One-Handed Speedsolving

In 2003, the first Rubik’s Cube competition since the televised 1982 World Championships was organised by the team that would later form the World Cube Association. This competition held a variety of weird and wonderful events, most of which are still held at competitions all around the world to this date. One of these events was 3x3x3 One Handed (abbreviated to OH). This involved solving the puzzle in the same way that a competitor would speedsolve a Rubik’s Cube normally, except with only the use of one hand. This event has received worldwide interest, and every day becomes more and more competitive. Here, we will take a look at the history of the much-loved event and how the both methods and times have improved throughout its lifetime.

rubiks cube one handed solution

Humble Beginnings into the Rapid Present

In the early days of the one-handed event, progress was relatively slow due to the poor quality of the puzzles available at the time. At the first competitions, the best solvers clocked in times of just over 40 seconds. After these competitions improvement was rapid at first but continuously steady. By the end of 2004, Chris Hardwick had lowered the single World Record to 25.95 seconds and Shotaro Makisumi had the average record of 39.25 seconds. By the end of the following year, the single was even lower at 22.05 seconds and the average had dropped drastically to mid-26 seconds. By this point in history, competitions were starting to pop up all over the World, with 2007 seeing over 50 competitions worldwide, so even more speedsolvers were starting to get the chance to compete. Also around this time there were some relatively simple speedcubes available to the dedicated solvers (although these puzzles are incredibly poor in comparison to those of the current year), and the launch of the Speedsolving forums in 2006 led to the sharing of ideas, modifications, lubricants etc. which all contributed to the improvement of times. By the end of the decade, the single and average World Records had approached times deemed incredible for two handed solves just a few years back.

By 2011 Feliks Zemdegs was starting to show his incredible talent across all events, and the one-handed event was no exception. He secured the World Record single and average for himself of 11.16 seconds and 14.41 seconds respectively, knocking nearly 2 seconds off of the previous record-holder’s average time. Towards the end of 2011, Michal Pleskowicz made history by securing the first sub-10 single solve in official competition, with a 9.53 single solve. He also lowered the average below 13 seconds.

one handed feliks zemdegs
Feliks Zemdegs

Times continued to improve as the average dropped below 11 seconds and the single below 9. In May of 2015, Haixin Yang managed to solve the puzzle one-handed in 8.27 seconds, thanks to a Last Layer skip during his solve (a 1-in-15,000 probability of occurring). This single solve was set to last for a long time, however just 7 days later Feliks Zemdegs made history with a 6.88 single solve. This solve was highly controversial, however, as the scramble for the solve was performed incorrectly. When asked to perform the scramble again, Feliks was unable to due to the mis-scramble. Upon reviewing video evidence, it was revealed that the scrambler had accidentally performed an R move instead of an R’ move. After further analysis, a few key facts arose from the scramble: The optimal solution for the solve involved the same number of moves as the actual scramble (18), and due to the mis-scramble being unintentional, without Feliks’s involvement or recognition of the error, and also being a state that the scrambling program used by the WCA could generate, the time was allowed.

The current World Record average is slowly approaching sub-10 seconds, and currently sits at 10.31 seconds by Max Park. However, the single World Record remains standing, and is currently the second longest-standing World Record in the WCA (and most likely will continue long after the current longest standing record is broken). After over two years, Feliks remains the only speedsolver to have secured a time below 8 seconds (in fact, he has 3 sub-8 single times), with his second fastest to date being a 7.55 single solve. Justin Mallari managed to place second in the World with his 8.04 single in 2016, but nothing has come close to the 6.88 single solve.

Methods and Differentiations in One-Handed Speedsolving

Single handed solves require a lot of practice and completely different finger tricks. Most cubers prefer to use their left hand which makes it easier to perform R-U moves. 

For the most part, one-handed speedsolvers use the exact same method as they do for regular two handed solving – CFOP/Fridrich. However, some speedsolving methods aren’t as viable for one-handed solving. One example of this is the Roux method. The Roux method relies heavily on M slice moves, which while incredibly fast and efficient for 3x3 solving are difficult to perform efficiently with just one hand. People have found ways to do this relatively fast, but not to the extent that people have pushed the Roux method two-handed.

The COLL algorithm set, which provides algorithms for all corner orientation/permutation possibilities given that all edges are correctly oriented, and results in a limited number of PLL cases, as the corners are already solved, which are all easy and efficient to perform one-handed. The more determined speedsolvers may choose to remove the PLL stage entirely by learning ZBLL, an algorithm set that, provided all edges are correctly oriented, solves the remainder of the last layer in one algorithm.

A less-advanced way of improving at one-handed than learning the 500 algorithms required for full-ZBLL is to learn one-handed specific algorithms for certain last-layer cases. These algorithms mainly rely on R and U moves (these are the most efficient for fast turning using one hand).

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