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Speedcubing (also known as speedsolving or cubing) is a competitive sport that involves solving a variety of combination puzzles, the most well-known of which is the 3x3x3 puzzle (also known as the Rubik's cube), as quickly as possible. A person who competitively solves combination puzzles is called a speedcuber (when solved specifically focusing on speed), or a cuber. To solve most puzzles, the contestant has to perform a series of moves, called algorithms, that transform a scrambled puzzle into a solved state.
Competitive speedcubing is mainly regulated by the World Cube Association (WCA). Currently, the WCA recognizes 17 speedcubing events: the cubic puzzles from the 2x2–7x7, the Pyraminx, Megaminx, Skewb, Square-1, and Rubik's Clock, as well as the 3x3, 4x4, and 5x5 Blindfolded, 3x3 One-handed, 3x3 Fewest Moves, and 3x3 Multi-blind.
As of July 2023[update], the 3x3x3 world record single in competition is 3.13 seconds, set by Max Park at Pride in Long Beach 2023. The 3x3x3 world record for an average of five solves is 4.48 seconds, set by Yiheng Wang at Mofunland Cruise Open 2023.
The Rubik's Cube was invented in 1974 by Hungarian professor of architecture Ernő Rubik (born July 13, 1944). In 1979, Ernő Rubik partnered with Ideal Toy Company to garner widespread international interest in the cube, which soon developed into a global trend. On June 5, 1982, the first world championship was held in Budapest, Hungary. Nineteen people competed in the event, and the American Minh Thai won with a single solve time of 22.95 seconds, which was, at the time, the fastest Rubik's Cube solve ever recorded in the competition. Other notable attendees include Jessica Fridrich and Lars Petrus, both of whom later became influential in the development of solving methods and the speedcubing community. The Rubik's Cube waned in popularity after 1983, but with the advent of the Internet, sites began to surface to discuss the cube. With these websites facilitating the renewed popularity of the cube, it ushered in a new generation of cubers, creating a growing international community of people dedicated to the sport of speedsolving.
Those prominent in the online community, such as Ron van Bruchem, Tyson Mao, Chris Hardwick, and Ton Dennenbroek, eventually wanted to create a place where cubers from around the world could meet and compete. In 2003, they organised a second championship in Toronto, Ontario, followed by another competition in the Netherlands later that same year. This revival of competition sparked a new wave of organized speedcubing events, which included regular national and international competitions. There were twelve competitions in 2004, 58 more from 2005 to 2006, over 100 in 2008, and over 1150 in 2018. Since Budapest's 1982 competition, there have been nine further World Championships traditionally held every other year, the most recent in Incheon, South Korea. This new wave of speedcubing competitions has been and still is organized by the World Cube Association (WCA).
Since the rise of speedcubing in popularity, numerous entrepreneurial ventures have sprung up specializing in making or selling speedcubes, creating international competition between these brands and Rubik's. Dozens of cube manufacturers have begun improving the cube's technology to allow for smoother turning and faster solving. This has helped to facilitate the eventual rise of the Rubik's Cube as not just a toy, but also a lucrative business.
Solving methods for cubes with equal side lengths.
The standard 3x3x3 can be solved using several methods, not all of which are intended for speedcubing. CFOP and Roux are the most widely used methods, as they are the most popular and can be used to achieve the fastest times for the least amount of time spent learning them. The CFOP method is used by the majority of cubers. Previously ZZ and Petrus were used often, However as cubing hardware improved these methods fell out of fashion, and are considered sub-optimal. Although some methods (such as CFOP) employ a layer-by-layer system with algorithms, other significant (though less widely used) methods such as the Roux method starts by forming a 3x2x1 block on either side of the cube.
Solving larger cubes, such as 4x4x4 and 5x5x5, are most often solved by reducing it to a 3x3x3 and solving it like so, while 2x2x2 can be solved with the same methods as 3x3x3, however specialized 2x2x2 methods are more common, and regarded as better to 3x3x3 methods, such as Ortega, CLL, and one-look
The CFOP (Abbreviation for Cross – F2L – OLL – PLL) method, also known as the Fridrich method, was named after one of its inventors, Jessica Fridrich, who finished second in the 2003 Rubik's Cube World Championships. Although it is known as the Fridrich method, its origins are credited to David Singmaster, who was one of the first to publish a layer-by-layer method of solving in 1980, and Guus Razoux Schultz, who built upon this and developed a more efficient system for the first two layers (F2L). Jessica Fridrich then finished developing the method and published it online in 1997, an event that was very influential in the revival of competitive speedcubing. The first step of the method is to solve a cross of edge pieces on the first layer. The remainder of the first layer and all of the second layer are then solved together in what is referred to as "corner-edge pairs", or slots. Finally, the last layer is solved in two steps – first, all of the pieces in the layer are oriented to form a solid color (but without the individual pieces always being in their correct places on the cube). This step is referred to as orientation and is usually performed with a single set of algorithms known as OLL (Orientation of the Last Layer). Then, all of those pieces are permuted to their correct spots. This is also usually performed as a single set of PLL (Permutation of the Last Layer) algorithms. OLL and PLL use 57 and 21 algorithms, respectively.
The CFOP method can be used as a less advanced method by dividing the steps into more steps, reducing the number of algorithms that need to be learned but sacrificing time, usually known as the beginner method or layer by layer (LBL). Most people start learning CFOP with 4LLL (Four-Look Last Layer), which is the less advanced, slower, and algorithm-reducing (from 78 algorithms to 16) way to learn CFOP. The 4 steps are divided into Edge Orientation, Corner Orientation, Corner Permutation, and Edge Permutation (can be called EO, CO, CP, and EP). Later on, full OLL, which has 57 algorithms, and full PLL, which has 21 algorithms, can be learned. An average CFOP user that solves with full OLL and PLL, along with an efficient cross (which takes 8 moves at maximum) and efficient F2L (which takes almost 30 moves), consists of 55-60 moves, which means that it has a higher move count than Roux and ZZ. However, finger tricks and algorithms are more researched with CFOP than any other method, which explains why the majority of the fastest speedcubers use CFOP as their main speedcubing method.
The CFOP method is the most widely used speed-solving method. It is a more efficient version of the Layer-By-Layer method (also known as the beginner's method). It is very popular due to the vast amount of resources that teach and improve upon the CFOP method. Many fast speedcubers, including two-time World Champion Feliks Zemdegs and world record holder Max Park, learn additional sets of algorithms for the last slot and layer, such as Corners of Last Layer (COLL), which orients and permutes the corners when the edges are oriented, or Winter Variation (also known as Valk Last Slot, or VLS), which finishes OLL while inserting the last pair, and ZBLL, which combines the solving processes of OLL corner orientation and PLL in only one algorithm.
The Roux method was invented by French speedcuber Gilles Roux. The first step of the Roux method is to form a 3×2×1 block, usually placed in the lower portion of the left layer. The second step is creating another 3×2×1 on the opposite side, so each block shares a bottom color. The creation of these blocks is commonly known as "block-building". The remaining four corners are then solved using a set of algorithms known as CMLL (Corners of the Last Layer, without regard to the M-slice), which leaves six edges and four centers that are solved in the last step, L6E or LSE (Last Six Edges).
This method is not as dependent on algorithm memorization as the CFOP method since all but the third step is done with intuition as opposed to predefined sets of algorithms. Because of the frequent use of M moves, the Roux method can be performed without any rotations (unlike the CFOP method), which means it is easier to look ahead (solving pieces while at the same time looking for the solution to the next step) while solving. It is also considered one of the most efficient speedsolving methods, with its average move count being between 45 and 50 moves for experienced solvers. However, the Roux method of speedcubing has been criticized over the years because, unlike CFOP, ZZ, or Petrus, Roux requires M (middle layer) slices to solve LSE. Using M slice moves makes it harder to achieve higher TPS (turns per second) because the finger tricks are almost always flicks, but high TPS is achievable through training.
One of the users of this method, Kian Mansour, broke the one-handed (OH) world record average with a time of 9.54 seconds. Sean Patrick Villanueva is the first Roux user to achieve a Sub-6 average of five in competition and is ranked tenth in the world by 3x3 average. He also podiumed in 3x3 at the WCA World Championship 2019 (2nd Place).
The ZZ method (short for "Zbigniew Zborowski") is a modern speedcubing method originally proposed by Zbigniew Zborowski in 2006. The method was designed specifically to achieve high turning speeds by focusing on movement ergonomics and is a combination of a block-building method and a layer-by-layer method. The initial pre-planned step is called EOLine and is the most distinctive hallmark of the ZZ method. It involves orienting all edges while placing two oppositely placed down-face edges aligned with the correspondingly colored center. It is also common to build an EOCross, where all edges are oriented and the four bottom edges are put in their place, similar to CFOP. The next step solves the remaining first two layers using only left, right, top, and bottom face turns, one of the advantages of ZZ. On completion of the first two layers, the last layer's edges are all correctly oriented because of edge pre-orientation during EOLine. The last layer may be completed using a number of techniques, including those used in the CFOP method. An expert variant of this method, ZBLL (Zborowski-Bruchem Last Layer), allows the last layer to be completed in a single step with an average of just over 12 moves, but requires a total of 493 algorithms to be learned. Due to the ergonomics of ZZ, rotating when solving will never be needed, unlike in the CFOP method. The ZZ method has fewer moves than CFOP, with ZZ averaging 45-55 compared to CFOP's 55-60 moves. Because ZZ uses EO and block building, it is very move-efficient, these techniques are used in the FMC (Fewest Move Challenge). However, EOLine is considered by many to be more difficult than F2L, with only two edges solved (the front and back bottom edges), which can hinder lookahead and TPS (turns per second), making ZZ much slower than CFOP.
Corners-first methods involve solving the corners and then finishing the edges with slice turns. Corner-first solutions were common in the 1980s and were one of the most popular methods that 1982 world champion Minh Thai used. Currently, corner-first solutions are rarely used among speedsolvers. Dutch cuber Marc Waterman created a corners-first method in the cube craze and averaged 18 seconds in the mid-late 1980s.
Fewest Moves Challenge (FMC) methods
At the highest level, there typically is not a standard method used for Fewest Moves solving. Rather, competitors attempt to solve the cube intuitively using solving techniques such as blockbuilding, Normal-Inverse-Scramble-Swap (NISS), commutator insertions, and Domino Reduction after its rise to popularity in 2019. Most solves utilize multiple of these techniques in order to generate a solution.
In 2003, when the first blindfolded competitions were organized, world record solvers would use the 3OP (3-Cycle Orientation Permutation) Method, which orients and then permutes pieces using 3 cycles. As of today, methods such as 3-Style and M2 are among the fastest and most popular blind-solving methods. The Old Pochmann Method, which is a method that solves one piece at a time, is a method typically used by beginner blindsolvers. Blindfolded solvers use letter patterns to help memorize sequences of moves in order to solve the cube.
The lettering scheme that blindfolded solvers use is called the Speffz lettering scheme, and each sticker or individual color is given a letter. The way letters are assigned is starting on the top edge of the top face, going clockwise, and starting with A. The top edge of the top face is A, the right edge is B, the bottom edge is C, and the left edge is D. The same process is done on the other sides in the order top, left, front, right, back, bottom to get every edge lettered from A to X. The same process is applied to all of the corners, starting with the top left corner and going clockwise in the same face order. A cycle of piece swaps is then used with the letter E being used as a buffer location for corners and D commonly being used for edges in the Old Pochmann method.
World Cube Association (WCA)
Speedcubing competitions have been held every year since 2003. The World Cube Association (WCA) was formed in 2004 to govern all official competitions. For a competition to be official, it must be approved by the WCA and follow the WCA regulations. Included in the regulations is the necessity of having one or more WCA delegate in attendance. A delegate's main role is to ensure all regulations are followed during the competition. Once the competition is finished, results are uploaded to the WCA website. Judges oversee the round. Delegates help the judge. Runners give the scrambled or solved cube to the competitor. A scrambler scrambles the cube.
The majority of puzzle competitions are held using a trimmed mean of five format. This involves the competitor executing five solves in the round in question, after which the fastest and slowest solve are disregarded and the mean of the remaining three is used. The 6×6×6 and 7×7×7 events are ranked by straight mean of three — only three solves, none of which are disregarded. In 3×3×3 blindfolded and 3×3×3 fewest moves challenges, either straight mean of 3 or best of 3 is used, while 4×4×4 blindfolded, 5×5×5 blindfolded, and multiple blindfolded challenges are ranked using best of 1, 2 or 3, depending on the competition.
When a round begins, competitors turn in the puzzle they will use. Puzzles are scrambled using a computer-generated scramble. Each round, five, three, or one (depending on the format, mentioned above) scrambles are used. Every competitor in the round will receive each scramble once. Before starting a solution, a competitor has up to 15 seconds to inspect the puzzle (inspection is removed for blindfolded events). This is monitored by a judge with a stopwatch. Once the solution is complete, the judge records the time on the competitor's scorecard and it is signed by both. If the puzzle is unsolved and the timer is stopped, the time is recorded as "DNF" (Did Not Finish). There are also numerous reasons why the solve can receive a two-second addition to the solve time, such as a face being more than 45 degrees off, or the competitor going over the allowed inspection time. A competitor can also receive an extra solution to replace the one just completed, for example in the case of a timer malfunction or a duplicate scramble.
The official timer used in competitions is the StackMat timer, which was originally designed for sport stacking. This device has touch-sensitive pads that are triggered by the user lifting one or both of their hands to start the time and placing both their hands back on the pads after releasing the puzzle to stop the timer.
Official competitions are currently being held in several categories.
|Speedsolving||2×2×2, 3×3×3, 4×4×4, 5×5×5, 6×6×6, 7×7×7|
|Blindfolded solving||3x3x3, 4x4x4, 5x5x5, Multiple 3x3x3s|
|Multiple blindfolded solving||3x3x3|
|Solving in fewest moves||3x3x3|
Competitions will often include events for speedsolving other puzzles as well, such as:
- Pyraminx, a pyramid-shaped puzzle.
- Megaminx, a twelve sided puzzle similar to a 3x3x3.
- Skewb, a cube shaped puzzle added in 2014 as an official WCA event due to its growing popularity and the ease of its regulations.
- Square-1, a cubed puzzle that changes shape as it is solved
- Rubik's Clock, a double-sided circle-shaped puzzle with many clocks on it that is considered solved when all clock hands are in the 12 o'clock position.
- 3x3x3 with Feet (formerly), starting in 2020, 3x3x3 with Feet was removed from the list of official WCA events.
- Rubik's Magic (formerly), starting in 2012, Rubiks Magic was removed from the list of official WCA events.
World Rubik's Cube Championships
The WCA organizes the Rubik's Cube World Championship as the main international competition once every two years. The latest championship was held in Incheon, South Korea from 12 to 15 August 2023.
|Championship||Year||Host||Date(s)||Nations||Competitors||Events||Winner (3x3)||Winning time(s)||Ref|
|I||1982||Budapest||5 June||19||19||1||Minh Thai||22.95 (Single)|||
|II||2003||Toronto||23–24 August||15||88||13||Dan Knights||20.00 (Average)|||
|III||2005||Lake Buena Vista||5–6 November||16||149||15||Jean Pons||15.10 (Average)|||
|IV||2007||Budapest||5–7 October||28||214||17||Yu Nakajima||12.46 (Average)|||
|V||2009||Düsseldorf||9–11 October||32||327||19||Breandan Vallance||10.74 (Average)|||
|VI||2011||Bangkok||14–16 October||35||292||19||Michał Pleskowicz||8.65 (Average)|||
|VII||2013||Las Vegas||26–28 July||35||580||17||Feliks Zemdegs||8.18 (Average)|||
|VIII||2015||São Paulo||17–19 July||37||428||18||Feliks Zemdegs||7.56 (Average)|||
|IX||2017||Paris||13–16 July||64||938||18||Max Park||6.85 (Average)|||
|X||2019||Melbourne||11–14 July||52||833||18||Philipp Weyer||6.74 (Average)|||
|XII||2023||Incheon||12–15 August||63||1187||17||Max Park||5.31 (Average)|||
Note: For averages of 5 solves, the best time and the worst time are dropped, and the mean of the remaining 3 solves is taken. For events where only 3 solves are done, the mean of all 3 is taken.
|Event||Type||Result||Person||Competition (Date(s))||Result details (Min:Sec.100ths)|
|3×3×3||Single||3.13||Max Park||Pride in Long Beach 2023 (11 June)||—|
|Average||4.48||Yiheng Wang||Mofunland Cruise Open 2023 (19-20 June)||4.72 / 4.72 / 3.99 / (3.95) / (5.99)|
|2×2×2||Single||0.47||Guanbo Wang||Northside Spring Saturday 2022 (26 November)||—|
|Average||1.01||Zayn Khanani||Pioneer Valley Cubing B 2023 (22 January)||0.91 / 0.97 / (0.71) / 1.16 / (2.91)|
|4×4×4||Single||16.79||Max Park||Bay Area Speedcubin' (3 April)||—|
|Average||19.38||Max Park||Arizona Speedcubing Spring 2023 (19 March)||(17.60) / 18.49 / 19.37 / (23.80) / 20.28|
|5×5×5||Single||32.88||Max Park||CubingUSA Nationals 2023 (27-30 July)||—|
|Average||36.46||Max Park||CubingUSA Western Championship 2023 (30 June-2 July)||34.73 / (33.38) / 38.43 / (40.56) / 36.23|
|6×6×6||Single||59.74||Max Park||CubingUSA Southeast Championship 2022 (29-31 July)||—|
|Average||1:07.11||Max Park||Rubik's WCA World Championship 2023 (12-15 August)||1:13.88 / 1:07.13 / 1:00.33|
|7×7×7||Single||1:35.68||Max Park||Marshall Cubing September 2022 (24 September)||—|
|Average||1:42.12||Max Park||Marshall Cubing September 2022 (24 September)||1:35.68 / 1:46.74 / 1:43.95|
|3×3×3 Blindfolded||Single||12.78||Tommy Cherry||4BLD in a Madison Hall 2023 (28-29 January)||—|
|Average||14.15||Tommy Cherry||Rubik's WCA World Championship 2023 (12-15 August)||14.07 / 13.98 / 14.39|
|3×3×3 Fewest Moves||Single||16||Sebastiano Tronto||FMC 2019 (15–16 June)||—|
|Average||20.00||Wong Chong Wen||FMC Johor Bahru 2023 (17 September)||20 / 21 / 19|
|3×3×3 One-handed||Single||6.20||Max Park||Marshall Middle Slice 2022 (27 August)||—|
|Average||8.65||Patrick Ponce||Stevenage Spring 2022 (30 April-1 May)||8.86 / 9.11 / (7.77) / 7.98 / (10.81)|
|CubingUSA Nationals 2023 (27-30 July)||9.22 / 8.27 / 8.47 / (10.93) / (7.81)|
|Rubik's Clock||Single||2.61||Tommy Cherry||CubingUSA Mid-Atlantic Championship 2023 (17-19 June)||—|
|Average||3.50||Tommy Cherry||CubingUSA Nationals 2023 (27-30 July)||3.29 / 3.86 / (3.27) / 3.36 / (DNF)|
|Megaminx||Single||24.44||Leandro Martín López||Di Tella Open v2 2023 (22-23 July)||—|
|Average||26.84||Leandro Martín López||Nacionales Argentinas 2023 (1-3 September)||(25.22) / 26.31 / 26.55 / 27.67 / (28.15)|
|Pyraminx||Single||0.75||Elijah Brown||Berkeley Winter A 2023 (21 January)||—|
|Average||1.51||Ezra Shere||Flag City Summer 2023 (22-23 July)||(1.61) / 1.53 / 1.42 / (1.39) / 1.57|
|Skewb||Single||0.81||Zayn Khanani||Rubik's WCA North American Championship 2022 (7-10 July)||—|
|Average||1.53||Carter Kucala||Canadian Championship 2023 (13-16 July)||1.89 / (1.14) / 1.55 / 1.14 / (4.15)|
|Square-1||Single||3.73||Ryan Pilat||CubingUSA Heartland Championship 2023 (2-4 June)||—|
|Average||4.91||Max Siauw||Stumptown Speedcubing Summer 2023 (22 July)||5.32 / 4.60 / (6.26) / 4.80 / (4.58)|
|4×4×4 Blindfolded||Single||51.96||Stanley Chapel||4BLD in a Madison Hall 2023 (28-29 January)||—|
|Average||1:08.76||Stanley Chapel||Michigan Cubing Club Epsilon 2019 (14 December)||1:02.51 / 1:14.05 / 1:09.72|
|5×5×5 Blindfolded||Single||2:18.78||Hill Pong Yong Feng||Rubik's WCA World Championship 2023 (12-15 August)||—|
|Average||2:27.63||Stanley Chapel||Michigan Cubing Club Epsilon 2019 (14 December)||2:32.48 / 2:28.80 / 2:21.62|
|3×3×3 Multiple Blindfolded||Single||62/65||Graham Siggins||Blind Is Back LA 2022 (26 June)||57:47|
Members of the cubing community lubricate their cubes to allow them to be turned faster, easier, smoother, more controllable, and more reliably than a non-lubricated cube. The WCA allows lubrication for official competitions.
A lubricant’s MSDS indicates potential cube-damaging properties. Cube lubricants normally belong to the silicone family of lubrication because these are less likely to damage the cube.
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