To “challenge the jack” is to request that the game be paused so that it can be verified that all of the requirements for a valid jack (which are specified in Article 7) are being met. Article 8 describes the the Challenge Rule— the procedures for challenging the jack. Here is a simplified restatement of the rule.
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 9.90m— 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 the jack should be rejected as invalid because it is now more than 10 meters from the circle. But in actuality there is no such rule. In this situation, it has already 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 has been the FIPJP’s official answer ever since the FIPJP Technical Committee discussed it and agreed upon this answer during a meeting at the World Championships in Germany in 1996 (although it was never recorded in any official FIPJP document). It is the answer French umpires have been giving for years, and it is the answer given in the FPUSA Official Rules Interpretations for Umpires. For many years English international umpire Mike Pegg, on his “Ask the Umpire” Facebook group, repeatedly maintained that the answer was NO. Mike’s position was 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 March 2017, however, Mike publicly reversed his position based on a directive sent to FIPJP umpires by Claude Azema, FIPJP president, in May 2016. Now Mike’s answer, too, is YES.
How to avoid problems with Article 8
- 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.
- 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. Don’t let it rattle you. Be aware that if you allow yourself to work yourself into a lather over what you consider to be the opposing team’s “poor sportsmanship”, you’ve basically shot yourself in the foot as far as “the mental game” is concerned. So be mellow; keep calm and carry on.
- 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.
This was reported by Mike Pegg in a 1999 post on petanque.org.
For Mike’s old position, see THIS and THIS.
For Mike’s revised position as of March 2017, see THIS.