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Michael Tripodi

The creator of Rubik's Cube didn’t know how to solve the puzzle when he created it. Traralgon’s Michael Tripodi does them blindfolded in record-setting time.

Aug 9, 2022

Words: Gippslandia
Images: Supplied

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Just over 43 quintillion. That’s how many configurations are possible on a Rubik’s Cube. The magic puzzle’s Hungarian inventor, Ernő Rubik, a sculptor and professor of architecture, admits that when he created the puzzle he didn’t know how to solve it himself.

Yet, Traralgon’s Michael Tripodi does them blindfolded in record-setting time.

Ernő’s first cube took him about a month to complete. Michael takes under 20 seconds.

“I’d always fluctuate between solving all the time and not solving at all…"

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Michael is so talented at solving the most popular toy of all time – over 450 million cubes sold since their late-1970s release – that he’s even got a sponsorship.

Our ‘cubing’ star graduated from Chairo Christian School in 2019 and first learnt to solve a cube when he was 10 years old – just over a decade ago now.

“I remember we had one laying around the house with a quarter of the stickers missing. I was ecstatic when I could complete one side. I pestered Mum to buy a new one and then learnt to properly solve it using the pamphlet in the box.

“I’d always fluctuate between solving all the time and not solving at all, which continued throughout my schooling years.

“The most recent time I got back into cubing was at the very end of year 12 exams, when my girlfriend at the time found out I was able to solve one. I practised for a few days to be able to show off, and after learning how to solve one blindfolded, I’ve never really put them down since.

“I practised hard through the 2020 lockdown, and afterwards I went to my first competition in January 2021 where I finished first in two events and third in another.”

Michael says that cubing competitions are typically held in Melbourne, except for the occasional regional events, and they all must adhere to the competition rules and regulations laid out by the World Cube Association (WCA). For any result to be considered a national or world record, it must have happened in an official WCA competition.

Currently, there are 17 events that can be held at a WCA competition, including the standard 3x3x3 cube. Included in those 17 events are variations on the 3x3x3, such as solving one-handed, or in the fewest moves rather than the fastest time. Here’s another cube knowledge bomb: any algorithm (solving approach) that produces a solution using the fewest possible moves is known as ‘God’s algorithm’. “The allusion to the Deity is based on an assumption that only an omniscient being would know an optimal step from any given configuration.” The current world record holder for fewest moves completed their cube in just 16 moves after an hour of studying it very intently.

Michael goes on to lay down all the details.

There are different-sized puzzles, from a 2x2x2 cube all the way up to a 7x7x7 cube. The events that Michael specialises in are the blindfolded events, of which there are four: 3x3x3 Blindfolded (3BLD), 4x4x4 Blindfolded (4BLD), 5x5x5 Blindfolded (5BLD), and 3x3x3 Multi-Blind (MBLD).

3BLD, 4BLD and 5BLD all generally follow the same rules. Every round you get three attempts at solving. Each attempt consists of starting the timer, memorising the cube, donning the blindfold and solving the cube.

Memorisation time is included in the total time for each attempt, and if the cube is not solved at the end of the attempt the solve is considered a DNF (Did Not Finish). At the end of the round your final result is your fastest successful attempt of the round. If all three attempts in the round are successful, you get a ‘mean’ time in addition, which is the average time of all three attempts. While the mean of a round is not used to determine who wins an event, there are official records for them.

MBLD functions a little differently; you get one hour to memorise and then solve as many cubes as you nominate. Your result is based on points, calculated by the number of cubes solved minus the number of cubes unsolved, e.g. 5 out of 7 cubes solved gives 3 points. If two competitors are tied on points then the person with the least time taken wins.

Michael’s best times in competition and all-time ranking for each of these categories are as follows:

3BLD: 18.56 single (23rd in the world, 2nd in Oceania) and 21.77 mean (22nd in the world, 2nd in Oceania)

4BLD: 1:41.19 single (6th in the world, 2nd in Oceania) and 2:31.89 mean (9th in the world, Oceanic Record)

5BLD: 3:33.98 single (4th in the world, Oceanic Record) and 4:18.48 mean (3rd in the world, Oceanic Record)

MBLD: 46/49 in 56:52 (6th in the world, Oceanic Record)

“These are the categories I’ve put a lot of effort into getting good results in, and currently among these events, I’ve amassed six continental (Oceanic) records and two National Records – my first one coming in my second competition: Solving in Sale 2022 (34/36 MBLD). Getting these records earnt me a sponsorship with Adelaide cube retailer, DailyPuzzles.”

Before Michael started cubing, he was a competitive distance runner who specialised in the 800m and 1500m. He says that, “I’ve been able to directly transfer a ton of training principles from athletics. The experience I gained from running at a high level is something I definitely believe has helped me to further my cubing.

“Not only in finding ways to streamline my practice, but also in more physical things such as dealing with nerves in a high-pressure setting, i.e. calming myself before an official solve the same as I would standing on a start line before a big race.

“My ultimate goal would be to break a world record in cubing. My best bet would be in the multi-blind. However, there are a ton of cubers who are due to break the existing world record very soon. Graham Siggins (USA, current WR holder), Rowe Hessler (USA), Elliott Kobelansky (Canada) and Krzysztof Bober (Poland) are all consistently able to do attempts of 60 cubes in under the hour time limit, and any one of them could break Graham’s current world record of 59/60. My short-term goal is to be able to get my attempts within the 60–62 cube range, so I can have a chance to break that record before it becomes too far out of my reach.

“I’ve never been way into other kinds of puzzles; occasionally I’ll bust open a Sudoku book and solve a few, but I’ve never been as into them as I am with cubing.

“I also tried to dabble in memory sports for a bit. I got down to memorising the sequence of ashuffled deck of cards in under four minutes, and roughly 500 random digits in an hour. I tried this initially because I thought it may help with memory capacity for MBLD, however, I never ended up putting as much mental energy into it as I did for cubing.”

Being so close to any world record is pretty freakin’ cool, but Michael is quite open in saying that cubing isn’t his entire world.

“While cubing has been great for me as a hobby, it’s never really had any benefits for me beyond meeting new friends and being able to travel. It’s in no way an all-encompassing part of my life, just something I do to pass the time in between working and socialising.

“But it’s definitely a very cool party trick.”

Gippslandia - Issue No. 23

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