I’m one of those weird people that aren’t happy with being able to solve a Rubik’s cube, no, I need to be able to solve it as fast as possible. The art of doing this is called “Speedcubing”. There’s even an official association that organizes competitions and keeps rankings.
The World Cube Association governs competitions for mechanical puzzles that are operated by twisting groups of pieces, commonly known as ‘twisty puzzles’.
The reason I got into cubing is because of this MrBeast video. It’s a video where 100 girls and 100 boys need to compete against each other and complete several challenges. One of the challenges is “solve 100 Rubik’s cubes as fast as possible”. To my surprise, only one person in each group was able to solve a cube. Two people out of 200, one out of a hundred, 1%… I remember thinking to myself “It can’t be that hard to master this skill?”. That was 3 months ago…
Fast forward to today and at the time of writing, my current PB is 39.93 seconds and my average solving time over the last 100 solves is 53.71 seconds. This is nowhere near the (average of 5) world record that currently stands at 4.86 seconds, but I’m getting there… or not 🐸.
When you google “How to solve a Rubik’s cube”, you’ll end up with thousands and thousands of videos and tutorials and it can be quite overwhelming. That’s why I decided to share my cubing journey so far, for you to use as some sort of guide… or not 🐸.
The beginner method
My go-to place for cubing tutorials is J Perm’s YouTube channel. That’s also where I first learned to solve the Rubik’s cube by using his “Learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube in 10 minutes” video:
This video carefully explains how you can easily solve every 3x3 cube by following 7 simple steps. By following this tutorial I was able to solve the Rubik’s cube in 4–5 minutes. This gradually went down to 2–3 minutes as my muscle memory got better and I was able to turn the faces faster.
Starting to keep track of your solves
I love data and that’s why I decided early on I wanted to keep track of my solves. It’s also very encouraging to see your times go down as you get better. After some googling, I went with the Android app Twisty Timer.
The first thing you will notice when opening the app is this weird chain of characters at the top of the screen:
These tell you how to scramble your cube for your next solve. To be able to understand this (and future algorithms), you will need to learn how to read algorithms. The sooner you learn this, the better.
This page on J Perm’s website also contains a complete cheat sheet.
Some additions to the beginner method
When I was comfortable with solving the cube, I went on and learned some new simple algorithms that allowed me to solve certain cases way faster
The ones that I found most useful are:
- First layer corners: https://youtu.be/vmeleO65BHc?t=64
- Taking corners out: https://youtu.be/vmeleO65BHc?t=64
- Saving solved edges: https://youtu.be/vmeleO65BHc?t=150
- Top cross: https://youtu.be/vmeleO65BHc?t=257
At this point, my average solving time was just under 2 minutes
White cross down
When scouring the interwebz for tutorials, I frequently stumbled upon the phrase “solve your white cross on the bottom”. At first, I ignored this because why would you solve something where you can’t see it, it will slow you down, right? WRONG!
Believe it or not, solving the white cross at the bottom will greatly reduce your solving times for several reasons:
- You don’t loose time turning your cube over for step 2
- It allows you to look ahead for your next move
- You can inspect more faces
Spoiler: when starting with “white cross down” your average solving times will most likely go up again as it can be hard at first, but hey, practice makes perfect right? 🤓
Oh yeah, at this time I also decided to buy a better cube as I was still using a classic Rubik’s cube. I did buy a GAN 356 RS.
Taking it to the next level with OLL and PLL
At the point where I was stagnating around an average solving time of 70 seconds, I knew I had to learn new algorithms to lower my times. There are several methods to (speed)solve the Rubik’s cube and one of the most popular and fast ones is called CFOP, which stands for
First two layers (F2L)
Orientation of the last layer(OLL)
Permutation of the last layer (PLL)
Because this is the most popular method and because at this point I already “mastered” the white cross down (C) part I decided to learn CFOP.
Multiple tutorials recommended that it’s best to learn OLL and PLL first as these can be learned by memorizing new algorithms whereas F2L is more intuitive. So that’s what I did.
To be clear: this means you keep solving the first 2 layers using the beginner method (layer by layer) and solve the last layer by using OLL and PLL
OLL has a total of 57 different cases and thus algorithms and PLL has 21. So that’s a total of 78 new algorithms to memorize 🤯! That’s a lot, right? But we are in luck because there are things like “2-look OLL” and “2-look PLL” where you only need to memorize 10 and 6 algorithms respectively. The downside of this 2-look approach is that it takes more turns to solve the cube and is (or might be) slower.
To memorize these new algorithms I used the following scheme and learned a new one every other day:
I currently average around 53 seconds using this “method”, which is a combo of beginner and CFOP. My PB using this method is 40 seconds.
So, what’s next?
Once I feel like I don’t need to think about the 2-look moves anymore and muscle memory has kicked in, I will “learn” intuitive F2L. At that point, I will have learned CFOP and I’ll break world records… or not 🐸.
After that, I’ll learn “full” PLL (21 algorithms), but I might skip full OLL (57 algorithms) though.
Currently, my goal is to get an average of sub 30 seconds, but we’ll see how things evolve… I’ll try to keep you guys up to date!
This approach worked for me and I think it can work for you as well, but this is certainly not the only or best “route” to learning CFOP