# How to Solve a Rubik's Cube

Released on 09/05/2019

In a recent episode of Almost Impossible,

I looked at the limits of speedcubing,

an event in which people compete

to solve a Rubik's Cube as fast as they possibly can.

And in the course of reporting that piece,

I actually learned to solve a Rubik's Cube myself

with help from Tyson Mao,

co-founder of the World Cube Association.

In a little under two weeks, using the method Mao taught me,

I went from not being able to solve a cube at all,

to being able to solve it consistently

in just under a minute.

Now, some of you asked us to post

a step-by-step tutorial on how to solve the cube,

and maybe you've also heard it said

that true mastery of a subject is achieved

by teaching it to somebody else.

So in the spirit of that maxim,

I'm going to show you the method that I used

when learning to solve the cube.

In this video,

you're going to learn the fundamentals of cubing,

how to hold and manipulate the cube,

how to read cube notation,

and how to solve the cube in eight steps.

All you need to follow along is a scrambled cube.

Now, if this is your first time solving one,

I would budget about an hour, plus or minus 15 minutes,

to your first solve.

I know that's a long time,

but the more time you spend practicing,

the quicker those times will come down,

and they do come down pretty fast,

at least in my experience.

Finally, there are many ways to solve a cube,

this is just one of them.

It's not the fastest, it's not the best,

it's not the easiest by any stretch.

It's just the method that was taught

to me by a co-founder of the World Cube Association,

and the method that I used

to bring my times down to under a minute.

You ready?

Let's begin.

So before you move anything,

here are some concepts to keep in mind

that will make solving the cube easier

the more you practice.

Number one.

When solving the cube try to bear in mind

that you're solving for pieces, not stickers.

What do I mean by that?

Most pieces on the cube actually

have more than one sticker on them.

So if you try to solve a cube by only solving for stickers,

you'll quickly find that while you might

be able to solve for one face,

the other faces won't match.

And that's because not all pieces on the cube are alike.

There are three types.

Edge pieces, like this one, have two stickers.

They look like this.

Corner pieces, like this one,

have three stickers, and they look like this.

And center pieces,

at the middle of each three by three face,

have one sticker.

These center pieces are attached

to an axle inside the puzzle, so they never actually move.

On this cube, for example,

the white center is always opposite the yellow center,

the orange center is always opposite the red center,

and the blue center is always opposite the green center.

And that's an important thing to keep in mind,

because the fact that these centers don't move

mean that they actually dictate where

all of the other pieces need to go.

Now, this concept was a little confusing

to me the first time I heard it, but I promise,

the more time you spend with the cube,

the clearer and more helpful this idea will become.

Finally, many people think of the cube

as being comprised of six faces,

but another way to think about it

is that it's comprised of three layers,

a top, a middle and a bottom.

Today, we're gonna focus on solving

the cube one layer at a time.

If you've already forgotten everything I just said,

that's totally fine.

You can just go back and re-watch it.

For now, it's enough to have these ideas

floating around in the back of your head.

So with all of that stuff in mind, let's get started.

The first step in solving the first layer of the cube

is to make what cubers call the daisy.

It's called making the daisy because when you're finished

you should have something that looks like this,

a yellow center surrounded by four white edge pieces.

So how do we get from here to here?

Well, you start by finding the yellow center.

The goal of this step is to surround this yellow center

with four edge pieces of the opposite color,

which in this case is white.

If you've never solved a cube before,

it is very tempting to just start turning faces at random

in hopes of placing an edge piece where you want it to go,

but I want you to resist that impulse.

I'm gonna give you two tips that will

help you position those edge pieces logically.

The first tip is that there are only

four white edge pieces, that's it.

Remember, you're moving pieces, not stickers,

and there are only four edge pieces

on this cube with white sides.

To find them, all you have to do

is inspect the cube in your hand.

Once you find one, pause,

think about the turns that you'll need to move

to place it beside the yellow center.

For example, here's a white edge piece.

To place it beside the yellow center,

all I have to do is this,

turn that right face 90 degrees.

Here's another one.

To get it beside the yellow center,

I need to turn it here and then up.

Trust me, the first few times I solved the cube

this process was not intuitive to me at all,

but making the daisy becomes second nature

very quickly the more you practice.

The second tip is that once you have

a pedal to the daisy in place,

you actually won't have to remove it

from beside the yellow center

to put any of the remaining pedals in place.

That's what I'm going to do now, and you should do the same.

When you're done, your yellow center will be

surrounded on all four sides

with white edge pieces, like a daisy.

Don't worry if you have a white corner piece as well,

we'll get to that in a second.

The second step to solving the first layer

is to create the white cross.

When you're finished with this step,

you'll have a face with what looks like a white cross,

or a plus sign, sorta depending on how you look at it.

Start by looking at your daisy.

If you've got white on any of your corners,

remember, just ignore them.

For now we're gonna focus on the four petals

that reside on the edge pieces.

[light synthesizer music]

Each of these four edge pieces has two stickers,

one and two.

By rotating the top face of the cube,

match the non-white sticker from each of those edge pieces

to the center piece of the same color.

So, for example,

the non-white sticker on this edge piece is orange.

I'm gonna turn the top face until the orange sticker

is aligned over the orange center like so.

Once you've matched the sticker to the same color center,

rotate the face with the matching center two times,

moving a white daisy petal

from the top face of the cube to the bottom.

I'm now gonna repeat this step three more times,

once for each of the remaining daisy petals.

So I've got the red center,

I'm gonna match that with this red edge piece here,

turn it twice.

I've got this green edge piece,

I'm gonna match it with the green center,

and turn it twice.

And I've got this blue edge piece

that I'm gonna match with the blue center,

and turn it twice.

When you're finished you're gonna have a white cross

on the bottom of your cube.

Like I said before,

don't worry if you've got white corners as well.

For now you're just looking for

this configuration right here.

One more tip to keep in mind.

That white cross is gonna stay pointing down

for the entire remainder of the solve.

We are finally ready to solve

the very bottom layer of the cube.

When we're finished with this step,

the bottom layer of the cube will be solved.

And as a bonus, the bottom face will be solved as well.

But before we start,

let's pause for a quick lesson on ergonomics,

that's how to hold and manipulate the cube.

With the white face pointing down,

place your left thumb over these four squares

and your middle and ring fingers

over the four squares on the opposing face.

Now position the middle and ring fingers of your right hand

on these two stickers up here,

and your right thumb on the underside.

Holding the cube this way allows you to do two things.

First, it lets you rotate the right face freely and easily.

Conversely, swapping the position of your hands

allows you to rotate the left face as well.

And second, it lets you use your index fingers

to rotate the top face.

When you string these rotations together

you get two of the most fundamental moves in cubing.

The first sequence is called the right trigger,

and it looks like this.

Using your right hand,

rotate the right face 90 degrees away from you.

Use your right index finger to pull

the top face towards you by 90 degrees.

Then use your right hand to rotate the right

face 90 degrees back towards you.

With your left hand, it looks like this.

Use your left hand to turn the left face

away from you by 90 degrees.

Use your left index finger to pull the top face

towards you by 90 degrees.

Then use your left hand to turn

the left face back 90 degrees towards you.

Mao calls this three move sequence the left trigger.

The right and left triggers are

the most fundamental moves in cubing.

The more you practice them, the faster you'll get.

We're also gonna use these triggers a lot

for the remainder of the solve,

starting right here in step three.

Remember, the goal of this step is to solve

the bottommost layer of the cube,

and to do it we're gonna search for white stickers

on the top layer that are facing outward.

We wanna solve the parts of the first layer

that aren't already solved,

which are the corners that have white stickers.

So we'll be looking for those

and placing them one at a time.

Now, you might find that the cube you're holding

has a white sticker on the top face of your cube,

in fact, we actually see that here on this one.

You also might have a white sticker in this bottom layer.

If you see either of those things, don't worry about it,

we'll get to those in a second.

For now just focus on white stickers

on the sides of your top layer.

So you have a white sticker.

It's on a corner piece.

Corners have three stickers.

Ignore the top one.

Instead, identify the color

to the side of your white sticker.

In my case, that sticker is green,

and it is diagonally matched to a red center.

What I want you to do now is rotate the top face

until the color beside your white sticker,

which in this case is green,

diagonally matches to the center of the same color.

If your corner sticker is oriented

to the left of your center sticker,

you're going to use your left hand

to perform the left trigger

by rotating the left face away from you,

pulling the top face toward you with your left index finger,

and then rotating the left face towards you.

If the corner sticker is oriented

to the right of the center sticker,

you're going to use your right hand

to perform the three move sequence

by rotating the right face away from you,

pulling the top face towards you

with your right index finger,

then rotating the right face towards you.

You're gonna perform this move again.

Search the top layer for outward facing

white stickers like this one.

Identify the color next to it,

align that color until it is diagonally matched

to the center of the same color,

and perform the appropriate right

or left-handed trigger move.

Here, it's to the left of the center sticker,

so I'll use the left trigger.

Same thing here.

Left.

Same thing here.

Left.

Now, there are a couple unusual situations

that can arise during the third step,

and they didn't actually happen

on the cube I was using to solve,

so I'm gonna use a demo cube to show them to you here.

The first is an outward facing white sticker

on the bottom layer instead of the top.

If you run into this situation,

simply find the sticker and determine whether

it's on the right or left side

of the face you're looking at.

If it's on the right side,

perform the right trigger by turning

the right side 90 degrees away from you,

pulling the top 90 degrees towards you,

and then rotating the right face back

90 degrees towards you.

This reposition is the white sticker

from the outside of the bottom layer

to the top of the first layer,

which is actually edge case number two.

If you find a white sticker on the top face,

rotate that top face until the white sticker

is directly above, that is to say opposite,

a non-white sticker on the bottom face of the cube.

To help you see what that looks like, this is what I mean.

This white sticker on the top face of the cube

is currently directly opposite another white sticker

on the bottom face of the cube.

You don't want that.

So what I want you to do instead is rotate the top face

until the white sticker on the top

is directly opposite a non-white sticker on the bottom,

in this case, that sticker is blue.

Next, determine if the white sticker

is on the right side of the cube or the left side.

If it's on the right side like it is here,

perform the appropriate trigger move,

but instead of doing it just once, do it twice.

Once,

twice.

Now the white sticker that was right here

is on the top layer facing outward.

And I can solve it by matching the adjacent sticker

to its colored center and performing

the appropriate trigger move,

which in this case is a right trigger.

Continue performing the appropriate moves

until there are no more white corner stickers to solve for.

I'm gonna do that on my cube now.

I have two that are facing up,

so I'm gonna match this over a non-white side,

pull the trigger two times,

repositioning them to the side.

This is to the side of a blue sticker,

which is diagonally matched on the right to this,

so I'm gonna perform the right trigger.

This is beside an orange sticker.

Gonna match that to its orange center.

It's to the left, so I'm gonna perform the left trigger,

and I'm done.

When you're done the entire bottom layer will be solved,

and as a bonus, so will the bottom face.

On to step four.

The goal of this step is to solve

the second layer of the cube.

When you're done your cube will look something like this.

These first two layers completely solved.

First, search the top layer for edge pieces

with no yellow stickers.

Once you find one,

match the edge piece that's facing towards the side

with the center piece of the same color.

When this top sticker is appropriately matched,

you'll have an upside-down T.

So, for example,

this is an edge piece with no yellow stickers.

The sticker facing the side is green.

I'm gonna rotate this top layer until the green piece

is center matched over the same color.

I've got my upside down T,

so I'm gonna look at the sticker

on the top of this edge piece

and see whether it matches

the left center or the right center.

In this case, it matches the right center.

So I'm gonna use my right hand to first pull

the top face towards me 90 degrees,

then perform the right trigger.

I've displaced the white sticker,

so I'm gonna use the sticker beside it, orange,

diagonally match it to the center of the same color,

and because it's on the left side,

I'm gonna use the left trigger

to place it back on the bottom, just like in step three.

If at any point the sticker on the top of your edge piece

is color matched with the sticker on the left side,

instead pull with your left index finger,

then perform the left trigger,

and fix the displaced white sticker

as you would in step three.

Continue solving for edge pieces on the top layer

without yellow stickers until

the second layer is completely solved.

Occasionally, you'll run into an edge case like this one

where there are no edge pieces

in the top layer without yellow stickers,

and yet the middle layer is not solved.

In cases such as these,

you need to pull these middle pieces out

by performing the left or right trigger,

and then solve for the edge pieces

without yellow stickers as you normally would.

Here's what that looks like.

There are no edge pieces in this top layer

that don't have yellow stickers,

and yet the second layer is not solved.

So we need to fix this piece here.

It's on the right side of the cube,

so I'm gonna use my right trigger to pull it out.

I'm gonna fix the white piece that we just displaced

by diagonally matching with the red center here.

It's on the left side, so I'm gonna use my left trigger.

Now I should have an edge piece in the upper layer

that doesn't have a yellow side.

That's this one right here.

Notice it's the one I just kicked out.

Like before, I'm gonna take the side that's facing out

and match it to the same center.

Got my upside down T.

I'm gonna look at the top sticker, it's red.

It's red on the right face,

so I'm gonna use my right hand

to pull the top once towards me,

then perform my right trigger.

Again, I've displaced this white piece,

so I'm gonna move the red, diagonally match here,

it's on the left side.

I'm gonna perform my left trigger.

And now my second layer is entirely solved.

All right, that brings us to step five.

The goal of step five is to create

a yellow cross on the top of your cube.

But before we do, let's pause for a second

to discuss cube notation.

Cube notation is what cubers use to describe algorithms,

and algorithms are the memorized sequences of moves

that they use to solve the cube quickly.

F stands for the front face of the cube relative to you.

B stands for the back.

L stands for left.

R stands for right.

D stands for down.

And U stands for up.

If you see a letter,

it means to turn the corresponding face clockwise

by 90 degrees relative to the perspective

of somebody looking at that face head-on.

So this and this are clockwise rotations

of the right and left faces, respectively.

Similarly, if you see a letter followed by the number two,

it means to turn the corresponding face two times

for a total of 180 degrees.

So, for example, U2 would mean to turn

the upper face two times.

If the letter is followed by an apostrophe,

that is to say a prime symbol,

it means to rotate the corresponding face

counterclockwise by 90 degrees.

For example, L prime means to turn the left face

90 degrees counterclockwise like so.

I know all of this sounds like a lot,

and that's because it is,

but with practice, reading and following notation

becomes a lot more straightforward.

So now that you know cube notation,

it's time to learn an algorithm.

The notation for it is as follows:

F, U, R, U prime, R prime, F prime.

If you're looking for a mnemonic,

you can call it fururf.

The goal of step five is to make a yellow cross,

and when you're done the top

of your cube should look like this.

If you have no yellow edge pieces, perform fururf.

F,

U,

R,

U prime,

R prime,

F prime.

If you have two yellow edge pieces

such that they form a line with the center piece,

orient the line so it faces up and down,

relative to your perspective,

and again, perform F,

U,

R,

U prime,

R prime,

F prime.

If you have two yellow edge pieces

such that they form a backwards L,

turn your top layer until the edge pieces

are at the 12 and nine positions on a clock,

and perform F,

U,

R,

U prime,

R Prime,

F prime.

At this point you should have

a yellow cross on your top face.

Onto the next step.

The sixth step is to solve the entire yellow face.

Begin this step by inspecting the top face of your cube.

How many corners have yellow stickers?

You'll never have three, but you'll have either

zero, one, or two.

If you have zero or two,

rotate the top face of your cube until

there is a yellow sticker in this position right here.

If you're holding it in your left hand,

it's in the upper right hand corner

of the left face like that.

Once that yellow sticker is in position,

perform the following algorithm:

R,

U,

R prime,

U,

R,

U2,

R prime.

Again, if you have either zero

or two corner stickers like we do here,

position this top layer such that there

is a yellow sticker in the upper right-hand corner

of the left face.

And again, perform the algorithm.

R,

U,

R prime,

U,

R,

U2,

R prime.

If you have your yellow cross and only one yellow corner,

it'll look like there's a fish on the top face of your cube.

Rotate that top face so that the fish's mouth

is pointing down and to the left,

relative to your perspective,

and perform the algorithm again.

R,

U,

R prime,

U,

R,

U2,

R prime.

You might have to orient the fish

and perform this algorithm one last time,

but once you do, you'll have solved the yellow side.

Onto step seven!

The goal of step sweven is

to position the corners of the cube.

To perform this step, inspect the top layer of your cube.

You want to be looking at the uppermost

corner pieces of each face.

So here and here, here and here,

here and here, and here and here.

For step seven, we're gonna be learning a new algorithm.

I'll be using this cube to demonstrate.

It goes like this.

L prime,

U,

R,

U prime,

L,

U,

R prime,

R,

U,

R prime,

U,

R,

U2,

R prime.

Now, you'll notice that the eighth step of this algorithm

actually undoes the seventh step, which is weird,

but it actually makes this algorithm easier to remember.

And that's because the entire second half

is exactly the same as the algorithm we learned in step six.

Got it?

Good.

Now, occasionally you might find

that none of your faces have matching corner pieces,

like on this demo cube,

and if that's the case, just perform your new algorithm.

L prime,

U,

R,

U prime,

L,

U,

R prime,

R,

U,

R prime,

U,

R,

U2,

R prime.

If one of your faces has matching

corner pieces like we do here,

hold that face in the left hand and perform the algorithm

L prime,

U,

R,

U prime,

L,

U,

R prime,

R,

U,

R prime,

U,

R,

U2,

R prime.

Now look, you're definitely gonna have

to memorize all of these algorithms

if you want your times to really come down.

But the more you practice the less sort of clunky

and the more natural they'll become.

At this point, all of your corner pieces should match.

If they don't, you might need to perform

step seven's algorithm one more time.

Now, rotate the upper face so that the corner pieces

match up with the rest of the cube's faces.

There's just one step left to go.

All right, this is it, the eighth and final step.

The goal of this step is to position the edges of your cube.

If none of the sides is solved, just hang tight,

and we'll address that in a moment.

but for now, if one of the sides is completely solved,

like we have here, face it away from you.

Now, inspect the edge pieces on the remaining three sides.

They should be just slightly out of position.

So, for example, this orange piece really wants to be here,

this green piece really wants to be here,

and this blue piece really wants to be over here.

To swap these three edges in a clockwise fashion,

you'll be performing a new algorithm.

It goes like this.

F2,

U,

R prime,

L,

F2,

L prime,

R,

U,

F2.

To swap the three edge pieces

in a counterclockwise rotation perform the algorithm

F2,

U prime,

R prime,

L,

F2,

L prime,

R,

U prime,

F2.

All right, so what do you do

if none of your sides are solved?

Simple, perform the counterclockwise algorithm once,

reposition the cube, and then perform it again.

That looks like this.

F2,

U prime,

R prime,

L,

F2,

L prime,

R,

U prime,

F2.

Now you'll have one solved face, point that away from you,

and perform the counterclockwise algorithm a second time.

F2,

U prime,

R prime,

L,

F2,

L prime,

R,

U prime,

F2.

Now your cube should be solved.

And that's it!

You're done, you solved the cube.

Like I said at the top,

this might be the kinda thing

you have to watch multiple times

and really try several times over

before you really start to get the hang of it.

But I'd say after about the first half dozen solves,

you should be able to do this without watching the video.

And the more consistently you solve it after that,

the more dramatically your times will start to come down.

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