Big in Japan: Scenes from the World Rubik’s Cube Championship

Did you know that there is an annual Rubik’s Cube competition held every year in Budapest, Hungary, the hometown of Erno Rubik, the cube’s inventor?

I know I didn’t, which is why I was ecstatic to learn that the 2007 Rubik’s Cube World Championship this past Sunday was won by Yu Nakajima of Japan. The 16 year old boy was able to solve the classic 3×3 cube, which has six sides of a different color with nine tiles on each side, in an average time of 12.46 seconds over five attempts.

Damn that’s fast!

And, the craziest part was that unlike my friends and me, he was able to solve the cube without having to peel off and put back on the stickers.

For his unbelievable skill, honed prowess and somewhat absurd talent, young Nakajima was able to walk away with a prize package totaling €5,000, US$7,000 or roughly 840,000 yen.


Of course, the fun and games didn’t stop there! After all, this is the Rubik’s Cube World Championship!

With more than 250 competitors from 33 countries taking part in the event, the fourth world championship overall and the first to be held in Hungary since competition began in 1982, Rubik’s Cube World Championship divvied out a total of €20,000 or US$28,000 in prizes.

Sharing in the loot was Andrew Kang of the United States, who finished second in the overall competition, and Mitsuki Gunji of Japan, who finished third. Kang also set the best time for a single attempt at the championship, which was an astonishing 10.88 seconds.

Amazingly, the world record is no more than 9.86 seconds, which has been held since May by Thibaut Jacquinot of France.

It gets more surreal.

The Rubik’s Cube World Championship also featured competitors who showed their skill at solving with one hand or with their feet.

Ryan Patricio, an 18-year old high school senior from California, defended his world title in the one-hand category with a new world record, averaging 21.13 seconds in five attempts. “Definitely there is room improvement and I expect a sub-20 (second) average at the next world championship in two years,” said the boy genius.

Finland’s Anssi Vanhala was fastest with his feet at 49.33 seconds. “I am very happy with the victory because I had set myself a target of 50 seconds, which I bettered,” said Vanhala, who is just 15 years old.

It gets even more surreal.

Hungary’s Matyas Kuti drew the biggest crowds after winning several of the blindfold events. Although exactly how they do it is completely beyond my realm of comprehension, blindfold contestants try to solve the game by memorizing the position of key cubes before covering their eyes.

(Yes. There are actually people out there who can solve a Rubik’s cube blindfolded – how stupid do you feel now?)

Kuti’s best blindfolded time for the 3×3 cube was just over 1 minute, 7 seconds.

Rubik himself, an engineer who developed the cube in 1974, made a rare public appearance at the medal ceremony. “I’m glad the cube is reaching new generations, who face it with fresh wonder, curiosity and enthusiasm,” he added.