Challenging the jack & the “Pushed Jack” question

measuring_10_meters
Article 7 specifies a number of conditions that the thrown jack must meet in order to be valid – it must be visible from the circle; it must be 6 to 10 meters from the circle; and it must be at least a meter from the nearest throwing obstacle or out-of-bounds line.

To “challenge the jack” is to request that the game be paused so that it can be verified that all of these conditions are being met. The most frequent reason for challenging the jack is to verify that it isn’t more than 10 meters from the circle. This is done by measuring the distance from the circle to the jack.

A freqently-asked question, and one that comes up in a variety of forms, is

Which team can challenge the jack, and when can it do it?

Article 8 says –

If after the throw of the jack, a first boule is played, the opponent still has the right to challenge the validity of [the jack’s] position (le droit de contester sa position réglementaire). If the objection is recognized as valid, the jack is thrown again and the boule replayed. …
If the opponent has also played a boule, the jack is definitely considered to be valid and no objection is admissible.

Let’s call this the Challenge Rule. A more straight-forward way to specify the Challenge Rule would be –

After the jack has been thrown, either team may challenge the validity of the jack at any time until it (the team) has thrown its first boule. After a team has thrown its first boule, it no longer has the right to challenge the jack.

There is a practical reason for the Challenge Rule. Some players like to play very fast — they like to throw the jack and then immediately throw the first boule. Sometimes they throw the first boule so quickly that the opposing team has no time to evaluate the jack’s location or to raise a challenge. So the Challenge Rule gives team B a chance to challenge the jack even when team A throws the first boule very quickly.

There are a number of questions that come up about the Challenge Rule.

Q1: Can team B challenge the jack after verbally accepting it?
Team A throws the jack. The player says “Hmmm. What do you think? Too long?” Team B says “Looks good to me.” Team A points the first boule. It is very good. Team B begins to think that the jack may be long after all. Can team B challenge the jack?

Answer: YES, team B still has the right to challenge the jack.

Currently the FIPJP rules do not recognize any way to verbally accept the jack. So when the captain of team B says “It looks good to me,” according to the FIPJP rules he is merely expressing his personal opinion; he is not waiving his team’s right to challenge the jack.

To verbally accept the jack and then turn around and challenge it strikes some players as gamesmanship at best and poor sportsmanship at worst. And in a friendly game that would be true. But in an organized competition (in petanque, as in all sports), a certain amount of gamesmanship is part of the game. Accept it. Don’t let it distract you. Stay calm and carry on.

Q2: Can team A challenge the jack AFTER throwing the first boule?
Team A throws the jack. Team A then points the first boule. Team A then begins to have doubts — perhaps the jack was thrown too long. Can team A challenge the jack?

Answer: NO.

Remember what we said earlier. “After a team has thrown its first boule, it no longer has the right to challenge the jack.” Team A has thrown its first boule. Its window of opportunity for challenging the jack has closed.

Q3: Can team B challenge a jack that is pushed beyond 10 meters by the first boule, if the jack’s original position was measured?
Team A throws the jack. They measure the distance. It is 9m95cm— valid. Team A then points the first boule. The boule hits the jack and pushes it. Now the jack is clearly more than 10 meters from the circle. Can team B challenge the jack?

Answer: NO. It has already been determined that the jack was thrown to a valid distance.

Players sometimes cite a mythical rule that “the second team has a right to play to a jack between 6 and 10 meters”. They argue that team B should have the right to challenge the moved jack in this situation, and that the jack should be rejected as invalid because it is more than 10 meters from the circle. But that is wrong. There is no such rule. In this situation, it has been established via measurement that the jack was thrown to a legal distance. It therefore cannot be challenged.

Q4: Can team B challenge a jack that is pushed beyond 10 meters by the first boule, if the jack’s original position was marked?
Team A throws the jack and marks it. Team A then points the first boule. The boule hits the jack and pushes it. Can team B challenge the jack?

Answer: YES. The thrown jack’s validity can be determined by measuring the distance from the circle to the marked position.

Q5: (“The Pushed Jack Question”) Can team B challenge a jack that is pushed by the first boule, if the jack’s original position was neither marked nor measured?
Team A throws the jack. Neither team challenges it or marks its location. Team A then points the first boule. The boule hits the jack and pushes it. Now the jack appears to be more than 10 meters from the circle. Can team B challenge the jack?

Answer: YES.

Team B can challenge the jack, and the appropriate response to the challenge is to measure the distance between the circle and the jack’s current position. If the jack is farther than 10 meters from the circle, it is invalid.

This is the answer that the FIPJP’s Technical Committee discussed and agreed upon during a meeting at the World Championships in Germany in 1996. It is the answer given to the very first of the questions in the FPUSA Official Rules Interpretations for Umpires.

BUT THERE IS SOME DISAGREEMENT ABOUT THE PUSHED JACK QUESTION…

I think it is clear that the majority of umpires in the world would answer YES to this question. But English international umpire Mike Pegg, on his “Ask the Umpire” Facebook group, has repeatedly answered it with NO. Mike’s position is that the requirements for a valid throw of the jack apply to a THROWN jack, not a MOVED jack. Since the jack’s original position (before it was moved) was not marked, there is no way to prove that its original position was not valid. Team B therefore has no grounds on which to base a challenge. In short— If the pushed jack wasn’t marked, it can’t be challenged.

As we have said, the FIPJP’s Technical Committee rejected this position in 1996. In addition, there are a number of cogent arguments against it.

1. Article 8 makes no distinction between a thrown jack and a moved jack. It says that team B can challenge the position of “the jack” (not, “the thrown jack”).

2. When an umpire is called in, all he sees is the jack lying on the ground in its current location. As far as he can tell, the jack’s current location is its original location. It is the throwing team’s responsibility to mark the jack. Since the jack’s original position was not marked, team A has no basis for claiming (a) that the jack’s original location was valid, or even (b) the jack’s original location was different from its current location. So team B may challenge the jack in its current location. (This is the position of the FPUSA umpires.)

3. The reason for the existence of the Challenge Rule is that some players throw the first boule so quickly that they deny the opposing team any opportunity to challenge the jack. Team A’s decision to throw the first boule without having marked the jack, like their decision to throw the first boule quickly, should not be grounds for denying Team B the right to challenge the jack.

REFERENCES AND LINKS


Playing to avoid problems with Article 8

The kind of situations that we’ve been discussing could be avoided if everyone were always to mark the position of the jack after it was thrown. At one time that was in fact traditional practice. But it isn’t any more. So, given the reality of the way we play today, here are some thoughts about how to avoid problems with Article 8.

1. When your team throws the jack, always mark it.

2. When your team throws the jack, play in a courteous manner. After throwing the jack, pause. Ask the other team if it looks OK to them, and wait for their answer. This gives the other team a chance to challenge the jack if they want to.

3. Some teams are in the habit of verbally accepting the jack, and then later challenging it. If you’re playing such a team, accept the fact that what they are doing is perfectly legal, and they are trying to mess with your concentration. Don’t let them get away with it. Don’t let them rattle you. Be mellow; keep calm and carry on.

4. If you see that the opposing team is in the habit of throwing the jack and then quickly throwing their first boule, what can you do? If you’re on friendly terms, talk to them and express your concern. They may not be aware of what they are doing, and will change their behavior. If you’re on less-friendly terms, you can talk to them, explain your concern, and ask if you can agree on some arrangement whereby one team or the other always marks the position of the thrown jack. That is what umpires say players should do, so it is certainly appropriate for you to ask for their help in seeing that it gets done. If you can’t come to some agreement, and you’re playing in an umpired competition, call in the umpire, explain the situation, and let him handle it.


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4 thoughts on “Challenging the jack & the “Pushed Jack” question

  1. This rule has been discussed many times and continues to cause confusion- both with players and also umpires. The rule

    1. is poorly written and open to interpretation- hence the confusion; and
    2. encourages unsporting behaviour- ”let’s wait until the opponents play their first boule. If it’s a good point, then we’ll challenge the jack.”

    The rule should require that both teams agree the jack is valid, before playing a boule. Interesting, that was the wording in the 1972 rules – why was it changed???

    Art. 14. — Après le jet du but, demander l’acceptation de l’adversaire sur la validité avant l’envoi de la première boule.
    ‘’After throwing the jack, ask the opponents to agree that it is valid before throwing the first boule.’’

    Logically, it’s only the position of the THROWN jack that can be challenged, not the DISPLACED jack. But some French umpires say, if the position of the jack wasn’t marked, we will measure to the current position. This is an incorrect interpretation – they are measuring the DISPLACED jack, not the THROWN jack.

    In the unlikely event that a team disputes that the jack was moved, then the umpire should warn the team to mark the position.

    • Ray asked an interesting question to which there is an interesting answer. The question is “that was the wording in the 1972 rules – why was it changed?”. The answer can be found in our rules archives. See https://petanquerules.wordpress.com/the-rules-of-petanque-archives/#1984

      The short answer is this. In 1972, each national federation had its own set of national rules, and the FIPJP had its own (different) set of international rules. In 1984, the FIPJP dropped its earlier set of international rules and adopted and adapted the French national rules to create a new set of international rules. All of the national federations fell in line behind the FIPJP’s new set of rules. Since then, the national federations basically use the FIPJP rules as their own national rules. That’s how the rule about asking the opponents was lost. It was part of the set of old FIPJP rules that was discarded in 1984.

      • Interesting to know when this change occurred but it doesn’t explain ‘why’ this rule was changed – which is *still* causing confusion! I suspect we will never know – it’s an example of the rules only dealing with an ‘exception’ and overlooking the ‘normal’ case. It’s annoying that there is the ‘anomaly’ of challenging the displaced jack – it should, of course, be the *thrown* jack – but the real problem is that it incites unsporting play. I would really like to see this rule changed, along the lines of, ”Both teams must agree the position of the thrown jack before playing a boule. If Team A plays a boule without agreement [they should risk a penalty] Team B still has the right to challenge the position of the thrown jack. If it is valid, the throw remains but Team A will be sanctioned. If it is invalid, Team A will be sanctioned and their boule automatically disqualified. [This is to prevent unsporting behaviour.]

  2. Gary Jones and Raymond Ager supplied a number of very helpful comments on the original version of this post. I revised the post considerably in light of those comments, to the point that those comments are no longer applicable. So I’ve deleted most of them. But I haven’t forgotten them! Thanks Gary and Ray! 🙂

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