United States Rubik's Games Championships 2004

My Experience

Hi I'm Chris Hardwick and I was a competitor at the 2004 US Rubik's Games Championships. Unfortunately I wasn't able to borrow a digital camera from my Dad, and I spent most of my free time at the competition practicing, so I don't have any pictures from the event :( However, at the bottom of this page you can find links to some pictures form the event.

Wednesday July 7, 2004 : Ugh.... 8 hours on planes and in airports to get over to California. My Grandparents live in California, and were driving down to Pasadena from near Sacramento to watch me compete. My Mom and my little sister Jade also came with me from NC. Anyway Wednesday wasn't too exciting. I flew on the plane, did lots of blindfolded solves for practice, hung around waiting in airport terminals constantly cubing (I think my mom and sister were about ready to kill me at the end of the day from having to listen to the constant clicking lol). Anyway I got there, met my Grandparents and we drove to the Vagabond Inn, and went to sleep.

Thursday July 8, 2004 : Yay! Got to meet other cubers again :) Once I got ready for the day I went to go find Ton Dennenbroek who I hadn't seen since the World Championships in Toronto last year. We did a lot of cubing, of course, and he showed me how to properly fix up a studio cube as well as a totally cool fully functional 3x3x5 cube :) I was able to solve it on my first try after about 10-20 minutes (with a couple of hints from Ton :-). Ton had brought along a lot of puzzles, as well as several very cool custom made puzzles. Around noon Bill McGaugh came over and the three of us timed ourselves on the Stackmat just like it would be on Saturday at the competition.

We were all getting pretty nervous and setting bad times for our averages. After a couple of solves though Ton started getting near his normal times, and was helping me and Bill to relax. I'm glad I got to get all the nervousness out of my system two days before the competition though. After an hour or so of practicing I started getting 16's and 17's again, with a few 14's and a even 13 *whew, feeling a little better about Saturday again*.

A little later that day Macky, tied for the fastest cuber in the world unofficially, Sunil, and their old teacher Ericka came over to cube/talk/hang out. I had of course seen Macky's times on all the online competitions and record pages, so meeting him in person again was quite awe inspiring. Me and Macky raced some cubes for a while (I beat him! ... once :-) Anyway it was totally cool to see how he had evolved his cubing style since Toronto. I swear the whole solve for him is one long finger trick, it is the coolest thing to watch. Macky and I solve using the same method, but I usually couldn't tell what pair or step he was on until he got to the OLL since he was turning the faces soooo quickly. Anyway talk about inspiration to improve my own solving!

Me and Ton went to get some food after Macky, Sunil, and Bill had to leave. That was about Thursday in a nutshell.


Friday July 9, 2004 : The day before the competition... I was definitely starting to feel nervous and excited at the same time. LOTS of cubers had arrived and there were sooooo many cube meetings. Andy Camann, Jasmine Lee and Peter Stils, Frank Morris and his girlfriend Christy, Jon Morris, Macky, Bill McGaugh, Sunil, and I all crammed into Ton's room to cube. Me and Macky did some blindfolded solves, and of course he whooped me :) I was happy to get a successful solve in front of so many people. We also did lots and lots of cubing at the Stackmat to get ready for Saturday.

Later that day we all went to the informal get-together at Caltech and pretty much everyone was there (except Brent Morgan who unfortunately had to catch a late flight in). I did a couple more blindfolded solves and practiced at the timers with everyone. We had lots of cube races which was a blast! I also practiced some one-handed solves (sub-35's! and nearly all sub-40!). I then practiced some 4x4x4 solves, nearly all sub-1:20 and I even got a non lucky 1:03! Tyson Mao came by to see that everything was going as planned, but he was running around like crazy being the organizer and all :) Afterwards me, Doug Li, Jon Morris, Jasmine Lee, and Keith Sauer went looking for a Starbucks (we passed like 5 seriously) but couldn't find aaaaaanywhere to park. Soooo we went back to the hotel to Jon and Keith's room and cubed for a while and had some of the hotel complimentary coffee. It was so cool to see everyone again since Toronto and we all had a blast hanging out. I showed everyone cup stacking on the stackmet. Doug Li tried the cup stacking and I showed him the 3-6-3. He learned the whole thing in a couple minutes, then started timing himself.

Then Jon Morris showed us some of his yo-yo tricks...... !!! It was amazing to watch! I had no idea he could even yo-yo, we were all sort of staring jaw dropped as he pulled off some really cool tricks. Anyway I had a little bit of coffee (bad idea as it took me a while to get to sleep) then we all sort of split up and went to bed.

Saturday July 10, 2004 : Competition day! I was soooo happy it had finally come. I helped setup a little bit then sat down to prepare my cube (the way I had it tuned I had to lube it everyday to get it nice and smooth). It turns out I overlubed it, and oh-my-god I freaked out! I frantically took my cube apart and rubbed some of the lube off. *whew* it tightened up a bit and stopped popping. I was feeling a little better. I tried to say hi and hang out with the cubers I hadn't seen before the competition. I got to meet David Salvia in person for the first time, which was cool! He had a box full of puzzles and let us try them. I also got to see Ian Winokur again since last year at Toronto. He had improved so fast since last year. Lots of people were practicing solves at the timers, and I did a couple 3x3x3's and 4x4x4 warm up solves before we had to start.

The 1st round 3x3x3 started... Aaaah!!! I was actually surprisingly relaxed going into my solve. I had finally achieved a 6 year goal of mine, to average sub-18, about 2 weeks prior and I felt like I had already done what I set out to do. Whatever I did at the competition was just icing on the cake I felt, it was like I had already done what I came to do. This considerably eased the pressure on me and I got a 16 on my first solve!!!! I would have been happy with anything sub-20, but man that surprised me! I was 100% focused during the solve, rather than the nervousness and just total brain disfunction I felt in Toronto in 2003. My next solve was a 22, not great, and then I got an 18! I was so freaked out to be getting sub-20's in a competition! I really liked the setup of the competition, you did one solve then sat down for 20 minutes until everyone finished their first solve. Then you did your second solve the same way, also the third. This gave me time to go over my solve in my head and see where I had messed up to keep in mind what step to watch out for on the next solve.

I think the 4x4x4 1st round was next, but I'm not sure. Anyway it runs out that I set the new world record with 1:12.85 min (at that time it was the world record) which was awesome. I messed up on my second solve 1:29 *blegh*, but my first one was good so I was happy with that. I think the one-handed 1st round was up next, and man was I nervous! Macky had gotten really good at one-handed in the past few months, and I knew he was going to beat his 43 second record. The nervousness definitely came back and I one-handed amnesia'ed both solves, but was able to recover back to where I was and fix it. My best time was 42 seconds which isn't that good for me when I'm at home on the couch, but under this pressure I was happy with it!

The 3x3x3 2nd round was up next I think, and I switched back to my speedcube to practice. Again I was ridiculously calm compared to the world competition last year. I just kept telling myself that whatever I did in this competition was just icing on the cake after finally get sub-18 in my practice. It turns out that relaxing paid off and I got lots of times like what I get at home on the couch. I even set the new US national record in this round with 15.85 seconds. Actually Macky's 12.11 second record from the Caltech spring trounament should count as the national record, but the records seem to be done by citizenship which gives Macky the Japanese record. Anyway the times from all the competitors were very good. It was weird, I tried not to focus on the other competitors during the competition so as not to make myself nervous. Looking back on the results afterward though there were some very fast times set by a number of people. Cubing has definitely improved since 2003 (only a year!). Anyway I came in 2nd place to Macky in the 2nd round.

Next came the final rounds and the blindfolded competition. I was running around a lot between events and didn't have much time to hang out. It turns out I won the 4x4x4, 5x5x5, and one-handed competitions. I even set a new record (and personal best!) of 25.95 seconds during the one-handed final. I tried as hard as I could to relax myself during the final rounds, and performed better than my 1st round trials in both the 4x4x4 and one-handed. The blindfolded competition was totally cool, I can definitely see myself getting more into official competitive blindfolded solving. Me, Macky, and Brent Morgan were the only ones competiting, and we each were given a separate room to solve in. My first time was about 7.5 minutes which is pretty good for me when I'm under pressure. The 2nd scramble was totally weird for my memorizing technique and I DNF'd it (did the last corner cycle the wrong direction, otherwise it was solved). The third solve was my best, just over 6 minutes (good for me), so I was happy with that. Macky won with a crazy fast 3:36, and Brent came in third with 9:44 (all the competitor's blindfold times were sub 10 min!).

Then came the final round for the 3x3x3. Man talk about nerves!! Oh my god it was crazy, when you did your solve you were the only person on stage and everyone was silently watching you. My first solve went well, sub-20, but then I totally broke under the pressure. Any relaxation techniques I was trying to use earlier were not working anymore :) We all had slower times than our normal averages, even Macky it seemed but only slightly. It turns out that in addition to being ridiculously fast Jon Morris had nerves of steel and got the coveted 2nd place slot (we all knew Macky was going to win, so the 2nd place person would get the US title). Brent Morgan came in third and I came in 4th. Frank Morris seemed to get nervous too and got 5th, followed by Andy Camann, who also seemed nervous, followed by Doug Li and Lars Petrus. Many congrats to Macky, Jon, and Brent who were able to overcome the stress of solving when you're the only one on stage. I was happy to officially get 4th place in the US.


Afterward we all went to this chicken restaurant, which was really good actually, and stormed it and took over all the tables. It was a blast hanging out with other cubers and hearing that contsant clicking sound of cubes turning coming from all over the room :) Afterward Doug Li, Ian Winokur, Raul Garcia, Macky and I hung out in Ian and Raul's room and cubed. I also brought along my speedstacks and we cup stacked a little bit. I showed Doug the rest of the cycle, which he again learned in just a few minutes (!). I also found out that Macky does cup stacking so he did some trials too. After that we had lots of cube races till about 2-3 in the morning. Me and Doug got to watch Ian and Raul's craaaaaaazy blindfolded team solve. They did it in like 1:20 seconds or something it was awesome! Me and Doug tried it and got about 5 minutes lol, but it was a blast. Afterward we all split up and went to bed. It was a long day, but man was it fun!

Sunday July 11, 204 : Today a number of people went over to Macky's house to cube for a while as well as have some dinner. The food was excellent, Macky's mom is an amazing cook! There was lots of cubing and farewell saying as people had to leave to make their flights. Jon did some Rubik's Magic solves (crazy fast!) and of course we all did our required hour or so of cube races :) After dinner Jasmine and Peter had to leave to go to the airport and we all kind of spilt up from there.

Well it stinks that the competition and all the cube get-togethers are over. I had an awesome time, so I'm hoping to see everyone again in 2005 at the next world competition.


Links to pictures and other reports about the competition

Jon Morris' pictures

Hanson and Jason So's pictures

Andy Camann's pictures

Articles about Jon Morris

Macky's NPR radio interview


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