Hey guys! My name is Sheldon. I’m a speedcuber originally from Mumbai and I am specialized in solving big cubes. I’ve been competing in official WCA competitions for 5 years. I hold 3 current and 2 former national records in 6x6 and 7x7, and 3 national championship silver medals. My official best times include a 1:40s single and 1:42s mean of 3 in 6x6, and a 2:20s single and 2:32s mean of 3 in 7x7 (the last 3 of which are currently NRs).
In this blog article, I’ll be writing about different skill levels on 6x6, and what I feel are the best ways to go about improving through them. For each group, I try to explain what the breakdown of the solve should roughly be, what things are being done right and what can be done better.
The Four Main Skill Levels : >5:00, 3:30-5:00, 2:00-3:30, <2:00.
These are very wide ranges and with good reason. Within a certain timing range, there are likely to be a wide variety of solvers doing different things. A 6x6 solve has 3 main stages – centres, edges and 3x3 stage, and doing one significantly better than the others will obviously make you faster, but you need to improve in all 3, otherwise, your solves will be rather one-dimensional. Thus, I tried to break up the time ranges so they are hopefully wide enough to encapsulate a certain skill level for the solve as a whole.
And lastly, before I start, a short note about hardware. I would strongly recommend a magnetic cube for most skill levels if you seriously wish to improve quickly. It’s the bigger cubes like 6x6 and 7x7 where you see the largest difference in performance between magnetic and non-magnetic hardware. If you’re just starting, simply having a magnetic 6x6 will drop your times significantly. The same can barely be said for other events. I currently use and recommend the YJ MGC 6x6, although the X-Man Shadow v2 M could also be a good option depending on your turning style.
Let’s start with the first skill level. Most cubers starting on 6x6 will average around 5 minutes and above. At this point, you’re getting used to the turning of the cube and how the pieces generally interact with each other. There are only two main things to do at this point: do more solves and improve your turning.
Doing more solves is the obvious solution to improve from any skill level, but it’s especially relevant here because you’re building up your basic knowledge of the cube. The turning style is important because at this stage a slightly faster turning style is generally better than a slower and more relaxed one. The latter might be used to learn look-ahead, but at this stage, I doubt most people are doing that, so there isn’t much benefit to super slow turning here. More solves will also inevitably teach you to control the cube more effectively (and importantly, not pop all the time) which will allow you to slowly build up your TPS.
Intermediate (3:30 - 5:00)
Now for the next group – between 3:30 and 5:00. This is somewhere between beginner and intermediate. At this point, the main thing to learn about is efficiency. You will have improved your efficiency a lot to break 5:00, but that was just to understand how the cube works on a basic level. In a typical 4:00 solve, the splits should be approximately 1:45/1:45/30 for centres/edges/3x3 stage. You’d notice that 30 seconds is a long time for a 3x3 stage for someone of comparable skill level on a 3x3. The reasons for this are the worst turning in general of a 6x6 plus time extra for parities.
At this stage, you want to be experimenting a lot more and finding multiple approaches to solve a case. A lot of it will come down to drilling stuff you previously knew till you can approach most centre and edge cases without much hesitation. You want to learn to look ahead in your centres and edges. Look ahead on big cubes uses the same skills as look ahead on 3x3, it’s only much more prolonged, and you have more options. For example, while I’m solving my second centre and looking
For a potential third, I should be looking for all kinds of blocks that could be used. Never try too hard to preserve blocks early in the solve, and always be on the lookout for more convenient options.
Lastly for this stage, a few notes on colour neutrality. If you are colour neutral on 3x3, you can cancel edge parity with OLL parity by delaying the edge parity algorithm till the last layer on 3x3. Your cross colour should be opposite to a colour on that edge. Also, you should be able to start centres on any colour – it opens far more options than just one.
Advanced (2:20 - 3:30)
Now for 2:00-3:30. This stage lies between the intermediate and advanced levels. It is here that you would start learning more advanced tricks that will be drilled over time. The first thing to say about centres is to start using smaller 2x1 blocks to build half the centre rather than two 4x1 strips. This is one of the most important things to know for centres; 2x1 strips are much faster in almost all cases but are quite hard to master since intuitively where the pieces are supposed to go next to each other takes a bit of time with these.
For edges, reduce the number of slice-flip-slices that you do. This is especially important for the last 4 edges. I solve l4e by using only the two front slots and top layer, so everything can be done with cycles. This only takes a couple of moves to set up, but it makes looking ahead incredibly easy.
Lastly for this stage, reduce rotations. This should be included in improving look ahead in general but doing unnecessary rotations to find pieces is a huge time waster.
Now finally, sub 2:00 – that’s where I’m at right now. I average around 1:35-1:45 myself, so I can’t give much additional advice on how to get faster from here but most of it comes down to mastering the new things learnt in the previous stage. 2x1 strips for centres are the norm for most of your solves. Rarely should you ever be using 4x1 strips for centres. Your turning style must be fast, fluid and confident and while solving one thing you should be able to easily spot additional pieces for the next part of your solve.
You shouldn’t be too fixated on finishing entire edges before putting them away. I often prematurely put away 3/4th solved edges for later if I find an easier one right away (the only downfall is that it’s easy to accidentally go for 9 or 10 edges instead of the first 8). L4e should be almost entirely cycles and you should be comfortable with the most common l2e algorithms. And lastly, the 3x3 stage should be almost like you’re turning a 3x3. The 3x3 stage should take sub 11-12 seconds if you’re sub 10 on 3x3 (excluding parity).
To wrap it up, that’s all I have to say! All this advice was fairly general, but hopefully, it gives you the right pointers about what you need to improve. Of course, you can try to implement the 2:00-3:30 suggestions if you average 4 minutes, nothing is stopping you from learning new things. I only sectioned it in this way because at that stage I think there’s probably a more significant thing that can be improved and would be worth more time and practice.
Anyways, that’s all from me. See you around!