Probably the most significant change in the 2016 revision of the rules is the change to the rule about how the jack is thrown.
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Previously the rule was that the team that threw the jack (let’s call it team A) was allowed three attempts to throw a valid jack. (A valid jack, in this context, is a jack that comes to rest between 6 and 10 meters from the circle.) If after three attempts team A had not succeeded in throwing a valid jack, it turned the jack over to team B, which was also allowed three attempts. Basically, the two teams alternated in making three attempts until one of the attempts succeeded.
Starting in 2016, the team that throws the jack is allowed ONE attempt to throw a valid jack. If it does not succeed, then the jack is turned over to the opposing team, which then has the responsibility of placing a valid jack.
Article 6: Start of play and rules regarding the circle
The team that won the right to throw the jack – either after the draw or because it scored in the previous mene – has the right to only one attempt [to throw the jack]. If it is not successful, the jack is given to the other team, which places it [the jack] wherever it wants within the conditions specified in the rules.
In the second sentence, the use of the word “places” rather than “throws” is important. The other team is assigned the task of getting the jack to a valid location. There are no rules about how they do it. The simplest and most reliable procedure is for a team-member to walk to the desired location, lean over, and use his hand to put the jack down on the ground (not drop it!) in exactly the desired location.
The reason for this change to the rules is simple— to speed up games. Each year at FIPJP tournaments there are problems with games taking too much time. The one-throw-of-the-jack rule was used for a number of years in time-limited games, and it helped those games to proceed more quickly. Trials of the rule in non-time-limited games were conducted at a number of European and world events, and the rule worked well in those games, too. Most teams quickly adapted to the new rule and were in favor of the change. And a noticeable amount of time was saved each day. Having passed its trial runs successfully, the rule was officially adopted. Voilà! (source: Mike Pegg)
Any change, of course, generates its own new issues and new questions. Perhaps the most important question raised by the one-throw-of-the-jack rule is—
Will this change have a negative effect on the basic nature of the game?
It is a petanque commonplace that the right to throw the jack gives a team a significant advantage. Having three attempts to throw the jack allows a team to be aggressive in attempting to get the jack to the exact location where they want it, which is often close to the maximum legal distance from the circle. But with only one attempt, teams may start playing more conservatively when throwing the jack. Will we begin seeing games typically played at the bland and boring distance of 8 meters, rather than the exciting and challenging distances of 9 meters and more that we now see?
This seems to me to be a reasonable question, and one that only the future can answer. On the other hand, as Ernesto Santos notes, the new rule may push the game in a new and interesting direction. The one-throw rule punishes players that can’t control the thrown jack, while rewarding players who can. This will put pressure on players to become more skillful at throwing the jack. The day may come when we see spectacular throws of the jack, and when the ability to control the thrown jack is as important as the ability to shoot well.
There are other, more mundane, questions that arise in connection with the one-throw-of-the-jack rule.
How does this change affect The Stepping-Back Rule?
The short answer is that it makes everything clearer. The old rule permitted, and raised, a lot of questions, questions that were answered differently by different national federations. “How many times can a team move the circle back?” “When does a team lose the right to move the circle back?” And so on. With the new rules, all of those questions go away. The new version of The Stepping-Back Rule is clear and simple.
- When team A (the team that throws the jack) is ready to throw the jack, if the jack cannot be thrown to the maximum distance in any direction, team A can “step back” the circle in the traditional way.
- When team B (the team that places the jack) is ready to place the jack, if the jack cannot be placed at the maximum distance in any direction, team B can “step back” the circle in the traditional way.
How does this change affect the rules about challenging the jack?
There are really no significant changes to the rules about challenging the jack. I’ve unpacked the new rules into six basic rule-scenarios. The only one that is particularly new or interesting is number 4.
- After team A throws the jack, either team may challenge it.
- After team A throws the jack (apparently successfully) and throws the first boule, team A loses the right to challenge the jack.
- After team A throws the jack (apparently successfully) and throws the first boule, team B still has the right to challenge the jack. If the thrown jack is challenged and found to be invalid, team A is considered to have failed in its one attempt to throw the jack, and team B places the jack.
- After team A throws the jack unsuccessfully, and team B places the jack, team B loses the right to challenge the jack.
- After team A throws the jack unsuccessfully, and team B places the jack, team A still has the right to challenge the jack. If team A challenges the placed jack and the placed jack is discovered not to have been placed in a valid location, team B is considered not to have accomplished its assigned task of placing the jack in a valid location and must place it again. Basically, team B must keep placing the jack until they get it right.
- After team A throws the jack unsuccessfully and team B places the jack, and team A throws the first boule, team A loses the right to challenge the jack.
A noteworthy fact about the 2016 rules revisions is that they do NOT answer The Pushed Jack Question— “If team A’s thrown jack is neither marked nor measured, and team A’s first boule pushes the jack, can team B challenge the jack?” The question is still as unresolved as it ever was. For more information about The Pushed Jack Question, see A Guide to the Rules of Petanque.
Can team B measure before placing the jack?
This question came up during an exchange between Raymond Ager and Mike Pegg on “Ask the Umpire”— https://www.facebook.com/groups/128791213885003/. Here is my condensed version of the exchange, which I have heavily boiled down and rewritten from the original.
RA: After team A fails to throw a valid jack, if team B wishes to place the jack at exactly 6m or 10m, are they allowed to measure before placing the jack?
MP: Well, the rule is that team B must place the jack in a valid position. If that means you need to get out your tape measure, then so be it. Assuming that team B wishes to place the jack at the exact minimum of 6m or the exact maximum of 10m it would make sense to measure first. However, I’ve not seen it happen yet.
RA: If team B doesn’t measure before placing the jack, how do they know the distance is valid?
MP: The teams seem to be able to place the jack in a valid position without measuring. If you place the jack not at exactly 6m or 10m, but at a distance where it is clear to everybody that it is valid, you don’t need to measure it, do you?