Have you ever tried to solve a Rubik’s cube, and become obsessed with increasing your speed? Have you ever thought of racing with others or even competing?
There is a whole community of speedcubers out there meeting regularly at speedcubing competitions. Speedcubing competitions help you understand your level in the world of speedcubing and connect you to a larger community of those having the same interest as you.
You do not need to have been training for years or have done millions of solves to go to a WCA competition. The World Cube Association holds cubing competitions year round. These are a great way to put your cubing skills to the test, and a fun social event overall. Cubers have often described going to competitions as the best part of their cubing journey, even more so than actually getting faster.
Let’s dive into what a WCA competition is like and what you can expect on going to one.
What is the WCA?
WCA stands for the World Cube Association. The World Cube Association is the worldwide non-profit organisation that regulates and holds competitions for mechanical puzzles that are operated by twisting groups of pieces, commonly known as twisty puzzles (source: worldcubeassociation.org). There have been over 100,000 official competitions in more than 140 countries.
In the 1980s, Cubing tournaments began to appear in regions all across the world, which led to the first World Championship in 1982. While competitions declined over the next decade, a revival was seen in the cubing scene around the 2000s. This led to the formation of the WCA and the first official competition in 2005 in Kyoto, Japan.
Before we get started, here are the basic components of a competition, as well as a few terms:
For most events (excluding 6x6, 7x7 and the blindfolded events), you are given five attempts. Out of these, the fastest and slowest solves are excluded and an average is calculated of the remaining three. This is known as an average of 5 (Ao5).
Penalties: A +2 and DNF are the two Cubing Penalties.
- You get a penalty of +2 either if you cross 15 seconds in the inspection time or were off by one move on the cube. A +2 penalty gets two seconds added to your actual solve time.
- DNF stands for Did Not Finish. A DNF is imposed if - you take more than 17 seconds during inspection, in case of a corner twist, or if the cube is off by more than one move once the timer has been stopped.
Example of +2 solve
Time limits and cut-offs:
- A time limit is essentially the maximum amount of time allotted to you to solve a particular puzzle. On crossing the time limit, you will simply be stopped mid-solve.
- A cut-off on the other hand is the deciding factor on whether or not you get to do 5 solves, typically for larger events. You get two attempts to reach the cut-off, and if you remain below the cut-off for either of your solves, you get to do the average.
Judges are seated at all solve stations to ensure that your solve complies with the regulations of the WCA.
Runners bring the cubes from the scrambling area to the solving stations.
Scramblers apply the official scrambles to your cube and help ensure that everyone gets the same scrambles.
Delegates are WCA officials who are responsible for ensuring that the competition complies with the guidelines set by the WCA. They handle the scrambles, the results and any incidents that may occur and help resolve them according to WCA regulations.
Cubing competitions are typically spread out over 2-3 days. There are multiple rounds for each event, with the first day having the first rounds, followed by the subsequent rounds on the next day, the finals and the award ceremony. Each event has a primitive round and the top performers of this round move on to the next and so on. Cubers are also divided into groups by the organisers, and the people in each group get the same set of scrambles in a particular round.
What are a few basic rules to follow?
- The decision of the delegate is final.
- Competitors cannot use a cube with electrical components such as a Bluetooth cube or one that connects to wifi.
- Every competitor is required to judge, scramble or run when asked, and may be excused only for a legitimate reason at the discretion of the delegate.
- Use of electronics or audio equipment such as headphones is not allowed while solving.
- Use of a camera to record your solves is allowed, but only if the camera monitor (i.e. the cube through the screen of the camera) is not visible to the competitor.
Here’s the complete list of the WCA Regulations.
How to participate in a competition?
You begin by creating an account on www.worldcubeassociation.org . Enter your Email ID and set up a password, then enter in various details such as your name, birthdate, etc. to complete signing up. You now have a WCA account that can be used to register for competitions.
You can now start looking for competitions in your locality. Go to the competitions page and select your country. This gives you a list of competitions in your locality. Select the competition you wish to go to, and go to the register tab. Select the events you wish to do and complete the payment. You have now successfully registered for your first WCA competition.
Here are some things you should bring along with you to the competition:
- Pack all your main cubes, along with any backups for your events or other cubes that are just fun to solve.
- Cube lubricant is advisable, and maybe even a screwdriver.
- Something to time and practice your solves with such as a timer or a mobile device/laptop.
- Carry lunch since it may not be provided. Check the competition website to be sure of this.
What should I expect?
On the day of the competition, you may be filled with nervous excitement. Try your best to get an early start on the day, as well as reach the venue of the competition ahead of time. This helps you get familiar with the environment at the venue.
A glimpse of solving area
Once you’re at the venue, sign-in at the desk. You are typically provided with a list of events as well as the group you are assigned. Make sure to keep this handy. A cubing competition venue consists of a few typical things - the scrambling area, the submission desk, the solving area, the waiting area and the spectators. Take note of the venue around you so you have a general idea and do not have to worry later on.
Explore - 5x5 Cubes
A glimpse of waiting area
The competition starts off with the orientation or instruction session for beginners - make sure to attend this if you are a first timer. This is followed by the first event of the day. This means it is finally time for you to compete.
There is a designated submission desk at each competition. At the beginning of each round, a number of cube covers along with scorecards are placed on this desk. Find the scorecard with your name on it and submit your puzzle for scrambling. You then move to the waiting area and wait for your turn to solve. Once your cube is scrambled, a runner brings your cube to a solving station. The runner calls your name and seats you next to the judge.
It is finally time to prove your skills. Take a few moments to calm yourself down and just breathe. Forget that you are at a competition, forget about the people around you. The judge will ask you if you’re ready, and only answer when you actually are - you have about 1 minute before you actually have to answer. Once you answer, the judge lifts the cover and inspection starts.
Take a good look at your cube and place the cube on the mat as soon as you are ready. Place your fingers - not your palm - on the timer. As soon as you notice the green light, you can start. Solve the cube and stop the timer. Your judge notes down the time and you confirm the same and sign on the scorecard. Make sure to check the time written down, and correct the judge if wrong.
A glimpse of participants solving 3x3 cube in Raipur Cube Carnival 2019
You’re now done with your first solve! Go on to the waiting area and proceed to the next solves.
You can check your results live on the WCA live website; if you qualify for the next round, your name will be highlighted in green. If you didn’t, stick around anyway. Competitions are excellent for socializing and making friends. Since everyone there has a common passion, it is much easier to talk to people. Talk to as many people as you can there. You can learn new things, try out different cubes or even make friends for life. Your performance may even be worse than you expected, but this is actually quite common. Reach out to another cuber and they may be able to help you out with this; Perhaps start talking to the cuber next to you!
When in between solves, you also have the option to judge, run or scramble. This helps run the competition smoothly and helps you contribute. It is highly recommended to do so as it helps the organizing team and lets you get more involved in the community.
Check out 6x6 Cubes Collection
How to get the best out of a competition?
- If you are free and there is a competition happening around you, please attend. The experience is exceptional and the lessons invaluable.
- Register for any events that you can solve, and do as many events as you can. You don’t have to be fast or even good at an event to compete, and it can’t hurt to register.
- Race with random cubers around you!
- Talk to as many people as you can. You can learn so much from other cubers, and share your stories with them. Many cubers believe the people to be the best part of competitions.
- Just enjoy, don’t pressure yourself - you’re only there to have fun. Compete not with others, but with yourself.
- If you see a cube you’ve wanted to try or buy, go ask to try it out. Look at other people and see what events you may want to try out.
- Help out if you have the opportunity to.
Competitions are an excellent way to put your skills to the test, make some friends and maybe even win a couple of prizes. The people of the cubing community encourage each other, and WCA competitions help them compete with each other in healthy competitions. There are no cut-throat rivalries, in fact many speedcubers are best friends - as in the case of Aryan Chabbra and Kunal Oak.
Kunal Oak (left) and Aryan Chhabra (right)
So even if you are scared or believe you are not fast enough you can still go to a competition. The experience is extraordinary and probably one of the best you will ever have. See you at the next competition!
Avani Sood from Bengaluru has won 12 female national records overall and has been competing for the past 4 years. She started cubing when she was 11. Her main event is Megaminx. Apart from cubing, she loves to cook and read. She has participated in 10 competitions and won 1 podium.