Rubik’s Cube devotees are hip to be square

Jeff Hobbs with a selection of toy cubes. Photo: Tom Parry

Fans of the humble Rubik’s Cube will be descending on the region next weekend for Sale’s annual speedcubing event.

Solving in Sale will see participants, known as “cubers”, compete in a variety of time-based, puzzle-solving challenges, with winners earning the chance to enter the official World Cube Association rankings.

The niche event is being organised by local resident Jeff Hobbs, who became involved in the cubing community through his son Emmet.

“About five years ago, (Emmet) took up an interest in Rubik’s Cubing because we gave him a cube to help him with his motor skills,” Mr Hobbs said.

“He looked up on YouTube how to solve it – which tends to be the way most kids get involved these days – and discovered that he could do it fairly well, and as he got better, he came and asked if he could go to a competition.

“So we brought him to that, having no knowledge as to what the (competitions) were like or how they ran, and it just grew from there.”

The event is being promoted and hosted by Speedcubing Australia, a non-for-profit organisation that assists in the management of official WCA competitions, such as Solving in Sale.

The organisation’s presence is part of a broader move to not only legitimise events, but to entice cubers and spectators away from major population centres.

“One thing they want to do is try and get it out of the capital cities and make it more regional,” Mr Hobbs said.

The main event at Solving in Sale will be the 3x3x3 Cube competition, which will see cubers attempt to unscramble a conventional Rubik’s Cube in the fastest time possible.

But this is no easy feat.

“You’re looking at 20 to 50 moves for a complete solve, and the really fast solvers are doing around about 13 or 14 moves per second, which is very fast,” Mr Hobbs said.

“A lot of that involves some finger tricks where you’re actually multi-tasking your hands.

“So as you’re moving one side, you’re also flipping another part with another finger, and that gets things moving pretty quickly.”

Michael Tripodi, blindfolded at the 2021 Solving in Sale event. // Photo: Contributed

The current world record for solving a 3x3x3 cube is 3.47 seconds, held by China’s Du Yusheng.

The Australian record is 4.16 seconds, held by Feliks Zemdegs, who is currently ranked fourth in the world.

While these quick times may seem daunting to newcomers or younger cubers, they are still being encouraged to attend.

“One thing we always say is that new competitors are always welcome, and you don’t have to be really fast to start to learn how to do it well,” Mr Hobbs said.

“The nice thing about the cubing community is that everyone’s willing to help each other.

“Even if you’re first and the next person’s second, you’re going to be swapping ideas as to how to get better.

“So while there’s competition, there’s also a lot of cooperation and it’s a really friendly atmosphere.

“As long as you can solve it, that’s all that really matters.”

Professional and prospective cubers will be able to participate in several categories over the weekend, including blindfolded and one-handed competitions, as well as events solving unconventional cubes like the Pyraminx and Megaminx.

Among the cubers expected to be part are Riley Dexter and David Epstein, who are ranked within the top 20 competitors in Oceania, and Traralgon resident Michael Tripodi, who is proficient in the blindfolded events.

The competition will be held at Catholic College Sale’s Marcellin Hall on April 9 and 10, with attendance free for all spectators.

Registrations to compete in the event close this Friday, April 1.

More information about Solving in Sale can be found on the event’s official webpage.