How to solve the Rubik’s cube blindfolded

As a part of our life at KInIT, we are determined to broaden our horizons in many different directions so we organise a variety of events that are not always directly research-related. Our latest seminar was held by one of our talented interns, Timo Hromádka. Timo recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from King’s College London. He has been working on Multilingual Previously Fact-Checked Claim Retrieval at KInIT since September. 

However, not Timo’s studies, nor his work, but one of his hobbies was the topic of our latest seminar. Timo is the Slovak champion in the discipline of blindfolded Rubik’s Cube solving against the clock. He regularly attends competitions all across Europe, most recently in Warsaw and London. In a series of two seminars he has lifted the curtain on this puzzle-solving sport.

Our intern Timo Hromádka presented about blindfolded Rubik’s cube solving.

Rubik’s cube is one of the most widely recognisable puzzles worldwide – most people have at some point held a Rubik’s cube and maybe even solved one. Solving one blindfolded is a step further, and solving 12 consequently even more so. And that’s exactly what Timo is faced with at competitions. During the seminar, Timo briefly covered the history of the cube and the rise of the ‘speedcubing’ discipline, before diving into the technicalities of the solving itself. He went over the big picture approach to tackling this puzzle through the lens of sorting algorithms before moving on to explaining the competition process, which has two distinct phases.

Firstly, the solvers get a set amount of time to look at the cubes placed in front of them. Depending on the discipline, competitors compete in the popular 3x3x3 design, 4x4x4, or 5x5x5, but additionally can compete in the multi-blind discipline, where they are faced with up to a dozen of 3x3x3 cubes at once. During this phase, the contestants carefully examine the cube’s shuffled configuration and try to memorise it. 

Timo’s collection of different puzzle designs.

Timo presented different memorisation techniques that he employs, e.g. the mnemonic device called “memory palace”. The memory palace, also known as “the method of loci”, is a strategy where a person can recall information through the visualisation of a familiar space. After thinking of a familiar environment, say for example a person’s bedroom, one creates a scenario which takes place in the given environment, a scenario which has the information one has to remember encoded in it. Timo practised this technique with the audience and challenged everyone to utilise it in day to day activities, such as grocery shopping, as a part of generally beneficial memory training.

Timo at a speedcubing competition.

Secondly, after the time is up, the competitors are blindfolded and allowed to start solving. This requires the participants to rely on their solving and memory skills combined. However, it is important to note that each competitor’s process is unique and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.

Timo’s presentation was followed by a lively discussion with numerous questions from the audience, whose excitement for the topic was palpable. It is always fascinating to listen to passionate people who have a strong itch for problem solving. At KInIT, we are very proud (and lucky) to have interns who not only learn from us, but who we can all learn from.