These cubers are quickly gaining speed.
Four Queens residents participated in the 10th annual National Rubik’s Cube Championship this past weekend at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J.
Brandon Lin, Eric Zhao, Christopher Chi and Samuel Fang competed with hundreds of the country’s fastest Rubik’s Cube solvers in almost 20 events.
Bayside teen Brandon Lin, 15, set the North American record for solving the Square-1 cube, a multi-shape puzzle with three layers that Lin described as “shape-shifting.” His average time was 12.83 seconds, outpacing his previous top score of 13.05.
In the 3×3 Rubik’s Cube portion, the most popular event, Lin finished in the second round with an average of 15.34 seconds. He set his best personal time in nine of 15 events.
“I felt very accomplished,” Lin said after his record-breaking performance over the weekend. “Becoming Square-1 National Champion was something I was really striving for the past few months.”
Lin, a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School, has had plenty of practice with other students.
“At my school, I run a Rubik’s Cube club in which people give each other tips on how to solve it faster,” he said.
The club has hosted citywide competitions, inviting students from other schools to participate.
Lin said he has been training for four years. He began when he saw kids playing with it, so he gave it a shot. Frustrated, Lin decided to look up how to solve it. From then on, he said it was all about practice.
“The main secret is just to practice and dedication,” he said. “It’s not something where you need a high mathematical ability. Mostly it’s just memorizing sequences.”
Lin saw a familiar face this weekend in Eric Zhao, a 17-year-old Astoria resident who also attends Stuyvesant and is part of the school’s cubing club. Zhao solved his first cube in the sixth grade, improved in the seventh grade and entered his first competitive tournament in August 2010 at St. John’s University.
Now a four-year veteran, Zhao said there is no secret to solving the Rubik’s Cube.
“All the information is online and available to everyone,” he said. “You just have to want to learn it.”
Zhao placed 112th place in the tournament with a second-round average of 14.85 seconds, the best finish among his fellow Queens competitors.
In February 2010, Zhao founded CubeDepot, an online shop that sells speedcubing products. He said he started the store because he wanted new Rubik’s Cubes but not pay for them.
“I figured if I bought around ten of each, and then sold nine, I could keep one for essentially free,” Zhao said. He said in 2011, the company made about $60,000 in profit.
For Christopher Chi, 11, the national tournament was his first taste of competition. Now a seventh grade student at Bell Academy, Chi said he started cubing when he was 8, and has been learning to speed up for three years.
Chi said there is no secret to success. He said you just have to learn all the algorithms, which are a series of moves that help you solve the cube.
Chi only participated in the 3×3 and 2×2 events, placing 381st and 286th, respectively.
“It was a good experience for me, since it was my first competition,” he said. “I hope I can do better next year.”
Like Chi, Samuel Fang, 12, is new to the contest. The tournament was just his second, but he improved in all six of his events.
The seventh grader at M.S. 67 in Little Neck solved his first Rubik’s Cube just over a year ago, and began competing this year.
Fang said he was nervous with the large audience, but relished the opportunity to watch fellow cubers work at breakneck speed.
“I did see a few world records broken there,” Fang said. “It was pretty cool to see that.”
He finished 57th overall in the 2×2 event with an average of 4.46 seconds.
The tournament took place while the center displayed its Beyond Rubik’s Cube exhibition, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the cube’s creation.