Taking the point, or: the game’s not over ’til all boules are thrown

Here’s another question from the Frequently-Asked Questions mailbag.

In a recent game my team-mate was Robert, a friend visiting from France. Near the end of the game the score was tied at 12-12 and we had the point. Our opponents had one unplayed boule and Robert had two. The opponents threw their last boule; it didn’t gain the point; we had won! I was ready to declare victory, but Robert insisted that the game wasn’t over until all boules had been thrown. That seemed crazy to me, of course. We had clearly won and there was no reason to throw any more boules. But out of courtesy we waited while Robert went to the circle and threw away his two boules. THEN we declared victory. But, I wonder… Where did Robert get that crazy idea?

Many players can tell similar stories.

Robert wasn’t crazy. But he was European, and that may be an important clue to what’s going on. I recently discovered the rules interpretations of the NJBB, the Dutch petanque federation. It contains an interesting discussion of problems that can arise when one of the teams declares that “We’ll take the point” without throwing its remaining boules. Here is my paraphrase of that discussion.

We’ll take the point
There are many boules, from both teams, close to the jack. Team B is out of boules; Team A still has unplayed boules.

Team A believes that they have the point, and they are afraid that if they play their remaining boules they might mess up the existing situation and lose the point that they now have. So the captain of Team A decides that they will NOT play their remaining boules. He says “We’ll take the point,” and walks to the head for the agreement of points.

The teams measure, and they discover that Team A actually does NOT have the point. So the captain of Team A says, “Well, in that case we will play our remaining boules.” Team B protests and says that Team A has given up the right to play their remaining boules. Who is right? Can team A play their remaining boules?

The answer is NO. [Remember: this is the NJBB umpires speaking.] When a team chooses to say “We’ll take the point” they are in effect saying “Consider all of my boules 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 virtually (i.e. for all intents and purposes) throwing away their last boules.

You may or may not agree with this interpretation of the rules, but it is the interpretation used and endorsed by umpires in the Netherlands.

What I consider important is the fact that the umpires took the time and made the effort to develop a written ruling for such situations. That indicates that such situations have actually happened and created problems for players in the Netherlands.

There is an obvious and easy way to avoid such problems. If a team has unplayed boules but just wants to take the game on the ground, they should NEVER do so by saying “We’ll take the point”: they should actually throw away their remaining boules.

At the end of the game, if it is absolutely no-doubts-about-it clear which team has the point, it is probably OK (at least in the USA) to declare victory and go home. I’m not so sure, though, that that would be OK in the Netherlands or in other countries. That, I think, was why Robert insisted on throwing his last two boules. It may (in his American partner’s opinion) not have been necessary, but it wasn’t crazy.


One thought on “Taking the point, or: the game’s not over ’til all boules are thrown

  1. Ernesto Santos left some interesting comments on Facebook. I’ve copied them here, with a bit of editing. —Jules

    A related issue is when (in singles, say) a player is left to play his last boule when the opponent does not even have a boule in the terrain. It is customary just to allow that last point without the player actually throwing his boule. But umpires expect the point to be played even if all that’s required is to drop the boule anywhere in-bounds to gain the point. So in an umpired game a player just drops his last boule in front of his feet.

    I don’t think this is a strictly European vs America thing. It’s just common sense. You can find many videos that show instances of teams not playing last boules. And more interestingly: instances when a team gives up the game before the last boule is thrown. It’s the opposite side of the same coin.

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