwate tomorrow (in case that happens, Kotooshu is almost certain to take a dive too). Time will tell. Oh, Tochinoshin is interesting too. Despite the purported injury, his 2-5 ain't half bad, considering 4 of his 5 losses are to the top 4 guys on the banzuke. Kachi-koshi may be a little far fetched, but an honorable 6-9 or even 7-8 might not be that much of a stretch.

Remember that sexy little demotivational poster suggestively captioned "Rock bottom, you'll know it when you see it?" Well, you have to look no further than Kotomitsuki to do that. The guy was 1-5 coming into today and definitely suffering from something, but getting yorikiri'ed by Takekaze of all people is overkill. Kotomitsuki charged as hard as he could (which is usually REALLY hard), but this time he could hardly budge his smaller foe. Kaze quickly realized Mitsuki was all bark and no bite, so he readily brushed off his weak (no, make that lame) tsuppari and tried to sneak into moro-zashi. He couldn't quite do it, but Mitsuki panicked and tried to back off and pull a kote-nage, and that's all she wrote. Yorikiri'ed by Takekaze...yes, it does have a ring to it - but only if you're reading it in a suicide note. Mitsuki (1-6) will be going kyujo tomorrow, which means Kaio will be getting his freebie from another Maegashira (whether that is Kakizoe remains to be seen). Takekaze overachieves to the tune of 3-4.

Yokozuna Asashoryu had a particularly long staring session with his occasional tachi-mochi Hokutoriki, but that didn't bring much excitement to the actual bout, except the over-the-top outcome (well, we kinda like those here at Sumotalk, so I guess it's OK). Hokutoriki half-heartedly tried to aim for the Mongol's neck with his usual moro-te charge, but he was intercepted halfway by the hungry Yokozuna, who quickly muscled into migi-yotsu and a second or two later executed a brutal (for lack of a better word) maki-kae, getting an insurmountable (and also hazardous) double inside grip. Asashoryu was feeling generous today, though, because he chose to finish it by a simple tsuri-dashi, upping his win count to 6. Hokutoriki is an expected 2-5, and it ain't getting any better. It's too early to talk about the Yusho and Asashoryu, but I think I've seen a lot of determination in the other contenders to know it isn't gonna be easy at all. I expect Ama to take Asa down on day 14 (and I certainly hope he does, since I'm the one reporting), and I don't think Asashoryu has a prayer of a chance against Hakuho.

Or does he? Taking an 11-0 record against Baruto into today, Hakuho completely won the tachi-ai, managing to stay really low and get his preferred left uwate straight away, denying the big Estonian one of his own. Baruto did have a right shitate, which is about the only thing that helped him stay in it. Hak tried unsuccessfully to lift Baruto off balance and set him up for the throw by pulling at his torso with the right, but that's when things went really sour for the Yokozuna. Baruto executed a decent maki-kae, but Hakuho was caught so off guard by it that he barely had time to react and try to lower his stance. By that time it was too late and Bart was already deploying the throw that would give him his first Yokozuna scalp. OK, rewind a bit to the key moment – the grip change. Baruto has definitely tried it before (you have a lot of time for trial and error in an 0-11 streak against the same guy), but every time Hak either responded with another one of his own or he just forced Baruto to the edge and out. So why didn't he do it this time? Well...because he just didn't see it coming, and when it did he couldn't counter it fast enough - of course, a little of it was Baruto's fault, as this one was a little bit faster than what we've seen in the past. Reasons? Excuses? Rationalizations? Well, Mike was telling me that when you dominate a guy for THAT long, you can sometimes start taking him for granted, but I'm not gonna take anything away from the Estonian, it was a great win which also breaths some new life into this basho. A staggering nine guys are in the lead at one loss, but someone should take Hakuba, Kitataiki, Toyohibiki and Aminishiki off that board already.

OK, after such a display of sheer awesomeness, Baruto has to be in there with a legitimate shot, right? Well, the way I see it, he's gonna have a lot of trouble tomorrow against the reinvigorated Harumafuji mark II. If Ama has the same flawless execution he's had all basho, the result can only be in his favor (quick dashinage or pull after explosive tachi-ai – I doubt he can force him right out). However, one wrong more (like lingering too long and allowing Bart ANY sort of mawashi grip) means bye-bye Yusho race for the Mongol. In addition to Ama, Bart will also have to face Kotooshu and Asashoryu at some point, and somehow I don't see him beating both. But let's worry about that when the time comes. In the meantime, Hakuho is still the favorite to hoist the Emperor's cup on January 24th (though I only give him around 50% chances).

True to his destiny, Andreas was yorikiri'ed by fate into having to report on a Sunday. I wonder if the screams coming from his basement have anything to do with Clancy's disappearance a few days ago.

Day 6 (Kenji Heilman reporting)
We're only at day 6 and the cream has risen. Hakuho has separated himself from the pack already and it seems there will be no looking back.

If anyone can be looked upon to topple Hakuho, it may be Sekiwake Baruto (5-1). He dominated Komusubi Kotoshogiku (2-4) with a powerful oshi-zumo surely aimed at not allowing Giku access to the inside. A great nodowa sealed the win. Makes you wonder why he doesn't employ this strategy more often. 

Kotooshu (5-1) stopped M3 Kisenosato's undefeated streak (5-1). The aggressor from the start, Oshu had the quicker tachi-ai and grabbed hidari-yotsu to immediately put Kise on the defensive. Kise impressively survived the initial surge, pushing back from the rope. But it was only a matter of seconds before Oshu brought the heat again, this time finishing the deal via Oshi-taoshi.

Toyonoshima (2-4) had too much speed for Kaio (2-4), who isn't looking good since his historic win against Chiyotaikai a few days ago. Toyo just kept moving and thus gave Kaio no chance to clamp down on a belt or prepare a Kotenage. He was eventually credited with a Sukuinage, although to me it looked like it was just as much Kaio losing his balance trying to keep up with the flow of the bout.

Kotomitsuki and Miyabiyama met for the 40th time. This was a tsuppari affair that saw Miyabi lock in on a nodowa, albeit while retreating slightly. But his hand was well placed, forcing Mitsuki to defend with all his might. The stage was set for a pull, and pull Miyabi did. Kotomitsuki falls to a paltry 1-5 while Miyabiyama improves to 2-4 and 16-24 lifetime against the Ozeki.

M2 Goeido was looking to continue his hot hand after his first kin-boshi yesterday, but it wasn't to be. He and Harumafuji (5-1) clashed low and started battling for positioning. Shortly thereafter, Haruma maneuvered to the side and tugged Goeido's left hand, similar to a Tottari but more of a hook from underneath. Haruma circled the rope while doing this, guiding Goeido (2-4) out in the process for a unique "Hikkake" win. 

Hmmm, Hakuho against Hokutoriki. What a tough one to call, huh? Needless to say, Hakuho totally blasted The Pretender, making quick work of Hokutoriki in a lighting fast Oshi-dashi. Hakuho is 6-0 and Hokutoriki 2-4, 0-11 against the Yokozuna. 

Now Asashoryu against Kakuryu, there's an interesting bout. Especially after Sho coming off a loss to Goeido yesterday. This was my most anticipated match-up today because I wanted to see how Sho bounced back against one of the brightest up and comers around. The answer was very methodically, gaining hidari-yotsu enroute to a convincing Your-kiri win. He stays one back at 5-1 along with 10- yes, 10- other rikishi chasing Hakuho.

I seriously doubt anyone can flip the table on Hakuho. The Yokozuna is the man now, and he continues to make that statement every day with near flawless sumo.

Martin deals tomorrow.

Day 5 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I stated in my year-end report and my pre-basho report that the key to exciting basho this year will be how a few select rikishi outside of the Yokozuna rank perform. Namely, I mentioned Kotooshu, Baruto, Kisenosato, and Goeido. Of those four, three are off to good starts at Hatsu. Those with at least one loss coming in won't yusho, but they are still important because they can take down the Yokozuna (yes, even Baruto is ready to take one down if he puts his mind to it). With Kisenosato and both Yokozuna undefeated coming into the day, there was plenty of anticipation although Hatsu was dealt its first blow by day's end when one of those went down. But I'll save further teasing for my fellow contributors later tonight when it's bedtime here at the hotel; we've got some bouts to comment on, so let's start from the bottom up.

The last thing a Makuuchi rikishi wants to do is lose to a visitor from Juryo, and you could see such desperation from M16 Koryu, who came out with a wild tsuppari attack to Juryo Tokusegawa's torso that had little effect. I don't say "no effect" because while Koryu wasn't getting anywhere, it actually allowed Tokusegawa to size his opponent up before he kicked his ass. After about three seconds of nonsense, Koryu slipped right into the yotsu-zumo position where Tokusegawa got his right arm on the inside, demanded the solid left outer grip, and then just forced Koryu over to the side and down onto his back as if he weren't even there. Tokusegawa's seen bouts like this before practicing with Makushita rikishi in his stable it was that easy. Koryu falls to 1-4 with the loss.

Speaking of nonsense, I believe we had our first legitimate tachi-ai of the basho called back today by the referee who was just trying to "do his job" as Clancy once explained detailing the intricacies of Japanese culture. After M13 Tamanoshima and M15 Kitataiki reloaded, they exhibited an identical tachi-ai as the first time, this one of course acceptable. The bout saw both rikishi hook up into the immediate hidari-yotsu position where they both came to a screeching halt as both rikishi kept their fannies way back in order to deny each other outer grips. Just as I was reaching for my Wish You Were Here CD, Kitataiki struck in a flash pulling Tamanoshima to the side dashi-nage style while yanking down at the back of his head with the other hand. Kitataiki's hand really never could grab Tamanoshima by the head, but it didn't matter. The inside pulling belt throw did the trick as Kitataiki glides to a shweet 4-1 if you need him. Tamanoshima has a date with Koryu in Juryo next basho at 2-3.

M14 Hakuba began stepping to his left at the tachi-ai against M11 Mokonami, but before we could see what he had up his, Mokonami was onto him like flies to stink grabbing the quick left outer grip. Hakuba moved to his left nearly tripping over his own feet in the center of the dohyo, but the result was both rikishi ending up in the migi-yotsu position with Mokonami enjoying a left outer grip. Hakuba shook that off nicely mid-bout, and while Mokonami was focused on regaining the grip, Hakuba did what Mokonami shoulda done, which was weasel his way into moro-zashi making the immediate force-out from there imminent. Hakuba was sloppy early but wrapped things up with a pretty bow as he moves to an incredible 4-1. Mokonami falls to 1-4.

In a somewhat sloppy affair, M16 Toyohibiki started his usual step and half behind the starting lines giving M11 Takamisakari ample room to time a perfect slap with the right hand to the side of Toyohibiki's left shoulder sending the Hutt sprawling towards the straw, but before Takamisakari could finish him off, the Ibiki woke up and squared himself with his opponent before connecting perfectly with a right-hand shoulder slap from the side of his own that sent Takamisakari flying clear across the dohyo. Takamisakari managed to square himself back up with his opponent standing just inside the straw, but Toyohibiki had some sprite in his step and was already onto the Robocop pushing him violently clear off the dohyo for the win not to mention 4-1 start. Takamisakari falls to 2-3 and takes twice the abuse on that dohyo as any other rikishi.

With M15 Tochinonada's rapid decline the last little while, M10 Aran didn't even need any trickery to soundly defeat his opponent staying in tight at the tachi-ai, striking Tochinonada hard and upright, and forcing him back literally by squeezing his breasts as he pushed upright into Nada's torso. Aran forced his gal back about two steps before just throwing him down to the side in a heap not to mention a 1-4 record. Aran moves to 4-1 himself, and fighting the guys this low is just target practice for the Russian.

M10 Tochiohzan wanted moro-zashi at all costs today against M14 Iwakiyama, so much so that he allowed Iwakiyama to belly him clear back to the straw from the tachi-ai where Tochiohzan came as close to stepping out as you can, but Iwakiyama focused too much on slapping at his opponent's head instead of grabbing him and keeping him close, so Tochiohzan danced to his left along the straw, and as Iwakiyama followed still swinging high, Tochiohzan got the moro-zashi he was looking for and kept his lateral momentum going as he threw Iwakiyama down with a left scoop throw at ring's edge. Tochiohzan played with some serious fire in this one, and they even called a mono-ii to see if he hadn't accidentally stepped out of the ring, but no harm no foul as Tochiohzan continued his dominance of the Hutt improving to 3-2 this basho. Iwakiyama can't catch any breaks at 1-4.

M9 Shotenro took charge at the tachi-ai by charging somewhat low against M13 Shimotori whose feet were slipping all over the dohyo (called ashi ga nagareru). The two rikishi ended up in the hidari-yotsu position, but Shotenro enjoyed the right outer grip. Just when it looked as if both rikishi would settle in, Shotenro used his right leg to quickly trip at Shimotori's left before pulling the trigger on an outside belt throw that was too much to handle for Shimotori who went down like a load of bricks. This was great stuff from Shotenro who won this one at the tachi-ai as he improves to 2-3 while Shimotori suffers just his second loss.

M12 Tosayutaka went with the moro-te tachi-ai against M9 Kokkai whose only plan early on was to keep Tosayutaka as far away as possible with careful tsuppari (a wild attack lets Tosayutaka get the inside). The two ended up at a standstill with Tosayutaka maintaining an arm pushing into Kokkai's left armpit while the gorgeous Georgian countered with his left arm at the left side of Tosayutaka's rib cage. This was a strange stance for two rikishi who were immobile, and it obviously made Kokkai uncomfortable because he went for a quick two-handed pulldown that Tosayutaka read like dirty magazine pushing the Corporal back and out in a flash. Tosayutaka's persistence won out here as he moves to 3-2. Kokkai continues to make poor decisions atop the dohyo as he falls to 1-4.

M12 Homasho seemed to know that M8 Asasekiryu wanted to stay low and get to the inside because he charged low himself and pushed upwards against Asasekiryu's extended arms keeping him from crouching low and getting the belt. The two tussled like this for a second or two before Homasho managed to lift Asasekiryu completely upright rendering him the perfect oshi-dashi target. Homasho complied by shoving Not-so-sexy-ryu to the edge and out in a flash. Both rikishi end the day's festivities at 3-2.

M7 Wakanosato knew that he only needed a paw on the inside of M6 Bushuyama whose strength is setting up his opponent with his pushing attack, and when Wakanosato got his left arm on the inside at the tachi-ai, he controlled the bout from there making his force-out intentions known as he bodied Bushuyama back. Dolly sorta panicked at this point and tried to evade to his left and pull Wakanosato down in the process, but he slipped in the process half tripping himself to the dohyo while Wakanosato finished him off via oshi-taoshi. The Dolly Yama is struggling mightily at 1-4 while Wakanosato improves to 3-2.

M8 Tokitenku used his long arms to push at M5 Kyokutenho's shoulders keeping the Chauffer as far away from his belt as possible. Kyokutenho unwisely complied agreeing to stand upright and push at Tokitenku's shoulders too instead of demanding the inside position. The two awkwardly stood in a stalemate in the center of the ring with arms extended against each other's shoulders, sorta like my first ever slow dance with a girl in sixth grade. Even the old guy in the gold tophat was getting anxious and waved for the two to do something. Kyokutenho eventually made an effort to force the bout to yotsu-zumo, but his attack was sloppy and haphazard allowing Tokitenku to slip into moro-zashi, a position from which he couldn't fail easily forcing his fellow Mongolian over and out leaving both rikishi at 2-3.

If Ozeki Kotomitsuki seems fatter to me this basho, M7 Tamawashi seems taller somehow. Regardless, he played it perfectly against M4 Takekaze today keeping his eyes focused squarely on his opponent as he shoved him away from any sort of position. A lot of guys fall into Takekaze's trap by attempting to charge straight into him, but Takekaze is small enough that he can evade to the side while offering a push to his opponent's side or slip into moro-zashi against a careless guy, but Tamawashi showed them the formula today by holding back, making Takekaze come to him, and then just slapping him silly. Takekaze was off balance the entire time as The Mawashi pushed him back and out improving to 3-2. Takekaze falls to 2-3.

In that same vein, M6 Aminishiki handled M4 Kakizoe today in similar fashion holding up just a bit at the tachi-ai and letting Kakizoe come to him. Aminishiki stayed low and kept his arms in tight knowing that Kakizoe would be searching for moro-zashi, but Aminishiki quickly foiled that attempt and was able to keep Kakizoe upright and frustrated to the point where Zoe Jane went for the ill-advised pull attempt at the back of Aminishiki's head. Shneaky was all over that and had Kakizoe driven back and out faster than it takes Japanese gum to lose its flavor--and that's saying something! A 5-0 start just wasn't in the cards for the surprising Kakizoe as Aminishiki improves to a 4-1 record of his own.

For the second time today, a tachi-ai was called back by the referee only to have an identical tachi-ai accepted as good. I wondered if the blown call would get into M3 Kisenosato's head as he was pitted against M5 Yoshikaze, but apparently not as the Kid opted for a wicked nodowa with the right hand as he came out of his crouch that had Yoshikaze upright and retreating immediately. Yoshikaze attempted to shake out of the choke hold and parlay that into moro-zashi, but Kisenosato continued his shove attack simply bullying Yoshikaze away from him until he was able to lurch into the hidari-yotsu position. As he pulled Yoshikaze in tight, Kisenosato grabbed the right outer grip prompting the fat lady to sing. Kisenosato scored the shweet force-out win as he moves to 5-0. Andreas hinted on this yesterday, but one of Kisenosato's biggest flaws is losing to rikishi whom he has no business losing to. He's corrected that problem so far this basho; thus the fantastic start. Yoshikaze is a measly 1-4.

Moving to the sanyaku, Komusubi Kotoshogiku went Hokutoriki against M3 Hokutoriki moving to his left at the tachi-ai displaying a classless tachi-ai henka. Well, classless if it had been against anyone else but funny since it was against Hokutoriki. Hokutoriki, who loves to play the victim in these situations, just stumbled over to the straw off balance where Kotoshogiku finished him off from there. Ugly stuff all around as both rikishi end the day at 2-3.

Sekiwake Baruto wisely kept both arms in tight at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kaio ensuring that at worst he'd come out with an inside grip from the melee. Unable to take advantage from the charge, Kaio attempted to shove Baruto away looking for any sort of opening, but Baruto focused his attack from the inside out never going for an outer grip until he had the Ozeki secured from the inside. He did that by getting his right arm deep on the inside of Kaio's left, and that was all he needed pulling him the Ozeki in close before grabbing the inevitable--and lethal--left outer grip. The force-out was academic as Baruto kept Kaio's dignity in tact by keeping the Ozeki atop the dohyo instead of shoving him into the crowd. Baruto is an impressive 4-1 while Kaio is really struggling at 2-3. As I've stated before, if Baruto can only mimic Hakuho's tachi-ai and make sure he gets one arm on the inside, he'll be nigh unto unstoppable.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki was as sloppy as you please against M1 Toyonoshima, but he kept both arms in tight absolutely refusing Toyonoshima the inside. The action in the ring came to a halt at this point with Toyonoshima unable to do anything without an inside position and Kotomitsuki unwilling to screw anything up. After a few seconds of inaction, Kotomitsuki shifted gears and began shoving Toyonoshima away by the face that eventually gave Kotomitsuki the right inside position that he needed. As the Ozeki attempted to set up the migi-yotsu contest, Toyonoshima tried to slip out of the stance but Kotomitsuki grabbed him by the belt from the right outside and used that grip to pull Toyonoshima over to the edge dashi-nage style--as opposed to doggy style--setting up the force-out win from there. Don't look now but Kotomitsuki just picked up his first win of the basho! He's still in a heap'a trouble, however, because at 1-4 the competition only stiffens. Toyonoshima shares the same record.

Ozeki Harumafuji charged hard into Komusubi Kakuryu leading with a right nodowa, but the Komusubi was able to halt the Ozeki with the left inside position, and he even grabbed the right outer with Harumafuji a bit upright. With his attempt to just bulldoze Kakuryu back and out from the start done, it was now Kakuryu's turn to mount a charge, and he did so leading with that left outer grip, but the charge was too hurried allowing Harumafuji to plant his right leg near the tawara and use his left leg on the inside of Kakuryu's right as he tripped him off balance setting up the beautiful left inside belt throw. Harumafuji moves to 4-1 with the win, but he's had a few chinks in the armor exposed already. Kakuryu falls to 2-3, and really missed out on another big win today.

Ozeki Kotooshu and M1 Tochinoshin hooked up in the immediate migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, and right away while you could see Kotooshu trying to set up his man for an outside grip, Tochinoshin hesitated wondering what to do. Shin eventually moved to his left near the edge surprising the Ozeki as he grabbed the back of Kotooshu's belt with the left hand, but he was so uncommitted on the throw that he allowed Kotooshu to break off the grip and gain moro-zashi sending NoShine to the dirt with an inside belt throw. Tochinoshin actually had this bout in his hip pocket, but he failed to realize the opportunity when he had Kotooshu by the back of the belt with the Ozeki's momentum leaning towards the edge of the ring. I was hopeful of Tochinoshin heading into this basho, and while he'll always have the physical skills, I'm telling you, he's more of a mess mentally than Tochiohzan. Someone needs to open up a can of whoopass and pour it in the Kasugano-beya chanko stew. Tochinoshin falls to 1-4, and I guarantee you that's fine by him; he can't get out of these parts fast enough. Kotooshu moves to 4-1 but isn't quite in yusho form this basho.

In the day's penultimate bout, Yokozuna Asashoryu used his patented hari-zashi from the tachi-ai against M2 Goeido setting up the immediate left inside position. With his opponent sufficiently neutralized, Asa looked for moro-zashi with the right arm, but Goeido wasn't in the mood and kept the Yokozuna's advances at bay by holding his arm away at the wrist. Asashoryu said to hell with it and began a quick, force-out charge of his opponent, but Goeido spun to his left at the ring's edge sorta pulling at Asashoryu's left arm in the process. With Goeido doing a complete 360, Asashoryu just stumbled right out of the ring as if both he and Goeido were the insides of a clock wearing gears around their belt, so when Goeido did his 360, it just spun the Yokozuna's gears the wrong way forcing him out of the ring.

This was as queer of an ending to a sumo bout that I can remember since Kitazakura was around. I watched the replays over and over from every angle possible, and I could never see a definitive technique from Goeido that sent Asashoryu to his grave.  I know I say "he had him by the short and curlies" sometimes, and that picture at left literally looks like a feely-dashi win for Goeido, but unfortunately, no such contact was actually made.  Perhaps it was the Sumotalk in me, but at first glance, the yaocho bells went off in my mind as it looked like Asashoryu just took a dive right out of the ring, but there is no plausible explanation for these two to be in cahoots at this point of the basho, so I won't pursue that avenue further. As for the winning technique, they ruled it hiki-otoshi, and while Goeido did indeed make a desperate swipe at Asa's left shoulder before he spun, I would have ruled it isami-ashi, otherwise translated as a sloppy and careless charge by the Yokozuna.

Nevertheless, what's done is done, and I know the crowed got all stiff at the circumstance of a Japanese rikishi actually beating a Yokozuna (and you should have seen the gold tophat guy...he looked like a 20 year-old who just got out of bed in the morning), but this loss by Asashoryu deals a huge blow to the prospects of an exciting basho. It would have been one thing had Goeido exhibited a masterful performance to topple the Yokozuna because that would have given us hope, but a fluke loss like this is the last thing the basho needed. Asashoryu falls to 4-1 with the loss, but the bigger issue is that he ain't gonna catch Hakuho. That means we're a single Kisenosato loss away from a runaway basho. As for Goeido, he moves to 2-3 and technically picks up a kin-boshi for his efforts, but this wasn't exactly one to celebrate.

With that drama out of the way and M2 Miyabiyama staring across the starting lines at Yokozuna Hakuho, you knew the rest of the day was just a formality. Hakuho actually slipped a bit coming out of his crouch, but he used his long arms nicely to ensure the bout quickly went to yotsu-zumo. With his right arm on the inside, Hakuho took his time to gather his wits before demanding the left uwate about 8 seconds in, and once that was secured, it was death, taxes, and a Hakuho win by yori-kiri. The result of course is Hakuho beginning to distance himself from the field at 5-0. Miyabiyama falls to 1-4, but he's fighting hard and has yet to swan dive in all of his girth to the dohyo floor.

That's a wrap on the jobansen, or first five days. I've loved every minute of Kisenosato so far; Hakuho is his usual self; but I'm extremely disappointed by the content of Asashoryu's loss today. But hey, look on the bright only took us three days to get rid of Chiyotaikai! Things brighten back up tomorrow with Kenji.

Day 4 (Andreas Kungl reporting)
If you are alive, you may know about coincidence. You miss the plane that is about to crash because your neighbor stabbed your tires. Or you find your neighbor entertaining your wife in your own bed, because your plane was early. Or you discover compromising documents that show your neighbor's intention of blowing up a plane while you are about to stab his tires in retaliation for his flirtatious behavior towards your wife last Sunday at the Cordial Neighborhood meeting. Or you blow up the wrong plane, because your neighbor didn't tell you that both your wives swapped flights. We know such things happen all the time. Nevertheless, there are special, singular coincidences. Chances that you can experience only once in a lifetime.

So, when Mike asked me to choose a day for one of my reports and gave me the options of Day 4 or Day 5, chance commanded me to vouch for Day 4, since my wife had to work the other day. At least that's what she claimed (Memo to self: Check news for plane crashes on Thursday and stab neighbor's tires). Who could have known that a singular coincidence would reward me with a duty I will tell my grandchildren of (Memo #2 to self: Obtain hair sample from son to verify authenticity of supposed progeny)? Said duty is the obligation to breach the usual format of a daily report here at Sumo Talk. To tone down the usual nonsense we contributors frequently apply in our pathetic attempts to cover up boredom on the dohyo or numbness in our minds. To find textual equivalents to a black ribbon that can ease the moment's hardship in a tearful embrace. No use to elongate the pain: My duty today, on Day 4 of January hon-basho 2010, exactly 68 years after the first successful use of an aircraft ejection seat, is to compose a eulogy for Chiyotaikai.

The question arises, fellow moaners, what LSD has to do with the late Emperor Hirohito (now known, of course, under his mythical name "Showa", which I funnily enough and for some semi-Freudian reasons always mix up with "Shoah")? Well, apart from the mindbogglingly trippy concept of living gods, the trivial answer is that Albert Hofmann (inventor of Acid) died exactly 107 years after Hirohito was born. That alone makes the 29th of April an auspicious date. So the birth of Ryuji Hiroshima on the same day in 1976 already provides a lot of interesting connotations for the career of the man we all later came to know as Chiyotaikai. Even better: Can it be a pure coincidence that Cardinal Richelieu's appointment to Prime Minister in service of King Louis XIII. falls on the same date? Longevity as Ozeki (second-highest rank) measured against longevity as Grand-Vizier (second-in-command) of European power politics?! Even better: Duke Ellington also shares his birthday with Chiyo of the Jazz Hands! Just like Fred Zinnemann, director of High Noon, while Hitchcock died on that day (Senshuraku suspense!). As did Wittgenstein. Doesn't Chiyotaikai's career remind us all of Wittgenstein's śvre? The latter turned from red hot analyst with propositions like tsuppari to aloof mystic with faith in the outcome of unspoken mechanisms in the working of...uh...things... The LA riots started on that day (Gangs! Chiyotaikai!), while in another year a really big, fat landslide killed many people in a Canadian place called "Frank" (no shit). I lack the fantasy to interpret the meaning of Joan d'Arc's victory at Orleans or Hitler's wedding with Eva Braun in this context, but you get the general idea. Anyway, the most telling thing in relation to the 29th of April and Chiyotaikai is the birth of a racehorse called "Barbaro". Read the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry:

"Barbaro (April 29, 2003 – January 29, 2007) was an American thoroughbred that decisively won the 2006 Kentucky Derby, but shattered his leg two weeks later in the 2006 Preakness Stakes ending his racing career and eventually leading to his death."

Well, Chiyotaikai has not died. He merely declared his intai (that is retirement) from active sumo wrestling. He finally called it a career and that's what it surely has been. Not that he was the oldest of active rikishi. The various Kai(h)os, Kyokutenhos and Tosanoumis are still here. Nevertheless, Chiyotaikai has spent more than half of his life in Ouzumo. When he entered at age 16, Musashimaru and Takanohana were both Sekiwake. Akebono went to win his second yusho while the banzuke was devoid of any Yokozuna. Without exaggeration, yon was a different age. Back then, the three (!) foreigners in Makuuchi hailed from Hawaii, while the highest ranking Mongolian was placed at #15 East of Jonidan.

Physically gifted as he was – being already a master of Judo and Karate – young Ryuji Hiroshima didn't have to stay in the rank of a servant for a long time. With 19 he already secured sekitorihood, a status he wouldn't lose anymore for the entire rest of his career. Juryo turned out to be his sumo college. Stuck in the second division for a good two years, he passed his exam by winning the division yusho twice. After finally debuting in Makuuchi, he needed only four tournaments for reaching Sanyaku ranks. Another year later, he already managed Ozeki promotion shortly before his 23rd birthday, featuring a 13-2Y performance in the final basho of his Ozrun. Said basho, Hatsu 1999, was incidentally the Hatsu Dohyo of a young chap named Dagvadorj Dolgorsuren, who is none other than Asashoryu, founder of the ruling dynasty of Mongols. In the moment of Chiyotaikai's early triumph his future limitation silently entered the world of sumo.

With the ifs and may haves madness lies. We all know the storyline of the factual. Chiyotaikai turned out to be THE Ozeki. Good enough for three yusho triumphs, never a real threat to the Yokozuna rank. A one-trick pony that was still a challenge for most opponents. A master of recovery, on the dohyo and in the locker room toilet, where the lids of the water tanks could easily be lifted. A rikishi of great longevity, who missed the right moment to quit.

The tragedy of his late career was the denial of a fourth title in Kyushu 2007. Coming into Day 14 head to head with Hakuho, he was injured by the shiny, white, squeaky-clean Superyok. The injury did not just obliterate Chiyotaikai's hope for an unexpected yusho, but completely determined the final sad years of his active days. Had he won in November '07, he may have had experienced enough satisfaction to quit then and there.

So he was hunting the past and still dragging himself to the office for two weeks every other month. And for this his boss is the one to blame. Moto-Chiyonofuji can certainly be rejected as a potential role model for various reasons. The fact that he allowed his ward to dismantle himself in such away, – while probing the patience of the Association in the face of so many blatant manipulations – tells a story about Kokonoe-oyakata's qualities as a person. I am not an insider for sure, but my instincts tell me that the NSK will fare better if the man is not let into key positions in the near future or, like, ever.

I invite all readers to thumb through Chiyotaikai's career data, as found here. Or share your thoughts on Sumo Talk Forum. The other forum also has a dedicated thread, as featured here.

I also invite all readers to tsuppari a tree in their neighborhood as a gesture of tribute. Rich people could additionally throw a little bit of money into their toilet tanks.

With all this eulogy business, I feel more than a bit paralyzed when it comes to the recap of the actual on-dohyo action of Day 4. Therefore, I will only point out several bouts or general observations. You (and Mike) may forgive me.

I like how M16 Toyohibiki looks so far this basho. While he was severely struggling over the last months, his oomph seems to be back. Additionally, he has improved on his balance, especially forward movement, i.e. he doesn't fall on his face so easily this time around. Unfortunately, today's opponent Tosayutaka seriously has his number. This showed when the M12 managed to channel his aite's forceful charge into a lateral movement that earned him a left outside grip leading to Toyohibiki's downfall. I hope he can regroup and stay in the division.

Hakuba beats puppies by henkaing Takamisakari. The latter looked injured in spirit for sure but also physically. The Robocop may need a new knee implant. Painful replays show an ugly impact of Hakuba's weight on the sensitive part. Watch for a potential kyujo.

Maybe I'm wrong, but did Asasekiryu talk to Amafujiharu about the meaning of mawashi colors? I am not completely sure if this happened with the start of this basho (the Secretary's bouts are always so boring, I generally don't remember much), but the belt color surely has changed. And hey! So has the content of the former Sekiwake's sumo. He fights like he lost two years of age or something. This translates into a 3-1 record including today's win against Mokonami. The bout? The usual ultra-long stalemate that frequently occurs when only one of the two is involved. The resolution was a charm, though, with Sexy countering an uwatenage with clever lateral movement, pushing BBQ out of the ring. Is there still hope?

Shotenro looks injured, but who isn't?

Ode to Kakizoe

Beloved Kakizoe, so sweet!
Thine will maketh me shiver.
With practiced elegance thou fall'st in place.
Engine whirring, cogwheels humming.
Then tension, ready? Go!
A light green bullet leaves the barr'l.
Oh, what an impact. D'you see stars?
Thine foe despairing, longs to vanish.
But thou hast smelled his blood.
A minute shift heralds the final blow.
Stay'st undefeated and so sweet.
Now bring me an Ozeki's scalp.

Kisenosato. How often have we thought that this may finally be it? His most pronounced problems are that he tends to lose in streaks and rarely starts well into a basho (which is naturally also often rank related). Not so this time. Getting a virtual freebie against the Intaied One and achieving excellent wins against Baruto (never easy) and the Geek (sometimes easy), he suddenly finds himself at 3-0. With today's win against Kyokutenho, which looked dominant – won tachi-ai, low stance, left hand inside, forward momentum = yorikiri –, the Kid even extended the good run to four and Oh. Is there some yusho tension building up? Well, hold the horses. Kisenosato looks very solid, but no need to cool the Moët just yet, fellow Japanese. Kisenosato's problem are often the lowranked f**kers like tomorrow's aite, Yoshikaze. If he takes care of them likes, he may start to get henkaed by the big boys still. Yusho odds as of now: 1/30. Oh, 250th Makuuchi win. Congrats. The man is still 23!

I think I'm repeating myself all over this report, but doesn't Kotomitsuki look very, very ill? Mike already noted that he must have gained quite some weight (and mostly fat from the looks). Then watch his face expression before the bouts. One must be afraid that he will be sick right on the dohyo. A tachi-ai? Even with the patented Mitsuki Swing Cheat Move, he develops almost no force to speak of. And then comes along a (guess what?) injured Tochinoshin, who just wanted to see how far he can push it still before going kyujo sometime later this basho. Did the Ozeki get his first win against an injured 0-3 upstart M1? Nope. The Georgian gains a left hand outside from the start, Kotomitsuki kicks, spits and screams, but the youngster wins the bout with virtually one hand. Ohohoho. Kotomitsuki's kyujo/MK/kadoban is set in stone and I start to think that M10 Aran may still find himself battling sanyaku this time around.

I cannot say for sure what Amafujiharu's gameplan against M1 Toyonoshima looked like when he had certainly devised it in advance. From what we saw on the dohyo it must have involved extensive hugging. Maybe double outside grips to set up a tsuridashi? Anyway, the Wee One (hello Scotland!) held his arms together nicely at the tachi-ai, gaining moro-zashi in an instant. The Ozeki is a slick one, though, and against a different opponent he may even have gotten away with a kubinage or something. Not so this time as Toyonoshima had chili for breakfast and burned his larger aite with pure aggression. Another struggling Ozeki, this time downed with an excellent shitatenage, performed with a very deep left hand inside. The Jedis talked about it but confirmed. Watch for Amafujiharu getting the heebie-jeebies again.

Talking of which. Kotooshu will have sacrificed a whole barn full of live stock after realizing that he wouldn't have to deal with Aminishiki this basho. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that there are no dodgy bastards around, so one didn't need to be a particle physicist to figure out that the Ozeki wouldn't go full charge against Kakuryu. A lot of past tense subjunctives already in this paragraph. I think I'm always getting them bitches wrong. Anyway, of course the Komusubi didn't henka but opted for the head butt blast that righted his opponent straight away. From here the Ozeki looked puzzled, not quite sure how to resolve the situation. His choices were not made easier by the Mongol, who employed a very effective tactic of alternating push and stall maneuvers in order to keep Yoghurt moving. The inside grip that Fish Face secured in between came as a discount bonus. Said grip opened a new set of options after the chase had ended mid-dohyo. With beautiful timing Kakuryu executed a shitatenage that really looked like a throw for a change. Very judoy, if that's a word. And another Ozeki bites the dust. Three and counting.

OK, make it four. Kaio must have been boozing yesterday evening after the historic 808th Makuuchi victory. So while he's always claiming that he doesn't care about such things, his sponsors most certainly do. Interest in records or not, he had to booze til he fell over, I guess. Kotoshogiku shows some signs of life as he yorikiries the old bear to his predictable fate.

The two yusho contenders (a.k.a. Yokozuna) watched the Ozeki fall with interest and went on to stake the claim. Hakuho chose the long driver for his tachi-ai against Goeido, basically blasting the youngster back one and a half meter before lunging at him with all breaks loose. He even didn't need to touch his opponent's belt at all (would have been a terminal double inside anyway), the sheer force of the momentum carried both clear off the ring. I guess Hakuho had had an argument with his wife in the morning. Goeido will be an Ozeki candidate in 2012 at the earliest.

Finally, Asashoryu took care of Miyabiyama in his own unique way. I get the feeling that the Yokozuna is very focused these days. I could also swear that he enjoys beating his opponents with their weapon of choice (yotsu against yotsu specialists, tsuridashi against Baruto, tsuppari against Miyabiyama). Whatever the truth, Fatman can't possibly win a thrust exchange against the Khan. Asashoryu stays flawless and keeps entertaining us with wonderful win-shove-glare combinations. I wish he could yusho in Ms. Uchidate's last basho. Talk about icing on the cake.

See you all later this basho. MC MIKE will scratch your vinyls this time tomorrow.

Day 3 (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
So...we have a new year, this will be my what...third year of reporting on Sumotalk? Well true, I'm screwing with details here as I started to report in Kyushu 2007 so only skimmed 2007, but why the hell not?  I've got to say time flies and some things change and some don't.  It's refreshing to see at least SOME change in the upper echelons (read: Chiyotaikai no longer going around and handing out "favors"), but there are too many things that are stagnant too. For example the moment an interesting kimarite is used to win a bout Martin has to go and change his pants after moaning on the ground for a few minutes. But even more so I recommend you to go and re-read the things Mike said about what's going on on the banzuke and you'll see what I mean things being stagnant. I hope 2010 will be the year that we get to report on some excellent sumo and some new faces making some riot in the actual Yusho races and Ozeki promotions, but I wouldn't bet a house on it.

Ok, so after celebrating for weeks the good riddance of 2009, let's get back to Koguikan for a small intra-venal shot of ozumo. And we start it with Toyohibiki facing off against Tochinonada. Hibiki's been in the lower ranks now for a while after that retina injury he had a while back and I've been somewhat surprised he's not regained his higher rank more easily. But then again Nada's been on a slow decline for a while now and feels more likely to be in the approximate right region; he is old you know. Murray said very well just before the bout, that if Hibiki brings the same game as yesterday he'll just blow Nada away and that's exactly what he did. He literally smashed into Nada so hard that Nada was moved straight back a few steps and even though he tried to evade he still found himself easy pushout fodder. This was good stuff from Hibiki and well after a perfect start maybe we'll be seeing a nice double digit basho from him afterall. 

Now what happens from this point onwards pretty much went the other way as I would have predicted had you asked me before the bouts who would be a winner. Like the first two days today was no exception in upsets making any kind of prediction a moot point. I mean take for example Iwakiyama, who's indeed coming off an injury, but he did fall very very low and is not a bad fighter, so one would expect him to be ripping his opposition to pieces down this low, but instead he got his ass handed to him on day one (true, through an ugly henka...). Would you have thought that he'll get his ass again handed to him by Kitataiki of all people? Well I didn't. Kitataiki came with two hands to Moonface's shoulders, but was moved back by Iwakikong who moved him straight to the straw, but there Iwaki didn't have enough leverage when he tried to push Kitataiki out with a choke hold, so Kitataiki worked his way back into a grip and moved the off balance Kong back, out and down. Usually it's a belt fight or double armlock that Iwaki works best from and today's oshi attack clearly backfired when he couldn't finish off Kitataiki immediately. At 1-2 things don't look that bright for the Hutt, but we'll see. It is day three still...

With the way Shimotori fought off Homasho I would have expected him to make pile-wood of Koryu, but instead the latter absorbed his great tachi-ai and raised him up so high that he didn't have any real leverage to move his opponent. From there it was just time that Koryu needed to work with his good lower and upper body power to get an oshidashi victory against Shimotori. Not a win I would have expected, but what do I know?

Straight on from the tachi-ai Hakuba wrestled his way into a double inside grip. True, it took pulling back for a moment to get Tosayutaka off balance and the grip wasn't a really great one at any time in the bout, but it was enough to work with as Hakuba kept to the belt with his hands and teeth no matter how Yutaka struggled, and he didn't even let himself be bothered from a serious case of elastic mawashi on Yutaka's part as he worked him back and out. Solid win that I have nothing bad to say of. 

So we have another failed hope meeting a veteran (the previous one if you are wondering was the first bout of the day) with Homasho and Tamanoshima meeting. Homasho met Tama with his usual well balanced stance fending off the latter one's tachi-ai and followed with some hantsy (you know, like footsy, but with hands). However, the moment Homey decided to abandon the sexy handgames and opened himself up for a pulldown was the moment in which Tamanoshima used the opening and just sent Homey back and out. Well at least it looked like Homey was thinking of pulldown, but he didn't really get a chance to show if he planned to execute any pulling in the process. Homey used to be a hopeful top ranker, but these days I wouldn't bet on him even in the lower ranks where he's hovering now. 

Mokonami and Shotenro looked like an interesting matchup. Both are young dogs, both have shown some fierce interest in winning and seem to be in general solid players. And it didn't really disappoint as the two started off with some serious oshi sumo with hands flailing like windmills in a Don Quixote book. Well you can only play at the windmill game so long in case neither has a real advantage with it so the two locked for a belt grip and Mokonami was the one who gained the best possible grip, namely moro-zashi. However oddly enough he has never really been able to utilize this grip against Shotenro. And like usual Shotenro locked both his arms and effectively neutralized the grip and almost immediately went to the offense himself. That said offense didn't really work and the two settled in the middle of the ring with Mokonami definitely thinking about how he sucked in this grip the last time the two met so instead of trying to work with this grip forever he quickly swapped from moro-zashi to hidari-yotsu, his favorite grip. As the two locked in a similar grip it took some attempts before Mokonami was able to raise Shotenro up and slightly off balance only to essentially thrust him down with both arms. It was rightly called an uwatedashinage as the left hand was definitely used to pull big shot off balance. Good thinking from Mokonami and he remains one of the guys I think can reach far in the division if he keeps it up. 

It seems to me that in 2010 things will change somewhat. Even things that looked like they would never happen. I mean I wouldn't be surprised if Chiyotaikai pulls out even before he gets his sixth loss and he definitely will get his sixth (wouldn't be surprised if it'll happen on day six) so he's retiring after all the years we've been waiting for it. And then there's one other thing that you can bet your life on, namely that Takamisakari won't henka. Well you could bet your life on it till today as I couldn't believe my eyes and had to wait for the replay to believe, but Takamisakari charged to his right against Kokkai and that came as such a surprise for Kokk, that he got pivoted around by the impact into a side position from which it was child play for the clown to send him out. I mean I can't really believe it was a planned henka, maybe he just saw Kokkai wrong and charged at an angle due to his sight, but it was what it was, and even Kokkai stood outside the ring dumbfounded for a whole minute thinking wtf just happened. 

The next bout promised to be a good yotsu battle unless Aran pulls his usual henka, which he didn't. But Asasekiryu charged so well and low that he immediately stood Aran up and didn't really allow him any grip. After a quick throw attempt by sexy Aran went for an over the shoulder grip (I think he somehow mistook himself for Baruto there) which of course doesn't work unless you actually are Baruto with ultra long arms so he got himself backed out gently by the secretary. Good sumo by Asasekiryu to which Aran just didn't have anything to respond with. 

Well the funny bout of the day goes to Tokitenku vs. Tochiohzan where Tokitenku just stood up and tried to kick the foot out from below Tochiohzan. The only problem with this move was that oh poo was still miles away and hence the kick had no power attached to it by the time the foot actually met something. And from that compromised position it was less than a second for Tochiohzan to escort Tenku back and out. Odd bout, very odd bout. 

Now I mentioned before that bouts started to go wrong with regard to what I would have predicted straight from the second bout of the day. Well they started to stabilize a bit more from here on with a bit less upsets. That was an odd upset-region from bout two to eight. So now that things are more back to normal let's see how things play out. The bout between Kyokutenho and Bush wasn't that hard to predict as Tenho wrapped bush up with a nice migi-yotsu grip that he used to easily escort Bush back and out. 

The next bout is an interesting one in the sense that Yoshikaze is a little feisty fella who's main fighting style is to move around a lot and send slaps this way and that while Wakanosato the good ol' Barometer is a definite belt fighter. However the statistics so far suggest that the weasel can make an impact with his motion as the head to head stats were quite lopsided in his favor, but when the actual bout happened it was Wakanosato, who was easily able to just wax off all the slapping and as soon as an opening showed itself he just lunged into Espresso and wrapped him up. That wrapping was so fierce that poor Espresso just folded himself to the clay that looked like his knee just gave way, but I think he just stepped wrong and had no support on the leg so hence the fold. We'll see tomorrow how the knee looks, but I doubt any real damage happened, well at least not physical one. 

Now that everyone's off for a pee break why not take one yourself. I've noticed that the toilet is a neat idea generator as I've had some of my best (ok, also some of my worst) ideas come to me while taking a dump or in the shower or what not process that takes you into the bathroom. I'll be here when you come back and then we'll continue with the second half. 

Back, ok. So Aminishiki has looked good in the first two days and shown some good sumo, but today against Takekaze he just played right into his opponent,s hands by allowing himself to be stood up at the tachi-ai and then actually fell for the pulldown that every single person knew would be coming. Sneaky has no one but himself to blame as even a youngster who's only watched sumo a few basho knows what's Takekaze's A game.

The next good bout of the day came with Kakizoe vs. Tamawashi. I like Kakizoe's fighting spirit that he is always ready with his hands down and he doesn't give up during the bout, but keeps trying to attack and to evade, attack and evade. Today was no exception except that it took him a lot of doing for Tamawashi has some neat balance and doesn't allow himself to be snapped from the different sides to an off balance position. The Mawashi didn't however at any point have anything but defensive moves available to him as he isn't really a mawashi fighter and he didn't even try for one and Kakizoe is a bitch to beat in oshi sumo so The Mawashi did the only thing that was left to him namely a pull attempt, but unlike his usual overcommitment Kakizoe didn't fall for it this time, but nicely kept his balance and instead used the compromised stance of Tamawashi to crash him out backwards. 

Now that we get to the real ozumo bouts involving also sanyaku rikishi things should start to get interesting and the very first one promises to deliver with Kotoshogiku vs. Kisenosato where the history clearly favors Kotoshogiku, however Kisenosato has looked great this basho and Giku not that great, but Giku has had the tougher opposition so far too. Kisenosato charged while probably thinking he's in the 2012 movie and the ground would fall off behind him and the heavy charge did give him a nice left inside grip that was tight enough to have Giku in an awkward position unable to use his belly effectively. Instead it was Kise who used some occasional belly thumping motions to slowly work himself into a strong hidari-yotsu from where he committed to a good and strong attack not allowing Giku to move to either side until he had him at the straw and upright from where he just finished him off with a shove. A rare win for Kisenosato against Kotoshogiku, but as Murray said, it was a quality one. 

Well one of the guys I'm hoping will make an impact in 2010 by challenging the Ozeki position (especially now that Chiyo has vacated one) is Baruto and not only because he's Estonian, but also because he has shown with his 12-3 two bashos ago that he can impact the basho and if he does learn how to occasionally kick some Y ass he has a serious chance to threaten the Yusho. However he has to stop doing stupid mistakes and underestimating his foes to do that. Ok, his loss yesterday against Kisenosato wasn't that bad considering the game that Kise has been bringing this basho, but he has to keep winning from now on if he wants to have a shot soon. I mean there's a realistic chance he'll get the promotion with 13+ wins, but that means now that he can't lose to anyone but the Y-s. And if you remember right, the only non Yokozuna he lost to during that 12-3 run in Aki was Kakuryu. His opponent for today. And the little fish hasn't been looking that bad either with a long struggle against Hakuho and the win against Kotomitsuki.

Baruto failed again during the tachi-ai giving away an easy right inside grip to Kakuryu and standing up high. But Baruto did get a good strong left outside grip, that is deadly. Kakuryu knew he needs moro-zashi to have a shot (even though Baruto is pretty safe with moro-zashi from shorter guys) so he worked hard on the maki-kae attempts, which were initially shaken off by Baruto, but after a moment the Estonian probably thought that while giving Kak the inside grip the fella will compromise his position enough in coming in close that he can pull off the immediate win so he raised his arm over the shoulder of the Kakster who happily embraced Baruto for moro-zashi only to realize to his horror that Baruto had now a moro-uwate and not a bad stance, which he used to immediately and brutally escort Kakuryu back and out. What Baruto did was a very risky move, but he's one of the few guys who can risk it and still win it (unlike Aran who tried something of the kind an hour ago). It worked today, but his tachi-ai isn't what it was when he came out with the 12-3 so I don't think it'll be enough for more than 10-11 wins this basho, but that would be good enough to set up something for Haru. And if you think of it it would be Ozeki worthy sumo for it's not that frequent that the current crop of Ozeki gets more than 10 wins. 

Now a bit lopsided bout in all numbers is that of Harry vs. Fatman and it seems Harry's in good shape this time around as he didn't even bother with any kind of belt but instead played the game as Miya likes it and still managed to move the Fatman back in mere seconds so hard that even though Miyabiyama wasn't even out yet he already gave up and only stepped out when the two were already calmly looking at each other. Let's hope Harry keeps it up and has a nice chance to impact the yusho (don't think he'll get it though). 

The second Ozeki who's looked good is Kotooshu who hasn't brainfarted yet this year, but he's only been given two chances so far so let's not get ahead of ourselves. Goeido isn't a walkover either which he demonstrated very nicely by attacking nice and low, denying Kotooshu a grip with his right arm and standing him up. From there he niftily managed to work Osh back and it looked for a moment that Osh was in trouble, but at the tawara he showed some nice footwork where he kept himself nicely balanced and executed a beautiful uwatenage throw. If he keeps his wits with him he can have quite an impact and his throws are spectacular and powerful. As long as he doesn't brainfart with Aminishiki or Toyonoshima or who ever else he has as nemesis he can be a power to be reckoned with, but like Baruto he has issues that get him down and off his game. Goeido has shown some nice fights, but is still lacking some finalization power. 

NHK had been showing the whole day the bout of the day to be Chiyotaikai vs. Kaio and to some extent it can be considered that because a win for Kaio would give him the most wins ever in Makuuchi, a historic record. If Chiyotaikai wins it would be an interesting yaocho for one can see clearly from his previous losses that he doesn't have the game no more to bring about more than a few wins if even those. So when the two charged one couldn't say 100% what would happen, but it wasn't really a debate as quickly became apparent for Kaio easily met the thrust like things Chiyo threw at him, then hugged him close and turned him around for some sweet manlove and after fondling Chiyo for a few seconds grabbed his mawashi's front and slammed him to the clay sideways. I mean it was a powerful 808th Makuuchi win and goes to the record books, but to be honest the loss by Chiyotaikai looked really really embarrassing. Why oh why does he continue when it is absolutely clear that he has no game anymore? If he'd have any brains he'd go intai right now with three losses stacked up after he has given his fellow long lived Ozeki his career record. It would be nicely commemorated and would give him at least a trickle of honor, but no...I doubt he will go intai before he has his sixth loss (that would be on Friday) and I'd not be too surprised if he will then try to wiggle out of his promise of intai after six losses. 

Now with the craptactular bout of the day out of the way let's concentrate on the last three bouts starting with Kotomitsuki and Hokutoriki. Now Kotomitsuki promised to impact the Yusho this basho, but after the loss yesterday I wouldn't think too much into it. And today was even stranger as Hokutoriki came out like there is no tomorrow with his trademark nodowa and kept going. The surprising thing was that it worked. He did manage to drive Kotomitsuki around the whole ring even though the latter tried to fend off the nodowa and even succeeded once or twice only to get a new paw to the throat and be bent over backwards. And just as it seemed that Hokutoriki will finish off Kotomitsuki with a necksnap the latter managed to break out of the nodowa only to be turned around and pushed out from the manlove position with a small kick to make sure that he did go across the tawara. Impressive win by Hokutoriki who really has just one technique. Kotomitsuki is doing the usual Ozeki sumo these days, namely sucking. 

Asa charged hard and immediately got a left inside hand, but no belt. He quickly used his own right arm to force down Tochinoshin's inside grip neutralizing it from being used to get himself pulled in. Once he made sure Shin wasn't gaining anything easy he went for the right outside grip himself, but only gained one lousy strand of it. Now, not having a really strong grip he didn't go for something foolish, but waited a bit and then threw shin around him to loosen up the opponents stance and possibly gain a better grip himself. The moment Shin replied with coming in close and going for a push himself Asa got that option that he had been waiting for and secured a strong left inside grip. Now in hidari-yotsu it was all Asashoryu, who immediately used the newly found grip to escort Tochinoshin back and out. Nice and calm sumo from Asashoryu, who is looking good this basho no matter the reports prior to the basho. So let's hope he doesn't fall over too early, but can instead fight for the Yusho on senshuraku. 

So you have still kept reading all this far? Wow. How many sandwiches and pee breaks did it take? Really, tell me (you'll find my mail on the front page). Well anyway, if you got this far, why not read the rest of it. It does only contain one bout, that of our number one Yokozuna Hakuho meeting Toyonoshima. And it was an interesting bout. Still reading? Ok, so where do we start. How about when the two first entered sumo and work upwards from there? No, too long? Ok, then how about from when the two lined up and charged at each Hatsu 2003. Still too early? How about Hatsu 2008? 2009? Ok ok, let's start from the lining up and charging today then if you are so impatient. But I have to say it'll be a short report for the bout lasted only three or four seconds. But that's what you asked for. So the two charged and poor Hakuho didn't get any kind of grip. The two stood together with hands in front of their balls until Hak got pissed from it and decided that if he can't have the belt he'll be ok with the arm as well, grabbed Toyonoshima's right arm with both of his and went for the fisherman's throw. The throw is called so because it resembles the casting of a net and is a move that hasn't happened in the top division for years and years (ok, to be precise it happened last in 2006 Aki basho on day nine when Asashoryu won this way against Kotomitsuki). That's it, there's nothing more to say there, it just demonstrated why Hakuho is #1, even without any kind of grip he can just grab what ever is lying about and win. 

And now we have to push Martin out of the room for he's been moaning ever since the ami-uchi happened. So I'll best end the report now and then get some smell candles, so I don't have to think about what just happened. Let's hope poor Andreas can still write tomorrow.

Day 2 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I always get a kick out of watching the Japanese media operate, especially their lame attempts at discrediting Asashoryu and jumping on his every move. Fortunately for all of us, Asashoryu looks great these first two days, and a completely different topic is dominating the headlines off the dohyo. Every two years in January, the Sumo Association holds an election among the oyakata in order to elect 10 directors to the board. Actually, the term "election" is overstating it a bit since the different Ichimon in sumo cooperate with each other so only 10 candidates emerge thus eliminating the need for an actual vote. This year, however, Takanohana-oyakata wants onto the board and has refused to abide by the unwritten "way," which would let three other older guys (Hanaregoma, Nishonoseki, and Naruto) from his Ichimon be submitted as the usual candidates and subsequently reappointed to the board. Takanohana, however, has now abandoned his Ichimon and put his name up for election despite the protests and bitter complaints of the elders in his Ichimon. We'll have to see how this all plays out, but I support Takanohana-oyakata 100% in what he's doing and probably 75% of the oyakata agree although only 5% dare to actually come out and say it.

I talked about this at length during my year-end report in 2008, but sumo has a few issues right now that is killing its popularity, not the least of which is its lack of exposure to anyone under retirement age. Not only does that hurt the sport financially due to decreased ticket sales and lower television ratings, but you now have fewer and fewer Japanese kids who are interested in the sport. Takanohana-oyakata hasn't exactly published an agenda of items he'd like to push if elected to the board, but the very fact that he is going against the grain is encouraging. Sumo has got to make a few changes, and I think Takanohana is aware of this and wants to do something about it. Let's continue to watch how the elections this month play out, but in the mean time, we've got a basho on our hands, so let's get right to the action moving in chronological order.

M16 Toyohibiki took complete control against M15 Kitataiki raising him upright at the tachi-ai with the left hand pushing up into Kitataiki's right armpit. There was no sleeping at the wheel today for Ibiki as he quickly drove his opponent back near the straw before shifting gears on a dime and thrusting Kitataiki to the dirt with his right hand pushing inwards and down at the back of Kitataiki's left shoulder. There will be fireworks tonight in Mos Eisley with Toyo the Hutt's impressive 2-0 start. Kitataiki is 1-1.

After falling prey to a henka yesterday, all M14 Iwakiyama could ask for was a fair fight today. He got it against M16 Koryu who tried to keep Iwonkey Kong at bay with some lite thrusting into Iwakiyama's neck at the tachi-ai. Okay, I lied...Iwakiyama doesn't have a neck, but you get the idea. Koryu's attack was just too soft, however, and Iwakiyama subsequently forced the bout to the hidari-yotsu position. Koryu knew he was in trouble and backed his hips as far away from Iwakiyama as he dared, but Iwakiyama's been in the dance too long to fall for those shenanigans as he pivoted nicely with his left stump before dumping Koryu to the clay with a nifty left inside throw. Iwakiyama moves to 1-1 while Koryu is an expected 0-2.

M14 Hakuba already knows he can't win in this division fighting straight up, so he resorted to another henka today against M15 Tochinonada. Problem was he went to his right, which allowed Tochinonada to grab a desperate left arm on the inside--his favored position--and pull Hakuba in tight. From there Nada easily swing Hakuba around and shoved him across the dohyo to the dirt like a sack'a stale doughnuts. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

M12 Homasho won the tachi-ai against M13 Shimotori lifting him quickly with the right arm on the inside, but Homasho's game is to mostly stay back and try and read his opponent's movements then react. It cost him today because instead of forcing Shimotori straight back, he read Shimotori's own right inside position all the way back to the straw and across before he could counter. Homasho looks more like a boxer jabbing and moving, but in this ring you get in the clinch and drive your opponent straight back. Homasho's failure to do so cost him today as he falls to 1-1. Shimotori's 2-0 if you need him.

M12 Tosayutaka struck M13 Tamanoshima hard at the tachi-ai, but he's just too small to really make a dent in a guy like Peter. Still, he flirted with moro-zashi from the start, and while he technically had both arms inside, he was in too shallow from the left (that's what she said) and relented due to Tamanoshima's kime threat pulling out (urp) and settling for the left outside position. At this stage, the door was wide open for Tamanoshima who simply needed to wrench his smaller opponent upright and off balance, but he stood around like a bump on a log and let Tosayutaka maneuver him back a bit grabbing the left outer grip, which he used to force Tamanoshima back and across. This was puzzling stuff from Tamanoshima who falls to 0-2 while Tosayutaka gets of the shneid at 1-1.

The crowd finally had something to cheer for at this point as M11 Takamisakari stepped up onto the dohyo and went through his usual routine, but the fun ended there as M10 Tochiohzan frankly dismantled Takamisakari from the get-go. Oh used a right hand at Takamisakari's throat to raise him upright while he inserted his left arm well on the inside of Sakari's right side. Already beginning to body Takamisakari back with some nice de-ashi, Tochiohzan grabbed the right inside position giving him moro-zashi, and while Takamisakari technically executed a successful maki-kae with his left arm, he was being driven back too fast, so Tochiohzan simply took it in stride grabbing a firm right outside grip and forcing Takamisakari back and across with ease. I read during the holidays that Takamisakari was caught by paparazzi on a date with a "gurabia idol" whose bra size was a mere double G. Sheesh, if you were so lucky, you wouldn't give a crap about sumo either. Both rikishi are 1-1.

As an aside, if you're wondering what a "gurabia idol" is, it's a girl in Japan who is famous for one reason: huge teets. Several years back when the press was chiding Takamisakari and asking him when he was going to start dating a girl, they asked him who is type was. He mentioned a gal named Hoshino Aki who happens to be Japan's most famous gurabia idol of them all. I guess we know how Takamisakari spends his down time at the stable. How would like to be his tsukebito and take out Takamisakari's garbage? "Uh, senpai, you sure do go through a lot of tissue."

I guarantee you that M10 Aran's mindset today was that it was safe to charge straight ahead against M11 Mokonami, a much smaller foe. Course, he was right as the two hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position that favored the Russian, who made sure his chest was firmly aligned with Mokonami's before he firmly wrestled him over to the straw and across. This was flawless stuff from Aran (2-0), but I still can't get his day 1 henka out of my mind. Mokonami falls to 0-2.

M8 Tokitenku was too casual in his approach against M9 Kokkai allowing the gorgeous Georgian to largely dictate the pace of their hidari-yotsu contest. Kokkai slowly drove Tokitenku back, and it wasn't until Tenku was near the straw before he dug in and tried to counter. He made his move grabbing a right outside grip, but by this time, Kokkai had pulled his opponent in nice and tight and proved to be too massive for Tokitenku to maneuver. The result was a nice force-out win for Kokkai that saw both rikishi standing at 1-1 when the dust settled.

M9 Shotenro's intentions were correct in charging hard against M8 Asasekiryu, but he charged way too high for his own good. He's gotta know that Sexy is gonna hunker down from the start. He did just that getting a pesky left arm on the inside before positioning his noggin directly beneath Shotenro's chin and securing the right grip. From here it was curtains for Shotenro, who could do nothing but take notes as Asasekiryu swiftly drove him back and across the straw leaving both Mongolian's 1-1.

M6 Bushuyama seems to be in panic mode already starting about two steps behind the shikiri-sen today against M7 Tamawashi. I'm a huge opponent of gimmick sumo in general, but starting two steps behind the lines is useless. It's something you never practice during keiko, so what's the point of doing it during the hon-basho? I guess the last time I went on this mild rant I was talking about Toyohibiki, and look where that guy is these days. Anyway, I'm spending so much time on this senseless topic because the bout was so one-sided. Tamawashi used a nice tsuppari attack to polish off the man of the cloth in about five seconds. Because he had so much separation from his opponent at the start, there was no way Dolly Yama was going to grab Tamawashi and force him into yotsu-zumo. Gurabiayama is 0-2 for his trouble while Tamawashi picks up that first win.

M6 Aminishiki struck Wakanosato directly in the upper torso with both hands and his head crushing M7 Wakanosato back from the tachi-ai leaving Croconosato his only option of going for a desperation two-handed pulldown. The move was useless and incredibly Aminishiki failed to stick with the momentum and drive Wakanosato several meters up the East hana-michi, so when the dust settled, both dudes were in the hidari-yotsu position near the edge. Aminishiki focused on the right outside grip and made sure that he kept the momentum, burrowing his head in deep against Wakanosato's body before swinging him around with that outside belt grip and using his right leg nicely to trip Wakanosato off balance and send him flying off the ring. Aminishiki is an expected 2-0 while Wakanosato falls to 1-1.

M4 Kakizoe enjoys a comfortable lead in his head-to-head bouts against M5 Yoshikaze, and I guess today was the perfect reason why as Sweet Zoe Jane demanded the moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai and quickly drove Yoshikaze back and across as pretty as you please. Kakizoe is a surprising 2-0 while Yoshikaze has failed to win a single bout the entire decade.

M5 Kyokutenho knew that all he had to do was grab a hold of M4 Takekaze, but Takekaze knew this too and made damn sure he wasn't gonna stay in front of the Chauffeur. Takekaze fortunately didn't henka, but he didn't stay in front of his opponent for long slipping to his right after the charge and making Kyokutenho chase. Tenho briefly got his left hand at the front of Takekaze's belt, and just when you thought he'd pull the feisty Kaze in close and whisper sweet nothings in his ear, Takekaze said "I'm not that kinda girl" and moved to his left yanking the extended Kyokutenho down to the dirt via tsuki-otoshi. This was clearly a case of the inferior rikishi winning the bout but credit Takekaze for pulling out the win. Both rikishi are 1-1.

I know it's early, but I've already penciled in today's Sekiwake Baruto - M3 Kisenosato contest as the "bout of the year" for my 2010 year-end report. Kisenosato assumed the lower position as he charged straight into Baruto's mass showing serious nad in taking the Estonian on straight up in gappuri hidari-yotsu sumo meaning both rikishi had left inside belt grips and right outside belt grips, but the Kid also showed that sound sumo technique can indeed topple a much larger opponent. Burrowed in tight, Kisenosato began testing the force-out waters moving Baruto this way and that always keeping him from settling in by lifting up at the inside of Baruto's right armpit with the left arm. Baruto tried to counter with a tight armbar position (called kime), but Kisenosato always made sure of two sumo basics: he kept his chest aligned with his opponent, and he made damn sure he enjoyed the lower stance. Those two points kept the bout in Kisenosato's favor the entire time, and while this wasn't a long drawn out chikara-zumo affair, it didn't need to be in order to see Kisenosato's brilliance today as he constantly used his body to bump Baruto off balance before finally knocking the Sekiwake back far enough to where he could finish him off neat as a bowtie with a two-handed shove. Even the Estonian nation had to stand up and applaud Kisenosato in this one as he not only moved to 2-0 but showed why he is truly one of Japan's hopes for the future. Wow, that was great sumo from Kisenosato. Baruto falls to 1-1.

I'm not one to take the Lord's name in vain, but I'll be doing some confessing after watching M3 Hokutoriki completely make Sekiwake Chiyotaikai his bitch in today's bout. Hokutoriki knew what he was up against, so he came hard with a moro-te tachi-ai coupled with flawless de-ashi that allowed him to shove the former Ozeki back and out in the blink of an eye. The Kokugikan went unbelievably quiet after this one it was that uncomfortable to watch someone of Chiyotaikai's former status get done by Hokutoriki of all rikishi. Pup, the writing was on the wall a year ago, and if you haven't figured it out after THIS loss, you need to ride the mini-bus home with Takamisakari. I'd be shocked if Chiyonofuji doesn't already have Taikai's retirement papers in the mail. Yank him now and save everyone the further embarrassment. Hokutoriki picks up what will be a rare win for him as he moves to 1-1. At worst, Chiyotaikai is just four more away from retirement.

In the Ozeki ranks, even Kotooshu had to be surprised that M2 Miyabiyama didn't attempt a single tsuppari at the tachi-ai, opting instead to settle into the hidari-yotsu position where the Sheriff enjoyed the deep inside position on the right. Miyabiyama is not a yotsu guy, but even Kotooshu had to respect that dangerous position, so he executed a maki-kae with his right arm giving him moro-zashi and rendering Miyabiyama's great position useless. Miyabiyama knew he was in trouble at this point, so he attempted to evade and pull Kotooshu along for the ride, but Kotooshu was too composed today and kept his balance allowing him to shove Miyabiyama across the straw from behind in a nice display of counter sumo. Kotooshu lost the tachi-ai but recovered nicely to move to 2-0. Miyabiyama is doing exactly what he needs to do: keep these guys honest. He's 1-1 for his efforts.

M2 Goeido stepped wide to his right at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kaio for two reasons. 1) he wanted the cheap right outer grip, and 2) he wanted to keep his hips as far away from Kaio's right hand as possible. The Ozeki reacted nicely, however, reading his opponent's tachi-ai and swinging his own hips to the right which essentially left the two facing each other straight up again in the center of the dohyo. Both rikishi naturally assumed the hidari-yotsu position, so it was game on as each traded right outers and jockeyed for position. Several times during the bout, we were just waiting for the classic nage-no-uchi-ai contest with Kaio throwing from the right outside while Goeido threatened with the inside left, but Kaio was too intent on pulling Goeido dashi-nage style by the belt and yanking down on the back of his head with the other hand. It was a smart move because if you let Goeido use his thighs to assist his throw, he has the advantage. Experience won out in the end as Kaio was able to force Goeido close enough to the straw that the youngster just ran out of room. Yori-kiri for Kaio and win #807 tying Chiyonofuji's record for all-time Makuuchi wins. Goeido falls to 1-1 and really blew this one at the tachi-ai. Dude's gotta clean up his technique.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki was lazy daisy in his tachi-ai today against Komusubi Kakuryu monkeying around with light tsuppari to Kakuryu's face while the Mongolian seized the day not to mention the moro-zashi position where he wasn't going chest to chest but pushing up at Hit and Mitsuki's armpits with both hands. With Kotomitsuki standing completely upright, the Kak pivoted nicely and slapped the hapless Ozeki to the dirt with his right hand at the back of Kotomitsuki's left shoulder. This was too easy for the Komusubi, which raises the question who's really gonna retire first...Kaio or Kotomitsuki? Kakuryu rights the ship at 1-1 while Kotomitsuki is already 0-2. And while we're on the subject of Kotomitsuki, how did he get so fat in just two months? Mariah Carey called and wants her gut back.

Ozeki Harumafuji usually gets worked by Komusubi Kotoshogiku, so he showed some extra determination today using a quick hari-zashi tachi-ai to lurch into the immediate moro-zashi position. Kotoshogiku had no answer as the Ozeki burrowed in driving the Komusubi back to the straw and across without argument. It was easy today, but go back to the Soken general keiko session held a week before the basho where Kotoshogiku was a no-show. Dude's not right although I haven't read of any injury reports. Harumafuji can sure use a 2-0 start while Kotoshogiku will likely battle Hokutoriki for fewest wins this basho.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho welcomed M1 Tochinoshin who was staring down at the starting lines just prior to the tachi-ai as if to say what the hell am I gonna do now? At that point, I knew Hakuho would win the bout as the two charged and settled into the migi-yotsu position in the center of the ring. For the second day in a row, Hakuho took his time testing the force-out waters and the strength of his opponent, and once satisfied he had the upperhand, he wrenched Tochinoshin to the side setting up a left outside grip near the front of Tochinoshin's belt. It was an easy peasy force-out win from there as Hakuho picks up his second win. Tochinoshin is 0-2, and I can't get over how lost he looked just prior to the charge. Notta good sign.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Asashoryu used a quick hari-zashi tachi-ai to force the bout into the hidari-yotsu position. With Toyonoshima having zero chance of gaining moro-zashi at this point, the bout was over. Asashoryu pulled Toyonoshima in tight, grabbed the right outer grip, and looked to me like an effort to lift him off his feet although the Yokozuna could have been going for a subtle uchi-gake trip with the right leg. Doesn't matter; Asashoryu had Toyonoshima by the short and curlies at this point and just bull rushed him straight back and out for the decisive yori-kiri win. Asashoryu stays even steven with Hakuho while Toyonoshima falls to a respectable 0-2.

Two days in with no real surprises. The Yokozuna look great; Kotooshu is stable; and I can't say enough about Kisenosato.

Doc Mario lubes up his rubberglove tomorrow, so breathe easy. 

Day 1 (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Greetings all and you are welcome to twenty ten. The past year brought me much joy, a few personal triumphs, and one great and terrible sadness, but its done and I am ready for the future. 2010 marks the start of my sixth year reporting for Sumotalk, which I know is six years too many for some of you, but cest la guerre. 

As regular readers of these pages know, Japanese New Year is lousy with traditions, and one of my favourites is the Jan. 1 early morning meal. Our entire family meets in a special room and eats from an assortment of dishes that have been prepared over the previous few days. These foods are all that is to be eaten over the next three days, the tradition being that the mother of the house does not have to use a knife for that period. Yeah, we drink beer and sake, too.

One dish is called "zoni", which is a soup that contains "mochi", a small disc of pounded, sticky rice. The mochi melts in the soup and becomes elastic and then is consumed. Each year a few elderly Japanese choke to death on this stretchy treat, which may be the only food known to mankind where the leading edge of one piece could conceivably be defecated while the trailing edge is still being masticated. Something to make you shit and give you something to chew on. If you dont see how this is analogous to the current state of sumo, drop me an email at:

The day opened with Toyohibiki, who has become a snore rather than a zit, facing Koryu. The Ibiki backed away throughout but at the right moment slapped down and got the win. Have to wonder, though, how many other foes will fall for such nonsense.

Tochinonada is back, but looked like hell be heading out again as he got run out by Kitataiki rather easily.

Hakuba henkad Iwakiyama, and the big man was not able to recover, though he gave it the old Hutt try.

Shimotori got the party started by flinging down Tamanoshima as Peter tried to bumrush him back and out. Shweet is the only word my grammar checker comes up with to describe this one.

Homasho kept hammering away at Tosayutaka, who couldnt figure out what to do, so he leaned in and put his head to Homas head, figuring perhaps he could read his mind. Must not like what he found there, because when they came out of the stalemate, Homasho worked him out like he was flossing spinach.

A woman calling herself "Naughtycal" wrote and asked me why I refer to Mokonami as "Okonomiyaki". I don’t normally explain inside jokes that are meant only for those of us who know Japan (after all, we have to have something that sets us apart from overseas freaks), but she included an enigmatic naked pic of herself on a boat, and if youre riding on a boat like Leo, well, I cant resist. So, the joke is, he is darker than your average rikishi, looks kind of cooked. "Okonomiyaki" is a type of Japanese pancake, but with veggies and meat, cooked on a grill till light brown and smeared in a brown, Worcestershire (pro: wuss ta shur) based sauce. His name sounds enough like the dish to be mildly amusing. Now its your turn, Naughty. Tell me, really, where is the rest of that anchor?

At any rate, Takamisakari (whose various nicks need no splainin) had an easy time with the yakitori sekitori, keeping him in front from the start and not letting him slip to either side. A forward moving, quick win for Mr. Bean.

Aran henkad Tochiohzan and won. Oh Snap was visibly annoyed, but dude really has no one to blame but the man in the mirror. Aran is on a long MK streak, and is above nothing. True, a shonichi henka is nearly as egregious as they come, but one must consider ones foes reputation, and the Bouncer has a nasty one.

Kokkai looked about as nervous at tachi-ai as Mike at a Methodist picnic, and turns out he had every right to be as Shotenro toyed with the gorgeous Georgian for a few seconds, then pulled him down to an inglorious first consecutive defeat. Kokkai, as the Eur-ape-eans are wont to do, took it personal and was heard to be muttering, "Basterd!" as he skulked away like hed just been stomped out on the schoolyard blacktop.

Whenever you get two Mongolians together you stand a decent chance of seeing a good, or at least a contested match, and today was no exception. Asasekiryu got the inside left belt and seemed to be in control, but Tokitenku stalled by leaning in and Sexy had to back up to try something new, in the process losing the inside belt. He then executed a makikae and got it again, while Tokidoki for his part went for a half assed leg swipe (dudes contracted to try at least eight per basho). After a longish temple to temple pitstop, Sexy made a forward push but his countryman timed it like Kobe Bryant stripping the ball on a reach around from the rear, slipping to the back and grabbing his belt, then whipping him about and shoving him out. Yeah, I typed "reach around".

The telly is rife with Winter Olympic news, and the big news here is that a 45 year-old man will be the oldest Japanese Olympian ever. His sport? Skeleton. Raise your hand if you know what this sport entails. Okay, now sit down and resign yourself to a life of masturbation, you geek. Womens softball, rugby, and baseball are out of the Olympics, but sliding downhill on ice headfirst is in? Gravity and a track do most of the work. I applaud this dude, the sliding looks dangerous as all shitout, and he looks like one tough hombre, but seriously, skeleton? 

Wakanosato didnt need the Mawashis mawashi, using his superior strength to hold Tamawshi up until he got frustrated and made a forward push, at which time The Croc used those stubby but manly arms to twist the Mongolian down with ease and dare I say it, aplomb.

Before the bout I was thinking Bushuyama would be fired up to give Aminishiki a run for his money, but all Dolly did was run. Well, not quite, but his ineffective face thrusting went for naught as Shneaky stayed low and pressed forward, running out the holy man before he could get his beads counted. Bang a gong.

I give the JPese credit for not being all "god this and god that", but then they blow it by standing up and revering the Emperor when he strolls in for the first time in some years. Everything stopped as he and the missus made their way up to the royal box (and by the lascivious look on his face it seemed he was of a mind to make his way to the royal box a second time once he and the missus got home, arfarf). I think it was the former commish Kitanoumi up there with them, I suppose to make sure there would be no John Wilkes Booth moment. As tragic as that would be, itd go a long way toward making things interesting, am I wrong? Better still, imagine if, Darwin forbid, the former Commish went nutso, I mean completely gonzo, right then and there, and just grabbed the little fellow and hurled him to the seats below? That would be one of the freakiest and memorable moments of the 21st century when its all said and done, no question about it. Royalty. Thence do my thoughts run.

The Chauffer escorted Starbuck out in less time than it takes to order a "child sized white chocolate mocha frappuccino light blended coffee with an extra shot of espresso, one pump of sugar free raspberry flavoring, and no whipped cream on top". Kyokutenho, like Circus earlier, kept the speed demon Yoshikaze in front of him and gained a banally easy yorikiri win. But dont you worry, the excitement is sure to start once Chiyotaikai takes the stage.

The next match had two guys whod be only 45 centimeters taller than Kotooshu if one stood on the others head, namely Kakizoe and Takekaze. Takakaze tried an immediate pulldown, which only allowed Kakizoe to get in close and under the arms. Thusly set up, he shrugged off a lame armlock attempt and simply worked his M4 rival back and out.

The hag was in attendance today, and it was pointed out by Hiro that she is tough on Asashoryu, which was countered by the English language mangler Ken Swenson with that tired, old, bogus viewpoint that Asa does not behave as a Yokozuna should. What made me laugh was the news that Uchidate hopes to see a Japanese Yokozuna crowned "this year". Shyeah, right, and monkeysll fly outta my butt. How can someone make such an embarrassing public declaration of hope with a straight face? Shouldnt she at least qualify that by saying "in the coming decade"?

Not sure which is more pathetic, that there are fanboys out there who actually think Chiyotaikai has a rat in a bucket o waters chance at 10 wins, or the fact that the Kokonoe lad is out there fighting at all. I guess dignity is a quaint but largely ignored tradition these days. Unsurprisingly, Kisenosato beat him without breaking the seal on a bottle of sweat. Hard as it is for me to admit it, Im feeling for the big lug, who is not being handled by his oyakata in a manner befitting. Disgraceful is all I can say.

If Kisenosatos win over Pup was greased lightning, Barutos annihilation of Hokutoriki was liquid helium cooled magnets. How do we get such a mismatch on Day One of the New Year basho? Zoni!

Kaio, seeing as how if he gets into a belt battle with a guy of Miyabis size hes going to lose, did just what I thought hed do, namely try and hold him at arms length and wait for Flobby to slip up on a shove and overextend his forward lean. Miyabiyama failed to comply, which is how he ended up driving out the old grey mare via oshidashi. 

Finally got a fun bout in Kotomitsuki/Goeido. The Ozeki false started but the gyoji didnt call it back. This allowed Mitsuki to take Goeido to the edge, where he stiffened and brought the action back to the center. Mitsuki manned up and made another push for the bales, and again had Father Guido up agin it, but this time the E2 took advantage of the salivating Ozeki coming in too deeply and too swiftly for the coups de grace, and twisted nimbly for the unexpected and flavorful underarm throwdown. Half the Ozeki down and here comes Mr. Slow Starter his bad self, Harumafuji.

How Do greeted Tochinoshin, a career high W1 in just his eleventh Makuuchi basho, with a good, hard tachi-ai. The Crazy Diamond used his long pipes to set the Ozeki up for invasion, and he did indeed get in on the belt. Problem is, hAruMAfuji is slicker than duck shit and as the big feller grasped for a right hand belt grip, the Ozeki took the luster off No Shine by slapping him on the thigh (Fresh!) and pulling him down by that most contrary to logic kimarite, uchimuso. Its hard to see how a simple hand swipe is going to help fell one of these giants, but it does. If How Do can overcome his Moriarty tomorrow, one Geeku the Barrel ("cut off his toes and he served them all for tea"), it would be a sign that we could be looking at a yusho race of more than just one or two.

Speaking of yusho races, I fully expect Kotooshu to be there if he takes care of bidness like he did today vs. the ever troublesome Half Pint Toyonoshima. Ignoring Tugboats chest blasting tachi-ai, Kotooshu got low and wrapped his arms around his foe, then drove him back so hard they both flew out of the ring and landed on fans and cameramen. A crushing defeat, literally, for the E1 and a win sure to inspire the Ozeki, at least for the next few days, or until he meets Aminishiki (shudder). 

The poor ringside spectators treated to a healthy dollop of Toyonoshima today reminded me of a video compilation Ive longed to see. Spectators crushed by rikishi through the years, just one after another. As Takamisakari once said, Id buy that for a dollar!

Kotoshogiku faced a mountain of a task today, besting the boulder of a Yokozuna Asashoryu, and for the briefest of moments it looked like ol Sisyphus might just pull this one off. Briefest. As in, brief. Fleeting. Once Genghis got his right hand belt grip, well, let the late, great Jim Croce tell ya all about it. "And they say you dont tug on Supermans cape, you dont spit into the wind, you dont pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you dont let Asa get the belt, doo doo doo da dee dee dee dee dee dee." Only Hakuho could be expected to beat Asa once he gets that grip. Geeku was smart to let up when hope was lost, so Asa just pushed him out rather than slam him to the soil. 

On paper, Hak vs Kak looks like a lock, but the scrappy Komusubi, who despite a 7-8 held onto a sanyaku rank by winning five of his last six in Kyushu vs. such luminaries as Shneaky, Oh Snap, Kid and Goeido, had other ideas. A rare false start by Kublai, and subsequent refusal to apologize, made me think Kak had done something wrong and irked the Grand Champion, and ergo, was about to have his head handed to him in a more spectacular manner than usual. 

But no, with Hakuho gaining a quick inside right belt, Kakuryu pulled a shazam maki-kae, leaving both Mongolians with inside left, outside right belts grips. Kaks mawashi had evidently been wrapped by the Kanagawa Girls Choir, and Hak was in danger of exposing his countrymans privates for all the world to see (I know Martin was on the edge of his seat). They waltzed for a good long time, cheek to cheek, barely moving, all hush hush. Finally Hakuho remembered it is he who won 86 bouts last year, and saying blast to the potential for nudity lifted the Kak up and worked him back. Kakuryu had one last hazzuh at the edge, where he demonstrated that Hakuhos mawashi could nearly come undone as well, and he managed to force Hakuho to dive out and land on him in order to win. In fact, it appeared both guys landed on their heads. Ripping good bout coming from an unexpected foe, so cheers on the Kak.

Okay, so were off to the races. Ill see you on Day 15. Like the Lord Humungous, Mike will hold the crazed Day Two tightly to his bosom and whisper it into submission.












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