If you solve 3x3 and it is one of your main events, you’ve likely felt atleast once that it would be fantastic if you were sub 10. It is a really nice feeling to be able to solve the 3x3 and realize you’re able to solve it in less than 10 seconds. I am currently sub 7.5 globally and I genuinely feel sub 10 is a very achievable barrier, by almost every cuber who is active and practices daily. I was able to compile a definitive guide you can follow to be able to solve the cube under 10 seconds. The purpose of this guide is to try to increase your improvement rate by implementing certain techniques deliberately into your solves. I will list them down in points, from easiest to hardest techniques/skills.
- Learning full OLL and full PLL - A lot of people are likely to tell you its not necessary to learn full OLL and full PLL, but I personally believe it is possibly the easiest way to drop your times, no matter what you average. Learning full OLL and full PLL gives you the advantage of reducing the amount of times you have to look at the last layer and reduce the amount of total executions for the last layer, i.e, if you know one algorithm for each and every OLL/PLL case. You are only going to look at the cube twice and execute 2 algorithms for the entire layer. This is extremely crucial and helps you sharply reduce your times.
- Practicing separate parts of the solve – A good practice regimen is to time separate parts of the solve, for eg. Each part of your CFOP solve can be timed separately. This helps you focus on each sub-step far more than you would, if you just practiced timed solves of the entire cube.
- Learning very simple edge control cases – Your F2Ls insertions determine the kind of OLL you’re going to get. A lot of the times, dot cases in OLLs are nasty and long. If you have a joint pair to insert as the 4th pair, inserting it with U R U’ R’ (reverse sexy) and R’ F R F’ (sledgehammer) will give you different results and is a really easy way to avoid dot cases, and can also be used to force COLLs.
- Solving big cubes – Learning to solve big cubes and merely practicing them will help a lot with subconsciously improving your lookahead, efficiency and even your finger tricks. This is something I should do more often.
- Solving cross on the bottom – This should be an absolute no-brainer. This is a technique you should immediately implement in your solves if you already don’t, because it’s the most natural and fastest way to solve the cross.
- Learning to be ambidextrous during F2L – This is the first technique which might be a bit hard to implement, but solving F2L pairs with your left hand is extremely crucial and helps you drastically reduce times. If you’re able to solve pairs using your left hand, it means your lookahead and your solve can be in sync and you’re not disadvantaged simply because you do only 2-gen moves (R and U moves). Since this is one of the harder techniques to implement and might be a bit awkward in the beginning, I would suggest you to keep practicing this even if you feel you’re not as good with your L moves as you are with R moves.
- Learning to solve F2L pairs in the back – This would be the natural progression of techniques to implement right after lefty F2L solving. Solving F2L pairs in the back is a bit hard to implement, because you’re so used to the orientation of F2L pieces viewed from the front and not from the back. You might also make mistakes in your insertions but this is another technique which you should deliberately practice in order to reach the pros. The combination of ambidextrous F2L insertions and back slot insertions will be one of the best skills you’ll develop to be a sub-10 cuber.
- Learning good F2L algorithms – Learning intuitive F2L is fantastic and helps to improve F2L and thereby, your entire solve, without new algorithms. But there are certain F2L cases which are much faster with algorithms, so sitting down and learning new cases from time to time is a good way to shave times off hard F2L cases. There are many resources on the internet and all you have to search for is “advanced F2L algorithms” and you’ll get different videos/pdf sheets to learn algorithms.
Developing good fingertricks and a reliable turning style– This might seem obvious at first, but a lot of people don’t try to deliberately get better at fingertricks. Getting better at rotating each side of the cube is crucial and helps the solve flow better. Developing good fingertricks help reduce re-grips and also allows you to spend more time in home grip which is absolutely fantastic. (ref: Tingman's video) If you have good fingertricks, it means your E perms are probably really good. Good E perm execution is a sign of good finger tricks and turning style.
- Studying reconstructions – Looking at different cubers’ solves is an excellent way to find techniques and learn good fingertricks to execute every sub-step of a CFOP solve. Looking at reconstructions, in both video format and also text format (like in speedcubedb) is a really good way to identify good solving habits, identify good techniques to solve the cross+1 (or even +2) and learn how the pros choose F2L pairs to solve and much more.
- Deliberately reduce cube rotations during F2L – Forcing yourself to not rotate during F2Ls is crucial and can be achieved by a combination of pts 2 and 3 in the Intermediate section in this guide, and also good F2L algorithms. A simple example would be an F2L case where you’ve to do y R U’ R’ (reverse this to setup the case). You can just do f R’ f’ (wide turns of the front layer). This particular technique alone is easier said than done because it’s so tempting to do F2Ls mindlessly without having to consciously reduce cube rotations, but cube rotations are one of your biggest enemies, if they’re not done deliberately. There are certain cases where you’re able to spot the pieces of the next two F2L pairs and you feel a cube rotation would help execute both of them better. Those are the only situations where you have to do cube rotations. Cube rotations in general can also be reduced by doing d and d’ moves (wide turns of the bottom layer).
- Doing slow, casual non-timed solves – When you’re sitting idle, you can just pickup the cube and try to solve the entire cube without cube rotations, take your time to figure out better ways to solve F2L cases, experiment with different ways to form joint pairs/split pairs, try incorporating wide moves during your cross and F2L. This practice will help you recognize bad habits quicker, like rotating the cube for F2Ls you don’t have to rotate, taking longer to recognize some hard F2L cases, and eliminate those habits faster.
- Plan as deep into the solve as possible – This is by far the most important solving technique/skill you can incorporate into your solves. Your inspection is your friend and you have to take advantage of it to plan as deep into the solve as possible. This way you don’t have to look at the moves you execute during your cross or even cross+1 or even cross+2 (if you can plan that deep). This is the most fundamental way to improve your lookahead as you can start tracking pieces apart from the ones that you plan during your inspection. The best way to improve quicker in this, is to take as much inspection time as you want, and start planning entire crosses first. Then move on to planning cross+ pieces of the first pair. Then start planning as deep as cross + the entire first pair. The more deliberate you are about planning deep, the quicker you will improve as a Speedcuber. There is a reason why Cross+1 is a very popular phrase in speedcubing.
- Developing a consciousness of the orientation of corners and edges – This is a little hard as a concept to wrap your head around, but I’ll try to explain with some illustrations. When you’re doing your F2Ls, there is a reason why you do some of them as joint pairs ( U R U’ R’ inserts) and some as split pairs ( R U R’). The orientation of the edges determines how you solve them in relation with the corners. Similarly, if there’s a corner in the bottom layer, you do a certain set of moves for each orientation of the corner to either make a split pair/joint pair during F2Ls. This is a simple way to recognize the orientation of the pieces. Getting comfortable with the orientation of the pieces helps you with recognizing and planning crosses quicker, recognizing F2L cases from multiple angles, recognizing OLL and PLL cases quicker. This is something you’ll get better with practice, but like any other skill here, your improvement rate will be faster if you’re able to deliberately develop a consciousness for your pieces and their orientation. If you don’t understand this point right away, don’t worry, but keep this in the back of your mind.
- Having different TPS (turns per second, or just your solving speed) during different parts of the solve – This is another hard technique to implement, but having a slower tps during the F2L and a faster tps during ll might just help your solves flow better because it’s harder to maintain a balance between your lookahead and tps during your F2Ls and you don’t really need that much lookahead during your ll as it’s just about quickly executing algorithms after recognizing the cases. Figuring out a good balance between tps and lookahead for your F2Ls is a really important skill which will help your turning style be more reliable.
Deductive reasoning – This can be considered as an extension of pt.2 of the Hard section. We know lookahead is crucial and cube rotations are just, bad, most of the time. Being able to deduce the F2L pieces in the back slot without having to rotate the cube to look at them is an extremely important technique you can implement to make you a better Speedcuber in general. Let’s say you’re solving cross on white and in your F2L and you see an edge on the back which seems to be the F2L edge for a corner you already tracked for pairing, but you’re not entirely sure because you don’t know if it’s the actual F2L edge or if it’s a yellow edge. This is where you should be able to deduce the type of edge without having to lookahead. For eg.
Say the edge you want is the blue-orange edge because you saw the corner in the top right corner is the blue-orange corner. You spotted the blue colour on the left back slot and you’re not sure if the colour on the back is orange, you should realize there are only two blue edges left other than the one in the back slot, because the other blue edge is part of the cross and only two orange edges left if the edge in the back slot is a blue-orange edge. I don’t see any blue edge in my sight other than the cross edge and the edge in the left-back slot. So, I’ll look at the orange edges. From this point of view, I see two orange edges, three red edges and one green-yellow edge. Clearly none of the red edges contain orange because they’re opposite centres and can never be together on a single piece. The other two orange edges I see are green and yellow. Thus, the edges on both the back slots have to be the blue-orange and the blue-yellow. If you see either yellow or orange on the right-back slot, it means the left back slot contains blue along with the other colour. If you see blue on the right-back slot, it means the edge could be either blue-orange or blue-yellow. This is when you can rotate the cube to figure out the combination of colours in the blue edge in the left-back slot. If you don’t understand this or find this technique complicated, don’t worry, read it again and take your time to understand this concept. This is again, another skill which will be part of your muscle memory with more practice and just something you can keep in the back of your mind.
- Trying to solve your crosses with simple moves – I’ve always felt that the R U and D moves are simpler than the other moves. If you’re able to figure out a cross solution with moves that are mostly these moves, it is going to be faster. You can maximize these easy moves in the cross by using u and u’ moves. You can also plan your crosses in such a way your execution is good from the moment you remove your palms from the timer.
- Colour Neutrality- Last but not the least, developing the ability to be colour neutral and solve crosses on any colour is extremely helpful if your recognition of each sub-step is as good with any colour, as it is with white. This means you have 5 other colours to choose and it’s likely one of them has an easy cross solution. This means you can lookahead deeper. This is one of those techniques that is more helpful the earlier you learn it. It gets really hard if you’re just used to solving your cube with white cross/ any other colour and you want to suddenly make the shift. I have also written a blog making a case for why Colour Neutrality might not be required to be sub-10 so you can check that out too.
Bonus tips to consider:
- Get a good cube if you don’t already have one. There are so many options available in 2021 suited to your turning style and many manufacturers making great cubes.
- Take care of the cube well, tensions, lubrication & feel, and try to keep it as consistent as possible.
- Look at as many solves of the pros as possible as it’s quite motivating. There are lot of solves on the internet nowadays thanks to covid and a lot of cubing leagues taking place online which means you have access to look at a lot of solves online.
- The fastest way to improve is a combination of deliberately introducing new techniques and also recognizing existing bad habits and rectifying them as soon as possible.
- Your improvement rate is never going to be linear and will drop significantly once you start reaching barriers like sub-13/12 so it’s very easy to feel disheartened but please don’t be disheartened and keep practicing.
- It’s all about flow. The better your solve flows, the faster you are going to improve and the faster you’re going to be as a Speedcuber.
This list contains everything I feel is important for someone to improve quicker. The more you implement these techniques into your solves, the quicker you’ll improve and even possibly go beyond sub-10 to even harder barriers like sub-9/8 or even sub-7. A lot of the techniques I discussed here are in the form of YouTube videos so you can check them out while you keep these points in mind. I hope this guide helps as many cubers as possible to reach the sub-10 barrier.