How to Improve in 3x3

3x3 as an event:

Among all the different types of events ranging from 2x2 - 7x7 cubes to puzzles shaped like pyramids and dodecahedrons, and even a puzzle which shape-shifts!...from solving the cubes with your eyes open to even solving them blindfolded! Speedcubing has evolved a lot throughout the years with a variety of events and puzzles in the sport…but do you know why 3x3 still remains the favorite and the most popular event among the entire speedcubing community?

cubelelo drift M

Cubelelo Drift 3x3

The 3x3 cube is quite simple, yet a little complex when people start learning it and try to find better ways for becoming efficient. You could solve the cube in a matter of 8 - 10 seconds every time and still have a lot of room for improvement. Since every scramble on the cube is unique…it becomes quite interesting to scramble it over and over again and keep solving, and because it doesn’t take much time on a 3x3, it doesn’t become boring either.

While some people manage to learn things easily by just watching some tutorials and videos on YouTube and improve quickly, some people find it quite difficult to improve in 3x3.

Improvement is pretty much subjective, it depends on how you see the cube, which pieces you decide to solve first, how you choose to solve them, and how you think you should use your finger tricks at which part of the solve.

As of now the two best-advanced methods in 3x3 are ROUX and CFOP.

In ROUX you basically have to build two 2x3 blocks on the left side bottom and right side bottom of the cube, then you orient all the corners and then finish off the solve with the help of M (middle layer) and U (upper layer) moves.

In CFOP you solve the cube in horizontal layers. First, you solve the cross (the four edges of a side) of the bottom layer and then finish solving the bottom and middle layer simultaneously using a method called ‘F2L’. Then you solve the third layer in two steps, OLL and PLL, in OLL (orientation of the last layer) you solve the upper face, but not the whole layer, and then in PLL (permutation of the last layer), you do an algorithm to finish of your entire solve by solving the last layer.

Aryan Chhabra - First Indian to get a solve under 5 seconds in 3x3

As of now, the World record single and the World record average in 3x3 are both held by CFOP users.

If you want to hold a prominent position in 3x3 on a national level or even on an International level, then leaving the beginner’s method or any intermediate method and learning full CFOP or ROUX is necessary.

Yusheng Du - current 3x3 world record single holder

How to Improve:

As of now the best place to learn the methods and improve on them is on YouTube. In my recommendation, the best Youtube channel from where you can learn about 3x3 is J Perm. 

Generally, most of the videos you will find about 3x3 improvement will be on CFOP, since it is a more widely used method and recently the official results of world-class cubers have shown the consistent flexibility of CFOP, because you can always make your solves faster by implementing certain techniques such as X cross, keyhole and pseudo slotting, winter variations, and ZBLLs.

Tymon Kolasinski - current 3x3 World Record Average holder

Now after you have learned your OLLs and PLLs and basic F2L techniques, you might realize that improving your times actually becomes quite hard, because now there is not any simple way of just memorizing algorithms for all cases and solving them. Now you need to focus on minute details, and I think that this is where a lot of cubers get stuck and stop improving.

Here are these 5 inter-related aspects of a speed solve that if you worked on, you could easily drag your times to sub 8 with practice:

1. Efficiency - Efficiency is a term that includes a lot of things. It ranges from learning the best algorithms for the last layer to using the best solutions for F2L cases to planning out the best possible solution for your cross and first F2L pair in the inspection. Improving efficiency is quite intuitive, it is something you develop over time.

Some things that can help you with efficiency are:

i) Watching videos from Youtube channels like J perm.

ii) Watching example solves from professional cubers like Feliks Zemdegs, Tymon Kolasinski, Aryan Chhabra, etc.

iii) Watching extremely fast solves and averages from fast cubers in slow motion which increases knowledge about certain F2L cases

iv) Fidgeting with the 3x3 as well as big cubes like 4x4 and 5x5  increases knowledge about how pieces move, this way you can make your cross efficient and can start planning F2L pairs in inspection

2. Finger tricks - Learning the best finger tricks is essential not only for OLL and PLL but also for F2L and cross. There are a lot of videos available on finger tricks on YouTube and it is better to learn as many finger tricks as you can as you might have to use them in different F2L and cross cases. Good finger tricks also reduce the amount of regrips one has to make, which matters a lot during fast solves.

3. TPS - Turns Per Second completely depends upon your finger tricks and how much you practice your turning by doing algorithms over and over again and by randomly fidgeting with your cube.

4. Look ahead - This is one of the most vital parts of speedcubing. If you can’t look ahead and don’t practice it, then improving your times is only possible to an extent. In look ahead, you basically keep a track of what pieces you will be solving next while you are solving the current pieces through muscle memory. It means that while you are solving something, you should not be thinking about it, instead you should be looking for pieces that can be the easiest and quickest to solve next so that you can have a quick transition from what you are doing now to what you will be doing next.

5. Fluidity - This is basically the product of good look ahead, finger tricks, and efficiency. A fluid solve would be a solve with no pauses and extremely good finger tricks and a good solution. To be fluid, you can practice slow solves, in which you turn slow but don’t pause throughout the solve. Fluidity is a little contrary to TPS, because if you are trying to be extremely fluid during your solve, then it is hard to turn at your fastest. In fact, it is better to be fluid than to turn fast and pause during your solves. If you watch official solves of world-class cubers, you can see that most of them don't turn at their fastest but keep their solves a little slower, and consistent. 

Max Park, one of the best 3x3 solvers, doesn’t use U2 flicks
For finger tricks, instead compensates with a great look ahead 
Making his solves fluid and fast

Fluidity and TPS are both necessary in a solve. Fluidity is most helpful till F2L, but during OLL and PLL, it is very important to have a good turning speed as well if you want yourself to get good times.

At last, the most obvious step, is practice. Practicing helps you to improve your solves in all aspects and makes you a better cuber. Even practicing bigger events like 4x4, 5x5, 6x6, and 7x7 helps with improving in 3x3. Although only practicing for hours and hours would not essentially help you improve, it is the consistency with which you practice daily. So keep your focus and stay determined to what aspects of your solves you are going to be working on each day.

  - Hasnain Reza Bilal

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