Cape Town - Many of us at some time have been frustrated at trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube. And if you, like Feliks Zemdegs, are among the few who can solve the colour-coded puzzle quickly, you’re probably seldom without it.
Zemdegs, an Australian speedcuber from Melbourne, Australia, has twisted his way into the history books as the current world champion.
The 18-year-old holds the record for completing the cube in an average time of 6.54 seconds, a record set at the Melbourne Cube Day last year.
“I find it extremely relaxing and once you get the hang of it it’s a fun and fascinating game,” he says.
Zemdegs can also solve the cube one-handed in 14 seconds, and blindfolded in 1 min 30 seconds. He practises about 45 times a day and the puzzle rarely leaves his hands as he is constantly aiming to beat his own record.
“It’s a constant challenge for me. I try to improve my time every day. I am very competitive by nature. Some people see it as a complicated puzzle, but it gets easier once you recognise the patterns and the colours to tackle first,” he says.
The Rubik’s Cube has been challenging children and adults alike for the past 40 years and its popularity does not seem to be diminishing. With more than 350 million units sold worldwide, it is regarded as one of the world’s most popular toys.
Zemdegs solved his first Rubik’s Cube at 12 with the help of YouTube tutorial videos. Although he is into numbers and is studying commerce at Melbourne University, he says solving the puzzle does not require any special mathematical or scientific skills.
“You have to have lots of patience and problem-solving skills,” he says.
We meet Zemdegs, Rubik’s Cube in hand, at the Cape Town Science Centre in Observatory. He is in the city for the Rubik’s Cube competition that takes place at the centre on Sunday. Hundreds of similar events have been held around the world to celebrate the puzzle’s 40th birthday. This competition offers a prize of R20 000.
Since Hungarian architecture professor Erno Rubik invented the puzzle in 1974, over 40 complex versions have been created over the years, aside from the 3x3 standard cube.
The most complicated cube is the 11x11 which takes at least half an hour to solve if you have conquered the standard cube several times.
Children as young as 3 have managed to solve the cube and can be seen showing off their skills on YouTube.
It took Cape Town’s Rubik’s Cube solver Lindsay Hans about a week to work out the solution.
“I got frustrated when I couldn’t get it right and kept trying. It became an addiction after a while, even now I ‘cube’ a lot,” says the 28-year-old from Observatory. Hans can finish the puzzle in 19 seconds and is constantly trying to improve his time too.
Watching the two speedcubing is a blur of colours and twisting fingers.
Amnon Melzer from Speedcubes, sponsor of the competition, says learning to solve the cube can have a positive effect on improving an individual’s memory, attention, thinking and problem-solving skills.
“I have taught hundreds of people, the youngest aged 5”, he says.
“It is wonderful to watch the pure delight of children who master a seemingly impossible task with a bit of helpful guidance and some patient perseverance.”
Being colour-blind didn’t stop another record holder Mats Valk from breaking the 3x3x3 single speed solve world record last year with the time of 5.55 seconds at the Zonhoven Open in Belgium. “I like a good challenge and I didn’t stop trying until I achieved the current time I am proud of,” he says.
The 18-year-old, currently studying Business Analytics at the VU University in Amsterdam, says he practises about 30 minutes a day. He started cubing at 11 and admits to suffering from twinges in his wrists and pain in his fingers after cubing for a long time.
The world’s biggest Rubik’s Cube by Melzer, a 90cm by 90cm monster made of about 3 936 standard cubes, will be on display at the science centre.
Other than competing at the event, the world champions will also offer demonstrations on how to solve the Rubik’s Cube quickly.
l Cape Town Science Centre in Observatory, from 9am to 5pm on Sunday.
l Anyone can enter, no matter your age.
l A fee is required to participate in the competition – R45 when pre-purchasing online (at www.speedcubes.co.za) or R55 at the door on the day.
l Spectators can attend the event for free.
l There are currently 60 registered competitors who will vie for the R20 000 prize.
l The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by architecture professor Erno Rubik.
l It is the world’s most popular toy, with more than 350 million sold, and it is essentially unchanged from the original design.
l There are more than 43 billion billion combinations, but only one solution.
l To celebrate the cube’s 40th anniversary, there have been 474 official competitions worldwide this year.