INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
BU Rubik’s Cube champ places second in world
By : Gail Glover
Binghamton University research professor Jessica Fridrich put her Rubik’s Cube wizardry to the test August 24 in Toronto, returning with an impressive 2nd-place finish at the World Rubik’s Games Championship.
Fridrich managed to solve the puzzle in fiery performances of 17.12 and 17.33 seconds respectively during the finals, recording the two best times. When her top three out of five scores were averaged, however, Fridrich was pipped to the post by Dan Knights, a San Francisco software developer. To achieve the top spot, Knights used Fridrich’s cube solving technique which she developed after first mastering the puzzle in her native Czechoslovakia 22 years ago.
“I began cubing in the eighties and developed a method which I put on the Web in 1997,” she said. “I never actually thought anyone would use the method but within three years, most cubers were using it. In fact, 90 percent of the cubers at this year’s world championship used my method in the competition.” In acknowledging Fridrich’s role in his success, Knights noted: “She was really my inspiration for speed-cubing. Without her website, I’d still be solving it in a minute. It felt so good to have her up there with me.”
The weekend-long event saw about 100 competitors from over 20 countries vie for various titles that required solving the colorful cube in different ways. The championships featured 12 mind-twisting events including blindfolded, one-handed cubing, cubing with 4x4x4 and 5x5x5 cubes with world records set in almost every category.
The event was also the first official world championship since 1982, when the world record of 22.95 seconds was set.
At this year’s world championship, the world record was broken 33 times in the finals in individual heats. The top three finishers, Knights, Fridrich and Dave Wesley were less than a half second apart in overall average time with Knights achieving a 20-second average over multiple attempts. The new world record is 16.53 seconds achieved during the qualifications by Jess Bonde from Denmark.
“The reason I like the Rubik’s cube so much is that it is simple and complex at the same time,” said Fridrich. “The game itself is fairly simple enough. But the number of combinations you can arrive at makes it incredibly complex. I also find it very therapeutic, specially when I’m nervous.”
The next World Rubik’s Games Championship is slated for 2005 and Fridrich is hoping to once again compete, this time, going for gold. To learn Fridrich’s solving technique, visit www.ws.bing-hamton.edu/fridrich