So you’ve always wanted to solve a Rubik’s Cube but were never able to? It’s actually not nearly as scary as you think if you know the correct patterns! I’ll walk you through one, of probably many, strategies to solve this puzzle that I guarantee you’ll be able to reproduce. There’s a lot here but I promise you will be able to follow along.
Before we begin let’s go over the few things you need to know in order to tackle the cube.
Whenever you are holding cube or sitting on the table there are five relevant sides and some terminology you need to pay attention to. I will reference these, and abbreviate them, in the strategy section.
Front – the side facing you. If the cube is resting in the palm of your hand this side is looking right at you.
Left – the left side as you face the cube currently
Right – the right side as you face the cube currently
Up – the top surface of the cube as you face it currently
Down – the bottom surface of the cube as you face it currently
I added those disclaimers because we will be changing how we are facing the cube, and because of that “front” “left” etc. will always change accordingly.
Middle Piece – square on the cube with only one color on it. These never move from their surfaces. These are important because they tell you what color that cube side is supposed to be.
Edge Piece – square on the cube with only two colors on them
Corner Piece – square on the cube with three colors on them
So, let’s begin with our Rubik’s Cube
Step 1.) To start we must pick a side to solve first. In this case I have chosen white…mostly because it has the sticker on it. I will refer to surfaces by my colors for the moment but it may be different for you.
Step 2.) We need to create a X, or cross of white on our solving surface. We need each edge piece to also match the color of the adjacent side. Rotate the cube as needed to get all of the edge pieces where they are supposed to be, however they may need additional attention.
This orange/white edge piece is in the right location. The orange matches the orange side adjacent to our solving side but it’s the wrong way!
Move Combinations – the only tricky thing you need to learn
Here is where you will use your first move combination so let’s discuss those. When solving a Rubik’s Cube there are number of move combinations that perform tasks we will need such as rotating a block’s position or orientation. I will spell all of them out to you clearly. The only thing you need to know is how to read them.
I will tell you which sides to rotate and then a direction. The direction is either clockwise, or counter-clockwise as if you were looking straight at it. The front side is self explanatory but what about the others. Right clockwise is a turn away from you and counterclockwise is towards you for example.
If I just write the letter for the side, U (up), F (front), L (left), R (right), or D (down) then it means a clockwise turn.
If I write the letter with ccw after it, then it means counter clockwise.
In this case, the combination is F ccw, U, L ccw, U ccw
The piece is flipped! Simply repeat this for all sides that need it, though not all will and you will get the cross. This is the only somewhat free form step as there is no set pattern to get them cross pieces into position.
Step 3.) Now we need to get the correct corner pieces into position. This is a little tricky because there are three colors you need to match. First we look at the corner you want to solve and make a note of the three colors we need. In my case white, orange, and green.
Then look at the bottom of the cube and see if you can rotate it so the correct corner piece is directly below where you need to move it to!
To move the corner piece up into position from the bottom, repeat the following combination with the corner piece in the bottom right position of the front face (see above): R ccw, D ccw, R, D. This move combination has the benefit of not disturbing your already established squares.
Helpful reminder: since the bottom surface is tough to visualize direction, D ccw turns the bottom row left as you look at the front of the cube, and D turns the bottom row to the right.
You may have to repeat this move combination as few as 2 or 3 times or as many as 6 since sometimes the corner piece has to cycle through a couple of times to get to the right orientation.
If one of the corner pieces you need is actually already in a spot where another corner piece goes on the top surface don’t fret.
Turn the cube so that offending corner piece is on the front face in the upper right and do that move combination I just showed you. It will swap that piece with a different one. This lets you move it where you need to!
Once you have completed all four corners you will have solved the entire top row of the cube!
Step 4.) Now flip the cube over and take a look at the side opposite the one you just solved. You’ll see that on the sides of the cube, we’ve solved what look like little T’s, or a certain Tetris piece of you happen to be familiar.
We need to solve edge peices in the second row so we have complete two full rows of the cube. There is a way to take the top middle square on the front side of the cube (whichever side you are looking at) and swap it with the left or right middle cubes on the front face. Basically we’re going to take a cube and move it from 12 o’clock to 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock as we see fit!
Step 5.) Look at the top of the cube and see if any of the edge pieces do not contain the same color as the middle square on the top. These are pieces that you can move down! If you find one, rotate the top row until the edge piece matches the side it’s on. Confusing but take a look:
See that green and orange piece on the top middle, I turned it so the green matches the green side of the cube.
Step 6.) There are two move combos that we can use. One takes the square we were just talking about and rotates it to the right and one rotates it to the left. Looking at the cube you can see that our edge piece’s second color is orange so it has to rotate to the right. So we do the following:
U, R, U ccw, R ccw, U ccw, F ccw, U, F
It falls right into place! Now what if you have this:
That green and red piece needs to move down and left instead. We do the following combination:
U ccw, L ccw, U, L, U, F, U ccw, F ccw And you get the following:
Sometimes, just like we ran into above, one of the pieces you need is already in the second row somewhere. Simply rotate and swap a piece you don’t care about, in my case one with yellow on it like that yellow/orange piece on the picture above, down into its spot using either the left or right move combo.
Once you finally complete all of those, you have the full first an second rows completely solved!
Step 7.) Now, let’s take a look at the top of your cube, it will have in it one of three possible shapes. An 3-square L, a Line, or a Cross. We want to have the cross. We can get there by using a move combination.
Example of an 3-square L
Example of a Line (despite that extra yellow block there, this doesn’t count as an L)
Combo: F, R, U, R ccw, U ccw, F ccw
If you have an L and do this combination with the L in the top left corner of the upper surface as shown above if gives you a Line. If you have a Line and you do this combination with the line horizontal as shown above you get a cross. So you’ll need to do it either 0, 1, or 2 times depending on your randomization. You will end up with a cross no matter what
We’re almost there!
Step 8.) You should at this point be able to rotate the top row, so that the center column on two sides matches entirely. In this example Red and Green.
There are two possible combinations. The matching sides are next to each other, or across from each other. If they are across from each other, hold the cube so that one of those two matching sides faces you and do the following combination:
R, U, R ccw, U, R, U, U, R ccw
You will now have two sides that match that are adjacent to each other. If you just did this, OR you had two sides adjacent to each other then do the following: hold the cube so that one matching side is the right side, and one is the back and do the following:
R, U, R ccw, U, R, U, U, R ccw
Now all four sides have matching middle columns
Step 9.) Now we need to fix the corner pieces. This can be a little tricky so be patient. Look at all of your corner pieces on the top surface (they’re the only pieces left to fix!). Are any of them the right colors but simply in the wrong orientation? If so, turn the cube so that corner square is the top right of the front face.
If none of them match:
like mine did then it doesn’t matter which corner is where when you begin. No matter which scenario/starting position, repeat the following move combination until all four corners match:
U, R, U ccw, L ccw, U, R ccw, U ccw, L
Stop when all four corner pieces are the right colors. They will likely NOT be in the correct orientation though!
Step 10.) Just like we did in step 3, we have a move combination that can properly re-orient corner pieces. Look at your cube and see if any of your top corner pieces actually ARE correct. If they are then turn the cube to the right until you find a corner that isn’t. In my case all four needed work. Repeat the following move combination until the corner piece is in the proper orientation. It will look like you are messing everything up but I assure you it will work out.
R ccw, D ccw, R, D
After some number of repetitions it’ll be correct
The rest of the cube looks kind of wrong now, but don’t worry!
Step 11.) Once the corner is corrected per step 10, turn the top row counterclockwise once
Once rotated, again repeat the combination R ccw, D ccw, R, D
Each time you fix the corner, turn the top row again and repeat that move combination. Once you complete the last corner everything will fall into place
Simply turn the top row to line everything up and you’re done! Congratulations you have solved a Rubik’s Cube
This strategy may not be the most efficient move wise but it is reliable and will always get you there no matter what your initial outcome is. It also doesn’t require an intimate understanding of how you are manipulating the cube itself. If you’d like to learn more, pay attention to what you are doing with each move combination to understand just how you are rearranging everything. It will shed some light on what is really going on!