Rubik’s Cube has four nearly independent parts: corner orientation (CO), edge orientation (EO), corner permutation (CP), and edge permutation (EP). Each cubie (a corner or an edge) has an orientation (its flip/rotation) and a permutation (where it needs to go). Since a Rubik’s Cube has 20 cubies, all the necessary information can be memorized as 40 numbers. The actual memory burden can be signifacantly eased by memorizing visually and is comparable to two 10-digit phone numbers.
3OP solves the cube one part at a time, starting with the two orientation steps. Each piece is first oriented (flipped or rotated) in place, meaning without changing the permutation. Then, each piece is permuted (moved) to its correct spot, now without disturbing the already-corrected orientation. Each of the four parts is solved independently, except possibly to correct the permutation parity involving two corners and two edges. Each step is in turn divided into smaller tasks–in CP and EP, into cycles–each of which is handled by judiciously applying an algorithm. Because everything can be broken into a small number of tasks, 3OP requires only a handful of algorithms.
This is a guide to teach you how to solve the Rubik’s cube blindfolded. In reading this tutorial, I expect that you can already solve a Rubik’s Cube, and know the basic notation (R, R’, R2, and so forth). It will take you through the steps necessary to solve a cube blindfolded starting with the most basic method, then gradually getting more advanced with each stage.
OLD POCHMANN BASICS
This first method is one of the most basic methods for blindcubing that exists, and it can be fast too, with a lot of practice. This method is known as Old Pochmann, Classic Pochmann, sometimes by Pochmann Method.
Old Pochmann solves the cube piece by piece. We solve one piece at a time with edges, then solve one piece at a time with corners. In this we do not mess up any other part of the cube other than the pieces we want moved. This is done by some algorithms.
Now, as you may already know, it is impossible to swap only two pieces on the cube. You can swap two pairs of edges, or two pairs of corners, or two edges and two corners, but never just two edges or just two corners.
So instead, we will swap the same corners over and over while we swap the edges to where they need to be. If we do an even number of swaps, the corners will be back to their original state. If we have an odd number of swaps, then the corners will not be in their correct positions. Here we have something called parity, which will be explained later.
Now, an important step to be done right now is to choose an orientation. I usually use White as top, and Red as front, but you can choose any color you want. Just make sure you always choose the same colors.
So now, I am going to teach you the algorithms that you should learn to solve the cube blindfolded.
For the edges, you will need:
T-Permutation (T) : R U R’ U’ R’ F R2 U’ R’ U’ R U R’ F’
J-Permutation A (Ja) : R U R’ F’ R U R’ U’ R’ F R2 U’ R’ U’
J-Permutation B (Jb) : F2 L’ U’ r U2 l’ U R’ U’ l2
For the corners, you will need:
Y-Permutation (Y) : R U’ R’ U’ R U R’ F’ R U R’ U’ R’ F R
Note that this is not the Y-Permutation used in PLL, it is simply the same thing without the F and F’ at the beginning and end.
For parity, you will need:
R-Permutation (R) : R U2 R’ U2 R B’ R’ U’ R U l U R2 F x
Note that when actually solving, you will add a y and a y’ at the beginning and end.
MEMORIZING THE EDGES
Blindfold cubing consists of two parts, memorization and then execution. I’m going to teach you memorization of edges right now.
Look at the piece at UR. In particular, look at the sticker on the U face of the piece at UR. For example, if you have White top Red front, and the cube is solved, White-Blue is the piece at UR, and the White sticker is the one we are looking at.
Let me use a simple scramble to explain what we are going to memorize.
U’ L’ U M2 U’ L U R’ U R U’ M2 U R’ U’ R
We look at the sticker at UR, which is Red-Green if you have White top, Red front. The question we ask is “Where does this sticker belong?” Well, we know the piece belongs at FL, and the red sticker belongs at the F part of FL. We memorize FL.
Now we look at the sticker at FL, and ask the same question. Where does this sticker belong? It belongs at DF, and in particular, the D part of DF. We remember DF.
Now we look at the sticker at DF, and ask where it goes. It goes to UR, and the U part of UR. Now, if you remember, UR is the sticker we started with, so we do NOT remember UR. Don’t remember the sticker you start with, which should always be UR. So our memorization is:
However, in a more complicated, well scrambled solve, we won’t just have two pieces to memorize. You will have probably 11 or 12 to memorize. So although you might be able to remember “FL DF” in your head for a while, 11 or 12 of these will be much harder to memorize.
So we can turn these into words. For example, FL DF can become:
Then, to make it even easier to memorize, you can turn this into a story.
One day, I saw a flower. It was a daffodil.
In more complicated ones, I will give you an example:
BL RD RB DF UF BU LU DL
You could translate this to:
Version with matching letters capitalized:
I went on a BLack RoaD on RollerBlades. DownFalls of UFos BUbble LUxuriously in DaLly city.
Version without matching letters capitalized:
I want on a black road on rollerblades. Downfalls of UFOs bubble luxuriously in Dally City.
Yeah, the stories don’t make any sense if you think about them. But in truth, the stranger the stories, the easier they are to remember. A very normal story won’t stick in your head, such as one with you walking to the park. However, a crazy one, like one about UFO downfalls in a luxurious city might stick in your mind more.
EXECUTION OF EDGES
So, you’ve memorized all of the edges. After this you would normally memorize the corners, but we’ll do corners later. Now we are going to solve the edges. You should know three algorithms for solving edges: T, Ja, and Jb.
Each one of these swaps the corners UFR and UBR. Remember, we will keep swapping these corners, that way we don’t mess up the corners, unless we have parity (described later).
So, the three algorithms you know only work for three orientations. How would you expect to solve all of the edges and all their orientations? We use what are called setup moves. For example, imagine we want to swap UR with FL, as in the previous example in the last section. Many people call this “shooting to FL”
We need to bring FL up to either UF, UB, or UL. So it makes sense to do the move L’, and then we can do a T permutation to shoot the piece. However, when we are done, we need to remember to undo the setup move, in this case, L.
Setup moves for edges should be intuitive, but in case you can’t figure one out, here is a list of all of them:
PIECE SETUP ALG UNDO SETUP
UR none T none
RU L d’ L T L’ d L’
UF none Ja none
FU l’ Jb l
UB none Ub none
BU l Ja l’
DF l2 Jb l2
FD l’ Ja l
DL L2 T L2
LD D l’ Ja l D’
DB l2 Ja l2
BD l Jb l’
DR D2 L2 T L2 D2
RD D’ l’ Ja l D
FL L’ T L
LF d’ L T L’ d
BL L T L’
LB d L’ T L d’
BR d2 L’ T L d2
RB d L T L’ d’
FR d2 L T L’ d2
RF d’ L’ T L d
The execution can be done with T perms only, but it is much easier to use the two Js, it saves setup moves.
With this, you should be able to solve all of the edges.
MEMORIZATION OF THE CORNERS
So, if you don’t understand the edges yet, you probably shouldn’t move on to corners right now. Although there are less of them, it becomes a little harder to memorize them.
Using the same concept of the edges memorization, we start at UBL. Where does it go? So, here’s an example scramble:
L’ U’ L U R2 U’ L’ U L U’ L2 U R2 U’ L2 U
We look at the UBL piece, and ask “Where does this piece belong?” If you are using my color scheme and orientation (White top, Red front), which I will be using throughout the rest of this tutorial, you see that it is the Yellow-Red-Blue corner, which belongs at DFR.
DFR belongs to DFL, which belongs to UBL. But UBL is where we started, so we do not memorize that. So our memorization is:
However, it’s much harder to come up with words with three matching letters than two. So there is an easier way to memorize corners, that is different from edges. We assign each sticker of a corner a letter:
UBL – A
UBR – B
UFL – C
UFR – D
LBU – E
LFU – F
LDB – G
LDF – H
FDL – I
FUL – J
FUR – K
FDR – L
RDF – M
RUF – N
RUB – O
RDB – P
BDR – Q
BUR – R
BUL – S
BDL – T
DFL – W
DFR – X
DBL – Y
DBR – Z
Now, we memorize in pairs of two.
For example, if we had RDB and then BUL, that would be
Which could be translated into the word “PleaSe”
Now, you can make stories or sentences out of your memorization, by memorizing pairs.
LDB (G) – RUF (N) – BUL (S) – DFL [W]
which is GN SW could be
You could either remember those words, or use a form of images memorization where you picture a person grinning while swimming. The only thing you have to make sure of is the order, you don’t want to imagine a person swimming while grinning, because then the execution will be messed up, even though the images may seem the same.
EXECUTION OF THE CORNERS
So now you’ve memorized the corners. The system for executing the corners is very similar to execution of edges. However, this time we will shoot from UBL to RFD using the Y perm. Using the example from the previous section, we would see that DFR and DFL are the ones we need to shoot to.
DFR can be put into RFD by F’ R’. Now we do the Y Perm, and then do R F. Notice that this swaps the UB and UL edges. Next is DFL. This is easy, we use F’ as the setup move. We do Y-Perm, and then F. Notice that UB and UL are now swapped again, and are back to their original positions.
Like the edges, the setup moves should be intuitive. But in case you can’t figure them out, here is a list of the setup moves that I use. Remember that between the Setup and Undo Setup, you need to do a Y-Perm:
PIECE SETUP UNDO SETUP
UFL F R’ R F’
FLU F’ D D’ F
LUF F2 F2
UBR R D’ D R’
BRU R’ F F’ R
RUB R2 R2
UFR F F’
FRU F2 D D’ F2
RUF R’ R
DFL F’ F
FLD D D’
LDF F2 R’ R F2
DFR F’ R’ R F
FRD R F F’ R’
RDF none none
DBR D2 F’ F D2
BRD D’ D
RDB R R’
DBL D F’ F D’
BLD D’ R R’ D
LDB D2 D2
Notice that every setup is at maximum two moves. Using more setup moves works, but is unnecessary.
BREAKING INTO A NEW CYCLE
This applies to both edges and corners. Here is an example with the corners.
R2 L’ U’ L U R2 U’ L’ U L R2 U’ L2 U R2 U’ L2 U
So we start looking at UBL. It belongs at UBR. So we remember UBR. But UBR, goes back to UBL again! However, we are not done yet. There are still corners that will be unsolved, in particular, DFL and DFR. When this happens, we have to “break into a new cycle”
The way we do this, is we choose any random edge that is still unsolved. DFL is a good choice in this case. Where does this go? It goes to DFR, which goes back to DFL. This time, since we have broken into a new cycle, we MUST remember DFL. So our memorization this time is:
UBR DFL DFR DFL
Sometimes you won’t have to break into a new cycle, and you will only have one. Sometimes you will have two. You can have many more than two cycles also.
How do you know if you have to break into a new cycle? If there’s an unsolved piece that you haven’t memorized, and you finish a cycle, then you need to break into a new cycle.
OTHER ODD THINGS TO BE AWARE OF
There are many other things that can occur that you must know about in order to solve a cube blindfolded.
50% of the time, you will have an even number of edges to shoot to, and an even number of corners to shoot to. This is good, and you don’t have parity.
The other 50% of the time, however, you will have an odd number of edges, and an odd number of corners. When this happens, you have parity, because when you are done with the edges, the corners will be swapped. In this case, we do this.
After the edges, we do a y rotation. Now do the R-Perm, which you should already know. Then do y’. Now solve the corners. That is how you fix parity.
Very often, you will have an edge or corner somewhere that is in the correct position, but flipped incorrectly before you start solving. Say the edge at FL is flipped. In this case, you shoot to the piece, and then shoot to where that sticker needs to go.
So we shoot to FL, and then shoot to LF. That will flip the edge. With corners, it becomes a little bit more complicated. You have to shoot to a sticker, and shoot to where that sticker belongs, which could be one of two places. For example, take this scramble.
U’ L’ U R2 U’ L U L’ U’ L U R2 U’ L’ U L
DFR is flipped. First we shoot to FRD. FRD belongs at DFR. So we shoot to FRD and then DFR.
OTHER MEMORIZATION SYSTEMS
There are so many memorization systems out there, that it really doesn’t matter which one you use. I chose one that is fairly easy, but there are many other systems out there.
Visual – This is what I currently use, and there are many forms of Visual Memory. Basically what you do is tap a piece, and tap the next piece, and pretty much just visualize lines going from piece to piece. This can be very fast, but it is difficult to get used to. Not something to try for the first time doing BLD.
Images – This takes some practice. Assign each sticker a letter A-X for edges, A-X for corners. For each letter pair, make an image. For example, BL might be BELL. Then you imagine a bell while you solve.
Journey – Do the same thing as Images memorization, but imagine yourself seeing these things while on a journey. Imagine yourself seeing a bell on the ground while walking somewhere, for example.
Chester Lian is an expert at memorizing and solving Rubik’s Cubes and he does it blindfolded! He has set two world records, and has been the champion in six blindfolded events at the U.S. National Rubik’s Cube Championships from 2010 to 2012.
This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Walking on your hands is difficult, but only because you’re not using the right body part, your feet. Similarly, memorizing anything can be difficult when you use the wrong part of your brain. Chester has set a world record by accurately memorizing the configurations of 17 different Rubik’s Cubes before blindfolding himself and solving them all. He believes anyone can greatly improve their ability to memorize and recall information by learning how to unlock the experiences stored in our brains that we take for granted and never actively use.