Life is Like a Rubik’s Cube: Max S. ’24 on Speed-Cubing


While competing in the Northeast Championships in Boston, Max broke the Square-1 cube Guinness World Record with a time of 5.02 seconds. (Max S. ’24)

Long before you picked up this paper and began reading this article, there were already murmurs on campus. A new world record? Set by a Lakesider? 

Indeed, one of our very own, Max S. ’24, recently won the world record for Square-1, a competitive subcategory of Rubik’s cube. I had a quick chat with him to discuss his life as a speedcuber.

GY: I heard a while back that you got a world record! Is that true? 

MS: Yeah. Back in May, I went to Boston to compete in the Northeast Championship, where I participated in the regular 3×3 as well as the Square-1. I ended up breaking the world record for the fastest average time (of five solves) for Square-1 by over a second.

GY: Are those the two modes that you compete in?

MS: I only do Square-1 and the 3×3 cube. I got the world record for Square-1, and my record for the regular cube is 4.03 seconds — fifth in the world. 

GY: That’s really impressive. Most Lakesiders said that at their fastest, it still took them over thirty minutes. How did you think you got your time down by so much?

MS: I do think I got a little bit lucky, as you have to. The world record holder for the regular cube is 3.47 seconds, which was a 0.75 second improvement over the previous record. It was so unbelievable, people suspected that he was cheating. It was so much faster that it still hasn’t been broken since it was established in 2018.

GY: That’s interesting. (Jokingly) Did people suspect you of cheating when you set the Square-1 record? 

MS: Haha. I don’t think so. 

GY: What’s different about the Square-1 cube?

MS: It looks like a cube when it’s fully assembled, but once you twist a side and begin to scramble it, it looks totally crazy. 

GY: You don’t have a Square-1 on you, do you? Is there anywhere I can see you solve one?

MS: I do not have one on me. Although (a regular 3×3 appears in his hand)… I have this one on me. If you want to see me solve one, you should check out my Youtube channel.

GY: And what’s that?

MS: You should check it out. Subscribe. 

At this point, I realize how woefully inadequate I am to be interviewing him. Besides having successfully followed instructions once, I have never solved a Rubik’s cube, much less solved one under time pressure. And I’m not alone: only 56 poll respondents had solved a cube before, leaving more than 100 respondents who had never completed the puzzle. I asked him if he had any advice for beginners. 

MS: I remember how I started. On April 4, 2016, my friend brought a cube to school. It fascinated me and I begged my parents for my own cube. A few days later, I finally had my own cube. I looked up a tutorial and managed to solve it for the first time.

GY: I know you can do that now in under five seconds, but how fast did you solve it that first time? Maybe 50 seconds?

MS: Not at all. It took me two hours, which I think is normal for the first time. I wanted to improve, though, and be like the speedcubers that I looked up to and had seen on Youtube. It just slowly became a larger and larger part of my life. 

GY: Do you have any parting wisdom for someone interested in starting? 

MS: Just have fun with it; try to solve it a few times. Once you start wanting to get better, practice solving and learning new algorithms. There are so many helpful resources online. But don’t expect too much. Progress will not be linear, and there will always be ups and downs in the learning process. I came close lots of times but failed. Once I put down the cube when the cube was still one rotation away from being solved, which added two seconds and lost me a personal record. But you come back from those mistakes better.

GY: Sounds like life. 

MS: Yeah. There’s a lot more to speed cubing than just the Rubik’s cube itself. There’s a huge social scene attached to it and a lot of the competitions are fun mostly for that social aspect. I highly encourage people to try it out.