A lot of cubers struggle to get sub-20 in 3x3 and I’m here to help you! This obstacle requires a bit more practice, so make sure you put in the time and effort to get past this barrier. But obviously, simply practicing isn’t gonna cut it, so here are a few tips and tricks to get you started on your journey to getting sub-20 averages consistently. Here, we’ll be using the CFOP method, because it’s almost impossible to get sub-20 times with the beginner's method if you have little to no knowledge of CFOP. So, I’d recommend watching our courses and learning CFOP before even attempting to get sub-20.
So, in CFOP, there’s cross, F2L, OLL, and PLL. Just to make things simpler, let's divide this video into these 4 main parts. After discussing PLL, we’ll discuss the recommended time stamps for a sub-20 solve. Make sure to stick around!
The first part of CFOP is Cross. To get past the sub-20 barrier, you need to get better at the advanced cross, relatively setting up pieces to solve them. The advanced cross is an art that you need to master in order to progress in any obstacle in cubing. Whether it is sub-15, sub-12, or anything, you need an efficient cross and sub-20 is the part where you need to start getting better at the advanced cross. Look at example cross solves of various cubers on the internet and see how your cross-making process looks as compared to theirs. Improve on areas that you feel that you are weak at. Ideally, this is the time that you should be looking to plan the entire cross during the inspection. If this seems daunting, you can start with planning most of the cross and slowly progress to planning the entire cross in the inspection. Use more inspection time to accomplish this and then gradually decrease it to the legal inspection time according to WCA, which is 15 seconds. Planning the entire cross during the inspection will help you in finding the first F2L pair while solving the cross, as you wouldn’t have to look at the cross pieces that you’re solving. The first F2L pair is really very integral so work towards getting a better cross and planning it all in the inspection.
F2L is the area you need to improve upon the most to get sub-20 and further. These tips also apply to cubers going on their journey to sub-15 and also provide a little help to get sub-12. To cross the sub-20 obstacle, we require a better understanding of looking ahead. You don’t need to be an expert in looking ahead, just a little better understanding of looking ahead is perfectly fine to cross the sub-20 barrier. To get better at looking ahead, you need to have all the F2L cases in your muscle memory, so that you don’t have to focus on solving the current pair and you can look for the next pair while solving the current one. So, F2L needs to get more algorithm based than intuitive-based. Another thing that affects your look ahead is turning speed. I’ve seen so many cubers who average around 22-23 seconds and their turning speed is so aggressive and they have these huge pauses in between two F2L pairs. So just calm your turning down, look at the pieces moving, don’t turn aggressive and you can ease into the sub-20 zone in no time. Now, there are some more things left. Firstly, be a bit more versatile, don’t just use the R and U moves like taught in intuitive F2L. Use your left hand as much as you use your right, insert with L moves, and cut down on rotations, you can do this by inserting into the back slot, instead of doing double rotations and inserting from the front. So being a bit versatile with your moves, instead of just using R and U moves, would really cut down on the unnecessary cube rotations, which take up a lot of time. Now secondly, just practice! Play around with different F2L cases and find out better ways to solve, and learn algorithms for complex cases of F2L, so that you can reduce unnecessary moves.
OLL is an area that needs only a bit of attention as compared to Cross and F2L, but you need to make sure that all cases of 2 look OLL are memorized and are in your muscle memory and you can execute all cases without thinking. Full OLL is a help, but it is far from necessary to achieve the sub-20 goal. So, I’d recommend you stick to the 2-look OLL in this phase and focus more on improving your Cross/F2L.
In the last part of the solve, using 2 look PLL isn’t going to work so well. You need to learn at least most of the cases of full PLL. There are just 21 cases, and most of them are really simple. So learn full PLL, get them all in your muscle memory, and practice all the cases so that you don’t hesitate during any case, learn good algorithms, have good finger tricks, and learn to recognize cases so you don’t waste time in recognition, and lastly, practice!
Now, let’s discuss the timestamps, the appropriate time stamps for a sub-20-second solution would be -
CROSS+F2L = 12 sec
OLL - 4 sec
PLL - 4 sec
Well, it was fun sharing these tips and tricks with you! These tips can easily get you past the sub-20 barrier with just a little bit of practice. So let me wish you luck on this cubing journey and I hope you get sub-20 in no time!
Sarthak Masta is a speedcuber from Raipur. He started cubing in 2013 and now has 9 years of cubing experience. Apart from cubing, Sarthak enjoys making music and singing. He has attended a total of 7 competitions in Raipur and has gotten 10 podiums, with 2 gold medals, 4 silver medals and 4 bronze medals.