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Tony Snyder's Cube Solving Hobby

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Approximately the fastest in the world for over 20 years.
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Welcome to my hobby page on solving the Rubik's Cube puzzle. This is where I explain my opinions and methods, plus provide a bit of history as I saw it.

In the past I have enjoyed solving the cube using my own methods, and without using a computer to find the best algorithms, thinking that any kind of help would spoil the fun.

In the early 1980's it seemed natural to most people I met, that the challenge was to solve the puzzle without help.

Then over the years stereotypes gave way to the Internet, as people started sharing their methods, their algorithms, their finger tricks, and software that finds better algorithms.

I may be one of the last hold-outs in this trend.

In the past I didn't need to change my ways, as I have managed to remain approximately the fastest in the world from 1983 through 2004.

My focus all these years has been on other things, like work. Though I've made many small incremental improvements while relaxing at coffee shops, I've stored each major idea in the back of my head for later.

Now I am ready to both change my philosophy and jump back into the game with both feet. Assuming I get a sponsor, I will spend one year using software to find the most optimal speed solving method, including the stages, algorithms, fingering, look-ahead, and memorization techniques. I estimate this method will average about 30 turns in a speed solve, while catering to a variation on modern fingering.

I hope this project will help to tilt back to roughly even, the significance of better algorithms relative to faster fingers, as right now it appears as though the balance is more in favor of faster fingers. I hope to one day use my new method to demonstrate sub 10 second solves despite my slow fingers, and to see someone with fast fingers use this technique to set a new world speed-solve record.

My fingers weren't always slow, as I used to solve the cube in 8-9 seconds from time-to-time, right up to the Fall of 2004 (this is when I damaged the nerves in my right wrist). At that point I got much slower for a few years, and gradually built up my speed again to its current 14-17 second averages today.

Over-all, since I first developed Snyder Method 2 in 1983, my averages have varied between 15 and 22 seconds, and singles have varied between 7 and 30 seconds. Though this is no longer the fastest in the world, it is still pretty good for someone that has stayed away from computer optimized algorithms, networking with others, and modern fingering.

It is interesting how most people are drawn to speed. In my opinion the Fewest Move Challenge (FMC) is much more interesting than speed. And yet when I show off at the coffee shops, nearly all want to see how fast I can go. Maybe one or two people per month will ask other questions.

I also find it interesting that when I turn the cube slowly, people perceive that I am slow at solving it, and when I turn the cube quickly, they perceive that I am fast at solving it. Most people don't seem to get that the number of turns also affects speed. Or that there is a difference from one method to the next.

My favorite way to solve the cube is a slow motion solve, where I'm intentionally turning slowly yet consistently, while also looking for more shortcuts. Doing it this way makes creative solving and discovery of new algorithms much easier.

And I think what interests me most are the ideas I get on how to find optimal algorithms in general, as these have applications in other areas of life. I am surprised that so few people have this same interest.

I think the reason there are so many new fast cube solvers today is that it has become common knowledge that someone with fast fingers can learn block building plus Fridrich LL, and combine those with modern fingering and decent look-ahead, to get sub 20 second averages after a few weeks of practice. News of this approach has spread like wild-fire, attracting new younger cube professionals to quickly gain a speed advantage over their predecessors.

However, in my opinion it loses its novelty as so many are now going that route. And it has its limits, as once you commit to Fridrich LL, it is hard to advance from there incrementally. This is because the first stage of Fridrich LL requires algorithms that will become obsolete if you do. I recognized this dead-end issue a few years ago (after first hearing about Fridrich and reading a description of the technique) and decided to stick with my own method instead, knowing full well it would be a tougher road to follow. I didn't care how tough it was, I wanted to practice a method that could ultimately evolve into the best possible cube solving method. And that would require sticking to algorithms that simultaneously permute and orient at every stage, as these will always be useful as I continue on my path towards a consistent direct solve.

The Composite Challenge - My Preferred Contest Event

Though speed has it's appeal, FMC raises the quality of the contests, making them more like chess. And the ultimate test to measure a person's cube solving skill is the Composite Challenge (CC). This is where you add the seconds and the turns together. I have asked for this challenge in the past, but the response was that it was too much work to count peoples' turns. Existing FMC events are based on a one hour solve time where the contestant writes down their own solution, requiring very little sophistication in equipment and judging. In contrast, a CC event would require a fast video recorder with slow motion replay to count the turns, plus a timer. Plus disputes would likely become inevitable. However, this doesn't change my opinion that it would be the very best test of one's cube solving ability. And I think that if they ever do hold a CC event, that this would be my best event.

The current world champion recently solved the cube in 5.66 seconds and about 50 turns (though I could be off some on the turns, I couldn't slow the video enough to count them, lol). If I was right on the turns, then his CC score was = 5.66 + 50 = 55.66. One of my 15 second solves in 40 turns would have been comparable in a CC event (15 + 40 = 55).

To me the skill level of a master cube solver should be mostly about algorithms, and to some extent about fingering. The CC event would balance these two issues the way I think is right.

Why I Don't Go To Constests

People often ask me why I don't go to contests. The answers have varied over the years. When I was young I was also naive, and figured that each time there was a contest that someone would tell me. The only two contests I went to were a result of last minute invites. I figured future contests would work the same way. Then to my dismay, I found out about new contests after they happened every time from then on, up to about the year 2000. This was maddening, I wanted to prove I was the best but it felt like they kept sneaking these contests through without inviting me. (Keep in mind that back then there was no google, and the Internet was in its infancy. Word-of-mouth and clubs were the only way to get advanced notice on things.) Then I wisened up and started looking myself. The Internet was available in the mid 90's but all I could find were a couple news items on past contests, nothing to point me to anything new. Finally, after the turn of the century I found an on-line cube club and joined it.

Wow, all these people that thought they were good at solving the cube. I mentioned once that I could average 15 seconds and boy did they come down on me. I was told over and over that it was impossible to average 15 seconds. Then someone (I think it was Dan Knight) wanted to meet me face-to-face to prove he was better. I backed out, right then there were other quite pressing/critical issues so I couldn't do it. Work related issues were getting crazy.

The club pioneered a more coordinated and regular contest event and invited the members to debate and vote on the rules for these events. Perfect. I participated in these debates for a few weeks until we were just about to the point of finalizing the rules, when all of a sudden everything changed. I think it happened when someone new joined the group with the means to launch the actual contests, and this person mysteriously assumed dictation rights over the rules. All I know is that our debates had no influence, as the whole process seemed to be taken over. Then I looked over the new rules and discovered things I didn't like. I didn't like the 15 second study rule. In my opinion that biased the contest in favor of simpler methods. The turn counting rules were in quarter metric, while I pushed for Axial Turn Metric (as it is now named, though I put my own name on it, "Snyder Metric", before this name was listed anywhere that I could find). The ATM (or SM) fit better in my thinking, due to my perspective that algorithm efficiency was the most important goal. Then later as I thought about modern fingering methods it became apparent why there was a motivation towards the Quarter Turn Metric (QTM), as this seemed to work better with existing modern fingering methods. Though this gave me more respect for the QTM, I still hold that ATM (or SM) is ultimately better, because of the advanced fingering method I'm working on that doesn't hold this bias (modern fingering doesn't handle slices and anti-slices very well). Plus, the SM is necessary when using Snyder Notation (SN). And SN works as is for more puzzles universally without the need for special symbols and exceptions.

The luck rule only fit mathematically balanced solving techniques, and would be unfair to my technique and others that were imbalanced (might as well throw a coin to see if I qualify or not on any given day, same results). However, I've been told that the luck rule did not apply to actual contests, only to unofficial claims. Since I can't find it in the current WCA I have to assume that's correct.

For these reasons and others (namely that the process was taken over), I was sort of turned off on the idea of going to the new contests. Another thing was my relatively low opinion on contest judging in general. I remember one computer related contest in Seattle where I and this other guy were clearly the best (by a huge margin), yet didn't place at all because our displays looked too professional to have been created by students. They didn't even ask to look at my source code or his schematic, we simply didn't place. This is when I came to realize that contest judging often times is not up to par with cutting edge changes. And that people in general simply will not believe something that pushes the envelope, even when they are looking right at it.

Granted, now the contests are much improved, the timers work correctly, the rules fit the various scenarios better than before, and so on. There are still things I don't like but it is close enough that I might go in the future. The main reason I drag my feet now is because I'm no longer the best at a straight speed solve. I'll have to settle for something else. It would help if they added the CC event. That's probably the only event that I would have a chance at winning today.

However, my upgraded methods may open up new possibilities...

If I get a sponsor, I then plan on upgrading my existing methods using software optimization to balance the math, plus creating an entirely new method that will revolutionize speed solving: While my thought up method from 1982 will currently beat the world speed-solve champion by 10 turns average, my software optimized method will shave yet another 10 turns - and this is off a speed solve that includes superior fingering and look-ahead. Click the sponsor link for details.

Snyder Method 1 averages about 100 turns. A determined person with a medium aptitude can learn this system in a few hours to a few days time.

Snyder Method 2 averages about 40 turns. A high aptitude person can learn this system in a few weeks time, plus a few months to master the LL direct-solve algs that balance the math.

Snyder Method 3 will reduce average turns to around 30. A very high aptitude person will need a few weeks or months to learn this system. However, it will include all the memory and fingering tricks necessary for fast execution, to set them on course for the championships.

Questions? Send me an e-mail: tony@snydermind.com