Can you solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than 30 seconds?

by Janet Jonus

Do you have a Rubik’s Cube sitting around in disarray? If you were born anytime after 1975 the answer is probably yes. The maddeningly difficult little cube of misery for most can be solved in under 30 seconds by a speedcuber. The fastest two 3 x 3 solves are 3.47 seconds set by Yusheng Du, and 4.22 seconds set by Feliks Zemdegs. (The standard cube most people are familiar with is the 3 x 3.) If you don’t believe me, head out to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center June 15th and 16th, and watch speedcubers in action.

The Rubik’s cube was created by Erno Rubik in 1974. Rubik, a Hungarian professor of architecture, initially designed the cube to teach moving components to his students. Rubik realized it had potential as a mass-market toy. In 1980 the Rubik’s Cube was licensed to the Ideal Toy Corp.

The cube quickly gained in popularity with over 200 million sold by 1983. (FamilyFunPittsburgh guesses roughly 199.9 million of those cubes remain unsolved to this day.)

As anyone who has ever scrambled a cube knows it isn’t so easy to solve one. (Many people take the stickers off and move them to “solve” their cubes, which is cheating.) Enter the speedcuber.  Speedcubing got its start in 1999 with an online Rubik’s Cube game. Speedcubers formed online groups and posted unofficial times. In 2003, the first world cube championships were held. The following year, the World Cubing Association was launched.

There are many variations of the cube in use in competition today. (Rubik’s patent expired years ago.) The 3 x 3 is the standard “Rubik’s” cube. It is still the most popular cube to solve. Variations on the classic cube include the 2 x 2, the 4 x 4, the 5 x 5, the 6 x 6, and the 7 x 7. There are also cubes with unusual shapes. The pyraminx is triangle-shaped. The skewb and the square-1 are variations on the cube shape but move very differently. The megaminx is a dodecahedron. It has twelve faces and fifty movable pieces. The Clock is a non-cube challenge.

How do speedcubers do it?

Speedcubing  is solving a cube in the fastest time possible. Many of the cubers at this weekend’s event will be solving with sub-30 second times. There are several methods speedcubers use. The most popular involves solving the cube to a specific pattern and then using algorithms. Algorithms are set moves that will get the pieces where they need to be. Most speedcubers need between 50-60 moves to solve the cube. The fastest speedcubers can do these moves in under 10 seconds! (It takes a lot of practice.)

Every speedcuber sets up their cube to their own specifications. The speedcuber lubricates the cube and adjusts the tension on the nuts to make it move they way they want it to. Some cubes have adjustable magnets. Every speedcuber will set up their cube differently. (“Rubik’s”-brand cubes are almost never used by speedcubers. They aren’t fast enough. Speedcubers use cubes designed for fast moves. The best speedcubes cost over $50 for a 3 x 3. To find good speedcubes, check out thecubicle.com.)

Speedcubers are always striving to set their own personal best times. While they compete against each other, they are really competing against themselves. Come on out and see it for yourself (and bring your unsolved cube – one of the competitors may be willing to solve it for you.)

The Basics

The WCA 2019 Pittsburgh Summer Competition is at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center June 15th and 16th from 800AM through 600PM in rooms 408-410. Admission is free.

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is located at 1000 Fort Duquesne Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15222. There is a parking garage on-site and the Convention Center is close to the Cultural District where there are numerous parking options. (Check out http://www.parkpgh.org/ ) Numerous Port Authority bus routes stop near the Convention Center and the Wood Street T Station is a few blocks away. (To find your bus, http://www.portauthority.org/paac/)

For event information: