The sport of the solve: UBC Speedcubing brings Rubik's Cube culture to campus

The multi-colour puzzle cube known by most as the “Rubik’s Cube,” is synonymous with childhood frustration. It's a toy hidden at the bottom of childhood toy boxes in a jumbled mess, when the only attempt to solve it was the afternoon it was purchased.

Unless of course you’re one of the few with the patience to be a part of UBC Speedcubing, where the puzzle cube is a fun challenge, an intellectual exercise and a sport.

Speedcubing, sometimes called cubing, is the sport of solving a puzzle cube as fast as possible and has been around since the early 1980s when the craze of the original Rubik’s Cube swept the world. Since then the sport has gone through peaks and valleys of popularity, but with the internet connecting fellow cubers across the world, it has found a large interest group.

The sport has also moved on from the classic 3-by-3 cube we’re all familiar with. It’s not uncommon to see cubes like 4-by-4’s, 5-by-5’s and behemoth, brain busters like 6-by-7’s which can even intimidate a trained cuber at speedcubing events.

To make things even more difficult, competitions are not always based on how fast you can solve the cube. Competitions like one-handed solves and games where you’re given a certain amount of moves to solve the puzzle also exist.

UBC’s branch of this analytical sport began with its current president, Yeevon Liew, a third-year engineer who started speedcubing in his high school club.

“Vancouver has a large cubing community, so when I first came here I realized there was no Rubik’s Cube club at UBC, which I found weird,” said Liew. “I decided to start one to just spread the hobby to UBC students and to [establish a] connection between us at UBC and the cubing community around Vancouver.”

Since its creation, UBC Speedcubing has garnered modest numbers, with 10 active members. Despite this, the club hosted its own tournament this January, the UBC Open, which brought together speedcubers from across Vancouver.

“We had 120 competitors, which was our registration limit and It was pretty successful,” said Joey Gaffney, the club’s events coordinator and a third-year engineering student. With this success, Gaffney said that the club is looking to host another event like this in the future.

While speedcubing is in its infancy at UBC, Gaffney commented on its wide appeal.

“It’s a pretty big scene in general,” said Gaffney. “There’s a national championship in most countries and then there’s a world championship.”

The next world cubing championship is taking place in Melbourne, Australia this July.

In terms of goals for UBC Speedcubing, Liew and Gaffney both agreed that keeping the club afloat is the current goal.

“When we approach a new student to convince them to join the club, it’s hard for them to find the time,” said Liew, “We try to give incentive [with] $5 membership fees [and] they can get a free cube.”

While speedcubing is a niche interest, its athletes have grassroots dedication to their sport. This is evident at UBC Speedcubing, where their monthly cubing and social events are the staple of their clubs success.

“It’s not all competitive,” said Gaffney, “Sure it’s nice to win, but I think mainly people go for the community aspects. For me its a bunch of like-minded people who share the same hobby. It’s a fun time.”