Tips and tricks for speedsolving Rubik's Cube 3x3x3 using only one hand
This page was written jointly by Michael Atkinson and Chris Hardwick. Both have practiced one handed solving extensively and both competed in the one handed event at the 2003 Rubik's Games World Championships in Toronto, placing in the top two slots. This page includes tips and tricks from us for how to get really fast solving with only one hand. Below are a list of tips that we have put together that we both think are very important for fast one handed solving times. Videos will hopefully follow soon as well. If you're interested in one handed solving we hope this page will help you to increase your speed.
The physical aspects of one handed solving
1) Use a loose cube
This is probably pretty obvious but it is the most important thing for doing one handed solves. Your hand will tire out a little bit over the course of each solve, therefore a loose cube is very important to make sure your hand does not tire out too much after only 1 or 2 solves. Chris uses his oldest speed cube now solely for one handed solves since it is incredibly loose because of its age.
2) Stretch your fingers before you begin solving and between solves
Stetches help to make sure you don't strain your hand while performing one handed solves. It is possible to injure your hand, so it is helpful to stretch in hopes of preventing any injuries, as well as to loosen up your fingers to turn the faces.
3) Use as many fingers as possible
Always try to hold the cube with as few fingers as possible and turn the faces with as many as possible. As a standard grip Chris recommends holding the cube only with your thumb and middle finger, keeping your index and ring fingers free to do most of the turning. On a very loose cube you can also utilize your pinky finger from time to time, but generally your pinky finger is only used for stabilizing the cube when changing grips.
4) Practice doing each possible turn from a standard grip
Hold the cube with your thumb on the front face and middle finger on the back face and practice doing every turn (i.e. R R' R2 L L' L2 U U' U2 D D' D2 B B' B2 F F' F2) from the initial grip. Try pushing faces with your fingers, or using your ring finger for some turns instead of only your index finger. Also try changing the grip slightly and doing turns with your thumb, or gripping on the U and D faces rather than the F and B faces. Try to find the most comfortable way to perform each move for your hand.
5) Use move combos
Move combos are sets of moves where you can alternate turns with different fingers and perform a set of two or three moves very quickly. Here is an example for using your left or right hand,
Left hand: Hold the cube with your thumb on the center cubie of the front face and your middle finger on the center cubie of the back face. Place your index finger on the back face sticker of the UBL piece and your ring finger on the back face sticker of the DBR piece. From here you can do the combo [RU'] or [U'R]. To do [RU'] flick R with your ring finger then immediately after the face lines up again pull U' with your index finger. For [U'R] simply pull U' with your index finger first and flick R with your ring finger afterwards.
Right hand: Hold the cube with your thumb on the center cubie of the front face and your middle finger on the center cubie of the back face. Place your index finger on the back face sticker of the UBR piece and your ring finger on the back face sticker of the DBL piece. From here you can do the combo [L'U] or [UL']. To do [L'U] flick L' with your ring finger then immediately after the face lines up again pull U with your index finger. For [UL'] simply pull U with your index finger first and flick L' with your ring finger afterwards.
Here are several more move combos for doing turns one handed that we feel should be easy to do after reading the above description.
Left hand: [RU'R] [U'RU'] [R[U2]] [DR'D]
Right hand: [L'UL'] [UL'U] [L'[U2]] [D'LD']
Try to find more move combos that help you utilize two fingers at once to flick two turns quickly in succession.
6) Learn the double turn move combo
If you're just starting out then you can drop quite a bit of your solving time simply by learning this move combo. Chris dropped about 5/6 of total his solving time when he first started, simply by using this combo. This combo is simply a very fast way to perform a double turn on any face. See the descriptions below for performing this combo with either your right or left hand.
Left hand: To do the move [U2] hold the cube with your thumb on the center cubie of the front face and your ring finger and pinky finger in the general area of the back face stickers of DB, DBL, BL and the center cubie in whichever way that feels most comfortable to you. Your index and middle fingers should both be able to move freely. Place your index finger over the back face sticker of the UBL piece and stretch your middle finger outward. Now pull U' with your index finger. Your middle finger will follow through closer to the cube as your index finger completes the turn, allow it to follow through and catch the back face sticker of the DBL piece and now pull U' again with your middle finger. So the combo [U2] could also be written as [U'U'] for doing it with your left hand.
Right hand: To do the move [U2] hold the cube with your thumb on the center cubie of the front face and your ring finger and pinky finger in the general area of the back face stickers of DB, DBR, BR and the center cubie in whichever way that feels most comfortable to you. Your index and middle fingers should both be able to move freely. Place your index finger over the back face sticker of the UBR piece and stretch your middle finger outward. Now pull U with your index finger. Your middle finger will follow through closer to the cube as your index finger completes the turn, allow it to follow through and catch the back face sticker of the DBR piece and now pull U again with your middle finger. So the combo [U2] could also be written as [U U] for doing it with your right hand.
Even if you don't want to try to be very fast for one handed cubing, but you are interested in learning one handed cubing then learning this move combo is a MUST. In solving for one handed one of the most important things to always keep in mind is to try to conserve your hand strength, since your hand will tire out over the course of one solve. Doing this move allows you to let your index finger rest, rather than having to pull two turns of the U face with only your index finger. Try turning several double turns of the U face using only your index finger, you'll find that it will tire out very quickly. If your index finger tires out too quickly over the course of a solve then your times will inevitably slow down. Using this move combo allows you to spread the work of doing a double turn between your index and middle fingers, allowing your index finger to rest a little. Your middle finger rarely gets used other than for gripping the cube, so try to use it whenever you can to help alleviate some of the stress a solve will put on your other fingers. These double turn combos can also involve other fingers as well. For example [D2] is much faster to perform by flicking first with your ring finger then your middle finger, leaving your index finger and thumb to grip the cube. So try to do these double turn move combos in the most comfortable and also quickest way possible for your hands.
7) Use one handed finger tricks
Finger tricks are different from move combos in that for finger tricks you turn two faces quickly in succession using only one finger, rather than alternating fingers. Finger tricks are more tiring on the finger being used than move combos are, however they allow you to turn two faces even more quickly than move combos. If you are serious about speed cubing with only one hand then try to use finger tricks when you can, however be aware that using them will tire your hand out more than not using them over the course of a solve. If you do plan to get fast with one hand, use finger tricks frequently to try to strengthen your hand so that your hand will not tire out as much over the course of a solve. Below are some examples of finger tricks with your left and with your right hand.
For the purposes of notation finger tricks will always be denoted by parenthesis ( and ) and move combos will always be denoted by brackets [ and ]
Left hand: To do the finger trick (UR') hold the cube with the standard grip as described in the above examples, with your thumb and middle finger. Place your index finger on the left side sticker of the UBL piece. Now push U with your index finger. As the U face once again lines up with the cube start to pull R' with your finger without stopping the motion of your hand. You should execute both turns as one fluid motion with the side of your index finger ending up on the front face sticker of the DFR piece.
Right hand: To do the finger trick (U'L) hold the cube with the standard grip as described in the above examples, with your thumb and middle finger. Place your index finger on the right side sticker of the UBR piece. Now push U' with your index finger. As the U face once again lines up with the cube start to pull L with your finger without stopping the motion of your hand. You should execute both turns as one fluid motion with the side of your index finger ending up on the front face sticker of the DFL piece.
The following are some more finger tricks that are useful to know. We leave the descriptions out to allow you to find the best ways to perform them for your hands.
Left hand: (LU') (L[U2]) (R'U)
Right hand: (R'U) (R'[U2]) (LU')
7) Increasing hand strength/dexterity
One thing that we both agree on to be very important for one handed cubing is to increase the strength of your hands. If you have a hand grip exerciser, where you have to squeeze it and it provides resistance, then this would be a good way to do this. Also just practicing a lot of one handed solves will do this, but it may take more time. You also need to get used to using your fingers independently, and bending one independent of the others. For example the double turn move combo may feel awkward at first since it uses your middle finger independently of your index finger, however practicing this move over and over will help. One sure way of increasing your hand strength and dexterity is to just practice lots of one handed solves, however hand exercises as well as stretching your hand frequently help as well. You can do hand stretches even just during the day without planning on doing any solves, which will also help to increase your dexterity.
The mental aspects of one handed solving
1) Consider all of your options during intuitive steps
When solving for one hand, even at your fastest, you are limited to around 2 moves per second. This is much slower than the possible 3-4 moves per second for normal 3x3x3 speed solving. This means that you have the luxury of being able to look ahead a lot more than when you are performing a normal speed solve. This means that for any intuitive steps in your method you have the time to consider all of your options and choose the best one. For any of you who use the Fridrich speedsolve method this means that while solving the first two layers, instead of placing the first corner/edge pair that you see, you have time to locate all of your options and choose which one will be the fastest taking into account the position of your hand at that second, how many moves each case takes, and whether or not one of the cases allows you to utilize a finger trick or move combo. For any method in general try to find all of your possible options for intuitive steps and chose the best one, for going quickly one handed. Try to think of one handed solving as a cross between speedsolving and solving for fewest moves. A one handed solve is more like a fewest moves solve that you have to perform quickly. When you think of each solve this way it allows you to perform slightly less moves on average which means your hand will have less moves to do overall, your hand will tire out less over the course of the solve, and you'll get faster times.
2) Don't practice as often or as long as for normal speed solving
This tip belongs in the physical aspects of one handed cubing as well. If you are trying to seriously get good at one handed cubing, keep in mind that your hands can only take so much abuse without getting tired, or worse injured. When you first start doing one handed solving, it is best to only do a couple solves a day (perhaps 1-5). This allows your hand to get used to getting very tired at the end of the solves, and you won't run a risk of injuring it. As you practice more and more you'll notice that your hand gets less and less tired after doing a couple of solves. You should also allow yourself a minute or two of rest time in between solves when you first start. After lots of practice you can perform upwards of 20 solves in a row with a short rest in between, but always remember to start off easy and always stop doing one handed solves if your hand starts to ache or feel overly tired. It would be best to just put it down for the day and try again tomorrow rather than possibly injure your hand.
3) Overcoming "One handed Amnesia"
One handed amnesia will be one of the most annoying things you will encounter if you decide to learn one handed cubing. One handed amnesia is basically when you forget an algorithm on a one handed solve that you normally can perform perfectly well using both hands. This happens a lot at first since you have memorized all of your algorithms using both hands, and your brain is used to performing them as macros that use both hands. Any algorithms where you have memorized them in a very visual sense will most likely not be affected by one handed amnesia, but any that you memorized as finger trick macros or by how they feel will be the ones you will be most likely to "forget" when you encounter them one handed. The best way to overcome this is to practice all of your memorized algorithms with one hand. This gives your brain some practice at performing each alg one handed, thus you will think of the alg in terms of only being able to use one hand when you encounter it again. This phenomenon arises simply because you have moved all of your algorithms to your subconscious for using both hands, but you don't have them in your subconscious for using one hand as well. This doesn't take a lot of time, since you already know all the algs, you just have to practice each one a couple of times with one hand to allow your brain to get used to what to do when using only one hand. Be very careful to have your algs memorized well for one handed, because solving with one hand under pressure makes "one handed amnesia" much more likely to occur. Chris got one handed amnesia on his second solve at the world competition in 2003 because of the pressure of being on stage, even though he had practiced the algs for one hand.
4) Don't try to go too fast
The concept of "slow-fast" is very important for one handed. Basically try at all costs not to lock up the faces of your cube. If you can perform a sequence of moves at full speed without locking up the cube then definitely go full speed. If you have a chance of locking up the cube for a certain sequence of moves then slow down very slightly and concentrate harder on making the faces line up. This goes back to conserving the strength of your hand over the course of a solve. If you lock up a face, then it takes more effort for your finger to overcome the lock up and complete the turn. This can only mean that your hand will tire out sooner and towards the end of the solve your hand will be more tired than if you hadn't locked up and your times will be slower. So try at all costs to observe the concept of "slow-fast" and try especially hard to not lock up your cube. Michael recommends trying to imagine to always go smoothly. This is similar to sleight of hand tricks where trying to perform them smoothly will eventually lead to faster times than trying to perform them as quickly as possible. Always remember that by practicing always going smoothly, you will eventually increase your speed.
If you have any questions about one handed solving in general please contact either Michael Atkinson or Chris Hardwick
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