Speed cubing

“Do those things still exist?”
“I also had one when I was young!”
“How do you do that?”

These are the three most common things I hear when speed cubing (perhaps it should be quotation marks around “speed”), which simply means trying to solve Rubik’s Cube (Wikipedia) as quickly as possible (see also this antique post in Swedish I wrote the first time I solved the cube, which is almost five years ago now). This is a hobby of mine which has come and gone a number of times, usually with fairly long intervals. This time around, though, is probably the longest, which is why I now choose to expound on the topic a little bit. I also decided to write this post now because yesterday I finished the cube faster than one minute for the first time (58 seconds) and this is the goal I specified on my 101-in-1001 list. In this post I’ll try to answer two questions: how and why, which should be the most common ones.

First of all, solving Rubik’s Cube the first time is pretty hard. If you don’t have access to any help whatsoever, it would be almost impossible for normal people, or require an extraordinary amount of time (far more than I would be willing to invest). Even using help, it’s not easy, even if there are superb guides out there. Of course, solving the cube the first time is radically different from trying to solve it as quickly as possible. The first time, it’s a struggle to understand the cube, but after that, it’s a creative quest for more and more optimised movements and sequences (not only ways of actually moving layers of the cube, but also physical ones, i.e. how to rotate the layers with your hands). Here’s how it should be done (standing world record, set in 2008 by Erik Akkersdijk):

Solving Rubik’s Cube for speed isn’t even potentially boring at my level, but might be if you’re going for the world record, because it would involve memorising a vast number of perfect sequences leading up to a solved cube from various positions. I use Lars Petrus‘ model (already linked to above), because it’s possible to complete only memorising two sequences of around 15 rotations in all. I think it is one of the better methods for beginners as well, because it fosters understanding of the cube and Lars doesn’t freely give away advice he feels the beginner should find out on his or her own.

Then the big question: Why? Challenge, therapy and something to occupy my hands with, in roughly that order. Let me explain. Solving the cube for speed is a challenge in many ways. It’s intellectually stimulating and requires a number of very different skills. Not only do you have to be able to understand how the cube works, but you have to work out the fastest way of doing something. Constantly, you must scrutinise your method to find better alternatives. Also, Rubik’s Cube is therapeutic in the same way I can imagine knitting to be. It puts the mind at rest and if really focusing on new ways of doing something, it’s difficult to think of something else. However, the opposite is true when relying on experience. I can easily solve the cube and have a normal conversation at the same time (more often, I combine cubing with listening to audio books on trains, flights and so forth). It keeps my hands occupied and my mind can roam freely.

In short, Rubik’s Cube today is an underrated, challenging and cheap form of entertainment. I don’t know how long my current cubing period might last, but even if I’ve accomplished my original goal of one minute, I don’t feel satisfied and when I put it down, the cube will probably keep resurfacing now and then as a somewhat eccentric pastime.

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  1. Carin’s avatar

    Det är bara att sätta det nya målet på 7 sekunder och fortsätta ;)


  2. Olle Linge’s avatar

    Eller hur. :) Jag vet inte vad som är ett realistiskt mål, det vill säga hur långt man kan komma utan att ha extrem talang för det (vilket jag inte tror att jag har). Jag gissar på att man kan komma under halvminuten utan enorma problem, men därefter lär det bli rätt så…



  3. Carin’s avatar