Kenji's 2003 Haru Basho Archives

Day 14 Comments

Well, Mike, you hit the nail on the head with your prediction today.  First, Chiyotaikai beat Miyabiyama to drop the latter out of the picture, then Kaio injected himself back into the picture by beating Asashoryu.  That means Chiyotaikai again stands alone in the lead at 11-3 followed by Asa and Kaio >>>closely behind at 10-4.  This means Chiyo controls his destiny.  Here are the three scenarios we could face tomorrow.  I'll spare you a prediction for obvious reasons; if you've been following fantasy sumo this basho you'll know why:)

  1. Chiyotaikai beats Asashoryu on the last bout of day 15 and wins the yusho outright.  I doubt this happens because Chiyotaikai has yet to show he can win toe-to-toe against anybody his equal.  Today's bout against Miyabiyama, in which both rikishi went at it hard using their best tsuppari, was exciting, yes, but the whole time I was waiting for the pull-down.  The longer he went against Miyabi, the more inevitable it became.  I'll give him this—he times it very nicely, but surely cheap wins can only take you so far. 
  2. Kaio beats Kotomitsuki (5-9) and Asashoryu beats Chiyotaikai to force a 3-man tomoesen (play-off), in which case the first rikishi to win two in a row takes the yusho.  If it comes to this, Chiyo could break the record for number of pull-down attempts used in one day. 
  3. Kaio loses and Asashoryu beats Chiyotaikai to force a rematch for the yusho.  This won't be as fun as #2, unless Chiyo loses both times with unsuccessful pull-down attempts (now that would be a blast, and totally within the realm of possibility).  Okay, I'll stop it already on Chiyo's shortcomings. 

It was vintage Kaio today in his victory against Asashoryu.  Kaio is a master at grabbing an opponent’s arm and using it against him, as he did yesterday against Chiyotaikai.  This is particularly true when the opponent is a pusher like Chiyo.  Today, however, Asashoryu showed a very non-Asashoryu-like tachiai in which he went chest first.  Actually, this is a very Kaio-like tachiai.  It was a pretty even tachiai but when Asashoryu went to seize the belt, Kaio used that momentum to flick him to the side and the bout was over before it began.  This is not a move that Asashoryu usually bites on, but we all know he hasn't been his best this basho. 

There were a few other bouts worth mentioning today, so here goes:

Well folks, that's it.  Enjoy the last day, whatever twist it may have.  After all, this is Osaka basho.

Day 12 Comments

It was another day of solid sumo to satisfy yotsu-zumo and oshi-zumo fans alike.  In the process, we all but streamlined the yusho picture to three rikishi:  Chiyotaikai, Asashoryu and Miyabiyama. 

My picture perfect "good" co-recipients today are none other than Asashoryu (9-3) and Chiyotaikai (10-2), >>>who both absolutely snobberknocked their opponents with fierce tsuki-oshi.  Asa once again used a commanding nodowa against Wakanosato (7-5) while Chiyo did to Kaiho (5-7) what Tamanoshima did to Chiyo a few days ago, which was win the head butting tachiai with a superior upward angle.  Both blasted their opponents within seconds.  If both keep this up, we'll have a doozy of a musubi-no-ichiban (final bout) on day 15.  For now, I'll have to give the edge to Asashoryu if only because he is mentally stronger. 

Kaio (8-4) secured a majority of wins to escape kadoban status with a ho-hum schooling of Kyokushuzan (7-5), who is somehow only one win shy of kachi-koshi himself.  Of course Kyokushuzan sidestepped the tachiai to avoid being hit.  Kaio, along with every fan in the arena, was ready for this.  He then quickly grabbed the right uwate and it was game over for Kyokushuzan. 

Kotomitsuki (5-7) beat Toki (4-8) to stave off a losing tournament yet again.  He found himself in a rather uncomfortable deep moro-sashi (both arms inside) but kept the pressure on forcing Toki out and ensuring his demotion.  Koto has a tall order ahead if wants to avoid being demoted himself.  He'll have to get by Asashoryu tomorrow, then probably Chiyotaikai and Kaio.  Good luck.

For you yotsu-zumo fans, Takamisakari is lighting up the dohyo in recent days.  After a 1-5 start, he has evened his record at 6-6 getting by Kotoryu, who has now lost 7 in a row after a 5-0 start.  Today Takami did it despite not having his favored migi-yotsu, which is a testament to his versatility. 

In another yotsu-zumo gem, Kyokutenho (6-6) drove out Kotonowaka (5-7) to stop his recent slide.  This one was gappuri from the get-go.  Both rikishi locked down on both sides of the other's belt to set up a classic strength for strength match.  Both struggled to move the other but Kyokutenho proved the better rikishi today as he able to guide the larger Kotonowaka out. 

Dejima (8-4) kept his hopes for double-digit hopes alive with a win against Tamanoshima (7-5).  Dejima has decided to go inside for more of a yotsu-style position than his usual tsuki-oshi, but his aggressive pressure is alive and well.  He drove Tama out using a gaburi-yori (thrust body forward kicking with both legs simultaneously) reminiscent of Arase of 1970's fame.  Remember him, veteran sumo fans? 

We suffered yet another casualty when Takanonami (7-5) fell atop Tokitsuumi (8-4) to end Toki's yusho hopes and his tournament all in one shot.  This was one painful looking way to lose as it was total splitsville for Tokitsuumi.  It was Toki's shitatenage vs. Taka's uwatenage.  Well, it was more like the taller Taka crushing him than throwing him, sending Tokistuumi into a complete split position that injured his left hamstring.  Tokitsuumi joins Iwakiyama, Shimotori, Musoyama and Takekaze as in-basho withdrawals and becomes the 12th inactive sekitori, which sums up the sad state of sumo these days.

After a flash of brilliance, Hokutoriki (8-4) succumbed to Miyabiyama (9-3) to all but drop out of the yusho race.  Miyabiyama becomes the dark horse now as the top guys start facing each other these last few days.  We're one bad hiki-waza by Chiyotaikai away from a three rikishi tomoesen (play-off).

Speaking of top guys facing each other, I've got to give the picture perfect bout for tomorrow to the clash of Ozeki, Kaio vs. Chiyotaikai.  These two are locked at 11 wins apiece in their bout history with Kaio taking the last three.  Kaio could play spoiler and sneak back into this thing.  Again, all it will take is a mental lapse by Chiyo or a right outside grip by Kaio, which are both entirely possible.  Stay tuned folks, Sumo March Madness is hitting its fever pitch.

Day 10 Comments

Anyone care to step up and win this thing?  Chiyotaikai (9-1), who didn't even fight today because his scheduled opponent Shimotori (3-7) withdrew from injury, furthered himself from the field because all three rikishi with two losses lost.  You can't ask for better circumstances than that.

>>>Asashoryu (7-3) again averted consecutive losses by stopping the hot Tamanoshima (7-3), who would have locked in the Shukunsho prize with a win today.  Asa built his attack around a stiff nodowa that he planted under Tama's chin for the majority of the bout.  It was all Tama could do to resist being driven out of the ring in a matter of seconds, which is why Asa's well-timed release of the nodowa sent him plunging face first into the clay.  A hiki-waza used this way is okay; Asa won the tachiai and drove his opponent back, using the nodowa to set up the pull-down.  It was very controlled and well executed, and he doesn't do this as a staple in his arsenal like Toki.  Asa may not be having his best basho, but there's something to be said for his resolve following a loss.  It is said that Yokozuna should never lose twice in a row, and Asa has shown he can bounce back quickly.

Wakanosato (6-4) beat Kaio (6-4) in a somewhat disappointing yotsu-zumo showdown.  Kaio got his hidari-yotsu position but could not secure that feared uwate he covets.  Then Waka swung and missed on a kotenage (hook throw) but it served to throw Kaio off balance which resulted in his falling forward for an 'excuse me' hiki-otoshi win.  Not exactly the stellar bout we anticipated. 

Kotomitsuki (3-7) looked like a reckless train but managed to keep his balance just long enough to oust Takanonami (6-4), even though it took a mono-ii to confirm it.  And what is it with these indecisive gyoji this basho?  Make a call and stand by it already!  The other day we saw one change his mind and today we see a haphazard hand go up as if he's not sure who won.  Oh well, at least the call was correct.

I'll give today's "picture perfect good" sumo to Takamisakari (4-6), who showcased his strength and yotsu-zumo prowess against Dejima (6-4).  Don't ask me why Dejima has decided to abandon his oshi-zumo in the last few days, but Takami's not complaining.  He quickly positioned himself in his favored migi-yotsu and put on a clinic from there.  With hidari-uwate firmly in hand, he used his right arm (positioned inside) to render Dejima's left arm completely useless by raising it up too high to do anything.  Then he kept the pressure on so that Dejima could get no leverage for the duration of the bout.  Give Dejima an A for effort as he held on for a while in this compromising position, but Takami was the aggressor the whole time.  The comical Takami is very strong when he gets his right arm inside like this.  When he finally pushed Dejima out, the crowd roared, which only makes Takami do more funny things it seems.  After giving chikara-mizu to the next rikishi, Takami retreated up the hana-michi so fast he would have won a race walking contest.  This guy never stops entertaining.

Didn't see a horrendous enough bout today to get my "picture perfect bad" award, although Kaiho's pull-down of Buyuzan (6-4) was disappointing.  Little guys like Kaiho (5-5) I'll forgive for such tactics; they have to do what they can to win against their behemoth opponent of the day.  Since we're on Kaiho, I'll give him the "picture perfect bout for tomorrow":  The Asashoryu Rematch.   Kaiho was the only guy to beat Asa last basho, and rest assured Asa hasn't forgotten it.  These two technicians should put on another good show.

Besides Tamanoshima, Hokutoriki and Tokitsuumi were the other 2-loss rikishi to go down today.  Combine them with wins by Kyokushuzan (7-3) and Miyabiyama (7-3), and we have ourselves six rikishi with three losses that are two behind Chiyotaikai in the race for the emperor's cup.  Got that?

Day 8 Comments

We have now entered the second half and the yusho picture is starting to shape up.  Today we saw the leading lady fall, the contenders start to surface, and the pretenders start to fade. 

Asashoryu (6-2) averted consecutive losses by showing us his defensive genius again in relegating Kotoyu (5-3) to >>>pretender status.  Koto won left inside position and a right outer grip to put Asa on the defensive from the get go.  When he went for the kill with an uwatenage (outer grip throw), it was as if Asashoryu was waiting for it as he simply blocked it with a beautifully executed sotogake (outside leg hook) that collapsed Kotoryu.  Here again is Asashoryu's "kan" or sumo "sense" that makes him so special. 

I'd be lying if I told you I didn't thoroughly enjoy Chiyotaikai's bout today.  As if on cue, Chiyo (7-1) resorted to a pull-down attempt as soon as he was beaten on the tachiai against Tamanoshima (6-2), who has emerged to contender status.  Tama impressively stopped Chiyo in his tracks after a vicious butting of heads.  This earned him the victory because what happened next was a foregone conclusion.  As soon as you stop Chiyo's tachiai, it has become standard that he transforms into a weak-minded, sheep-in-wolf's clothing by employing the pull-down instead of soldiering on.  As long as Tama is ready for this and does not fall forward, his ticket to victory is stamped.  And ready he was, as he used the additional momentum that Chiyo conveniently gave to promptly thrust him out of the ring along with his fragile undefeated record.  You cannot deny that Chiyo had this coming, and I'm still laughing about it hours later as I type this.

It seems Mike gets to report on the bitter Kaio chocolates this basho while I get to report on the sweet ones.  In another flip-flop from the previous day, Kaio (5-3) wasted no time securing his favored hidari-yotsu (left inside position) on his way to making Kyokutenho (5-3), who has looked strong thus far, seem like quite the pretender.  Kaio didn't even need his famous right outside grip to oust the Mongolian in a matter of seconds.  With Kaio, you just never know; therefore for unwrapping tomorrow's mystery I hope Mike likes all kinds of chocolates.

In a battle of faltering Sekiwakes, Wakanosato (4-4) overcame Kotomitsuki (2-6).  Koto is utterly confused this basho.  The good news is that he did not emulate Chiyotaikai and resort to hiki-waza; he has done this a couple of times with disastrous results already (and he has done it when he won the tachiai, which is even worse).  So give him credit for following through on his strong initial charge.  The bad news is that he was overanxious in his pursuit, which allowed Waka's 11th hour sukuinage (scoop throw) to work like a charm.  You have to respect the effort from Koto today, but he needs to tread firmly and stay within himself.  Waka just needs to get the fire back in his belly.

Dejima (5-3) was knocked off the contender list for now by meeting his match today against Tochinonada (4-4).  The strong Tochi beat Dejima the best way anyone can beat him- grab his belt and stop his momentum.  After a rare moment of inactivity in a bout that involves Dejima, Tochi disposed of him by employing one of his favorite moves- a nicely executed shitate-nage (inside grip throw) from the left side. 

Here's the first installment of what I'll call my "picture perfect" series.  Every day (as long as there are worthy bouts), I'll select a "picture perfect good" sumo and "picture perfect bad" sumo bout, as well as a "picture perfect bout for tomorrow". Today's "picture perfect good" goes to Kaiho (4-4) who toppled a much taller and heavier Kotonowaka (3-5).  If anyone worked for a victory today, Kaiho did.  In fine Mainoumi fashion, Kaiho dug in for a deep left shitate (inside grip) and proceeded to toss his bigger foe around and around like a carousel.  After three or four revolutions, Kaiho grabbed a leg for leverage and finished Koto off with what seemed like an eternal shitate-nage.  "Picture perfect good" because Kaiho exemplified the best way to beat an opponent that dwarfs you- attack from the side, keep him off balance and never stop moving.  I see you workin' baby, I see you workin'!

The "picture perfect bad" goes to Kyokushuzan (5-3), who ironically won against Aminishiki (4-4).  Why anyone likes this guy's sumo is beyond me.  First, he starts with his typical morote-tsuki (both arms extended to greet opponent) tachiai because he is 1) too afraid to hit anybody, and 2) too afraid to be hit.  Second, he goes out of his way to grab the back of Ami's mawashi only to use a, what else, pull-down technique.  Kyokushuzan can thank his natural agility and balance for being able to escape with a win at the edge of the ring.  This epitomizes bad sumo.  "Picture perfect bad" because Kyokushuzan wusses out on the tachiai, which is the foundation of good sumo, and he wins by retracting, which shows no forward thinking or movement whatsoever. 

The "picture perfect bout for tomorrow" is Tosanoumi vs. Dejima.  Mark my words:  There'll be no back tracking in this one except for the rikishi receiving the tooth rattling punishment from the other.  Friends, get ready for some smash mouth sumo and enjoy.  Chiyotaikai, take out pencil & paper and take notes.

At the close of day eight, Chiyo still stands alone at the top with one loss followed by these seven rikishi, in order of significance, with two losses a piece:  Asashoryu, Tamanoshima, Miyabiyama, Tokitsuumi, Buyuzan, Hokutoriki and Jumonji.

Day 6 Comments

If I were Kokonoe Oyakata (former Chiyonofuji and currently Chiyotaikai's stablemaster), I would give Chiyotaikai a swift kick in the ass and then fine him exponentially from now on any time he uses a cheap, pull-down tactic.  Then I would give him another swift kick.  He ruined yet another feature bout today with Tosanoumi (3-3) by pulling him down after losing the tachiai clash.  Chiyo doesn't lose many tachiais, but when he does it's just a matter of time before he does what he did today.  The last four times he has beaten Tosanoumi, it has been on a pull-down or side-step of some sort.  I can't remember the last time Chiyo has fought a guy his equal strength for strength.  Not only is he doing the sumo fans a huge disservice, he's doing himself one, too.  Will he ever stand up and fight a guy his equal?  It appears not.  He is making it awfully difficult for me to appreciate his 6-0 record.  The two ironic things about this are that 1) I think he is absolutely capable of beating the Dejimas and Tosanoumis straight up but HE WON'T TRY IT, and 2) I am not totally against the hiki-waza when used sparingly to keep opponents honest.  You may recall Mike disgusted with Takanohana recently when he side-stepped the tachiai and won.  I didn't have a problem with that because how often did you see Taka do that?  Okay, enough of Chiyotaikai's anticlimactic, bush league sumo tactics so on to better things...

Asashoryu (5-1) showed Takamisakari (1-5) who's boss today with a stiff right nodo-wa (prolonged thrust to neck) followed by a swift left sukuinage (scoop throw) to promptly end the match, then for good measure almost snapped Takami's neck when he gave him an extra reminder that any amount of pre-bout antics aren't going to help you beat this Yokozuna, thank you very much.  Yeah, I can see Asashoryu using a bamboo stick or even an air gun at point blank range for corporal punishment, as was played up by the media recently.  This guy reeks competitiveness.  He is all about winning.  He could probably tone down the extras a little though, now that he is supposed to be a dignified Yokozuna.

After laying a golden (chocolate) egg yesterday against Dejima, the other Kaio (4-2) showed up today to dominate Tamanoshima, who has been looking good and only drops to 4-2.  Kaio did try another quick pull-down but it wasn't enough to cripple him as he used his superior strength to guide Tama out with relative ease. 

Musoyama (1-5) has done it again.  He seems to have dislocated his left shoulder in losing to Tochinonada (3-3).  The thing is, it didn't look like Tochi did anything to cause it.  Some of you may think he's faking it to give himself an excuse to withdraw, but I'm pretty sure this is legit.  I truly thought Musoyama was healthy and ready to make a much overdue run.  Well, he was healthy but he just stunk.  Now his left shoulder is becoming a chronic problem from which he may never fully recover.  Are Musoyama's best days behind him?  I hope not, but only time will tell.  My guess is that he will not return in May, but what good have my guesses done lately, right?

Wakanosato (3-3) didn't show up today against Kotonowaka (3-3).  After not being allowed to get his migi-sashi (right inside grip) at the tachiai, Waka pretty much stood there and then what happened next was almost unprecedented.  Kotonowaka attacked!  Shedding his Mr. Ippun (Mr. One-minute Sumo) image, he made quick work of the uninspired Sekiwake.  Unbelievable.

Kotomitsuki (2-4) is competing with Chiyotaikai for best bush league technique this basho.  Against Dejima (4-2), Koto actually had the upper hand with a stronger tachiai during which he got the hidari mae-mitsu (left front belt grip), but promptly negated it with a bonehead pull-down that resulted in another loss that leaves you wondering what these guys are thinking by continuing this nonsense.

In other news, Kotoryu and Jumonji both lost for the first time today.  Hokutoriki won to chalk up his fifth win against one loss.  That means after six days we have the excruciating Chiyotaikai atop the heap at 6-0 followed by Asashoryu and the aforementioned three all at 5-1.  Like Mike said, it looks like it may boil down to Asa and Chiyo.  What better than to have Asa give Chiyo the swift kick he deserves?

Day 4 Comments

Asashoryu (3-1) bounced back today, albeit not convincingly against Shimotori (1-3).  Shimo was on the offensive, but Asa's defensive prowess took over as he used his uncanny timing to step back and use Shimo's momentum against him.  This defensive intuition should not be mistaken >>>for Chiyotaikai's bad habit, whereby Chiyo tries to make his opponents fall forward as an offensive tactic.  As they say, it's nagare, or knowing what to do at what time that makes Asashoryu so doggone good. 

Musoyama (0-4) continued to dig himself a deeper hole by being tossed about easily by Wakanosato (3-1).  He looked anxious to finish Waka off and grab that elusive first win, but when Waka offered a counter throw there was little resistance shown.  Judging by how Musoyama looks right now, there's no light at the end of the tunnel.

Chiyotaikai (4-0) and Kaio (3-1) were not challenged today, as they easily disposed of stationary target Takamisakari (1-3) and the injured Kotonowaka (1-3), respectively. 

Kotomitsuki (2-2) did his best impersonation of Chiyotaikai today by employing a poor hiki-waza (pull-down) after a strong tachiai, except that Koto wasn't as lucky as Chiyo was against Dejima.  It resulted in an embarrassing loss against Tamanoshima (3-1).  This is textbook bad sumo.

Kyokutenho (3-1) dominated Iwakiyama (2-2) to continue his strong showing thus far.  As Mike mentioned, a majority of wins in Osaka could get him the Shukunsho by way of his stunning victory over Asashoryu yesterday.  Kyokutenho is quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the joi ranks.

The 4-0's:  Besides Chiyotaikai, Kotoryu remained unbeaten by getting by Dejima (2-2) in a torinaoshi (do-over).  From the bottom rung on the west side, Jumonji beat Kasuganishiki (2-2) to pick up his fourth win in as many days.  Don't get too excited over these two just yet, folks. 

The 0-4's:  I'm scratching my head over these guys.  Kasugao looks nothing like his stellar January debut.  Tochinohana looks clueless at M15.  Many of you may remember that he made quite a splash a couple years ago when he first came onto the Makuuchi scene, upsetting Ozekis and holding his own in joi for a couple basho before getting hurt.  Has the injury taken that much of a toll on this guy?  That leaves Akinoshima, who just may be seeing the beginning of the end of his illustrious Makuuchi career. 

Rookie Takekaze bowed out today due to an ankle injury he sustained yesterday in his only win.  His anticipated Makuuchi debut ends with a disappointing 1-3 record unless the ankle recovers in time to come back.  For now, those of us who chose him for our fantasy stables can expect no more points from the bottom slot.  If you also took Musoyama like I did, well, the tunnel looks long and dark indeed. 

Day 2 Comments

For those fantasy sumo goers out there who may be snickering, I have three words:  IT'S STILL EARLY.  That said, here are my takes thru day 2 of the always unpredictable Osaka:

Pre-Basho Report

March 1, 2003--It's time for Osaka basho and that means March Madness sumo style baby!  With Takanohana retired, Asashoryu newly promoted and two Ozeki back in action, there is a feeling of renewal right in line with the changing of the seasons.  Although Tochiazuma and Musashimaru are, respectively, confirmed and probable absences, having one Yokozuna, three Ozeki and three strong Sekiwake ready to compete is enough to make this fan fired up considering the recent anemic state of the top slots.  The bottom slots look awfully good too, so there's plenty of balance this time out that should keep things interesting the whole way.  Here's a quick rundown of some of the stories to follow: 

Well, that about wraps it up for now folks.  Stay tuned for daily updates starting March 9 and remember, get your fantasy stables in.  No stable is a bad stable in unpredictable Osaka!  To that end, I'll leave you with an appropriately balsy prediction:

Yusho:  Musoyama (Ozeki), 13-2

Ginosho:  Asasekiryu (M10), 10-5

Kantosho:  Takekaze (M13), 10-5

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