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Think Rubik’s cubes were buried in the 80s alongside neon legwarmers and mix tapes? Think again. The Cube lives on — both as a hobby and a competitive sport. This weekend, about 100 competitors from around the Northeast will flock to the University to compete in the fourth annual cube competition hosted by the Princeton Cube Club.
Don’t assume they’ll spend the day quietly solving standard cubes, though. Just like Prancercise revolutionized your grandmother’s standard Jazzercise regimen, a new arsenal of puzzles and props has added some dynamism to classic cube solving competitions in recent years. Besides, with so many veteran cubers in a single room, you know things are going to get rubik-ulous.
“Everyone is competing for time against everyone else. We do have different kinds of events. There’s three-by-three; three-by-three, one-handed; three-by-three, blindfolded. That one’s really cool,” Alan Chang ’14, president of Princeton Cube Club, said. “The competitors memorize the cube and then put the blindfold on to solve it. The memorization time also counts towards the total time. We have some people coming who can do it in under a minute.”
Besides adding handicaps to make solving standard three by three cubes more challenging, competition events also include solving cubes of other sizes and even different shapes. However, standard three-by-three solves retain some of the fiercest competition.
“A lot of people are well known for just being really fast. The former world record holder can solve the cube on average in six seconds,” Chang said. “We’ve definitely had nine-second solves before. I’m sure there are faster ones; I just don’t quite remember. I think we’ve even had nine-second averages, so I’m sure people got nine-second solves.”
Last year, the U.S. National One-Handed Cubing Champion — who can solve the cube in 16 seconds using only one hand — attended the Princeton competition, according to Matthew Smith ’16, another one of the event’s organizers.
If prepping for a cube competition sounds like all fun and games, you’ve probably never even managed to solve one of the puzzles on your own time, let alone under the regulations of the World Cube Association—a governing body created in 2004 to ensure fairness across all competitions.
“People do a lot to prepare their own cubes. There are certain brands that people prefer over others. The cubes that really fast people use are ordered from specialty Rubik cube stores,” Chang explained. “People sand the sides and lubricate them — anything to cut down even half of a second, because that’s a really big deal.”
Organizing the competition involves some work too, according to Smith. The Rubik’s Cube Club had to coordinate with the World Cube Association in order to receive billing as an official cube competition, and the group is still in the process of recruiting volunteers to judge various rounds of the competition.
Judging is one of many ways that amateurs can partake in the cubing community. Anyone can volunteer at the competition this Saturday, regardless of experience level, simply by contacting Chang. The club also host occasional cube tables (think language tables with even a bit more of a challenge) in dining halls around campus throughout the school year. In addition, cubers at any skill level are welcome to join the club.
“Anyone who wants to learn can bring a cube over, and we’ll teach them,” Chang explained. “People might think that they can’t join the cube club because they can’t solve a cube or aren’t very fast, but we’re open to anybody who wants to join and anyone who is interested in Rubik’s cubes. If you know how to follow directions, you can solve a Rubik’s cube.”
If you want to catch a bit of the action this Saturday, the completion will be hosted in the Frist Campus Center Multipurpose Room from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., with the three-by-three final round featuring the fastest eight cubers starting at 5 p.m. — and probably ending a few seconds later.