The Cubing Corner

How Many Steps Does It Take to Solve A Rubik’s Cube?

rubiks cube on a finger solved in 20 steps

How Many Steps Does It Take to Solve A Rubik’s Cube?

The simple aesthetics of the Rubik’s Cube’s conceal the rather complicated nature of solving it. It is a mathematically complex puzzle with more than 43 quintillion possible configurations. 43 quintillions can be represented numerically as 43,000,000,000,000,000,000. As a result, the number of moves required to solve the puzzle may greatly vary depending on the expertise and intelligence of the player.

Although the puzzle was invented by Erno Rubik back in 1974, mathematicians pondered over 36 years to unravel the fewest number of moves required to solve the puzzle. It was only in 2010 that a group of mathematicians and programmers led by Tomas Rokicki discovered that any Rubik’s Cube configuration can be solved in a maximum of 20 moves. To discover this number, the team needed the assistance of Google’s supercomputers.

The journey of discovering the smallest number of moves to solve the cube

Rokicki and his team based their strategy on concepts developed by Herbert Kociemba, a mathematician. Using different mathematical algorithms and by grouping together configurations that met certain criteria, Rokicki’s team was able to reduce the number of configurations from 43 quintillions to 2.2 billion. Even this figure required the assistance of a bank of supercomputers at Google to finally arrive at the least number of moves: 20.

The smallest number of moves required to solve the Rubik’s Cube is also known as the God’s Number. This is due to the fact that humans may not be able to work out the puzzle in such a small number of moves. There are many speedcubers who can solve the puzzle in less than 5 seconds, but the number of moves they make will still be much higher than 20.

How many moves do beginners need to solve the Rubik’s Cube?

While Rokicki’s team proved that every theoretical permutation of the cube can be solved in 20 moves, it is not practically achievable for even the most seasoned speedcubers. Elite cubers solve the puzzle by making between 50 and 60 moves. On very rare occasions, they may be able to solve it in 40 to 50 moves, depending on the configuration.

For a regular Rubik’s Cube aficionado or even for a seasoned solver, it is more important to focus on time rather than the number of moves. Beginners often take 10 minutes or more to solve the cube once they begin to apply proven methods and strategies. This duration may be further reduced to less than two minutes, after which they can attempt to become speed solvers. Speedsolvers can solve the cube in less than 50-60 seconds consistently. Elite speed solvers like Max Park, Felix Zemdegs, and others can solve the cube in 5-10 seconds.

Reducing the number of moves and the time needed to solve the Rubik’s Cube

Initially, most people solve the cube using trial and error methods and eventually develop pattern recognition skills. As a result, the number of moves required to solve the Rubik’s Cube by beginners can greatly vary. It is impossible to randomly arrive at a solution by making moves indiscriminately. There needs to be a strategy, and as any beginner will find out, there are many of them.

Two of the many popular strategies employed by solvers are

  •   Fridrich Method, also known as CFOP, is a logical method that helps beginners and speed solvers improve their game. The method involves working with layers methodically until the cube is eventually solved.
  •   The ROUX method deviates from the CFOP by making use of the player’s intuition to solve the cube. Two of the major steps in solving the cube rely on intuition while others are logical in nature.

While these methods do not focus on the number of moves necessary to solve the cube, they eventually reduce the time required to solve it. As a result, a player may end up requiring fewer moves to solve the cube as well.

Smart Cube is an easier alternative

If these methods seem difficult and overwhelming, GoCube’s Smart Cube is a great tool to learn how to solve the Rubik’s Cube step by step. The Smart Cube syncs players’ data with its mobile application while providing real-time feedback, suggestions, and guidance to improve at solving. With practice and dedication, one can learn to solve the cube quickly and in the least number of moves.

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