Article 28 – an undecided point – Who plays next?

Equidistant boules — Who plays next?

An equidistant boules situation. Who plays next?

In petanque, the basic rule is that the team that has the boule closest to the jack is said to “have the point”. The team that does not have the point throws next, and continues to throw until it either gains the point or exhausts its supply of boules.

There are, however, two situations in which neither of the two teams has the point. In French such a situation is called a point nul, which can be translated into English as an undecided point.

  1. An equidistant boules situation occurs when the best boules of the two teams are equally distant from the jack. In actual play, it occurs most frequently when two boules are both touching the jack. You will occasionally see the opinion expressed that in an equidistant boules situation both boules have the point, but that is wrong. The point is nul. Neither boule has the point.
     
  2. An empty terrain situation occurs when no boules are left on the terrain. It occurs when the terrain is empty because all of the boules have been (purposely or accidentally) shot, knocked, or thrown out-of-bounds.

In these situations, neither team has the point, so we need some additional rule or procedure to determine which team throws next. That procedure is described in Article 28.

The team that played the last boule plays again, then the opposing team, and so on alternately until the point belongs to one of them.

I find it helpful to think of the situation this way. When a team throws a boule that creates an undecided point situation, the game enters a kind of tie-breaker mode.

  • In tie-breaker mode, the teams throw alternately until one of the teams gains the point and breaks the tie.
     
  • In tie-breaker mode, the first boule is thrown by the team whose boule created the undecided point situation. That team gets a chance, as it were, to resolve the uncertainty that they created.

There are two situations where players have trouble in knowing how to apply this procedure. Both start in the same way, with an equidistant boules situation.

SITUATION A — All of the boules are shot out, leaving the terrain empty

Team A throws boule A1. Team B throws boule B1, which ends up exactly equidistant from the jack. Now A1 and B1 are equidistant. In throwing B1, team B created an undecided point situation, so team B starts the tie-breaker by throwing boule B2.

Team B throws boule B2, trying to shoot A1. But B2 knocks both of the other boules out of bounds and itself rolls out of bounds. The result is that there are no boules left on the terrain. Which team plays next?

When this question was posted on French petanque forum BOULISTENAUTE, one commentator opined that since the game had gone from an equidistant boules situation to an empty terrain situation, “it is a new undecided point situation” (c’est un nouveau point nul), so the team whose throw created the situation (team B) plays again.

But that is wrong. Team B did not gain the point, so the point is still undecided (point nul) and alternate play continues. Since team B threw last (boule B2), team A throws next.

 

SITUATION B — One of the equidistant boules is exactly replaced

Team A throws boule A1. Team B throws boule B1, which ends up exactly equidistant from the jack. Now A1 and B1 are equidistant. In throwing B1, team B created an undecided point situation, so team B starts the tie-breaker by throwing boule B2.

Team B throws boule B2, trying to shoot A1. But the shot misses and instead hits Team B’s own boule, B1. The shot knocks B1 away and exactly replaces B1 with B2. Now, A1 and B2 are equidistant. Which team plays next?

As before, some players argue that team B should play next because “It is a new case.” As Mike Pegg says, “It is a different boule.” (See also THIS.)

But that is wrong. As before, since team B did not gain the point, the point is still undecided (point nul) and alternate play continues. Since team B threw last (boule B2), team A throws next.


In both situations, A and B, the incorrect answers are based on the observation that things have changed— one or both of the equidistant boules has moved— so in some sense we now have “a new situation”. The problem with these answers is that they confuse creation of a new situation with resolving an undecided point. YES, the situation has changed. But NO, the point hasn’t been decided. It is still the case that neither team has the point. So alternate play continues.

Let me repeat what I said earlier. The whole point of the procedure described in Article 28 is to provide a mechanism for deciding which team throws next when neither team holds the point. And the procedure that it provides is simple and obvious— the teams play alternately until one of them has the point.


Article 15 ...
The first boule of a mene is thrown by a player belonging to the team that won the draw or was the last to score. After that, it is the team that does not hold the point that plays.
...
If the first boule played goes into an out-of-bounds area, it is for the opponent to play, then alternately as long as there are no boules in the in-bounds area.

If no boule is left in the in-bounds area after a shooting throw or a pointing throw, apply the provisions of Article 28 concerning an undecided point (point nul).

Article 28 – Boules equidistant from the jack...
When the two boules closest to the jack belong to different teams and are at an equal distance from it, three situations may exist.
...
(3) If both teams still have boules, the team that played the last boule plays again, then the opposing team, and so on alternately until the point belongs to one of them.


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Diagramming Article 14c

Article 14 says, in part

If the jack, having been hit, is stopped or deviated by a player located in-bounds of the game terrain, his opponent has the choice of:

  • (a) leaving the jack in its new position;
  • (b) putting it back in its original position;
  • (c) placing it anywhere on the extension of a line going from its original position to the place that it is found, up to a maximum distance of 20 meters from the circle (15 meters for the younger players) and such that it is visible.

Paragraphs b) and c) cannot be applied except if the position of the jack had been marked previously. If that was not the case, the jack remains where it is.

14c just cries out for a diagram. So I drew one.

  • Point A is the original position of the jack.
  • Point B is the new position of the jack.
  • Note that we know exactly where point A is, because in order for clause (c) to apply, point A must have been marked. This requirement makes perfect sense — you can’t use a technique that involves drawing a line from point A to point B if you don’t know where point A is.
  • The line segment between B and the arrowhead is the “extension” of the line from A to B. The opponent may (if he wishes) relocate the jack to any position along this line segment.

petanque_rules_article_14c

The sort of common-sense philosophy behind 14c is, I think, this.

The arrow drawn from A through B represents the direction in which the jack was travelling before it was improperly interfered with. If the jack had NOT been interfered with, it would have continued to travel in that direction. Eventually it would have come to rest somewhere along that path. So the opponent (the injured party, as it were) has the right (if he wishes) to place the jack at any location along that path where he thinks the jack would eventually have come to rest. In actual practice, of course, this means that the opponent has the right to place the jack anywhere he wishes, assuming he places it somewhere on the line between B and the arrow-head (20 meters from the circle).

14c stipulates that the opponent may not place the jack more than 20 meters from the circle (which would kill it), so on an open terrain, the jack is unlikely to die, regardless of what choice the opponent makes. But in a game played on a marked terrain, there are some situations that can result in a dead jack. If point B is out-of-bounds, and the opponent chooses to leave the jack at point B, then the jack is dead. Or the opponent may choose to invoke 14c and move the jack until it is 20 meters from the circle. On a marked terrain, this will almost certainly place the jack out-of-bounds, effectively killing it.

And of course, if the original position of the jack was NOT marked, then the only option is to leave the jack in its new position (point B). If point B is out-of-bounds, the jack is dead.