Chess, as we all know, is a sport that involves a lot of thinking, combined with a basic knowledge of how each piece moves on the chessboard. Today, it is a competitive board game played between two players, and usually in a recreational setting. Evolving from a mixture of Indian and Persian games, modern chess was born in Europe in the 15th century.
Now, a chess game as a whole can be summarised to have three main parts. The opening, the middlegame and the endgame. Each of these parts is characterized by certain features, such as knowledge, strategy and technique.
Whereas, in cubing we need to focus strategy & techniques. However, these both games has some similarities too. Here in this blog, we have differentiate both Chess & Cubing. Keep reading!
The Game Of Chess
The opening is all about knowledge, and memorizing a sequence of moves that one can understand upon extensive study. A good opening knowledge almost always ensures that one emerges from the opening in a better position than their opponent. There are numerous openings in the game of chess, and people usually tend to learn few as their ‘repertoire’.
The middlegame is all about strategy and understanding the dynamics of any position that gets created on the board. It involves a vast number of tactical ideas that one can only see after rigorous practice and application. These tactical ideas get deeper and more tough to visualise as you get better at the game, while at the same time deepening your understanding of any position that arises from the opening, or within the middlegame itself.
The endgame is all about technique, and is the portion of the game where fewer pieces are left on the board. There is usually an imbalance in the position that needs to be exploited in order to win the game. Endgames are the most solved positions in chess (not completely solved, but more or less enough to win you the game if you have an advantage). They are intended to be mechanically approached and won by virtue of knowing suitable ways to convert an advantageous position.
So, now that we’ve talked about how a chess game progresses, and how one’s understanding of
each aspect improves as they get better at the game, let us see how we can relate cubing to this. Needless to say, speedcubing also involves all 3; knowledge, strategy and technique. However, these manifest themselves in a different form, that can be understood and embraced as you progress in your speedcubing journey.
A Rubik’s Cube Solve
Let’s take the example of 3x3. If you use the CFOP method to solve the cube, then there are 3 essential parts involved: the cross, the first 2 layers and the last layer. The cross includes solving the edges of one of the faces of the cube. The first 2 layers include building 2 layers of solved pieces with the colour used for the cross as the base colour. The last layer involves orienting and permuting the remaining pieces, to end up with a completely solved cube.
The cross in this method is one that doesn’t initially require knowledge to get through, but definitely needs you to learn better ways of solving it, as you get better at cubing. Similar to learning an opening in chess, where you initially just play whatever feels right, but then realize that in order to improve, you must learn more about how it works and what moves make sense. Upon gaining this knowledge, you get an edge over others in a similar rating range and tend to improve more quickly as you practice more openings. Parallelly, once you realize that you need to improve at the cross, you soon find out about the fact that the cross in any and every scramble can be solved in 8 moves or less, every time!
Over time, you tend to involve a combination of knowledge (knowing how to orient the cross pieces before solving them), strategy (figuring out a good arrangement of these pieces on every solve to attain the best solution (ideally in 8 moves or less) and technique (the way you execute your strategy, implementing various finger-tricks, rotations and ideas) to solve the cross.
First 2 Layers (F2L)
However, this is not only exclusive to the cross. Consider the first 2 layers. Solving them is more or less intuitive throughout your journey of improvement, but as you get better, you start vying for more efficient solutions and better ways of solving various cases. So, naturally, you begin learning new ways of inserting pairs, setting them up and executing them correctly.
Again, this is a combination of knowledge (learning faster ways of solving pairs, more efficient algorithms and also better set-ups), strategy (figuring out, for every single pair, the best way to approach it beforehand, by using look-ahead suitably, which comes with practice) and technique (improving the finger-tricks required to solve each pair efficiently in the least amount of time).
Then, looking at the last layer, we have a combination of two segments, called OLL and PLL (Orientation of the Last Layer and Permutation of the Last Layer), which, in total, consist of 57 and 21 algorithms, respectively. So, initially, one begins with learning how to solve each segment in about 2 algorithms each, which is time-consuming. However, as one gets better, one learns more and more algorithms, until their last layer is completely fluid and easy to solve.
As with the other steps, we have another combination of knowledge (knowing all the 57+21 algorithms, building up your vocabulary slowly, in order to solve the last layer as efficiently and easily as possible), strategy (figuring out what angles are better to solve certain PLL cases, as well as how to avoid getting certain OLL cases (usually by inserting your last F2L pair differently), and eventually predicting exactly how the cube will end up after the layer is solved, in order to align it correctly) and technique (developing optimal finger-tricks as well as the different grips required to finish the step even more efficiently).
So, I think this is a good summary of a comparison between the learning process of a method to solve the 3x3 and improving at the game of chess. However, this is only one perspective. This idea can be (ideally, maybe not practically) applied to many different methods for many different types of puzzles as well.
But the real beauty is in another analogy, that people don’t often make. This analogy is a direct comparison between these steps and a single game of chess.
One could compare the cross step with the opening in a chess game; a battleground where knowledge can serve to be an advantageous factor. The first 2 layers could be compared with the middlegame, where strategy and planning can mean the difference between a good and a bad solve, along with anticipation of what’s to come. The last layer could be compared to the endgame, which is almost entirely dependent on technique, considering the fact that the solutions are more or less known beforehand (or in the case of chess, more or less solved by computers and analysed to determine the best technique to convert a winning position) and the way they’re executed is what decides the satisfaction of completing the solve.
This analogy is extremely beautiful and such comparisons are always fun to tinker around with. It comes down to the point where one can also imagine drawing a parallel between a ‘victory’ and ‘defeat’ in a chess game, to cubing!
I think a suitable conclusion to this rollercoaster of thoughts would be to say that you should always let your imagination run wild, and never fear thinking out of the box, in a way that lets you make fun relations between things. This can also, psychologically, make activities easier to learn, by becoming a way of telling your brain how similar two things are.
Once you’ve convinced your brain that something new has similarities with something you already know, you can learn and improve at absolutely anything.