Cube competition in Boston attracts world’s best
To most of us, the Rubik’s Cube is just a colorful, plastic puzzle that—no matter how hard you try—is physically impossible to solve. Getting all six sides back to solid colors is a lot trickier than it seems. Although the number of people who can solve the cube is low, the ones who know how to crack the code often move at a rapid-fire speed.
This phenomena is better known as “speedcubing,” and Boston hosted the RedBull Rubik’s Cube World Championship last Saturday, bringing the best of the cubing community to the Cyclorama.
In 1982, less than a decade after the Rubik’s Cube was created, the first speedcubing world championship was held in Hungary. Ever since then, speedcubers from across the globe have gathered to compete against one another to see who can solve the puzzle the fastest.
At this weekend’s tournament, 50 cubers from over 15 countries battled it out for a $30,000 prize and a snazzy championship ring. Feliks Zemdegs, who has broken multiple world records, and Dana Yi, the fastest female speedcuber in history, proved to be some of the fiercest competition.
Cubers at this tournament competed in one of four categories: female, re-scramble mixed, fastest hand, and speedcubing. The goal for all of them was to finish the puzzle as fast as possible, but each category had to follow slightly different rules along the way. For instance, the goal of fastest hand is to solve the puzzle with, you guessed it, one hand. The goal for re-scramble is to match a 3x3x3 cube to another cube that is randomly scrambled. They don’t get to see the cube ahead of time and there are literally quadrillions of ways to scramble a rubix cube. These cubers can find and replicate this exact combination in less than a minute.
The ultimate goal for many speedcubers is to beat their previous records, so the faster they can solve the puzzle, the better. Event organizers claimed cubers make up to 10 moves a second. Whether that’s physically possible or not, the sides appear to be whirling around each other so quickly that the cubes looks like a small orb of light to the typical observer of a competition.
But the ironic part about this need for speed is that Erno Rubik, the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube who also attended the event, said that to him, speed isn’t important. Rubik told DigBoston that he has never timed himself solving the puzzle before because it’s impressive enough to be able to solve the cube at all.
Speedcubing is similar to chess because it’s a mind game that requires players to plan their moves far in advance. Cubers are constantly thinking ahead, and they use different algorithms to help them create a mental game plan. In speedcubing rounds, cubers are given eight seconds to inspect the cube before solving it. That’s enough time for the cuber to plan their first eight moves.
No matter which competitor you watched, the bottom line was that these young people had a unique talent, since many of them were solving the cube in under 10 seconds. It all seems really nerdy, which it definitely is, but once you see it live in action you find yourself thinking, “Wow, I could never do that!”
Although the championship prize was a hefty wad of cash, the competition was all in good fun. Of course it’s upsetting to lose, but the cubers had no hard feelings against one another. There was more sportsmanship on display in the Cyclorama than there is in many professional sports.
Rubik said that back in the day when the cube was in its early stages, he never thought about the possibility of a Rubik’s Cube tournament. Those weren’t the types of questions or ideas he had for the cube’s future. He was focused on finding someone who was able to sell it, which nowadays seems to be the least of his concerns as the speedcuber community grows larger.
The final results from the day-long tournament were that Dana Yi from the United States won the female, Ricky Weiler from Germany won the re-scramble mixed, Bill Wang from Canada won the fastest hand, and Feliks Zemdegs from Australia was crowned the speedcubing world champion.