3 weeks ago
For quite a while, I’ve been meaning to write some more on the topic of colour neutrality. The first blog, which I wrote earlier this year, covers the basics as well as some advice on switching to colour neutrality in your solves. Before reading this blog entry, I suggest that you read the original Colour Neutrality blog, if you’re not super familiar with the topic. Based on that, there were plenty of additional questions about more specific topics, so I thought it would be a good idea to go into a bit more detail about some of those things.
The first type of question was regarding my process for actually choosing a cross colour upon starting inspection. Of course, after getting comfortable with colour neutrality and the ability to start a solve with any colour, deciding which colour to start on is a whole different art. I don’t really aim to follow any strict rules or procedures, but I think it could be outlined as follows:
Firstly, I quickly scan the cube to check out which sides already contain oriented cross pieces. After this, I’ll make my best intuitive guess as to which cross is the easiest. Sometimes this step is really easy, because there is one quite obvious optimal cross, but in other situations, spending the time to find the optimal cross from 6 possibilities may not be the most efficient use of inspection. In cases where I initially choose a cross colour, only to realise that it’s a horrible solution (7+ moves, or awkward moves), I’ll quickly switch to a different colour in the hopes of an easier start. Otherwise, if the cross is easy enough, I’ll stick with it and then plan as much of my solve as possible. In scrambles where there aren’t any oriented cross pieces on the cube, I generally do spend extra time checking more sides and their cross solutions, and try not to get worried about looking for my first pair, and instead just focus on planning my solution and fingertricks for the cross really well so that I can look around for F2L pieces during execution.
I aim to decide on my cross colour within the first 3-4 seconds of inspection, and ideally in under 2 seconds. Of course, this loose procedure isn’t foolproof, and I estimate that I only choose the move-optimal cross maybe 80% of the time. However, my goal during inspection isn’t necessarily to always find the optimal cross, but rather to choose an easy one as quickly as possible and give myself enough time to plan the first F2L pair. The main drawback with this approach to inspection (ie, deciding the colour quickly) is that sometimes I miss slightly easier cross/X-cross solutions because it’s too difficult to check every colour in limited inspection time, and give myself enough time to plan fingertricks or the first F2L pair. One thing that I really try to avoid is changing cross colours quite late in inspection, because that can be really stressful, particularly in a competition solve.
A couple of other people asked me to estimate the advantage that I get from being colour neutral. The easiest way to get a very rough estimate of this is to do a simple experiment, as outlined below.
I will do 3 sessions of 100 solves, switching between solving a white cross, being dual colour neutral (white/yellow), and being completely colour neutral on every solve. These three types of solves are stored in separate sessions on a timer. Switching the session on each individual solve aims to deal with the fact that at different points in time, I might be more or less focused, and so I may have streaks of good or bad solves. I'd be very interested to see results from other people with this experiment.
Colour Neutral Average of 100: 6.28
White/Yellow Average of 100: 6.54
White Cross Average of 100: 6.52
After doing the solves, I realise that the 100 solve sample may be slightly too small. I was a bit surprised by how difficult I found dual colour neutrality, as statistically, it seems like a really good compromise if you're not willing to completely switch over to full neutrality. A perfect experiment would be to do individual CN, dual, and white cross solves all on the same scramble, 100 times, but that's not really possible. Based on this, I suppose that colour neutrality shaves about 0.25 seconds off my average over the long term. It might not seem like a lot, but that can be the difference between a first and second place result, or between a sub or sup 6 avearge :p
Another question/comment that was raised was in relation to the process of switching from using a single cross to colour neutrality. Essentially, people were wondering whether it’s a good idea to learn new algorithms and solving techniques whilst switching to colour neutrality. Because it can sometimes take a very long time (many months) to get completely comfortable with colour neutrality, I definitely think that it’s okay to learn other things during this transition phase. Whilst doing so, another useful tip is to learn the algorithms/techniques from a colour neutral perspective. For example, if you’re learning and practicing keyhole to use in your F2L, learn and practice it on different cross colours. Also, if you are even slightly thinking about practicing colour neutrality then remember, the sooner the better. An easy way to start practicing CN is to do one-handed solves, because you’re not turning as quickly and you have a bit more time to think about your F2L piece colours.
From this point onwards, this blog will serve as a Q&A. If you have any questions about colour neutrality, please leave them in the comments, and if I think they’re particularly interesting/important, I’ll add them to the section below :)
Disclaimer: I’ll answer the questions to the best of my ability, but if I think that there’s no clear answer then I’ll definitely indicate that, and ensure that I don’t state opinion as fact.
Q: How do I know if I’m completely colour neutral?
A: One way of thinking about it is that you're truly 'colour neutral' if doing any different colour makes no difference to your times or the way you think during your solve. I’m not sure that’s an accepted definition, and being CN/not CN is in no way black and white, there’s definitely a significant transition period where people only consider themselves partially CN.
Q: How do you memorise the colour order for every single cross?
A: You actually might be surprised to know that I haven't memorised the colour order around the cube in any fashion for 3x3 speedsolving. So, if I'm thinking about a red cross, and let's say the red-white edge piece is in front of me in the DF position, then off the top of my head, I'm not really sure whether the red-blue or red-green belongs on the right. I don't think this is something that should be memorised - it would require far too much thinking whilst doing a cross.
Essentially, how I do all colour crosses is by looking at the positions of center pieces around the E slice (middle layer) whilst planning out the cross. Again, let's pretend I’m solving the red cross on the bottom layer, and let's say we have the blue center at the front and the white center on the left. If my red-blue piece is in the DR position (requiring a D' to be solved), then I can deduce that the red-white piece belongs in the DF position, which will also require a D' to be solved.
Opposite cross pieces should be fairly straightforward to solve relative to one another (eg red-blue and red-green). The trickier part is fitting the others (red-white, red-yellow) in the other two positions, correctly.
Another thing we can do with the centers is easily figure out whether two adjacent cross pieces are wrong. In the red cross example, if the red-blue piece is under the yellow center, and the red-yellow piece is under the blue center, then clearly this arrangement is incorrect because you can't solve both of them at the same time with just one move.
The main point is that because you have the centers easily visible on a 3x3 cube, you can just look at them to plan your cross instead of memorising the colour order around the cube, which I think is very impractical.
Q: How do you choose which cross to do on big cubes? (5x5, 6x6, 7x7)
A: It’s pretty random, and I don’t really think that being colour neutral helps very much for the 3x3 stage. If I have to perform parity, then that gives me a couple of seconds to look around for edge pieces, but if I don’t have any edge parity, then I just force myself to choose a colour. I think I choose the U or F face colour a fair bit - if one of those two faces already has an oriented cross edge after finishing edge pairing, then I’ll almost definitely do my cross there. Also note that it’s often easier, quicker, and safer to solve most of your cross on the U or F face when solving big cubes.
Q: On which puzzles is it most important to be colour neutral?
A: As a general rule, the smaller the puzzle gets, the more important it is to become colour neutral on it. Being CN on 2x2, pyraminx and skewb will have the biggest proportionate impact on your times. Also, if you’re CN on those puzzles but not 3x3, that should be an encouraging sign of your ability to become CN on 3x3. Colour neutrality for 3x3 stage on bigger cubes isn’t very important at all, but it is important to be colour neutral when solving centers and edges in order to take advantage of easier starts and other cases.
I hope you guys enjoyed the blog, and if you have any more questions about colour neutrality then please leave them below! :)
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