Solving the Cube!

It's easy when you know how.

Introduction

The Rubik's Cube can seem almost impossible when you first start playing with it. Getting the first few pieces into place is easy enough but soon you find you can't do anything without stuffing up other areas. When you know the steps, and are armed with the right algorithms it is actually quite easy. On the following pages you'll learn a simple and easy to apply set of algorithms (pre organised steps) which will solve the cube. (The Rubik's Cube is a product created by Rubik's Brand Ltd. This is merely a tutorial on how to solve it and is in no way affiliated with the company.)

Outline

This Cube tutorial is divided into 5 sections. The rest of this page introduces you to cube notation and getting to know your cube. The rest of the pages work towards solving the cube.

Keep reading below to get started or skip to one of the following sections.

Each Step of the tutotial lists the algorithms and has detailed explanations. If you don't want to read the explanations, you are perfectly fine skipping them.

Getting to know your cube

Everyone picks up the Rubik's Cube differently. Some people will figure out manipulating the pieces fairly quickly. Others will take a little longer. With practice manipulating the pieces it will get easier and you will start to appreciate how certain moves result in certain outcomes. What at first seems like just blindly following algorithms will start to make sense and you'll start modifying the algorithms to create shortcuts.

Before we begin working on solving the cube it can be beneficial to get a feel for how the cube behaves. A good starting exercise is to work on solving just a single face of the cube. Don't worry if the squares adjoining that face don't line up correctly, just work on solving a single face. You should be able to do this intuitively (that is without using predefined algorithms). Doing this helps to build an understanding of how the pieces move around and how pieces can be put into place without affecting others. You should practice holding the cube in two hands whilst doing this and manipulating the cube with both hands. For extra challenge, see if you can solve the cube face one handed.

Pieces of the cube

There are three different types of pieces that make up your Rubiks Cube.

Corner pieces Corner pieces - There are 8 corner pieces. They have 3 panels and can each be in any of 3 orientations in each position.
Edge pieces Edge pieces - There are 12 edge pieces. They have 2 panels and can each be in any of 2 orientations.
Center pieces Center pieces - There are 6 center pieces. They each have only one panel so can be in a single orientation. These pieces also identify the six faces of the cube. eg. the face with the blue center piece is the blue face.

All up this makes for 26 pieces making up the cube with a total of 54 panels on those pieces. This leads to a staggering 43, 252, 003, 274, 489, 856, 000 possible combinations. Despite this large number, a group or researchers with a heap of spare computing time actually worked out the optimal solve for each of these combinations working out that the maximum required number of moves (see below) to solve any cube is 20 moves. Virtually all of these combinations required a different algorithm in order to sovle optimally and we are not going to propose you try to remember that many combinations and corresponding algorithms.

Instead we are going to introduce you to the beginner algorithms. They do involve more than 20 moves but they are guaranteed to solve any combination. This is the power of well thought out algorithms, they can be very flexible in what they can solve. This is also why this Rubiks cube tutorial is on a website with IT tutorials. Learning to solve the Rubiks cube is a great way to explore how we can effectively set up processes in order to take a wide range of possible inputs and reliably transform them into given outputs.

Cube Notation

Solving the cube involves following a set of algorithms. To illustrate the algorithms we will use cube notation as listed below. (There are several variations on cube notation but once you know one, adjusting to others is fairly easy.)

Each of these moves is a 90 degree turn of the relevant pieces. Each move also has a corresponding opposite move which is denoted with an apostrophe ( ' ).

U - Turn the top (up) face clockwise.
U' - Turn the top (up) face counter-clockwise.
D - Turn the bottom (down) face clockwise.
D' - Turn the bottom (down) face counter-clockwise.
R - Turn the right face clockwise.
R' - Turn the right face counter-clockwise.
L - Turn the left face clockwise.
L' - Turn the left face counter-clockwise.
F - Turn the front face clockwise.
F' - Turn the front face counter-clockwise.
B - Turn the back face clockwise.
B' - Turn the back face counter-clockwise.
M - Turn the vertical slice clockwise.
M' - Turn the vertical slice counter-clockwise.
E - Turn the horizontal slice clockwise.
E' - Turn the horizontal slice counter-clockwise.
S - Turn the top slice clockwise.
S' - Turn the top slice counter-clockwise.

Don't worry about trying to remember all of these. The images as well as a simulation will be used along with the notation when explaining the algorithms.

Often seeing the moves makes it easier to understand them so here is a cube where you can see each of the moves in action.

Now you're ready. You can dive into Step 1 - Solving the white cross, or keep reading below if you're interested.

Tips and Advice

It's not uncommon to feel a bit overwhelmed when first starting out with learning to solve the Rubik's Cube. With time and practice this will quickly subside. Here are some tips and advice to help you on your journey to cube mastery.

  • Just do a little bit each day - if you start getting frustrated, leave it for a bit and come back the next day. A bit of time can often be great for helping to clarify things.
  • Repetition is good - the first few times you go over the algorithm for a step you'll probably need to follow the tutorial. But soon you'll start to remember it and will be able to do it on your own. Repetition will build muscle memory so you no longer need to consciously think about doing that step. This will free up valuable resources in your mind to devote to working on the next step.
  • Mix it up - Solve the cube a few times all the way making use of the tutorial as a reference, then do a few just up to the step you can remember by yourself.
  • You will make mistakes and stuff up your cube many times whilst learning. If this happens don't worry, you can try and undo your moves and have another go. Frequently you won't remember what moves you actually made and will just stuff it up even more in trying to undo them. No worries, just start again. It's all good practice.
  • Experiment - The algorithms for each step focus on placing particular pieces. They will also move other pieces around the cube. When learning a new algorithm take the time to look at other pieces on your cube and how they are moved around. This will help you better understand how the algorithm works and can also lead to shortcuts.

Getting your time down

To begin with, you'll take quite a bit of time to solve the Rubik's cube. With practice it is possible to get this down well under a minute. Here are a few tips to help with this:

  • Work on making moves with your fingers rather than by twisting your wrists. This will allow you to make the moves much quicker and to string moves together in quick succession.
  • Get a speed cube (See below). These allow you to turn the pieces much easier than a standard Rubik's Cube and this will also help with getting your time down.
  • Learn the mirror images of algorithms. Most of the algorithms can be done as a mirror image and often this allows you to place a piece more efficiently.
  • Learn to perform the algorithms on faces other than the one facing you. This will reduce time spent turning the cube around to get the right face facing you and will reduce your time quite a bit.
  • Practice, practice, practice. This is by far the best way to improve and many of the above tips will start to happen naturally with practice.

Which Cube should I get?

The standard Rubik's Cube can easily become quite stiff and difficult to turn the pieces. This can disrupt your flow and make working through the algorithms need a lot more concentration. There are many Cube's by other brands on the market many of which are marketed as Speed Cubes. The Rubiks brand sells one of these also. These often have pieces with rounded edges which make for much smoother piece turning. You can get a good speed cube for very cheap also. My advice is to get one of these for a much better experience. I won't list any specific websites to buy them from. Do a Google Search and you will find many retailers selling them.