Is a wooden sideboard a throwing obstacle?

Players sometimes ask— Is a wooden sideboard an obstacle? What they mean is— If the circle is close to a sideboard, should we move it? The question comes up because there is a concern that a squat pointer or a player in a wheelchair might hit a hand on the sideboard when throwing.

On “Ask the Umpire” Mike Pegg has given different anwers to this question at different times. First he ruled that a sideboard is not an obstacle— a concerned squat pointer must stand, not squat, when pointing. Later he stated that a sideboard higher than 20cm is an obstacle because “at this height or higher it may impede a player.” Still later he stated that a board of 25cm is an obstacle.

The problem here is that the FIPJP rules never define the word “obstacle”, so it’s an open question whether any particular thing (such as a sideboard) is a throwing obstacle. So we need to begin by defining “throwing obstacle”. I propose this— something that might prevent a player from throwing with his normal throwing form, or something that might cause injury to a player if he plays with his normal throwing form.

Once we’ve defined our terms, the answer to the question depends on the particular circumstances. In normal circumstances a wooden sideboard is not considered an obstacle. But in a situation where it might prevent a player from throwing with his normal throwing form, or might cause injury to a player if he plays with his normal throwing form, then it should be considered an obstacle and the circle should be moved away from it. So the answer to the question is:

Normally a wooden sideboard is not considered to be a throwing obstacle, but in some cases it is.

Moving the circle away from a throwing obstacle is something that should be done before the jack is thrown. That means that if one of your team’s players is a squat pointer or in a wheelchair, and you’re concerned about the wooden surround, don’t hesitate— SPEAK UP! Don’t wait until after the jack has been thrown to voice your concerns, because by then it is too late.

See also our post on What is an obstacle?

Which team throws the next boule?

Here is a quick review. The rule about which team throws the next boule is this.

If the point is decided, the team that does not have the point plays next. If the point is undecided, the teams play alternately until the point is decided, starting with the team that threw the ball that created the undecided point.

The ball that created the undecided point is the last ball that was thrown before the point became undecided. It may have been a boule or the jack.

Some background concepts

  1. Assuming that the jack is still alive and both teams still have unplayed boules, there are two possible situations.
    • One of the teams has the point, or
    • neither team has the point.

    If one of the teams has the point, the point is said to be “decided“. If neither team has the point, the point is said to be “undecided“. (The French term is point nul. See Article 16.)

  2. If both teams still have unplayed boules, there are two rules for determining which team throws the next boule.
    • If the point is decided, the team that does NOT have the point throws the next boule.
    • If the point is undecided, the teams throw alternately until the point is decided, starting with the team that threw the ball that created the undecided point, i.e. the last ball that was thrown before the point became undecided. It may have been a boule or the jack.

     

  3. There are two situations in which the point is undecided.
    • The best boules of the two teams are the same distance from the jack (an “equidistant boules” situation).
    • There are no boules on the terrain (an “empty terrain” situation).

  4. There are two ways to create an empty terrain situation.
    • One of the teams throws the jack. At that point no boules have yet been thrown and the terrain is empty. The ball that created the empty terrain situation was the jack, so the team that threw the jack starts alternating play by throwing the first boule.
    • There are boules on the terrain. A player throws a boule that knocks out all of the boules on the terrain, and the thrown boule also rolls out-of-bounds. This leaves the terrain empty. The ball that created the empty terrain was the boule that knocked everything out-of-bounds, so the team that threw that boule starts alternating play by throwing the next boule.

These rules are described in Article 16 and Article 29 of the FIPJP rules (see below for the text of those articles). Unfortunately, those articles don’t describe the procedure as systematically as I have. As a consequence, players are often confused about the rules and puzzled about how to apply them in unusual situations. Let’s look at some unusual situations and see how they should handled.

(A) The opening boules keep getting thrown out-of-bounds.
What if the first boule thrown goes out-of-bounds?
What if the first boule and the second boule go out-of-bounds?

In these situations the throw of the jack, rather than the throw of a boule, creates an empty terrain situation. Following the standard rule, the teams play alternately, starting with Team A, the team that created the undecided point by throwing the jack. If Team A’s first boule, A1, goes out-of-bounds, then the point has not been decided (the terrain is still empty), so Team B continues alternating play by throwing its first boule, B1. And so on. In an extreme situation, if each of the first four boules (A1, B1, A2, B2) goes out of bounds, play looks like this.

  • Team A throws the jack (creating an empty terrain situation).
  • Team A throws boule A1 (to start alternating play).
  • Team B throws B1 (continues alternating play).
  • Team A throws A2 (continues alternating play).
  • Team B throws B2 (continues alternating play).
  • Team A throws A3.


(B) An equidistant boules situation comes back from the dead.
An equidistant boules situation is typically created when Team A points boule A1, Team B points boule B1, and B1 comes to rest at the same distance from the jack as A1. (This is the situation at the left in the diagram, below.) When that happens, Team B starts alternating play by throwing boule B2. This is all very much business-as-usual. But sometimes, something unusual happens, like this.

  • B2 gains the point. (This is the situation at the center in the diagram, below.)
  • Team A throws A2, which knocks away B2 so that A1 and B1 are again in an equidistant boules situation. (This is the situation at the right in the diagram, below.)

Players sometimes think of this as “bringing back” the original equidistant boules situation. This is a mistake. What has happened is that another equidistant boules situation has been created. Equidistant boules situations are like solar eclipses. They can happen over and over again, sometimes involving the same objects in the same arrangement, but each episode is a different event. The throw of B1 created an equidistant boules situation that lasted until it was ended by the throw of B2. The throw of A2 removed B2 and created another equidistant boules situation. It is a different situation from the previous situation, just as this year’s solar eclipse is a different event from last year’s. Team A throws the next boule, A3, to start alternating play.


(C) One of the equidistant boules is exactly replaced.
Suppose that Team A points boule A1. Team B points boule B1, which comes to rest at exactly the same distance from the jack as A1. Team B starts alternating play; they throw boule B2, trying to shoot A1. But the shot misses! B2 knocks away B1 away and exactly replaces it. Now, A1 and B2 are equidistant.

Players sometimes think this has created “a new undecided point” (“c’est un nouveau point nul“) “because it is a different boule that is now equidistant from the jack.” This is a mistake. The boules involved have absolutely no bearing on the handling of an undecided point. What is important is whether or not the point has been decided. While it is true that the boules involved have changed (and in this sense there is “a new situation”), the relevant fact is that the point was not decided. Alternating play therefore continues. Since Team B was the last to play, Team A throws next.


(D) An equidistant boules situation is converted into an empty terrain situation.
Suppose that Team A throws boule A1. Team B throws boule B1, which ends up exactly equidistant from the jack. Team B starts alternating play by throwing boule B2. Team B wants to shoot A1, but B2 knocks both A1 and B1 out-of-bounds and then itself rolls out of bounds. There are no boules left on the terrain.

Players sometimes think that this creates “a new undecided point” because an equidistant boules situation was changed into an empty terrain situation. This is a mistake. As I said in connection with the previous situation: while it is true that the situation has changed, the relevant fact is that the point was not decided. Alternating play therefore continues. Since Team B was the last to play, Team A throws next.


The relevant articles in the FIPJP rules of petanque.

Article 16
If the first boule played goes into an out-of-bounds area, it is for the opponent to play, then alternately as long as there are no boules in the in-bounds area. If no boule is left in the in-bounds area after a shooting throw or a pointing throw, apply the provisions of Article 29 concerning an undecided point (point nul).

Article 29 – Boules equidistant from the jack
When the two boules closest to the jack belong to different teams and are at an equal distance from it... If both teams still have boules, the team that played the last boule plays again, then the opposing team, and so on alternately until the point belongs to one of them.