There are many methods out there to solve the 3x3 Rubik’s Cube, the most common one being CFOP. However, there are others which cubers have successfully used to reach the level of top CFOP solvers. This blog will be an overview of one such method: ZZ. It is a combination of more flexible blockbuilding and the traditional layer by layer methods.
ZZ stands for Zbigniew Zborowski, the inventor of the method. He came up with it in 2006, with one of its key features being high turning speed, with the steps allowing for easier cube movements. While it was originally proposed in 2003, Zborowski developed it independently 3 years later and popularized it to what it is today.
Edge orientation is one of the central concepts required for using the ZZ method. It involves manipulating all the edge pieces to ensure that they can be solved into their “slots” using only R, L, U, and D moves. Hence, when you are given a scrambled cube, the first task will be to identify and distinguish oriented and unoriented edges.
Oriented edges, like said before, can be put into their slot between the two matching centre pieces with R, L, U, and D moves. Unoriented edges will require F and B moves to insert them correctly. To transform unoriented edges to oriented edges, the unoriented edges, using only R, L, U, and D moves, must be brought to one face: F or B. Then, an F or B move must be done, making all the unoriented edges present on that face oriented.
EOLine is the central concept of the ZZ method, and the hardest to grasp relatively, as it makes use of edge orientation and its most unique feature. EOLine refers to a line of solved and matched pieces along one side of the cube. What this means, in simple terms, is making half of a normal cross, where opposite colored cross pieces are solved. For example, solving only the blue and green cross pieces. While solving these two pieces, EOLine also involves orienting all the edges. This means that you now have a foundation (with the cross pieces) and all the oriented edges mean that the rest of the solution will require only R, U, and L moves.
F2L is a concept integral to CFOP, but a slight variant of it is also an important step in ZZ. Here, you solve 2x2x3 blocks on either side of the EOLine, meaning that you solve the other two cross pieces along with the rest of F2L at the same time. This allows for greater flexibility in solutions to various cases that wouldn’t be possible in CFOP.
Solving the last layer using ZZ is identical to CFOP. OLL to orient all the last layer pieces and PLL to permute them are the standard approach. However, there is an additional algorithm set that is associated with this method: ZBLL. ZBLL is a set of algorithms where you solve the entire cube by orienting and permuting pieces at the same time. This is only in cases where all 4 edges are already oriented (like in the fish or headlights cases). Since ZZ’s previous steps mean that all the edges are already oriented, ZBLL is a very good continuation to solve the cube directly. The only issue is the vast number of algorithms present and the time delay during recognition.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Since ZZ uses mainly R, U, and L moves with blockbuilding and Edge Orientation, there is much less need for regripping the cube, making the solution easier to execute. Additionally, ZZ solutions are on average shorter than CFOP solutions, making them more efficient. However, there are also disadvantages. EOLine, an important step in this method, can be hard to master and recognize solutions for. This means reduced TPS and less efficient lookahead. In competition settings, it is harder to find a solution for EOLine within the given inspection time of 15 seconds rather than to find a CFOP cross solution.
ZZ is an interesting method, since it combines aspects of layer by layer techniques and blockbuilding. Edge orientation and such steps can be very useful in events like FMC, where efficiency is key. However, for regular speedsolving, ZZ comes with some disadvantages as well. Hopefully this blog has given you a broad picture of what this method is and its various steps, to compare to more common methods such as CFOP.
Pranav Prabhu is the current 3x3 Fewest Moves (Single) National record holder from Chennai. He started cubing when he was 14 and has 5 years of cubing experience. Besides cubing, Pranav enjoys reading books, writing, and playing the piano. He has participated in 36 competitions and won 30 podiums including 8 gold medals and 1 National record.