In 1977, the world’s markets were introduced to the Rubik’s Cube, invented 3 years prior by Hungarian architect Erno Rubik. It soon became one of the best-selling puzzles of all time and it didn’t take long for variations to come about, especially higher order cubic puzzles themselves! Just like any new invention, the Rubik’s Cube was no stranger to change and modification, and this led to the inception of ‘Big Cubes’.
Are Bigger Cubes Harder?
Bigger cubes are not inherently ‘harder’ to solve than smaller cubes, but they involve a lot more time and many different types of pieces that have to be solved. This means that there are so many permutations of pieces possible and thus, the entire process of solving seems harder. However, they involve far fewer algorithms, as we will see in this article, and rely so heavily on intuition that makes them extremely fun to solve! Instead of viewing it as ‘harder’, it can be viewed as ‘more challenging’, which completely changes the outlook of solving them.
From the 3x3, came puzzles such as the 4x4, 5x5, 6x6 and 7x7, not to mention this has now reached even (commercially available) 13x13. Appearing to be complex and intimidating, they were often named in such a manner as well. For example, the Rubik’s 4x4 was named the Rubik’s Revenge and 5x5 the Professor’s Cube. This further sparked more interest, as people were already fascinated by the 3x3 and were now shown much more complicated-looking puzzles than that!
Why Are Big Cubes More Challenging To Solve?
The puzzles themselves mainly look complicated because of the increased number of layers, pieces and hence, more moves needed to solve them. The various types of pieces bring about the complexity of pattern recognition for new types of movements and turns around the cube, along with a greater need to visualize how certain moves affect these different types of pieces. This, combined with the time taken to actually solve the entire puzzle, is what makes them more challenging to improve at and also adds to the general lack of inclination towards them.
Now, let’s look at the plus side of all this. Sure, big cubes are time-consuming and rely more on grinding and solving rather than algorithms. But, this is great in a way, since fewer algorithms to solve various parts such as the centers and edges give one an increased flexibility to choose how to solve them! This means that we need not commit tons of algorithms to memory and then work on them in order to improve.
This added reliability on intuition rather than memorization is what brings most big-cube solvers, such as myself, joy and motivation to keep going. It is the very reason that big cubes can be such a fun thing to work on improvement in, since there is mostly work to be done on efficiency of solving, pattern recognition and speed of execution once you understand well how the various pieces work together in harmony.
As the world-renowned physicist, Albert Einstein, once said, “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”, showing that even he believed in the power of innate learning over sheer knowledge.
Solving From The Inside Out
Big cubes perhaps have only one thing to be committed to knowledge, which is how ‘commutators’ work. Commutators are short algorithms, usually bound by an exact reason and formula, used to swap pieces or cycle them around quickly. They are mainly used for center pieces, but can be used for any set of pieces on the cube. Once you learn one commutator, all the others needed become relatively easy to understand, and hence, this makes the entire process of using them that much easier.
Understanding The Methods
Next, let’s look at the methods used to solve typical big cubes. We have the main 3 that are most widely used, which are Reduction, Yau and Hoya. While all of them are essentially methods of reducing the cubes to a 3x3 state which can then be solved like a 3x3, they have different approaches towards the same problem. Reduction involves solving all the centres first, followed by pairing all the edges and finally moving into the 3x3 stage. Yau involves a more complex method of solving centres, wherein the cross colour’s edges are also solved in tandem, resulting in an easier 3x3 stage. The Hoya method presents yet another variation of reduction where the order of solving centres is changed.
So, we see that all these methods are indicative of the same outlining idea, which is that the fastest human way to solve big cubes is to reduce them to a 3x3 by means of pairing centres, edges and then treating the pairs as single blocks, resulting in a 3x3. This adds to the beauty of learning how to solve these puzzles, since any method is basically doing the same thing, and this gives you the freedom to use them all based on your preference! It helps that the basic idea of solving every big cube is so simple, easy to grasp and accessible to all, and this is another prime reason why learning how to solve them and improving at them is so much fun.
Now, once you’ve learnt how to solve a big cube, the next stage is improvement, which mainly relies on how fast you can get yourself to understand the various aspects of the solution, and commit their execution to muscle memory. The focus is mainly on recognizing patterns faster and improving your finger tricks to speed up your execution once you get comfortable with them. A decent solution to this is to grind solves, meaning you repeatedly do solves, while focusing on the aspects where you see yourself lacking, and hence, make yourself more familiar with the entire process of the solve.
Finally, we have two major things that add to this experience of solving big cubes. One is the fact that the time span required to improve is much larger than for smaller cubes, which makes improvement more relaxed and gives you more time to analyse your solves to see where you can do better. The other is the wonderful tool of doing untimed solves at your own pace in your leisure time. This helps improve your cognitive ability to recognize, execute and perform better, which in turn is useful in your timed solves.
To conclude, I would like to say that while the journey to get better at big cubes is long, it is definitely worth it. The satisfaction of improvement combined with the stress-free nature of the solves contribute to an absolutely engrossing experience as you venture deeper into the cube! So, what are you waiting for? Buy your first big cube on Cubelelo now!
Akshaansh Chilakapati is a speedcuber from Hyderabad who specializes in big cubes. He started cubing when he was 15 and has 5 years of cubing experience. He loves to play sports, music and has a passion for astrophysics. He has attended 20 competitions and won a total of 64 podiums with 16 gold medals. He is also ranked 13th in India for the overall Sum of Ranks (SOR).