My 30 day BLD challenge

In this article I will share with you my 30 day blindfolded solving challenge in where I challenge myself to learn how to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded (BLD) in 30 days to join an official blindfolded event. This isn’t a tutorial but can serve as a guide for speedcubers who are just starting or interested in blindfolded solving. I’ve documented this 30 day BLD challenge to show the several steps I needed to take to learn different methods, the areas which I really gave much attention to and my progress after applying different methods and practices. The main goal of this is to aid speedcubers who are just starting blindfolded solves or are interested in getting in to it.

This article will contain my 30 day time table of everything I did with blindfolded solving. I also share what methods I use from memorization and execution to average times and personal best times. I learned many things from this journey but made more mistakes so I share how I might have done things knowing this information. I talk about how to go about learning blindfolded solving, the things I should have done right from day one, the most important areas to focus on and how I practiced and what it’s like to solve blindfolded in a competition.

Table of contents

Some parts of this article can be very long so I suggest you jump to different parts of this article using the table of contents below.

  1. A short history of my blindfolded solving
  2. Time table of my 30 day BLD challenge
  3. My current method, average times and personal best (PB)
  4. How to go about learning 3×3 blindfolded solving
  5. Things you should get correctly from day 1
  6. Areas that I mainly focused on
  7. Biggest problems/hurdles you need to face
  8. How I practiced
  9. What’s it like during the competition
  10. Resources
  11. Wrapping up

1. A short history of this 30 day BLD challenge

This is my first successful bld solve at the Diliman Open 2008.

Here’s a quick story about my 30 day BLD challenge. During a competition I organized on April 22-23 2017 I was watching the blindfolded event and realize how fun it was to do blindfolded solves. Coincidentally there was another competition near me that had a BLD event which would take place on May 28, roughly a month away. I set a challenge for myself to learn how to do a blindfolded solve again in 30 days in time for the even so I could get an official blindfold solve again after 9 years. I officially started my journey on April 27 2017 and it would end on May 28 at the official competition called Pangasinan Speedcubing Open 2017.

I’ve already solved a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded before but I took a break from speedcubing and forget everything about blindfolded solving. I learned how to blindfold solve on July 12, 2007, after learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube earlier that same year. I stopped cubing around 2009 and when I started speedcubing again on 2013 I didn’t bother with blindfold solving. I basically forgot everything about blindfolded cubing and can only recall the names of different methods. At this point I’m practically starting from scratch as a total beginner.

2. Time Table 

  • Here is a time table of my 30 day BLD challenge. I somewhat compressed it so it could be more readable

April 27- April 29

  • First day and feeling super motivated and pumped. I organized a competition April 22-23 2017 and was watching the blindfolded event. I realize how I enjoyed doing blindfolded solves before and since there was an upcoming competition in roughly a month May 28 2017 which had a blindfolded event, I told myself I would relearn how to solve blindfolded for that competition.
  • Full research mode on.
  • Concluded from researching that M2 for edges and Old Pochmann for corners is the best method to learn to get started.
  • This is what I have come up with to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded:
    • Orientation:
      • Face: Red
      • Top: Yellow
    • Sticker assignment: Color sticker assignment.
      • Edges: Example: UF sticker would be RY (Red Yellow)
      • Corners: Each of the 4 corner are either: A, E, I, O so if it was the red face it would be RA, RE, RI, RO if it as the orange it would be OrA, Ore, OrI, OrO
      • [pic needed]
    • Memorization:
      • Edges first: Using a story with PAO. I would assign each sticker a person/object/action based on its lettering. RY would be Rihanna(person), Shine Bright(action), Diamond(object)
      • Corners second: Using a story with PAO. I would assign each sticker a person/object/action based on its lettering.
      • I would put these stories into rooms in my memory palace.
      • [picture of the diagram I made]
    • Execution:
      • Corners first
      • Edges second
    • Dealing with Parity:
      • After finishing corners, I would do a U2 then an R perm, then undo U2
  • I know memorization is the most important part of a blindfolded solve, so I just focus on getting familiar with my sticker assignments.

April 30

  • First problem area is determining and remembering unflipped edges. First solve was DNF because I forgot I had unflipped edges.
  • Problem: Forgetting about unflipped edges
  • Solution: Take more time determining unflipped edges.
  • After fully understanding the execution phase of M2 edges/OP corners I got my first successful solve with a time of 8:33.86

May 1 – May 3

  • I just keep practicing and trying to get faster.
  • I managed to get an average of 5: 3:59.32, 5:01.51, DNF(4:28.01), 4:46.60, 5:11.16

May 4 – May 5

  • Did further research on memorization because I’m really bothered with how long my memorization takes.
  • Problem: My memorization takes too long.
  • Solution: Research more on memorization by seeing what other have to say and what they do. (NoahCubes)
    • Learned a lot from Cubing World Youtube Channel: [NoahCubes] How to Improve Your Memo for 3BLD
    • His memorization order is corners first memorized for long term and edges second memorized for short term. This makes much more sense because it’s easier to remember less information (8 corners) rather than more information (12 edges) for long term memory.
  • I realize that NoahCubes order makes it so much easier to remember unflipped edges it would be fresher in my mind since I would memorize edges last and execute them first.
  • I transition to the new Memoization/Execution order which I learned from NoahCubes: Memorize corners first, edges second. Execute edges first, corners last.
  • Since the order is different dealing with parity is different too, but fortunately because I use a U-perm now instead of an R perm
  • Problem:
  • 4:53.xx – fastest time

May 6 – 7

  • No speedcubing.

May 8 – May 9

  • Fully transitioned to Noah’s Memo/execution order of Memo: 1. Corners 2. Edges Execution: 1. Edges 2. Corners
  • Problem: Still worrying about my memorization and how long it takes. My memorization of stores requires too much information.
  • Solution: Decided to use audio/phonetic memorization for edges  It is very fast but very easy to forget which is perfect for the new order I transitioned to. (edges are memorized last but executed first)
  • I have to transition into an ABC letter assignment for edges because my current color assignment is almost impossible to work with Audio/Phonetic memorization.
  • Problem: I might not be used to blindfolded solving in competitions since I use keyboard and timer
  • Solution: Timing with a stackmat, Tossing the scrambled cube in the air to randomize orientation and using a cube cover.
  • 3:11.xx – fastest time

May 10

  • As I’m getting more familiar with the transition I expect it will take me a week to be fluent and expect to get slower times.
  • Problem: Making a transition means that It will take some time for me to be fluent at it and I should expect slower times and delayed progress
  • Solution: Staying motivated that once I have fully transitioned I will get even faster times.
  • 4:14.96: First successful solve using ABC sticker assignment for edges and Audio/Phonetic memorization.
  • John Ed Ubaldo a really good bld solver buddy shares his method of memorization where he uses a hybrid of Audio/Phonetic memorization and visual memorization. 
  • 2:48.10 – fastest time – very easy scramble

May 11

  • Researching more on letter pairs and I realize that my idea of letter pairs is absolutely wrong. What I do is assign 1 word for each sticker. Letter pairs, keyword being “pairs”, assigns 1 word for two stickers.
  • This new knowledge can reduce the amount I need to memorize by half. So like my edges, I shift to an ABC stickers assignment for corners and will use letter pairs to create stories that are half the information of what I am currently doing.
  • Problem: I am memorizing too much information because I have 1 word per sticker.
  • Solution: Transition to ABC sticker assignment for corners and utilize letter pairs to create stories which will reduce the memorized story in half.
  • The transition proves to be much harder then with edges. The main struggle I have is being able to create stories from letter pairs.
  • Struggling too much and considering to use my old system.

May 12

  • Staying positive and pushing through with ABC sticker assignment and letters pairs for corners.
  • Implemented using visual memorization for first 4 edges and Audio/Phonetic memorization for the rest of the edges. Thanks to John Ed Ubaldo for sharing this memorization method that he uses.
  • Researched that I should be more creative and create silly stories which really helps me out.
  • Problem: I still have trouble identifying corner stickers quickly.
  • Solution: Staying positive and knowing that it’s just a matter of time before I get fully get familiarized.
  • Problem: The main reasons for my DNF’s is because I either wrongfully determine unflipped edges.
  • Solution: I will use my left foot to indicate which pairs in the M slice are unflipped edges so I can remember them better.
  • 3:38.79 – fastest time

May 13

  • Fully transitioned to ABC sticker assignment for corners and edges.
  • 2:42.32, 2:47.32 – fastest times

May 14

  • I have already ironed out most of my problems and shortcomings with my memorization method and quite confident with my current memorization method.
  • Practicing and trying to speed up my memorization by doing rushed memorization solves, which will train my brain to memorize and retain information in a shorter time than usual.
  • Averaging 3 minutes flat.

May 15 – May 17

  • ***1:49.27. Major barrier broken. SUB2, easy scramble but I’m taking it.
  • Still having trouble identifying corner stickers though
  • Getting in a lot more daily solves.

May 18

  • 1:30.14. Smashed my PB I set 9 years ago by 5 seconds. At this point I am better than where I left of 9 years ago.
  • 1:44.81 – Very nice story, very vivid and silly which makes it very easy to recall.
    • FU-PT-RL-D (Fuck yoU PeTe with your Ralph Lauren’s, you Dick!)
    • Proves that vivid and silly stories really stick.

May 19

  • Having such a crap BLD day today. Seems like all my blindfolding energy was used yesterday.
  • Here’s what I did the previous night that might contribute to the bad blindfolded solving day:
    • Don’t sleep at super late the previous night
    • Don’t pig out for dinner the previous night
    • Don’t drink beer with chips the previous night

May 20 – 24

  • I’ve already got a solid memorization and execution method so I’m just doing as much blinfolded solves as I can.
  • Doing an average of 24 blindfolded solves a day.
  • Considering to learn the extra M2 algorithms to avoid unflipped edges all together but decide to save it for later since it might affect my performance during the tournament a week away.
  • 1:21.32 **Personal Best time.

May 25

  • Watched Jayde McNeills youtube video where he skips certain letter when he assigned letters to his stickers since buffer pieces don’t need letters.
  • This makes me realizes that I can change problem letters I have for edges. More specifically “C” because it has the same sound as “K” and “Q” because it’s “kwa” sound sounds like “K” sound.
  • I changed “C” with “G” and “Q” with “U”
  • Problem: Having trouble with Audio/Phonetic memorization with letters such as “C” and  “Q” because they have the same sound as “K”
  • Solution: Changing “C” to “G” and “Q” to “U” since they aren’t used because buffer pieces are not assigned a letter.

May 26 – 27

  • Just continuing to do as many blindfolded solves as I can in preparation for the tournament.
  • I got a DNF of 1:17.38 which would have been my PB
  • FEELING EXCITED ABOUT TOMORROW, REALLY MY GOAL IS TO GET AN SUCCESSFUL SOLVE AGAIN WHICH THE LAST ONE I DID WAS ALMOST 10 YEARS AGO.
  • Competition Goals: Easy Goal: Get a successful solve(above), Medium Goal: Get an average, 3 successful solves, Hard Goal: Podium!!!

3. Method

Here are the exact methods I currently use for BLD. The exact method is M2 for edges and Old Pochmann for corners. I also include how I memorize and the order in which I solve 

This is the speffz scheme. I basically use the same thing but order is a little different.
  • Orientation:
    • Front/Face: Red
    • Top: Yellow
  • Sticker assignment:
    • ABC sticker assignment, similar to speffz scheme but different order
  • Memorization method:
    • Edges: Visual memorization for first 4 edges, Audio/Phonetic for the remaining 8 edges.
    • Corners: Use letter pairs to form words which is used to create a story.
  • Order:
    • Memorize corners first and edges second
    • Don the blindfold
    • Execute edges first and corners last.
    • Fix Parity
    • Fix unflipped edges if present
  • Pariy fix:
    • If I have an odd number for my me edge cycles I know I have parity (this means I will also have an odd number of cycles for corners too)
    • I fix the M slice with an extra M2 knowing that UB and DF pieces need to be swapped.
    • When I finish my corners (with an odd number of cycles too) UB and UL have swapped (because of J-perm used for corners)
    • Finally I do an F2 to bring all the pieces I need to fix on the U layer and I execute a U-perm on the green face then I undo the F2.
  • Others:
    • I toggle my right foot up and down to keep track of the M slice position.
    • I use to left foot to describe the pair of unflipped edges in the M slice if present
  • Average times:
    • 1:40 – 2:10
  • PB single:
    • 1:11.04
  • PB average of 5:
    • 1:46.25

4. How to go about learning 3×3 blindfolded solving

  • Method
    • If you simply want to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded then I suggest you use McGaughs piece-by-piece method which just uses the T-perm for edges and corners. This is by far the most simple method and it’s what I used to learn to solve the cube blindfolded in 2007.
    • If you feel like you want to seriously pursue blindfold cubing then I suggest you learn some faster methods. I personally chose M2/OP because it can be fast and quite simple to learn.
    • Whichever method you choose I suggest you pick one and really stick to it. Before I stopped cubing 9 years ago I was using a mix of M2 for edges, and 3 cycle for corners where I needed to orient edges and corners before permuting. This is naturally slower not just on execution but on memorization too but since I’ve already committed to the method and I’ve put in so much practice using the method. This made learning and changing methods very difficult and the slow times really deflated my motivation which just made me go back to my old method.
    • You need to realize that the execution phase only comes second to the memorization phase. You need to really have a full grasp on determining which piece goes where properly memorizing this because if you screw up here you will screw up your execution.
    • Small wins keep will keep you motivated. I didn’t solve the whole cube blindfolded at first.  What I did was understand edges first once I really understood edges I would do a blindfold solve but only solving edges. I did the same with corners and did a blindfold solve but only solving corners. When I was confident with edges and corners I focused my attention on parity and what to do when I get an odd number of cycles. When I was fully confident with these sections of blindfolded solving was the only time I attempted to solve the whole cube blindfolded. If you try and solve the whole cube immediately at first the constant DNF’s will really hit your motivation and might even stop you from learning.
  • Get your stuff.

  • A good speed cube
    • A speed cube that feels good in your hands. It should also not be prone to popping and corner twisting.
    • A good corner cutting speed cube would be ideal because you can’t rely on your sight to make sure layers are aligned properly
    • I like to use stickerless cubes. You need to quickly identify stickers so since the cubies of stickerless cubes are the whole color, I think this really helps.
  • Blindfold:
    • Blindfold that is loose enough to easily pull down but should still hold in place.
    • The design is up to you and doesn’t really matter I guess, it’s a little quirky at first but nobody really cares after a while.
  • Earmuffs(optional)
    • I just saw other blindfold solvers use earmuffs. May or may not work, at my level but it doesn’t hurt to use it. I personally think that it helps me concentrate by blocking out unnecessary sound, especially during competitions.

5. Things I should have done correctly from day one

  • Sticker assignment

    I made this table and printed it out when I first started.

     

    • I chose the color sticker assignment at first but I transitioned to an ABC sticker assignment halfway into my 30 day blindfold challenge. If i started out with the ABC sticker assignment at day 1 I would have been faster at the end.
    • The reason why I went with a color sticker assignment was because I figured it’s so much easier and logical to label a sticker by it’s color because you immediately know and see the color. The ABC sticker assignment takes time to familiarize yourself with each sticker of your cube. I later discovered later on when I shifted to this is that it may seem daunting at first but I quickly picked it up with ease and got very familiar with it quickly.
    • I only need 22 letters for edges and 21 letters for corners. There are only 24 stickers for both edges and corners which means I only needed 24/26 letter of the alphabet. Since you have buffers you will only need 22/26 letters for edges and 21/26 for corners. This means that it would be easier to choose and pick letter that were easy to pronounce and easy to create words with when paired together. If I did this on day 1 I wouldn’t need to struggle to be creative and make words from weird letter pairs like “XW” or “QW” although once I’ve come up with words for stories I’m all good. For edges I swapped “C” with “G” and “Q” with “U” because “C” and “Q” had the same sound with “K” and I did this only 28th days of my 30 day blindfold challenge.
  • I should have asked for help from others

    • One of the top blindfold solvers in the Philippines, John Edison Ubaldo, shared his memorization method of using a hybrid or visual memorization and audio/phonetic memorization for edges. After sharing his method it just blew my mind how effective and fast it was to what I was used to. Knowing this from day 1 would have really helped me guide me in the right direction with blindfold solving.
    • After this challengeI joined a bld support group on Facebook. These groups are very friendly and are very willing to answer any questions I have. I should have started this challenge by asking questions in this group for suggestions to how I should get started. I would probably save so much time if I have done this.
  • Efficient and effective memorization technique

    • A solid and efficient memorization method is so important in cutting down blindfold solve times. I only ironed out and got comfortable with a good memorization method 17 days into my 30 day BLD challenge. Needless to say if I started out with a good and solid memorization method from day 1 I would have been much faster.

6. Areas that I mainly focused on

  • It’s really very important in blindfold solving. This is where you could really improve on your blindfold times by cutting down your memorization time. My first successful solve was 8:33.86 with execution time around 1:00 – 1:30 that means I took 7 minutes to memorize. At the end of my 30 day BLD challenge my memorization ranges roughly from 50 seconds to 1:20 with execution times still not much faster at around 50 seconds to 1:30. You can see how much time you can reduce from focusing more on memorization.
  • If you are having problems or struggling in a certain area, address it immediately and try to find a solution to solve it. Throughout my 30 day BLD challenge I ran into a lot of problems but I quickly did research and tried to find what I can do to solve these problems. Some problems were easily solved through persistence and practice but most of the problems I faced in this challenge I needed to make drastic changes, the best example of this is changing my whole sticker assignment and memorization method. Some problems still persists like how I have so much trouble with unflipped edges, I’m trying to solve that now by learning the extra M2 algorithms to shoot to all parts of the M slice so I could avoid unflipped edges all together.

7. Biggest problems I had

  • Learning your sticker assignment
    • This is probably the most frustrating part when first starting out because especially if you’re learning with a ABC sticker assignment like speffz. It may seem daunting at first but you will notice that as your doing solves you’ll quickly get very familiar with your sticker assignment and eventually it will just come naturally.
  • Memorizing is hard but stick with it
    • My first solve took me around 7 minutes to memorize but now it takes me around 50 seconds to 1:20 to memorize. You’re brain is like a muscle and when as you practice BLD solves and memorize more you will get faster and faster.
  • A DNF (Did Not Finish) really sucks
    • You should expect a DNF for your first few attempts but just hang in there because that first successful solve will really motivate you and get you pumped!
  • Unflipped edges
    • If you’re familiar with M2 you will know that you can only shoot to UF UB and DB so if you want to shoot to FU, BU or BD you would have to flip them later on. I had so much trouble determine which edges should be flipped and also remembering them. My solution for this is to learn the extra M2 algorithms

8. How I practiced

  • I am very lucky that I work from home and have my own projects which means that I have very flexible hours. I was able to get some practice sessions in the morning but mostly in the late afternoons.
  • Towards the end of this challenge when I’ve ironed out all my methods I was doing an average of 24 solves a day.
  • The goal of this 30 day BLD challenge was to get an official solve in an actual competition. This means I need to practice how it would be like in an actual competition. Here’s what I did to simulate a competition:
    • I practiced using a stackmat timer.
    • I used a cube cover and practiced the motion of removing it right after starting the timer exactly how it would be in a competition.
    • I also toss and spin the cube up and catching it after a scramble to randomize the orientation when I uncover the cube.
  • The only exercises I did was capped memorization I learned from Hari Anirudh’s video (at about 7:50 in to the video) where you would force yourself to memorize in a quicker time then you are used to. This stressed your brain which makes it adapt to that short amount of time to memorize.

9. What’s it like during the competition

  • During the competition there was only 1 round where they get a mean of 3.
  • My first solve was the worse because I was very nervous and shaky, memorization was almost impossible and there was no surprise I got a DNF.
  • Second solve was a little better but I got a seat in front of the crowd which added more pressure, I did better though but still a DNF with two unflipped edges(my worse enemy lol).
  • I knew that I had one more chance to get an official solve in, to actually make this 30 day BLD challenge worth it. I stayed surprisingly calm despite this lingering in my head. I took a little extra time and reviewed my corners, something that I don’t do and it totally paid off because I got my first official solve in 9 years! I got a 2:07.10 which was a pretty good time for me.
  • I smashed my easy goal, by getting an official solve, medium goal is gone but getting 3 successful solve is super hard and I sometimes can’t even do that at home. Hard goal accomplished though because I made podium! 2nd place to be more specific, this is just awesome!

10. Resources:

Here are some links that really helped me out a lot:

Wrapping up

This post was super long and I don’t expect you’ve read through all of it. If you did then good for you, you must be really dedicated to learning BLD or make much improvement. If there’s one thing I would like you to take away from this is that practice is the key to improvement. There may be those prodigies that don’t need to practice but unfortunately for us practice is the only way to improve.

I hope you’ve learned from something from my 30 day BLD challenge and have helped you in some way. Keep at it and happy cubing!

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