[For other posts about the 2020 rules and changes to the rules, see THIS.]
The FIPJP rules have changed. Article 7 of the 2020 version of the rules makes dramatic changes to the rules about where the circle and the jack can be thrown or placed. Basically, the new rules specify minimum required distances from three things— boundaries, other games, and obstacles.
Previously, the rules defining the landing strip were quite complex. Now there is only one simple rule. The jack can be thrown or placed anywhere on the assigned lane, except within 50cm of an end (short side) of the lane.
There is no longer any requirement that a jack must be a minimum distance from a side line or a dead-ball line. As long as the jack is touching the ground of the assigned lane, it is valid. It can touch a side line, and even extend over it, and still be valid. (A thrown jack is not like a hit jack, which can be resting on ground outside the dead-ball line and still be good.)
The rule now is simple. The circle and jack must be at least 1.5 meters from any other active circle or jack.
Formerly, the circle and the jack had to be at least 1 meter from any obstacle. The distance for the jack was reduced to 50cm, so now the minimum distance from an obstacle is different for the circle and the jack.
- The circle must be at least 1 meter from any obstacle.
- The jack must be at least 50cm from any obstacle.
Worst-case scenarios under the new rules
The new requirement that the jack must be at least 1.5 meters from any other active circle or jack, has raised concerns that it would create problems, especially when playing on a narrow 3-meter-wide lane.
One worst-case scenario occurs with active jacks in neighboring games kissing the boundary strings on both sides. The full width of the lane is available only if you throw the jack to 6-7 meters. There is no place on the lane where you can throw the jack to 8.5 meters. (In this diagram, pink areas show the landing strip for the jack.)
Perhaps the very worst scenario is this one. The neighboring jacks are offset from each other, so that there is virtually no place where the landing strip extends the full width of the lane.
Obviously, such situations will be extremely rare. But they are possible.
Can the thrown jack straddle a side boundary line?
The 2020 rules removed the requirement that a jack must be some minimum distance from a side line. This has prompted players to ask questions like this one on Ask the Umpire.
The rules say that the jack must be thrown on the assigned terrain (see Article 6). So the question essentially boils down to this—
What does “on the assigned terrain” mean? Is a thrown jack straddling a side guide line considered to be “on the assigned terrain”?
The answer to this question was provided by Mike Pegg. In order to be valid, the thrown jack must be touching the ground of the assigned lane. A jack that is touching the ground inside the line is valid even if it is also touching the the line (string) around the assigned lane. Because the jack has a round shape and is larger than the string, if the jack is touching the string, it will also be slightly bulging over the string. That’s OK. The jack is valid.
Note that this is different from the rule about “entirely crossing the line” in order for a boule or jack to be considered dead. In that rule, a boule or jack may be resting on dead ground, or even on the string itself, and still be alive. That is DIFFERENT from the rule governing a thrown jack.
Because a plastic throwing circle doesn’t have the same kind of round shape as a jack, the rule for the throwing circle is different. To be considered “on the assigned lane”, the entire circle must be inside the boundary lines of the lane. The side of the circle may touch the line, but the circle cannot extend over the line.
Some players have asked—
What if one throws the jack up to the side line string, the jack rolls and touches the string, and then curves back in and comes to rest in a valid position. Would the jack be considered as valid?
The answer is clearly YES. If the jack had rolled up to the string and stopped right there, touching the string, it would be valid. And rolling away from the string afterwards doesn’t change that.
But consider a more radical question.
What if one throws the jack. It crosses the terrain boundary-line, hits something on the ground near the line, and bounces back inside the boundary line of the terrain. Is the thrown jack valid?
There is a difference between a jack being alive and being valid. Mike Pegg says that the thrown jack comes alive when it leaves the player’s hand. It is alive as it flies through the air. When it comes to rest on the terrain— if it is in a valid location, and if it is still alive— it becomes valid. On the other hand, if the jack in its journey crosses the dead ball line, it is dead on arrival. It cannot become valid.