Thoughts on Competition Performance

7 years ago

Speedcubing Thoughts

Before you read this blog, if you don’t know much about speedcubing competitions, then definitely check out the World Cube Association (WCA) website. The WCA governs speedcubing competitions all around the world, and I’d highly recommend attending one in your area, if you haven’t already done so. They are incredibly fun and rewarding, and the environment at the competitions I have attended is always very inclusive. It doesn’t matter how fast you are or how long you’ve been cubing - everyone is just there to have fun, and for the most part, compete against themselves. 

Here are links to the WCA’s about page, the FAQ, and the list of upcoming competitions around the world. Before you enter a competition, you should be familiar with and understand the WCA regulations. Here is a handy YouTube WCA competitor tutorial developed by Chris Olson and Kit Clement, which is definitely worth watching.


Now that’s out of the way, here’s the main blog!

Speedsolving cubes at home and improving your ability is challenging enough, but when it comes to actually solving and performing well in an official competition setting, it’s a whole new ball game. Many people, including myself, can sometimes perform considerably worse in official solves, compared to home solve times, and it can be quite frustrating when this happens repeatedly. A small part of this might be a sampling bias, because it’s unlikely you’ll get close to your best times when you’re only doing a small number of solves in each competition, compared to the unlimited solves you’re able to do at home. However, the pressure and the competition environment can certainly play a huge role in this.

In this blog I’m going to list a bunch of ideas and techniques that you can try out when you’re preparing for a competition and when you’re doing your official solves, with the aim to improve your official solves. I'm also interested to hear other ideas and perspectives, so feel free to share those in the comments section.

In the lead up to a competition, normally about 2-3 weeks out, I check the competition event list and determine which events I need to focus on and practice. Then, for the 2-3 weeks leading up to the competition, I will only practice and do solves for those events. If you’re aiming to compete well in 3x3, 4x4, and OH, it doesn’t really make much sense to practice 7x7 and megaminx heavily before the competition.

Additionally, in the weeks before a competition, I’ll stop learning any new algorithms. If you learn algorithms a day or even a week before a comp, there is a pretty high probability that you’ll either forget the algorithm, or mess it up, should it come up in one of your official solves. For that reason, most cubers recommend not to learn any new algorithms in the period before a competition.

I find it very useful to try and simulate a competition environment when at home, as there are so many differences between doing a big timed average on your laptop, and an official competition average - the two settings are very very different. In competition, you only do 5 solves at a time, you have a break between solves where you might be standing up and talking to people, you can’t touch your main solving cube or warm up on it between solves, and it’s often very loud and there are many distractions. You have a judge who officiates the solve and calls out inspection time, which can also add pressure, and you have to use a stackmat timer to time your solves. These are the primary factors which make competition solves different, and generally more difficult. I’ve talked about this elsewhere before, but if you can try and actually simulate that competition environment at home, and do your practice as if your solves were official, then that’ll go a fair way to making you more comfortable in comp. Of course, you can’t copy everything, but you can certainly simulate the stackmat setup (if you have one), the timing between solves, add in some competition background noise, and only do discrete averages of 5 solves at a time. Max Park does this on YouTube a lot, if you’re interested in an example. You don’t necessarily need someone else to scramble your cube, you can scramble it immediately after your solve and cover it up before your next attempt. After you try doing competition-style averages of 5, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect from yourself in an actual competition round.

At the competition itself, there are a few things that I try (but don’t always get a chance) to do.

The first and most important thing for me is warm up. I rarely achieve good results if I only do a few solves before a round. Even at home, it sometimes takes me 15-20 minutes to warm up and start getting good times, and so where possible, I try to do this in competitions. Warming up involves not only making sure your hands and forearms are physically warm, and your turning speed is solid, but also warming up your mind and your lookahead. I don’t do much more than just timed solves, but sometimes I like to do solves where I turn really calmly and smoothly, and still try to get good times. 

Ideally, once you begin competing in a round, you should try to clear your mind as much as possible, and make the whole process automatic. This is easier said than done. Anthony Brooks made a great post a little while ago about overthinking (“paralysis by analysis”) in official solves.

Something I’ve adopted over the last few years is a loose pre-solve routine - loose in the sense that it’s not completely identical every time. Having a routine gives you something to do before each solve, but you need to have practiced it enough at home for it to actually be automatic - you shouldn’t think about it in competition. It also doesn’t need to be very complicated. Personally, I like to do a few PLL algorithms on a solved cube, and then perhaps scramble it. After that I might wipe my hands if they are sweaty, take a deep breath, and then begin the official attempt. Nothing more than that, I keep it pretty simple, but try to be consistent. I have heard of some speedcubers who immediately begin their attempt as soon as they sit down at the solving station to try and avoid psyching themselves out by waiting too much. Others prefer to wait a little while after sitting down before starting their attempt, it’s an individual preference and I have experimented with both. 

At TCG and Friends 2015, I tried out something a bit different in the final, where I just continually did timed speedsolves for the entire round. In between each attempt, I probably did 4 or 5 solves on a mobile timer, and then would just immediately switch over to my official solve, do that, and then switch back to the other solves. The thinking with that was to try and replicate a session at home, where there are only short breaks between solves. I didn’t really do that again because it did waste a bit of time (although it was within the regulations). I have heard of other pre-solve or pre-round routines such as doing physical exercise, and eating something during official solves.

A couple of really specific thoughts I keep in my head during a round are to a) Never give up on a solve (I try not to!), and b) Make sure my grip on the cube is solid. I aim to never completely give up on a solve, particularly if it’s early on in the round, because you never know what might happen either later on in the solve, or later on in your other solves. Even if you mess up the start of a solve, there’s always a chance you could recover well and then get a PLL skip later on. The reason I like to think about having a solid grip is because I tend to fumble and slip in my solve when I’m nervous, and so if I just have that thought in my head, it lowers the chance that I’ll drop the cube or fumble it for a split second. Ideally these habits will also become subconscious over time.

I think hardware is particularly important in competitions as well. You should have a cube that you’re completely confident will not pop or malfunction, and which is really stable. In competitions, many people get shaky hands, and so even though your turning may be really calibrated at home, you’ll almost definitely turn less accurately in competition, and a bad cube can magnify this problem and cause unwanted lockups.

So that’s about it for now - I realise this is a pretty lengthy post already, but if you are thinking of entering an official competition, do it ASAP as I mentioned at the beginning. You’ll learn so much from others at competitions and meet people with a really cool shared hobby. 




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Kaamil Rashid

Kaamil Rashid Posted 7 years ago

Great blog TY

Nikhil Soares

Nikhil Soares Posted 7 years ago

Awesome thanks alot

Rahul Jayaraman

Rahul Jayaraman Posted 7 years ago


Mikael Soh

Mikael Soh Posted 7 years ago

Thanks so much for this post. I have a competition coming up in about 2 months and I will be taking in the advice!

Carl La Hood

Carl La Hood Posted 7 years ago

Great advice!

KcubeW yt

KcubeW yt Posted 7 years ago


Cameron  Loughney

Cameron Loughney Posted 7 years ago

Hi Feliks! Great blog! I know this isn't 100% related, but I was wondering if you could tell me how u lube the ges nut in the gans air? I'm not sure what to to about it

Brian Chau

Brian Chau Posted 7 years ago


Jiaxuan Wang

Jiaxuan Wang Posted 7 years ago

This is a very well-written article. Thanks for sharing your advice!

Cuberious The SpeedCuber

Cuberious The SpeedCuber Posted 7 years ago

I want to attend a competition, but I want to be able to set the World Record Average Sub-6 and World Record Single Sub-4 in the last solve of the Final Round for 3x3/Rubik's Cube in my first competition!

Vivek  Swain

Vivek Swain Posted 7 years ago

Awesome blog


张 晋硕

张 晋硕 Posted 7 years ago


Liam Gerard

Liam Gerard Posted 7 years ago

Thanks, Feliks. I am attending the "Cat and Mouse" competition in Chicago on the 29th. This will defiantly help.

shaunte ong

shaunte ong Posted 7 years ago

thanks for the tips 


Purva Parmar

Purva Parmar Posted 7 years ago

Helpful tips.



My first experience:


I had recently attended a WCA competition (my first one), and I found most of the things the blog said to be true.

When I entered the place, there were around 50 people (it was a small comp) sitting and solving their cubes.

This brought two thoughts to my mind. First, I started to feel a bit nervous, second, it's going to be fun. Both opposites.


When I sat at the table for the first time, I was, well, a bit afraid about my performance.

As the blog says, my hands were literally unstable. This affected my first two solves, I messed up once on an alg, which frustrated me.


The judge was nice, he was trying to calm me down. My last three solves were relatively better, but still not as I used to do at home.


Next, while in other event, that judge appeared to be bored, due to timing solves (he would have been tired sitting for hours in the same chair, watching cubers as they came and went away). Though it's my duty, he forgot to reset the timer, so when I was just going to start, and I saw it wasn't reset, and for a second, I was completely paused, and the tension remained for that solve.


My view: Always reset the timer yourself. Don't forget about it in excitation. And don't wait for the judge to do it (but wait till he writes your timings!)


If you get an exceptional timing, like a Personal Best (PB), it's natural to be excited. But do calm down before the next solve, or you will ruin it.

Next, the inspection time can be really dangerous if you aren't calm. When the judge says 8 and finally 12, it really builds up pressure.


Try to practice inspection in less than 8 seconds. It really helps.

Coming out of competitions,

The warm up idea is a necessity, I would say. If you (I'm not talking of Feliks, I'm talking about beginners) don't know what it means, then do this to understand it:

When you wake up in the morning, immediately do a timed solve. You will understand how stiff your hands become after hours of inactivity.


I hope my experiences help.

Feliks Zemdegs

Feliks Zemdegs from CubeSkills Posted 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing your experiences Purva - they sound very very familiar to me, and I'm sure many others :)

Teva Devere

Teva Devere Posted 7 years ago


I know this will help me when the next competition in  my area (israel) will accure and by area I mean country and it happens once a year or in 4 months from now.

I've many skilled israeli cubers in the wca site and I found out that the first bld 3x3 solve was done by an israeli!

I hope I'll get to use most of your advices and that they'll help improve my time!

Thanks for the tips :D

Yee Heng Chow

Yee Heng Chow Posted 7 years ago

Hey Feliks,

if on the competition day my main cube locks up more than usual and doesn't do well, do i switch to another cube or just bear with it ?


Ian  Sciturro

Ian Sciturro Posted 7 years ago

Hi Feliks,

I have been wanting to go to a competition for a while now, but have not known what to do or what to prepare for. Now, I know just what I want to do!

Prabhanjan  Prabhu

Prabhanjan Prabhu Posted 7 years ago

Hi Feliks,

I definitely agree with you about learning new algorithms before competitions. Just before my last competition, I had learnt all the g perms thinking that it would help me to get faster. However,in the competition, I messed up a G(c) to get a counting 40.(I already had a DNF and I averaged nearly sub-30 at that point).

PS thanks a lot for spending your time and effort on the blogs and lessons.

Feliks Zemdegs

Feliks Zemdegs from CubeSkills Posted 7 years ago

Teva - thanks! :)

Yee Heng - that definitely happens to me sometimes - it's ultimately a judgement you need to make because you might not be used to a cube that's not your main. Always hard when that happens, ideally your main competition cube is pretty stable though.

Ian - definitely check out the CubingUSA competitor tutorial page as well! :)

Prabhanjan - Haha yep I think just about everyone has had something like that happen to them. I know I have forgotten algorithms on multiple occasions.

Siddharth Rawat

Siddharth Rawat Posted 7 years ago

I have just went to a single competition in February .

My experiences and goals at that competition


I reached to the finals of almost every event I participated . What I Did was that I just slowed my turning speed and focused more on my look ahead and that worked very well for me. My slow turning technique had no chance of messing a solve .

This technique is amazing . I daily do 50 slow turning solves before really starting cubing with or without a timer.

I hope this may help my fellow cubers.

Navi Hadzihafis

Navi Hadzihafis Posted 7 years ago

 Great blog! Felix, how do you feel about other people watching and recording you? Do you think it affects your solves?

Navi Hadzihafis

Navi Hadzihafis Posted 7 years ago

Feliks, sorry for misspelling your name! :) 

Corner Cutter

Corner Cutter Posted 7 years ago

 Thank you for sharing all this info!  It was very helpful.  I have organized a competition which will be in June!  Do you have any tips for organizers that won't have much time to warm up and practice?


Lloyd Lorenz Panaligan

Lloyd Lorenz Panaligan Posted 7 years ago

Helpful! This is exactly what I need because I'm about to join on a speedcubing competition for the first time. Thank you! :D



Evan Pavarino

Evan Pavarino Posted 7 years ago

en combien de temp a tu appris tes oll

Evan Pavarino

Evan Pavarino Posted 7 years ago

en combien de temp a tu appris tes OLL

Nico Reunion

Nico Reunion Posted 7 years ago

Evan: answer is here / réponse ici: Il a pris plusieurs mois pour apprendre les 57 cas possibles.

Feliks Zemdegs

Feliks Zemdegs from CubeSkills Posted 7 years ago

Merci Nico! :)

@Corner Cutter - doing scrambling for another round is a decent warm up, I do that sometimes.

Florian  Borchard

Florian Borchard Posted 7 years ago

He Feliks, I have been cubing for 3 months now. My average is 18 seconds with a PB Single of 13( fullstep) I Do my F2L in 8 to 12 seconds. Should I Focus on lookahead or learn full OLL?

Evan Pavarino

Evan Pavarino Posted 7 years ago

It is good if in 4 days I know 10 oll (without the oll cross)

Sai Swayam Shree

Sai Swayam Shree Posted 7 years ago

Hi Feliks.

Can u please help me how do I memorise the oll algorithms easily?? Is there any trick to learn them?? I am using one look oll. But I wanna learn them all.. please make a video of learning algorithms easily..

Joshua Badger

Joshua Badger Posted 7 years ago

I love this information!

i went to my first competition this year were I meet Feliks, I had no idea how to prepare for a competition so all I did was work on the cubes that I was competing with and practiced my look ahead and no algs. I love all of these new tips Feliks! Keep on making greate blogs.

Feliks Zemdegs

Feliks Zemdegs from CubeSkills Posted 7 years ago

Cheers Joshua! :)

Florian - I'd recommend that you start to gradually learn the OLL algorithms at this point, but there's no rush!

Fanof Thecube

Fanof Thecube Posted 7 years ago

I know you're sponsored by Gans but which cube do you prefers for speedcubing ?

Florian  Borchard

Florian Borchard Posted 7 years ago


Bervelly Allysa

Bervelly Allysa Posted 7 years ago

feliks, should I memorize all pll algorithms? if yes, how many days you recommend me to learn all the pll?

Max Chan

Max Chan Posted 7 years ago

Feliks, how long should I practice a day because I feel like I'm not practicing enough. 

Aneurin Hunt

Aneurin Hunt Posted 7 years ago

I find caring too much about the result is a problem. My results for 2x2 from last year were pretty awful. But that in one comp those the result was awful it was easier to get a good result in the next round. I ended winning 2x2 at NZ Nats 2016. This doesn't only apply to 2x2 but the short events are hardest for pressure considering you solve for so little time.

Aneurin Hunt

Aneurin Hunt Posted 7 years ago

Also how many events would you recomonde focusing on at a comp. At my next one I have 8 I like to and not a lot of time to practise. That is too many in my oponion. Just curoius what you have to say.

Couper Kerns

Couper Kerns Posted 7 years ago


Evan Pavarino, if you can do them all under pressure and fluently, thats good.

Simon Cummings

Simon Cummings Posted 7 years ago


Conor Sheridan

Conor Sheridan Posted 7 years ago

Hey everyone, for nerves i found all sports pro's using ambient noise on their phones to help them get into the competition mode as well as setting up like feliks said, ive tried this and it helps my nerves also i think it would help all your's too! I would find this either as an app or just off of youtube. We all find noise distracting while cubing and noticed this with one of my friends who plays soccer and struggles with free kicks under noise. Give it a try and get back to me?✌️

Roni Gilmour

Roni Gilmour Posted 6 years ago

You still learning algorithms? thats interesting...

Feliks Zemdegs

Feliks Zemdegs from CubeSkills Posted 6 years ago

There's so much more I could learn (see: ZBLL). I'm just a bit lazy, and I also don't think it would make a huge impact on my solve speed right now.

Silas Lickliter

Silas Lickliter Posted 5 years ago

what would you recommend? ZBLL or COLL?

Qian Wang

Qian Wang Posted 4 years ago

on 4x4 there is another parity alg  which switches around only 1 edge

Aarnav Katru

Aarnav Katru Posted 4 years ago

What time should I start comps for 3x3?

I am currently averaging sub-one minute.

bob bill

bob bill Posted 4 years ago

You should go to a competition to have fun and meet other cubers. You don't really need to be averaging a certain time. If you want to have a chance to make it past the first round though you will want to average under at least 30 seconds.

Jamie A

Jamie A Posted 4 years ago

Is ~20 sec ok to go to comp? Am thinking of one after lockdown

bob bill

bob bill Posted 4 years ago

There really is no certain time that you should be before going to a competition. I've never been to a competition but after looking at some of the results from past competitions it looks like times range from 5 seconds all the way to a minute and a half. You would most likely make it to the second round with a sub-20 average. To make finals it looks like you would need sub-15 or even sub-10 depending on the comp. But you should try going to a competition no matter what you average just to have fun. You can go to and see a little section on competing as well as this site. I would go to a competition if I were you, Jamie. I want to go to a competition someday but there are never any in my area. If you do go Good Luck!

Jamie A

Jamie A Posted 4 years ago

OK thanks bob

Aarnav Katru

Aarnav Katru Posted 4 years ago

thanks a lot!

Aarnav Katru

Aarnav Katru Posted 4 years ago

Also, are stickerless cubes allowed in comps?

I use my Gan 356 XS Stickerless and I want to use it for comps now.

I had a look on the WCA website but I didn't understand it.

Jamie A

Jamie A Posted 4 years ago

Stickerless cubes are allowed unless you can see a piece which you are not meant to see through the cube. To my knowledge, a Gan 356 XS stickerless is allowed.

Aarnav Katru

Aarnav Katru Posted 3 years ago

ok thank you!

Aarnav Katru

Aarnav Katru Posted 3 years ago

I currently live in Perth, Western Australia and there are no competitions around so do you recommend going to a different state/city for a comp or just wait until there is one in my area even though many don't happen here? If so, where should I go?

Jamie A

Jamie A Posted 3 years ago

I don't know. There are none planned where I live so I'm driving an hour. I wouldn't travel more than 2/3 hours unless you really want to go.

Loong Xu

Loong Xu Posted 3 years ago

aarnav. u live in perth, canning vale so yeah. and the ones coming up are like, clock - main event so uh...i would go to somewhere else. about a 40min - 2hr drive

Aarnav Katru

Aarnav Katru Posted 3 years ago

Yes, but probably the closest one coming up that I can go to (I said this because I can't to to Australian Nationals) is in Darwin, Australia or comps along the east of Australia like in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, etc.

Aarnav Katru

Aarnav Katru Posted 3 years ago

And that is like 4 - 6 hrs flight journey from Perth.

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