How to solve a Rubik's Cube in 5 simple steps

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In 1974, Erno Rubik, a young Hungarian professor of architecture, created a toy that straddled the thin line between genius and mystification. His Magic Cube, renamed the Rubik’s Cube following a worldwide distribution deal, would go on to be a global phenomenon, inspiring and infuriating one in seven of us and becoming a defining icon of the 1980s. Some 350 million Rubik’s Cubes have since been sold and even now, 41 years later, the vast majority of those who ever attempted to solve it have failed.
 
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It’s hardly surprising. According to official website rubiks.com, there are 43 quintillion ways to scramble a Rubik’s Cube – but there’s only one solution. Even its creator struggled with it for a month before mastering it himself. Yet it is the world’s bestselling toy of all time, and even now has a dedicated following of super-solvers, the ‘speedcubers’ who compete at world championships to complete the cube as quickly as possible. Some even do it one-handed or blindfolded.
 

One such expert is Oliver Frost, a 21-year-old University of Westminster student whose uncanny problem-solving ability helped him set a new 4x4 Rubik’s Cube world record at the end of March. The cognitive neuroscience undergraduate sliced eight seconds off his own world record to post a time of 2 minutes, 10.47 seconds at a contest in Edinburgh. Here's Oliver at work: 
 
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Oliver has been speedcubing for the last few years. “I got started when my brother challenged me to learn to solve it in under a minute,” he says. “When sibling rivalry kicks in, things get out of hand!”
 
As he got faster at unscrambling the standard Rubik’s Cube, he began to look at new techniques and take on more challenging cubes – including 4x4 and 5x5 versions. For most of us, the standard 3x3 Rubik’s Cube is tough enough and you can even pick 2x2 puzzles. Luckily, Oliver has given us a few tips.

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Step One

Familiarise yourself with the layout of your Rubik’s Cube. Obviously it’s a cube and has six sides, but understanding where certain pieces are located in relation to other components will make the whole process easier. Each side’s coloured central piece will always be opposite one particular colour. Green is opposite blue. Yellow is opposite white. And red is opposite orange. When you move one colour, the one on the other side of the cube will also move.

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Step Two

It’s time to make your first move. “I would look into the Layer-By-Layer Method, or LBL,” Oliver says. “It is the most common starting point and you only need to learn a couple of move sequences to get started. You begin by making a cross initially – four edge pieces in the correct place on one side – and then you insert the correct corners to make a complete layer.” Don’t forget that when you line up the corner pieces, they’ll have two other colours on them.

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Step Three

“Next, you will insert the middle layer edges – once this has been done for all four middle edge pieces you will have finished your first two layers.” Taking the side you completed in Step 2 as your base, you’re looking to get the first two rows aligned all the way around the cube. 

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Step Four

“Finally, the last layer is a bit more complicated and requires a number of different steps and a few more sequences to learn, but with a bit of patience anyone can learn them.” This means you need to make a second cross on the side directly opposite the first side you completed. Don’t worry about matching the edge pieces on this top face to the side pieces yet. Concentrate instead on forming the coloured cross pattern.

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Step Five

With the cross in place, you’ll need to line up the corners. Rotate the upper face until at least two corners are in the right place, and then you can get the remaining centre pieces and corners into position. 

A final piece of advice from Oliver? “Sometimes you might need to break up something you have already fixed in order to solve some other pieces, but don't worry – as long as you learn the set sequences of moves and begin to understand how they work then you'll be safe!”


Still with us? Then you’ve just completed the Rubik’s Cube! As you practise this step-by-step process, rubiks.com suggests you’ll eventually be able to speedcube yourself and get your completion time down to two minutes.
 
Next up for Oliver is a trip to the Rubik’s Cube World Championships in Sao Paulo – but if you find you need a little more help before you tackle his record, check out this guide.

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