Once again I am really pleased to post up the first part of some articles on Petanque constructed by one of our members – fascinating stuff and well worth a read so grab a good glass of wine or a mug of Yorkshire tea depending on your mood find a good spot to read and enjoy! Thank you to our resident writer for taking the time.
The thoughts of Jean-Marc
Some of the following is distilled from Marco Foyot’s 1984 book imaginatively titled “Petanque”. Naturally there are a few “Ah but what ifs” but go with it and see how it grabs you. It must be said that he is not the most popular man among some top players in France but he has been a great ambassador for the game. He says in the introduction “ I am not addressing the five hundred or so top players, who neither want or need my advice but speaking to the thousands of people drawn to the sport, the novices, those who play for fun with their friends and those who test themselves on the big terrains on a Sunday. I want them to see petanque as rejuvenating , athletic, dynamic and essentially ‘sporting’ in the true sense”. Bearing in mind that our French friends never use one word when five will do, I have tried to keep any translation as sensibly concise as possible.
To my mind Foyot was and still possibly is, the best tactical player in the game. The content is aimed at good level competitive play but also addresses the basics. His texts on the basic techniques are not very different from those described in practically every book written on the game so hardly need repeating but I have always found his take on the game thought provoking and informative .
The anatomy of a game
With options almost always available for each shot ,it is judicious choice and application which produces the right tactic. The choice is not always immediately obvious; whether to shoot, point ,play on to a boule or the coche. Do you go close to invite a shot or wide to invite a point or play a teaser in between …?
The simple success or failure of a shot does not in itself prove very much. Everyone can miss. A hazardous shot can succeed and an apparently simple one can go wrong. If you think about it, the odds of success almost always outweigh the odds of failure , otherwise no one would ever win. The experienced player will assess the situation in front of them and not just play their stock shot. As they say “jouer le jeu” .Nobody pretends it is easy but a thinking approach to the game can make the difference. A match can be considered in four elements;
(Le Debut) The Start
For example, assuming you have the first throw of the coche. Set it at 7 or 8 metres or less. The first few ends are where you try to get a measure of the other team. The aim in the early ends will be to contain a stronger and put pressure on a weaker opposition. The score over the first few ends is not as important as assessing how the opposition play. Bearing in mind they may be double bluffing, establish for example : Do they simply react to what you do and defend? Do they seem reluctant to or ready to attack.? Do they talk to each other before each shot?
You point 300mm in front of the coche . Do they shoot or point past it? Did they automatically point without going to the head to check. Who decided what shot to play ,did anybody ask? Did they examine the donnee before pointing?. You are looking for anything careless or ill-judged which you can exploit. How is the team made up.? Are they “one trick ponies” or good pointers who can also shoot well. For example, is their shooter left handed? If so, boules on the right will draw his boule away from the coche ( barring a spot carreau) and vice versa. Keep that in mind. Do they roll point at the coche and rely on direction and weight, ignoring the surface conditions? If so put your next coche just beyond the roughest spot you can find. You share the same piste so it is up to you to exploit it better.
This generally will come somewhere in between points 1 and 7,depending who has control at this stage. This is where you can begin to take a few risks. Shots which are a little dangerous but will if successful ,pressurise the opponents . Look for the “payant”, the money shots where you can pick up more than one point taking you to within a possible 3 or 4 and game. Even if you are 5 -0 down at this point it is not catastrophique. Don’t panic. Conserve your ammunition and make the opponents to use all theirs. The aim now is to get to 9 before they do and be in a position to get to 13 with one big end.
(Le tournant) The Turn
This is the pivot point, 7 -9 , where a win is possible in a single end . Each point is now doubly important and the team that holds it’s nerve has the advantage. Don’t be too tempted to change what is working well so far. Steady and deliberate . Hold what you have and keep the coche even if you have to kill the end . Aim to have the last boule . Your judgement on whether to defend or attack will depend on the score, the confidence of your team and theirs ,the position of the boules played and remaining boules held.
This final push comes between 9 and 13. You will play to finish and the other team will be doing the same. The difference will be conservation of your boules and the team with boules in hand will be in the best position. It may be the time to consider putting a long boule behind to cover a coche displacement .It may suggests that you might plan to shoot the coche and the other team may put a boule or even two in front to stop you rather than the definite scoring shot which they might have played. Getting them to waste boules is a way to gain advantage in boules in hand…. . The key to victory . Avoid being fixated by 12 ,it is not the be all and end all. You may be on 12 and the opponents on 10 or 11 but you have not won yet and sometimes it even increases the pressure and the “bati-bati” kicks in. A team can just as easily win from 10 as from 12 ,and losing from an eight or ten point lead is not all that uncommon. From 12 ,any point you score is a winner and the opposition must attack it. The pressure will be on them so stay cool and clearheaded.
Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.
Next week – Good Point…an article on the different shots pointing has to offer.