Moving a boule while measuring – the frozen triangle rule

A rule that regularly provokes questions from players occurs in Article 28.

The point is lost by a team if one of its players, while making a measurement, displaces the jack or one of the contested boules.

Much of the confusion is caused by the phrase “the point is lost…” and the sloppy way in which players, umpires, and the FIPJP rules often use the expression “to have the point” when they mean “is closer than”.   It would have been much better if the rule had been written this way.

If a player, while making a measurement, displaces the jack or one of the contested boules, then the offending team’s boule is considered to be farther from the jack than the offended team’s boule.

If the rule had been written that way, there would be far fewer questions about what the rule means and how to apply it. 

I call this the Frozen Triangle Rule.  The Frozen Triangle Rule assumes that we’re dealing with a simple case involving two contested boules, A2 and B2, and the jack.  A measurement is being made in order to answer the question— Which boule is closer to the jack?

Suppose that Albert (a player from Team A) is doing the measuring.  While measuring, Albert accidentally moves one of the boules or the jack.  Instantly:

  • The relationships between the contested boules and the jack become frozen, in effect forming a triangle.
  • In this frozen triangle, the boule belonging to the offended team (in this case, Team B) is considered to be closer to the jack than the boule belonging to the offending team.  B2 is “frozen” closer to the jack than A2.

Since B2 is closer to the jack than A2, Team B has the point; Team A must play the next boule. 

The frozen triangle can be broken or unfrozen if later in the game the jack or one of the contested boules is moved.  But as long as none of the balls in the triangle is moved, the triangle remains frozen and the offended team’s boule is considered to be closer to the jack than the offending team’s boule.  This is true during subsequent measurements to determine which team plays next, and it is true during the agreement of points.

As soon as a player accidentally moves a ball, regardless of whether it is his or the opponent’s ball, he loses the benefit of the measure.  The point, concerning this measure, remains with the opposing team until something has moved. This is why when instructing umpires we tell them to stay on the spot until something has changed.  If he was measuring the boules closest to the jack, his team must play next.  [Mike Pegg]

The players should carefully mark each of the boules that were being contested, and the jack, in order to determine if they are subsequently moved during the round. If they remain unmoved at the end of the round, the opponents of the team who made the measuring error are declared to hold the point between the two boules that were being contested, even if their boule would no longer measure as closer.  On the other hand, if either boule or the jack is subsequently moved during play, the declaration described above is rescinded, and each boule stands on its own merit via the normal measuring procedure. [FPUSA umpire’s guide, 2015 edition]

In the quote from Mike Pegg, the last sentence is important.  If [the player] was measuring the boules closest to the jack, his team must play next.  In our first diagram (above), A2 and B2 are indeed the boules closest to the jack.  So in that situation, as Mike points out, Team A plays next.

But consider a different situation. In this situation A1 is closest to the jack, so Team A has the point. Albert is measuring A2 and B2 in order to determine which boule is second-closest.  As before, Albert bumps a ball.  Instantly A2, B2 and the jack are frozen into a triangle, with B2 closer than A2. Now the boules (in order of their distance from the jack) are A1, B2, and A2.  Team A still has the point and so (unlike the previous situation) Team B plays the next boule.

As I noted earlier, much of the confusion surrounding this rule is the result of sloppy writing in the FIPJP rules, and specifically in the way that Article 28 says that “the team loses the point”. What Article 28 should say is that the team’s contested boule is considered to be farther from the jack. In our second situation, when Albert moved a contested ball, his team did NOT lose the point.  A1 is still closest to the jack, so Team A still has the point. Team B plays the next boule.

Dead ground between the jack and the throwing circle

The Dead Ground Rule in Article 9 says that “The jack is dead … when an out-of-bounds area [terrain interdit, dead ground] is situated between the jack and the throwing circle.” What does “between the jack and the throwing circle” mean?

Consider this diagram. (Note that it is not drawn to scale.) A game is being played on an L-shaped terrain. The jack has been knocked to a place where it is almost, but not completely, “around the corner” from the circle. Or, to put it another way, an area of dead ground is protruding into the terrain; it may possibly be blocking the line of play between the circle and the jack.

The players are uncertain what to do; they are asking questions: Is the jack alive or dead? Is there dead ground between jack and the circle?

What does “between the jack and the circle” mean?

The answer is that “between the jack and the circle” means “between the jack and any part of the circle”.

Suppose you draw lines from the jack to all of the parts of the circle, as in this diagram. If any of those lines crosses dead ground, then there is dead ground between the jack and the circle, and the jack is dead.

Mike Pegg described the rule this way on “Ask the Umpire”.

Imagine two lines extending from the two sides of the circle to the jack. If there is any dead ground between those two lines, the jack is dead.

Visual inspection should be enough to resolve the situation, but if it isn’t, you can take a long tape measure and pull it tight between the jack and various random points on the circle. If in any of those positions the tape crosses dead ground, there is dead ground between the jack and the circle, and the jack is dead.

Foot faults – What to do?

When a player or team breaks the rules in some way, we are confronted with two questions.

The first question is the How to Continue Question. “What should the players do, so that they can carry on with the game?” This question has two possible answers. (a) “Undo the illegal event.” (b) “It is not possible to undo the illegal event, so just leave everything where it is and carry on with the game.”

The second question is the Penalty Question. “What penalty, if any, should an umpire impose on the offending player or team?”

In non-umpired games players need to deal only with the How to Continue Question, but in umpired games the umpire must deal with both questions. An umpire must ask himself, “In this case, should I apply a Continue Rule? a Penalty Rule? both?” This can be a tricky question, especially in the case of foot faults, where the Penalty Rules interact with the Continue Rules. This was illustrated in a recent discussion of a question on Ask the Umpire. The question was

A player lifted a foot while throwing. His thrown boule successfully shot away an opponent’s boule. The umpire gave the player a warning (yellow card) but let the situation on the ground remain unchanged. Did the umpire rule correctly?

International umpire Mike Pegg’s answer was NO. Mike’s opinion was that “The umpire should have disqualified the boule and put back the original boule because the player who lifted his foot should not be given this unfair advantage.” FPUSA umpire Gary Jones’s answer was YES. “Since Article 6 clearly states that Article 35 should be applied for the infraction of lifting one’s foot while throwing, and Article 24 clearly states that it is applicable only where the rules do not provide for specific and graduated penalties as outlined in Article 35, I would rule exactly as the presiding umpire did.”

Gary’s surprising (but I believe correct) answer points out the way that Penalty Rules can interact with Continue Rules. Here is the text of the relevant rules. I have underlined the important clause in Article 24 noted by Gary.

Article 6
The player’s feet… must not leave the circle or be completely lifted off the ground until the thrown boule has touched the ground… Any player not respecting this rule shall incur the penalties specified in Article 35.

Article 24 – Boules thrown contrary to the rules
Except for cases in which these regulations specify the application of specific and graduated penalties in article 35, any boule thrown contrary to the rules is dead, and anything that it displaced in its travel is put back in place, if those objects had been marked.

In short, Article 24 says

Normally, if a boule is thrown contrary to the rules, the boule is dead and the effects of the thrown boule should be undone, if possible. BUT… if in a particular situation the rules specify the imposition of an Article 35 penalty, impose an appropriate penalty and then leave everything where it is and carry on with the game.

So the umpire’s decision in this case was correct. The umpire gave the player a warning (yellow card) but let the situation on the ground remain unchanged.

This interpretation of Article 24 raises the question of what it means for a boule to be “thrown contrary to the rules”. (Read other posts on this topic.) As far as I can tell, the FIPJP rules contain only two articles that both (a) cover situations in which a boule is thrown contrary to the rules, and (b) specify that the penalties in Article 35 should be applied.

Article 6 covers foot faults. The player’s feet are not entirely inside the circle when throwing, or the player lifts a foot (or touches the ground outside the circle with any part of his body) before the thrown boule hits the ground.
Article 16: The player fails to remove mud from his boule before throwing it.

In these cases an umpire may give the player an appropriate penalty (probably a warning), but the game on the ground should be allowed to remain as it is.

The Penalty Rules haven’t always interacted with the Continue Rules in this way— the underlined clause in Article 24 hasn’t always been there— it was inserted into the rules as part of the 2016 rules revisions. I assume that the FIPJP International Umpires Committee knew the implications of what they were doing, and that they inserted the clause because they wanted what it implied. But old habits die hard for umpires who have been umpiring for many years under the old rules. I expect that different umpires will mentally merge the old and new texts of Article 24 and come up with different ways of interpreting the rule about foot faults. Take Mike Pegg for example.

In the past, Mike Pegg has ruled that if a foot fault gave the player an unfair advantage then BOTH Article 6 AND Article 24 should be applied— the player should be given a warning AND the thrown boule should be declared dead and illegally-moved balls put back. Before the 2016 rules revision this was a reasonable way to interpret the rules, especially in cases where committing a foot fault clearly gave a player some advantage (e.g. a player stands on the side of the circle in order to get a better line of play around a blocking boule). (On the other hand, it opens a can of worms about whether or not a player gained an advantage from a foot fault. Does a player gain any advantage by stepping on the front of the circle? On the back? By lifting a foot?)

The new clause in 2016 changed that. Now Article 24 seems pretty clearly to prohibit applying both Article 6 and Article 24 for a foot fault. Mike Pegg may still apply both of them, but other umpires do not. The umpire whose decision prompted the question on “Ask the Umpire” didn’t. In July 2017, during the final of the Masters de Pétanque at Clermont, an umpire gave Dylan Rocher a yellow card for a foot fault, but he didn’t disqualify Dylan’s thrown boule. So Mike’s interpretation of the rules seems to differ from other umpires.

Mazlan Ahmad has suggested that it might be a good idea to revoke the new clause. “Without that clause, enforcement of Article 24 for all foot-fault infractions becomes mandatory— just like the days before the 2016 rules revision.” We’ll have to wait for the next revision of the FIPJP rules to see if the international umpires agree with him.

Note that Dylan’s right foot is lifed completely off of the ground and outside the circle. The thrown boule is still too high in the air to be seen in this picture. See THIS or THIS.

Zombie boules

A zombie boule is a boule that dies and then returns to life and attacks the living. It is a boule that is knocked out of bounds, hits something, rebounds back onto the terrain, and then moves or deflects or stops still-living balls (boules or the jack). When that happens we are confronted by The Zombie Boule Question:

A zombie boule has interfered with the game. What should we do?


Article 19, which covers dead boules, gives us these instructions for dealing with zombies.

Any boule is dead from the moment that it enters an out-of-bounds area. … If the boule then comes back onto the game terrain, either because of the slope of the ground, or because it rebounds off of an obstacle, moving or stationary, it is immediately removed from the game and anything that it displaced after its trip through the out-of-bounds area is put back in its original location provided that those objects had been marked.   [Note that the words “provided that those objects had been marked” were added in the 2016 rules revision.]

The problem with this rule is that “putting things back in their original places” is a useless concept. In real life, the original places of balls are never marked, so under FIPJP rules it is not possible to put things back in their original places. And who knows what “original place” means for a ball that was in motion when it was stopped or deflected by a zombie? If an umpire is called in to make a decision in a Zombie Boule situation, he will always rule that the zombie boule should be removed, everything else should be left where it is, and the game should continue.

As soon as we forget the notion of “putting things back in their original places”, everything becomes easy. What might help, perhaps, is a way of thinking about zombie boules that makes it easy to see the answer to a Zombie Boule Question. Something like this.

A boule that goes out of bounds is dead. After a boule is dead, if it interacts in any way with a live ball, it is treated as part of the terrain (like a stone). As soon as possible after a boule dies, it should be moved to a location outside of, and well away from, the dead-ball line and left on the ground. [See the rules of Petanque Libre.]

Thinking about zombie boules this way won’t change the way that zombie boules should be dealt with. But it might make it easier to see the right answer in some zombie-boule situations. Like this one.

Boule A is hit by boule B. Boule A is knocked across the dead-ball line and is stopped by the wooden sideboard. Boule B quickly follows. Normally boule B would go out-of-bounds, but in this case it is stopped by boule A. It doesn’t completely cross the dead-ball line. (See the diagram, below.) Is boule B dead?


The answer is— NO. Boule B never went completely out-of-bounds so it is not dead. The fact that the object that stopped boule B was a dead boule makes no difference whatsoever. As far as a live boule is concerned, a dead boule on or near the terrain is just another feature of the terrain, like a rock or a tree root. When boule A stopped boule B from crossing the dead-ball line, it was just as if a rock or root on the terrain had stopped boule B.

The same situation can play itself out more slowly. Suppose that Boule A is knocked out of bounds. Then another boule is played. Then another boule is played. Then boule B is played, and ends up being stopped by boule A. In this situation international umpire Mike Pegg has ruled that

The player of boule A and his team is given a warning for not removing the dead boule.

I take it that Mike is acting on a rule interpretation in which “the terrain” includes not just the in-bounds area but also the out-of-bounds area to some unspecified distance from the dead-ball line. That’s why he has also stated (the underscores are mine) that

anything (boule, bag, etc.) on the terrain and in a position that it would stop a boule or jack from completely crossing the dead ball line should be removed. Which is why you often see umpires moving bags and the like to the other side of the timber surround.

This is why the rules of Petanque Libre specify that

During a game played on a marked terrain, dead boules should be left on the ground at least 10cm outside of the game’s dead-ball line. A dead boule that is less than 10cm outside the dead-ball line should be moved away from the dead-ball line.

This post was updated for the 2016 FIPJP rules revision.
It supercedes earlier posts about zombie boules.

Putting things back

One of the problems with the FIPJP rules document is that it mixes together in one document material that properly belongs in three different documents— rules of the game, administrative procedures, and guidelines for umpires. In particular, mixing guidelines for umpires with rules of the game blurs the difference between the two. The rules about “putting things back” are a good illustration of this problem.

There are a variety of ways in which a ball (boule or jack) can be moved illegally during a game. When a ball is illegally moved, players then confront the question of whether they should leave it where it is, or put it back in its original location.


Here is what the FIPJP rules say.

Article 12 – Jack masked or displaced … To avoid all disagreement, the players must mark the position of the jack. No claim will be accepted [by an umpire] regarding unmarked boules or an unmarked jack.

Article 22 – Displaced boules … To avoid all disagreement, the players must mark the boules. No claim will be admissible [by an umpire] for an unmarked boule, and the umpire will make his decision based only on the locations of the boules on the terrain.

Basically, this boils down to a set of guidelines for umpires and a separate set of guidelines (advice, really) for players.

Guidelines for Umpires
When making a decision concerning an illegally-moved ball (boule or jack) an umpire will ignore any claim by players about the original location of the ball if that original location is not marked, and will make his decision based only on the current locations of the balls on the terrain.

Guidelines for Players
An umpire will ignore any claim that you might make about the original location of a ball if that original location is not marked. Therefore, the only way that you can be sure that an umpire will return an illegally-moved ball to its original location is (a) always to mark the current location of every ball on the terrain, and (b) always to create new marks and erase old marks whenever any of the balls is moved.

These guidelines generate a lot of discussion on online petanque forums. What I want to emphasize in this post is that players are not bound by the guidelines for umpires. If you are a player in a social game where there is no umpire, the guidelines for umpires are irrelevant. You and your fellow players are free to restore an illegally-moved ball (say, a jack accidentally moved during measurement) to its original location and carry on with your game. (Here, “its original location” means in effect “a location agreeable to both teams”. This is an important feature of the rules of Petanque Libre, which are specifically designed for games where there is no umpire.)

Even if you are playing in an umpired game you are NOT required to call in an umpire if a ball is moved illegally. Without calling in an umpire, the two teams are free to restore an illegally-moved ball to its original location and carry on with their game.

Read other posts in the Putting Things Back category

Marking the locations of balls

In petanque, there are only a few things that can legally move a boule or jack. It can be thrown by a player. It can fall onto the terrain and bounce or roll. It can hit or be hit by another ball in the game. And that’s about it. On the other hand, there are a lot of non-legal things that can move a ball. The wind. The shoe of any human being. A zombie boule bouncing back onto the terrain. A child or an animal or a football crossing the terrain. Being thrown “contrary to the rules”. In such non-legal events, the default course of action is to leave everything where it is and carry on with the game.

The FIPJP rules mention another option— to put the ball back in its original location if that original location was marked. Some players take the repeated references to marking the balls as an indication that they should always mark the locations of everything. That’s nonsense.

  • In normal play nobody does it.  On Youtube you will not find a single petanque video in which the players routinely mark even the jack.  (Marking the location of the thrown jack is an old custom, but one that faded a long time ago.)
  • It would slow down the game tremendously while offering very little in real benefits. That’s why nobody does it.
  • Marking everything is a terrible idea.  There were enough problems with circles drawn on the ground, back before plastic circles appeared in 2005. If you tried to mark the location of every ball all of the time (including erasing and creating new marks when a ball is hit and moved) there would be so many marks on the ground that, if you wanted to return a moved boule to its original location, you wouldn’t be able to find that location in the crowd of marks on the ground.  To control the mess, you’d need to sweep the terrain after every mene.

So always marking the locations of balls is a bad idea. On the other hand, the wise player will mark the locations of balls when there is an increased likelihood that they might be moved illegally.

  • On a windy day: mark the jack in case it might be moved by the wind.
  • If another game moves into a position where its boules might come onto your terrain: mark the locations of your balls.  
  • If the jack is located close to a wooden sideboard: mark the location of the jack and close-by boules. That way, if a thrown boule hits the sideboard, bounces back in-bounds, and illegally moves something, you can put the illegally-moved balls back.

So if you’re out playing with your friends, and nothing is marked, and a ball is moved in some non-legal fashion, you have two options. The first is simply to leave everything where it is and carry on. The second (sometimes) is to put it back.

Read other posts in the Putting Things Back category


Playing somebody else’s boule

Usually, a boule played contrary to the rules is considered dead, and everything it moved is returned to its original place (Article 23). But there is one exception to this rule.

Article 22 – A player throwing a boule other than his own
The player who plays a boule other than his own receives a warning. The boule played is nevertheless valid but it must immediately be replaced…

The general idea behind this rule seems sensible. Unfortunately, like so many FIPJP rules, Article 22 can be difficult to apply in specific situations. Let’s look at some of them.

Situation A
Bob still has unplayed boules of his own. By mistake, Bob picks up and throws a boule that belongs to another player. (The boule may belong to another member of his own team, or to a member of the opposing team).

This is the kind of situation that Article 22 was designed for. The resolution is clear. The boule that Bob played is picked up and replaced by one of Bob’s unplayed boules.

Situation B
Bob has no unplayed boules of his own, but other members of his team have unplayed boules. Bob mistakenly thinks that he still has one unplayed boule. He picks up and throws a boule that belongs to another player. (The boule may belong to another member of his own team, or to a member of the opposing team).

It is at this point that we realize that Article 22 doesn’t say WHAT we should use to replace the wrongfully-thrown boule. Still, some reasoning by analogy is enough to enable us to apply the rule in a fair way. If the wrongfully-played boule belongs to the opposing team, it is picked up and replaced by a boule belonging to one of Bob’s team-mates. If the wrongfully-played boule belongs to another member of Bob’s own team, it is left in place.

Situation C
Bob’s team has no unplayed boules. Bob mistakenly thinks that he still has one unplayed boule. He picks up a boule that belongs to a member of the opposing team and throws it.

Now we’re starting to run into trouble. Bob’s team has no unplayed boules, so the wrongfully-played boule can’t be replaced by a boule that belongs to Bob or to one of his team-mates. What should we do?

Of course, if the thrown boule did not move anything on the ground, we can simply ignore Bob’s mistake, and pick up the boule and return it to its rightful owner. Even if the boule disturbed the situation on the ground, that might be an acceptable/appropriate course of action if the disturbance was minor or insignificant.

But suppose that the illegally-thrown boule caused a significant change to the situation on the ground. Nothing was marked, so we can’t undo the changes. What should we do? The fairest course of action, it seems to me, is to let the opposing team apply the Advantage Rule.

The Advantage Rule

In some sports the Advantage Rule is spelled out and actually part of the rules. (For soccer, see THIS and THIS.) However, that is not the case for petanque. In petanque, the Advantage Rule functions as a vague general principle rather than a true rule.

The basic idea behind the Advantage Rule is that if team B fouls team A, then team A gets to choose how to continue with the game. Team A has several options to choose from, and they get to choose the option that is most to their advantage.

This means that in order to apply the Advantage Rule in a particular situation, we need to know what the Advantage Rule options are for that particular situation. (The only mention of the Advantage Rule in the FIPJP rules, in Article 23, allows a team fouled by a boule thrown contrary to rules to choose between (a) declaring the boule dead or (b) leaving it where it is.)

For Situation C, I think the Advantage Rule options might be—

  1. Leave everything where it is.
  2. Leave everything where it is, except for the wrongfully-thrown boule. That boule is picked up and returned to its proper owner, who can then throw it in the normal way.
  3. Declare the jack dead. The opposing team will then win the end, and score as many points as they have unplayed boules (including the wrongfully-thrown boule).

Although Article 23 is the only place in the FIPJP rules where the Advantage Rule is mentioned by name, there are other rules in which a team is given a choice about how to proceed, including
- Article 14 – Positioning the jack after being stopped
- Article 19 – Stopped boules

When the jack is knocked out of sight

Petanque jack (hidden by tree)

Petanque jack (hidden by tree)

[updated 2018-12-17]
In games played on an open terrain, sometimes the jack is hit and knocked behind a tree or rock so that it can’t be seen from the circle. When that happens, Article 9 of the FIPJP rules is relevant. It says that the displaced jack is dead if it is not visible from the circle. This seems like a simple rule, but there can be problems when trying to apply it.

Who decides whether or not the jack is visible from the circle?
Article 7 of the FIPJP rules says that the jack must be visible to a player whose feet are placed at the extreme limits of the interior of the circle and whose body is absolutely upright. In case of a disagreement about this matter, the umpire decides if the jack is visible.

Suppose Alan is in the circle, ready to throw. But he can’t see the jack, which has been knocked behind a large rock on the terrain. So the jack is dead. What could be simpler?

Suppose, however, that Bill steps into the circle, to verify that the jack really cannot be seen from the circle. Bill says that he can see the jack easily. Is the jack dead?

The FIPJP rules, which are designed for use in umpired competitions, say that Alan and Bill should call in an umpire to decide. But this is a friendly, informal game; there is no umpire. Who decides? The FIPJP rules have no answer to this question.

Suppose, however, that an umpire is available. He is called in and says that he can see the jack, so the jack is not dead. But that leaves Alan with a problem, because he still cannot see the jack. Oh, did I mention that Alan is playing from a wheelchair? His head is much lower than the umpire’s head, which is why the umpire could see the jack, but Alan could not. Shouldn’t the umpire take this fact into account when deciding whether or not the jack is visible? Mike Pegg’s answer is NO. “[This rule] may put the disabled player at a disadvantage but when entering the event they would know what the rules are.”[1]

The rules of Petanque Libre (PL) are designed for use in non-umpired games, and PL gives a different answer. Under PL, “If the jack is moved, both teams are responsible for agreeing that the jack in its new location is visible from the circle. If a team has a player who has unplayed boules and that player cannot see the jack while standing in the circle, the team will not agree that the jack is visible; otherwise the team will agree that the jack is visible.” So in this case, when playing by the rules of Petanque Libre, when the jack was hit and knocked behind the stone, Alan’s team would challenge the visibility of the jack. Since one of the team’s members (Alan) could not see the jack from the circle, his team would not agree that the jack is visible and the jack would be declared dead.

What happens when the jack is knocked out of sight by the last boule?
Suppose the jack is knocked behind a tree by the last boule to be played. Nobody is going to throw another boule. So it seems like it shouldn’t matter whether or not the jack is visible from the circle. Is the jack dead?

The answer that an FIPJP umpire will give is— “Article 9 says that if the jack is shot out of sight, it is dead. It doesn’t say that the jack is dead unless there are no more boules left to be played. So YES, the jack is dead.” The problem with this answer is that there is no player in the circle to decide whether or not he can see the jack, and in an informal game there is no umpire to make the decision.

The Petanque Libre position on this question is that the visibility rule exists to insure that no player must throw toward a jack that he cannot see. But after all boules have been thrown, questions about the visibility of the jack are moot. Therefore— “After all boules have been thrown, neither team may challenge the visibility of the jack.”

[1] See Mike’s answer to the question posed by Brian Harris on “Ask the Umpire”, 2017-04-26

Picking up a boule too soon

Sometimes a player picks up a boule too soon. It happens all the time. Given the frequency with which it happens, it’s amazing how much confusion there is about how to deal with it.


If a boule is picked up too soon, what should we do?

This question never comes up if the original location of the boule was marked. If the boule’s position was marked, we simply put the boule back and carry on with the game. But what should we do if a boule’s original location was NOT marked and it is picked up too soon?

There are two different kinds of situation, which are covered by different rules.

  • CASE A — A boule is picked up before all boules have been thrown.
  • CASE B — A boule is picked up after all boules have been thrown, but before completion of the agreement of points.

CASE A is covered by Article 21—

If a stationary boule is displaced by the wind or slope of the ground, it is put back in its place. The same applies to any boule accidentally displaced by a player….

A boule that is picked up by a player is considered to have been accidentally moved by the player. The corrective action specified in Article 21 is to put the boule back in its original place.

Article 21 doesn’t say anything about the boule’s original place being marked. Apparently the intent of the rule is that the players should agree among themselves as to the approximate original location of the boule, and then put it back there.[1] If there is any question about where that original place is, then we should probably apply the Advantage Rule, and allow the offended party (the team whose boule was moved) to reposition the moved boule.

CASE B is covered by Article 26—

At the end of a mène, any boule picked up before the agreement of points is dead.

The corrective action specified in Article 26 is to declare the picked-up boule to be dead.

This corrective action is appropriate if the boule was picked up by the team to which it belongs. But it is clearly be unreasonable if it permits a player on one team to kill an opposing team’s boule simply by picking it up. That leaves us with a difficult question.

If, during the agreement of points, a member of one team picks up a boule belonging to the opposing team, what do we do?

If the picked-up boule could never have contributed to the score of the mene, then of course we don’t worry about it.

But if it might have contributed to the score, then the most reasonable thing is to apply the Advantage Rule and have the offended party (the team whose boule was picked up) reposition the boule in its original location. Then measurement and the agreement of points can carry on as before.

It is possible, of course, that the offended team will deliberately position the boule in a location that is different from, and more advantageous than, its true original location. That would be a violation of sportsmanship, certainly. But the offending team (the team that prematurely picked up their opponent’s boule) has no right to protest. It is the price that they must pay for their carelessness.

Note that the wording of Article 21 is almost identical to the wording of Article 11. Article 21 applies to boules, while Article 11 applies to the jack. Article 11 contains the clause “provided the position had been marked”, which Article 21 does not.

Article 11 contains three sentences that talk only about the jack. Then there is a fourth sentence with a rule for the umpires— “No claim can be accepted [by an umpire] regarding boules or jack whose position has not been marked.” A similar remark directed at umpires appears in Article 21. This mixing-in of rules for the umpires with rules for the players occurs in several places in the FIPJP rules, and is one of the most serious defects of the rules. It makes reliable interpretation of the FIPJP rules impossible. (See our post What’s wrong with the FIPJP rules.)

The opinion in this post follows the 2011 ruling by Jean-Claude Dubois, president of the French National Umpires Committee, on a related question— what to do when the circle is picked up too soon. It also follows our general principles for applying the rules.It is impossible, however, to know how a particular umpire in a particular game will rule.

This article was originally posted in April 2015, but almost completely re-written in October 2015. I have not deleted the comments on the original version, which may still be of value. But some of them may refer to text that does not appear in the current version of the post.