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 next?

[revised 2022-01-02]
Here is a quick review.

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


These rules use some important terms and concepts.

  • If one team has the point, then we say that the point is decided.
  • If neither team has the point, then we say that the point is null (un point nul).

There are two situations in which the point is null (neither team has the point).

  • Neither team has the point if the best boules of each team are the same distance from the jack. This is called an equidistant boules situation.
  • Neither team has the point if there are no boules on the terrain. This is called an empty terrain situation.

There are two ways to create an empty terrain situation—

  • A team throws the jack to start a mene. The jack is on the terrain but there are no boules on the terrain.
  • A team throws a boule. The boule knocks all of the other boules out-of-bounds and then itself rolls out-of-bounds, leaving the jack— but no boules— on the terrain.

When a team throws a jack or a boule that creates a null point, that team starts alternating play by throwing the next boule. So in the first empty-terrain case, the team that threw the jack starts alternating play by throwing the first boule in the mene. In the second empty-terrain case, the team that threw the remarkably destructive boule starts alternating play by throwing the next boule.


These procedures are described reasonably clearly in Article 16 and Article 29 of the FIPJP rules (see the footnotes for the text of those articles), but there are a few unusual situations that cause players to be unsure of how to proceed.

(A) The opening boules keep going 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?
What if the first boule and the second boule and the third boule go out-of-bounds?
… and so on…

Team A creates a null point (an empty terrain) when it throws out the jack. It then starts alternating play by throwing its first boule, A1. If A1 goes out-of-bounds, then Team A has failed to decide the point (the terrain is still empty), so Team B continues alternating play by throwing its first boule, B1. If B1 goes out-of-bounds, then Team B has also failed to decide the point (the terrain is still empty), so Team A continues alternating play by throwing its next boule, A2. And so on.

In an extreme situation, if each of the first six boules 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 (continues alternating play).
* Team B throws B3 (continues alternating play).
* Team A throws A4 … you get the idea.


Players sometimes think that if a team throws a boule and fails to gain the point, then that team must throw again… and again… and again, until they either gain the point or run out of boules. So these players believe that if team A throws boule A1, and A1 rolls out of bounds, then team A must throw A2, and then A3, and then A4, until they get a boule to stay in-bounds or run out of boules. These players are mistaken. That is not what the rules say.

(B) An equidistant boules situation comes back from the dead.
Team A points boule A1. Team B then points boule B1, and B1 comes to rest at the same distance from the jack as A1. (box 1, below left)

Because Team B has created an equidistant boules situation, Team B starts alternating play by throwing boule B2. B2 comes to rest between A1 and B1 and the jack, gaining the point and ending the null point. (box 2, below center)

Since Team B has the point, Team A throws A2. A2 does exactly what it was meant to do— it hits B2 hard, and both boules roll away. Now (in box 3, below right) A1 and B1 are again in the situation shown in box 1.

Players sometimes think of this as “bringing back”, or “returning to”, the original equidistant boules situation, and they are unsure about how to proceed.

These players are mistaken. The situation in box 3 is not the same situation as in box 1. 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, with the same objects in the same arrangement, but each episode is a different event. The throw of B1 created an equidistant boules situation (box 1) that lasted until it was ended by the throw of B2 (box 2). The throw of A2 removed B2 and created another equidistant boules situation (box 3). The situation in box 3 is similar to, but different from, the situation in box 1, in the same way that this year’s solar eclipse is similar to, but different from, last year’s solar eclipse.

The bottom line for the situation in box 3 is that Team A has created a second, new, equidistant boules situation, so Team A starts alternating play by throwing its next boule, A3.

(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. (box 1, below left) Team B starts alternating play; they throw boule B2, trying to shoot A1. But they miss and accidentally hit their own boule. B2 hits B1 away and in a remarkable carreau sur place exactly takes its place. Where before A1 and B1 were equidistant, now A1 and B2 are equidistant from the jack. (box 2, below right)

Players sometimes think this creates “a new null point” (“c’est un nouveau point nul“) “because it is a different boule that is now equidistant from the jack.” Since Team B has created a new null point (they reason), Team B must begin alternating play by throwing its next boule, B3.

These players are mistaken. It is true that the boules involved have changed, and in that sense there is “a new situation”. But the relevant fact is that Team B’s throw of B2 failed to decide the point. The point was null before B2 was thrown, and it is still null. Since the throw of B2 failed to decide the point, alternating play continues. Team A throws the next boule.

(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; they throw boule B2, trying to shoot A1. But they miss. B2 accidentally hits both boules on the terrain, knocking them out-of-bounds, and then itself rolls out of bounds. There are now no boules left on the terrain.

Players sometimes think that this creates “a new null point” because an equidistant boules situation was changed into an empty terrain situation. This is a mistake. The situation here is basically the same as in situation (C). The relevant fact is that Team B’s throw of B2 failed to decide the point. The point was null before B2 was thrown, and it is still null. Since the throw of B2 failed to decide the point, alternating play continues. Team A throws the next boule.


FOOTNOTES

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 a null 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.