Can a team “take the point”? Can a team retract taking the point?

Can a team “take the point”?

Sometimes this happens.

It is near the end of the mene. Team A is out of boules. Team B has the point and one unplayed boule.

Team B is worried— if they attempt to gain another point, their last boule might mess up the situation around the jack… they could lose the one point that they now have. So they decide to play it safe. Team B’s player throws his last boule far away from the jack.

When he throws away his last boule, the player can expect some good-natured ribbing about his “chicken throw”. So, rather than performing a chicken throw, he holds on to his last boule and says “We’ll take the point”. By that he means— “We’re not going to throw any more boules; we’ll just take the point(s) that we already have.”

When he does this, rules wonks may ask: Can he do that? Can he say “we’ll take the point” and not play his remaining boules? Isn’t he required to play his last boule?

The answer is a definite “maybe”. The practice of “taking the point” is universally accepted when one team is out of boules and the other team has game on the ground. When that happens, the game is over; there is no reason to throw any more boules.

IN OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES, however, the practice of “taking the point” is not universally recognized. Some clubs accept it, but others do not. In clubs that don’t accept it, a visiting player will be told that he can’t just “take the point”: he must actually throw his last boule.

Can a team retract taking the point?

“Taking the point” can cause problems.

Team B is sure that they have the point, so they say “we’ll take the point”. The two teams walk to the head and examine the situation. They realize that matters are not as clear as they thought, so they decide to measure. When they measure, Team B discover that they were mistaken; they do not have the point.

The captain of Team B says, “Well, in that case we will play our remaining boule.” But Team A objects, on the grounds that when Team B said “we’ll take the point” Team B gave up the right to play any more boules.

Who is right? Can Team B play their last boule?

Here, as in so many other cases involving the FIPJP rules, opinions differ. Most FIPJP umpires will rule that saying “we’ll take the point” has no significance under the FIPJP rules (basically, it was just an off-the-cuff remark), so Team B can play their last boule.

The Dutch petanque federation (NJBB), on the other hand, says—

When a team chooses to say “we’ll take the point” they are in effect saying “Consider all of my boule(s) as thrown: Let’s determine the final score”. That is, by saying “we’ll take the point” they are giving up the right to play their remaining unplayed boules. They are in effect VIRTUALLY throwing away their last boules.

I’m sympathetic to the NJBB position, which seems very commonsensical. But the FIPJP interpretation forestalls debates about what Team B may or may not have said, and about whether it can be retracted. This is an important practical benefit, and for that reason I personally endorse the FIPJP interpretation.

My advice, therefore, is that even if “taking the point” is acceptable in your club, you should always play all of your boules. A chicken throw is nothing to be ashamed of when it is also the Smart Thing To Do.

[revised: 2020-08-08]

The weight of the boules

Article 2 specifies three weight-related requirements for boules.

  1. Boules must weigh between 650 and 800 grams.
  2. The manufacturer must engrave the weight on the boules.
  3. The manufacturer’s weight mark (le chiffre du poids) must be legible.

The reason for the weight-mark is to make it easy (or easier) to detect a “stuffed” boule. Injecting a substance like mercury into a boule will, all else being equal, increase its weight. So an umpire can simply weigh a boule and be reasonably certain that it has been tampered with if it weighs more than the weight mark.

The requirement for a manufacturer’s weight mark was first added to the French (FFPJP) rules in 1974, and one guesses that the number of stuffed boules has been dropping steadily ever since. As recently as October 2016, at the European (CEP Eurocup) Championships held in Monaco, there was an incident in which the German team was disqualified when it was found to be playing with a stuffed boule. The interesting thing is that the competition was the veterans’ triples competition— the old guys. As the older generation of players dies out, I expect incidents of stuffed boules eventually will stop altogether.

An interesting fact is that a boule slowly loses weight as it is played with over the years, so a boule that has been heavily used for decades can lose as much as 5 to 10 grams of weight. This fact of weight loss prompts players to wonder if there is any amount of weight loss that is too much. Is there some fixed number of grams, they ask, or some fixed percentage of its original weight, that a boule can lose that will render it illegal?

The answer is YES, but you won’t find that rule in the rules of petanque. It is in another document.

The FIPJP publishes a document that lays out requirements for the manufacture of certified competition boules— Conditions Requises Pour L’homologation De Boules De Petanque De Competition (“Requirements for the Certification of Competition Petanque Boules”). Buried in that document are several requirements for what can and cannot happen to boules after they leave the manufacturer.

Article 7 – Note: boules of steel or bronze cannot be subjected to any heat treatment after sale to the user.
Article 9 – In no case can the regulatory marking be changed [retouché] after sale to the user.

Article 8 (“Weight”) says this (I have bolded the part that is important for us here)—

The weight of the boules must be between 650 grams minimum and 800 grams maximum. The following tolerances are allowed:

(a) Manufacturing tolerance for each boule: The maximum difference between the engraved weight and the actual weight may not be greater than plus/minus 5 grams.

b) Tolerance of wear due to use in play: Weight loss should not exceed 15 grams below the marked weight.

When Ray Ager brought up this question on “Ask the Umpire”, Mike Pegg replied that this document contained rules only for the manufacturing of boules, not rules for boules in play. And if the FIPJP rules were well organized, that would be true. But, as we have seen, Articles 7, 8, and 9 actually do contain rules for boules in play. And the meaning of Article 8, clause (b) is quite clear. So there really should be a fourth weight-related requirement for boules in Article 2 of the rules of petanque.

Weight loss due to wear and use in play may not be greater than 15 grams below the marked weight.

This post is an excerpt from A Guide to the Rules of Petanque.

The second half of this post has been completely revised in response to information in a comment by “Dr. Carreau”.  Doctor, thank you! 🙂