The obscure art of speedcubing

Yash Varma ’24

There are two types of people in this world: those who can solve a Rubik’s Cube and those who cannot. Those who can solve a Rubik’s Cube may be a part of the global society of speedcubers.

What exactly is a speedcuber? Essentially, it is someone who can solve the twisty puzzle at a rapid speed.

The path to speedcubing is just like learning any new skill: starting from the bottom and working your way up.

The beginning of a speedcuber’s journey—after crying from frustration—starts by learning the beginner’s method, also known as “layer by layer” (LBL).

It begins by orienting all the edges on the white face, so it forms the shape of a cross. Following that, the four corners are inserted, which builds the first layer.

To complete the middle layer, the insertion of four other edges is needed. The yellow face, being the last layer, follows a similar insertion pattern to the first layer’s, with the edges and then the corners being inserted.

This method of solving trades off efficiency with simplicity, taking over one hundred turns to solve, and around a few minutes to complete.

Once this beginner method is perfected by a speedcuber, they explore the advanced method known as the Fridrich method, or “CFOP,” which stands for cross, first two layers (F2L), orienting the last layer (OLL), and permuting the last layer (PLL).

Unlike LBL, CFOP trades off simplicity with efficiency. What makes it harder? The need to think intuitively, turn faster, and learn algorithms.

Algorithms are a series of turns that help put the puzzle in a desired orientation, without disarranging any other pieces. To articulate an algorithm, every face of the cube is marked with its own letter: F (Front), U (Up), D (Down), L (Left), R (Right), and B (Back).

An apostrophe is attached to the letter if the face needs to be turned counter-clockwise, and the number 2 is attached to the letter if the face needs to be rotated twice.

An example of an algorithm may look like this: R U R’ U R U2 R’. In CFOP, F2L requires 41 different algorithms, OLL requires 57, and PLL requires 21, which totals to 119 algorithms.

A big part of speedcubing is what cube a speedcuber uses. While a beginner may start off with the Rubik’s branded cube, they will discover that these cubes are not fast enough for their needs.

Subsequently, the rookie speedcuber will purchase a speedcube. What makes these cubes different? Their smooth turning, tensions, controllability, and corner-cutting—how well you can turn a vertical face if a horizontal face is not fully aligned. These four aspects work together, as the absence of one takes a toll on the cube.

At last, after mastering CFOP and owning a speedcube, you are officially a speedcuber. As challenging as it may be, with determination, perseverance, and practice, anyone can become a speedcuber.

Photo credit: Yash Varma