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» Interview Selection

Interview with Marcin Kowalczyk

Nov 01, 2013 - 12:45 AM - by pjk
November 1, 2013 : Interview with Speedsolving.com member Marcin Kowalczyk : Currently (at the time of this interview) is the world record holder for 3x3x3 Multi-Blind (35/35 in 55 minutes). He has held (or broke) the world record 7 times in the last 18 months.

Poland, Dąbrowa Górnicza

Multi Blind World Record HolderOccupation:
Mnemonist (really, I make money on it).

What is your favorite event, why?
Multi-blind, because this is the only one event where your memory is more important than solving methods, I did my first "almost WR" (21/25) with only 12 algorithms (TuRBo edges/Old Pochmann corners). Unfortunately I learned BH corners before I really beat it a few months later

What made you become interested in solving puzzles?
I got my first cube on 23th December, 2010. It was an accident, my ex-girlfriend bought one, nobody knows why. Then I tried to solve it and I discovered that it can be done faster and faster, as well as blindfolded. BLD was the only one reason why I didn't give up after 4 months; I was bored of solving cubes.

What, in your opinion, is your biggest "cubing" accomplishment?
I lost at Euro 2012 and I wasn't at Worlds so I don't have any interesting titles but I'm proud of having a much stronger MBLD memo than everybody else. 7 WRs is nothing if somebody can be able to beat me in the future. 35 points is still too low for me to call it an "accomplishment". I will be happy only when I can feel that I did my best and I can't be faster. And when nobody will be able to be faster It will be a real accomplishment.

What do you see the limit being for 3x3 multi blind in a one hour limit?
I have no idea but 50+ points is possible. I can't say anything else because we still know nothing about the limits.

How come you don't compete in big cube BLD?
I said to myself a long time ago that I won't compete in big BLDs until I know everything that I want to know about the 3x3x3 cube. Not only about BLD, but about all aspects of 3x3x3 cube. I don't see any fun in solving other cubes than 3x3x3, the true Rubik's Cube.

How did it feel to break your first WR?
My first WR was something special, being best in the world at something that you like is a splendid emotion. Second WR was also exciting. Rest of them? Nothing more interesting than getting any other official PBs. I was more happy after my official 9.58 in 3x3x3 than after 35/35 MBLD.

What are your other hobbies?
Mnemonics. I also spent 4 years of my life on swimming, 6 years on playing Dungeons & Dragons (I was a GM). I'm longing for it but after school I lost all my players in different parts of country and I don't feel than I can start it again.

What is/are your pet peeve(s)?
Intentional loutishness, aggression with no reason, disrespect to others. These things made me very aggressive when I was younger.

What will the future of cubing be like and how would you like cubing to progress?
I hope that one day it will be a more official sport, with many more cubers and with sponsors. If somebody will pay real money for it then we will be able to see the real limits of all disciplines.

Interview with Alexander Lau

Apr 17, 2013 - 3:23 AM - by pjk
April 17, 2013 : Interview with Speedsolving.com member Alexander Lau : Currently (at the time of this interview) is the fastest official Roux solver in the world, and current ranked 3rd in the world for 3x3x3 Average (7.78 seconds). He is also ranked 5th in the world for 3x3x3 One-Handed single (10.41 seconds).




What is your favorite event, why?
My favourite event is multi-blind because it's time consuming- you feel at the end of it that you have really achieved something even if you don't do as well as you hoped. Whilst events like 3x3, you sorta feel like you've done nothing. Five solves is nothing. It's very impressive to do and it does feel to me like chilling out- where everyone's gone out for lunch and we just sit there and take our time to memorise the cubes and solve. It's much less stressful for me than 3x3 because I know I can take my time, and also nobody is paying attention to me.

What made you become interested in solving puzzles?
I was interested in the maths of it to start with. I saw my first 3x3 at the science museum in London and at first I tried to solve it mathematically, and tried to understand how the pieces moved. Of course that failed as I had few pieces remaining and I had to learn the solution book solution. About a year later, my English teacher was talking to us about this guy in Sixth Form who could solve it in fifteen seconds. He keep going on and on, and so eventually I decided to get mine out- that day I told myself "I will be twice as fast one day". To this day I don't know if it was me being competitive that drove me or whether it was just my pet peeve of people bragging and going on about achievements.

What, in your opinion, is your biggest "cubing" accomplishment?
My biggest cubing accomplishment has to be my 7.78 official average at Edinburgh. Everyone was expecting me to do it and I was frantically trying to calm myself down and practise actually inspecting within 15 seconds. Mollerz helped me a lot before the round and I, being really petty like I am, actually told people to stop videoing me as it was one of the reasons why I got the 10 second DNF. That DNF was because I threw the cube and lots of centre caps fell out. But I managed to calm myself down after, and it's easy to look back now and tell myself it wasn't that big a deal.

What made you choose Roux as your primary 3x3 solving method?
I chose Roux because I really didn't like the idea of solving last layer. Not only was I bad at understanding unintuitive stuff like OLL/PLL but also I wanted to go with a freer method that made more sense to my mind. Roux made a lot of sense to me, reducing the cube to the [M,U] group. Also, waffle's LSE looked really cool and I wanted to be able to use that in solves too. I did try lots of other methods before really grinding down Roux, I had tried Petrus, Waterman, even Heise. I reckon practising these methods helped me understand the blockbuilding more for Roux. I didn't get worried that Roux could never be as fast as CFOP- I just couldn't see why so.

What are your other hobbies?
I do music a lot. I play the piano, working on a diploma now. I play the cello as well and I compose a bit too. I'm a member of a couple orchestras. I also do programming, but that probably links in to my other hobby, if you call it a hobby. Maths. I like to research random abstract maths and understand how maths works. My favourite area has to be complex analysis, because there's not too much known about it and I can try to work out why things are how they are and such. I don't do maths as much as I used to but when I think of a difficult problem, I spend a good bit of time doing research and trying to solve it.

What is/are your pet peeve(s)?
I hate tootsie rolls, and I also hate it when people don't listen to me. I'm a bit strange in the way that I like to criticise people for the sake of just showing a different point of view, and when people take offence to this and just stop listening to me it really frustrates me. That's not to say I'm good at taking criticism either but I try to consider different points of view just because I find it interesting. Other than that I don't really have any material peeves.

What will the future of cubing be like and how would you like cubing to progress?
The future of cubing is good. Lots of new methods are being created- of course only about one or two right now I think are actually viable but whatever. People still have the drive to further efficiency and find new ways to solve and this is good to see. I myself have done work on improving the Roux method, some tricks I use in solves now and some I just can't because I am too lazy to learn the algs. Cubing's changed a lot for me as time went on, as I sorta started cubing when I was starting to grow up. I don't really have that drive I had when I was younger, so I wouldn't be surprised if someone new came round and surpassed me. I am still going though and will until low 6s. Then I will go for sub-6 and carry on. I don't know. I want to achieve high rankings but at the same time I want to take it cool and enjoy the social aspect of cubing.

Interview with Herbert Kociemba

May 29, 2012 - 11:18 PM - by pjk
May 30, 2012 : Interview with Speedsolving.com member Herbert Kociemba : Best known for creating Cube Explorer, and also helped reduce God's Number to 20 (2010).

Darmstadt, Germany

Herbert KociembaOccupation:
Teacher of Mathematics and Physics (Gymnasium)

What made you become interested in solving puzzles?
The Rubik's cube and nothing else. When I first came into contact with Rubik's cube in 1980, the first challenge was of course to find a way to solve an arbitrary cube. But I soon got interested in the question if there is a way to solve it with as few moves as possible.

What motivated you to develop Cube Explorer, and how long did it take?
When I bought my first computer in 1982 - an Apple II - I already thought about some cube solving program. But with 64 kB of RAM and a 1 MHz CPU, it was absolutely impossible to get any interesting results. So I did not think about it anymore until I bought an Atari ST with 1 MByte of RAM in 1991. I hoped that with this hardware there was a way to write some useful cube program.

It took several months until I found an approach which seemed promising. I could not have foreseen that the result in the end was so much better than anything else that was out there before. The program had no graphical interface yet, but when, for example, a 15 move solution for the cube in the cube pattern appeared I was really excited.

The first version of Cube Explorer I released to public was version 1.5 in 1997. It had a graphical interface and was written in Borland C++. I completely rewrote the program in 2001 using Borland Delphi and the current version still is based on this version.

Can you tell us a bit about the background of Kociemba's Algorithm and how/why you developed it?
After more than twenty years I do not know the details any more but I think Thistlethwaite's 52-move algorithm was the starting point. Was it possible to write a program which uses only the subgroup generated by [U,D,R2,F2,L2,B2] as an intermediate step and uses only moves from this subgroup to finally solve the cube?
I tried different things but the program did not work until I developed the following methods:
1. Representing a cube state with a few numbers which allowed to implement face turns with a few table lookups. From today's point of view I reinvented the numbering of permutations and combinations.
2. Using these numbers to build a pruning table to prune the search tree. From today's point of view I constructed a minimal perfect hash function to generate a pattern database for an IDA* search.

But it was the time before the Internet was available for everyone so I knew nothing about these concepts. So the most important background of Kociemba's Algorithm is presumably that I developed it without any background.

I developed Cube Explorer mainly not to find short solutions for arbitrary cubes but to find nice cube patterns and short generators for them. Nice cube patterns usually have some symmetry and I always was fascinated by the concept of symmetry, for example in Escher’s tessellations of the plane.

What are your other hobbies?
I must admit that, objectively speaking, I spend too much of my free time doing computer related stuff. I am quite interested in playing classical guitar and piano but I neglect these hobbies unfortunately. Other hobbies are riding my bicycle and reading.

What is/are your pet peeve(s)?
I myself do not use a mobile phone and sometimes I feel disturbed by people using it in the train or a restaurant for example, telling boring stories.

What will the future of cubing be like and how would you like cubing to progress?
The speedcubing community will be a reliable variable in the future too. But it will become more and more difficult to break records which will make this issue less exciting, so the public interest (newspaper, TV etc.) will surely decrease.

Concerning the puzzle theory I do not expect breaking news in the next decades, for example, with God's number for the 4x4x4 or higher cubes. The complexity of these puzzles is much higher and the diameter problem for permutation groups is NP-hard in general.

So far, what has been your most enjoyable cubing experience?
Surely the first time I was able to solve my cube in 1981, without the aid of any other methods. It took me several weeks until all faces had the same color again. And about ten years later when I realized that my ideas to solve the cube really worked.

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