Back to the past: 1st world Rubik's cube championship


It was on June 5, 1982, when 19 winners of national championships in solving of Rubik's cube came to Hungarian Budapest from all around the world. The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was represented by Jessica Fridrich (under the name of Jiří Fridrich back then), who won home championship - which took place on May 11th - with a time of 23.55 s.

From today's point of view, the 1st world championship was truly unique in many respects. Not only it was the first one (and for a long time, 21 years, the last one), but also the organization of the event was different than we are used to today. Competition was run by a commission headed by Ernő Rubik himself. Besides the competitors, there was also present one judge, Peter Sanderson from the UK, and a moderator of the event played an important role as well. Competition took place in front of television cameras, so a movie of it is available (see below).

World championship logo*

The process before solving was roughly as follows: competitors, who were behind the scenes, came (one by one) on the stage where was already prepared judge with a suitcase. Judge opened the suitcase, competitor picked up the cube placed in it (all of them had been scrambled in the same way, in accordance with a scrambling algorithm provided by a computer), handed it over to the judge and finally went towards a compete-table which was situated nearby and at which the moderator was already waiting. Moderator made a brief interview with a competitor. Meanwhile, judge put the cube on a compete-table and covered it by hand. He raised his hand on moderator's request, so that the competitor could pick up and inspect the cube within 15 seconds. Before this time period was over, competitor had to place the cube back on the table, then judge covered it by his palm again. After moderator's decision, judge put away his palm so the competitor could start solving the cube.

Compete-table had been equipped with a photodiode pad that served as a timer. As soon as the cube had been picked up off the table, the sensor had been trigged and the timer had been started. Moderator had been usually introducing the competitor during a solve, or he had been talking about a time of competitor's personal record to the audience. When a solve had been finished, the cube had been placed back on the table (sensor part), thus a timer had been stopped. At least it was supposed to be. However, there was also an accident in which a solved cube was on the sensor, but a timer was still running. Since this occurred at a competition stage that could no longer influence the overall rankings, jury agreed on a verdict that nothing happened.

If a competitor stopped timer and slight misalignment of some layer was present on a cube, judge carried it in front of commission (which was sitting nearby) in order to tell whether the cube is properly solved or not. If a so-called POP (disassembling of a cube into particular cubies) happened during a solve, the competitor had two options. Either he/she could put the cubies which were popping out back in and continue in a solve, or he/she could end the solve and ask for a new attempt (with differently scrambled cube). For this purpose was prepared 4th suitcase with cubes, otherwise the competitors had 3 rounds, 3 attempts, thus 3 suitcases. Finnish competitor Sandqvist encountered 2 POPs during his attempts, therefore he had only two valid times. The other competitors had 3 valid times and the fastest of them was counted as the overall result.

After the attempt was completed, judge picked up the cube off the table, he went towards the suitcase with cubes and waited for another competitor to come in. Meanwhile, the competitor who just finished his/her solve left the stage.

Competitors, who brought their own cubes with them, had to lost smile on their lips. That's because jury had been using its own cubes from a special edition for a competition purposes. Those cubes were new, not adjusted for speedcubing and therefore poorly movable. It can be demonstrated by a fact that the cube of Italian competitor Romeo had been disintegrated three times during one attempt (yet he finished his attempt with a time of 34.23 s). Competitors had been forced to change their turning style due to poor cube's movability. They had been rather turning with wrists than individual fingers. Another unpleasant thing for someone was that only one cube color scheme had been used - a so-called BOY (white opposite yellow, green opposite blue and violet opposite red). Consequently, competitors using another color scheme (Japanese: white opposite blue, yellow opposite green and violet opposite red) had been disadvantaged.

Dutchman Guus Razoux-Schultz was leading the competition with a time of 24.32 s after the first round, followed by Hungarian Zoltán Lábas with a time of 24.49 s. Mentioned competitors hadn't improved their times in the second round, thus sixteen-year-old American Minh Thai took over with a time of 22.95 s (reconstruction of a solve). This Vietnamese immigrant, who came to the USA 3 years ago, was nominated for the world championship based on American qualification competition (where he set a time of 26.04 seconds). There hadn't been any changes on top positions in round no. three. Seventeen-year-old Jessica Fridrich (at that time under the name of Jiří Fridrich) placed in the middle of start list - ranked 10th with a time of 29.11 s from the second round.

Podium*: first Minh Thai, second Guus Razoux-Schultz, third Zoltán Lábas

Winning American received a cup in the form of a "gold" cube with a ball instead of a cubie in one of its corner. The ball was meant to represent the globe (world) and it was depicted also on the graphical world championship logo. Runner-up received a "silver" cube and the second runner-up received a "bronze" cube. World champion Minh Thai, as well as Austrian competitor Josef Trajber (who finished as the last one (ranked 19th with a time of 50.16 s)), additionally got a glass chess set. By the way, Josef Trajber had been using the same concept of a working corner that we can see in an intuitive method. Each competitor also received a commemorative medal.



A little bit of irony is that once I finished this article, I decided to look for the world championship online video. It's not surprising that I found it. I think it would be a pity to delete previous text, even though with the following video (which is divided into three parts) it kind of loses its meaning. Oh well, sit down comfortably, grab chips, popcorn or beer and enjoy the atmosphere of the 80's!



*References: ws2.binghamton.edu/fridrich/cubewrld.html (pictures used with a kind permission of their author, Jessica Fridrich), www.jaapsch.net/puzzles/cubic3.htm#p4. Links valid as of February 3, 2013.

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„Kdy se nudíme lépe než v kruhu rodiny?“ Oscar Wilde