Rubik’s Cube competitors square up in Prague for European Championships

Rubik’s Cube, photo: Booyabazooka / CC BY-SA 3.0

Many people will remember the Rubik’s Cube as the worldwide hit brainteaser from the 1980s and perhaps believe that its long been ‘game over’ for the cube. But more than 500 competitors are converging on the Czech capital for the European Championships with new generations of cube solving addicts joining the ranks of the veterans.

Rubik’s Cube,  photo: Booyabazooka / CC BY-SA 3.0
The European Championships 2016 kick off in the Prague district of Radotin on Friday with three days of competition in store before the new champion emerges on Sunday. It’s expected to be the biggest European championship ever and the third biggest speed cubing competition in the world.

As for local talent, Rubik’s Cube has a strong local following but Czechs are expected to be challenging perhaps for a third or fourth place in the championships rather than the title itself. Jaroslav Flejberk is one of the local organisers of the championships.

“Ten years ago we started with the Czech Open Rubik competition and a lot of foreigners came to the Czech Republic. Now we have a tournament for Czechs for 120 people, open to everyone from the Czech Republic. We are now among one of the growing countries because of our Rubik tradition. The interesting thing is that everyone can compete – the old people that started to play with Rubik’s from 1980 to 1982 as well as the young generation aged from six to 20 and they are very good. So we have some national records and people from the Czech Republic are among the 10 best in Europe.”

If you imagined that the competition was simply, or not so simply, solving the basic Rubik’s Cube you’d be mistaken. There are now more complicated versions of the original cube and ways of making the competition more difficult, such as doing it blindfold. Mr. Flejberk again:

Jaroslav Flejberk,  photo: archive of Jaroslav Flejberk
“You have 18 disciplines, not just classic Rubik’s Cube 3 times 3times 3 but 2 times 2 time 2 till 7 times 7 times 7, that means the number of layers you have. You can also solve it one handed, you can solve it with your feet, and you can solve it blindfold. That means that you see the cube and after this you are blindfold and then you do it by memory or you succeed or not and the time is measured. Each of these 18 disciplines are qualifications with all 500 in 3 times 3 times 3 and fewer in the other disciplines. The next step will be the best 64 and then the best eight and the winner is selected from this best eight.”

And while it’s not possible to identify the new European champion already, it is pretty safe to say that they will be young and without too many competing demands on their time.

“It requires skills that your fingers in a [short] time because the record now is 30 moves done in five seconds. At the age of 50 there is no chance that you can do it so quick or you cannot train so much because the winners usually play eight hours each day and they maybe have a free day at Christmas. Each day they must train, it is something similar to playing the piano.”