Solving a Rubik's Cube is something many aspire to accomplish in their lifetime. Just solving the colorful and complex puzzle once, preferably without cheating or breaking a few in the process, would be good.
Imagine being able to solve every Rubik's Cube put before you … in less than two minutes … blindfolded.
Sounds impossible. Maybe for the Average Joe, but hundreds attempt it every year at championship competitions around the world. A few even succeed at the seemingly unsolvable task, including Whiteford resident Ryan Reese, who solved the cube blindfolded in 1 minute 39 seconds.
Reese's time won him third place, a medal and plaque in this year's U.S. nationals in Ohio earlier this month.
How does someone get involved in the super speedy and competitive world of "cubing?" If you're 19-year-old Ryan Reese, you go to YouTube.
"I was working at Dairy Queen about a year or two ago and my friend [who worked there] could solve it." Reese then asked his friend, who could solve the puzzle in a little more than a minute, how he did it.
"He pointed me to YouTube for a tutorial," Reese explained. "Within four hours, I solved it using algorithms that I wrote down. Then I memorized them and continued solving."
Reese kept practicing the puzzles, increasing in speed with every try, and eventually branched off into other areas, such as solving the Rubik's Cube blindfolded and moving to figure cubes, which are larger than the standard 3-by-3-inch cube that has engaged – and stumped – millions over more than three decades.
"Even though there's math involved, you don't think math at all," Reese said. "[You] just recognize patterns and know how to solve it. It's just patterns."
Reese, who has been to every Rubik's Cube competition on the East Coast, decided to enter this year's national championship, which was held Aug. 12 through 14 at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
"It was like a vacation for me," Reese said of the three-day competition. He was able to meet people who he had spoken to online through cubing communities and be among the other 200 competitors from around the world who share his passion for cubing.
Among the dozens of categories — including different size cubes, solving the puzzle blindfolded, in the fewest moves or the fastest — Reese participated in 15, landing in sixth place in the first round for 3-by-3 blindfolded and then third place for the 3-by-3 blindfolded final round with a final time of 1:39.03.
That time includes memorizing the cube, strategizing and then solving it. Chester Lian, of Malaysia, won first place with a time of slightly more than 55 seconds.
In every category he participated in, Reese said, he placed in the top 100.
Reese explained that solving a Rubik's Cube blindfolded is much harder than when it is completely visible.
"There's more cause for error," he said. "If you screw up once, then it's a DNF [did not finish]." There's a low success rate in solving the puzzle blindfolded because of how easily a person can mess it up.
Why would Reese want to take that huge risk of failing to solve the puzzle?
"That's kind of the fun, to see if you can do it," he said.
And when he did complete the cube, Reese described the experience as "euphoric," thinking to himself, "Yeah, I just did that." But a lot of memorization went into the process.
"It's not that bad," he said humbly. "When you memorize [the cube], you have a starting point and you look where [a] piece goes and in the end you know where each piece goes."
Reese went on to explain that he converts the pattern he memorizes into letters and then takes those letters to form a sentence, which helps him further the memorization.
"If you can memorize three phone numbers, you can do it," he said." If you can study for college, you can do it."
Reese, who is working at two local gyms — Anytime Fitness in Bel Air and Model A Fitness in Delta, Pa., — and attending Harford Community College as a criminal justice major, has no plans to quit cubing any time soon. He will, however, miss October's World Rubik's Cube Championship in Bangkok as he and his twin brother, Eric, who is also into cubing, have entered into the Baltimore Running Festival on the same weekend.
Marathons, insanely difficult puzzles — is there anything Reese hasn't tackled?
"I've wanted to learn a new language for a while now, but I haven't had the motivation," he said.