3x3 FMC is an official WCA event where the participant has to find their most efficient solution to a scramble within one hour. The event can look intimidating and hard to learn at face value but actually, the opposite is true. If you have the right mindset and a few basic techniques down, doing FMC can be quite fun. This blog will be a general overview of how to get started with the 3x3 Fewest Moves Challenge event and a few fundamental things that you should know while doing or going into an FMC solution.
Being comfortable with a 3x3 cube and the way pieces and layers move around is essential for FMC. To write down these moves and solutions, requires a decent knowledge of cube notation and notations that accepted by FMC.
R, L, F, B, U, D stand for turning the right, left, front, back, upper, and down faces of the cube respectively clockwise. Their prime counterparts (R’, U’ etc.) stand for the anticlockwise turns and double moves are also allowed, such as R2 and U2. In addition to this, wide moves, written as R2 for example, are also accepted. It is important to note that M moves aren’t allowed as it is not counted as a single move. I’ve found that being familiar with notation like these and being able to quickly read and perform moves has greatly reduced the time I waste scrambling the cube multiple times.
The most basic but important aspect of FMC solutions is block building. Block building is where you slowly solve most of the cube by building various pairs and blocks. For example, you can start by making a 1x2x2 square. Then you can join this square with its corresponding edge and centre to make a 2x2x2 block, and further into a 2x2x3 block. In this way, you can even solve F2L completely, without actually first building a cross like it’s done in normal 3x3 solves. Always keep an eye out for any formed pairs or blocks when you get your scramble, sometimes a scramble can be lucky with easy blocks already formed, and taking advantage of that luck is an integral part of FMC.
Keeping Your Options Open
The inverse scramble is something that can help expand options during a solve. An inverse scramble is the reversed opposite of the normal scramble that you are given. For example, if the normal scramble is R’ U’ F D, then the inverse scramble is D’ F’ U R. Think about what that means! Any solution that you find on the inverse scramble will work for the normal scramble as well if you reverse and invert it. This gives you essentially 2 scrambles to work with, double the options, double the chances of getting lucky starts and good solutions. If you can’t find anything good on the normal scramble, then switching to the inverse scramble to check if that has better options is something that might help get better results.
Experiment and Have Fun!
The main focus, be it FMC or any event, should be on enjoying yourself and having fun with your solutions. FMC isn’t a speed event, all you need to do is find a solution, however weird, which has the least number of moves. This means you can experiment with different algorithms, methods, move sets and anything that works because the main concern is not speed, it’s efficiency. If you use CFOP, try to see if building only half the cross and F2L allows for a better solution or if inserting the last pair in different ways gives nicer continuations. There is a lot that you can do, and this freedom is part of what makes this event so much fun. Many of my best FMC solves are ones where I experimented with weird and random moves in the middle of steps like block building which gave me something easier or nicer to solve. You can get lucky scrambles that have easy starts, but it’s up to you to take advantage of that luck and find a short solution.
FMC has no fixed method, you can use CFOP, Roux, or just do whatever you feel like to solve the cube. It is important to not restrict yourself to any one method, always keep your options open! If something doesn’t work, try a completely different route, or try modifying what you’ve done to make a better outcome. When I do an FMC solve, I have a few loose steps in mind - making blocks into 2x2x2 cubes, solving F2L, orienting edges, and solving the rest of the cube through various methods. That doesn’t mean I stick to it always, if I see something nicer, I will try to solve the cube with that in mind.
One only needs to know a few basic steps to successfully do an FMC solution. There are many more in-depth techniques such as insertions and edge orientation, but these are for people who really want to focus on improving in the event. Even simple techniques like block building provide a rare degree of freedom while solving since speed isn’t the main focus. I hope that this has given some insight into the event of FMC. 3x3 FMC is a niche event, and only a few people in India practise it seriously compared to other events. I hope this encourages people to try to get into FMC, keeping in mind that it isn’t that hard to get into. I hope you can find it as enjoyable as I do, finding unique personal solutions to scrambles can be very satisfying.