Cubers start a competitive solve with their hands on the timer. Once their hands are lifted, the timer starts. When the cube is solved, they hit the timer to stop it.
Competitors practice at tables throughout the competition using their own speed cubing timer and mat.
The Rocky Top Sports Center in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where this competition was held in December, was busy with cubers inside and a regional soccer tournament underway outside.
During events, tables are set up with clocks so spectators can watch the times. Each table includes a judge who times the solve with a stopwatch and watches for mistakes like an unsolved cube.
The competitor on the right uses hand warmers between solves to help keep his fingers moving quickly.
The speed cubers circuit is part competition, part social event. Cubers become friends and often return to the same events.
Cubers use apps to time their solves and to save those times. The apps also provide the "scramble" or steps to set up the cube for the next solve. A "scramble" might look like this - L R2 D2 U F' D F2 R2 B L D2 R F' D L R U2 R2 U F2 L' R2 F L F' L' B2 R U F' (left once, right twice, etc.)
This t-shirt is a funny play on the song, "I'm sexy and I know it." According to speedsolving.com, the R U R'U' is considered the "sexy move," or a four turn "trigger."
Up until January 2020, the 3x3 with Feet event was a regular part of competition. The cubing boards decided to remove the event following feedback and reviews.
A judge watches a competitor in the 3x3 feet event.
Another event is the 3x3 blindfold. The competitor can first inspect the cube with his mask off and then must solve it with the mask on and his view blocked by a judge.
Competitors are encouraged to serve as judges when not competing. This moves the event along and provides a more social experience.
Event coordinators scramble cubes during each event. Competitors have five attempts each round at solving. After each solve, the cube is taken in a cup to the coordinators who re-scramble it using a cube scramble generator.
Many competitors set up video cameras or their phones to record solves to share online or to study their moves.
When not competing, tables are filled with cubers talking algorithms, showing off cubes, and practicing.
This competitor is solving the Clock cube during an event.
Top cubers are stars in the cubing world, especially to the younger competitors. At the Gatlinburg event, several world record holders were competing. Spectators gathered around to watch the five rounds.
These young cubers excitedly talked about the world record holders competing with one hoping to get a cube autographed.
Competitors wait "on deck" between rounds while their cubes are being re-scrambled. (During Covid, competitors stayed at the same table for all five rounds.)
Like any "sport," parents stand to the side with phones capturing photos and videos.
Parents get close to the competition to photograph their children competing.
Cubing competitions are one or two-day events that stretch on the entire day. Parents "camp out" to work, read, or watch videos during the long days.
This dad watched a football games on his laptop during a Sunday cubing competition.
Parents spread out during a regional competition in Charlotte, NC.
A great solve time is celebrated after a round.
Spectators often include younger siblings or those who hope to compete one day.
Competitors wait "on deck" to be called to a table during a competition in Hendersonville, North Carolina in January 2020.
Between events, cubers get to know each other to talk algorithms and times.
Competitors sometimes film their solves to share on instagram and Youtube.