Which team throws next?

[revised: 2020-12-16]
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 created the null point.
 

Some background concepts

  1. Assuming that both teams still have unplayed boules, there can be one of two situations on the ground.
    • One team has the point: the point is decided (attribué).
    • Neither team has the point: the point is null (un point nul).

     
    So—

    • If the point is decided, the team that does NOT have the point throws next.
    • If the point is null, the teams throw alternately until the point is decided, starting with the team that threw the ball that created the null point.

     

  2. The point is null in two situations.
    • 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).

     

  3. There are two ways for a team to create an empty terrain situation.
    • The team throws the jack to start a mene. Throwing out the jack creates an empty terrain situation, so the team that threw the jack starts alternating play by throwing the first boule.
       
    • The team throws a boule that knocks out all of the boules on the terrain and then itself rolls out-of-bounds, leaving the terrain empty. When that happens, the team starts alternating play by throwing the next boule.

These procedures 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 them clearly, so players are often unsure 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 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?

Team A creates a null point by throwing 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 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.
Team A points boule A1, Team B points boule B1, and B1 comes to rest at the same distance from the jack as A1. (left, below) Because Team B has created an equidistant boules situation, Team B starts alternating play by throwing boule B2.

  • B2 gains the point. (center)
  • Team A throws A2, which hits away B2. Now A1 and B1 are again in an equidistant boules situation. (right)

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 (left) that lasted until it was ended by the throw of B2 (center). The throw of A2 removed B2 and created another equidistant boules situation (right). The situation on the right is similar to, but different, from the situation on the left, just as this year’s solar eclipse is is similar to, but different, from last year’s solar eclipse. Team A has created a second equidistant boules situation, so it 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. 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 null point” (“c’est un nouveau point nul“) “because it is a different boule that is now equidistant from the jack.” This is a mistake. 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 next. Team B wants to use boule B2 to shoot A1, but misses. B2 knocks both boules on the terrain 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 null 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 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.

Verify the point before you throw

[revised: 2021-06-12]
Situations involving a boule thrown out-of-turn often raise questions. One interesting question was recently raised on “Ask the umpire”.

Boules A1 and B1 are on the ground. A1 has the point. Team B throws boule B2. B2, as it rolls through the head, bumps the jack closer to B1, giving the point to Team B. A player on Team A sees that B2 has moved the jack, but says nothing.

Team B doesn’t realize that the jack has been moved, so they continue pointing. They point three boules before going to the head to inspect the situation. When they do, they realize that all three of the boules played after B2 were played out-of-turn.

There is no question that three boules were played out-of-turn. Team A invoked the Advantage Rule in Article 24 and declared that all three were dead.

The interesting question is this. When Team A saw that the jack had been moved, weren’t they under some kind of obligation to speak up? It seems unfair that Team A said nothing and let Team B continue to throw boules which they (Team A) knew were being thrown out-of-turn.

Mike’s opinion, and the consensus opinion of the comments, was that a team is always responsible for verifying— before they play a boule— that it is their turn to play.

The opposing team is under no obligation whatsoever to say anything about what they observe, or what they think they may have observed. “In this scenario, Team B should check after playing a boule. Team A is not obliged to advise or inform Team B to check who is holding the point.”


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.


Must a team throw ALL of its boules?

updated 2021-07-25
There are a couple of situations in which players ask— Must a team throw ALL of its boules?

One of the common forms of this question is — Can a team “take the point”?

Team A is out of boules. Team B has the point and has one unplayed boule. Afraid of messing up the situation and losing the one point that they now have, Team B decides to play it safe. Team B’s player holds on to his unplayed boule and says “We’ll take the point”, meaning “We’re not going to throw any more boules; we’ll just take the point(s) that we already have.”

When that happens, players on Team A sometimes 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 that it depends on the circumstances. Everyone recognizes that when one team is out of boules and the other team has game on the ground, the game is over; there is no reason to throw any more boules. Before the end of the game, 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.

One consideration is that “taking the point” can cause problems.

Team A is out of boules; Team B still has one. Team B is sure that they have the point, so they say “we’ll take the point”. The teams walk to the head, examine the situation, and realize that they need to measure. When they do, they discover that Team B does NOT have the point. Team B then says, “Well, in that case we will play our last boule.” But Team A objects. Team A argues 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?

Opinions differ. An FIPJP umpire will probably 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.

The NJBB position seems sensible, but the FIPJP interpretation has a significant practical advantage— it prevents debates about what Team B may or may not have said. For that reason the best maxim is— always play all of your boules.

There is another kind of situation in which players ask whether or not a team must throw all of its boules. It is the situation that Ernesto Santos mentions in his comment (see below), and occurred recently in mene 11 of a game between Marco Foyot and Christian Fazzino. It typically happens in singles. Player A is out of boules and doesn’t have even a single boule on the terrain. Player B has one or two unplayed boules. It is impossible for player B not to score points with those boules— all he has to do is drop them on the terrain. In such a case, it is reasonable to award Player B the points for his unplayed boules without requiring that he actually play them. Still, in an umpired game, an umpire will expect him actually to play them. As Mike Pegg wrote on “Ask the Umpire”

To win the points your boule(s) must be closer to the jack than the nearest of your opponent. Any boules “yet to play” will not be counted.

The requirement to play those boules became explicit in 2016 when the FIPJP added a new sentence to Article 6.

If a player picks up the circle when there are boules still to be played, the circle is replaced but only the opponents are allowed to play their boules.

The rule is quite clear. If Player B picks up the circle without throwing his remaining boules, he loses the right to throw his remaining boules… which means that they cannot be considered to have been thrown. So in such a situation, the rules are absolutely clear— the player MUST throw his remaining boules.

A boule thrown out of turn

[updated: 2021-06-12]
Consider the following situation.

Boule A1 is on the ground. 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.

B2 was “thrown out of turn”. What should be done?
examining_the_head

The answer to this question depends on whether or not we consider boule B2 to have been thrown “contrary to the rules”.

Some players and umpires hold that it was. 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. Note that this doesn’t mean that the boule is dead. It means that the offended team may apply the Advantage Rule in Article 24, and choose either (a) to un-do the event by removing the offending boule and (if possible) returning everything else to its original location, or (b) to leave everything where it is and carry on with the game.

Other players and umpires, however, see the matter differently. 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 was NOT thrown contrary to the rules. 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.

The bottom line

In a competition, most FIPJP-certified umpires will, I think, rule that a boule thrown out-of-turn was thrown contrary to the rules, and that the offended team may apply the Advantage Rule in Article 24.

Personally, I agree with Petanque New Zealand. It’s not clear what should count as being “thrown contrary to the rules”, and I see no reason to use Article 24 to further punish the hapless offending team. They’ve already been punished sufficiently. When they threw their boule out-of-turn they actually benefitted their opponents by increasing the opponents’ boule advantage.

Multiple boules thrown out-of-turn

Players sometimes ask what should be done if Team B throws several boules (say: B2, B3, and B4) before it is discovered that B1 had the point all along. The answer is that you should treat all boules thrown out-of-turn in the same way, no matter how many of them there are.


Dealing with a forgotten boule

[updated 2021-06-11]
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?

Team B had an unplayed boule and was given the opportunity to play next, but refused to do so. Team B therefore was at fault and may not play its forgotten boule. It makes no difference that Team B acted because of a mistake rather than a deliberate desire to cheat. Team B’s forgotten boule is dead.

Note that allowing Team B to throw its forgotten boule would allow Team B to gain an advantage from breaking the rules— it would steal the boule advantage from Team A. On the grounds that a team should never be able to gain any advantage by breaking the rules, Team B may NOT play their forgotten boule.

Note that the situation would be different if Team A had simply gone ahead, without asking Team B if they had any unplayed boules. That would be an ordinary case of a boule thrown out of turn.


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

[updated 2021-06-12]
The title of Article 24 is “Boules thrown contrary to the rules”.

Except for cases in which these rules provide specific and graduated penalties as outlined in article 35, any boule thrown contrary to the rules is dead and if marked, anything that it has displaced in its travel is put back in place. However, the opponent has the right to apply the advantage rule and declare it to be valid. In this case, the boule pointed or shot, is valid and anything it has displaced remains in its place.

Note that if a boule was thrown “contrary to the rules”, that doesn’t automatically mean that the boule is dead. It means that the offended team can choose what to do about the situation. The offended team has two options. (1) They can choose to un-do the event by picking up the offending boule and returning everything else to its original position (as much as possible). Or: (2) They can choose to leave everything where it is and carry on with the game.

When the FIPJP international umpires committee wrote this rule, what did they mean by a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”? The answer is— nobody knows. The only time that the FIPJP rules included an example of what was meant by a “boule thrown contrary to the rules” was between 2008 and 2010. The example was of a boule thrown from a circle other than the one from which the jack was thrown. We don’t know why the umpires inserted that example in the 2008 rules, or why they deleted it in 2010.

Perhaps if we examine the rules governing the throwing of boules, we can come up with a list of ways in which a boule might be thrown contrary to the rules. Perhaps something like this…

  1. Throwing two or more boules simultaneously.
  2. Throwing more boules than you’re allowed.
  3. Throwing while a toe or heel encroaches on the circle.
  4. Lifting a foot before the thrown boule hits the ground.
  5. Throwing while holding an “extra” boule (see Article 15).
  6. Throwing from the wrong circle, or from outside the correct circle.

Note that throwing a boule that belongs to a team-mate or an opposing player isn’t on this list. It has its own rule in Article 23.

It is a matter of debate whether a boule thrown out-of-turn should be considered “thrown contrary to the rules”. See our posts on boules thrown out of turn and dealing with a forgotten boule.