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.


Boules played out of turn

This post was first published on the Petanque Libre blog under the title Boules played out of turn - comparing FIPJP and PL. I republish it here because I think it gives a clear account of the FIPJP procedures for dealing with boules thrown out-of-turn. See also our earlier post, A boule thrown out-of-turn.


A recent question on Mike Pegg’s “Ask the umpire” forum provides a good opportunity for comparing and contrasting the FIPJP rules and the rules of Petanque Libre. The purpose of this discussion is not to pass judgement on the merits of these rules. It is simply to point out the differences between the two sets of rules with regard to one specific kind of situation.

Steve Frampton asked about a situation that occurred during a recent competition. Here is my paraphrase of his question.

Team A is holding the point. Ben, on team B, throws boule B2. B2 doesn’t gain the point, but it bumps the jack closer to B1, team B’s first boule. Team A sees that the jack has been moved, but says nothing. Ben, standing in the circle, doesn’t realize that B2 has moved the jack. Ben and team B don’t go to the head to inspect the situation on the ground. Team B doesn’t think that are holding, so they continue pointing.

Team B points 3 boules (B3, B4, B5), none of which disturbs any of the balls already on the ground. The last boule clearly calls for a closer inspection of the situation around the jack. As the teams inspect the situation, they discover that Ben’s boule B2 had actually gained the point when it bumped the jack toward B1.

At this point, the question is— Team B threw 3 boules “contrary to the rules”, right? What should be done? Is it relevant that team A saw that B2 moved the jack, but said nothing?

Mike’s opinion, and the consensus opinion of the comments, has three parts.

  1. After throwing B2, it was team B’s responsibility to verify that they didn’t have the point before throwing their next boule. They didn’t do that, so the fault for the boules played out-of-turn lies entirely with team B.
  2. Boules B3, B4, and B5 were thrown “contrary to the rules”. Therefore, under the provisions of Article 24, team A has the choice of deciding whether each boule is dead or still valid. Team A has the right to declare all three of the boules to be dead.
    NOTE that the assertion that the three boules were thrown contrary to the rules is actually an interpretion of the expression “thrown contrary to the rules”, and an interpretation that is not universally shared. A rules interpretation by Petanque New Zealand, for instance, says “Boules played out of turn are not considered as an infringement to the rules [as “boules thrown contrary to the rules”] but indeed as a mistake. Players making such a mistake penalise themselves by reducing or losing the ‘boule advantage’. In conclusion, players do not incur any penalty, and boule(s) are valid and stay in place.”
  3. When team A saw that B2 moved the jack, team A were under no obligation whatsoever to say “you may have moved the jack”.

The last point seems to fly in the face of our ordinary sense of fairness. Surely, one thinks, team A had a moral obligation, if not an obligation under the FIPJP rules, to speak up when they saw that B2 had moved the jack. The umpire at the competition where this situation occurred apparently shared this opinion— he ruled that it would be unfair to disqualify all three boules, and told team A that they could choose to disqualify one, and only one, of the three boules.

If we now turn to the rules of Petanque Libre (PL), two things are worth noting.

First— PL rules, unlike FIPJP rules, contain provisions that explicitly deal with just this kind of situation. The PL rules are designed for use by players in games where no umpires are present to provide rules interpretations. The PL rules consequently need to be so clear and explicit that questions of “interpretation” or “fairness” simply never arise.

Second— PL’s treatment of this kind of situation (in the DECIDING WHICH TEAM THROWS NEXT section) is different from the consensus interpretation of the FIPJP rules that we’ve just presented. PL (version 5, the latest version) says—

It is the responsibility of both teams to reach an agreement about which team has the point and which team should throw the next boule.

If both teams agree on which team should throw the next boule, and that team throws the next boule, the boule is considered to have been legally thrown. The legality of the thrown boule cannot be changed by subsequent measurements or discoveries (e.g. a measurement for the point or the discovery of a forgotten boule).

A team that has the opportunity to challenge the point, but does not challenge it and lets the opposing team play the next boule, is considered to have agreed that the opposing team should throw the next boule.

SUMMARY

In our example situation:

and:

and when it is discovered that B2 had gained the point:

This is, I think, an accurate comparison of the FIPJP rules (or at least: the consensus interpretation of the FIPJP rules) and the PL rules regarding boules thrown out-of-turn.


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.


Can a team “take the point”? Can a team retract taking the point?

Can a team “take the point”?

Sometimes this happens.

It is near the end of the mene. Team A is out of boules. Team B has the point and one unplayed boule.

Team B is worried— if they attempt to gain another point, their last boule might mess up the situation around the jack… they could lose the one point that they now have. So they decide to play it safe. Team B’s player throws his last boule far away from the jack.

When he throws away his last boule, the player can expect some good-natured ribbing about his “chicken throw”. So, rather than performing a chicken throw, he holds on to his last boule and says “We’ll take the point”. By that he means— “We’re not going to throw any more boules; we’ll just take the point(s) that we already have.”

When he does this, rules wonks may ask: Can he do that? Can he say “we’ll take the point” and not play his remaining boules? Isn’t he required to play his last boule?

The answer is a definite “maybe”. The practice of “taking the point” is universally accepted when one team is out of boules and the other team has game on the ground. When that happens, the game is over; there is no reason to throw any more boules.

IN OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES, however, the practice of “taking the point” is not universally recognized. Some clubs accept it, but others do not. In clubs that don’t accept it, a visiting player will be told that he can’t just “take the point”: he must actually throw his last boule.

Can a team retract taking the point?

“Taking the point” can cause problems.

Team B is sure that they have the point, so they say “we’ll take the point”. The two teams walk to the head and examine the situation. They realize that matters are not as clear as they thought, so they decide to measure. When they measure, Team B discover that they were mistaken; they do not have the point.

The captain of Team B says, “Well, in that case we will play our remaining boule.” But Team A objects, on the grounds that when Team B said “we’ll take the point” Team B gave up the right to play any more boules.

Who is right? Can Team B play their last boule?

Here, as in so many other cases involving the FIPJP rules, opinions differ. Most FIPJP umpires will rule that saying “we’ll take the point” has no significance under the FIPJP rules (basically, it was just an off-the-cuff remark), so Team B can play their last boule.

The Dutch petanque federation (NJBB), on the other hand, says—

When a team chooses to say “we’ll take the point” they are in effect saying “Consider all of my boule(s) as thrown: Let’s determine the final score”. That is, by saying “we’ll take the point” they are giving up the right to play their remaining unplayed boules. They are in effect VIRTUALLY throwing away their last boules.

I’m sympathetic to the NJBB position, which seems very commonsensical. But the FIPJP interpretation forestalls debates about what Team B may or may not have said, and about whether it can be retracted. This is an important practical benefit, and for that reason I personally endorse the FIPJP interpretation.

My advice, therefore, is that even if “taking the point” is acceptable in your club, you should always play all of your boules. A chicken throw is nothing to be ashamed of when it is also the Smart Thing To Do.

[revised: 2020-08-08]

A boule thrown out of turn

Conside the following situation.

Team A has the point. Team B throws boule B1. B1 gains the point but the players don’t realize that. Mistakenly believing that team A still has the point, team B throws boule B2.

The players then walk to the head and measure all of the boules. They discover that B1 had actually gained the point. That means that after B1 was thrown, team A, not team B, should have thrown the next boule. Boule B2 was “thrown out of turn”. What should be done?

examining_the_head

OPINION #1: B2 was thrown contrary to the rules

Article 15 says that “it is the team that does not hold the point that plays.” So it seems obvious that a boule played out-of-turn should be considered a boule thrown contrary to the rules and the provisions of Article 24 should be applied. Nothing was marked, so everything is left in place and the offended team (team A) has the choice of whether or not to leave the offending boule (B2) on the terrain.

OPINION #2: B2 was NOT thrown contrary to the rules

In 2008, the national umpires for Petanque New Zealand (PNZ) issued a set of rules interpretations that held that a boule thrown out of turn is NOT a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”.

Even if the boule was not holding, by agreeing that it was, the opponents in effect declared it to be valid under Rule 24. At the end of the mène, the boules can be measured, but not to determine whether the team had played out of turn, only to determine the current holding positions for points purposes.

Following this lead, in 2012 John Degueldre, Director of Umpiring for Petanque New Zealand, issued the following ruling.

Boules played out of turn are not considered as an infringement to the rules [i.e. as "boules thrown contrary to the rules"] but indeed as a mistake. Players making such a mistake penalise themselves by reducing or losing the ‘boule advantage’. In conclusion, players do not incur any penalty, and boule(s) are valid and stay in place. But it is still the player or team not holding the point that must play the next boule.

The practical effect of this interpretation is that, after a boule is thrown out-of-turn, everything is left where it is, and the game just carries on.

OPINION #3: It depends on the circumstances

Consider these two cases.

  1. Situation A — The two teams walk to the head and inspect the situation. Team B says, “Looks to me like you’ve got the point.” Team A says, “Yeah, I think so too.” They don’t measure. Team B throws the next boule. (PNZ calls such situations lazy petanque.)
     
  2. Situation B — After throwing boule B1, the player in the circle makes a snap judgment that he has failed to gain the point. Without measuring or asking team A for their opinion, he throws boule B2.

A player should not throw a boule without reaching an agreement with the other team that it is his team’s turn to throw. In the first case team B got team A’s agreement that team B should throw— both teams made an honest mistake and the game should just carry on. In the second case team B failed to get team A’s agreement on the point (i.e. failed to perform due diligence) and for that reason really did throw B2 contrary to rules.

What an umpire will decide

If either Situation A or Situation B occurs in an umpired tournament, the umpire would probably apply Article 24 and rule that B2 was thrown contrary to the rules.

For friendly games, the PNZ guidelines seem very sensible— just leave everything where it is and carry on with the game. In my own petanque group, we play by the rules of Petanque Libre, which say that if an illegal action can be undone, it should be undone. If the out-of-turn boule didn’t move anything else on the ground, we return the boule to its owner and carry on as if it had never been thrown.


Dealing with a forgotten boule

What do you do when one team forgets that it has an unplayed boule?

There are a lot of boules on the ground. Your team (team A) has the point and unplayed boules. You ask the opponents (Team B) if they have any more boules to play. They look around, don’t see any, and say “No, we’re out.” So your team plays a boule. Then one of the opponents says “Ooops! I made a mistake. Bob still has one boule left!”

 
What should you do?

The FIPJP rules say that a team should play the next boule when the opposing team has the point or is out of boules. Regardless of why Team B refused to play its last unplayed boule, it broke this rule. Allowing Team B to throw its forgotten boule would actually reward Team B for breaking the rules— it would take the boule advantage away from Team A and give it to Team B. Team B therefore may NOT play their forgotten boule. In short, the fogotten boule is dead.

Note that the situation would be different if Team A hadn’t asked if Team B had any unplayed boules. In such a situation, it is the responsibility of the team about to throw to perform due diligence to verify that they have the point or that the opposing team is out of boules. If Team A hadn’t done its due diligence, then Team A’s boule truly would have been thrown out of turn.

Players who have a different opinion about how to handle “forgotten boules” often fail to distinguish between cases in which Team A has and has not done its due diligence. If they were careful to do that, we believe that they would agree that Team B is at fault and the forgotten boule should be declared dead.


What is a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”?

In the 2016 version of the FIPJP rules, the title of Article 24 is “Boules thrown contrary to the rules”.

Any boule thrown contrary to the rules is dead, and anything that it displaced in its travel is put back in place, if its original position was marked. However, the opponent has the right to apply the advantage rule and to declare that it is valid. In this case, the boule pointed or shot, is still alive and anything it has displaced remains in its place.

If nothing was marked, then this means basically that everything is left in place and the opposing team has the choice of whether or not to leave the offending boule on the terrain.

So what, exactly, is a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”?

Between 2008 and 2010 the FIPJP rules included an example of what it meant by a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”. The example was a boule thrown from a circle other than the one from which the jack was thrown. Plastic throwing circles were introduced into the game in 2005, but many players of course continued to draw circles on the ground. In 2008 the FIPJP probably felt that it should tell players what to do if a player mistakenly threw a boule from a dead circle drawn on the ground. So they added the example. By 2010 the FIPJP probably thought that plastic circles had become so common that the example could be removed. The upshot is that the current version of the FIPJP rules does not give us any clue about what is meant by “a boule thrown contrary to the rules”.

One idea for how we can come to grips with Article 24 is to look at other rules about how boules should and should not be thrown, and make a list of how each of those rules could be violated. I we do that, we come up with this list.

  1. Throwing two or more boules simultaneously. Note that throwing several boules simultaneously is NOT considered to be a case where one boule was thrown legally and the other boules were thrown out of turn. ALL of the simultaneously thrown boules are considered to have been thrown illegally.
  2. Throwing more boules than you’re allowed. This usually happens when a player throws a third boule in a triples game (where each player is allowed only two boules).
  3. Committing a foot fault— throwing while a toe or heel overlaps the circle.
  4. Lifting one foot off the ground before the thrown boule hits the ground.
  5. Throwing while illegally holding an “extra” boule in the other hand (see Article 15).
  6. Throwing the boule from the wrong circle, or from outside the correct circle.
  7. Throwing a boule that has been moistened, or that has something foreign (like mud) clinging to it.

There are two cases that you might expect to be on this list, but are not.

  1. Throwing a boule that belongs to a team-mate.
  2. Throwing a boule that belongs to one of the opposing players.

They are covered by Article 22—”The player who plays a boule other than his own …”

Should throwing a boule out of turn be on this list? See our posts on boules thrown out of turn and dealing with a forgotten boule.