When starting speed cubing, a lot of cubers overlook the most basic stuff and start learning things that are too advanced instead of focusing on the basics. Basic things like look ahead are often overlooked. Often, cubers approach me for tips to get faster. Cubers who average around 25 seconds ask me if they should start learning ZBLL or some other subset. So I often ask them to send a video of a solve, and after watching the solve my conclusion for a lot of cubers is that they need to work on their look ahead. Developing a good look ahead at the beginning of your speedcubing journey is REALLY important. Not only is it the most basic skill, but it takes months and years to master it.
A lot of cubers, especially those who are new to speed cubing, believe that faster turning equals faster times, and that’s obviously false. Yes, a faster turning speed CAN fetch you faster times, but only if your look ahead is on point. And this also translates to cubes other than 3x3 as well. If you want to improve at bigger cubes, your look ahead needs to be on point. My advice to the cubers who want to improve is to really focus on the basic stuff like look ahead and practice it efficiently to get faster.
Another skill that I feel cubers should pick up as early as possible in their cubing journey is being Color Neutral for 3x3. When I started speed cubing, I had no idea that we could just pick any side to start a 3x3 solve. All the tutorials I came across solved on the white side, so I used to believe that the white face is actually the ‘fastest side’ of the whole cube. It wasn’t until months later that I found out that the way you solve the cube remains the exact same if you plan to start from a different side. But then I did not really think about it much. A few years later, when I broke the sub 8 barrier, I planned to switch to color neutral for 3x3.
The fastest cubers in the world like Feliks Zemdegs, Max Park etc were color neutral, and that’s where I got my inspiration to switch. Statistics show that a color neutral person just saves 1 move on average for the cross as compared to a single cross solver, but this 1 move can make a huge difference in your solves. So I finally started practicing color neutrality, and in the beginning, it was extremely frustrating. My way of switching was to just ‘act’ like I am color neutral and I just started doing color neutral solves. My times went from 7 seconds to 14 seconds. At that moment I just wanted to give up, but I just kept going. Now, almost 2 years later since then, I am color neutral today. It took me longer than it would if someone started earlier. I was so used to doing white cross since I’d been speed solving for 3 ½ years, making it much more difficult for me to switch. The faster you are, the more difficult it is to switch. Though, Former 3x3 Single World Record Holder, Patrick Ponce was able to become color neutral in just a few weeks, so the speed of getting used to color neutrality varies person to person as well.
A different approach to switch to color neutrality is to get used to one color or two opposite colors at a time (for example :- blue and green). Former 3x3 Asian Record Holder, Seung Hyuk Nahm, used this approach to switch. But do keep in mind that you have to give an equal number of solves to all colors if you are planning to use this method to switch. Seung used to do 600 solves per day as he was quite fast already and had more difficulty in switching.
Now the question comes, was switching to full color neutrality worth it? The answer is yes AND no. Yes because it is indeed better as it does give me way more options to start from and the chances of having an easy cross or cross + first F2L pair are higher. And no because it took me 2 years to switch and get comfortable, which is a LOT of time. I could have worked on a lot of stuff that I need to improve on in these 2 years. This is exactly why working on the most basic skill sets more in the beginning can help you get faster and also save you a lot of time!